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Car Buying Advice

We all know what a major chore it is to not only purchase a car, but maintain it as well. Each month we feature tips and tricks to getting & keeping your vehicle at the best price and in the best condition. If you have questions, you can ask them here. You don't have to be powerless or rely on "the guy" in the family to do it for you. Simple knowledge can make you the "expert" in your house & save you time, money and frustration!

Higher Fuel Prices? Wheels That Will Keep You Rolling
© 2003 by Kyle Busch, author of: "Drive the Best for the Price ..."

The cost of transportation can be expensive, and higher fuel prices does not help matters. The following vehicles have good ratings, and they will help to stretch your fuel dollars.

The following are some vehicles that will help you to keep rolling longer and avoid the pump:

1. The Toyota Corolla has been around for over 30 years. During the last few years, the Corolla has become a bit larger. Expect to achieve about 30 mpg in the city and about 40 mpg on the highway with this vehicle.

2. The Honda Civic has been a stiff rival to the Corolla. The Civic has also recently grown a bit in size. The Civic is right there with the Corolla at about 30 mpg in the city and about 40 mpg on the highway.

3. The Geo Prizm will cost about $1,000- $1,500 less than a comparable year Corolla or Civic. The Prizm will achieve about 29 mpg city and about 38 mpg on the highway. SUVs can really eat the fuel, however, they are convenient for hauling cargo, and they definitely have a real advantage in bad weather and off-road conditions.

4. The Suzuki Esteem wagon provides some cargo carrying ability and reasonable fuel economy. Expect to achieve about 28 mpg in the city and about 37 mpg on the highway with this vehicle.

5. The Subaru Legacy wagon/Outback wagon and Forester can all carry cargo plus they have all-wheel drive. These vehicles generally have the most powerful engines out of those mentioned above. Expect to achieve about 22 mpg in the city and about 27 mpg on the highway.

If you are in the market for a vehicle, be certain to do your homework. Consult "Consumer Report's" automotive issue (April). This resource is available at most public libraries.

If you plan on buying a used vehicle, also be sure to read a couple of archived new vehicle road tests (review road tests that were conducted at the time the vehicle was new) on the used vehicle of interest in auto magazines (many are archived at your local library) or Internet sources such as "Car and Driver," "Motor Trend," "Road & Track," or "MotorWeek." Information from the road tests will allow you to zero in on which of the vehicles discussed above will be the best for you.

Last, but not least, be certain that you do not overpay to drive a fuel-efficient vehicle. For example, if you pay say $1,500 more for a vehicle that achieves five mpg more than your current vehicle, you would need to drive it about five years to get $1,500 in fuel savings. However, say you pay an extra $500 for a vehicle that achieves 10 mpg more than your current vehicle. In a little over one year, you would recoup your $500.
Maintenance Tips
© 2002 by Mommyhood Moms Staff Writer

Letís go over some of the things you need to do and check to help keep your car and you on the road during the upcoming Fall/Winter.

Check your antifreeze. You may need to do more than look for the green. You need to check the level of antifreeze in the water. You can purchase a tester. If it is not within the correct levels, you should drain and flush out your system. It is advisable to use some product to clean out any deposits in your cooling system. Be sure to check all your hoses for cracks, leaks or damage and replace as necessary. Then replace the antifreeze to proper levels. It is also a good time to change the oil. Next, check your belts. Look for glazing, threads and wear. Replace as necessary. Be sure to check the tension of the belts also. If you have been hearing a squealing sound when you take off, this could indicate the need for a belt to be replaced or tightened.

Another good thing to do is to fill your washer reservoir with fresh washer fluid. A winter-type brand is best for this time of year. It can help with morning ice and cut through the mud and salt build up thrown up from the road. While you are still under the hood, check your brake, transmission and power steering fluids, these are certainly going to be important this time of year!

Your battery and posts should be checked. Clean away any corrosion with a battery post cleaner available at your local auto parts store. One of the most important items on your car for drive-ability is your tires. You want to check not only the air pressure (Use recommended amounts according to your vehicle manual or find on the sidewall of your tire) but the tread that is left on your tire as well. You can purchase a tread depth gauge or use a coin. You should have no less than 3/32 tread left in your tire. Also, check for uneven tread wear and exposed belts.

Get in and start up your car. Wait a few minutes for it to warm up and turn on the heat. Be sure that it is warm. If it is not warming properly, you may need to have your local service center check the heater hoses and heating core for you. Finally, check your trunk. You should have a few safety items in there in case of an emergency. A flashlight, duct tape, a small set of tools (such as screwdrivers and adjustable wrench), a good jack and spare tire. A blanket and extra water is not a bad idea either. You should be set now for winter! As prepared as you and your vehicle can be for the long cold days and nights approaching so quickly.

