Used Car Buying Guide: Negotiating a Fair Price

Negotiating the price on a used car does not have to be as overwhelming as it seems. In fact, if you are prepared, have a fair price in mind and are willing to walk away if the deal goes awry, the overall experience can actually be quite rewarding.

There are, however, a few steps you will need to follow to ensure that you get the car you want at a price that is fair. As you prepare for your trip to the dealership, use this guide to help you negotiate a lower price.

Step One: Establish a Starting Price

The first step in any successful negotiation is to establish a starting point. But keep in mind that the starting point should never be sticker price. To get the lowest price on a used car, you cannot negotiate down from a certain point. Instead, you should start at price that is slightly lower than the current market value and work your way up if necessary.

A good source to use when establishing market value is Kelley Blue Book.  Whether you are buying from a dealer, a private seller, or trading in, Kelley Blue Book can offer you some idea of how much a car is potentially worth.

Step Two: Research Vehicle History
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Because you are buying used, the car’s history may negatively impact its value. For instance, if the car you are thinking about buying has previously been in an accident, it should be priced lower than current market value. If not, you need to negotiate accordingly.

At UsedCars.com, we have partnered with CarFax to help you receive all the detailed information about a car’s vehicle history. This lets you check to see if a vehicle is a lemon, verify the odometer, and identify any past accident damage or major mechanical flaws.

Step Three: Be willing to walk away

By doing your research, you should have a good understanding of what the car is worth. So don’t second-guess yourself, even when the dealer starts rattling of list special offers and missed opportunities.

If the dealer is unwilling to match your price, you have to be willing to walk away. While this can be hard to do, especially if you have fallen in love with a certain car, if you can convince the dealer that they are going to miss out on a sale, they will become ready to negotiate.

Keep in mind that with any good negotiation, there is give and take on both sides. So while you never should accept a deal you are not comfortable with, you need to keep an open mind and be willing to accept a price that is fair to both sides.

Best used cars priced under $5,000

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Shopping for a used car priced for under $5,000? Well then, here is some good news for you: A limited bank account does not mean that you have to settle for an inferior or unreliable used car. Today’s modern cars, due to an array of advancements in their mechanical and body engineering, are built to last – with many older models lasting well over 100 and sometimes even 200 thousand miles.

Of course, it is also important to note that not all used cars – especially those priced under $1,500, $2,500 or even $5,000 – are created equal. So to help you with your search, UsedCars.com has put together a list of a few of the best used cars priced for less than $5,000:

1998-2002 Honda Accord

With a reputation for reliability and superior engineering, the Honda Accord has held its value surprisingly well. Unfortunately, it’s because of this reputation for quality that has made it difficult to find a low price on a newer used model. The good news, however, is that older Accords, which boast many of the same great designs, features and engineering, continue to rank well in terms of reliability and safety.

Test scores for the 2002 model year include:
• Consumer Reports – Overall Test score: 69/100
• NHTSA – Average crash rating: 4.5/5 .0

View our inventory for the 2002 Honda Accord priced under $5,000 here

1998-2002 Ford Ranger

With used car prices often listed under $2,500, the Ford Ranger has continually proven to be a tough, capable truck, perfect for the car buyer who doesn’t want to sacrifice quality for price. And with their ahead-of-their-time engineering and trim options, these used pickups are on par with many of today’s modern trucks.

Test scores for the 2002 model year include:
• NHTSA – Average crash rating: 3.8/5 .0

View our inventory for the Ford Ranger priced under $5,000 here

1998-2003 Subaru Impreza

What makes the Subaru Impreza so appealing is that not only does this sedan offer an impressive record of reliability, but with a large and innovatively designed interior, it has become the ideal choice for the car buyer looking for practicality and affordability.

Test scores for the 2003 model year include:
• Consumer Reports – Overall Test score: 59/100
• NHTSA – Average crash rating: 4.1/5 .0

View our inventory for the Subaru Impreza priced under $5,000 here

1990-1997 Mazda Miata

Sporty and fun-to-drive, the first generation Miata (1990-1997) is often priced for less than $2,500. And, with an exterior styling reminiscent of the classic roadsters from the 1950s, this snazzy little convertible is a perfect choice for those who want to turn heads without emptying their bank accounts.

• Consumer Reports – 2010 Overall Test score: 89/100
• NHTSA – 2001 Average crash rating: 4.0/5 .0

View our inventory for the Mazda Miata priced under $5,000 here

1990-2000 Acura Integra

Fun-to-drive and sporting a surprisingly powerful 142-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, the Acura Integra is a great choice for the performance-minded used car buyer – even more than a decade since these vehicles last rolled off the assembly line. Adding to this sporty hatchback’s appeal is an asking price under $2,000:

Test scores for the 1996 model year include:
• NHTSA – Average crash rating: 3.5/5 .0

View our inventory for the Acura Integra priced under $5,000 here

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What to Look for On A Test Drive

After you’ve decided which car models interest you most, taking a test drive is one of the most important steps in the process of buying a used car. A test drive is more than just a free couple of minutes in the car of your choice. It’s the perfect time to decide whether or not the car is right for you. While test driving the car, pay attention the following five areas.

Area One: Comfort – The majority of people buying cars will end up spending a lot of time in them. Whether you’ve got a lengthy commute to and from work, or you’re chauffeuring your kids to extracurricular activities, you want a car that meets your comfort requirements. Being uncomfortable in car isn’t just annoying, but dangerous. It can distract you from where your attention is needed most when you’re driving. Make sure you play with the mirrors and seats to ensure that you can adjust them to the correct positions.

Area Two: Visibility – The more cars you test drive, the more you’ll realize that some have such terrible visibility that it could become a safety issue. Check the visibility while the car is parked and when you’re driving to determine how big blind spots are and where they’re positioned.

Area Three: Noise – Noise might not be a deciding factor in whether or not you buy a particular car, but it can contribute to your comfort level when you’re driving. A noisy ride can be bothersome and distracting when you should be focusing on the road.

Area Four: Vehicle Size – Make sure you’re comfortable with the size of the vehicle you’re test driving. One way to test out how comfortable you are with the size of a car is to try parking it. Test out how it feels to pull into a parking spot, back out of one and how easy it is to parallel park the car. You’ll quickly get a feel for the size of the car and where your comfort level lies.

 

Area Five: Handling -Take note of how well the car handles as you drive it. How well does it handle turns, curves and different road surfaces? Pay attention to how quickly the car accelerates and how the brakes work, too. The best advice for understanding how the car handles is to test drive it in similar driving conditions that you typically encounter. For example, if you drive on highways daily, you should test drive cars on the highway to understand how the car accelerates.

When it comes time for you to test drive some used cars, make sure you follow these tips. Understanding what to look for when test driving cars can help you make an informed decision when you’re ready to purchase your next vehicle.

Winter Travel Guide: Simple Driving Tips for Snow and Ice

While the best advice is to stay off the roads during subpar weather conditions, UsedCars.com recognizes that this is not always a possibility. So to help keep you safe during this winter travel season, we have created this checklist for navigating slippery, icy and snowy roads. Please, refer back to this list whenever you need a refresher course on safe winter driving – and remember, one of the best tips is to go slow and take your time.

 

  • Know what you are driving: Is your car two-wheel or four wheel drive? Does it have antilock brakes, traction control or stability control? Do you have a set of winter tires or are they all-weather tires? Each of these features can directly impact how your car handles on the ice and the snow. To get a feel for how these features interact with each other, take the time to practice driving in an empty, but snowy, parking lot.

 

  • Make Room for Other Drivers: Believe it or not, the time period between November and March is one of the busiest highway travel seasons of the year. To avoid rear-ending others on these crowded highways, be sure to leave three times the normal space between you and the car in front of you.

 

  • Add weight: Is your car rear wheel drive? Then those rear tires may need a little help maintaining their grip. Consider adding extra weight behind the rear axle (the rear axle is the rod that runs between your rear tires). This added weight will help to keep those tires on the pavement, which will increase traction. If you are not sure what to use as weight, 20lbs bags of sand are an inexpensive option.

 

  • Beware of Black Ice: Black ice get its name because it blends in with the black asphalt of the road, making it next to impossible to spot. The best advice is to never feel overconfident on a road the looks perfectly clear. And remember, if a road looks wet or slick, there is a good chance that black ice is present.

 

  • Brake Carefully: It takes time to stop when the road is icy, and if you end up slamming on your brakes, chances are you will go skidding out of control.

 

  • Don’t Brake When Skidding: If you do start to skid, fight the temptation of slamming on your brakes. This will only make things worse. Instead, take your foot off of the accelerator. If braking becomes necessary, you can try slightly pumping your brakes – Never slam them.

 

  • Steer in the Skid: This can be a hard concept to understand, as it often goes against natural instincts. To better understand this concept, imagine that during the skid, your rear tires are trying to move ahead of your front tires. Your goal should be to prevent this from happening.

Winter Tires: Are They Worth The Investment?

Commanding a slightly higher price tag than a traditional set of all-weather tires, the value and expense associated with winter tires often falls under scrutiny. Many car owners, especially those who live in climates with only intermittent periods or moderate snowfall, tend to underestimate their importance. Instead of making an investment that could help save them from a myriad of potential headaches, they opt to take their chances and go without.

