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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How to Save Money on a Rental Car

Budget Rental CounterSometimes we’re just plain clueless when it comes to certain expenses. We don’t purchase air conditioners, automobiles, or furniture enough to consider ourselves expert consumers in those areas and often, that causes us to feel at the mercy of the salespeople. For many, travel expenses fall under that category. Most Americans don’t travel regularly so expenses like rental cars could make you feel like you wouldn’t know the difference between a good and bad deal.

As the husband of a former Enterprise employee, I’m in a unique position to know the real story behind rental car sales so let’s take a look at some of the facts that the rental car sales staff won’t be quick to tell you.

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How to Save When Gas Hits $5 a Gallon

OdometerOil has been quietly creeping up in the early months of 2012 and if 2008 is any indication, as oil goes up, spending in other areas goes down and that’s not good for the economy. In fact, for every 1 cent increase in the price of oil, the collective amount of disposable income in the United States is reduced by $600 million per year.

As prices rise, we all start thinking about how we can cut down on our fuel costs. Because fuel is a necessity for most Americans, cutting our bill as prices rise is a difficult task but there are some ways to counteract those rising prices, at least partially.

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Regular Gas in Premium Gas Cars Won’t Save Much Money

Mobilgas GulfWith gas prices on the rise (something that always seems happens as the weather gets warmer), everyone is trying to find ways to cut down on the cost of filling up each week. If you’re one of the many “premium” car owners, you’ve probably considered putting regular unleaded in your tank instead of the more expensive premium fuel – don’t.

You know how premium gasoline in a car that only needs regular gasoline will see no benefit? (it’s known as the high octane gas myth – premium fuel doesn’t correspond with a higher miles per gallon) Regular gasoline in a premium engine is less efficient and you don’t save as much money as you’d think. Your miles per gallon with a premium fuel in a premium engine is higher than with regular fuel in that same engine.

Autoglance did scoured the web for some self-reported figures and discovered that across eight luxury vehicles, the cost per mile saves was less than one cent per mile. The MPG with premium gasoline (91 or 93 octane), which on average cost $3.75 per gallon, was obviously higher than with regular (87 octane), average cost of $3.47 per gallon, but it was higher by a large enough margin that the cost savings per mile shrank to about half a cent. This wasn’t a scientific study and ultimately the best answer is to do the test yourself but the results show that chances are you won’t come out a winner (and it’s not a large enough difference to even warrant a test).

The lesson from this isn’t new, that you should use the fuel your car tells you to use, but it is confirmation.

Have you done any similar tests? I would give it a try except I don’t have a car that takes premium fuel (and we already know premium fuel in a regular car is meaningless).

(Photo: somegeekintn)

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How to Buy A Car

Gateway Motors, Simca, Jacksonville, FLDo you absolutely hate going to the dealership and buying a car? Do you hate the games, the time wasted, the haggling and the long drawn out dance? It’s one of the reasons why CarMax has been so popular (we bought a car from CarMax just last year because they offered the best price and no dance), people just hate this silly game that dealerships make you play just to buy a car. The reality is that your average car buyer, who buys a car only one time every few years (hopefully many years if they’re lucky) is up against someone who sells cars every single day. We’re just not well equipped to battle in this arena, which is why buying a car when you’re a dealership, on their home field, is a mistake.

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2012 Hybrid & Electric Car Tax Credit Update

Tesla Model SMany many years ago in a Congress far far away a law was passed that offered tax credits for the purchase of hybrid cards and light trucks. The law was the Energy Act of 2005, the Congress was the 109th, and President Bush was the one who signed it. It created a tax credit of up to $3,400 for qualifying vehicles but the credit expired when 2010 came to a close.

What took its place was a new tax credit on electric vehicles created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Electric vehicles purchased in or after 2010 is eligible for up to $7500 in tax credits.

Here’s what the two associated sections say:
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Money Leaks: Warming Up Your Car

Snowy BeetleAs winter approaches North America, temperatures are falling. Just a few weeks ago, we had our first few snowflakes and freezing temperatures; though that went by without much incident. When the temperatures drop, one money leak begins to creep its ugly head – warming up your car.

Warming up your car refers to turning on the engine and letting it run idle to “warm” it up. The idea with letting it warm up is that it’s like you stretching. You let the engine idle a little before making it do any real work. It sounds great in theory but it’s completely unnecessary. Your car doesn’t need this and you’re just wasting fuel.

This is the latest edition of our new series called Money Leaks.

There’s another type of “warming up your car” that people refer to and that has to do with the inside of your car. Sometimes you like to let the engine run so it can get hot and begin delivering hot air into the cabin. Again, that sounds great except it’s costing you money. Much like how your mom probably told you to put on a sweater when you were cold, rather than turn up the thermostat, it’s better for you to avoid this when possible. (Also, the engine gets warmer when you’re driving… so just get going)

If you live in a place where ice can develop, some of these rules go out the window because you need heat to melt the ice before you can safely proceed. If you live in one of those areas, you probably already know this. If you don’t live in an area like this, quit idling your car and throwing money out the window. :)

(Photo: spakattacks)

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Buying a Car: New or Used?

New car or used carI hate shopping for cars. As a result, I try really hard to ensure that I get a good value for a car so that I don’t have to shop for one anytime soon. My husband and I still have the first car we bought as a married couple. We bought it nine years ago, shortly after our son was born and we got sick of trying to throw a bulky carrier in the back of a two-door vehicle (which we traded in, just so we wouldn’t have to deal with it). Since then, we have added another vehicle to our establishment.

However, as the 2001 Saturn ages, we are again turning our thoughts to car shopping. We’ll probably hold off for a little while longer, since the car has remained reliable and is decent condition, thanks to the magic of proper car maintenance. As we think more about what’s next, though, it seems apparent that we will soon have to decide between a new car and a used car.

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How to End Your Lease Early

CarThe buy versus lease debate has raged since the auto lease became popular but one thing is for certain about a lease: You aren’t going to end it early without paying a lot of money to do it. The recent economic headwinds have caused a rise in not only lease defaults but also people who, due to a job loss or other economic event, want to terminate their lease early. When they call the leasing company or go to the dealership where they leased the vehicle, they learn that early termination of a lease is difficult and expensive.

Why? Because the monthly payment for your car lease is calculated with the assumption that you’re going to hold the lease through the end of the term. If you don’t, the leasing company loses a lot of money in part, because they have to recoup the cost they incur for the depreciation of the car. The earlier you terminate your lease, the less money they recoup.  Although you’re probably going to have to pay something to get out of your lease, there are ways to greatly minimize the payment.

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