Product Promotion Network

News and Reviews

Best batteries for Christmas

If you’re buying Christmas presents that require batteries, or your Christmas decorations are battery powered, which batteries will last the longest and how can you track down the best offers? From our tests, we found that the best AA disposable batteries power devices such as fairy lights for around seven hours longer than the worst-performing batteries. So the worst batteries could let you down on Christmas Day, while the best will keep your devices or lights powered well into the New Year.

From our latest batch, we’ve tested alkaline and lithium batteries from 15 brands, including Duracell, Energizer, Panasonic, and the supermarket brands – including Aldi, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Tesco. Discover the best AA disposable batteries[1] and the best AAA batteries[2].

When’s the right time to buy batteries?

Sometimes, it can be hard to know when the price is right, especially if you’re regularly buying various types of batteries. But if you follow our money-saving tips, the savings are worth it.

Big-brand alkaline disposable batteries can set you back around GBP8 for a pack of four. But you don’t necessarily need to spend that much. Our lab tests have uncovered some Best Buy batteries that are a lot cheaper.

It’s also worth hunting around for special offers. Data from MySupermarket.com shows that from 19 October 2016 to the New Year, at any given time, packs of four Duracell Ultra Power AAs[3] were on offer at four of the following supermarkets: Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco or Waitrose. So you could find them on offer again in the run-up to Christmas 2017.

But make sure they’re the best batteries for your devices before you do buy – check our battery reviews[4]. It’s also worth keeping an eye on daily deal websites and bulk-buy savings — you can save a significant amount of money by signing up to email alerts for price drops or general online discounts.

Best rechargeable batteries

If you have several gadgets or decorations that require more than a few batteries, it’s also worth considering rechargeable batteries. If you’ve balked at the price of a pack of rechargeable batteries and a charger[5], you’re not alone.

However, the more you use rechargeable batteries, the better value they become. Our highest-scoring AAs, for instance, cost 25p for 10 uses, 2.5p for 100 uses, and so on. You’ll quickly rack up 100 recharges in power-hungry devices, such as children’s toys.

This is where rechargeables can offer exceptional value over disposables, even considering the cost of a universal charger (often as little as GBP10) and the recharging costs. We’ve found in our tests that it costs approximately 53p in electricity to recharge four 2,500mAh AA rechargeables 100 times. We also test rechargeable batteries[6] and find big differences between the best and worst.

The best AA rechargeable batteries[7] will keep the most power-hungry devices running for at least seven hours, while the worst only manage four hours. Don’t pay full price for big brands, such as Duracell and Energizer rechargeable batteries. We think that there’s no need to, as we found Duracell Recharge Ultra AA batteries[8] were on offer for 230 days last year in at least one supermarket.

How we test batteries

Which? tests of disposable batteries simulate the types of devices you use your batteries in, so you know which will last the longest when you get them home.

Our medium-drain test is a good indicator for fairy lights and other battery-powered lighting, such as garden lamps or bike lights. High-drain tests show how long batteries last in your most power-hungry devices, such as remote-control toys or model aeroplanes. One of the most common uses of batteries is in clocks and clock-radios, so our low-drain test replicates the kind of conditions found in these devices.

So before you buy any batteries for Christmas, check out our advice on how to buy the best batteries[9] first.

References

  1. ^ best AA disposable batteries (www.which.co.uk)
  2. ^ best AAA batteries (www.which.co.uk)
  3. ^ Duracell Ultra Power AAs (www.which.co.uk)
  4. ^ battery reviews (www.which.co.uk)
  5. ^ charger (www.which.co.uk)
  6. ^ test rechargeable batteries (www.which.co.uk)
  7. ^ best AA rechargeable batteries (www.which.co.uk)
  8. ^ Duracell Recharge Ultra AA batteries (www.which.co.uk)
  9. ^ how to buy the best batteries (www.which.co.uk)

Pension freedoms: can you be trusted with your savings?