 

The truth is that winter tires, even in temperate climates, can keep you safe when the road conditions begin to deteriorate. But if you are still skeptical about their value, please read this list of advantages associated with these highway-gripping, skid-stopping, lifesaving tires.

 

Advantage #1: Winter tires are designed for cold, not just snow

The misconception has long been that unless you live at a higher elevation or in an extreme northern climate, where snowfall routinely breaks the two-foot mark, winter tires serve little purpose.

 

The truth, however, is that winter tires work because they are designed for colder temperatures, meaning their value extends past driving in blizzard conditions. If this seems confusing, think about your tires in terms of pliability. A winter tire is designed to remain pliable in colder temperatures – helping it to grip the road better. Compare this to all-season tires, which harden as the thermometer begins to dip, making it much more difficult to maintain traction on the roadways.

 

Advantage #2: All-season tires are not really for all season

All-season tires were first introduced to the marketplace about 30 years ago, riding on the marketing hype that these tires were great for all types of weather conditions – including icy and snowy roadways. While the all-season tire did offer a big improvement over many of the tires that were available during those days of yesteryear, the simple truth is that they do not offer ideal performance in colder climates.

 

Instead, for climates where cold weather coupled by periods of snow and ice are common, the winter tire offers the ideal choice. Better suited for everyday winter driving then the “snow tire” but with more traction than the all-weather tire, these tires help to ensure optimal efficiency during wintery periods.

 

 

Advantage #3: Staying on the road saves you money

Of course, the biggest argument against winter tires simply comes down to economics. Many drivers have enough trouble paying for the maintenance and upkeep of one set of tires. So the thought of adding an extra set of tires into the mix can be overwhelming.

 

The truth, however, is that a good set of winter tires can actually save you money. Not only do they help you stay on the road and avoid accidents. But they also help you avoid paying the repair fees, maintenance costs, deductible and rising insurance premiums often associated with those accidents.

 

 

Winter Car Buying Guide: Four Tips for Buying a Car This Winter

Great news – the winter time is a great time to shop for deals on new and used cars. With winter weather, the looming tax season and holiday obligations keeping potential buyers away from car lots, dealers experience a substantial decrease in customer traffic between the months of December thru March. And as the law of supply and demand commands, less demand and more supply means lower prices:

 

Demand is Low: Shop around:

Because customer traffic from dealership to dealership is sporadic during the winter months, deals and pricing can vary greatly, even between car lots that are on the same block. With this in mind, never settle for the first deal you come across. If the dealership down the road has more cars in stock, they may be more willing to negotiate. But you will never find out, unless you are willing to shop around.

 

You Have the Salesperson’s Attention: Start with your lowest offer:

When shopping in the summer, you are competing against a myriad of customers, and unfortunately you may not always have the salesperson’s undivided attention. But in the winter, you may be the salesperson’s only customer of the day. This means they are desperate to make a sale, and they will be more willing to negotiate.

 

Last Year’s Model is Less Expensive:  Buy the older model:

What happens to the 2012 model car when the calendar year turns to 2013? It becomes outdated, even if it is still brand new. But because the car is now last year’s model, the dealer has to offer it at a much lower price tag – just to move it off the lot.

 

Even older cars, that are slightly used but less than five years old are great buys. These vehicles often have many of the same features of the newer models, but due to deprecation, they will be listed at a significantly lower price tag.

 

Icy Roads are Dangerous: Look for a winter ready car:

When buying a car in the winter, its ability to tackle snowy and icy roads should be top of mind. If the car is new, ask about features like traction control, All-Wheel Drive (AWD), heated seats, and anti-lock brakes. When buying used, those same features need to be considered, but you will also need to have the tires, battery and cooling system inspected to ensure that they are ready for sub-zero temps.

Winter Maintenance Guide: How to Winterize Your Car

Winterizing your car is an annual rite of passage for just about every driver living in a colder climate. As the arctic winds creep down from the north, sub-freezing temperatures, ice and deteriorating road conditions combine to create hazardous driving conditions. And unless you have prepared your car properly, you may find yourself – quite literally – stuck out in the cold.

 

To help you stay safe this winter and keep your car’s engine working all season long, UsedCars.com has prepared the following list of tips for winterizing your vehicle:

 

Check the Tire Tread Depth: Take note, even though 2/32” tread depth is considered the minimum in normal driving conditions, you will need substantially more than this during the winter. For snowy or icy roads, at minimum each tire should have a 6/32” deep tread (most new tires start with a 10/32”deep tread).

 

An easy way to check your tread depth is to use the penny test. Place the penny (headfirst) into several of the treads on your tire. If any part of Lincoln’s head is covered by the tread, your tire has more than 2/32″ of tread. Now flip the penny over – If the top of Lincoln memorial (the bottom of the memorial should be facing away from the tire) is covered, you have at least 6/32” of tread.

 

Maintain the Battery: Your car’s battery can be tricky – Even though it may have performed great all summer, don’t be surprised it if ends up letting you down when the weather turns cold. This is because colder temperatures can reduce your battery’s power by up to fifty percent. A good rule of thumb for batteries over three years of age is to have them tested at the beginning of every winter. Some auto part stores will offer this service free charge.

 

You will also want to test the connection between your battery, cables and terminal. Begin by gently pulling on the cables to make sure there is no slippage. Next, inspect the terminals for corrosion (this can be detected by looking for the formation of a white, flakey material).  If you notice any corrosion, you will need to clean the terminals and the ends of the cables.  This can be done by disconnecting the cables and scrubbing the terminals with a mixture of baking soda and water.

 

Inspect Your Fluids and Cooling System: Fluids that have not been called for all summer have a way of disappearing when you need them come winter. And subfreezing temperatures can wreak havoc on belts and hoses. To avoid these headaches, make it a point to have your oil, antifreeze and wiper fluid levels checked at your next oil change. You will also want to thoroughly inspect your belts and hoses for any cracks and leaks.

 

To ensure that your cooling system continues to run properly, now is also the time to consider having it flushed. While most systems need to be flushed every two to four years, this can vary. So please check your owner’s manual for details.

 

 

Best Features for Winter Driving

Certain cars simply come better equipped and ready to handle the icy roads than others. So if you live in a colder climate, and need a car for everyday driving, look for cars that offer some or all of the following winter-busting features.

 

  • Winter Tires Or All Season Tires: Many performance cars will come equipped with high-performance summer tires – which can be quite dangerous when the roadways become slick. So at the very least, you need to ensure that your car has a set of all-season tires. Of course, the better choice is to invest in winter tires, which offer the pliability to ensure your car will continue to grip the road as conditions begin to deteriorate.

 

  • ALL Wheel Drive (AWD): While four-wheel drive is ideal for areas where snowfall often amounts to several feet, for many this can be a bit of an over-kill. So instead of four-wheel drive, look for cars that offer All-Wheel Drive (AWD). AWD, which is automatically applied in most cases, is designed to ensure equally distributed power to all the wheels of your vehicle.

 

  • Antilock brakes: Regardless of driving conditions, anti-lock brakes can help you avoid a serious accident. Because ABS systems prevent your wheels from locking, you are less likely to experience a slide or skid out of control

 

  • Mirrors and Wiper Deicers: Ice buildup, especially on your windshield or side-mirrors, can severely limit your visibility. To avoid this, look for cars that offer heated mirrors and wiper deicers. The heated side mirror can clear itself of fog, melt accumulated ice or prevent further snow buildup, while the wiper deicer will keep your wipers pliable while also preventing snow or ice from accumulating during your drive.

 

  • Traction Control: When your traction control system detects wheel slippage (it does so by monitoring the speeds of all your driven wheels) it will strategically apply the brakes or reduce engine power, which in turn works to correct a slide.

 

The above features are designed to keep you safe during the winter. However, if you want to increase your comfort and driving enjoyment, also consider cars that offer remote start, heated seats, and advanced dual-climate control technology.

Best Deals on Used Cars December 2013

Ready to start browsing for a used car, truck or SUV? Spring and summer are the best months to start shopping for used cars because dealers have larger inventories and easy-to-spot deals. So whether you are shopping for a recent grad, Father’s Day or for a safer vehicle, shop December used car deals. Find models that fit your specified budget and that offer fuel-efficiency, reliability and high safety ratings.

 

UsedCars.com can help you strike the perfect balance between what you are willing to spend and finding a reliable vehicle. We are happy to help you find December used cars for sale that meet your most important specifications. Our stock of used cars, trucks and SUVs changes often, so let us help you narrow your search with our collection of December used cars for sale. Browse our December car deals below to see some of the stand-out used cars for sale this summer.

 

Don’t see what you’re looking for? Feel free to browse our entire inventory of used car deals to find the perfect used cars, trucks and SUVs listed below Kelley Blue Book value.

 

2011 Honda CR-V

(27 mpg/highway)

KBB Price:  $23,917*

What gives the 2011 Honda CR-V such high praises among critics is the spacious interior, comfortable ride and overall dependability. With ample cargo room and additional storage space, the Honda CR-V is the ideal family-friendly SUV. The CR-V also offers decent fuel economy, making it a good choice for road trips and one of our top picks for December used car deals.

