Just like buying a new car, you don’t necessarily want to simply pay the sticker price of a used car. Research both the prospective vehicle and the reliability of the model in general. You may be able to offer less than the asking price, and will have justifications for your lower offer.
Research the Car
Even if you’re positive this is the car for you, search forums and review sites online to hear how other owners feel about their car. Certain car models end up experiencing similar maintenance issues as they age, so informing yourself will help you know what to look out for when you inspect the car. A vehicle history report on the car you’re considering is a powerful negotiation tool. Major vehicle history report providers include CARFAX and AutoCheck, and they may alert you to prior accidents, title problems, or other potentially negative events in the vehicle’s history.
Determine the Value
Use Kelley Blue Book to calculate the Private Party Value of the used car. This is the amount you can expect to pay for a used car from a private party, and it is calculated using the vehicle’s make, model, features, mileage, and condition.
Don’t just ask about the car. Ask why they’re selling it. The pressure is not on you, but on the seller to convince you that you should buy this car. Depending on the urgency to sell the vehicle, a seller may be more receptive to lower offers. Also ask about any common problems that you’ve heard that type of vehicle encounters, and point out any cosmetic defect you see. Keep thoughts of what you like about the car to yourself. Showing that you’ve done your homework and are aware of the car’s true condition will put you in a better position to offer less than what the seller is asking for.
Make the Offer
Make a reasonable offer that reflects both the Private Party Value you found and how closely the car matches the condition the seller claimed it was. First explain how you determined your offer (unreported damage or defects, repairs you will have to pay for, missing features) and then announce your offer. State your willingness to purchase the used car, not any eagerness to do so. This keeps all pressure on the seller to either accept your offer, or attempt to justify why it is too low. If the seller counters, reiterate your offer and why the condition of the car justifies it. The seller may doubt his chances of getting his asking price in future negotiations and be more inclined to accept your offer.
Buying any used car comes with inherent risks, and a car that has been sitting for months without running is even more prone to problems that can plague you down the road. Know what to look for when buying a car that hasn’t been driven in a while. While these cars can still present a good value, it’s important to learn about their potential problems to avoid making a bad deal.
Ask Why the Car Hasn’t Been Used
Find out why the seller is selling their car, and how long they have been trying to do so. There’s a big difference between finally deciding to sell a used car and unsuccessfully trying to sell one for months. If the seller has been trying to offload the vehicle for a while, that’s a huge warning sign that all of the other potential buyers thought it was a bad deal.
Check for Corrosion and Frame Rot
Frame corrosion is common with cars, especially those that have been driven in cold climates with snow. If a car has been parked outside, it has been constantly exposed to the elements that can ultimately rot the car’s frame. The cost to repair or replace a ruined frame will make even the most unbeatable used car deal completely worthless. Don’t buy a used car with excessive frame corrosion.
Be Sure It Runs
Unless you’re looking for a classic car to rebuild or restore, don’t ever buy a used car that doesn’t start. If a car was in decent condition before it was stored, it won’t take much to reanimate it. Be sure the car starts, and ask the seller if and when they’ve recently replaced any of the following:
- Engine oil
- Brake fluid
- Transmission fluid
How much the seller has maintained their vehicle can indicate how well they cared for their car back when they did drive it. If the seller knows when they’ve maintained certain aspects of the car, the used car may still be an ok buy even if it’s been a while. You’ll just have to take care of those things yourself. If they have no idea when they last changed the oil, they probably didn’t take good care of their car even before they stopped using it. You’ll want to avoid these used cars, since there’s no telling how much repair work they’ll need in the future.
Does cooling off by rolling down the windows instead of running the air conditioning save gas? The theory has been tested by the likes of Consumer Reports, Edmunds.com, and even MythBusters. By design, a car’s air conditioning system draws power from the engine, but several variables affect a vehicle’s gas mileage. It turns out that rolling down your windows and sweating under the summer sun may not be saving you much at all.
Turning on the air conditioning will use a bit of gas, but there’s debate as to just how much. Some studies find a 3-10% reduction in fuel efficiency, others claim only a 1 MPG loss, and MythBusters couldn’t even get repeatable results. You may save a bit of fuel by turning off the AC if you keep the windows rolled up, but you may actually hurt your fuel efficiency if you roll them down.
