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How to Find a Great Mechanic

A great mechanic is not just one who knows his stuff, but is also trustworthy. If you’ve moved to a new area or you’re just unhappy with your current mechanic, follow these tips for finding the best repair shops in your area.

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Ask around
You wouldn’t take your car to a person who has a reputation for high prices or shoddy work. Find out who friends, colleagues or family members that live near you recommend. Also, check on repair garages with the Better Business Bureau.
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Take to the Web
Sites such as MechanicRatingz allow you to search for mechanics by shop, state, city, and zip code. This particular site also allows you to filter a search for only those mechanics that already have consumer ratings.

One of the most thorough sites for screening mechanics is RepairPal.com. The site offers independent estimates of auto repairs and services using source data dating back to 1990. Depending on your location, required service, and car details, RepairPal’s estimator can crunch an average cost for you. If your mechanic is charging a whole lot more for the same part/service, it might be time to find a new one (or at least get an explanation). The resource is also available as a free mobile app for Android and iPhone/iPod touch with many of the same features as the full site, but with added 24/7 roadside assistance.

Courtesy of: http://www.vehiclevibes.com/2009/08/save-money-on-road-trips/

How to Save Money on Your Daily Commute.

Even though gas prices are once again falling, we can expect that gas prices will rise again at some point. Besides the price point of gasoline as a motivating factor, it’s just wise to attempt to save money where you can.

Below are several suggestions on how to save money on your daily commute. Some of these strategies can be practiced by every reader, while others hinge on your location in an urban, suburban or country geographic setting. Enacting even one of these tactics will help you save money in the long run, however, so we hope your mind is as open as the wide-open road in a new car commercial!

  • Mass Transit. It’s not available everywhere and it certainly does change the lifestyle of commuting, but taking the bus or train to work saves you gas over the course of a month and lets you avoid parking fees. Plus, you can nap, read a book or catch up on the news while you ride to work. You can even text message LEGALLY while commuting via train or bus.


    Courtesy of: http://www.vehiclevibes.com

  • Carpooling. By sharing your vehicle with other employees who work in the same company, building or even neighborhood, you all split the cost of gasoline over the course of the work week or month and reduce the amount you use since others take turns driving their car to work. Plus, carpooling puts fewer cars on the road, which means fewer emissions entering the atmosphere.

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  • Lighten your load. If you’re driving a car or truck to work and you routinely haul unnecessary weight around with you, get rid of it. Heavy tools, bags of sand, those bags of shoes you’ve been meaning to drop-off at the church or thrift shop all decrease your gas mileage.


  • Telecommuting. This is of course the best way to reduce your expenses when it comes to getting to work, and with the advent of the Internet and laptop computers, it’s more feasible than ever. Working from home saves wear and tear on your car, uses no gasoline, reduces pollution in the air, and lets you get to work faster than ever. Just remember to have a dedicated space at home so you are not distracted.


  • Combine errands with your commute. Why bother driving home after work, then going back out to shop for food, drop off packages or pick up your cleaned laundry? Incorporate the errands you need to accomplish into your drive to or from work instead. You’ll save money in the long run on gasoline and save time in the short term on errands and extra driving duties.


  • Avoid frivolous stops altogether. We all get bored from time to time on our commutes and often times that boredom leads to stops at places like fast food restaurants. Besides contributing to unwanted pounds due to all those junk food calories, these stops add up over the course of a month to serious cash expenditures. If you’re hungry and you have to snack while driving to or from work, keep an apple in your car at all times for a quick snack fix. Your wallet and your belly will think you in the long run.
TireAnatomy

Do I Need New Tires?

Your tires seem worn down, but you need to be sure before investing in a new set. How do you know for sure?

Courtesy of: http://www.jacks-tire.com/Tire101.aspx

Check for the “wear bars” or “tread bars.” If you can see these little horizontal lines intersecting with the vertical lines of the tire at select points, then the tire is worn down.

  • Take the penny test: Grab a penny by pinching your fingers over the part that contains Lincoln’s body. Jam his head into the grooves. Your tire’s tread depth is ok if you can’t see the head.
  • Use a tread depth gauge to measure the precise depth (2/32 of an inch is the legal limit).

Regardless of specific tread conditions, tires should be replaced about every five years due to increased risk of failure. You don’t want to be forced to replace them (and potentially your entire vehicle) after skidding all over the highway during a storm. Also, be sure to regularly adjust the pressure and rotate your tires in order to get the best fuel efficiency and longest life out of them.

BMW 5-Series

Cars That Hold Their Resale Value the Best

When the buying frenzy is upon us and we’re being lured by all the shiny new metal, gleaming plastic and cool customizations and electronic devices in a new car, we don’t tend to think much about resale value and depreciation on our investment in an automobile. But we should.

Regrettably, most cars tend to lose about 50% of their value within the first five years of ownership. For those who may plan on owning a new car for seven years or so, and then selling it and buying another new car, resale value and depreciation are very important issues.

Think about it – if you buy a new vehicle for $25,000 and 7 years later it’s only worth $10,000, you’ve lost a considerable amount of money on your purchase. Homes, which tend to be the most expensive purchase a consumer makes over a lifetime appreciate in value slowly, and that’s a very good thing. But cars go down in value due to wear and tear, improving technologies, rust and entropy, better gas mileages with each passing generation of automobile innovation.

To help you make the best buying decision, we are proud to present a list of the cars that hold their resale value best according to the Kelley Blue Book.  The Blue Book itself can give you a list of the criteria used to determine resale value; we’re just giving you the list of the cars that hold their resale value the best as a sort of stimulus to get you thinking along this important train of thought. And here they are, below:

  • Acura TSX – 51% value retained in 5 years – the most affordable premium-budged car on the market today.
  • BMW 5 series – 46% value retained in 5 years – a luxury car that’s also a legendary sports sedan.
  • Honda Civic – 51% value retained in 5 years – the proverbial economy car that is attractive both to new-car and used-car buyers across the board.
  • Lexus IS – 47% value retained in 5 years – recently redesigned, with some of the best quality ratings in the industry.
  • MINI Cooper – 52% value retained in 5 years – cool-looking, tight handling, up to 36 MPG on the highway.
  • Pontiac Solstice – 51% value retained in 5 years – a fun roadster unlike any domestic competition.
  • Scion tC – 47% value retained in 5 years – Scion’s got a very cool brand and youngsters as well as young-in-spirit flock to this car.
  • Toyota Prius – 48% value retained in 5 years – this gas-electric hybrid is a wanted animal on the road these days and makes a great passenger car as well.
  • Volkswagen GTI – 48% value retained in 5 years – it’s a hatchback, it’s got 4 doors, and it’s turbo-charged.
  • Volkswagen Eos – 50% value retained in 5 years – a hardtop convertible with a built-in sunroof and Volkswagen’s second top resale value car on this list.
For Sale by Owner

How to Determine the Price of the Used Car You’re Selling

A lot of what goes into selling a used car depends on variables unique to each car’s ownership history. When buying a new car, you can fall back on what other dealers are charging for the same make/model/color/add-ons etc., but with a used car, that 2005 Honda Civic’s value could be harder to pin down. The reasons for this are simple: With a used car, the seller has all the leverage. Only the seller knows for sure (and sometimes doesn’tknow things like):

For Sale by Owner

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  • The accident history of the vehicle
  • The repair history (or lack thereof) of the vehicle
  • The driving history of the vehicle (total and kind of miles: highway vs. city)
  • The car’s warranty status
  • How well the car’s been maintained (regular oil changes and routine milestone inspections)

These are all elements that an educated buyer would be minding. To get some kind of objective perspective on a used car’s value, try the following sources:

Kelley Blue Book – One of the most trusted resources on car values. Select a vehicle from a drop-down menu by year/make/model, or browse picture icons by category/make.