 

Here is what some of the critics have to say about the 2011 Honda CR-V:

  • Consumer Reports

2010 Test score: 76

  • JD Power and Associates

Predicted reliability score: 4.5/5

  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
    Overall rating: 4/5

2011 GMC Yukon

(21 mpg/highway)

KBB Price:  $48,787*

If you’re in need of a vehicle with some leg room, the 2011 GMC Yukon is a great choice. With three rows of comfortable seating and the ability to tow heavy loads, you can’t go wrong with this large SUV. Another notable feature of the GMC Yukon is that while it boasts the size and space of a large SUV, it drives and handles as well as a much smaller model. The GMC Yukon makes our list of December used cars for sale because it’s a great choice for families.

 

Here is what some of the critics have to say about this 2011 model:

  • Consumer Reports

2013 Test score: 66/100

  • JD Power and Associates

Predicted reliability score: 3.5/5

  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
    Overall rating: 4/5

 

2012 Chrysler 300

(23 mpg/highway)

KBB Price:  $33,686*

With a long list of standard features, the 2012 Chrysler 300 offers a refined interior and sleek design. This classic American sedan has been reinvented for 2012 with rear-wheel-drive and a V8 powered engine.

 

Read what some of the critics had to say about this December used car deal:

  • Consumer Reports

Test score: 83/100

  • JD Power and Associates

Predicted reliability score: 3/5

  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Rollover crash rating: 5/5

 

2012 Kia Sorento

(26 mpg/highway)

KBB Price:  $25,343*

The 2012 Kia Sorento makes our list of the best December used car deals because of its capable engine options and impressive list of standard features. For its price range, the Kia Sorento is an excellent choice when it comes to small or midsize SUV crossovers. Families will enjoy the third row seating on this pick for our December used car deals.

 

Here is what some of the critics have to say about the Kia Sorento:

  • Consumer Reports

Test score: 74/100

  • JD Power and Associates

Predicted reliability score: 4/5

  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
    Rollover crash rating: 3.5/5

*The KBB price listed here was quoted as of 3/20/2013 – and it is reflective of the suggested retail price of a similar vehicle in excellent condition with less than 50,000 miles.

 

 

Four Costly Winter Driving Mistakes

According to a University of California Berkeley Traffic Safety Center Study fatal car crashes are more likely to happen on the first snowy day of the season than any of the following days.

 

So what can we conclude from these findings? How about a connection between weather related driving accidents and driver error.  Simply stated, the Berkeley Center Study reinforces the idea that most weather related crashes don’t involve mechanical failures –instead they are directly tied to the fault of the driver.

 

To keep you safe and prevent you from adding to these statistics, UsedCars.com has put together this list of common winter driving mistakes:

 

Driving Mistake 1: Driving too fast:

UC Berkley’s Traffic Center also notes that speed is the single greatest cause of serious crashes. But not because drivers fail to obey posted speed limits. Instead, most weather related accidents happen when drivers ignore the deteriorating road conditions and fail to reduce their speed.

 

The takeaway from this is that sometimes driving at the posted speed limit is dangerous. And instead of just driving the recommended speed, you need to take stock of how your car responds to any changing weather patterns. In other words, when snow or ice begins to form on the road, do not feel obligated to continue traveling at high speeds – even if other motorists are zooming on by.

 

Driving Mistake 2: Assuming four-wheel drive means you can’t crash:

Too many drivers think that four-wheel drive (4WD) makes them invincible. If you need proof of this, then the next time you are out on a wintry day, take stock of the number of four-wheel drive vehicles you see stuck in a ditch.

 

The reason for this seems to be the faulty assumption that the added traction from 4WD means that you can continue to travel at super high speeds.  Unfortunately, 4WD does not improve braking or turning. So while you may be okay traveling in a straight line, what happens when you have to come to a sudden stop? Or make a quick turn?

 

Driving Mistake 3: Not preparing:

There is a reason why more weather related accidents happen during the first snowy day of the year than at any other time: It’s because drivers simply are not prepared. Whether your tires are not at an adequate tread depth (you should have at least 6/32” of tread for snow and ice), your wipers are worn, or your fluids are low, this lack of preparedness can lead to a serious accident.

 

Driving Mistake 4: Slamming the brakes

What is the first thing that happens when most drivers feel their car start to slip? They slam on the brakes. And then what happens next? Their car goes spinning out of control.

 

When you slam on your brakes, you are transferring energy from your tires to your brakes – which in turn will cause your tires to lose traction. To avoid this, your best option is to ease off of the accelerator and let your car slow down on its own. Of course, in some cases, braking may be required. In this event, try quickly pumping your brakes.

All-Wheel Drive Cars for Winter Driving Fun

For years, the SUV and heavy-duty pickup truck were the only true four-wheel drive options available – meaning that if you wanted extraction during the winter, you were almost strictly limited to one of those two choices.

 

The good news is that this is no longer the case, as a myriad of sedans, wagons and hatchbacks have joined the ranks of the all-wheel drive category, offering enough traction to let you confidently navigate icy and snowy roadways.  The following is a list of a few you should consider:

 

For the Performance Minded Car Buyer: The Audi TTS -

Audi has been producing four-wheel drive coupes, sedans and roadsters for several generations now. So if you want the very best, without sacrificing performance or maneuverability, why not choose someone with a proven track record? And while just about every Audi offers a four-wheel drive option, we thought the TTS stood out in terms of driving excitement. With a 265-horsepower engine, impressive traction, and turbocharged design, this compact sports car will help you confidently maneuver down the roadways, regardless of driving conditions.

 

For the Safety Conscious Car Buyer: Volvo S60 TX –

In terms of safety, Volvo has been a recognized leader for the last several years. And now featuring all-wheel drive, the newly redesigned S60 T6 is certainly no exception. With its turbo-charged 3.0-liter engine, firm suspension, enhanced driving mechanics, and an “instant traction” feature that adds torque to the rear wheels when the vehicle is at a stop, the S60 T6 is a great companion when traveling over slippery trails.

 

For the Practical Car Buyer: The Subaru Impreza: -

The practically designed Subaru may be small in stature, but this certainly does not mean it cannot tackle snowy roads with the best of them. With its all-wheel drive option, the Impreza offers extra traction in slippery conditions. Combine this with the vehicle’s surprisingly roomy interior, and it becomes a great choice for every day driving.

 

For the Family Minded Car Buyer: The Ford Taurus -

The Ford Taurus offers the design and the practicality of the traditional family car. And now with the option of all-wheel drive, it can also offer superior traction during those snowy winter months. Add in any of the sedan’s high-end options -including full power accessories, a tilt-and-telescopic steering column, the Sync and MyFord Touch electronics interfaces, a rearview camera, dual-zone automatic climate control, and rear parking sensors – and the Taurus is able to offer a distinctive, fun and safe winter driving experience.

Winterizing Your Car: What to Put in Your Roadside Emergency

Cars break down, especially in the winter: Their batteries drain, their tires lose traction and their engines stall out. And while this might be annoying if it were to happen during a perfect 70-degree day, the stakes are much higher when the cold wind is blowing and the snow is piling up.

 

This is why having a stocked and ready-to-go roadside emergency kit becomes such a necessity. As you begin winterizing your car this year, take a moment to reevaluate what you have on hand for emergencies – and consider adding some or all of these items:

 

  • Cellphone: Today, just about everyone has a cellphone. But what happens if your battery goes dead or you have left it behind because you were in a rush? Investing in a prepaid cellphone – one that you always keep in your car – will help you to stay in touch in the event all other communications break down.

 

  • Basic Equipment: At a bare minimum, you should always carry a set of jumper cables, tire sealant, tire gauge, jack and lug wrench, spare fuses, screwdriver, pliers, flare, and fire extinguisher.

 

  • Winter Wear: If you find yourself stuck out in the middle of a snowstorm, a selection of extra clothing will protect you from the elements. This should include a small bag that contains a winter hat, gloves, all-weather jacket and boots.

 

  • First Aid Kit: Invest in a quality first aid kit – one that includes a variety of bandages, gauze, latex, adhesive tape, scissors, burn ointments, hot and cold packs, and thermal blanket

 

  • Snow and Ice Removal: A snow shovel and bag of sand are important if you ever find yourself caught in a snow drift. By shoveling the snow out from a stuck tire and surrounding that tire with sand or kitty litter, you have a better chance of regaining traction.

 

  • Basic Survival Equipment: A bottle of water, energy bar, flashlight and matches can be extremely valuable supplies when caught out in the elements.

 

These are just a few things you should consider adding to your roadside emergency kit. Keep in mind that you may need to add to this list to account for other passengers in your car. For instance, if you often have a car full of little ones, you may want to consider baby formula, diapers, appropriate snacks, or extra blankets.

 

Regardless, the basic theory remains the same. Taking a moment to stock your car with a few essentials can save you some major headaches down the road.

