When you are ordering your new car, consider carefully what you actually need in and on it. Do not get carried away when the salesperson brings out their catalogue of extra goodies. It is very easy when you are spending thousands of pounds on a new car to start believing a few hundred extra here or there is not going to matter. Think how many driving lessons it would take to cover these items. For example, do you really need a fitted satellite navigation system that you will lose when you sell the car? It makes more sense to buy a portable model that can be transferred from car to car. Do you need those very expensive bits of plastic kit stuck on to the outside? Yes, they look very nice, but who apart from you is going to be that impressed? No matter how careful you are and no matter how quick you are, the chances are that your car will be kerbed more than once during its working life. This is bad enough if it just damages the new wheel trims but, if it damages the alloys, then that could be an expensive bill. So alloys are probably better avoided.
Look at the depreciation values. Some cars depreciate quicker than others. This is a major factor when the time comes to up-grade your car. Do not forget the additional costs, such as roof signs, magnetic signs and the dual controls.
When choosing a convenient garage, ask yourself the following questions: Are you going to use a franchised garage to do the servicing? If so, is there one near to you? When you put your car in for a service, will the garage come and collect it and return it after the service? If, due to your work patterns, you can only have the car serviced at weekends, is the garage going to be open? Does the car have to be serviced at a franchise garage? If not, you can use your local, reputable garage, which may save you a great deal of money over time. Check, however, that this will not affect your warranty.
Once you have completed your research, make a list of suitable cars and then make an appointment with the dealers to have a test drive. When buying a new car, what will your salesperson offer you? You may have a bit of purchasing muscle here. Your car will be an excellent advert for the particular make. Not only will it be seen being used by a driving school (which should indicate that it is reliable and easy to drive) but clients are also inclined to buy the same model of car in which they learnt to drive. You may even consider making a commission arrangement for each client or instructor who buys a car from the franchise garage on your recommendation – say, £75 per car. Before and during the test drive let the salesperson be aware that you are shopping around for a driving school car and that you want the best deal you can get. When buying a new car, you should make sure you choose one that is going to fit all your needs. Below we describe some of the features you should consider. It is doubtful that there is such a thing as a perfect car but, by using the information below, you should be able to get fairly close to this ideal.
The car should be comfortable, be a pleasure to drive and a pleasure to be a passenger in. There should be no annoying squeaks and rattles and the doors should close with a solid, well built clunk. The car will be your office and you will have to sit in it for most of you working day. The seats should not be too soft and they should offer good support for your back. Make sure that the seats can be adjusted over a reasonably wide range – both up and down and backwards and forwards – to accommodate clients of all builds. The seats should be sturdy and well constructed as some of your clients may be on the very large side. Some cheaper cars have flimsy seats that will probably not stand the test of time. Seat covering material should be able to breath – it should not be shiny or slippery and it should not be difficult to keep clean. The driver should be able to sit tall in the seat, which will give them a view of the kerb close to the car.
Air conditioning is strongly recommended. This will allow you to drive with the windows up, shutting out a lot of the traffic noise, fumes and dust while keeping the temperature at a comfortable level. Air conditioning will also help prevent the seats becoming affected by sweat during the hot months. In the winter, using the air conditioning in conjunction with hot air will quickly demist your car’s windows and keep them clear throughout the day. You will find this especially important on cold, wet days when misting windows can become a real problem. This is very noticeable if you have to leave the windows closed with the engine switched off during longish driving lesson briefings. Air conditioning will rapidly clear the windows before you set off again.
If the car is fitted with a turbocharger, make sure that the effects of any increased speed as it starts to operate will not be too much for a learner to handle. The engine management system should not cause too much of a compensating surge of speed when the revs drop while the car is in the lower gears – for example, when the car is going around sharp junctions with no gas and in second gear. The foot controls
The foot pedals should be comfortable to use, not offset, not too high (for those with small feet) and/or not too close together. The clutch should be smooth and the bite point should be comfortable, predictable and progressive. The footbrake should be progressive and smooth. The car should take up the drive in first gear smoothly and without snatching. The gas pedal should also be smooth in operation and should control the speed in a calm and manageable way.
The steering wheel should be adjustable. The steering should be power assisted and a small turning circle will be helpful on the manoeuvres. The gears should be easy to select without baulking or feeling notchy. Reverse gear should be easy to achieve. Ideally, it should not be close to fourth or fifth gear as clients do sometimes mistake the change. To push the gear stick down or to lift the collar to select reverse is far better. The handbrake lever should feel sturdy rather than flimsy. Indicators, light switches, etc., should be logical, should feel robust and should fall easy to hand. We advise strongly against buying a car with indicators on the righthand side of the steering wheel. Most older, Japanese cars (for example) are like this. Your clients will be extremely confused if the cars they are practising in at home have the indicators on the left-hand side of the steering wheel, which is now common.
The views through all windows, not forgetting the rear and rear-side windows, should be good. There is a tendency at the moment for manufacturers to fit smaller windows. The door mirrors should be large and electrically adjustable. During the test drive, see if you can keep the kerb in view in the corner of the rear window when reversing around a sweeping/long corner. If this cannot be seen, consider using aids such as wide-angle mirrors fitted to the door mirror and/or booster cushions.
Instruments, especially the speedometer, should be easy to see and to read. On some cars the speedometer cannot be seen from the passenger seat. This may mean that you will need to buy an auxiliary instrument that can be fitted where you can see it. Digital displays are usually larger and clearer than analogue instruments. The DSA are now insisting that auxiliary speedometers are positioned in a safe position (e.g. not on the dashboard where they could interfere with the deployment of the airbag in the event of an accident). They must also be fitted by the car manufacturer’s franchise garage.
Interior lighting should be good as you will no doubt be doing briefings in the dark. Exterior bulbs should be easy to change but, with newer models, this is becoming awkward and time consuming. Modern car design has made the changing of some exterior bulbs take on almost epic proportions. Some cars may even need to have the bumper removed to gain access. If the examiner finds your vehicle has a defective light, they will cancel the test. This will result in one very disappointed client and, unfairly, a slight knock to your reputation. If you do have a test cancelled for this reason and you run a reputable driving school, you will also feel obliged to refund the test fee to your client and to give a couple of hours free tuition before the next test. Do not think that this is an unlikely event. You just have to raise the subject with other ADIs in a driving test waiting-room to hear of their bad experiences.
The distance between driver and passenger should be comfortable. There should be ample storage space for all your files, books, pens and records. The boot space should be adequate for your needs. If you think that reaching for your books and folders off the back seat is going to be a problem or that you will be carrying rear-seat passengers on a regular basis, then perhaps you should consider a five-door car rather than a three door. What type of spare wheel does it have? Check what form of spare wheel is carried. Quite often the spare wheel that is provided is a space saver – a small and thin temporary wheel, designed to get you to the nearest garage. The DSA will not allow these to be fitted to an axle for the test. The only way around this problem is to buy a car with a full-sized spare wheel or replace the space saver in the boot with a standard wheel, should it be necessary to change a punctured tyre before the start of the test. As space-saver wheels are becoming more and more common, you may have to accept the risk.
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Note: This article was sent to us by: Cole Roush at 01162010
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