Edmunds.com – Its trademarked “true market value” (TMV) equation is based on sales of other like cars in an area. The free number results from an equation that considers the equivalent sales down to kind, options, and color details as well as additional accuracy-adjusted calculations.

eHow.com– An instructive article that shows you how to calculate car depreciation by yourself using MSRPs, VINs, and residual percentages. Warning: some math involved.

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Get a Luxury Car for Less

Get a Luxury Car for Less Luxury cars tote sleek designs, ultimate comfort and top-quality manufacturing, so it’s no wonder they also come with a very steep price tag.

However, you might be surprised to learn that luxury cars aren’t necessarily out of your price range. It’s a buyer’s market right now, and if you play it smartly, you can get a luxury car for less than you might think, with some models even starting in the low $30,000s.

All you have to do is hold the extras. Just like a hamburger, a luxury car is only as excessive as all the cheese and ketchup and fried onion strings and fire-smoked BBQ bacon strips you put on it. When you take away all the unnecessary toppings, you’re left with a more guilt-free burger—and a more affordable car.

Trim the fat. Find out how you can buy a luxury car for less in three easy steps.

Opt for a Smaller Engine

Cars often have several versions of the same model, and the difference is usually in the engine size. More expensive versions come with the larger, more powerful engines. But if you’re looking for a deal, skip the V8. A V6 can save you thousands not only on the purchase price but also on fuel, since bigger engines are bigger gas guzzlers.

Say No to “Fully Loaded”

High-tech navigation systems, power adjustable and heated seating, leather upholstery all add up to big bucks on your luxury car’s total. Getting a cheaper luxury vehicle means making a few doable sacrifices along the way, so pass on the premium packages to save where you can. It might be hard to give up those retractable headlight washers that you won’t even remember to use, but you can do it.

Consider Leasing

Manufacturers like to keep the image of the luxury car at a high standard, so getting a rebate is probably not an option. However, you can still find other ways to save in the form of low financing rates or lease deals. If you find a good financing incentive, take it. Try to also put a lot of money down initially and fight for a shorter terms to lighten your interest load. You can also look into leasing for an affordable option.

There are plenty of ways to make that luxury car purchase a reality. Along with these tips, also remember to research before going into a dealership. You won’t get bamboozled by a slick salesperson, and you’ll be more ready to take a deep breath and decline all the shiny new extras you’ll be offered.

http://auto.howstuffworks.com/buying-selling/nhtsa-ratings.htm

Where to Find Car Safety Ratings

Safety is a top priority for car shoppers. They want a car that is going to be secure and equipped for potential accidents. Even if you’re an experienced driver who practices defensive driving techniques 24/7, you’re still going to want to know how your next car’s safety features stack up against other models.

You know you have to do some research before you buy, so you go online and Google “car safety ratings.”

http://auto.howstuffworks.com/buying-selling/nhtsa-ratings.htm

And 132,000,000 results appear.

It’s great that so much information is available to you on the subject, but how do you know what to believe when so many different ratings systems exist? Should you believe any of them? Which one?

Luckily, you stumbled upon this blog post before you became too overwhelmed to deal.

Below, you’ll find some advice on how and where to find car safety ratings from credible sources. So read on and then sit back, relax and start narrowing your search.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

IIHS is an established organization that dedicates itself to reducing deaths, injuries and property damage due to national highway crashes. Contributing to the mission, the Highway Loss Data Institute conducts scientific studies of insurance data related to the issue. IIHS then determines the top safety picks in vehicles each year, rating cars as “good,” “acceptable,” “marginal” or “poor” based on their performance in high-speed crash tests, rollover tests and feature assessments. As a non-profit, independent organization, the IIHS is a trustworthy source for safety ratings information, and it’s the leader in providing crash test information in the U.S.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)

A government-run organization, the NHTSA monitors the safety of cars sold in the country. The agency’s goal is to achieve the highest standards of excellence in highway and vehicle safety, and it does this by administering safety tests and comprehensive coverage of nearly every vehicle out there. Check out the NHTSA website for information on driving safety, vehicle safety, research and data, and laws and regulations.

Long-standing Car Safety Conferences

Finally, don’t forget to check out notes or press releases on annual car safety conferences. You can find hundreds of the world’s leading car safety experts all in one place at international conferences like NHTSA’s Enhanced Safety of Vehicles Conference. If you look up conference highlights, you’ll find a number of handy statistics to use as well as awards or winners in different categories. And just like the above two organizations, conferences like this aren’t connected to any one car company, so you can be sure that the facts you’re getting don’t have a hidden agenda behind

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Best SUV Values

SUVs tow a lot of perks. They’re great for active off-roading or long trips, they give you plenty of space for cargo and passengers, and they’re powerful vehicles suited to handle any type of weather disaster.

But as we know, the perks don’t come easy. SUVs are expensive. They require a hefty chunk of change not only to purchase, but also to fuel; and when you add maintenance costs into the mix, the price may start to seem too steep.

But that’s only if you don’t know how to shop.

A good shopper knows that you can get a deal on almost anything, and the same holds true for SUVs. U.S. News and other auto press analysts rate SUVs and other cars each year, taking into consideration performance, price, reliability and more. Before you step into a dealership, do your homework and skim through the ratings to see which SUVs get the best gas mileage or have the lowest five-year repair costs so that you can come away with the best deal possible.

To get you started on your research, five of the best SUV values are listed below. Check out the numbers to help you make your decision, or use the list as a comparison guide as you continue to shop around.

Best SUV Value #1: The Chevrolet Equinox

Average price: $26,000
MPG: 22 city, 32 highway
Five-year service: $3,600

Best SUV Value #2: The Toyota RAV4

Average price: $25,000
MPG: 22 city, 28 highway
Five-year service: $2,500

Best SUV Value #3: The GMC Terrain

Average price: $27,500
MPG: 22 city, 32 highway
Five-year service: $4,000

Best SUV Value #4: The Ford Escape Hybrid

Average price: $30,000
MPG: 34 city, 30 highway
Five-year service: $3,500

Best SUV Value #5: The Honda CR-V

Average price: $25,500
MPG: 21 city, 28 highway
Five-year service: $3,000

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Defensive Driving 101

You’re a good driver. You’ve never received a warning—let alone a ticket—you’ve never even been in a minor fender-bender, and you always graciously wave when other cars let you in. (And don’t even get me started on your immaculate seat-belt-wearing record.)

As the World’s Best Driver, you also unfortunately realize that it’s not always about you. Bad drivers can shatter your title in a second by causing an accident that’s not your fault.

That’s why, to keep yourself, your car and your passengers as safe as possible, you need to know how to drive defensively. Defensive driving involves anticipating potential accidents and doing everything you can to prevent them. Read these tips for a few defensive driving basics, and practice them on every car trip.