Aerodynamics affects a vehicle’s fuel efficiency. Not only are vans and SUVs heavier than smaller cars, but they also have boxy designs that force their engines to run harder to combat wind resistance when driving at high speeds. Even a slender sedan can encounter wind resistance when the windows are rolled down, though. Many studies showed that rolling the windows down instead of using the AC may be counterproductive. Opening the windows changes the aerodynamics of a vehicle and increases wind resistance, making the engine run harder to maintain its speed. Especially when driving on freeways, you may actually use more gas than if you just rolled the windows up and enjoyed the air conditioning.
The Final Word
If you’re a budget-minded driver with a high heat tolerance, roll down the windows when you’re driving around town. If you’re not a fan of heat or sweat-stained tee shirts, go ahead and enjoy the cooling relief of your car’s air conditioning system. Even with the windows rolled up, the potential fuel savings in turning off the AC is negligible. If you have to get to where you’re going anyways, be comfortable and enjoy the ride.
The future of electric cars is dependent on access to voltage, not vehicles. While all-electric cars like the Nissan Leaf are already here, many are only built to drive up to 100 miles on a single charge, so you won’t be taking them down Route 66 any day soon. The lack of an existing electric vehicle network may be the biggest hindrance to the adoption of electric vehicles, but developing the infrastructure for electric vehicles is easier than for those using alternative fuels like hydrogen. With no need for fuel storage or delivery, access to the power grid is the only requirement for a charging station. Thanks to renewable energy sources like sunlight, even the grid may soon be unnecessary.
Even though electric cars emit no tailpipe pollution, they are not technically zero emission in the broader scope since charging their batteries still requires electricity from existing power plants. Use renewable solar energy to charge your all-electric car, and it becomes a solar-charged vehicle. Solar vehicles are powered by photovoltaic cells on the car itself, but the size requirements for solar vehicles make them impractical for day-to-day transportation. Solar-charged vehicles are just as environmentally friendly, and can be found today. There aren’t many public solar charging stations yet, but interest is growing. There’s one in New York City, as well as a few in Hawaii and Japan. The city of Adelaide, Australia even has a solar-charged bus. The 26 seat electric bus has a 200 kilometer range and is 100% solar-charged by panels on the Adelaide Central Bus Station.
A tree-inspired innovation in solar technology may soon grow the electric vehicle network. Solar forests, also called solar groves or solar carports, consist of several manmade “trees” with photovoltaic leaves that are designed to change their angle to always face the sun like sunflowers. These trees would be arranged on a parking lot, and electric cars would then pull up to a solar tree and plug into the trunk to recharge. The large solar leaves would also provide shade to cars and passengers.
The End of Air Pollution
Even if solar charging stations don’t resemble trees, their potential benefit to the environment is incredible. After analyzing more than 40 reports that researched the impact of electric cars, Environment Texas concluded that the widespread adoption of electric vehicles charged with renewable solar and wind energy could virtually eliminate air pollution in the U.S.
If it’s time to buy a car seat for your infant or toddler, you may be stressing out over all of the options you can choose from. What size? What are the height and weight limits? Which is highly rated? After all, you’re dealing with your child’s safety and want only the best. Relax. There are a few simple steps you can take when choosing a child car seat that can turn an overwhelming process into a workable one.
Decide on the Type
First, you have to decide what kind of car seat would work best for your child at his or her stage of development. You’ll be choosing among three basic types:
- Infant-only car seats. Built for your baby, this first option generally carries a weight limit between 20 and 35 pounds. It should always be positioned in the back seat and face the rear of the car.
- Infant-toddler car seats. Older children between 40 and 70 pounds would use this second option. If your child is small, these car seats should still face the back, but there are also forward-facing models for older children.
- Booster seats. These car seats usually come with belt-positioners and are made for children who are at least three years old and weigh a minimum of 40 pounds.
Do Your Homework
Now that you’ve determined which car seat category your child falls under, it’s time to start researching brands, models and safety features. Your search will already be narrowed significantly since you’re only dealing with one type of car seat, so now you have time to really dig in. Check for safety ratings online and be sure to read the reviews that online shoppers leave once you find a few seats you’re interested in. But don’t just rely on strangers; ask your family members, friends and even your child’s caregiver if they have any suggestions. If you ask people you know, they might also be able to tell you which local stores carry child car seats.
Take your child with you to stores to try out different seats. Actually place them in different models to eliminate as much guess-work as you can. You’ll be able to see whether your child fits properly, whether there’s enough head support in the right spots and where any seat belt straps rest. Testing car seats with your child is a good idea even if you are planning to buy online. Ultimately, choosing a car seat for your child might take a lot of leg work, but by researching and getting organized ahead of time, you can take a lot of confusion out of the process and find the perfect fit much sooner.