Five Tips To Keep Teens Safe On The Road This Winter

Photo by Dave Crosby, Flickr.

Photo by Dave Crosby, Flickr.

The big winter storms are hitting much of the northern United States early this year, and snow and ice always bring unique challenges to drivers of any age. But it can be particularly dangerous for teenage drivers who haven’t been driving long enough to always know how to be safe on clean, dry roads, much less the mix of weather found in these colder months.

Anyone who has a teenager who has just started driving, or knows one, should be aware of these tips to help them drive safe this winter.

Take Your Teen’s Car In For A Check-Up

First and foremost, make sure the vehicle you are giving your teenager to drive is safe. Take the car in for a check-up to make sure all systems are functioning properly. Makes sure parts such as hoses, plugs, belts and pumps—all things that can wear out over time—are in good condition. Check the battery to make sure it can hold a charge, even when the temperature drops. Make sure the fluids are topped off, and are correct for the winter months; depending on how cold it gets in your area, you will need coolants, windshield wiper fluids and oils that won’t freeze. Make sure the windshield wipers are in good condition and ready to take on the heavy snow and sharp ice that will accumulate. Make sure the pressure in the tires is correct—air inflates and deflates as the temperatures change, so you will want to make sure the tires are inflated properly at all times. And finally, do a test of all the defrosters to make sure they are working properly. By giving your teenager a car you know is ready to tackle any weather it encounters, you are setting them up for safety.

Practice Makes Perfect, Or At Least Safer

Photo by Chris Dodson, Flickr.

Photo by Chris Dodson, Flickr.

Seriously, practice. Don’t just hand the keys over to your teenage driver no matter what weather conditions are out there. The first time they have their license and snow falls is the perfect time to take them out for another driving lesson. Just like when you first taught them to drive, find an empty area, such as a parking lot, and set a course that allows them to feel how the car handles different with snow and ice on the ground. In this safe, controlled environment, let them try a bit of speed as they take a corner so they can feel how much more the vehicle will slide and lose traction in these conditions. Make sure they actually experience the differences, rather than just give them a lecture that will likely be forgotten as soon as they get behind the wheel.

Talk To Them And Make Sure They’re Listening

Go over some of the basics with your teenager again. Don’t just spout rules at them though. Take the time to explain why they are more important in wet, snowy, icy weather than at any other time (although they should be obeying them all the time!). Make sure they understand things such as a safe follow distance is imperative in winter weather, as traction—for them or others around them—could be lost at any time. They need to space to ensure they can safely react or stop if an incident occurs. And make sure they understand that there will be more incidents in these months that in the summer, when the roads are not nearly as slick. Other safety tips you will want to share include braking more slowly so the tires don’t lock up and cause a skid, and don’t cut anyone off, but especially large trucks, who won’t be able to stop as fast on slick roads.

Make Sure They Keep It Clean

Teach them how to properly clean the snow and ice from their vehicle. They have likely seen Internet pictures of cars driving around with huge chunks of ice on their roofs and thought they were funny. However, teach your teenagers how dangerous it can be if that snow or ice starts to slide. It might take time to get all the snow off the car, but this is a crucial tip for ensuring they are safe for both themselves and the other cars around them. Make sure they know how to properly scrape ice from the windshield – and not just a small viewing hole, but a large enough area to give them full view of the road—that they know to clean all their lights and that they have gotten as much loose snow as possible off the vehicle before they start to drive. Also, they will want to make sure the tailpipe is clear before they turn the car on to avoid pumping carbon monoxide into the vehicle. This applies to both clearing it of falling snow, and making sure that when they back out, they have enough clearance from drifts to prevent snow from being jammed in.

Fill It Up And Keep It Full

Finally, make sure they have a full gas tank, and understand that they can’t let the tank run to empty this time of year. Gasoline is heavy, and that extra weight will help keep the car more firmly planted on the road. Other supplies you might want to consider giving them to keep in the car at all times during the winter is a bag of sand or salt they can use to help them gain traction in an icy parking lot; and an emergency winter kit that includes a flare, emergency blanket, water bottle, etc., so if the worst happens, you know they can stay warm and hydrated. It’s something you hope they never have to use, but it will give you, and them, peace of mind knowing it’s there for the “just in case” moments.