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  • Be prepared. Always check your car’s vitals and make sure you can clearly see out of your mirrors and windows. It’s also a good idea to keep a first aid kit in your car, along with a spare tire, jack and a list of emergency phone numbers.
  • Stay calm. Don’t get angry on the road no matter how annoying or slow other drivers may seem. Don’t incite other drivers, and try to leave the passing or turning lanes open whenever possible.
  • Follow the three-second rule. This means staying three seconds away from the car in front of you at all times, but especially on highways or roads where cars drive at high speeds. Not only will you increase your visibility, but you’ll also give yourself time to react if the driver in front of you brakes unexpectedly.
  • Turn the music down. You’d be surprised at how agitated other drivers can get by a car with blasting music. If you’re stopped next to someone, either keep your windows up or turn the volume down to be courteous.
  • Stay in sight. Avoid driving in other drivers’ blind spots so that they can see you at all times. Staying in sight also means turning on your headlights in bad weather and clicking off your brights when another car is approaching.
  • Drive with a passenger. You should try to drive with someone else in your car as often as you can so you’re never alone in an emergency situation. Carpooling is a great gas-saver, too.
  • Steer clear of accidents. Don’t be distracted by accidents or cars parked on the side of the road. Other drivers will probably already have their eyes on them and off of the road, so stay alert for careless lane passes or swerving.

Stay educated in defensive driving techniques by reading other articles or by taking a course on the subject. Post your own defensive driving habits here, too.

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Stop Talking: What Not to Say During a Car Sale

It’s time for you to buy a car.

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You want the best deal you can get. Car dealers want the best deal they can get. You try to sell yourself to the dealership as a valuable customer. Dealers try to sell cars to you.

You are not trained in sales theory and strategy.

Dealers live by it.

It’s obvious that you have the short end of the stick when it comes to sales tactics, but there are things you can say and do to level the playing field. Read the following five phrases to find out what not to say during a car sale.

1.    “I need a car now, and I’m madly in love with this one!”

Salespeople need you. You don’t need them.

Remember this when you’re shopping for a car. If you let on that you need to get a car and fast, you’re giving the dealer a green light to walk all over you when it comes time to negotiate. The salesperson figures that if you need the car, you won’t take any risks in walking away if the price is high. Not only that, but you’re a target for the dealer to unload slow-moving inventory.

Keep your eagerness in check too. Even if you’re excited about a particular car and are certain you’ll be walking away with it before you even walk into the dealership, don’t let the dealer know. He or she already realizes that people make a lot of purchases based on emotions. If your dealer has a handle on yours, you won’t get them back until you sign the dotted line.

2.    “I can pay in cash!”

Dealerships make a lot of money through financing. They count on you to increase the overall price of the car just by paying interest on it. So if they know that you can pay in full—or even if they know that you’re going to be doing outside financing—they’ll be more stubborn on the sticker price.

 3.    “Um, wellll…”

Don’t hesitate. When you’re unsure during a car sale, you don’t want to open yourself up to being swayed. The dealer will pull out all the stops in order to tip you to his or her side. To remain confident, bring a friend along to pick up some of the slack. Ask your tag-along cue questions to get him or her talking while you think, or excuse yourself to the restroom while your friend gabs about a clunker to the dealer.

 4.    “What about my monthly payment?”

 Wait to talk about monthly payments until after the purchase price has been settled. When so many numbers are flying around, it’s easier for the dealer to talk in terms of the monthly payment instead of the overall price—which always makes any price seem “doable.”

 5.    “Want to see my trade-in?”

 Don’t put the keys to your old car in the dealer’s hand if you haven’t shaken it first.

That way, they won’t be “misplaced” when you’re about to walk away from an unfair deal. You won’t have to stay and negotiate longer until they find them. And you’ll avoid any smokescreens when they offer you a great deal on it but jack up the price of the new car instead.

Knowing what not to say to a car dealer helps you try for the best and most honest price you can get on a new car.

What else shouldn’t you say in a car sale?

LongDistanceCar

When Does a Long Distance Used Car Purchase Make Sense?

You’ve probably made a lot of purchases online from people you don’t know who are hundreds, even thousands, of miles away.

Courtesy of: http://www.thedigeratilife.com/blog/leasing-vs-buying-a-car/

But have any of them ever cost $15,000?

Making a long-distance car purchase is a little different than the online textbook shopping most people are used to. It might seem ridiculous to risk buying a used car that you’ve never even seen—let alone test driven—before, but there are a few instances when buying a long distance used car makes sense. While it’s never a guarantee, you have a better chance of staying lucky if you eliminate as much guess-work as possible in these three situations:

You’re Buying a Classic Car

If you collect old-time classic cars, you might do a lot of shopping over a lot of miles for each piece in your collection. Vintage cars are obviously few and far between, and the one you want will probably be farther. Understand that a lot of people in this business take the risk with long distance purchases. Try to find a community online to read reviews and sales tips from other collectors

You Know (or Know of) the Seller

If you are familiar with the person selling you the car, your risk decreases drastically. While you still won’t get a first-hand inspection of the car yourself, your acquaintance will be less likely to lie to you if there’s a relationship on the line. Also, if you know of the seller from other people who have given you recommendations, you’ll have a better idea of his or her reputation.

You’re Desperate

While it’s probably not the smartest idea to be making any sort of purchase in times of desperation, sometimes it’s just necessary. For all of those other unique situations that pop up, you can at least be prepared if you’re buying a long distance used car. Remember these essential steps before shaking any virtual hands:

  • Research the car you’re about to buy thoroughly and understand the price ranges before you even speak with the seller.
  • Contact the seller for a purely informational conversation first. Ask any question you might have, and don’t say a word about making a deal.
  • Ask to see copies of any documentation that the seller has of the car, even if you have to pay to have them sent to you.
  • Spring for professional appraisal services for verification of the car’s condition.
  • Reach an agreement with the seller of how payment, transportation and delivery will work.
  • Get it in writing and ask for a copy before agreeing to the actual deal

Sometimes buying a long distance used car is unavoidable, but knowing how to handle the transaction and the risks involved will help you find a safer purchase.

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The Eight Least Expensive Cars to Maintain

We all love a deal. But the bottom-line price on your new car shouldn’t be the only thing influencing your decision when it comes time to buy. Gas, maintenance and repair costs add up over the life of your car, so you want to make sure you take these figures into account, too.

U.S. News and other auto press analysts rate vehicles each year in terms of reliability, service cost, price and fuel efficiency. To help you out, the following list features eight of the cheapest cars to maintain (in no particular order), with miles-per-gallon and five-year maintenance numbers shown. Use it as a comparison guide when you’re researching other cars or browsing the lots.

1. Nissan Sentra

Starting price: $18,000
MPG: 25 city, 33 highway
Five-year service cost: $3,400

2. Pontiac G3

Starting price: $14,000
MPG: 27 city, 34 highway
Five-year service cost: $2,300

3. Kia Rio

Starting price: $14,000
MPG: 28 city, 34 highway
Five-year service cost: $3,300

4. Honda Fit

Starting price: $16,000
MPG: 27 city, 33 highway
Five-year service cost: $2,900

5. Toyota Yaris

Starting price: $13,000
MPG: 29 city, 36 highway
Five-year service cost: $3,000

6. Dodge Caliber

Starting price: $17,000
MPG: 23 city, 31 highway
Five-year service cost: $3,600

7. Hyundai Accent

Starting price: $11,000
MPG: 28 city, 34 highway
Five-year service cost: $3,300

8. Kia Sorento

Starting price: $20,000
MPG: 20 city, 27 highway
Five-year service cost: $4,600

Do your homework before you buy your next car. Look up the gas mileage, national five-year repair averages and even the interest details for any particular model. It may take a little extra time, but you’ll avoid a lot of surprises down the road and find one of the least expensive cars to maintain as a payoff.