 

WinterChecklist

 

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<img src=”http://www.usedcars.com/advice/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/WinterChecklist1.jpg”><br><p style=”font-size: 10px; color:#2189ca;font-family: arial;”>Winterize you car with this easy to follow <a href=”http://www.usedcars.com/advice/car-safety/winterizing-your-car-what-to-put-in-your-roadside-emergency/”>car safety checklist</a>. </p>

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Tips for Driving in the Snow

Winter driving is not without its own unique set of challenges, dangers and frustrations. When ice or snow begins to build up on the roadways, your driving abilities are put to the test. And while no one, not even the most experienced driver, is completely safe when road conditions are deteriorating, the following list of tips for driving in the snow may help to improve your chances of arriving at your destination safely.

 

  • Tip #1: Stay Home: The best advice is to stay off the roads. When the roads are icy and snowy, avoid making unnecessary trips in your car.

 

  • Tip #2: Clear the Snow from Your Car:  While this may seem obvious, this is a rule too many drivers ignore. Do not be content with simply wiping away a strip of snow from your windshield. Instead, to ensure optimal visibility, clear the snow from every window as well as the headlights, taillights and side mirrors. Snow that has collected on the roof and windshield of your car will also affect visibility. So it is best to take the time to remove this as well.

 

  • Tips # 3: Practice: If you are an inexperienced driver, or if this is the first snowfall of the year, consider taking a moment to practice in an empty parking plot. This helps you get a feel for how the vehicle will handle, stop and start during slippery conditions. 

 

  • Tip #4 Go Slow: It’s better to arrive late than not at all. So do not be in a hurry, even if other vehicles are speeding on past you. Remember that rapid movements lead to skids and loss of control. Counter this by concentrating on making sure every movement is slow and fluid.

 

  • Tips # 5: Make Room: Simply put, when the road is slick, stopping can take more time than you suspect. To avoid ramming the car in front of you, be sure to allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the other cars on the road.

 

  • Tips #6: Scan the Road Ahead: Road conditions can deteriorate quickly, and black ice can be next to impossible to spot.  Don’t let a clear road lull you into a false sense of security. By continually scanning the road ahead, you can anticipate any trouble spots and put yourself in the best position to successfully maneuver through any situation.

 

Tips #7: Go Easy on the Pedal: This includes both the gas and the brake pedal. When braking, start your stop earlier than normal. This will allow you to gently push the gas pedal, which can offer valuable insight into how the car is responding to any slippery road conditions.

Car Buying Guide: Best Cars for Winter Driving

Searching for a car to get you through this winter? There are a number of great choices out there. So to help you with your search and narrow down the selection, UsedCars.com has put together this list of four winter ready vehicles you should consider:

 

2010 – 2012 Subaru Outback:

The problem with too many winter ready cars is that come summer time, their cumbersome frames and deliberate maneuverability meant that they are not very fun to drive. Fortunately, this is not the case with the Subaru Outback. Redesigned in 2010, this fourth generation crossover was designed to provide a superior driving experience all year long. The Outback’s Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive and comprehensive Vehicle Dynamics Control systems will help drivers maintain traction on snowy and icy roads, while its impressive 6-cylinder engine offers a little extra punch when the roads are clear.

 

Standard Winter Safety Features for the 2012 Model:

  • AWD
  • Anti – Lock brakes
  • Traction Control
  • Stability Control

 

2011 -2012 Toyota Sienna:

The family minded car buyer will be attracted to this third generation Sienna’s On-demand All-wheel Drive System with Active Torque Control – which will allow them to confidently transport their little ones, even as road conditions deteriorate. Of course traction control is not the only feature the Sienna has to offer. The minivan continues to impress in terms of its reputation for reliability, versatility and safety.

 

Standard Winter Safety Features for 2012 Model:

  • Anti – Lock brakes
  • Traction Control
  • Stability Control

 

2005 -2012 Acura RL:

If you want luxury in addition to a safe winter driving experience, then the Acura RL may be the car you have been searching for. With an AWD system that continually shifts the torque of the wheels, this second generation luxury sedan is able to maintain its grip even during exceptionally nasty driving conditions.

 

Standard Winter Safety Features for 2012 Model:

  • AWD
  • Anti – Lock brakes
  • Traction Control
  • Stability Control

 

2009 -2012 Ford F150:

For drivers who want a sure footed pickup truck, the F150 is an unbeatable choice. Offering the security of four-wheel drive as well as an impressive combination of power, comfort and style, this is in one pickup that will help you get the job done, regardless of road conditions.

 

Standard Winter Safety Features for 2012 Model:

  • 4WD
  • Anti – Lock brakes
  • Traction Control
  • Stability Control

 

The Best Used Car Deals for November

Thinking about shopping for used cars this month? November used car deals are sitting right under your nose, you just have to know where to look. When it comes to finding the best November used car deals, don’t sacrifice fuel-efficiency, reliability or safety for a lower price tag. Find a balance in what you are willing to spend and what’s most important to you in a used car, truck or SUV.

 

UsedCards.com understands how hard it can be to start shopping for used cars. That’s exactly why we offer you a list of some of our most noteworthy choices for the current month. Our stock changes often, and when we see a gem we like to make it easy for you to find. Each one our November used car deals has received praise from consumers as well as industry reports.

 

And, if you don’t see something in our section of November used cars for sale, feel free to browse our entire inventory of used car deals to find the perfect used car, truck or SUV to meet your needs. And remember, our entire inventory is listed below Kelley Blue Book value.

 

2009 Subaru Forester (24 mpg/highway)

KBB Price:  $25,531*

In terms of smaller SUVs, the Forester is one of the better choices on the market. The handling is nimble and the 2.5-liter four cylinder engine provides decent acceleration. The impressive crash-test ratings make this vehicle one of our top choices for November used car deals. With the 2009 redesign, this model was improved to include a roomier rear seat and one of the best rides available in a small SUV.

 

Here is what some of the critics have to say about this Subaru model:

  • Consumer Reports

Test score: 84/100

  • JD Power and Associates

Predicted reliability score: 3/5

  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
    Overall rating: 4/5

 

2012 Audi A8 (21 mpg/highway)

KBB Price:  $141,858*

Have a need for speed? The Audi A8 continually offers excellent handling, standard all-wheel drive and an opulent interior that perfectly combines function with form. When you’re shopping around for November used car deals, you can’t go wrong with this luxury car. From a performance standpoint, the 2012 Audi A8 offers everything you could possibly want and more. How much fun would you have spending the summer months riding around in this sporty car?

 

Here is what some of the critics have to say about this 2012 model:

  • Consumer Reports

2011 Test score: 91/100

  • JD Power and Associates

Predicted reliability score: 3.5/5

 

 

2011 Infiniti M (26 mpg/highway)

KBB Price:  $40,147*

Taking the time to create a more sports-like sedan, the 2011 Infiniti M features a striking design and cutting-edge technology. With the 2006 redesign, this car was transformed to offer a comfortable interior, capable features and your choice of a V6 or V8 engine. The smooth ride and excellent handling make this one of our picks for the best used cars for sale in November.

 

Here is what some of the critics have had to say about the 2011 Infiniti M:

  • Consumer Reports

Test score: 93/100

  • JD Power and Associates

Predicted reliability score: 3/5

  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Overall rating for Infiniti M37: 4/5

*The KBB price listed here was quoted as of 3/20/2013 – and it is reflective of the suggested retail price of a similar vehicle in excellent condition with less than 50,000 miles.

Dos and Don’ts of Getting Stuck in the Snow

It happens to just about everyone sooner or later. You are not paying attention to where you are parking, or you have a momentary lapse in concentration, and wham – you find yourself stuck in a snowdrift, with your tires spinning harmlessly as they make a futile attempt to gain traction.

 

If you do find yourself stuck in the snow, don’t just recklessly start spinning your tires. The following list of dos and don’ts is designed to help you avoid more trouble and get you back on the road, quickly.

 

  • Don’t Spin Your Tires: Lightly push the gas pedal to ensure that your tires are gaining traction. If your wheels are spinning and you are not feeling any momentum, stop immediately.  By allowing your tires to spin, you are only digging yourself deeper.

 

  • Do Turn Your Wheel from Side to Side: Try turning your steering wheel from side to side. This may help clear snow from around the tires and give you the friction you need to regain traction.  

 

  • Don’t Forget to Straighten Your Tires: When your wheels are straight, they are more likely to make full contact with the ground – meaning better overall traction.

 

  • Do Use a Shovel to Clear Snow from around the Tires: If you push the gas and nothing happens, your next step should be to remove the snow from the front, sides and rear of the tires. This may also involve breaking up any ice that has formed underneath the tires.

 

  • Don’t Forget to Check the Tail Pipe: If the snow around your car is high, make sure to check the tail pipe, ensuring it not blocked by snow. When snow is covering the tailpipe, you run the risk of toxic gases becoming trapped inside your interior cabin.

 

  • Do Use Sand or Kitty Litter: By pouring sand, kitty litter, or rock salt around your tires, you are creating a place where your tires can find traction. If you do not have any of these items available, try placing your vehicle’s floor mats in front and behind each stuck tire.

