Teen Driver in the House? Here Are Five In-Car Features You Want in the Car You Let Them Drive.

Photo by Andrew Watson, Flickr.

Photo by Andrew Watson, Flickr.

If you ask any teenager what they are looking forward to doing the most as they get older, at the top of most lists is probably being able to drive. After all, being licensed to drive gives teens a great sense of freedom – they can now come and go as they please; they are no longer dependent on mom and dad to get them where they need to go.

However, the time when teens begin to drive can potentially be the most deadly. Every day seven teens ages 16 to 19 die from injuries sustained in a motor vehicle crash. And the crash rate is 3.7 times higher for 16 year old drivers compared to drivers all of all ages, and 2.7 higher for drivers aged 16 to 19.

For parents that are conducting a used cars search for appropriate vehicle options for their teen drivers, how can they help them stay as safe as possible? Here’s a look at five in-car options to look for during their used cars search.

Side Airbags

Although everybody knows about airbags as a safety component in vehicles, some may not realize the importance of side airbags. A study conducted in 2006 conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found side airbags that protected driver’s heads helped reduce deaths in cars that were hit on the driver side by about 37 percent. Not all used vehicles will have side airbags — SaferCar.gov offers a list of vehicles to help start your used cars search.

Electronic Stability Control

Photo by waltarrr, Flickr.

Photo by waltarrr, Flickr.

ESC works through speed sensors that are placed on all wheels and the steering wheel to help drivers when on roads that are slippery or very curved.

If the ESC system notices the vehicle is about to go in an opposite direction from where the steering wheel is pointed, is will break the necessary wheels to help keep the car under control. ESC can be found vehicles from 2012, and even earlier.

Crash Avoidance Technology

Over the past few years, vehicle manufacturers have unveiled a crop of new applications to help drivers avoid car accidents. These crash avoidance technologies work by providing the driver with warnings, or in some instances even automatically putting on the brakes. Examples of these technologies to look for in a used cars search include blind spot detection, adaptive headlights, lane departure warning, and front crash prevention.

Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS)

An ABS is another safeguard against slippery roads, as well as inexperienced young drives that may find themselves “panic braking” in certain situations. The ABS helps ensure the brakes on a car do not lock up, which could cause a driver to lose control of the vehicle. ABS on the rear wheels allows the vehicle to keep moving in a straight line, while ABS on all wheels allows the driver to maintain steering capabilities.

Seat Belt Reminder System

Although the “ding, ding, ding” that reminds you to buckle up every time you’re in the car can be rather annoying, studies show they do save lives. For instance, a study published in 2008 found 97.5 percent of passengers put on a seat belt when in a vehicle with a reminder system, while only about 86 percent did in cars without a reminder. And teens need all the reminders they can — a 2002 study found that only 69 percent of teens ages 16 to 24 wear their seat belts, and more than two-thirds of teens killed in car crashes were not wearing seat belts.

5 Easy Ways to Save Money on Car Maintenance

Photo by Torbakhopper, Flickr.

Photo by Torbakhopper, Flickr.

When you’re in the midst of used car shopping, there’s lots of things to consider. However, one item that sometimes used car shoppers overlook are maintenance costs — how much is this vehicle going to cost you over the long term? After all, the last thing a car buyer wants is to bring home a used car or truck that is going to drain their bank account dry with lots of issues.

Luckily there are a few low to no cost ways that car owners can help their vehicle run great and stay out of the shop. By following these suggestions — and doing the proper homework when used car shopping — car buyers can look forward to happy years with their used vehicle.

Read The Owner’s Manual

Yes, believe it or not you should actually take the time to read the owner’s manual of your used car. The manual can tell owners important information, such as routine maintenance information or dash lights that may come on that are telling you there’s a problem. If the manual did not come with the car, contact a local dealership or look online for a copy.

Regularly Check The Oil

Photo by Robert Couse-Baker, Flickr.

Photo by Robert Couse-Baker, Flickr.

All car owners know about the importance of oil changes, however, most just automatically assume everything will be fine between changes — why would they need to check their oil on a regular basis? The reason is because if your car runs out of oil, your engine will be toast and before you know it, you’ll be used car shopping all over again.

