I’ve been driving for just over 7 years now, despite being the wrong side of 30.
I initially started learning to drive when I was 17 – my parents got my insured on my mum’s car, and my dad took me out for lessons. As a former police driving instructor he was more than qualified to teach me to drive, so I saved money on lessons through him.
I began my lessons on a Fiat Punto (mum’s car), and had lessons pretty much every day with my dad. There were times when I drove for 40 mins and everything I did went horribly wrong, other times I’d drive for two hours and do everything right – I couldn’t get any sort of consistency.
After 3-4 months of driving pretty much every day, things came to a head one day when I stalled at a roundabout, and my dad reacted somewhat unfavourably…. after a lot of shouting/swearing, I got out of the car and walked home, and refused another lesson from him.
A year passed, and I knew I was moving out to go to uni and decided I wouldn’t need to drive, so didn’t get behind the wheel again for another 3 years.
After moving back home after uni, my mates all drove and wherever I went I could walk or get a bus to – I didn’t need to drive at this stage still. I eventually got a job about 10 miles away with dodgy hours, so decided to get back into lessons, this time through an instructor that a friend of mine had passed with.
I asked for as many lessons as possible to ensure I passed my test, and sailed through the theory & practical test in September 2007 after 21 lessons, along with additional driving with my mum, friends and eventually back with my dad.
My first car was a 2002 Vauxhall Astra 1.6i club, as a first car it was decent – moderately sized; enough engine power to handle the motorway, and enough space to give my mates a lift that had driven me around for years.
After about 9 months of having the Astra, a mate of mine who worked at a local Audi garage told me about a used car they had coming in – an A3 1.8T sport with low mileage, in perfect condition. Dom assured me it was top notch, and I gave him the deposit before even seeing the car. At £5000, it was an absolute bargain – the day I picked the car up was amazing. For those who don’t know, the A3 1.8T has the same engine as a VW Golf GTI – 150bhp, so was more than quick enough. Full leather interior, heated seats, climate control – it had the lot; the only downside was its fuel consumption! As there was a lot of power when I put my foot down, I became trigger happy with the accelerator…
I was living in Warrington and working 30 miles away in North Wales, 60 miles a day became 300 miles a week; I was lucky to get 250 miles out of a full tank at £55 a go, so most of my money got spent on petrol. I had the A3 for 2 years, got a lot of use out of it, but decided to go for a newer car as mine started to cause me problems financially.
I opted for another A3, this time a 2.0FSI, bought from what I thought was a reputable dealer (a nationwide chain of car retailers). After a month, I had spent £300 in repairs. Month 2, another £270, month 3 was another £350. I’d spent another grand on repairs in 3 months, on a car that was supposedly rigorously checked with a ‘150 point inspection’. The car pulled to the left when driving – turns out the tracking was completely out. When they tried to fix it they couldn’t; so we took it elsewhere – another garage found that the whole left rear quarter of the car had been replaced with parts that weren’t Audi ones, so straight away we knew this car was a lemon.
I went back to the retailer who denied all knowledge, until they checked it themselves and agreed. They did however refuse to take the car back, so I went to trading standards and registered a complaint with them to try and get my money back plus the repairs I’d had to pay out for. After 6 months, we eventually agreed a fee to sell the car back to the dealer, who immediately pushed it out to Autotrader for £2k less than what I’d paid; it eventually ended up back on Autotrader from another dealer 4 months later who probably had the same luck as us.
After the problems I’d had with a used car, I thought sod it, I’m getting a new car. I spent weeks looking online, and chose a Seat Ibiza 1.4 TSI – automatic, quick and reliable. I’ve had the car since June 2012 and never had a problem with it, despite driving 50-60 miles a day in it to work and back.
The only time I’ve had a problem was when my car was in for a service, I borrowed my mum’s old Astra for a few days. One night, we had a power cut at home, so I went out to a mates in Liverpool to get out for a few hours. Halfway there, the engine cut out completely… I rolled to a standstill and got the car on the kerb. Luckily, since driving to Wales, Chester then Manchester to work, I’d got breakdown cover with the AA and had paid for 4 years without ever needing it (until now!). I called them up, waited by the side of the road until those bright yellow lights appeared to save the day… turns out the fuel pump was completely knackered and would cost several hundred pounds to fix as the car was a diesel engine. The car was only worth about £800, so it was written off in the end – I got the car recovered back to the house, before a mate of my dad’s came and towed the car away for scrap & parts.
Luckily, I’ve never been in a crash (yet); despite near misses on a daily basis – the route I drive home from Manchester is full of places where people try to queue jump and cut in at the last minute, however I’ve learnt how to box these buggers out and not get in ahead of me – if I do have a crash it’s going to be someone else’s fault.
Although learning to drive with my dad did cause arguments, he gave me the confidence to drive in all conditions; be it snow, ice, rain, high winds – it doesn’t faze me at all, and more importantly he’s taught me how to drive safely: what to look out for, when, signs that someone is going to cut you up etc. After 7 years and over 120,000 miles I’ve not had a crash, not made a single claim on my insurance and only broken down once (in my mum’s car!)
Hopefully, the next 7 years will be just as good. I’m looking to change my car soon, and have seen some great leasing offers on Hotukdeals, so my next car is likely to be leased so I can get a brand new car for less than what I’m paying currently.
Thanks for reading – what’s been the highlight of your driving career?