5 Questions To Ask A Mechanic

Taking a car in for maintenance is a royal pain. It takes time out of your day and you could be without a car for a few days. Then there is the off chance that the mechanic is not qualified to work on your car. You can minimize the chances of a bad experience with a mechanic by asking these five questions before you let them work on your car.

  1. Do you work on the make and model of my car?
  2. Is yours a AAA approved shop?
  3. Can I have a written estimate?
  4. How long do you guarantee your parts and work?
  5. These are the symptoms, what is wrong with my car? Just describe what is going on, the pro may have a better idea that yours and you will establish a better rapport by not trying to tell them what to do.

If you have bought a used car from a buy here pay here car lot, you have a greater chance of needing a mechanic than a new car owner – plus, most new cars will be serviced at the dealership from which you bought them, at least for the first 100,000 miles or so.  Even if you have a favorite mechanic, make sure they are authorized to do warranty work. You will need to go to the dealership if not. Do not use a shop that does not guarantee its parts and labor. If you are a AAA member, you will want to go to an approved shop, as well. Ask as many questions as it takes to feel comfortable, then trust the pros.

Is Your Car Lying To You?

It may never tell you that your sexy or anything like that, but your car may be lying to you all the same. Late model vehicles are equipped with a fuel economy gauge. Edmunds.com tested  several different models and found that all of them were equipped with inaccurate gauges.

On average the gauges were off by 5.5%, with one model being wrong by a staggering 19%. Each vehicle tested, erred on the high side, so it showed better fuel economy than the car actually got. The website test drove five fuel-efficient cars from L.A. to Vegas and back under three different driving conditions: back roads at 45-60 mph, city streets, and highway speeds of 70-75 mph. During the 1,550 miles traveled the fuel economy was monitored by tracking how much gas it took to go a certain distance, then comparing that to the fuel economy gauge.

So, what did the auto makers say about this: Ford replied that it was too difficult to find the right engineer to respond, BMW and Volkswagen refused to respond, and Roger Clark, senior manager of GM’s energy center, said that the fuel economy gauges are ”dead nuts accurate”. He said the problem is not with the gauge, but with gasoline. The biggest fluctuation occurs because ethanol, which is blended with gasoline in varying amounts, contains less energy and lowers fuel efficiency. Hmmm…

Is The End Of Paper Titles Nigh?

That paper title that insured you knew who held all liens against your vehicle or was proof that the title was free and clear may become an antique in the near future. The program that will replace it is called electronic titling (ELT). ELT’s are said to save money and manpower, so they are becoming more popular with cash strapped governments.

At this time the ELT only deals with transactions between the DMV and a lien holder. The transactions will all take place online. That will save storage space, man hours tracking the paper titles, and, well, paper. The DMV saves money and so does the bank.

Once you free the title from a loan, you will still receive your paper title. That is one reassuring aspect. Proponents claim that it will cut down on fraud. Apparently they have never heard of hacking, so it may not be a bit more safe than a paper title. While the ELT is for DMV/lender transactions now, how long will it be before the paper title goes the way of the pony express and affordable gas?

Gas Prices Boosting F150 Sales

Gas prices have been motivating people to buy fuel efficient vehicles in larger numbers, but some people just have to have a truck. The reasons are both practical and personal. Whatever the reasons, truck buyers would still like to get the best gas mileage possible. Ford has introduced their turbocharged V6 Ecoboost engine to help meet that need.

The new Ecoboost has helped boost sales of the F150, already the top selling truck in America. Some statistics claim that the Ecoboost is accounting for 36% of all new F150 sales. The new power plant generates 365 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque. These numbers allow it to tow 11,500 lbs. That is pretty competitive with many current V8 trucks. While competing with the V8 in power levels, the Ecoboost offers 16 mpg city and 22-mpg on the highway.

Right now, the Ecoboost will cost an extra $700-$1,750 depending on how you trim your truck out. The extra mpg can make up for the extra cost before you pay off your buy here pay here loan, so it seems to be worth it.

4 Vehicles That Cost $100 To Fill Up

A hundred dollars just to get a full tank of gas?! Five years ago you would have had to be driving a pickup with dual tanks or a semi for it to cost you that much for a fill-up. Here are four that are already costing that much and four more that may by the end of the summer.

$100 At Current Gas Prices ($3.86/gal)

  1. Ford Expedition…$127
  2. Cadillac Escalade ESV…$118
  3. Chevrolet Suburban…$118
  4. Toyota Sequoia…$100

$100 If Gas Jumps Over $4/gal

  1. Jeep Grand Cherokee
  2. Audi A8
  3. Mercedes Benz S550
  4. BMW X5

Of course, the fill-up price reflects a larger tank and the ability to go farther between pumps, but most of the vehicles need the larger tank to compensate for their lower mpg rating. No matter who you are, dropping a “Hundo” at the pump is aggravating.

Of course, if you don’t have very good credit and choose to purchase your next car via buy here pay here financing, you might want to re-think any of these vehicles if they were on your shopping list. These days, you want to be as smart with your money as possible, and $100 per tank of gas just isn’t smart money.

The End Of Green Tax Credits For Vehicles

2010 saw many tax credits offered for the purchase of green technology. Everything from new windows to solar lights on through to hybrid and fuel efficient cars. Just as December 31 marked the end of the tax year, it also marked the end of most of those tax incentives.

