Coronavirus COVID-19: Advice on buying, owning and running a car during the outbreak | No thanks's Motoring Agony Column 14-03-2020

Published 14 March 2020

In's Motoring Agony Column 14-03-2020 we look at electric cars, DVLA classifications, luxury used cars and best used buys for mature drivers.

Should I buy a petrol, diesel or electric car in 2020?

The lease on my Mercedes-Benz GLC is up soon and since it’s the most comfortable car I’ve had in 50 years of motoring I’m tempted to buy it at £23,000 with only 30,000 miles on the clock. However in normal times it would still be worth something in another three years time, but given current views of diesel, would it hold any value? Would I be better looking at a new Jaguar I-Pace, in the hope the batteries will increase distance available within a couple of years?

Richard Cross

It depends what you use your car for, really. We wouldn't recommend changing your GLC for an i-Pace if you cover lots of long motorway journeys. Equally, it might be wise to change your car if you cover lots of short journeys which aren't suited to a diesel. It's difficult to say what's going to happen to residual values for diesel cars but, if anything, the drop in new diesels being bought today might mean there's more demand for second-hand examples in the future. As a compromise, we'd suggest swapping your GLC for a newer version, perhaps with a petrol engine.

Should I worry about my Hyundai Tucson's engine rattle?

I have just bought a 1.7 diesel and it makes a loud rattling sound from around the engine bay. I’m told by the dealership this is nothing to worry about. What do you think?

Glen Connolly 

Did the dealer inspect the car before coming up with this diagnosis? If not, we'd demand a full mechanical check from the selling garage or a refund. The Tucson has had reported issues with the clutch that can in turn result in problems with the dual mass flywheel (DMF). We would be concerned that this rattle is a sign that all is not well with the DMF.

Honda ~Jazz ~(1)

Need a roomy hatchback or estate for regular 5-mile journeys - what do you recommend?

We're looking for a reliable roomy estate/hatchback that can fit a small dog crate in the boot and a medium dog crate on the back seat, which preferably has a 60/40 split. We don't commute to work, so the journeys would be several 2-5 mile trips in and around town per week, with one 44 mile trip on dual carriageway/motorway either weekly or fortnightly. We have a 2009 Ford Focus 1.4 Diesel at present, which has the perfect amount of space (a 2007 Ford Fiesta has the minimum amount of space that we can get away with). Budget is up to £4000, or a little more if required. What do you recommend?

Sue and Neil 

First of all, we'd recommend a petrol for your needs. A Skoda Octavia estate would be a very practical option. You could also consider a Fabia estate if you'd prefer something smaller. We'd also recommend a Honda Jazz - it's an extremely versatile and dependable little car.

Which electric car charger is best?

I have ordered a Tesla model 3. I want to use the OLEV (Office for Low Emission Vehicles) grant to get a wall charger for my driveway. It is a little confusing with all of the options regarding the chargers themselves as well as the independent installers. Do you have any guidance on the best types of wall chargers to go for and recommended specialists in different regions?

Mark Coker

BP Chargemaster and Pod Point are two of the biggest suppliers of home charge points. They will both send out qualified engineers to install your home charger, as well as guide you with the OLEV grant.

 Fuel -pump -petrol

Why is my car’s fuel economy so poor? 

I have a Corolla, which was built in 1999. Recently over the past few months I have noticed that the fuel economy has gotten worse. The last time I refuelled I had 220 miles from a tank. The regular garage found no problem but suggested the fuel filter might be the problem . Your thoughts, please?

martin bennett

The fuel and air filters are the usual culprits. If they get blocked or dirty then it forces the engine to work harder. Likewise, check the tyre pressure as underinflation will also harm mpg. When was the car last serviced? If it's more than 12 months or 12,000 miles (whichever comes first) I would get it booked in with your local garage.

Can I reclassify my pick-up as a car? 

I use my pick-up truck as a 4x4 family car. Can you tell me why it’s classed by the DVLA as a commercial vehicle? I’ve tried to get this daft classification changed, but they’ve refused to do anything about it. What can I do to challenge this? 

Steve Rash

Pick-up trucks are, by their very design, commercial vehicles. Almost all will carry one-tonne and tow huge loads when hooked up to a braked trailer. And this means they are classed in a similar category to vans. I can't envisage any scenario where the DVLA would be willing to change it to a car, simply because you do not use it for its intended purpose.

Volkswagen ~Phaeton ~(10)

Audi A8 vs Volkswagen Phaeton - which is better? 

I am thinking of buying an Audi A8 or Volkswagen phaeton as a retirement present for myself. I would be buying a 2011, 2012 or 2013 model. I plan to keep it for three years before moving it on. Which would be a better buy? 