Under The Hood: Where Are People Buying Pickup Trucks?

Here at UsedCars.com, we have a unique perspective on the car-buying population. We have users from all across the United States, from all walks of life, looking for all types of vehicles. So we did what anyone with all this data would do: we crunched the numbers to see what people are buying based on where they are located.

From June to October 2014, we compared the search terms of types of vehicles people were looking for (such as “pickup truck”) and cross-referenced that with the zip codes users put in to find vehicles for sale near them. The first thing that immediately stood out is that people in the Midwest and other rural areas are looking for large, work vehicles, while people in urban areas are searching for smaller, more efficient cars. This data actually backs up the preconceived notions many of us have about the types of vehicles driven in different parts of the country.

The top five states looking for trucks and other large vehicles are: Montana, Wyoming, West Virginia, Alaska and Idaho. At the bottom of the list, the states looking for the least number of large vehicles, and choosing instead to search for smaller cars are: Washington DC, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Connecticut.

top_25_cities_trucks_v3

If we drill down to a city level, UsedCars.com took a look at the largest 25 cities in the United States, and not surprisingly, Texas dominates the list. The state boasts six of the top 25 cities in the country, with three claiming the top spots for the most searches for trucks. In the top six, five were cities in Texas, and Dallas came in number nine on the list – the lowest Texas city ranked in this list. In comparison, cities such as New York, San Francisco and Chicago only saw very small percentages of users looking for the same types of vehicles.

One interesting trend that came up is in states such as Illinois, where a large number of counties show a strong interest in trucks and large vehicles, but with so much of the population living in urban centers, they skew the state ranking.

In Illinois’ case, 90 percent of the counties showed an above average interest in trucks as a search term, but with Chicago factored in, the state as a whole drops to the “below average interest” category.

state_map

When we limited the data to counties with at least 200 searches on UsedCars.com, Klamath County, Ore. came out as the place with the largest interest in trucks; 53 percent of searches were for that type of vehicle. Compare that to Texas, where the cities mentioned earlier all had between 15-26 percent of searches for trucks. On the other side of that proverbial coin, Kings County, N.Y.—also known as Brooklyn—had the lowest interest in trucks in the United States. Brooklyn has the second densest population per square foot, behind only its neighbor Manhattan, N.Y., so space is at a premium and large vehicles are expensive to park and drive.

county_map

And that really explains why, as a population, we have the stereotypes we do when it comes to who drives what type of vehicle. Rural residents need vehicles capable of working—they are very often farmers or other professions that work the land and require heavy lifting, hauling and other activities that need heavy-duty driving options that can fill multiple roles.

The more urban an area gets, the less likely it is that the person driving the car will need that kind of work-horsepower, as they are more likely to be using their vehicles to commute to office jobs, or drive the family around on weekends.

RUCC_graph_v3

And in the most urban cities, where the population density starts to make space a premium commodity, those who still want to own a vehicle gravitate toward models that are easier to maneuver in close quarters, easier to park and easier to manage in that environment.

How to Take the ‘Net With You: Making Your Car a Wireless Hot Spot

Chances are good that those involved in creating the Internet in the late 1960s never fully realized what an impact this technology would have on society. Nowadays, it’s hard to ever imagine a world without the Internet. And with the the boom of personal computer devices — including laptops, tablets and cell phones — pretty much everyone you pass either Internet access in their pocket or is looking for free WiFi wherever they go.

Sometimes it can be hard to find Internet access when you’re on the road, but it’s not like you can turn your car into a mobile WiFi hotspot…or can you?

Today some car manufacturers like General Motors and Audi are making their new vehicles WiFi capable. However, there are some gadgets out there that can easily make used cars a WiFi hotspot as well. Here’s a look at a few of them.