Taking the time to simply using a dipstick to check the engine oil level can save you from potential hassles.

Keep An Eye On Fluids

As mentioned previously, reading your car’s owner’s manual will tell you what the regular maintenance schedule is for your vehicle. That includes not only oil that we already talked about, but all the other fluids that makes your car run — coolant, transmission fluid, brake fluid, power steering fluid, battery fluid, and even windshield wiper fluid. All of these fluids can be easily checked by the owner with some guidance from the owner’s manual and a little know-how.

Pay Attention To Tire Pressure

If your tires are in bad shape, your car is not going anywhere. Plus not having tires that are properly inflated can make for a less than comfortable ride, as well as a safety concern. Your vehicle’s tire pressure can easily be checked on a regular basis using a tire air pressure gauge that can be picked up any auto parts store. The gauge measures the pounds per square inch (PSI) of each tire, and you can find out what the correct PSI of each of your tires should be through a sticker on the driver’s side door or in the owner’s manual. Is your PSI off? Free air is available at most gas stations and just takes a few minutes to fix.

Replace Your Air Filter

If you think about it, a lot of the time you’re in the car your windows are closed, so having a good working air filter is important for making sure you and your passengers are breathing nice, clean air. Plus studies have shown having a clogged air filter can cause issues for your engine and even lower fuel efficiency. With a little bit of research, car owners can easily replace their own air filters.


Common-Sense Techniques To Get Better Mileage

Photo by Kyle May, Flickr.

Photo by Kyle May, Flickr.

Even with gas prices falling across most of the country, most of us would still like to get the most miles for our money. There is quite a bit of advice out there on ways to increase the number of miles per gallon (MPG), but let’s take a look at a few that will save you the most money.

One caveat: all cars are different. Someone driving an SUV will still get fewer MPG than a person driving a four-door family sedan. And they will still get fewer MPG than the person driving a two-door coupe, who will in turn see less MPG than the person with a hybrid. The type of vehicle you drive is still a major factor, with the size of the engine and the weight of the car playing a role, as well as the age of the vehicle – newer cars were designed to work more efficiently, and so will see greater MPG numbers.

Better Mileage Through Hypermilling

One of the most extreme ways of increasing MPG is through a series of techniques known as “hypermilling.” These techniques were even explored in an episode of the Discovery Channel show MythBusters, who found that they were effective at increasing the MPG of both new and used vehicles. However, they also found that most of the techniques employed were either frustrating for them or the other cars around them, or could be dangerous if not done correctly. Some of the techniques they tried include:

  • Never drive above 45 miles per hour
  • Turn off the engine at red lights
  • Keep the windows rolled up and the AC turned off
  • Overinflate your tires
  • Drafting a vehicle in front of you

While there were other techniques tested as well, and these did contribute to better MPG, try them at your own risk – and discomfort.

Better MPG for the Average Joe

So what are a few less extreme options for those who want to maximize their MPG without putting themselves or other vehicles at risk, or making themselves so uncomfortable that they don’t want to drive at all?

Photo by Upupa4Me, Flickr.

Photo by Upupa4Me, Flickr.

First of all, make sure your car gets proper, regular maintenance. While it might be tempting to push that oil change a few extra miles, or put off replacing a part that is worn but still functioning, doing so will decrease your MPG. Fueleconomy.gov found that keeping an engine tuned properly can improve MPG by as much as 4 percent. They also found that by using the proper grade of motor oil, and changing it at the correct intervals, can increase MPG by up to 2 percent. And while changing the air filter on a modern car won’t impact the MPG, in an older used vehicle, it can change the MPG by several percentage points. While all of that might not sound like much, these percentages add up over time, leading to real savings you can feel in your wallet.

Another way to improve MPG that anyone can easily take advantage of? How and when you fuel up.

Weight, as I mentioned earlier, is a big factor in MPG numbers, and heavier cars will simply require more fuel to move them the same distance as a lighter vehicle. Gasoline adds weight to the car – as much as 60 pounds depending on the size of your fuel tank. If you keep your tank filled to between half and quarter full, you will find the right balance of giving you vehicle the fuel it needs to operate at its most efficient, while keeping the weight down to the bare minimum.