Many automakers offered vehicles that qualified for rebates ranging from $575 to $7500 each. The automakers with known rebates available on some their models are:

  • Audi
  • BMW
  • Cadillac
  • Chevrolet
  • Chrysler
  • Coda
  • Dodge
  • Ford
  • GMC
  • Honda
  • Mazda
  • Mercedes-Benz
  • Mercury
  • Nissan
  • Porsche
  • Saturn
  • Tesla
  • Think
  • Volkswagen
  • Wheego

As you can see, the price range of the cars is pretty wide. The all electric cars have the largest tax incentives. Be sure to talk with your tax preparer to verify which models qualify and ask if your new cars is covered.  If are in the market for an electric or green car for which tax credits will no longer be offered, there may be no reason to opt for a brand-new model versus a less expensive, low-mileage model offered at your local used or buy here pay here car lot.

How Soon Will A Diesel Engine Pay For Itself?

Diesel fuel seems to stay more expensive than gas no matter how fast fuel prices rise. On the other hand, diesel engines are able to get an average of 25% better fuel efficiency. Diesel engines are more expensive, but let’s look at how long it might take you to recoup that extra initial cost from fuel savings.

The three test cars are the Audi A3, Volkswagen Jetta Sportswagon,  and the Volkswagen Touareg. Here are the results:

  • A3’s diesel is rated at 30 mpg in the city and 42 on the highway. The base model 2011 A3 TDI diesel lists for $29,950, which is about $2,680 more than the gasoline option. Based on average mpg in both versions, you would save $568 a year with the diesel if you drove 15,000 miles a year and pay back the extra initial cost in 4.7 years. That assumes that you use premium gasoline as recommended.
  • The Jetta Sportwagon diesel is rated at 30 mpg city and 42 on the highway. It lists for $24,730 , which is $1.275 more than the similarly equipped SE gasoline model version. The payback period on the $1,275 difference would be 6.3 years in combined driving. The SE doesn’t need premium gas.
  • The Volkswagen Touareg diesel model is rated at 19 mpg city and 28 highway. It is going to list for just under $45,000. The payback period would be 10.5 years to cover the $3,500 additional cost compared to the gas version.

Given those numbers, you have to wonder if the fuel savings are really worth it. Many drivers prefer diesel engines for other reasons, but it seems the fuel savings take too long to pay off.

Tips To Improve Your Gas Mileage

Every time you pass the gas station you pray it is down just a few pennies. You pray even harder that you could find ways to stop pulling in as often. Unless you have a direct line to a miracle all you can do is follow a few good tips to maximize the fuel economy of your current car.

Gas Mileage 101:

  • Keep your tires inflated properly. Keep all tires inflated to the same pressure. Over-inflating does not improve gas mileage.
  • If your car is over five years old, replace the gas cap. The seal can wear over time and allow for evaporation. This may only save you a few dollars a month, but those are your dollars, so why not keep them?
  • Run a fuel system cleaner through your engine. Deposits can rob gas mileage from an engine.
  • Have a tune-up done. Regularly scheduled maintenance improves gas mileage and prolongs the life of your engine.  This is crucial if you have bought a used car off of a buy here pay here lot, as you don’t know how the previous owner treated his or her vehicle.

There are plenty of myths about saving gas. Turning off your air conditioner does not save gas with newer aerodynamic cars. It just makes your sweat a lot. Replacing your car will not save you money. It will save gas money, but the higher monthly payment will suck more than that right back out of your pocket. Keep it simple, follow these tips, and you will be able to gain as much as 5 mpg.

Used Cars That Are More Reliable Than Their New Versions

Each year Consumer Reports releases its list of used cars that rate as more reliable than their brand new counterparts. That list covers eleven different car classes. These vehicles all had fewer reported problems per hundred cars than their new versions.

Here are the eleven best of the best:

  1. 2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser
  2. 2008 Toyota Yaris
  3. 2008 Honda Fit
  4. 2008 Toyota Prius
  5. 2008 Lexus ES
  6. 2008 Acura RL
  7. 2008 Mazda MX-5 Miata
  8. 2008 Toyota Sienna
  9. 2008 Honda CR-V
  10. 2008 Toyota Highlander and the
  11. 2008 Honda Ridgeline

It takes a little bit of the guess work out of buying a used car if you know that the model has a reputation for reliability. It is not foolproof, but it does improve your chances of buying a durable vehicle from your nearest buy here pay here dealer. If you do not see the model you are interested in here, you may want to check Consumer Reports Worst of the Worst list on their website.

Automotive Products That Stole The 2011 Consumer Electronics Show

The Consumer Electronics Show is the world’s largest consumer technology trade show. This year over 2,700 technology companies displayed their wares. Many of these new products will be of interest to folks who love to trick their rides.

Ten of the more interesting products are listed below. They are in alphabetical order, so there really isn’t an order of interest or sales volume. One interesting note is that the list is not completely dominated by aftermarket companies like Pioneer or Sony. A few of the automakers themselves have popped into the top ten.

  • Alpine Rearview camera
  • Griffin Car Trip
  • Hyundai blue Link System
  • JVC InDash Media Receiver With Motion X GPS Drive Navigation
  • MyFord Mobile App
  • OnStar Anywhere
  • Parrot Asteroid Head Unit
  • Pioneer Navigation Unit With Aha Radio Integration
  • Sony TomTom
  • Toyota InTune

All of these tech boosts for your car are interesting on different levels. Of particular interest is the Griffin Car Trip. It plugs into your vehicle’s onboard diagnostics port and relays information to your iPhone or in-dash iOS device to make you and your onboard computer aware of possible engine issues and can clear the check engine light. Pretty nifty, huh?  Maybe someone will invent an app that can read your engine codes and make an appointment at your local garage for you. Sounds a little tongue-in-cheek, but you know there would be a market for it.