 

  • Don’t Push the Gas Pedal to the Floor: Slow and steady is the key to getting your car out of a snowdrift – meaning you should avoid the temptation of revving your engine and spinning your tires. This will only makes things more complicated.

 

  • Do Try Rocking Your Car: Rock your car by shifting it between forward and reverse. Keep in mind, however, that this may damage certain types of transmissions. So be sure to check your owner’s manual before resorting to this method.

 

  • Don’t Forget to Try a Lower Gear: By putting your car in a lower gear, you may be able to create more traction without excessive tire spinning.

 

What to Look for On A Test Drive

After you’ve decided which car models interest you most, taking a test drive is one of the most important steps in the process of buying a used car. A test drive is more than just a free couple of minutes in the car of your choice. It’s the perfect time to decide whether or not the car is right for you. While test driving the car, pay attention the following five areas.

 

Area One: Comfort – The majority of people buying cars will end up spending a lot of time in them. Whether you’ve got a lengthy commute to and from work, or you’re chauffeuring your kids to extracurricular activities, you want a car that meets your comfort requirements. Being uncomfortable in car isn’t just annoying, but dangerous. It can distract you from where your attention is needed most when you’re driving. Make sure you play with the mirrors and seats to ensure that you can adjust them to the correct positions.

 

Area Two: Visibility – The more cars you test drive, the more you’ll realize that some have such terrible visibility that it could become a safety issue. Check the visibility while the car is parked and when you’re driving to determine how big blind spots are and where they’re positioned.

 

Area Three: Noise – Noise might not be a deciding factor in whether or not you buy a particular car, but it can contribute to your comfort level when you’re driving. A noisy ride can be bothersome and distracting when you should be focusing on the road.

 

Area Four: Vehicle Size – Make sure you’re comfortable with the size of the vehicle you’re test driving. One way to test out how comfortable you are with the size of a car is to try parking it. Test out how it feels to pull into a parking spot, back out of one and how easy it is to parallel park the car. You’ll quickly get a feel for the size of the car and where your comfort level lies.

 

Area Five: Handling -Take note of how well the car handles as you drive it. How well does it handle turns, curves and different road surfaces? Pay attention to how quickly the car accelerates and how the brakes work, too. The best advice for understanding how the car handles is to test drive it in similar driving conditions that you typically encounter. For example, if you drive on highways daily, you should test drive cars on the highway to understand how the car accelerates.

 

When it comes time for you to test drive some used cars, make sure you follow these tips. Understanding what to look for when test driving cars can help you make an informed decision when you’re ready to purchase your next vehicle.

The Best Used Car Deals for October

When looking for the best deal on a used car this October, you need to shop for a car that offers more than just a low price tag. Unless the vehicle offers reliability, exceptional safety, and fuel economy, it is hardly worthy of a closer look.

 

To help you with your search for a great deal on a used car this October, UsedCars.com is offering you this list of some of the most noteworthy cars gracing our inventory. Each car listed has received high praise from consumers and features a strong track record of dependability. In addition to the cars listed below, we also encourage you to visit our Best Used Car Deals Page, where we offer you access to an extensive inventory of used cars, trucks and SUVs listed below Kelley Blue Book value. 

2010 Kia Soul (31mpg/highway)

KBB Price:  $11,946*

Affordability without sacrificing fun, funk or flair, this is what Kia set out to accomplish. And this is exactly what the car manufacturer accomplished with the introduction of the Soul. The economically driven car buyer will be happy to note that, in keeping with Kia’s long tradition of creating affordably priced automobiles, the Soul was designed with economy in mind. However, the car’s funky swept-back exterior design, with its interesting angles and vibrant colors, creates a sense of energy, fun and funk that had previously been lacking from the Kia brand. It’s this combination of fun and affordability that make the Soul one of the best deals on the used car market this October.

 

Here is what some of the critics have to say about the 2010

  • Consumer Reports

Test score: 68/100

  • JD Power and Associates

Predicted reliability score: 2.5/5

  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 

Overall crash rating: 4/5

 

2009 BMW X3 (24  mpg/highway)

KBB Price:  $28,262*

Searching for a used car this October that will offer high-end sophistication without emptying your bank account? The BMX X3 may be the car you have been looking for. As a compact SUV, the X3 offers the type of versatility that most drivers are looking for. However, with its powerful engine, durable frame and responsive handling, this five-passenger SUV delivers a kind of utility that is rarely found in a luxury vehicle.

 

Here is what some of the critics have to say about the 2011

  • Consumer Reports

Test score: 80/100

  • JD Power and Associates

Predicted reliability score: 3.5/5

 

2009 Subaru Impreza (27 mpg/highway)

KBB Price:  $14,936*

Do not let the lack of brand recognition fool you. A Subaru Impreza is a smart buy this October 2013. With its superior all-wheel-drive performance, the Impreza offers a type of drivability that is rarely found in a compact car. Throw in the compact car’s impressive record of reliability and safety, and it is sure to become a valued asset.

 

Here is what some of the critics have had to say about the 2009.

  • Consumer Reports

2009 Test score: 84/100

  • JD Power and Associates

Predicted reliability score: 3.5/5

  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Rollover crash rating: 3.5/5

 

2010 Ford Fusion  (24  mpg/highway)

KBB Price:  $14,416*

Perhaps the best used car deal this October 2013 is the practically designed Ford Fusion. Offering the rare blend of family car features and sports car-like drivability, this expertly engineered family car has been a hit among car buyers who want a mid-size sedan with a little extra.  A spacious interior, responsive driving dynamics and expressive styling features have all attributed to the Fusion’s success within the American market.

 

Here is what some of the critics have to say about the 2011

  • Consumer Reports

Test score: 75/100

  • JD Power and Associates

Predicted reliability score: 4/5

  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Overall crash rating: 4/5

 

For more deals visit our Best Deals Section

 

*The KBB price listed here was quoted as of 10/1/2013 – and it is reflective of the suggested retail price of a similar vehicle in excellent condition with 30,000 miles

Warranty Terminology and Definitions

Evaluating the worth of a warranty on a used car can be difficult. In fact, in many states dealers are not required to offer any type of warranty. So when they do add a warranty, it is mostly just a marketing ploy, offering little in the way of protection or value.

 

This is why it is always advisable to carefully read the terms of the warranty before you finalize the purchase of the used car. If you feel that the car is not adequately protected, you can attempt to negotiate a warranty plan into the price, or you may want to pay for an extended warranty plan.

 

 As-Is

If a car is sold “As-Is,” this means that it comes without a warranty. While most states allow a car to be sold As-Is, this must be disclosed by the dealer and offered in writing. According to the FTC, there are currently 12 states as well as the District of Columbia that do not allow “as-is” sales on used vehicles. These states include: West Virginia, Maine, Maryland, Kansas Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Connecticut.

 

 Implied Warranties

If the used car is not listed “As-Is,” but it does not come with any type of written warranty, most states will hold the dealer responsible for an implied warranty. This means that the car must meet certain reasonable quality standards. So, if you buy a car and it stops running a week later, it may be covered under an implied warranty.

 

 Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) Warranties

Certified Pre-Owned car  is a vehicle that is subjected to a comprehensive inspection by a manufacturer certified mechanic. Because these cars are given a thorough inspection, they often come with a pretty extensive warranty plan. While the benefits of the warranty will vary depending on the CPO program, you can rest assured knowing that many of your car’s major parts are covered.

 

 Service Contract/Extended Warranty

Also known as an extended warranty, a service contract is basically a warranty you purchase to add protection. If you are considering a service contract, you will want to ensure that it is not include duplicate coverage on the existing warranty. You will also need to check to see if all the repairs and routine maintenance, such as oil changes, have to be done at the dealer. Sometimes missing manufacturer recommended services or having the services completed by a third party will void the warranty.

 

Whatever you do, make sure you read the warranty thoroughly before you agree to anything. And remember, if it is not specifically stated in writing, chances are it is not covered.

Hybrid Side-by-Side Comparison

Car makers have reinvented the hybrid. No longer are consumers relegated to the choice of a barely loaded compact car, with little acceleration and no legroom. Instead, new technology complemented by increased consumer demand has resulted in some innovative designs in the hybrid car marketplace.

 

Below, UsedCars.com is offering a quick glimpse at a few of the more popular and innovative hybrid designs on the market. Whether your primary focus is fuel economy or you need a practical car with a little more cargo space, there is a hybrid out there for you, and we want to help you find it.

 

Compact Hybrids

 

Toyota Prius:

2012 EPA Estimates: 53 City/46 Highway

The Toyota Prius has been a leader in the hybrid revolution since the turn of the century.  And with its long record of reliability and performance, the Prius continues to be a great choice on the used car market.

 

Honda Civic

2012 EPA Estimates: 44 City/44 Highway

Bearing the respected Honda name, the Civic Hybrid capitalizes on the automaker’s record for reliability and dependability while delivering superior fuel economy.

Mid-Size Hybrids

Ford Fusion Hybrid

2012 EPA Estimates: 47 City/47 Highway

Available with a V6 191 horsepower engine, the Fusion Hybrid delivers where others fall short – That’s in the performance category. Smooth and refined, this is a fun-to-drive car that just so happens to offer superior fuel efficiency.