Dave Saunders

The Phaeton offers very good value for money as many people don't know what it is and would prefer a premium badge. That said, the Audi will probably be easier to sell on when you're done with it. We'd recommend looking at both and buying the best one of either you can find. Be prepared for high running costs, though - it might be worth getting some servicing quotes first.

Best £12,000 car for an elderly driver?

My elderly neighbour requires a petrol automatic car - something similar to estate or suv. He likes to fish and still travels around Scotland. He has £12,000 maximum to spend. What cars would you suggest he considers?

John Thomsom 

A Honda Civic Tourer would be a very reliable and practical choice. £12,000 will get a tidy example from 2017. If your neighbour would prefer an SUV, we'd recommend the Suzuki Vitara.

To see more Ask HJ Q&As, click here


pab107    on 14 March 2020

HJ has left the building?

willboy    on 14 March 2020

This site has gone to pot.

jm1    on 14 March 2020

Clearly HJ has not been retained by the new order or has just decided to leave/retire. If you're reading this Thanks HJ for all your useful and informative advice over the years. Your balanced opinion based on experience was what I/we valued.

GingerTom    on 14 March 2020

Yes it was my favourite weekly read but sadly it does not look like John will be contributing any further to this site but I can confirm he is fit and well, alive and kicking. Hopefully he will rise again.

glidermania    on 14 March 2020

Clearly HJ has not been retained by the new order or has just decided to leave/retire. If you're reading this Thanks HJ for all your useful and informative advice over the years. Your balanced opinion based on experience was what I/we valued.

He may have been offered the option of staying on but, no more critical reports on the new owner's models. In which case he likely said 'Im offski' like most sane people would have done.

JPW1946    on 14 March 2020

HJ has been an integral part of my reading since he was injected into our psyche.
He must reappear somewhere at some time----just as Wilson of the Wizard used to reappear.
He is the best motoring journalist, bar none.
Where are you HJ?

GingerTom    on 14 March 2020

I have just bought a 38 ton articulated lorry but I am using it as a camper van for my 17 kids. The DVLA won't change it to a camper van. I think it's disgraceful.

glidermania    on 14 March 2020

I have just bought a 38 ton articulated lorry but I am using it as a camper van for my 17 kids. The DVLA won't change it to a camper van. I think it's disgraceful.

LOL! But so very apt.

PetrolFan    on 14 March 2020

The Phaeton was an unpopular car and often heavily discounted when new.. They're quite plush but the emissions and fuel consumption are dreadful.
A neighbour had an MOT failure at 9 years old, due to light failure in the rear cluster. It turned out to be the rear light wiring loom and couldn't be repaired (apparently). The car was off the road for about 7 months until VW found a new spare in Poland or somewhere.
That's the trouble with minor-market cars: you wouldn't expect a wiring loom to fail and therefore most garages don't stock spares.
For all I know, the A8 could be similar. (is it the same chassis with a different body?)

Palcouk    on 14 March 2020

Rather than a main dealer service/repair for a 9 year old car, a auto electrician would probably have been able to repair

   on 14 March 2020

Where's HJ ? This is woeful. No agony column at all Feb 29th, then 2 cut down versions.

beatbox    on 14 March 2020

January 7, 2020

THE consumer motoring website Honest John has gone into administration after suffering ‘significant cash flow difficulties’.

Documents lodged with Companies House show that the automotive support service, co-owned by Peter Lorimer, 71, appointed

St. Albans-based specialist business advisory firm FRP Advisory as its administrator.

February 18, 2020

HEYCAR takes out of administration with purchase deal

ONLINE used car marketplace HEYCAR has struck a deal to buy the website which went into administration last month, it was announced this afternoon.

The start-up said it cemented its intention to bring greater trust and transparency to the market and to continue rapid growth.

Peterborough-based – which publishes advice and reviews of cars and vans on its website and has a Cars for Sale section as well – has been established for two decades, boasting many millions of site visitors.

HEYCAR,, a new online marketplace for used cars in the UK, is backed by

VOLKSWAGEN Financial Services and DAIMLER Mobility. It was launched in Germany two years ago and has now arrived in the UK.

So, no more DSG gearbox, 1.5 TSI engines, Dieselgate, Timing Chains, Rubbish 36 month guarantees (where the USA get 5 or 6 year guarantee) and VAG quality issues across their complete range of companies... never be SEEN OR ANSWERED ever again...???

Maybe they could have kept their Independence by having a crowdfunding campaign ?

I would have definitely made a contribution, just for the years of truly independent and valuable advice.

Finally, a massive Thank You to all the contributors over the years.

Good Luck and CHOCK DEE to John and the 18 other members of staff.