What that Giant Inflatable Monkey Is Telling You

You know you can’t resist the seductive powers of a giant inflatable monkey flapping in the breeze, calling you to come buy a new car at an outrageous price. You fall for it every time, don’t you?

I didn’t think so.

As ridiculous as they are, these massive blowup animals and other gimmicky attractions are running rampant in car dealership lots, and they must be stopped.

But how?

By knowing how to spot the sales ploy and killing it on first sight. Don’t be fooled into making a bad decision on your next car purchase—or worse, into making an impulse buy—because of a monkey trap. Ignore the gimmick to avoid these tempting situations.

Carnival Cons

Those creepy looking car lot carnivals start popping up everywhere once spring hits. The rides seem rickety (all two of them), and the tents are abandoned. But you still notice them. Just like their cousin, the inflatable monkey, this type of dealership gimmick relies on flash to get people to look. Even if all you do is notice the dealer name above the blinking lights, the carnival has served its purpose.

“Slasher Sale” Stunts

Dealers who “slash” the price of the car over and over again in front of you eyes on a piece of paper should just look foolish to you. Because you know they aren’t really slashing anything but an inflated starting price. The end result isn’t a great deal because it’s what the dealer would have asked for in the first place. Don’t get excited and hurry to make a deal when the slashing starts. You could even end up paying more than the asking price if you jump before the slasher is quite through with the show.

Two-For-One Stunts

Buy one car, get one for free. Sure it sounds great, but this eye-catching offer doesn’t show the fine print. Here’s what else you’ll get along with your “free” second car:

• Higher interest rates or longer interest periods for dealer financing
• Zero incentives or rebates
• Higher pricing on the primary vehicle
• Costly and unwanted add-ons

Plus, you don’t get to choose the second car you get. These giveaways are usually cars the dealer wants off the lot ASAP. Even if you sell the free car, you probably still won’t make enough to cover the MSRP or higher interest payments on the first. Stick with the better deal on the one car you want.

A lot of dealerships use gimmicks like these to get people in the door, but you should only go in for them if you’re truly ready to buy and if you think they’ll get you the best car at the best price.

Share some of your own advice here on car dealership gimmicks to watch out for.

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How To Detect Odometer Fraud

Odometer fraud can be a used car buyer’s worst nightmare. You think that you’ve scored a great deal on the car of your dreams, but when it breaks down on the way home, you’re left wondering where you went wrong. According to a 2002 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimate, more than 450,000 vehicles are sold in US every year with false odometer readings. While the digital meters included in most modern vehicles were intended to combat odometer fraud, they turned out to be even easier to corrupt. So how can you be sure that the car of your dreams isn’t the odometer scam of a lifetime?

Consistent Condition

One of the first things you can do to detect odometer fraud is compare the condition of various parts of the car. Are the tires worn? Does the interior look dated and lived-in? If the condition isn’t consistent with the mileage, a red flag should go up in your mind.
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Check for Evidence

If you’re suspicious of the mileage, you might be able to find some evidence of fraud under the hood and on the odometer itself. First, check the positioning of the numbers and look for fingerprints on the glass cover. If you test drive, check to see that the numbers change as you go. Next, open the hood and look for service stickers. If the timing belt has been changed, it will tell you the date and mileage of the repair. If this doesn’t line up with the current mileage, you could be looking at a corrupted odometer.

Be Certain

If you’re suspicious of fraud it’s important to be certain before you commit to purchasing. You can use a vehicle history report to find some insight into the true mileage and condition of the vehicle, but it will not be a guarantee. The best way to verify the mileage of a car is to have it inspected by a professional, trustworthy mechanic.

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Five Most Important Vehicle Safety Features of the 21st Century

Driving requires a great deal of faith in both the vehicle and the other drivers on the road. Think about it. Much of the time, you’re driving toward oncoming traffic at a speed that could kill you in a head-on collision, and your only protection is a pair of thin yellow lines on the road. To make matters even more difficult, we often drive in dark, wet, freezing or slippery conditions.

Auto makers are constantly working to keep us safe on the road. From seatbelts to airbags to anti-lock brakes, recent decades have been full of innovations that help us walk away from accidents and even avoid them all together. The following are five of the most impressive vehicle safety innovations we’ve seen so far this century.

Tire Pressure Sensors

Not only can low tire pressure hurt a car’s gas mileage, it can also hinder steering and even lead to a dangerous blowout. To take care of this easily corrected problem, all vehicles built after October 31, 2006 are required to feature a low tire pressure monitoring system. If one of the tires is low, the driver is instantly alerted via a dashboard light.

Emergency Response

Many of today’s vehicles feature an emergency response system that tracks the vehicle via GPS. While GM was the first automaker to offer this service with OnStar, other manufacturers like Volvo, Lexus and BMW have since followed. Emergency response services range from calling local police and fire as soon as an accident occurs to tracking stolen vehicles and providing driving directions.

New Airbags

While air bags have been around since the 1970s, they’ve seen tremendous improvements in the last decade. One of the most important recent airbag innovations has been “smart” airbags that can not only sense whether or not a person is wearing a seatbelt, but also how much that person weights, how severe the crash is and where the collision takes place. These innovations can save the life of a child or a person not wearing a seatbelt. Airbags can also been placed around the entire vehicle, protecting the head as well as passengers in the back seat.

Stabilization

Spinouts and rollovers are two of the most dangerous things that can happen to a car in an accident. To prevent these types of accidents, many modern vehicles come with various stabilization controls. These systems can sense when a driver is trying to steer in an emergency and apply automatic braking to individual wheels. Stabilization is different from anti-lock brakes, which only prevent brakes from locking.

Sensors and Cameras

Some of today’s more sophisticated vehicles feature sensors and cameras to help prevent drivers from hitting objects they can’t see. For example, blind spot sensors can warn drivers of objects in the next lane as soon as they turn on their blinker and tell them that they’re starting to drift out of their lane.  Also, rear sensors and cameras can help drivers of large SUVs and trucks avoid the tragedy of backing into a small child.

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The First Step of Buying Any Vehicle

If you’re ready to buy your next vehicle, your first step needs to be assessing your situation. Before you look at a single car, take an hour or so to write down and prioritize your needs. Because most people skip this step, they make a poor decision when they get to the dealership by purchasing the “sexy” car rather than the one that’s best for them. As a result, they either end up selling the vehicle much too soon or spending far too much money on it.

Use

What will be the primary use of your vehicle? Are you going to be taking the kids to and from school every day? Will you be carrying tools to work? Do you have a long commute? Use is the most important thing to consider when you’re buying a vehicle. While an SUV may be a necessity for a large family or a construction worker, it could be a gas-guzzling headache for a businessman with a long commute. 

When considering the uses for your next car, make sure you also take into consideration future needs. Are you planning on having children in the next several years? If so, you may want to rethink that coupe. Getting married soon? What does your significant other think about your plan to buy a new sports car? Thinking about your vehicle’s present and future uses can save you from making a shortsighted purchase.

