Guest article by female motoring expert Maria McCarthy
I love driving and I love the freedom and convenience of owning a car. But I'm absolutely not a petrolhead. I couldn't care less about Supercars or Formula 1 – I just want a safe, reliable motor that will get me from A to B, a garage I can trust, and to know I'm not being ripped off when it comes to motoring matters such as buying car insurance. However I couldn't find any motoring books aimed at women which addressed those matters – and so I interviewed experts in every field of motoring and produced The Girls' Car Handbook. Here are the top tips for female motorists who want to be independent and not rely finding a spare man in their life (partner, brother, dad, Tim from accounts at work) to sort motoring matters out for them.
Carry Out Regular Car Checks
For some women, 'under the bonnet' can feel a scary place, and that makes them reluctant to carry out the regular car safety checks.
But all motorists should do this at least fortnightly and in advance of any long journey.
A useful approach to remembering the checks you need to do is to follow the POWDER sequence below:
P - petrol
O - oil
W - windscreen washer and other fluids
D - damage to the vehicle
E - electrics (lights)
R - rubber (tyres and windscreen wipers)
You'll need your drivers' manual – this will show the geography of what goes where under the bonnet and get you past any 'oil in the brake fluid container' anxiety attacks. You'll find the tyre pressures for your vehicle in there as well. It's a good idea to buy a tyre pressure gauge and tyre inflator you can use at home as they tend to be more reliable than the ones you find on fuel station forecourts. Buy a tyre tread gauge as well – the legal minimum is 1.6mm, but really you should be thinking about buying new tyres if it goes below 3mm. For a more detailed guide, check out The Girls' Guide to Motoring.
Find A Garage You Can Trust
There are lots of great garages and garage mechanics out there – so don't waste your time with any that you suspect of ripping you off, or you feel talk down to you because you're a woman. Personal recommendation is a good way to find a reliable garage, and look for membership of a professional trade organisation, which will help out if any disputes arise. The Foxy Lady Drivers Club has a list of approved garages, which offer a female-friendly service.
Got A New Motor?
Buying a new (or new to you) car is a major investment, so the best advice is – take your time and do your research first. Do you need a car for local commuting or long distance drives? Do you need to fit buggies or sports equipment in the boot? Go online to car review sites and check out makes and models that might be suitable for you – and don't forget to factor in issues such as the insurance group and fuel consumption. Research the target prices of cars you're interested and check that they're in line with your budget, and also what you're likely to get for your current car in a private sale or part exchange.
Maria McCarthy is the author of The Girls' Car Handbook and The Girls' Guide to Losing Your L Plates