Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Mr Money: the best car dealers in Britain revealed

aviva car insurance

Of the 30 mainstream car manufacturers, which are blessed with the finest dealers in Britain? Lexus, Skoda and Toyota, that's who. Fourth best are Honda outlets, then come the Subaru, Jaguar, Porsche, Suzuki, Kia and Saab networks.

And the worst? Renault dealerships. Those representing Vauxhall franchisees are second from bottom, with Fiat, Ford, Peugeot, the Chrysler/Jeep/Dodge family, Nissan, Seat, Alfa Romeo next, and Volkswagen dealers in tenth from last place.

In value for money terms, Skoda outlets lead the way, followed by those with Lexus, Honda, Kia, Toyota, Mazda, Hyundai, Subaru, Suzuki or Citro├źn logos. The worst for value are the dealers who sell, service and repair Mercedes-Benz and Renault products – and not far behind them are Porsche, Audi, Volvo, Saab, BMW, Land Rover, Alfa Romeo and Volkswagen franchises.

From the above, it's safe to conclude that buyers of Czech, Japanese and South Korean cars are finding and enjoying great value, while those with Swedish or German models are not.

The above rankings and conclusions are broadly based on up-to-the-minute Auto Express data gleaned largely from tens of thousands of real-world consumers who have also given their verdicts on insurance companies and breakdown organisations.

Of the car insurers, the best overall are NFU Mutual, RIAS, Saga, LV= (Liverpool Victoria), Frizzell, Royal And Sun Aliance (RSA), Adrian Flux, Marks and Spencer, Prudential and Co-operative. The worst for general performance, (communicating with customers, friendliness/helpfulness, that sort of thing) is Budget, although Endsleigh and Aviva (formerly Norwich Union) are almost as poor in this area. Diamond, Quinn Direct, Post Office, HSBC, Cornhill Direct, Kwik Fit and Tesco all perform surprisingly badly, too.

When it comes to value-for-money policies, NFU is the clear leader, followed by Swift Cover, RIAS, Saga, LV= (Liverpool Victoria), Frizzell, Marks and Spencer, Esure, Adrian Flux and Co-operative.

Endsleigh languishes at the bottom of the value-for-money ladder. Aviva is only one rung further up, due to what Auto Express describes as a "woeful" value for money record. Next worst is Cornhill Direct, then Budget, Axa, Swinton, AIG, Diamond, AA and Quinn Direct.

The best breakdown firms are ranked as Britannia Rescue, followed by GEM Motoring Assist, Autonational Rescue, AutoAid and Mondial Assistance. The worst is Tesco, then Churchill, Direct Line, More Than and National Breakdown.

Value-wise, the most appealing roadside rescue firms are Auto Aid, GEM, Autonational, RescuemyCar.com and Britannia. The AA takes a surprising last place – only Direct Line, Churchill, RAC and fifth from bottom Aviva do almost as badly.

The clued-up car buyer looking for a combination of product quality, high standards and unbeatable value for money now knows exactly what to do: buy a Skoda, insure it with NFU Mutual, then when its factory warranty/roadside rescue cover expires, sign up with either Britannia or GEM for a breakdown deal.

I make no apologies for naming the good and shaming the bad here. Especially as the best companies try extremely hard, are consistently good and tend to stay at or around the top year in, year out.

* It sounds astonishing, I know, but Volvo – traditionally a maker of colossal, overweight tank-like estates, saloons and 4x4s – is now marketing itself as a manufacturer of some of the most frugal state-of-the-art cars. And with some justification.

It currently has seven models in its DRIVe range and some of them boast official fuel consumption figures of 74mpg on the EU Combined (in town/out of town) cycle. Driving up to 825 miles on one tank of diesel is therefore achievable.

I was sceptical about the Swedish firm's ambitious claims – until I took its S40 1.6 DRIVe on a leisurely journey from London to the south coast on a selection of city streets, motorways and country lanes. The on-board trip computer told me that it achieved just over 70mpg, and that makes this Volvo the most fuel-efficient of the more than 1,000 cars I've driven on public roads over the decades.