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 Get Out of a Speed Camera Ticket

Speed CamerasAll over the country, cameras are going up. Whether you see a red light camera, snapping a picture if you run the light, or whether you see a camera on the side of the road, taking an image of your speeding car, the cost of such violations can start to add up.

Speeding cameras, and other cameras, are popular because they automatically take pictures of the offending vehicles. Your license plate is seen, and the registration can be called up. Once that information is seen, your address is revealed and you can be sent a ticket.

While there is no way to guarantee that you will beat a citation if you challenge it — most of the time you are presumed guilty since the camera “caught” you — you do have the right to try and get out of the ticket.

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7 Best Cars for College Students

2010 Ford FocusAs another school draws to a close, thousands of high school seniors around the country are preparing to head off to college. For many, this means that it’s time to get a car. However, taking an expensive car to college can put financial strain on a student who is already expected to live off Ramen. If you are shopping for yourself, or for your child, it helps to be smart about the car that you choose. Choose a car that’s cheap to own.

Sometimes, the cheapest option can be to buy used. When I bought a car my freshman year, I spent about $3,000 for a used Mercury Topaz. It was a five-speed (I learned to drive stick on an old Festiva), and it got great gas mileage. My car was cheap to own, and it didn’t need a lot of repairs. It was a great option for me. However, not everyone is willing to go through the used car lots in an effort to find a good deal. Here are some ideas for cheap cars from Forbes and CNN Money, with my thoughts thrown in. You just might find something that makes sense for the student in your life:
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How to Decode Your Car’s VIN Number

Vehicle Identification NumberEver wonder how they come up with your car’s VIN? VIN stands for vehicle identification number and it’s a code that tells you a lot about the vehicle you’re driving. For the longest time, I thought a VIN on a car was a unique serial number that incremented with each manufactured car. As you can tell, I didn’t put much thought into it because it’s clear that a unique number, incremented each time, is not the best way to handle identifying cars!

As it turns out, part of the code is a unique number assigned to a single car of a single model at a single manufacturer, but much of the information contained in a VIN is not unique. Now, knowing about how the VIN works won’t save you any money on gas but now you’ll know something few people do!

(I realize my title is a case of RAS syndrome, but everyone I know says VIN number)

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Why are Gas Prices So High?

oil price hikeNot too long ago, for Spring Break, my son and I took a road trip to Arizona to visit my grandfather. One thing I noticed: As I drove farther south, the gas prices rose. By the time we reached Arizona, we were paying more than $4.00 per gallon!

I’m not the only who has noticed a rise in gas prices; there are predictions that $4.00 gas is going to be the norm for this coming summer. But why are gas prices so high? While politicians like to point fingers and blame the president, or try to find a scapegoat, the reality is that there are a number of factors that go into the price of gas.

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How to Buy a Car from a Private Seller and Avoid a Lemon

New Car?This post is from Elle at Couple Money.

Last summer my husband and I had a beautiful baby girl and everything changed (for the better). In preparation for her arrival, we’ve created a baby fund, changed the guest room into her nursery, and increased our life insurance coverage should something happen to use. We still have some items on our to do list that we need to complete this year to give us some peace of mind.

One item on our list that we hope to cross off in the next few weeks is buying a family car. Our current cars have served us well over the years. However, neither one of them can accommodate everybody (plus baby gear) comfortably. We were planning on buying another car before the baby arrived, but postponed it to take care of more directly baby related financial goals. Now we’re ready to go with our car replacement fund full and we’re looking for a deal!

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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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