Factors to consider that may depend on usage:

  • Size
  • Gas mileage
  • Body type
  • Features

Budget

Your next vehicle purchase can either put you in a great financial position or dig you into a hole that you may not recover from for years to come. Because of this, knowing where you stand financially is crucial to making a wise purchase. You should not only take a hard look at your current income and expenses, but also the stability of your job and future purchases you’ll make. Also remember there are always hidden expenses like taxes and insurance associated with buying a vehicle. Make a realistic decision on how much you can spend and stay firm to that decision, no matter how much you want to buy a car that’s just outside your budget.

Factors to consider that may depend on budget:

  • Sticker price
  • Insurance cost
  • New/Used/Lease
  • Financing

Risk

Because nobody likes to dwell on the worst possible scenario, many people purchase a car destined to fail them when they need it most.  Have you considered how safe you will be if you get into an accident? What are the chances that you’ll be stranded on the side of the road with a mechanical problem? Instead of ignoring risk, face it head on. If you’re buying a car to transport your family every day, you may want to consider only vehicles that rate highly for safety. If, on the other hand, you’re handy under the hood, you may be able to tolerate an older car that has a tendency to break down.

Factors to consider that may depend on risk:

  • Safety features
  • Age
  • Mileage
  • Reliability

Preferences

Let’s face it, part of buying a car is choosing something we actually want to drive. There’s nothing wrong with making personal preferences a part of your decision as long as you know your priorities. Is a sunroof and leather seats important to you? As long as these features fit into your budget, there’s no reason not to choose these luxuries. Where many consumers falter is placing too much of an emphasis on personal preferences that don’t actually matter. Too many people purchase a car that’s wrong for them because it has an iPod connection. Or speakers that light up when music plays. Or eight cup holders. Or blue paint. Make a list of preferences, but know where these preferences fit into your overall decision.

Factors to consider that may depend on preferences:

  • Features
  • Style
  • Color
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Get the Best Deal on Your Next Car by Shopping Around

“We will not be beat!”

“Lowest prices guaranteed!”

If you’ve seen a car dealership commercial on TV, you’ve heard one of these phrases. While it seems that these lowest price guarantees should encourage consumers to shop around for the best deal, most buyers just take them at face value. After all, if the dealership you’re at guarantees that they have the best prices, why go through the trouble of shopping anywhere else?

Because car prices can be negotiated, low price guarantees come in especially handy for consumers buying a vehicle from a dealer. If you’re willing to do a little extra legwork, you may be able to save thousands on your next car. Follow these four steps to get dealerships to bid against each other for your business.

Use the Internet

Test driving a car is an emotional experience. It handles nicely, the seats feel good, and that new car smell is amazing. Unfortunately, many people don’t shop around like they should because they get emotionally attached to one car after test driving it. Keep your emotional involvement to a minimum by doing most of your initial research online. With all the online resources available today, you should be able to get a good idea of the used cars you want and the best local prices on those models before you even set foot into a dealership. Compare reviews from consumer groups and safety organizations to find the two or three vehicles that best fit into your lifestyle. 

Narrow down your choices

Once you’ve settled on the best vehicles for you, test drive them at the nearest dealership. At this point, you don’t need to worry about negotiating with the dealer, just walk in, drive the cars you’re interested in, and walk out. By now, you should also decide on the features that matter most to you. The goal is to narrow down the exact car and features you want, so you’ll be able to compare apples to apples when you shop around. 

Get quotes

Now, you can contact dealers both online and over the phone to narrow your choices down the two or three offering the best price. While this should be relatively simple for new cars, used car buyers may have to do a little extra work to make sure the cars they’re comparing are as similar as possible.   

Compare quotes

Go to the first dealer on your list and negotiate the best price you can on the car you want. Make sure you’ve discussed every part of the deal, including financing. Once you’ve gotten the seller’s price, go to the next dealer on your list. Show them the previous dealer’s offer and ask if they can beat it. If you find a dealer that will beat the price, return to the original seller and ask them if they’ll beat the new price. If they do, buy the vehicle on the spot. If not, return to the seller with the best offer. Be aware that many dealers try to negotiate on extras and features rather than price. Take these extras into consideration, but always give price the highest priority. 

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How Will My Credit Score Affect My Ability to Buy a Car?

When most people walk into a dealership to buy a car, they are focused on the vehicle itself. With all the research they’ve done on prices, features and ratings, they’ve ignored their credit score. Because of this, they are blindsided by the dealer’s financing offer once they’re ready to actually buy the car. If you’re interested in getting the best deal possible on your next car, you need to not only know your credit score, but also how to use it to your advantage. 

Your credit score comes from one of three reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian or TransUnion), and ranges from 300 to 850. Your score determines not only your interest rate, but also whether or not you’re even eligible for a loan. Typically, scores over 720 are eligible for good interest rates, while scores under 630 may have a tough time getting a loan at all. 

Do you know what your credit score is? If it’s not the best, do you know what you can do to give yourself the best chance of walking out of the dealership with a great deal?

 

Know your credit score before walking into the dealer

The most empowering thing you can do before buying your next car is purchasing a credit report. This report will not only tell you your credit score, but will also list actions you’ve taken that have affected that score. You should be aware that your credit score varies slightly among the three different reporting agencies, so the number you’re looking at may not be exactly what the dealer sees.

Fixing your credit

As soon as you obtain your credit report, examine it for wrong information and contact the reporting agency to fix it. Then, if possible, boost your credit by working on the five areas that reporting agencies look at. These areas are:

  • Payment history (35%)
  • Amounts owed (30%)
  • Length of history (15%)
  • New credit (10%)
  • Types of credit (10%)

Some ideas for fixing your credit are stop making late payments, pay back as much debt as you can afford, avoid closing old cards and don’t open up new credit.  Remember that just a few points added to your score can help you get into a lender’s next tier, potentially saving you thousands of dollars.

Research your options

Getting an auto loan from the dealer may be convenient, but it’s not your only option. Once you know your credit score, find out what type of loans you’d be approved for by contacting your bank as well as online lenders like Up2Drive.com. You don’t have to take these loans, but just being approved can give you leverage at the dealership. 

At the dealership

When you arrive at the dealership, you should have your credit score and lending offers in hand. Do not offer this information before the dealer checks your credit; you just want it in case you need it for leverage. If the dealer tells you that your score is higher than you thought or offers you a better deal than the one you got, you’re good to go. However, if the dealer offers you a worse deal, you can use your documentation to negotiate a lower interest rate or go with a different lender. 

One final thing to consider is that some dealers might offer zero percent financing or cash back. If you’re offered this choice, consider taking the cash back and going with a different lender that has a low interest rate.  

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Roadside Assistance 101-How to Change a Flat Tire

Flat tires never happen unless it’s raining, you’re late for a meeting or you have 100 pounds of luggage covering your spare tire. While flat tires are always an inconvenience, they don’t have to be a disaster. If you don’t know how to change your own flat tire, don’t be ashamed. Instead, take a few minutes to read this short guide, and you can feel confident anytime, even when you hear that dreaded thump-thump-thump.

Be prepared

The ability to fix a flat in under five minutes won’t do any good if the spare tire is flat as a pancake. Every once in a while, check your spare tire to make sure it still has pressure. You’ll also want to make sure that your lug wrench and jack are still in your trunk. Because many auto shops tighten lugs too tight, it’s also a good idea to keep a pipe in your car. A pipe that snugly fits over your lug wrench can give you the leverage you need to loosen even the tightest lugs.

