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 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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Finances in 55 Seconds: Quick Car Maintenance

car maintenanceWith gas prices still quite high, it is important to do what you can to increase the fuel efficiency of your car. While doing one thing with your car, such as changing the air filter, probably won’t make much difference in the way your car uses gas, consistent maintenance over time can help your car run better — and save you money. The key is to generally take care of your car, not assume that one magical fix can improve your fuel efficiency.

You might be surprised at the number of little things you can do to improve your car’s performance so that it runs more efficiently, saving you money on gas. Indeed, there are a number of things that you can do in 55 seconds or less to help maintain your car and keep it in good working order. Here is a list of quick car maintenance things you can do to help your car run the best it can:
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Be a Good Carpool Passenger

Kiss & RideAs gasoline prices continue their upward trend, more and more people are carpooling. That’s a good thing.

The bad thing is that fewer people are fairly breaking up the costs!

Personally, I’ve always felt that as a passenger in the car, I owe more than my “fair” share for gasoline. I inherently understood there were other costs involved in driving, outside of gasoline, but the main reason was because I wasn’t driving. It’s really convenient to be a passenger and so I feel like I owe more than my fair share. On some occasions, when someone else beats me to the punch in pulling out a credit card for gasoline, I’ll give them the money instead (the driver doesn’t know, which I suppose is a negative, but in the end I feel happy having paid at least my fair share). In those cases I try to split whatever they’re paying with them (if they pay more, I have zero problem paying my share of “more”).

What if you want a really fair look at costs? Well, you can go as far as to calculate the total cost of a drive, including insurance, tires, license, registration, and the works.

Back when I was driving a Acura Integra and gas was slightly cheaper, I calculated my “cost per mile” at around 7 cents. It included gasoline, insurance, tires, and a catch-all “everything” category that included windshield wipers and other routine maintenance types of things. (as an aside, knowing this information can help you make more informed decisions – like whether to drive across town to save a few cents on gas)

I personally think it all works out at the end, but if you’re a passenger, you should take the effort to make sure you aren’t taking advantage.

How do you make sure you’re a good carpool passenger?

(Photo: gennie_stafford)

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New Exotic Eco-Friendly Cars

BentleyWho said Tesla Motors had the lock on exotic eco-friendly cars? While The Tesla S Roadster is probably one of the most well known all electric vehicles, a lot of luxury car manufacturers are getting into the game and offering their own eco-friendly models. CNN Money took a peek at the prototypes from Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche, Bentley, Rolls-Royce and Aston Martin (who technically cheated, more on that in a second) at the Geneva Motor Show.

Ferrari has their 599 HY-KERS, Lamborghini has the Sesto Elemento, Porsche debuted the Panamera Hybrid four-door and showed off the 918 Spyder, while Bentley displayed a flex-fuel Continental GT coupe. You also had the Rolls-Royce 102EX, a plugin-in Phantom, as well as Aston Martin’s Cygnet. The one that looked out of place was Aston Martin’s Cygnet, because it’s just the Toyota/Scion iQ bathed in all the luxuries of Aston Martin. While I love the idea of subcompact tiny smart cars, I have trouble with driving such a small vehicle in the land of 80mph trucks and SUVs. Plus, if you’re thinking about starting a family… those don’t look car-seat friendly.

I’ll take one of each. :)

(Photo: crystal666)

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2010 Top Safety Pick Cars

Every year, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety puts out a list of cars that earn their Top Safety Pick. The list isn’t limited by any number, it simply lists all the cars that satisfy it’s requirements which include a litany of safety tests from front and side crash tests to whiplash tests to roof crushing. The class of 2010 includes sixty-six cars, a huge increase from the twenty-seven from 2009. In 2009, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety added a roof crush test (the car’s must hold up to four times the weight of the vehicle!) that significantly cut the number of winners (in 2008, there were 72 cars).

Here are the winners based on the category of vehicle:

  • Minicar: Ford Fiesta
  • Small Cars: Chevrolet Cruze, Honda Civic, Kia Forte sedan, Kia Soul, Mitsubishi Lancer sedan, Nissan Cube, Scion tC, Scion xB, Suburu Impreza (not WRX), Toyota Corolla, Volkswagen Golf, Wolkswagen GTI
  • Midsize Cars: Audi A3, Audi A4 sedan, Chevrolet Malibu, Chrysler 200, Dodge Avenger, Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Lincoln MKZ, Mercedes C class, Subaru Legacy, Subaru Outback, Volkswagen Jetta sedan, Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen, Volvo C30
  • Large Cars: Buick LaCrosse, Buick Regal, BMW 5 series, Cadillac CTS, Ford Taurus, Hyundai Genesis, Infiniti M37/M56, Lincoln MKS, Mercedes E class coupe and sedan, Toyota Avalon, Volvo S80
  • Small SUV: Honda Element, Hyundai Tucson, Jeep Patriot, Kia Sportage, Subaru Forester, Volkswagen Tiguan
  • Midsize SUV: Audi Q5, Cadillac SRX, Chevrolet Equinox, Dodge Journey, Ford Explorer, Ford Flex, GMC Terrain, Hyundai Santa Fe, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Kia Sorento, Lexus RX, Lincoln MKT, Mercedes GLK, Subaru Tribeca, Toyota Highlander, Toyota Venza, Volvo XC60, Volvo XC90
  • Large SUV: Volkswagen Touareg
  • Minivan: Toyota Sienna

As an FYI, the Institute is a private group that is funded by auto insurers.

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Skip Fuel Saving Gimmicks, Alter Your Driving

Consumer Reports loves to find gas saving gadgets and gizmos, put them through the ringer, and report, almost never surprisingly, that it fails to increase miles per gallon fuel efficiency of a car. Then, add a little humor from the fine folks at The Consumerist and you have a thoroughly entertaining post about how there’s no possible way a particular gadget could’ve saved you gas.

Their latest target is the Fuel Doctor FD-47 and right off the start it’s obvious this thing can’t work. But, as P.T. Barnum once celebrated, there’s a sucker born every minute.

It’s almost comedic. OK wait, it is comedic.

If you want to actually save gasoline, learn how to drive more efficiently with some tips from hypermilers.

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