 

Toyota Camry Hybrid

2012 EPA Estimates: 43 City/39 Highway

If you like the Toyota Camry, then you will love the Toyota Camry Hybrid – which offers many of the same great features, while also helping you save at the pump.

 

SUV Hybrids

  • Ford Escape Hybrid

2012 EPA Estimates: 30 City/27 Highway

The Ford Escape Hybrid prides itself in offering the best fuel economy in its class. But don’t think that this SUV skimps on things like cargo room or driving performance. Quicker than its gasoline powered counterpart, the Escape Hybrid offers a host of interior refinement features and plenty of legroom.

 

  • Toyota Highlander Hybrid

2012 EPA Estimates: 28 City/28 Highway

The Toyota Highlander Hybrid offers all-wheel drive, seating for seven and an engine so powerful you won’t believe it’s a hybrid.

Luxury Hybrids

  • Lexus CT 200

2012 EPA Estimates: 43 City/40 Highway

With better handling than just about every other hybrid in its class and with the kind of luxury you would expect from Lexus, this compact four-door hatchback offers much more than just the appeal of fuel economy.

 

  • Infiniti M35h

2012 EPA Estimates: 27 City/32 Highway

A 302-horsepower V6 gasoline engine and a 67-horsepower electric motor combine to offer a thrilling driving experience.

Understanding Alternative Fuels

In the simplest of terms, an alternative fueled vehicle is any vehicle that does not run on gasoline or diesel. Instead, its fuel comes from a non-petroleum based source – like natural gas, corn or another plant-based byproduct. Because most of these resources are renewable and produced domestically, the cited benefits are far ranging: leading to reduced dependency on foreign imports, extended oil supplies and reduced emissions.

 

This guide examines two of today’s more popular alternative fuel options: E85 Ethanol and Compressed Natural Gas (CNG). Read on to learn about the advantages and disadvantages of each option.

 

E85 Ethanol

Ethanol fuel is an alcohol-based fuel composed of fermented and distilled starch crops. (e.g. corn). It’s important to note that this not a new technology.  In fact, about one-third of all gasoline currently sold in the United States contains some amount of ethanol. And most cars are capable of using a mixture that contains as much as 10% ethanol and 90% gasoline.

 

Advantages of E85 Ethanol: What makes an E85 engine standout is that the mixture is mainly ethanol based, with 85% coming from ethanol and 15% coming from conventional gasoline. This not only reduces the United States’ dependency on foreign oil, it stretches the earth’s current supply of oil (which is not renewable) and results in lower emissions.

 

Disadvantages of E85 Ethanol: Opponents of ethanol based fuel point to the fact that ethanol production requires the burning of petroleum based products to plant crops and operate refineries – which of course would seem to offset any environmental benefits. Additionally, vehicles using E85 get worse fuel efficiency when compared to their gasoline counterparts. E85 is also hard to find, with only about 1 percent of all the gas stations in the United States offering E85.

 

Because ethanol engines are not a new technology, there are a number of cars on the roadways currently capable of running on E85. Known as Flexible Fuel Vehicles (FFV, these cars include:

  • Ford Focus FFV
  • Chevrolet Malibu FFV
  • GMC Terrain E85 Flex Fuel
  • Ford Ranger E85 FFV

 

Compressed Natural Gas 

Another alternative fuel that is slowly beginning to see increased popularity in the mainstream marketplace is Compressed Natural Gas (CNG). But even though automakers like Honda are touting these clean fuel alternatives as the next big thing in the world of green energy, it’s important to note that this is not a new technology. Instead manufacturers have been producing cars capable of running on natural gas as far back as the 1930s.

 

Advantages of CNG: Low costs and cleaner emissions are two of the primary advantages of CNG. Not only does natural gas cost about a third of gasoline, but it burns much cleaner, resulting in reduced carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide emissions.

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Disadvantages of CNG: The major disadvantage of CNG is availability. In truth, natural gas fueling stations are hard to find; and in some areas, CNG is not available at all, even in the form of an at home fueling station.

 

Even though CNG is not a new technology, it has not been until recently that automakers have begun producing these vehicles for the general public. Examples of today’s modern CNG powered vehicle includes:

  • Honda Civic GX CNG
  • Chevrolet Silverado 2500 CNG
  • Dodge Ram 2500 CNG

Best MPG SUVs

Since their introduction to the marketplace, SUVs have offered the appeal of cargo space, passenger room and off-road capability. And now, due to an innovation in technology, lighter frames, and more compact designs, some SUVs are beginning to add the benefits of fuel economy to their list of advantages

 

Below you’ll find our listing of the five most fuel efficient SUVs on today’s market. Whether using hybrid technology or smaller engines with plenty of punch, this list of SUVs will help you save without sacrificing space, drivability or cargo space.

 

Nissan Juke

  • 2012 EPA Estimates: 27 City/32 Highway

Small and compact, the Nissan Juke offers some of the best fuel economy in its class. While many may define this funky little car as more of a hatchback than a SUV, its five seat design and cargo space, help to solidify its place on the SUV/Crossover market.

 

Lexus RX 450h

  • 2012 EPA Estimates: 32 City/28 Highway

Boasting power, acceleration and fuel economy, the Lexus RX 450h treats car buyers to a luxury driving experience, while offering the appeal of being eco-friendly. This Hybrid SUV, coming complete with a host of standard luxury features, also boasts the type of interior refinement not often found in other hybrids.

 

Ford Escape Hybrid

  • 2012 EPA Estimates: 30 City/27 Highway

As one of the best-selling SUVs of all time, the Ford Escape is a safe choice for the car buyer looking for that combination of room, comfort and styling. Add in a hybrid engine that has resulted in this being the most fuel efficient SUV in its class, and you will be hard-pressed to find a better option on the SUV marketplace.

 

Toyota Highlander Hybrid

  • 2012 EPA Estimates: 28 City/28 Highway

With its large interior and impressively powerful engine, it may be hard to believe that this SUV offers superior fuel efficiency. Boasting a third row of seats, the Highlander offers the driving dynamics of a sedan, but with the cargo space and ride height you would expect from a midsize SUV.

 

Hyundai Tucson

  • 2012 EPA Estimates: 23 City/31 Highway

For price, affordability and fuel economy without sacrificing room and driving experience, the Hyundai Tucson offers it all. Capable of seating up to five passengers and with a number of interior features, the Tucson is a great SUV that just so happens to be fuel efficient.

Types of Fuel Efficient Vehicles

The definition of the fuel efficient car is changing. At one time, consumers were taught that the most efficient way to save at the pump was to invest in a hybrid. However, modern technology has changed the landscape and made room for a number of practical options. Below is a listing of some of the more popular and practical types of fuel efficient vehicles.

 

Gas Powered

Your car does not need an electric motor to offer maximum fuel efficiency.

In fact, MSN.com  just released a listing of five gas powered cars that average over 40 MPG on the highway. Even if the car you are thinking about buying is not one these mega misers, there are a couple of key considerations that can help you save, including:

 

  • Four-Cylinder vs. V6

The general rule of thumb is that the smaller the engine the better the fuel economy. Of course, when you do choose a smaller engine, you may also be sacrificing things like speed and power.

 

  • Standard vs. Automatic

Not only do automatic transmissions increase sticker price, they also increase what you pay at the pump – meaning that if you want to save, a standard transmission may be your best choice.

 

 Hybrid

Not all hybrids are created equal. Different types of hybrid cars use different technologies – the following are two of the most common examples:

 

  • Strong Hybrids

These cars have separate gasoline and electric engines; and depending on driving conditions, these engines either work together or separately to power your vehicle. Some examples of strong hybrid cars include the Toyota Prius and Nissan Altima Hybrid

 

  • Power Assist Hybrids

In a power assist hybrid engine, the electric motor never operates alone. Instead, the gasoline engine is always engaged, and the electric engine is used to complement its power. The Honda Civic Hybrid is one example of a power assist hybrid.

 

Other Fuel Efficient Choices

As our technology expands, so has the choice in fuel efficient technologies. A few additional fuel efficient options include:

 

  • Clean Diesel

With many newer model luxury cars being offered with a clean diesel option, clean diesel engines are quickly becoming a popular choice among car buyers looking for better fuel efficiency without sacrificing room, power and comfort. On average, diesel engines are more powerful and fuel-efficient than similar-sized gasoline engines (about 30-35% more fuel efficient).

 

  • Electric Vehicles

Electric vehicles are propelled by an electric motor and powered by rechargeable battery packs – Meaning no gasoline. While current technology still limits the driving range of these vehicles, many of the newer models are capable of traveling from 50 to 100 miles on a single charge.

 

Your Guide to Understanding MPG

In today’s landscape of escalating gas prices, fuel economy consideration have become a major part of the car buying process. Buyers are using the estimated Miles per Gallon (MPG) rating to help them decide between two otherwise similar vehicles. By knowing what this rating means and how to find it, you will be better equipped to start saving at the pump.