Park on a flat surface

While it is possible to change a flat on a hill, it is very dangerous and not recommended. To keep the car from moving while you change the tire, coast to a flat area, shift it in park, set the hand brake and put something behind the tire diagonally opposite of the flat tire. 

Get everything you’ll need

If you’ve already prepared for a flat tire, you should know where to find everything you’ll need. Most cars have the spare tire, lug wrench and jack under the carpet in the trunk. Some other items that might be helpful are a flashlight, pipe, paper towels and extra clothes.

Loosen the lug nuts

The hardest part of changing a flat tire for most people is loosening the lug nuts. Many cars have lug nuts that are so tight that they seem almost impossible to unscrew without a torque wrench. This is where your pipe comes in handy. If you brought your pipe, simply slip it over the lug wrench, and you should have more than enough leverage to loosen even the tightest lugs. At this point, you don’t want to take the lugs all the way off, just loosen them enough to make them easy to remove when the car is jacked up. Remember, righty tightie, lefty loosey.

Jack the car

Put the jack in the designated jack spot underneath your car. This spot will probably be marked with two indentations near the wheel. If you’re not sure where your vehicle’s jack spot is, consult your owner’s manual. The jack that comes with your vehicle should have no trouble raising it from the ground. Jack your car enough to let the tire spin freely.

Remove the flat and put on the spare

Remove the flat tire, making sure you don’t let the tire, hub cap or lug nuts roll away. Now, put the spare tire on with the air valves facing out. Hand tighten the nuts, then lower the car. When tightening the lug nuts for the final time, work in a star pattern, attacking the nut opposite the one you just tightened. This will help you make sure the tire won’t fall off once you start driving. 

Clean up

When you clean up, make sure everything’s back in your car the way it was when you started. That way, your tools will be there when you need them, and they won’t clunk around in your trunk. When you drive on your spare tire, make sure you stay under the recommended maximum speed and travel distance. These details will be in your owner’s manual, and sometimes on the tire itself.

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How to Void Your Cars Warranty

Few things are as reassuring to a new car buyer than a long warranty. It’s great to know that even if your car isn’t as reliable you thought it would be, you won’t be held responsible for the repairs for the next several years. While the warranty can be a source of reassurance at the time of purchase, however, it can turn into a point of contention when the dealer claims it has been voided.  

To help you avoid the costly mistake of voiding your warranty, this article discusses several of the most common reasons manufacturers cite for not honoring warranties.

Salvage title

When a vehicle has been declared as a total loss by an insurance company, it gets a salvage title and is no longer eligible for a warranty. Even if the vehicle is repaired to work as good as new, it will no longer be eligible for warranty repairs.

Reckless driving

Reckless driving includes racing, off-roading and overloading the vehicle. Even vehicles designed to be driven fast or off-road can be denied warranty coverage, so think twice before taking part in any risky activities with your car.

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Aftermarket modifications

This condition of the warranty is often confusing for consumers. While many people think that it means they cannot make any alterations to their vehicle at all, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act of 1975 says that the dealer must prove the aftermarket part led to the car problem in order for it to void the warranty. If it’s not clear whether or not the aftermarket part caused the failure, the dealer has to run a diagnosis. Also, it’s worth noting that performance aftermarket parts can cause a dealer to become suspicious of racing and possibly void the warranty on grounds of reckless driving.

Maintenance

Most warranties require the vehicle to be serviced regularly. This means that if the engine failed because of dirty oil buildup, for example, the repair wouldn’t be covered by the warranty. While your vehicle is under warranty, get the oil changed every 3,000 to 4,000 miles. You don’t have to have it maintained at the dealer, but make sure you keep all maintenance receipts with careful records.

Environmental damage

No warranty will cover damage done by nature. This includes environmental disasters like fire, flood and earthquakes.

Not reading the fine print

The most important thing you can do to keep the warranty of your car is reading all of the fine print. Many warranties contain conditions not listed in this article, and you’ll be out of luck even if you accidentally violate them. 

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Realistically Approach Your Next Car Deal

If you read enough articles about how to get the best deal on your next car, you may start to convince yourself that your potential to lower the price of your next car is unlimited. Walking into the dealership, you’re ready to hold the salesperson in the palm of your hand, forcing him to give you a better deal than he ever dreamed. 

If you go into a sale with this attitude, you’ll most likely walk away disappointed. That’s because, while there are tricks to making sure you get the best deal on your next car, there are certain realities that govern the auto industry. Understanding these realities will help you better research your next purchase and walk away from the sale comfortable that you got the best deal possible. 

Reality 1: Most car dealers aren’t making a huge profit margin on their inventory 

The difference between the suggested retail price of most new cars and the price the dealer pays for them is often only a couple thousand dollars. Many dealers sell their cars below suggested retail price, leading to much smaller profit margins than most people expect. While used cars generally have higher profit margins than new vehicles, the average salesperson only makes a couple hundred dollars of commission on each car he sells.

This information is not meant to make you feel sorry for dealers, but rather to help you understand that they don’t have an infinite amount of wiggle room when selling cars. No dealer would be willing to take a loss on a vehicle, so you’re just wasting your time trying to buy the car for less than the dealer did. The best way to figure out how low sellers are willing to lower prices is by shopping at several different dealerships and sharing competitors’ prices with each other.

Reality 2: The Internet has dramatically leveled the playing field

Car salesmen earned a reputation for dishonesty during the 70s and 80s partly because they knew their customers would have a hard time comparing prices. Since they knew so much more than their customers about the value of their inventory, many dealers could get away with charging too much for a car. 

Since that time, the Internet has empowered consumers. Today, consumers can visit just a few websites for in-depth vehicle reviews, dealer quotes and market prices. Thanks to online research, more consumers are going into a sale prepared for negotiations, and sellers are becoming much more transparent to compete for their business. Some sellers even reveal how much they paid for a particular vehicle, making haggling that much simpler.

Reality 3: There is a price to be paid for haggling too much

As with any deal, there comes a point when the haggling should end and a decision needs to be made. While hours of stubbornness could save you an extra hundred dollars or earn you a few free oil changes, it could cost you an ally when your car breaks down and you need loaner from the dealer. Get the best deal you can on your next car, but respect your salesperson, because you never know when you’ll need his help.

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Get Dirty Inspecting Your Next Car

No matter where you’re buying a used car, you should be aware that there is a chance there’s something the seller’s not telling you. Whether the seller is aware of it or not, some cars have serious mechanical problems that have been covered up just enough to make them unnoticeable until it’s too late.

Since there are people who will go to great lengths to hide red flags, you’ll need to be willing to get a little dirty to turn up some problems. This article discusses steps to add to your inspection checklist that many people choose to forgo because they seem silly and result in dirty fingernails.

Look for clamp marks

Clamp marks appear as holes or teeth marks on the body of the car. These marks are clear signs that the car has been repaired with a frame machine, a tool only used when serious damage has occurred. To look for clamp marks, you’ll have to get under the car with a flashlight and scan the frame rail.

Check under the oil cap
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When most used car buyers look under the hood of a car, they just want to make sure everything looks nice and clean. Because of this, most smart sellers will wipe down the visible components and may even change the oil. What they probably won’t do is clean the underside of the oil cap, making this area a great place to look for clues. When you take off the oil cap, check for thick black marks, corrosion and burnt oil. Any of these are signs that the engine has been driven hard or raced.