What do they mean by second sticker?
© 2002 by Mommyhood Moms Staff Writer

Answer: A sticker is known as the advertised price that is placed on a vehicle. The second sticker is the price placed on it at the dealership in addition to the original price. Many times, a dealership will put an additional price on top of the manufacturer's price and this is known as the "second sticker". Often when you hear the phrase "second sticker", you also hear that the dealer will "show you the invoice", meaning they will show you the original invoice price to the dealer. This is NOT the same as the price that the dealer paid for the vehicle. The consumer rarely ever knows that price. That price is usually only known to the dealer as they must add advertising costs, prep costs and administrative fees to cover the price of "flooring" the vehicle.



Questions and Answers for Saving Money on Transportation
© 2002 by Kyle Busch, Adapted from "Drive the Best ..."

With a soft economy and an uncertain stock market, more and more people are keeping an eye on spending and they are interested in getting more for their money. Kyle Busch has over a quarter-century of experience saving money on transportation. He answers ten commonly asked questions about purchasing vehicles and saving money.

(Q) Why does it make sense to consider buying used vehicles?

(A) Transportation is a depreciating asset that loses value, especially during the first three years of ownership. Buying a 2- to 3- year-old used vehicle will provide about a one-third reduction in the cost. Additionally, the initial owner will have "test driven" the vehicle for the second owner.

(Q) What is a common error than many people make when buying transportation?

(A) A common error when buying transportation involves buyers not thoroughly identifying their transportation needs and then purchasing a vehicle that does not entirely meet those needs. For example, a buyer might choose a midsize family sedan that satisfies many of his or her needs. However, six months after the purchase, the buyer realizes that another vehicle in the same category provides a softer ride, better fuel economy, etc. and would have better satisfied his or her driving needs.

(Q) After identifying transportation needs, what should buyers do next?

(A) It is worthwhile to visit a local public library to research which vehicle(s) will indeed satisfy specific transportation needs and then identify those that have good reliability ratings.

(Q) Is it best to buy a vehicle from a specific source?

(A) Each transportation source has certain advantages and disadvantages. However, the important thing to keep in mind is that a number of vehicle sources should be considered (i.e., private owners, rental car companies, company vehicles, off lease vehicles, new car dealerships, bank repossessions, the Internet). When buyers inform a vehicle source that they are also considering the other sources, better deals are usually obtained.

(Q) What questions should buyers ask by telephone to better determine if a vehicle is worth their time to investigate?

(A) - How many miles has the vehicle been driven (the average is about 11,000 to 12,000 miles per year)?

  • Is the transmission an automatic, a semiautomatic, or a manual? If the transmission is not what the buyer wants, there is no need to ask further questions.
  • Has the vehicle been repainted and if so, why? It is best to avoid repainted vehicles.
  • When are the next state inspection and emissions standard test due? The vehicle should have a minimum of at least eight months remaining until the next required state inspection and emissions test.
  • How often were the engine oil and the oil filter changed, and who performed the service? An acceptable answer would be every 3,000 to 3,500 miles or about every three to four months.
  • Are you the original owner of the vehicle? Original owners tend to take better care of vehicles.
  • What is the reason that the vehicle is being sold? It is encouraging if the individual is the original owner and if he or she is planning to again buy the same make of vehicle.
(Q) What if the owner is lying when answering questions about a vehicle?

(A) It is worthwhile to obtain as much information about a vehicle as possible, therefore, buyers should ask questions. The interior and exterior inspections, and vehicle test-drive help to verify the information provided by the owner.

(Q) How long should the vehicle test-drive take?

(A) It is worthwhile to test-drive a vehicle for a minimum of 20 minutes on two separate occasions. The test-drive should include a variety of roads that buyers will drive day-in and day-out.

(Q) Should buyers take a vehicle to a mechanic before making a purchase?

(A) A mechanic should confirm what buyers have concluded after they have inspected and test-driven a vehicle. Buyers should request that the vehicle be raised on a lift for the mechanic's inspection and that the mechanic test-drives the vehicle.

(Q) Of course buyers what to save money, but what protection do they have when purchasing a 2- to 3- year-old vehicle?

(A) Most vehicles have manufacturers' bumper-to-bumper warranties of three years-36,000 miles or four years-50,000 miles in addition to five years-60,000 miles on the drive train (i.e., engine and transmission). The warranties are transferable to buyers who purchase the vehicles used. The warranties begin on the date that vehicles are first purchased from new car dealers. Thus, it is important to determine the date when a vehicle was initially purchased. Buyers best interests are also served when they have performed research to identify vehicles that have favorable reliability ratings.

(Q) What is a long term benefit of saving one-third when buying vehicles?

(A) The average new vehicle costs about $15,000 to $18,000. Most 2- to 3- year-old vehicles will easily provide five or more years of trouble free driving. If buyers invest the savings (i.e., $5,000 to $6,000) and they are able to add $800 per year toward transportation, after a five-year period, they will have the money needed to purchase another 2- to 3- year-old vehicle without straining their budget.

How to Evaluate a Used Vehicle: Kyle Busch has over 300,000 miles on his 1986 Volkswagen Jetta - a used vehicle that he bought in 1991 for $2,600. Busch is the author of Drive the Best for the Price: How to Buy a Used Automobile, Sport-Utility Vehicle, or Minivan and Save Money. For more information, visit www.drivethebestbook.com.

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