 

Finding the MPG

When shopping at the dealer, locating the EPA estimated MPG is a relatively straight forward process. All new cars and many used cars have their fuel efficiency rating listed right alongside the window sticker price. These fuel economy numbers are broken into three parts:

 

  • City MPG: The EPA estimate of gas consumption under city driving conditions
  • Highway MPG: The EPA estimate of a gas consumption under highway driving conditions
  • Combined MPG: The fuel performance for the vehicle when the City and Highway MPGs are combined. This is an average of the two separate tests, and it is weighted by the distance covered.

 

Even if you are buying a used car and the vehicle’s MPG is not directly listed on the sticker price, finding this information is a relatively straight forward process.  By law, automakers must post the EPA certified fuel-economy ratings for all their vehicles. The only exceptions to this are vehicles with a gross-vehicle-weight rating over 8,500 pounds. You can find information on a specific vehicle’s MPG by contacting the car manufacturer or visiting their website. FuelEconmy.Gov  also provides a listing for all EPA estimates.

 

EPA vs. Real World MPG

The problem, however, is that EPA estimates are not always the best indicator of a vehicle’s fuel efficiency when exposed to real-world driving conditions. While they are great for comparing one brand new vehicle against another, these estimates can be misleading when used to compare two used vehicles.

 

The reason for this is the conditions in which the tests are completed. EPA fuel economy tests are conducted under ideal conditions, with vehicles that have been properly broken in and that are in top mechanical shape. In addition, these vehicles are tested without a full complement of passengers or cargo and are driven without the air conditioning and other electrical accessories in use. So, if you are buying a used car, these estimates may be grossly misleading. Depending on your driving habits and the condition of the car, the actual miles per gallon can be much lower.

 

Other Elements Contributing to Fuel Efficiency

While EPA estimates are great for comparing new cars, they should not be your only consideration in a used car purchase. Other elements you can use to determine the fuel economy on a used car include:

 

  • Manual Transmission: Cars with manual transmissions often get better MPG when compared to their automatic transmission counterparts.
  • Engine Size: More horsepower and larger engine liter size can contribute to lower MPG. For example, a 1.2-liter engine may have better fuel efficiency than a 1.5-liter engine.
  • Clean Diesel: Many newer model cars are being offered with a clean diesel option. This can result in better fuel economy when compared to a gasoline engine. 

Your Used Car Buying Financing Options

Need help deciding on the best way to finance a used car. The following used car financing guide outlines all your car buying options to help you decide which is right for you.

 

Decision #1: Cash or Credit?

When deciding on how you will finance a car, you first need to decide whether to pay for the entire car upfront or to take out a loan. Take note that paying for the car in full is the ideal choice. This is because car buyers who take out loans to pay for their car wind up paying more for the loan, as finance and interest charges are added into the overall price.

Decision #2: Buy or Lease?

Unfortunately, most car buyers cannot afford to pay for a car in cash. So, their next choice is to either buy or lease.

The advantage of leasing a car is that monthly payments are generally lower. And because lease terms generally only last between 12 and 36 months, you get the advantage of owning a new car every few years.  Leases also require little (if anything) in the way of down payments, meaning that if you are a less financially established car buyer, leasing allows you to drive a nice car for relatively little investment.

The major disadvantage of leasing a car is that you will always have a car payment, and you will never own the car. And if you do decide to buy the car when the lease is over, you will wind up paying more than if you decided to buy the car outright.

Leases also have restrictions on how the car can be driven. For instance, most leases place restrictions on the number of miles a car can be driven each year (usually between 12,000 and 15,000 miles), if you break these restrictions, you face severe penalties.

Decision #3: Private or Dealer Financing?

While leasing is a good way to save money on a month to month basis, choosing to buy the car is often the better economical choice. However, even if you do decide to buy instead of lease, you still have one more decision to make: Deciding between dealer-offered financing and private lender financing.

 

The advantages of dealer offered financing are convenience and eligibility. This is because the dealer never wants financing to stand in their way of making a sale, so they will pull out all the stops to help you qualify for a loan.

 

However, if you are looking to save money, choosing to go to a bank or credit union is probably the better choice. Banks and lenders often offer lower interest rates when compared to dealership financing, meaning that you will pay less over the lifetime of the loan.

 

Keep in mind, that when you are deciding on your financing options, not every decision is right for everyone.  For this reason, it is important to carefully weigh the pros and cons of each decision point, and decide which option best fits your current needs.

Family Car Buying Guide: Find the Best Vehicle for Your Family

Searching for a new car for your family? The good news is that the term “Family Car” is no longer synonymous with minivan or station wagon. Instead, depending on the size, shape and needs of your family, there is a wide selection of cars, crossovers and SUVs to choose from.  Regardless of whether your primary concern is safety, legroom, reliability, affordability or style, the following list of criteria can help you find the right car for your family.

 

The Small Family

If you have a small family, and you plan on keeping it that way, your options are virtually endless. While you will want to stay away from vehicles with limited trunk space, or sports cars and trucks with no back seats, your choices will include a wide selection of affordably priced sedans, hatchbacks, station wagons and crossovers.

 

Your ideal choice:

When affordability and drivability are leading your buying decision, the sedan is a great choice. Most families with one or two kids find that these vehicles have enough space to meet the day-to-day to challenges of getting their families where they need to be with all their accessories in tow. Adding to their appeal is the fact that many sedans are known for their maneuverability and fuel economy.

 

Features to look for:

  • Safety: Safety can be the most important aspect of finding the best family car. You can find the safety ratings for many used vehicles at safercar.gov. [http://www.safercar.gov/]
  • Storage Space: Don’t underestimate the need for a large trunk or roof racks. Even small families of three need enough extra room for taking weekend trips and hauling groceries.
  • Legroom: If you plan to travel with adult-sized passengers, the car you choose should have the legroom to match.

 

The On-the-Go and Growing Family

Your family may be small today, but things may be dramatically different two years from now. If growth is in your family’s future, there is no need to run out and buy a new car every time your needs change. Instead with a little foresight, you can find a car that fits your needs today with enough versatility to expand with your family.

 

Your ideal choice:

Today’s modern station wagons – which have shed the boxy outdated exterior styling of past generations – can be a perfect match for a growing family. With roomy backseats and a versatile cargo area, many of these vehicles can quickly go from hauling band instruments to taking the entire family on a weekend trip to grandma’s house.

 

Features to look for:

  • Car Seats: The Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) system, which is designed to help parents safely secure their child’s car seat, has been a requirement in all new cars since 2002. When examining this feature, make sure the car has multiple LATCH anchors – this offers flexibility for the placement of car seats.
  • Capacity: When examining capacity, don’t just look at the number of people the vehicle can seat. Make sure there is enough trunk and cargo space for family vacations and car pools.
  • Reliability – You may be handing over the keys of this car someday to one of your children. So look for a vehicle with a track-record of reliability.

 

The Large Family

It may be hard to admit, but the minivan is still one of the best choices for the large family with ever-expanding needs. Not only do most minivans comfortably seat families of six and sometimes more, but when compared to other the large scale options on the market, they are among some of the most affordable.

 

Your ideal choice:

If you want a car that offers a little more style than the average minivan, a crossover is a great alternative. Known for some of the most creative engineering on the car market, today’s modern crossovers are redefining the family car driving experience. Combining the space of a minivan, the drivability of a sedan, and the styling of a SUV, they are an ideal choice for larger families.

 

Features to look for:

  • Seating: Many crossovers and SUVs offer an optional third row of seating. While more expensive, this option may increase the vehicle’s seating capacity by up to eight people – sometimes more.
  • Fuel Economy: Larger cars are notoriously bad in terms of fuel economy. To avoid this look for SUVs and crossovers that offers a clean diesel or hybrid option.
  • Family Ready Interior: Don’t underestimate the importance of things like cup holders, side pockets, cargo nets and organizer trays. Other more high tech features to look for include multiple USB Ports, rear seat DVD players and navigation systems.

Do You Have to Compromise to Achieve Better MPG?

Until recently, the general rule of thumb seemed to be that fuel efficiency and the compact car were tied together. And if you wanted more legroom, more power or more cargo space, you needed to sacrifice a few MPGs.

 

This, however, no longer seems to be the case, as the green technological revolution is resulting in any number of fuel efficient options being introduced to just about every segment of the market. With fuel efficient SUVS, diesel powered  pickup trucks and hybrid powered mid-size sedans now capable of exceeding the 30 mpg and even the 40 mpg barrier, car buyers are offered a myriad of larger and more powerful choices.

 

Gasoline Powered Compacts

Traditionally, the 40 mpg mark has been restricted to the hybrid. But now, due to technological improvements that have led to smaller frames, innovative seating designs and improved gasoline consumption, there is an ever-growing list of gasoline powered compact cars capable of breaking the 40 mpg barrier.

 

Hyundai Elantra:

Many of the gas-powered cars boasting 40 MPG only offer their maximum fuel efficiency in a specially priced and equipped trim level. This, however, is not the case for the Hyundai Elantra. As the best-selling car in Hyundai’s lineup, the Elantra offers better than 40 mpg on the highway in all its trim options. This includes the surprisingly spacious four-door Elantra Touring.

 

Chevrolet Cruze Eco

This car may be compact and lightweight, but with a turbo-charged engine and seating for up to five passengers, the Cruze Eco is more than capable of delivering a comfortable, fun and roomy driving experience.