Peel back the carpet liner in the trunk

Peel back the trunk’s carpet liner to look for several things. First, you’ll want to make sure the spare tire and jack are in place. Secondly, be alert for a musty odor or water in the tire well. If either is present, the car has probably suffered flood damage.

Examine the dipstick

Before you buy any car, you should check the oil to make sure it is full and clean. While most people stop there, it is also a good idea to feel the oil on the dipstick. If you feel any particles, the engine may have serious problems.

<Run fingers along the edge of the hood

The edge of the hood by the windshield should be completely smooth. If it feels rough, the hood been replaced after a collision. When body shops repaint the hood, they usually buff the whole thing except for this small area.

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Changing an Air Filter in Your Car

With gas prices soaring these days, everyone is looking for new ways to save at the pump. You might be surprised to learn that changing your car’s air filter can have a definite impact on not only your vehicle’s gas mileage, but also its overall engine life and performance.

Give yourself a break from hoarding those gas perks and find out how you can take on the quick, easy and inexpensive process of changing your own air filter.

Do I Need a New Air Filter?

In general, try to change your air filter every 12 to 15 months, or every 10,000 miles. Start your routine replacement on an easy-to-remember mile marker (e.g., 130,000 miles) so recognizing the next 10,000 miles (140,000) becomes obvious.

While you should try to stick to a schedule, keep in mind that your driving environment can also affect your replacement schedule. If you live in a city with poor air quality or if you travel a lot during spring and summer months when dusty construction work is at its finest, you may need to change your air filter more frequently.

And if you’re still not sure, the best way to find out is to pop the hood and look for yourself to see if your filter is clogged by dirt.

What’s the Price Tag?

Changing your car’s air filter on your own can mean saving up to $30 per replacement—that’s nearly an extra tank of gas. You might be charged $20 to $40 dollars at Al’s QuickieLube Stop, but buying your own filter will only cost you about $10. And don’t worry, your labor cost will be minimal. All you’ll need to figure out is your rate at five minutes’ worth of work.

How Do I Do It?

So you know it’s time to change your air filter, you know how much it’ll cost you and you’ve even purchased the matching replacement (and that extra tank of gas).

Now what?

  1. Situate your car. Park your car in a shaded area, turn off the ignition and release the hood. Take a few moments to let your car cool down and run to the garage to grab two screwdrivers, a standard and a Phillips head, to use later.
  2. Find the air filter. It’s typically located on top of the engine in a black plastic casing close to the size of a breadbox. In older cars, look for a round shape, and for newer models, a square box. Your manual should contain a picture if you’re not sure.
  3. Detach the filter cover. There will be a few metal clamps holding the casing onto the filter. To remove this cover, use your standard screwdriver to pry the clips off. Unscrew any screws that may be in place, too, and keep them in a safe location so that you’ll be able to reapply them later. Work around the casing’s perimeter to loosen it, and then pull the cover off to reveal your air filter.
  4. Remove the old air filter. It’s usually made of cotton, gauze or paper with a rubber rim and can be white, orange, red or yellow. Simply pull it out of its housing.
  5. Clean the filter housing. Wipe or vacuum out any dust or dirt stuck in the housing where the filter rests.
  6. Replace the filter and cover. Pop your replacement filter in, cover it back up and you’re good to go.

You’ve just saved yourself some extra cash—and your car some engine life—by learning how to change your air filter on your own. Now grease up and get to it!

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How Green is that Green Car?

A green car is a vehicle that harms the environment less than a similar vehicle with a conventional internal combustion engine. Hybrids are one of the most common green vehicles in use today, but you may be surprised to discover that even an all-electric vehicle causes greenhouse gas emissions.

All-Electric Vehicles

Electric vehicles use battery-powered motors to propel the car instead of an internal combustion engine. Because no fuel is burned, electric cars produce zero localized emissions. They require much less maintenance than conventional vehicles. There’s no need for routine oil changes, and replacing spark plugs, pistons, or belts is also unnecessary.

These vehicles do not produce any tailpipe pollution, but still use electricity from power plants to charge their batteries. These emissions are taken into consideration when calculating greenhouse gas emissions.

A typical all-electric vehicle produces 54 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per 100 miles.* Currently available all-electric vehicles include:

  • Nissan Leaf
  • Tesla Roadster
  • Ford Fusion Hybrid

Hybrid Vehicles

Hybrid vehicles are powered by both combustion engines and batteries, offering the low emissions of an electric car along with the power and range of conventional vehicles. Hybrids do not require plugs for the battery to charge. A technology called regenerative braking allows the car to capture energy normally lost during braking, by using the electric motor as a generator. On most hybrids, both the combustion engine and the electric motor provide power to the wheels.

A typical hybrid vehicle produces 57 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per 100 miles.* Some of the most popular hybrid vehicles include:[sc:GreenCar]

  • Toyota Prius
  • Honda Civic Hybrid
  • Honda Insight Hybrid
  • Ford Fusion Hybrid
  • Lexus HS 250h

Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles

Plug-in hybrid vehicles are similar to hybrid vehicles, but also have the ability to be plugged into the power grid like all-electric cars. Some plug-in hybrids are propelled by both the engine and the electric motor like regular hybrids. Others always use the electric motor to drive the wheels like an all-electric car, with the internal combustion engine acting only as a generator.

A typical plug-in hybrid vehicle produces 62 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per 100 miles.* Currently available plug-in hybrid vehicles include:

  • Chevrolet Volt
  • Toyota Prius

A typical combustion engine vehicle produces 87 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per 100 miles.*

Whatever the technology, all of these green car options produce considerably less harmful emissions than a conventional car. Better yet, advancements in alternative energy in general will further reduce the carbon emissions of electric and hybrid vehicles in the future.

*Alternative Fuels & Advanced Vehicles Data Center, U.S. Department of Energy, Emissions from Hybrid, Plug-in Hybrid, and All-Electric Vehicles, on the Internet at http://www.afdc.energy.gov/afdc/vehicles/electric_emissions.php

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Reduce Your Risk when Buying a Used Car

Deciding to buy a used car offers a number of financial benefits including lower prices, lower auto insurance rates, and extended warranties. There are risks involved with buying a used car though, so protect your investment by having all the facts before you make a purchase. Continue reading

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The Best Certified Pre-Owned Programs

Motor Trend Auto Group is best known for their monthly Motor Trend magazine, but they also rank the best certified used car programs each year through their IntelliChoice division.

The 2011 winners of the 12th annual IntelliChoice Certified Pre-Owned Program rankings are solid choices for anybody looking to purchase a used car. Buying used can cost much less than new, but even a used vehicle is a major financial investment. For both affordability and reliability, consider a used car through one of these top-rated certified pre-owned programs.