Your Fuel’s Octane Matters

Another thing to look at while at the pump is the quality of fuel. In this case, the cliché of “you get what you pay for” is true. Cheaper gasoline contains a higher percentage of ethanol, which burns faster. That doesn’t mean you need to pay the premium price, however. Different brands use different fuel mixes – try a few of them, and keep track of which brands give you the best MPG. It might be a bit more work upfront, requiring you to not only track your MPG carefully but also to potentially go out of your way to fill up at different brands, but once you have those numbers, you will have a better idea of the best gasoline for your specific car.

At the end of the day, most of these are basic techniques that don’t require much work, and that everyone knows they should be doing anyway. But if you are trying to squeeze a few more miles out of your gas tank, they really do make a huge difference over time.

Decoding Used Car Warranties

Photo by Ryan Hyde, Flickr.

Photo by Ryan Hyde, Flickr.

It’s the part of buying a car that almost every consumer dreads. You’ve chosen the vehicle, done the test drive, agreed to a price and now it’s time to go into the Finance and Insurance (F&I) office to do the final paperwork—and be sold on a variety of additional products.

Frankly, a case can be made for or against almost all of them, but we’ll look at one of the most common, that almost every buyer will face: the extended warranty, or service contract.

Shopping For The Right Used Car Warranty

Now, full disclosure, I did buy an extended warranty on my current vehicle, although I did so from a third-party rather than purchasing the one the dealership was offering. While most F&I offices will try to sell you the products right there, and roll the cost into your loan—which is a very valid option for many consumers—you can change your mind later. GAP—which is basically an additional insurance policy that agrees to pay the difference between what your insurance payout is and the actual value of the car in the event the vehicle is totaled so you don’t get stuck paying thousands of dollars on a car you can no longer drive—is the only product currently in F&I that must be decided on at the time of purchase. Buying a warranty outside of the loan does require paying the cash up front, rather than breaking it into smaller chunks as part of the loan payment, but that option is there.

For the warranties themselves, it can be a tangled mess trying to figure out. There are Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) vehicles that carry a certain level of extended warranty already, there are additional warranties you can buy with CPO vehicles, and then there are non-CPO cars, and the levels of warranties for the. There are also manufacturer warranties to think about, as some used cars will still be covered by the OEMs, and others will not.

What Does “Certified Pre-Owned” Mean?

When buying a used car, CPO is often thought of as the “gold standard.” Cars with that distinction are often in the best condition, and needed little to know repairs between the time they were traded in to the time they go up for sale on the lot. They have received a thorough inspection, looking at everything there is to look at, and because of that they carry a certain piece of mind. That being said, not all CPO warranties are created equal. Some manufacturers will charge a deductible if a CPO car needs repairs, while others will not. And that deductible can range from $50 to $150 or more. The fine print is also a factor; some CPO warranties come with roadside assistance, some have more comprehensive coverage and others cover longer periods of time or mileage. While no one really likes to read the fine print, it’s important here to know exactly what your dealer’s CPO program actually covers before making that decision.

The idea of a CPO car has been around for a long time.

The idea of a CPO car has been around for a long time.

Whether you buy a CPO vehicle or not, the odds are good you will have the option to buy an extended warranty at some point in the life of the vehicle. So what does it cover? Well that can vary wildly by the provider of the warranty and the condition of the car. Most manufacturer warranties offer basic powertrain coverage that, depending on the age of the car, will still be in effect at the time of purchase; that is to say, if something major goes wrong with the vehicle, such as the brakes failing, it will be covered.

That said, if something occurs, such as the seat cover begins to tear or the navigation system goes on the fritz, even if it is still in the manufacturer’s warranty period, it will often not be included in your coverage. And depending on the extended coverage you purchase, it may or may not be covered by your additional warranties either. Some cover only parts that actually break, while others will include normal wear and tear repairs, where the part is worn but not necessarily broken, in their coverage. Some will just cover the major working parts of the vehicle, while others will literally cover anything in or on that car. Again, it is key to read the fine print before you purchase to know what you are actually buying.

