Everything you need to know about vehicle excise duty in 2017*

So much has changed since I first started learning to drive way back when I was 17 [which makes me feel horrendously old]. A lot of these changes pass me by until I get to the stage where I think I really ought to pick up my lessons again and this time around it seems there are more differences than ever. Not only is it more expensive than ever to run a car thanks to petrol prices- I remember the horror when it went past £1 per litre back in the day! There are also changes to the driving test itself and of course the upcoming changes to vehicle excise duty which I’ve been trying to get my head around and somewhat failing.

Guessing that I’m not alone in find it all very confusing I’m sharing this handy infographic from the brains at used car dealership Motorparks which helps explain things in pretty much the clearest way I’ve seen to date.

I hope that some of you, my lovely readers have found this helpful too. Hopefully this time around I will get myself driving by the end of the year, and at least when I finally do I’m armed with the most up to date knowledge I can find!

What’s changed since you first started driving- if anything? I suspect that most of you are too young for there to have been any changes!

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Moving or Improving?*

Well, this feels like a terribly grown up post to be writing- there’s nothing like thinking about buying your own home to make you realise you actually are an adult and there is a LOT more to be considered than you assume when you’re younger and home ownership is just a pipe dream.

That’s not to say that right now I’m actively looking to buy, but with a bit of luck in the next twelve months or so I might be able to do this and it’s never too early to start thinking about it- it’s probably one of the biggest steps in any person’s life so when Slater Gordon Property Solicitors challenged me to think about everything that needs considering when you take that leap in to potential home ownership.

I’ve always been clear in my mind where it is I’d like to buy my first home, which I suppose both helps and hinders because I’ll be limited to what properties are available BUT it will give me direction in my search. I think the main obstacle that I will come up against (despite you know, actually getting the mortgage and sorting out the finances) is that I really want to live in a converted Victorian property so making sure the flat/house is in good structural order is essential. Given that my budget will likely only extend to a flat the other two issues I’m likely to come up against are size- it might be fine for me on my own, but should I meet someone and start a family for example, will it be big enough to accommodate if moving again isn’t an immediate option? The second issue which I believe is a common issue when buying a flat is that of Leasehold- that brings with it maintenance fees, an annual ground rent and potential restrictions on any big alterations, owning pets or subletting.
I also thought I’d share this infographic provided by Gordon Property Solicitors which contains some interesting facts and figures about buying your own home, and for non first time buyers the pros/cons of making improvement to your current home rather than the upheaval of a house move.
I’m aware that this post is very much only skimming the surface of the subject and I obviously have no real experience as of yet so I’d be really interested in anyone wanting to share their stories and advice about buying their own home- leave them in the comments!

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The Pre-MOT checklist*

Now, I might not be a driver yet (by the end of year, I hope!) but I know a little bit about cars- especially that they can be damn expensive when it comes to things like services, repairs, insurance and MOTs! As such I thought that this infographic created by Motorparks would be a useful and indeed essential read for any one with an MOT test upcoming…

I always find myself apologising for posting motor related content as it’s not “in keeping” with my blog theme but I really do find things like this useful so I share if only for future reference for myself!

Up until reading this it probably wouldn’t have occurred to me to actually make any checks of my car (well, at this point imaginary car) before taking it for it’s MOT. You kind of assume that’s what you pay the garage for- it definitely makes sense though, repairs of problems found my the pros are bound to cost an arm and a leg whereas taking simple measures to make sure things are up to scratch beforehand is 100% going to be the cheaper option!
Hope you found this useful!

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Pet Friendly Gardening*

As the owner of a cat who treats the garden as her own personal all you can eat buffet [seriously, she’ll take a bite from anything] it’s always on my mind that some of the plants we have might do her more harm than good. You’d like to think an animal would instinctively know which greenery to avoid but as where Mae is concerned she seems to take an “eat first, think later” kind of approach so it’s good to know there are guides out there which can help alleviate the risk. Growbag and compost retailer Compost Direct has done some research and put together an infographic to give pet owners a helping hand.

A recent survey found that 8% of dogs and cats have eaten poisonous plants or flowers, with 43% needing urgent care and 15% actually passing away. The graphic includes a run-down of some of the potentially harmful plants and poisonous substances in your garden and the impact they can have on your pets.

It also features advice on how to create a pet-friendly outdoor space, considering everything from fencing to dog- and cat-friendly plants. For more information view the infographic in full below. We’ve been lucky so and looking at this we have nothing risky in the garden but it’s really reassuring to be able to check up on these things.

Let me know if you found this useful- do any of you have pets that eat what they shouldn’t? It’s not just the garden with us- cut flowers in vases have to be very strategically placed if they have any hope of lasting beyond an hour or so in the house, she either has a stomach of steel or is fast using up her 9 lives!

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The Car Finance Calculators from Motorparks*

Top of my list of goals for next year (or which there are many because I have lost time to make up for) is to FINALLY pass my driving test. After seven attempts spread over almost 12 years I am determined that I only have to sit one more. The truth is I CAN drive, and drive well. The reality is that as soon as I’m in a test scenario my anxiety goes in to overdrive and gets the better of me, I’ve tried every suggestion under the sun to combat it and it hasn’t worked- on my last test I actually didn’t make it out of the car park!

Anyway, I digress. With passing my test will come the excitement of FINALLY buying a car. I don’t know much about the world of cars but what I have learnt from being chauffeured around by friends and family is that they cost a lot more than first meets the eye. It’s easy to overlook certain costs, things you don’t necessarily think about when caught up in the excitement of test drives and purchases. I’ve been playing around with the car finance calculator and motoring cost calculator from the folks at Motorparks.

The car finance calculator is there to help once you know what car it is you want to purchase…it takes interest rates, loan terms and deposit in to account and tells you what your monthly payment will be and how much you’ll pay for the car in total (don’t forget the interest adds up!)
The motoring cost calculator will walk you through how much your fuel is costing you per day. This was a real eye opener when Ben started driving as his mini guzzled fuel and he ended up trading in for a more economical vehicle after a while with dramatic savings.

The calculator will also help you keep tabs on general motoring costs- road tax, insurance, breakdown cover etc to show you how much your car is actually costing you per month. There are also plenty of tips and advice on how to get those costs down.

What costs surprised you most when you first started driving? Any tips for driving test nerves?

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