Criteria

IntelliChoice rated certified pre-owned programs on this set of eight criteria:

  • Extended manufacturer warranties
  • Certification inspection process • Program/dealer compliance
  • Return exchange policies
  • Roadside assistance
  • Special financing
  • Title verification
  • Brand value

Best Premium Program Award: Volvo

The consistency and quality of Volvo’s CPO program has kept the program at the top of IntelliChoice’s rankings for the last four years. Volvo Certified Pre-Owned Vehicles come with these great benefits:

  • 6-year, 100,000-mile factory scheduled maintenance warranty
  • Availability at 100% of Volvo dealerships
  • No deductible on warranty service
  • 3 months of free SIRIUS Satellite radio

Best Popular Program Award: MINI

Equally consistent is MINI’s CPO program, which has been awarded the best popular CPO program three years in a row. MINI NEXT Certified Pre-Owned Vehicles include these benefits:

  • 24-month, 50,000-mile comprehensive warranty after the original new car warranty
  • Complimentary roadside assistance for the term of the warranty
  • MINI Next financing offers
  • Free car history report

Specific Category Awards

Volvo and MINI had the best overall scores, but didn’t top every category. If you’re not interested in one of these cars but still want a great used car with a quality certified pre-owned program, consider any of the following carmakers:

  • 100% Premium Inspection Award: Audi, Infiniti, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lincoln, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo
  • 100% Popular Inspection Award: Ford, Mercury, Nissan, Toyota, Suzuki
  • Best Premium Brand Quality Award: Infiniti
  • Best Popular Brand Quality Award: MINI Save money when buying a car by choosing to buy used.

Save money down the road by choosing an award-winning certified pre-owned program.

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Gas Saving Myths: Do Over Inflated Tires Really Boost Gas Mileage?

You are probably aware that driving with under-inflated tires will negatively impact your car’s gas mileage. Since under-inflated tires cause drag, they ultimately require more horsepower. The end result is that the car uses more gas per mile.

What about over inflating your tires? Conventional wisdom seems to suggest that if under-inflated tires reduce gas mileage, over-inflated tires should improve it. Is there any truth behind this thinking?

Debunking the Myth

The logic behind the myth actually makes sense. Over inflating your tires means that they will bulge slightly in the center. Less surface area making contact with the road should mean less rolling resistance. With decreased rolling resistance and friction, your car’s gas mileage should respond in a positive way, right?
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The answer is slightly more complex than you would expect. The truth is that your car was built with aerodynamics in mind. This basically means that at highway speeds, your vehicle is already near its maximum fuel economy. Any small changes you make to your tires will be virtually undetectable.

Yes, over inflating your tires can decrease your car’s rolling resistance. However, it will probably not provide you with the monumental gas saving results you were hoping for. In fact, over inflating your car’s tires can actually be dangerous. When tires are over inflated, the steering becomes compromised and limited. The end result being that you are more prone to end up in an accident.

The best gas saving and safety advice is to follow the manufacturer’s recommended tire pressure. Get in the habit of regularly checking the PSI of your tires. With the proper maintenance, you can ensure that your vehicle continues to run at its optimal performance.

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Gas Saving Myths: Can Fuel Additives Really Boost My Gas Mileage?

It should come as no surprise, but there seems to be a correlation between rising gas prices and the number of available gas saving products. As gas prices rise, more and more manufacturers are rushing gimmicks to the marketplace, all claiming to have the best new product that will increase gas mileage and improve performance. 

Leading this wave of new gas saving products are fuel additives. These easy-to-use, low cost products make bold statements about improving a car’s fuel economy and reducing exhaust emissions. As consumers become desperate for solutions that will help them save at the pump, they are looking to these hassle-free solutions for results.

The question then becomes: Do fuel additives really make a difference? Will they help boost gas mileage?

Beware of Bold Claims

In short, the answer is no. According to a number of consumer reports, as well as the FTC, the chance of a fuel additive improving a car’s performance and increasing gas mileage is unlikely. Yes, a few products may have some impact, but the effects will be so minimal, most drivers will never notice a difference. 

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If you have a healthy vehicle, there simply is no additive that can help you save on gas. And if you drive an underperforming car, a fuel additive will not suddenly make your engine become more powerful and efficient. 

In the end, there are a few steps you can take to improve gas mileage. Unfortunately, you will probably not find the answer in a box on a shelf. Instead look to increase your car’s gas mileage with fuel saving techniques such as:

  • Getting a tune up
  • Regularly changing your oil and filter
  • Keeping your tires properly inflated
  • Shopping for the best gas prices
  • Adjusting your commute times

Boosting your gas mileage has more to do with investing in your car’s maintenance than a magic elixir. By focusing on proven vehicle performance and gas saving measures, you can start saving money and extending the life of your car. 

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How Traffic Cameras Work

Out of the thousands of traffic accidents that take place in the United States every year, nearly twenty-two percent are the result of traffic light infractions. To combat this epidemic and increase public safety, law enforcement agencies across the country have begun to install traffic cameras at some of the most dangerous intersections.

While these cameras seem simple enough – a driver runs a red light and a camera snaps a picture of the license plate – the technology used is actually quite complex.

Red-light cameras are composed of four main parts:

  • A series of sensors or triggers
  • Multiple cameras
  • A network of computers
  • A human review

[sc:TextAds300x250FloatLeft]The purpose of the trigger is to sense the movement of a car as it runs a red light. Placed somewhere at a particular point in the road, these sensors use electrical impulses to create a magnetic field. When a car enters this field, it causes a disturbance.

The computer takes over at this point. Using a series of mathematical formulas, it calculates the position of the vehicle traveling through the magnetic field. The computer is also able to sense the rate at which the vehicle is moving. If it is determined that a traffic violation is about to occur, the computer sends a message to the red-light camera, instructing it to begin snapping pictures.

At this point, the camera will record at least two photographs. The first one being a picture of the car as it enters the intersection when the light is red. The second one is a picture of the car exiting the intersection when the light is still red.

Finally, before the ticket can be issued, each alleged violation is reviewed by a third party. Many states and cities employ an outside company to review and handle these alleged traffic camera violations. If the citation proves to be valid, a ticket will be issued within one to two months.

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How Much Insurance Should You Get on Your Used Car?

Buying insurance for your used car can be tricky. Not only do you need to be sure to follow your state’s minimum coverage requirements, you also need to keep your eye on price, value and affordability. Yes, you want to protect yourself, but you want to do so at a price you can afford.

When shopping for insurance on your used car, consider the following areas.

  • Liability: Each state has a minimum set of guidelines for the minimum amount of insurance necessary to legally drive. This coverage is what is commonly referred to as liability insurance. In the most basic sense, liability insurance will cover damage you do to other people, their vehicles or their property. Liability is typically the least expensive insurance available and is usually an acceptable choice for inexpensive used cars that are only expected to last a few more years.
  • Collision: A step above liability is collision insurance. In addition to providing liability protection, collision will cover damage done to your used car when it is in an accident, nothing more. If offered by your insurance company, this option offers more protection than liability, but at a lower rate than comprehensive insurance. Depending on your risk tolerance and your car’s value, collision may be the best fit for your price range.
  • Comprehensive: Comprehensive basically covers everything else. This can include theft, fire, vandalism and weather damage. Insurance policies that provide comprehensive coverage also generally provide collision and liability. While a comprehensive policy will be your most expensive choice, it is a good option when looking to maximize protection on your used car. If you’ve invested a lot into your used vehicle, comprehensive is probably your best choice.

Choosing liability, collision, and comprehensive options are not the only determining factors that drive price. Your insurance deductible will also affect your policy’s premium. By choosing to pay higher deductibles, you will lower your insurance policy’s premium.

The good news is that insurance for a used car often costs less than a new car policy. This is because the overall value of the used car is worth less than a new car. So instead of having to foot a costly repair bill, the insurance company only has to offer what the car is worth.

When choosing insurance, your car’s value should be the biggest determining factor. If the cost you would spend on insurance premiums would outweigh the value of your vehicle, consider less expensive insurance options.