Edited by beatbox on 14/03/2020 at 11:05

BB1    on 14 March 2020

Hear hear.
I would gladly pay for HJ’s weekly missive alone, not to mention the excellent broader website and the video musings of Mark, The Geordie Jesus.
It has been a phenomenal resource and hugely enjoyable.
Many thanks.

AtecaOwner    on 14 March 2020

Looking at the company information for the business was there someone called "John" or was it's made up name? Anyway the questions being asked are probably being sensored and the replies are being muted - HJ would say to avoid diesel or DSGs on the A8 / Failton.

Possibility the new owners don't want to upset manufacturers / advertisers? HJ used consumer experience to back things up when manufacturers denied there was a problem until it was so overwhelming.

glidermania    on 14 March 2020

Sad times, HJ Motoring Agony Column just isnt Honest John without HJ!

It doesnt matter which motor manufacturer bought the site, it would never be truely independent because that manufacturer would and will not report the type of faults prevalent in their model line up.

One would hope HJ could rise from the ashes with a new website of information but the name has been sold off and given 'HJ's' reputed age, he has probably retired to his Far East bolt hole.

Elvis has left the building.

Jeff L    on 14 March 2020

He appears to be still doing his column in the Telegraph which is good news (no pun intended)

Engineer Andy    on 14 March 2020

Sort of like 'Taggart' without the lead character (only HJ isn't dead).

Andrew Weeks    on 14 March 2020

Always an enjoyable read at the weekend, but as many of you have implied, gone to pot since the takeover...

G Jones    on 14 March 2020

useful read here;

Lrac    on 14 March 2020

Do I have to commit to paying £2 per month to read the above link? I couldn't get rid of the pop up

barcud    on 14 March 2020

Thank You, Thank You.

For making the interview known - brilliant.

Lrac    on 14 March 2020

Agree with all of the above. Have to say these comments are more interesting than last weeks and todays column and will continue to "have a look" just to read these.

Anyone seen him in person? Has he been abducted by a rival ? Should we initiate a search? Where can I buy an "Free HJ" T shirt ?

Sadly missed

as960    on 14 March 2020

Really sorry to see HJ's gone. All good things come to an end, but it's a pity the archive of good/bad reports on recent and current cars couldn't be maintained by someone impartial (Consumers' Association?). Sigh. If you're reading this, John/Peter, thanks for the advice over the years, and best wishes.

GSTheo    on 15 March 2020

The new owners HeyCar posted this on their press relaease about the purchase - ‘"We will maintain this independence through the formation of a clear editorial code between the two brands, continuing the impartial tone’s millions of website visitors and tens of thousands of newsletter subscribers expect. Users of the Honest John forum will not notice any difference." Well, judging by how boring the last weeks responses in this column have been I beg to differ, plus, I'm pretty sue there's one large online used car seller who wont be coming in for criticism anytime soon.

Edited by GSTheo on 15/03/2020 at 08:24

gordonbennet    on 15 March 2020

Reclassify pick up as car?

Why would you want to do this, the only advantage to you would be that insurers offering commercial vehicle policies don't normally allow you to drive other people's vehicles on a third party basis, there is no other gain.

So long as your pick up is a normal twin cab with 4WD its a dual pupose vehicle in law so you get car speed limits.

You get commecial vehicle VED rate, cheap, if classed on emissions it would more than likely be in the £555 banding.

Far as i can see its lose lose to reclassify it as a car.

Bondson    on 15 March 2020

This is s*** now

Bondson    on 15 March 2020

I predict a significant rise in complaints from Toyota and Honda owners.

All VAG issues resolved

Wazza78    on 16 March 2020

very sad to see HJ go. Always found him to be a jolly nice chap and answered many questions for me.

I blame all the readers that got ridiculously irate every time he mentioned left foot braking! ;-)

Penumbra    on 16 March 2020

Loss of HJ.

Just use one of the following to answer your question.

1. Suzuki/ Honda Jazz/ Kia / 1.2 Puretech

2. Michelin Cross climate tyres

3. Shell super - I've got an app

4. Left foot braking will stop millions being killed every year - I proved this to Mercedes.

5. It's all the fault of the EU


Edited by Penumbra on 16/03/2020 at 13:36

Brit_in_Germany    on 16 March 2020

Except I recall HJ was somewhat anti-Brexit.

Penumbra    on 16 March 2020

I'll have to grant you that as I've not read everything he's written and to be fair I do recall him coming down on UK regulations as well, which appeared to persecute the motorist (ANPR comes to mind).

carl233    on 17 March 2020

Bring back HJ, if this trend continues expect numbers to go seriously down in respect of visitors to this site. Before long it will become a ghost town...

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