FreedomPop Connected Car Kit

Telecom company FreedomPop offers its Connected Car Kit to help turn both new and used cars into mobile hotspots. The kit includes the Freedom Spot Overdrive — a 4G hotspot that fits in the palm of your hand that can connect up to eight different devices at once. According to FreedomPop, users get 500MB free each month, with the possibility of another 500MB every month for referrals. The kit also includes a power bank and travel charger.

CarFiTM

Enjoy 3G speeds while on the go with CarFi, but Autonet Mobile. The wireless router uses a proprietary technology to keep you connected while the car is actually moving and in between cell towers. And when you are stopped, users both inside and outside the vehicle can have Internet access. Autonet also offers a special docking station for the CarFi as an option for families with more than one car.

Delphi Connect

For those on Verizon, the company offers its Delphi Connect with 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot that is connected to the OBD-II port in new or most used cars sold in the United States since 1996. Up to five devices can access the Internet at the same time through the module. Additionally, the Delphi Connect acts as a troubleshooting diagnostic tool for your vehicle, as well as GPS tracking and remote access.

Mobile Hotspot MiFi® Liberate

For those who prefer AT&T, the Mobile Hotspot MiFi Liberate does not actually connect to new or used cars, but can still be used to connect non-driving passengers to the Internet. The hotspot can connect up to 10 devices to the Internet at one time, and can be easily managed through its color touchscreen.

MiFi® 500 LTE

And for Sprint users, the MiFi 500 LTE by Novatel Wireless might be for you. The mobile hotspot allows up to 10 WiFi-enabled devices to be connected at one time, and it has an 1800 mAh battery for 10 hours of battery life on a full charge. Plus it is GPS capable for when you are on the road.

Hybrid vs. Electric: Which is Better For You?

Photo by Nathan Lanier, Flickr

Photo by Nathan Lanier, Flickr

As everybody knows, gas prices are continuing to be very high, causing everyone to feel more pain at the pump. And although prices are starting to lower throughout the country thanks to the coming holiday season, everyone knows it will not last forever and those prices will eventually bounce back up

Because of this, more and more car shoppers are beginning to consider alternative fuel vehicles, such as electric cars, or hybrids that are a combo of both gas and electric. However, with so many options for both available when conducting a used car search, how can buyers figure out which is best for them? To help make your decision easier, here’s a look at both electric and hybrid vehicles and what they offer.

Electric Cars

More and more car owners are starting to take notice of electric vehicles. In fact, in the first half of 2014 electric vehicle sales jumped 35 percent compared to last year.

How It Works: Electric vehicles are powered only by electricity. Instead of the gas engine most drivers are used to, there is an electric motor instead that is powered by rechargeable batteries. The batteries can either be charged at home via a wall socket (make sure to check if your home’s electric system can handle it first!) or when out on the road at public charging stations.

Cost Savings: How much potential cost savings an electric car can offer really comes down to how much the vehicle costs, how much you drive, and then what the cost is for gas versus electricity to power the electric car. Luckily there are a number of online calculators to help you figure this out.

Additionally, a number of states offer incentives, such as tax exemptions and exemptions from motor vehicle inspections, for electric car owners.

Hybrid Cars

For car buyers that would prefer to not go all electric and have a mix of both electric and gas, hybrid cars are what they’re looking for in a used car search.

How It Works: Instead of fully depending on batteries to make the motor go, a hybrid car includes both a gasoline fuel tank and gasoline engine, as well as batteries and an electric motor. Depending on your car’s set-up, either both gas and electric work together to give the vehicle the power it needs, or the car runs on the electric motor and the gas is used to keep them charged.

Cost Savings: Just like with an electric vehicle, how much a hybrid vehicle will save you each year depends on what you pay for it and how much you drive it. However, a hybrid also needs to factor in the vehicle’s MPG (miles per gallon) and how much fuel costs where you live. The US Department of Energy offers an online calculator to help you compare hybrid to non-hybrid vehicle options to see what your estimated savings would be.

