The financial news you need to know with Sarah Pennells – March 01 2017

Sarah Pennells is a personal finance journalist and the face behind SavvyWoman.co.uk. We think she does a great job at explaining financial subjects in a very clear and accessible manner. You can find her column below where she writes about the latest financial news, and helps you get more from your money.

New £1 coin

What won’t be round for much longer? A pound coin (geddit?!), as a new 12-sided coin will be introduced from March 28th. It’s designed to be harder to forge, being made of two different metals, having grooves on alternate sides and a hologram-effect image that changes from a £ sign to a 1.

As well as having 12 sides, the new coin will be larger than the current one, but also thinner and lighter.

But the important questions are, how long do you have to spend your old £1 coins and will self-service machines recognise the new £1 coins straight away?

Well, the first one’s easy in that the old £1 coin will be legal tender until October 15th. That means shops can take either the old or the new coins, but they’re not obliged to take both, especially if you’re paying using a machine. Instead, they’ll be able to tell you which £1 coin you can use.

SAVVY TIP: If you’re a business and you pay money into the bank, you should bag old and new £1 coins separately.

From October 16th shops don’t have to accept the old £1 coin, and you shouldn’t be given any of the ‘round’ £1 coins in change. However, if you still have some old £1 coins, you can pay them in at your bank or Post Office. But check whether there’s an upper limit on how much you can pay in.

New car registration

Are you thinking of buying a new car? The new ‘17’ registration arrives on March 1st, and it could be a busy day for the dealers! Last year over half a million cars were sold in March, making it the busiest March for new car sales since 1999.

You may have your heart set on a particular make or model, but it’s important to do some (possibly slightly dull!) research before you splash out. Here are some factors I think it’s worth considering:

  1. Do you need to buy a new car in the first place? I don’t have the ‘new car’ gene so I always buy second hand and buying a car that’s newish (a year or so old) could be a lot cheaper than one that’s brand new.
  2. If you want a new car, what type will you buy? You can buy cars that are new but pre-registered, or order one from the factory to your specifications. Pre-registered cars will have been ordered by the dealer to sell on.
  3. How much value will it lose? Some cars depreciate far more quickly than others, and you could lose up to 30 – 40% of your car’s value in the first year.
  4. How much will it cost to insure? Insurance costs will depend on your age, where you live and keep the car and how long your no-claims bonus is for, but the make and model of car will also influence the cost.
  5. Which makes are the most reliable? Some brands have a reputation for reliability, but can still produce cars that their disgruntled owners are unimpressed by, so it’s not an exact science. But one provider of car warranties has analysed data from over 40,000 of its policies (a staggering £3 million of claims!). It says that 40% of Alfa Romeo owners with one of its warranties make a claim (eek!), compared to 15% of Citroen owners.
  6. What are the repair costs? This is harder to estimate, but some cars are much more expensive. Unsurprisingly, it’s normally the luxury brands.
  7. What does it cost to tax? The rules on car tax are changing for cars registered from April 1st. New cars with zero emissions won’t have to pay car tax, but all other cars will pay according to their emissions in the first year, then a flat rate of £140. If you buy a car costing more than £40,000, you’ll have to pay an extra £310 a year for the first five years.
  8. Petrol or diesel? Last year 45% of new cars sold were diesel, but the tide is turning against older diesel cars. The car industry says that newest diesel cars are much cleaner, but it’s worth bearing in mind that extra charges could be imposed – especially if you do a lot of city driving, are buying second hand and plan on keeping your car for a while.
  9. What can you find out about the car? If you’re buying second hand, there’s quite a lot that you can check free of charge. Go to the DVLA website, and search for ‘check the MOT history’. As long as you know the make and the registration number, you can find out how long its current MOT is due to last for, as well as the mileage at the time it was MOT’d, and its MOT history going back for up to ten years.
  10. How will you pay for the car? The vast majority of new cars are bought using PCPs (personal contract plans). Here you normally pay a relatively small deposit, make regular monthly payments and, if you want to keep the car, a final (much bigger) payment. Some people are fans of them, especially if you want to trade in your car every few years. I’m not so enthusiastic as I’ve seen rather too many people struggle to make the final payment. If you’re thinking of signing up for one, watch out for the mileage limits and make sure you can afford the final payment. Personal loan rates are at historic lows at the moment so may be worth considering, although you’ll normally need a very good credit rating to get the best deals.

End of tax year

It’s just over a month until the end of the tax year. But what does that actually mean? A tax year runs from April 6th one year to April 5th the next and it’s the period of time that your earnings are counted. The amount of tax you pay depends on how much you earned over that 12-month period, not over a calendar year.

A number of tax allowances run out on April 5th, so if you have some spare cash, it could be worth topping up your ISA for example. But don’t stress if you can’t afford to do it as some allowances are pretty generous and there’s always next year!

SAVVY TIP: In the current tax year you can pay up to £15,240 into a cash or stocks and shares ISA (or a mix of the two). From April 6th that figure goes up to £20,000. You can pay up to £4,080 into a junior ISA or child trust fund in the current tax year, but that figure rises to £4,128 from April 6th.

Tumble dryer

If you have a faulty Hotpoint, Creda or Indesit tumbledryer and it hasn’t yet been repaired, don’t use it. Whirlpool, owns the Hotpoint, Creda and Indesit brands had told customers that the faulty tumble dryers were safe to use as long as you were in the house and didn’t use them overnight. But now that advice has been changed.

Whirlpool says it will be writing to customers telling them that they shouldn’t use their tumble dryer until it’s been repaired. But worryingly, only 1.5 million people have registered to have their tumble dryer repaired, when it’s thought there could be many more potentially faulty ones being used.

SAVVY TIP: The affected models don’t have a green dot on the door area or the back plate. Those that could be faulty were made between April 2004 and September 2015.

A petition’s been started calling on the government to make Whirlpool recall the faulty machines. As I write this, it has over 55,000 signatures.