 

 

Diesel Powered Sedans

New clean diesel technology has also opened the door for the midsize sedan. As automakers begin to take advantage of this new environmentally friendly option, a number of diesel powered cars capable of getting 40 mpg or better are being produced:

 

Volkswagen Passat: If you are looking for a sedan that has a little more space than the average compact car, the Volkswagen Passat is an ideal choice. The diesel version of the mid-size Passat not only offers 43 mpg on the highway, but it does so without the use of a hybrid system.

 

Hybrid SUVs

No longer are SUVs the gas guzzling behemoths of the late 1990s. Instead, hybrid and diesel technology has enabled automakers to create SUVs that offer the interior space and ride quality of the SUV with the fuel-saving capabilities of the hybrid.
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Ford Escape Hybrid

The Ford Escape is one of the best-selling SUVs of all time for a reason. And when you add in its new hybrid technology, car buyers can experience the most fuel efficient SUV on the road without compromising things like power, cargo space and interior comfort.

 

Toyota Highlander Hybrid

The Toyota Highlander Hybrid offers all-wheel drive and an engine so powerful you won’t believe it’s a hybrid. Better yet, with a third row of seats and seating for seven this SUV has enough space to handle larger loads.

 

The bottom line is that car buyers no longer have to choose between fuel efficiency and a car that meets their needs. With a myriad of gasoline, hybrid and diesel options available there is a fuel efficient vehicle to match just about any lifestyle.

How to Sniff Out a Lemon

Excited about the value that a used car offers, but worried about inheriting someone else’s headaches? It is important to realize that buying a reliable car that won’t let you down has less to do with luck and more to do with research. Any time you buy a used car, regardless of whether it was from a dealer or out of the classified ads, it is up to you to do a little a background work.

 

The good news is that you don’t have to be an auto mechanic to separate the reliable cars from the lemons. A few of the following time-tested strategies can help you determine whether the used car you have been thinking about buying is a potential package of trouble.

 

Check the Sticker

If you are buying the car from the dealership, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires the dealer to include a buyer’s guide with every used car they are selling. The information listed in this guide must include:

 

  • Whether the vehicle is being sold “As Is” (meaning the dealer makes no guarantees as to the condition of the vehicle) or with a warranty
  • The percentage of the repair costs a dealer will pay under the warranty
  • All the major mechanical and electrical systems on the car, including potential problems with those systems

 

Note: When you buy a used car from a dealer, make sure you receive a copy of the original buyer’s guide that was posted in the vehicle. Because this guide is part of your sales contract and will override and contrary provisions, it must note any negotiated changes in warranty coverage.

 

Inspect the Exterior

By conducting a thorough inspection of the exterior of the car, you will be able to tell if the vehicle has undergone any major body work. Mismatched body panels, uneven gaps between doors, and paint over-sprays are sure signs that parts from the original vehicle have been replaced. You can also use a magnet to detect body filler. If the magnet does not stick to certain parts of the car, this may mean that filler was used to cover up dents or rust spots.

 

Other points to check include the doors, hood, trunk, locks and windows. If these do not operate properly, it may be a sign that the vehicle’s exterior integrity has been altered.  You may also want to measure the distance between each wheel and the body of the car.  If there is a difference in distance from one wheel to the next, this may be an indication that repairs were made following a major collision.

 

Ask for the CARFAX®

Never buy a vehicle until you have requested a vehicle history report from a credible source. Reports from services like CARFAX.com or VehicleHistory.Gov will include details on past fire, flood, and accident damage, as well as vehicle odometer information. At UsedCars.com, we have partnered with CARFAX to help you more easily receive this information. Our premium listings will include a free Carfax History Report  For those that don’t include this listing, we offer an option to quickly purchase the report from CARFAX.

 

Visit Your Mechanic

A quick inspection of the car’s engine may not reveal everything that is wrong. For this reason, it is advisable to have the used car inspected by an auto mechanic. Look for a qualified mechanic that routinely does automotive diagnostic work. These types of services generally cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $100.

The dealer or private seller should have no issues with any of the previous actions or requests. If they do, do not hesitate to walk away and continue your shopping elsewhere.

 

Four Great Used Hatchbacks

With today’s rising gas prices, why not shop for a hatchback?  Not only are these stylishly designed compact rides great in terms of fuel efficiency, but with their innovative seating design and trendy – and sometimes fun and funky – exterior styling, these little road warriors are able to offer both practicality and flair.

 

If you need help narrowing down your search, UsedCars.com is here to help. The following is a list of used hatchbacks that offer the perfect combination of style, affordability and practicality.

 

2009 – 2012 Honda Fit:

It is true – the Honda Fit is technically considered a subcompact. However, this should not imply that this peppy little five-door hatchback has a cramped interior. On the contrary, the Fit has continually impressed critics with a roomy interior, comparable to many of the larger and less fuel efficient compacts on the market today. With its innovative interior seating design and surprisingly responsive steering and handling, this little hatchback is able to create a dynamic driving experience.

 

  • Consumer Reports – 2011 Overall Test Score: 76/100
  • NHTSA – 2010 Average crash rating: 4.5/5 .0
  • JD Power and Associates: 2011 Predicted reliability score: 4/5

 

2007 – 2011 Dodge Caliber:

Designed to offer the driving practicality of a sedan combined with the sleek styling and room of a crossover, the Dodge Caliber offers some very distinctive appeal. This is no ordinary five-door hatchback. Larger than most other hatchbacks used car market, the economically priced used Caliber is engineered to meet the needs of growing families on the hunt for a vehicle that offers a stylish design.

 

Test scores for the 2011 model year include:

  • Consumer Reports – Overall Test Score: 49/100
  • NHTSA – Average crash rating: 3.0/5 .0
  • JD Power and Associates: Predicted reliability score: 3/5

 

2010 – 2012 Volkswagen Golf:

ince the 1970s, the Volkswagen Golf has been a consistent choice among budget-minded car buyers searching for a family car to match their versatile needs. And while this modern day hatchback bears little resemblance to its ancestors from the ‘70s, one thing remains true today: The Golf is a reliably made car that offers the rare combination of practicality and style.

 

Test scores for the 2010 model year include: 

  • Consumer Reports – Overall Test Score: 84/100
  • NHTSA – Average crash rating: 4.4/5 .0
  • JD Power and Associates: Predicted reliability score: 2/5

 

2010 – 2012 Kia Soul:

In an attempt to inject a little bit of flair and soul into their lineup of practically priced and styled cars and crossovers, Kia created the Soul. The economically driven car buyer will be happy to note that, in keeping in with Kia’s long tradition of creating affordably priced automobiles, the Soul is definitely designed with economy in mind. However, the car’s funky swept-back exterior design, along with its interesting angles and vibrant colors, creates a sense of energy, fun and funk that had previously been lacking from the Kia brand

 

Test scores for the 2011 model year include:

  • Consumer Reports – Overall Test Score: 68/100
  • NHTSA – Average crash rating: 2.5/5 .0

JD Power and Associates: Predicted reliability score: 4/5 

Understanding the Insurance Policy

Are you overpaying for your car insurance? If you have not shopped around in over two years, the answer may be an emphatic “yes.” In fact, a recent Consumer Reports Survey  found that about fourteen percent of their subscribers would save on their premiums by switching policies – and a number of these respondents were paying nearly two times too much on their rates.

 

Insurance Rates Are Changing, So Change Along with Them

If you want to avoid overpaying for car insurance, the key is to shop around. Auto insurance rates and premiums are in constant flux, with rates increasing rapidly one year and then leveling out the next.

 

In addition to these industry-changing rates are your personal factors. Your credit history and driving record are two of the main determinants insurers use to arrive at your insurance rates. Neither of these is a static number. So if your insurance company is not accounting for an improved credit rating or driving record, it is probably time you find someone who will.

 

There is no excuse for not shopping around

Today’s technological landscape has made shopping for car insurance as simple as clicking a button. A number of insurance company websites and internet review sites let you shop for and compare quotes side by side. Here at UsedCars.com, we offer an insurance quoting tool –  which allows you to shop for the best car insurance by zip code.

 

Understanding the Terminology

Shopping around is only one-half of the battle, unless you understand what you are shopping for, you could still end up paying too much. The following is a list of terms that can help you make sense of your insurance policy.

Liability Insurance: Most states require a minimum amount of insurance. This is what is known as liability insurance. In most scenarios, liability insurance is the least expensive and will cover damage you do to other people, their vehicles or their property. Liability insurance is often broken into two parts:

  • Bodily Injury: In the event you are liable for an accident, bodily liability insurance pays for medical, rehabilitation and other physical damages you do to other people, passengers, and drivers.
  • Property damage: If you are responsible for damage to another person’s property, such as their vehicle, this coverage will pay for repairs and replacement

Collision Insurance: A step above liability is collision insurance. Collision insurance covers you. It will typically cover repairs you do to your vehicle, regardless of the cause.

Comprehensive Insurance: Comprehensive insurance covers just about everything else. It will cover things like theft, vandalism and storm damage.