Claims that retirees are using the pension freedoms[1] to recklessly spend on fast cars, booze and gambling have been put to the Commons Work and Pensions Committee – but new Which? research paints a more sober picture. A survey by Which? reveals that most savers are using their increased flexibility in a sensible and calculated way, planning ahead to make their money stretch as far as possible – though pension companies have sometimes proved a hindrance. Find out how pension freedoms are being used by retirees in Britain today.

The pension freedoms explained

Since April 2015, people have been given more choice in what they can do with their defined contribution pension pots[2] when they retire. The ability to cash in an entire pension[3] or opt for income drawdown[4] has become more viable, where previously most savers had to buy an annuity[5]. Those with final salary pensions[6] were permitted to transfer to a defined contribution scheme in certain circumstances.

From the start, there were fears that giving people the option to cash in their pensions would lead to irresponsible short-sighted spending. Some speculated that people would fritter away the money buying Lamborghinis rather than planning for the long-term. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), which is reviewing how the changes have impacted consumers, have raised some valid concerns.

The FCA is particularly concerned about people not shopping around, nor seeking independent advice before choosing income drawdown. The freedoms have also been a boon for scammers.

Long-term planning prevails

In September 2017, Which? asked more than 200 members who have made use of the freedoms over the past 12 months what they decided to do with their money and why. In 28% of cases, members were happy to take their tax-free lump sum and leave the rest until they decided what to do with it.

Setting up income drawdown[7] was the most popular active option (27%), but buying an annuity[8] wasn’t too far behind (21%). Comparison to the last survey Which? ran, in 2015, shows that an initial rush for cash has calmed, as retirees have better understood the reforms and the fact that they’re permanent. The proportion of members releasing money[9] to top up savings has fallen from 32% in 2015 to 26% today, while those savers using cashed-in pensions to supplement day-to-day spending have dropped from 25% to 15%.

Retirees are seemingly accessing cash for a specific purpose. Among those who did free up some cash, 23% used the money to make home improvements, 14% splashed out on a holiday and 11% invested in property. Only 14% of people had cashed in an entire pension fund, with most (11%) pots worth GBP30,000 or less.

Gary’s story

Companies haven’t always made life easy under the new rules.

Gary Hill, from County Durham, fell down a bureaucratic rabbit hole when trying to turn his pension into an annuity. He struggled to get Aviva to recognise the guaranteed annuity rate (GAR) of 11% on his pension plan. The original policy, taken out in the mid-80s, was held by Provident Mutual, which was bought by General Accident in 1996 and eventually became part of Aviva.

Aviva’s projections were provided at current rates at first, and didn’t incorporate the GAR. Once it was recognised, Aviva made several more calculations before reaching the correct outcome, and Gary’s IFA was forced to intervene. Gary said: ‘Had I not kept all the paperwork going back more than 30 years, I’m sure we’d still be in deadlock.’ Aviva apologised to Gary for the misunderstanding and paid him compensation for his inconvenience.

Pension dos and don’ts

The pension freedoms have given people more responsibility for their money – and there are a few things to bear in mind:

  • Do think long and hard before you convert a final salary pension[10].

    In most cases, you’ll be better off keeping the substantial incomes these offer, plus the additional benefits.

  • Do check with your pension provider to see if your plan has a guaranteed annuity[11] rate on it. This could provide you with a very attractive income for life.
  • Do use Pension Wise[12]. If you’re approaching 55 or about to retire, this service can tell you more about what you can do with your retirement pot.
  • Don’t respond to anyone calling you out of the blue offering a free pensions review.

    It’s probably a scam, so hang up.

  • Don’t forget to consider your potential tax bill when it comes to withdrawing your money[13].

    You’re likely to pay 40% tax on any sum over GBP46,350.

  • Don’t cash in your pensions if you’ve no other sources of income to rely on if the money runs out.

    You might have to wait until your late 60s to get the state pension[14].

  • Don’t forget to shop around beyond your current provider if you choose income drawdown[15].