Additionally, some states offer financial incentives for purchasing a hybrid vehicle, including rebates and tax credits, which can add up for more savings.

The Cutting Edge Isn’t Out of Reach for Used Vehicles

Technology is a major part of our lives. With smart phones more powerful than yesterday’s supercomputers in the palm of our hands, our society has become accustomed to being connected, with information always right where we need it, when we need it. Cars are no different.

Technology in the automotive space has exploded in recent years. Everything from safety and more advanced fuel use to infotainment and roving WiFi hotspots have made their way into the vehicles of today. Which is great if you can afford to purchase a brand new car. But for the bulk of the population buying even gently used cars a few years old, however, the latest technology can seem out of reach. But there are ways to bring some of the cutting edge to your brand new (used) car.

Heads-Up Displays

One of the true “bleeding edge” technologies just starting to gain traction in the luxury space are heads-up displays, or HUDs. Rather than force you to look down at a screen, the idea of a HUD is to project the information right onto the windshield, where your eyes are looking anyway. Right now, navigation is the most popular form of HUD, and Garmin has an option that allows anyone to experience the technology.

While it isn’t exactly cheap, at an MSRP of $150 it’s not so expensive that it is out of reach for the average consumer who wants to experience the future in their car today. HUD displays are also still in the infancy in terms of technology, so right now, you just get a basic LED display that gives only a small amount of what it considers the most important information. But for those of you who want to get in on the ground floor of this emerging, sci-fi-like technology, you don’t need to go buy a brand new car to do it.

Add-On Safety Technology For Used Cars

While HUDs are a great convenience technology, many people are more interested in the latest safety features found in new vehicles. One such technology is a radar or camera mounted to the back of the vehicle, that can either provide a visual display of what’s behind you, or just give warning if it detects you are about to hit something. This is a great feature that can help ensure you always know exactly what’s behind you, no matter how small it is, or how quickly it moves.

One company leading in this space is MobilEye, and they are bringing the technology to all vehicles, not just the brand new models. Their product can be installed on nearly any vehicle, and gives consumers access to a range of advanced features such as pedestrian collision warnings, lane departure warnings and headway – or following distance – monitoring ad warning. It provides even older used vehicles the advanced safety features currently only found standard in high-end luxury brands. This option is far more expensive than the HUD; it costs $850 for the unit, and does require a professional installation, which will be an additional cost. So the option to bring cutting-edge safety to your used SUV, sedan or other vehicle is available, but at a premium price. This option is still less expensive than buying a brand new luxury vehicle, however.

WiFi To Go

If you are the kind of person who likes to stay connected, the latest trend of turning cars into mobile WiFi hotspots might appeal to you. But the technology only comes standard on a handful of new models, leaving anyone buying used vehicles out of the loop. One company looking to change that and give anyone, in an car, access to the benefits of mobile networks is Autonet Mobile. The company offers a “CarFi” mobile router that can be moved between vehicles, and allows for multiple people and devices to be connected on-the-go.

The router itself has a list price of $600, but is currently available-to-buy on a variety of online retailers – including Amazon –for less. Autonet offers two monthly plans to accommodate different needs: a $29 per month plan includes 1GB of data, while the $59 per month plan includes 5GB of data. To put that into perspective, the company estimates that this would allow someone to view 6,000 Web pages on the 1GB plan, or 30,000 on the 5GB; look at 2,000 or 10,000 photos respectively; or listen to 240 songs on the smaller plan, versus 1,200 songs on the larger. While you aren’t going to be able to stream movies nonstop on a long car trip, you will be able to stay connected to your friends and family and access a wide range of media options on the go, all without having to invest in a new car for the privilege.

These are just three of the options available for any car owner to take advantage of the latest cutting-edge technology in their vehicle today. If you are in the market to purchase a used vehicle, you don’t have to compromise on your technology needs; there are many aftermarket solutions that can bring you the same level of comfort, safety and convenience, all without paying a new-car premium price.