Cars Column

Cars! As much as we may hate filling up the tank with gasoline, for many it’s the only way to get from one place to another. This column focuses on all things auto from the insurance you’ll need to get to whether a hybrid is right for you.


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 Cars 
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How do you get 3 million miles out of 1 car?

Irv Gordon got 3 million miles out of his car. His secret? Read the manual.There’s a certain satisfaction to getting the maximum possible use out of something you bought — squeezing the last bit of toothpaste out of the bottom of the tube, wearing a pair of jeans until they pretty much collapse into a pile of rags, etc.

But you’d have to work pretty hard to get more value out of a purchase than Irv Gordon, a retired science teacher from Long Island, N.Y. who recently became the first human to get 3 million miles out of a passenger car.


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 Cars, Insurance 
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Let your car insurance company spy on your driving?

Would you let your car insurance company monitor your driving?There are big changes in the way car insurance gets priced coming, and you’ve got a chance to get in on them now. Question is, do you want to?

All the information car insurers have collected on you in the past — your age, your credit score, whether you’re married, whether you made the honor roll — are designed to help them make an educated, but ultimately flawed, guess about how likely you are to wrap your IROC around a telephone pole while trying to change your fantasy football lineup on your smartphone.

But thanks to the inexorable march of technology toward a dystopian future of robot overlords and Justin Bieber greatest hits albums uploaded straight into our brains, insurance companies now have the ability to measure directly what they could once only guess at: your driving behavior.


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 Cars 
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Luxury car lease deals: It’s a trap!

Luxury car lease deals can be a trapLately I’ve been seeing a lot of lease deals on luxury cars that, on the surface, seem pretty tempting. I mean, why drive a regular old family sedan when you could be stylin’ and profilin’ in German luxury?

But before you get too excited, it’s worth digging down into the numbers a little bit. For instance, I recently saw a deal for a 2013 BMW 328i sedan that’ll cost you $369 a month, with $3,844 due at signing.
How is that possible, when monthly payments on a 48-month new-car loan for something like a base Toyota Camry can be $400 or more a month?


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 Cars 
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AARP Driver Safety Course Promotion Code

Traffic Safety ConesAARP offers an online driver safety course (it’s a defensive driving course) for $19.95 and it qualifies as a defensive driving course with respect to auto insurance premium discounts. By law in 34 states, auto insurance company is required to give you a discount if you complete a “classroom-based, state-approved driver-improvement course.” Those states are, according to AARP, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming.

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 Cars 
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5 Steps to Prepare Your Car for the Winter

Winter CarMost of us in the United States have felt a definite chill in the air the last few days. We are into December, which means if you haven’t, you should prepare your car for winter and include an emergency kit, just in case. Of course, you don’t hope for the worst, but it is always best to prepare for it, and with millions taking to the road for holiday travel, visiting family, and taking vacations, it pays to be prepared.

You might remember a few years ago when hundreds of cars were stranded in Chicago on Lakeshore Drive during the 2010 Chicago blizzard. Sure, the storm was intensifying, but those people were just trying to make the short drive home from work. They had no idea they would be stranded for hours and that some of the cars would run out of gas, making it impossible to run the heat.

Here are some steps you may want to take to avoid that fate and protect yourself and your family this winter while driving:

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 Cars 
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How to Avoid Buying a Flood Damaged Car

Almost Flooded CarHurricane Sandy ravaged the Northeast, and many people are still recovering. Thousands are now homeless, and even those who are able to continue living in their homes may have to get new vehicles because their vehicles were flooded and destroyed in the storm. According to The Huffington Post, “Six of the leading eight automakers in terms of U.S. sales said on Wednesday that at least 16,000 new vehicles were damaged, and the lion’s share of those will have to be scrapped. Counting cars in consumer hands increases the total loss estimated to at least 266,000 vehicles.”

Those cars that are totaled because of flooding are supposed to get a new title called a salvage title so they can be sold to the junkyard for scrap metal. However, that is, unfortunately, not always the case. Often, those cars are refurbished and put back into circulation. A flood damaged car will have many problems, and you don’t want to be the unlucky person who bought it.

Here are ways you can determine if the used car you are considering buying has been damaged by a flood:

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 Cars 
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Is ZipCar Worth It?

ZipCarIf I lived in a city with decent transportation options, I probably wouldn’t own a car. If I lived in a city with decent transportation and ZipCar, I definitely wouldn’t own a car. As it stands, we live in the suburbs so a car is a must but I am a little jealous of my friends who don’t have to take care of a 4,000 pound piece of metal on wheels. It also appears like I’m not alone. This article about the cheapest generation, a somewhat unfair characterization, mentions how Millenials aren’t buying cars and houses like their predecessors. It made me wonder about the economics of Zipcar and whether it makes sense financially, even if it’s not practical in our situation.

ZipCar is a service where you can rent cars for a very short period of time. You join their service, which involves a driving record check and a 94% approval in 24 hours, and are issued a card. You use that card to reserve cars that are (hopefully) distributed around your local area. You rent by the hour or by the day and can do so entirely online, which tells you whether there are cars there. It’s basically a la carte car rental. The technology is actually pretty slick, you do everything with the Zipcard.

ZipCar is very well represented in cities but you’d be hard pressed to find them out in the suburbs, though there are locations. For example, there are no Zipcars in Columbia, MD where I live and the closest one is at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (next closest is in Baltimore or Washington D.C.). That’s not a viable option for me and it’s likely the case for folks living in the suburbs. If you live in a city, chances are you’ll see one nearby.

So would it make sense financially?

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 Cars 
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Consider Selling Your Car & Going Car-less

Rusted CarAmericans have a love affair with their automobiles. One of the first ways people want to show off their economic status is through buying a nice vehicle. Even the poorest college student is likely to have a car, though it may be a bit worse for wear. In fact, “Americans own an average of 2.28 vehicles per household, and more than 35 percent of households own three or more cars” (New York Times).

Surviving in America without a car is counterculture and can make life difficult, especially if you live in the suburbs or the country. However, there are times selling your car might be just the right thing to do.
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