There are a lot of things to consider when choosing a car. Our cars are our mobile offices – we spend a lot of time in them, they are an essential part of our locum profession.
Reliability – This is the most essential feature. I would advocate leasing cars rather than buying them outright, as a lot of the cost is tax deductible. You will always have a car that is near brand new, with less chance of the mechanical issues present in older cars.
A lease usually runs over 2 – 3 years, after which time you take out a new lease.
Economical – If you are a real road warrior, having a super-efficient car ie more miles per gallon (mpg) will mean more money in the bank. That’s why you often see Uber drivers driving the Toyota hybrid, the Prius.
Let’s use an example based on an annual mileage of 15000 miles.
Cost of petrol for a car that runs at 30 mpg = £1762
Cost of petrol for a car that runs at 80mpg = £660
This amounts to an annual savings of £1100. (That would pay for a decent holiday – right?)
Comfort – A nice car is like travelling in business class every day.
- Climate control (or at least AC) will automatically regulates your car temperature.
- Coffee cup holder.
- Automatic transmission – less fuel efficient, but much easier on the knees during regular long journeys.
- Lumbar support – decreases the risk of back pain and lumbago.
Boot space – You need to have enough space for your doctor’s bag and your daily items.
Boot space ranges from about 900 litres (Range Rover) at about 600 litres in estate cars, at to the very small 260 litres (Smart car). I would suggest a minimum space of 360 litres.
Safety – You are out in all kinds of weather, and potentially in all terrains (depending on your radius of work), so safety is important.
Another benefit of a leased car is that newer cars are safer. ABS (AntiBreak System) has been pretty standard for a while now, but cars since 2014 also have ESC (Electronic Stability Control) to prevent skidding. It prevents 35% accidents in cars and 67% in 4x4s (Wikipedia).
Keyless entry is a nice feature if you are working in shady neighbourhoods and need to get into the car quickly.
Blue tooth – Recent legislation makes this a must have feature if you are answering calls or taking bookings on the go. Once you have experienced in-car blue tooth it is difficult to go without. Driving long distances is a good time to catch up with your social calls.
Navigation – You can get away with using your phone, but nothing beats a good built in sat nav with a wide screen mounted into the console.
4 wheel drive – Nothing makes me feel as smug as cruising effortlessly uphill on an icy road! I decided to buy a 4 wheel drive when I had a particularly nightmarish winter journey, arriving to a morning surgery 40 minutes late. If you do not get 4 wheel drive, then try to opt for at least front wheel drive, as this will give better control on the roads.
Heated front seat – There are a few pleasures in life, a warm rear end is one!
Parking sensors – A rear camera is awesome, but parking sensors are a good way to reduce your chances of reversing into objects on dark evenings in unfamiliar places.
The lower the CO2 emission of a car the lower road tax (and earn potential tax breaks) hybrids (part petrol part electric) and some electric cars have these incentives. You can claim the entire cost of a new car as a business expense! That said, they are pretty expensive to buy in the first place.
Guide to leasing a car
- Usually 2-3 years term, you do not own the car.
- Can have very reasonable monthly payments on quite high end luxury cars.
- Can have a lead time of 3 months if you are adding bespoke features.
- Road tax paid by the leasing company and no MOT needed for 3 years on new cars.
- Mileage is set to usually around 10,000 a year, surplus mileage will cost you more.