References

  1. ^ pension freedoms (www.which.co.uk)
  2. ^ defined contribution pension pots (www.which.co.uk)
  3. ^ cash in an entire pension (www.which.co.uk)
  4. ^ income drawdown (www.which.co.uk)
  5. ^ annuity (www.which.co.uk)
  6. ^ final salary pensions (www.which.co.uk)
  7. ^ income drawdown (www.which.co.uk)
  8. ^ buying an annuity (www.which.co.uk)
  9. ^ releasing money (www.which.co.uk)
  10. ^ final salary pension (www.which.co.uk)
  11. ^ annuity (www.which.co.uk)
  12. ^ Pension Wise (www.which.co.uk)
  13. ^ withdrawing your money (www.which.co.uk)
  14. ^ state pension (www.which.co.uk)
  15. ^ income drawdown (www.which.co.uk)

New-build leasehold houses and rip-off ground rents to be banned

The government is set to overhaul the leasehold system in England, banning new houses being sold as leaseholds and reducing onerous ground rents to zero. The announcement is the culmination of a consultation into unfair leasehold practices[1] launched in July, and will see some respite offered to buyers of new-build homes. The government has also pledged to make it easier for existing leasehold property owners to buy a share of their freehold – although exactly how is not yet clear.

Leasehold reforms: what’s changing?

Two key measures will be introduced for people buying new-build homes. Leasehold new-build houses will be banned, except for in ‘necessary’ cases – such as those sold through shared ownership[2] or those build on land with ‘specific restrictions’. Equally significantly, ground rents on new long leases – both for houses and flats – will be set to zero.

Finally, developers will be ‘strongly discouraged’ from using Help to Buy Equity Loans[3] on leasehold houses.

What about current leaseholders?

The government said it will work with the Law Commission to improve the process of buying freeholds, making it ‘easier, faster and cheaper’. In addition, it said ‘clear support’ will be offered in terms of redress for those facing punitive clauses – such as onerous ground rents and excessive permission fees. Freeholders and leaseholders will also be given equivalent rights to argue what they consider to be unfair service charges.

  • Understanding how leaseholds work can be a complicated business.

    To get the full lowdown, check out our brand new comprehensive online guide on leasehold and freehold[4]

Why is leasehold being reformed?

There are several key areas where leaseholders (and aspiring homebuyers) have been left out of pocket by what the government considers to be unfair practices. While the developer Taylor Wimpey set aside a compensation fund for leasehold buyers earlier this year, this has brought little respite to homeowners – some of whom have described themselves as feeling like tenants in their own properties. While leaseholders face a number of challenges, these three key areas have provoked government action:

  • Ground rent clauses: some leasehold new-build homes include a clause that sees their ground rent charge double every 10 years.

    This means that in the long run, owners could find their home to be worthless when they come to sell.

  • Freeholds being sold off: developers have been selling freeholds on to investment companies without telling leaseholders who have been affected. While this is legal, it has resulted in some homeowners facing punitive ‘permission fees’ to make changes to their property, and being quoted an excessive price to buy their freehold at a later date.
  • Mortgage issues: earlier this year, Nationwide became the first mortgage lender to refuse to grant mortgages on homes with unfair ground rent terms. While protecting new buyers, owners may find it difficult to sell on their homes with ground rent clauses – especially if other banks follow suit in future.

To learn more about these issues, check out our story on the launch of the leasehold consultation[5].

Leasehold consultation: a background

In July, the government launched a consultation into unfair leasehold practices, which received over 6,000 responses – the majority of which were from buyers of leasehold homes.

Unveiling the planned reforms, communities secretary Sajid Javid said: ‘It’s unacceptable for home buyers to be exploited through unnecessary leaseholds, unjustifiable charges and onerous ground rent terms.’

Have you had a leasehold issue?

If you’ve bought or are buying a leasehold home and have experienced problems, we want to hear from you.

Drop us an email at money-letters@which.co.uk.

If you’ve already contacted us about a leasehold problem, rest assured that we are working our way through your queries.

References

  1. ^ unfair leasehold practices (www.which.co.uk)
  2. ^ shared ownership (www.which.co.uk)
  3. ^ Help to Buy Equity Loans (www.which.co.uk)
  4. ^ leasehold and freehold (www.which.co.uk)
  5. ^ launch of the leasehold consultation (www.which.co.uk)

1 2 3 239