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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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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Money Leaks: Buying Premium Gasoline

Imperial Gas PumpI have a friend who absolutely loves his car. It’s not a fancy car, it’s just new to him and he treats it like his baby. He takes very good care of it, gets it washed once a week (more if he gets it dirty), and is generally a very caring owner. He also fills up with premium gasoline because, well, he thinks the gas is “better.” The only problem is that, just like his once a week car washes, he’s leaking money like crazy. While it’s debatable whether or not you really need to wash your car once a week, it’s almost certainly a leak if you go to a car wash, putting premium gasoline into a car that doesn’t need one is completely unnecessary. It’s as bad as putting regular unleaded into a car that demand premium.

Is premium gasoline better? “Yes.” Yes is in quotes because it’s better at handling compression. The higher octane means it can be compressed more before exploding. Cars that require premium gasoline will compress the gasoline to much higher PSI before igniting it. If you put regular unleaded into a premium gasoline engine, it’ll misfire. The fuel will ignite before the engine is ready and that’s the reason you’ll hear “knocking.”

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How to Donate a Car

Donate Your CarWe listen to a lot of NPR (WAMU) and every so often we’ll hear a pitch to donate our “used vehicle, RV, boat or airplane.” We considered donating our private jet, seeing as how they’ve fallen out of favor ever since the auto company CEOs used theirs to a Congressional hearing, but just haven’t pulled the trigger yet.

One thing we have done, though this predates our appreciation of NPR by several years, is donate a used car to a charity. About seven years ago, my wife’s car died (blown head gasket) and it didn’t make financial sense to repair it. We were looking around at our options and decided that donating it to a local school was the best option for us (I mentioned the car in passing in my post on why you should donate your car).

So how do you donate your car? It’s a simple three step process.

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Car Problems You May Be Able To Ignore

Car MechanicI drive a 2005 Chevy Aveo that I bought new. In case you have never owned one, they were made with sub-par parts. For example, the thermostat housing was made of plastic. Thermostat housings are near the engine, so within 3 years, it had gotten so hot on and off that it cracked in two. Amazingly, the replacement part was metal. Long story short, I have looked into what problems can be ignored and what problems can’t when it comes to a car like mine. Please keep in mind that I am not an auto professional – I just own a cruddy one and am sharing my experiences.

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How to Kill Your Car

JunkerWith gas prices being so high, I have been thinking about how to save at the pump for the last few months. I realized that becoming self-employed was going to help since the commute to my day job was causing me to need to fill up every 5 or 6 days. Since quitting your job isn’t an option for everybody, I also tried to think of other ways a person could kill their need for a car. I have come up with several main options. You too can save yourself some money on gas and vehicle maintenance by opting for alternative forms of transportation. Here are a few of the ways I can think of that you can kill your car.

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Money Leaks: Driving Like A Maniac

When I first started driving, I was like any other early driver – I wanted to get where I was going as quickly as I could. If that meant sacrificing a few MPG to do it, I didn’t think twice. Back then, gasoline was much cheaper, I had far more disposable income, and my fuel efficiency wasn’t something I spent too much time thinking about it. Now that I use the car more often, see the pain at the pump each time, I’m more cognizant of how my driving habits affect my fuel use.

Nowadays, I drive more casually. I tend to drive at slower speeds, I’m almost never in a rush, and it’s done wonders for both my fuel mileage and my general disposition. At first, it was tough. It didn’t bother me that trips took a few minutes longer (I hardly noticed), but driving felt a little longer because I wasn’t going as fast. Then I learned to enjoy what was on the radio, enjoy the sights (even if it’s just some trees whizzing by on the highway), and I felt zero anxiety about seeing police cars stopped at the side of the highway (when you’re going at the speed limit or just a few miles over it, instead of ten, you will never get pulled over for speeding). I think it has translated to better fuel efficiency but more importantly, I think I’m calmer. :)
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Tips for Getting a Great Deal at a Car Dealership

Car DealershipI have been working with a car dealership software company for 6 years.  In that time, I have seen thousands of deals from a dealership’s point of view.  The only difference between making a good deal and a bad deal is what you know before you step onto a car lot.  Here are a few tricks I have figured out to get a great deal on a car if you will be buying from a dealership.

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