What Used Car Warranty Should You Get?

When you are sitting in the F&I office, it is very likely you won’t just be offered a single warranty option, either, but a range of options. This is designed to give consumers on a variety of budgets the ability to get the piece of mind that comes with a warranty, and it often scales up from “just a breakdown” coverage to the full “wear and tear, cover absolutely everything” coverage.

While many experts will debate this, I personally would suggest going with the highest coverage you can afford. For used cars, especially, you just never know what problems could crop up, and a surprise repair could end up costing thousands of dollars. Buying more comprehensive coverage will increase the likelihood that any problems will be covered, and brings a much greater piece of mind.

The 10 Best Drives for Fall Foliage

Photo by Kimberly Vardeman, Flickr

Photo by Kimberly Vardeman, Flickr

Fall’s in full swing, and that means trees everywhere are bursting into vibrant golds, oranges and reds. Thinking about heading out for a drive to see autumn’s beauty in all its glory?

Take a look at our guide to some of the best drives in the United States for viewing fall foliage.

Smuggler’s Notch in Vermont

Every year, thousands of foliage-seeking tourists make their way to see the fiery beauty of fall in the Northeastern United States. One favorite spot is the 18-mile drive on Route 108 to Smuggler’s Notch, located between the towns of Jeffersonville and Stowe, which goes through Mount Mansfield State Forest.

Adirondack Mountains in New York

The Adirondack Mountains are a great example of the outdoor fun that New York State has to offer. Spanning 6 million acres, the Adirondacks offers amazingly colorful fall foliage, with the longest fall foliage season in the Northeast. Visitors can see the foliage show by driving down any of the 14 New York State Scenic Byways that bisect the mountain chain.

Georgia Mountain Parkway near Atlanta, GA

By Dzmitry (Dima) Parul, Flickr.

By Dzmitry (Dima) Parul, Flickr.

Down in Georgia, the Chattahoochee National Forest makes for a beautiful backdrop of autumn colors as drivers head down the Georgia Mountain Parkway.

This drive also takes visitors past local farming areas complete with orchards, antique shops, and wineries.

Illinois River Road National Scenic Byway

Drivers are in for a treat on the Illinois River Road National Scenic Byway, thanks to not only vibrant autumn colors, but fantastic views of the scenic Illinois River. The 291-mile byway brings visitors through the Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge, Starved Rock State Park, and Matthiessen State Park.

Lincoln Highway Scenic & Historic Byway in Nebraska

Cutting straight through the entire state of Nebraska, the Lincoln Highway Scenic & Historic Byway — also known as US Highway 30 — is full of not only beautiful fall foliage, but history as well. Built back in 1915, this byway was part of the first-ever paved road that extended from coast to coast, going through 13 states from New York to San Francisco.

Athens, Texas

Everything’s bigger in Texas, and that also includes the fall colors! Motorists will love going for a ride through Athens in East Texas. The 55-mile drive on US Highway 175 features the vibrant colors produced by maples, oaks, and sumacs.

Beartooth Highway in Montana & Wyoming

Get two states worth of fall colors for the price of one on the Beartooth Highway. This 68-mile byway wanders through southwest Montana and northwest Wyoming, going past a number of national forests and wildernesses awash in vibrant autumn colors.

Nebo Loop National Scenic Byway in Utah

The Nebo Loop National Scenic Byway cuts through the Uinta National Forest, making for some stunning fall foliage. As a bonus, the road climbs all the way up more then 9,000 feet in elevation, offering unique aerial views of the brilliant colors spread across the Utah valley.

North Cascades Highway in Washington State

The 400-mile North Cascades Highway in Washington State runs from Seattle to Winthrop, offering drivers a great way to see the North Cascades National Park and three national forests in their full autumn glory.

Plumas County in California

Yes, California does get a fall, which is evident by the remarkably brilliant colors seen on drives throughout Plumas County in the northeastern part of the state. Motorists will enjoy driving along the Feather River National Scenic Byway, Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway, and Highway 70 for beautiful views of the area’s over million acres of forest.