5 Things to Change on Your Car

It’s a great feeling to drive home in a new-used car. There are some aspects of preparing your new (to you) car for life on the road though. Even if you found a perfect car that fits you well, there are 5 things you should try and change as soon as possible.

  1. Factory and OEM clone air filters work, just not as good as they could do. If you spend a few dollars and buy a good quality air filter like a K&N filter (there are a good number of similar-quality brands on the market if you prefer the companies that supply those) then you will subsequently increase mileage, horsepower, and overall performance. Though good air filters are not cheap, it will still be a good investment in the long run (the mileage savings should neutralize the initial cost of the filter and added power is always a welcome improvement to any car enthusiast) Most high end filters are washable, too, so it should be a one-time investment.
  2. If you purchased a used car and you don’t have documentation of when spark plugs were changed last, then change them. Use a quality platinum or iridium plug for a hot, cleaner burning spark. Many people change new car plugs simply because some manufactures still insist on using a lower grade plug to keep their costs down. Much like the air filter, this can add a bit of extra time before a fill-up is needed, as well as giving better performance and horsepower as well.
  3. If the car is not currently under factory warranty research tuner chips for your make and model. The (typically easy to change) computer chips can make a big difference in performance. If this is a totally new area for you do some research on Car Performance Chips – just have a play around with Google and spend a bit of time getting a good overview of the topic, as it’s quite an in-depth one. A bit of research goes a long way though, and an afternoon reading good quality information sources (cross-reference where you find information out from using other sources to give yourself a better chance of weeding out unreliable information) can pay big dividends.
  4. Get rid of the space saver spare tire that the car is most likely equipped with. Get a tire correctly suited to the road conditions you’ll be driving on most often. If you read the limitations on the space saver spare you’ll find they are designed for short distances and low speeds. In any case, you will probably need to replace the tire if you get a flat at highway speeds anyway so there is no money saving involved if you wait until it happens. Finally, think about snow tires or chains-in the event of heavy snow they can make a large difference to the grip the tires can generate.
  5. Get rid of the cheap scissor or bumper jack that came in your car. Whether just for emergency use or for use when doing your own maintenance at home a quality jack like this 2 tonne bottle jack will be easier and safer to use.

Financing a Used Car

alfa-romeo-giulietta-spider

There are many considerations someone thinks about when purchasing a used car. One of the largest being how to pay for it. A majority of used vehicles are financed since this is an expensive purchase for most car shoppers A large factor when buying used vs a new car is the loan rate the credit union or bank gives you and the amount of money you are approved for.

Insurance

Although finance is the focus here, it nevertheless has a large impact on insurance. If a bank issues an auto loan it will require certain levels of insurance on the vehicle that is collateral on that loan. Although auto loan rates are typically lower than personal loan rates, if the insurance is $100/month cheaper because you are a high risk category then going with a personal loan at a higher interest rate may make sense over an auto loan, since it could save your money. This does not change the fact you have less insurance on the vehicle and if something happens to it you may lose out overall but assuming all goes smoothly you might be fine.

Dealership Financing

You may already do your banking with one or two banks or credit unions. A dealership often does business with lots of banks and credit unions and the financing arm of the auto brands they sell. Working with a dealership has the advantage of convenience and speed. Large full service dealerships like The CarShopcan assist you arranging insurance and financing a car.

However be aware that with convenience that probably means you won't be getting as good a deal vs going through a local bank or credit union. There can be a lot of “gotchas” through dealership financing you may not be aware of and you should read terms carefully.

It is always smart to compare all your financing options and I recommend taking your time to consider who you will finance any car with. Searching for financing before starting the search for a car is a good idea. Personally I recommend using a local credit union over a bank or dealership. Many actually use the lower rates they get through a credit union and pressure a dealership to give better loan rates and terms.

Cash Alternative

Maybe you have saved up for a used vehicle and intend to pay cash for it. That's great as most dealerships tell salespeople that, “A sale today is better than a sale tomorrow.” This usually means you can pressure the car salesman to give you better deal on the spot with all that beautiful cash, but that may not always be the case. Since dealerships make more on the financing of cars most of the time they might be hard negotiating a better price. If that is the case then you should move onto another dealership and not waste your time.

 

5 Car Insurance Myths Debunked

car insurance myths

There is a lot of misleading information out there about car insurance that gets repeated so often people believe it to be true.  However, most of these so called car insurance myths neglect vital facts and more importantly facts that could save you money.  Since these misconceptions often influence what a person buys and drives for a car, which is a big decision, taking a closer look at car insurance myths is a good idea.

5 Car Insurance Myths Debunked

  1. Both New and relatively New Cars cost more to insure: While this is generally true as cars depreciate in value over time, there are many factors involved in determining rates for auto insurance for a given make or model and the replacement cost of a vehicle is a relatively small piece of that.  Better safety features and a steady insurance track record can potentially result in a new car having a lower rate than your current vehicle.  Living in a saving neighborhood with lower crime can also drastically lower car insurance rates. 
  2. The color of the car changes insurance rates: The truth is your insurance company does not know what color your car is and probably doesn't care.  They don’t ask and no, the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) does not indicate a color. Bright red or plain white, if the same make, model and driver are involved the same rate will result for insurance.
  3. Sports cars get more speeding tickets and will make rates go up: Not true, 9 of the top 10 models in terms of speeding tickets are non-performance vehicles. Insurers are interested in how many speeding tickets you have, not how many a type of car might get. Rates for sports cars are higher based on horsepower and insurance claims records, not the likelihood of picking up a ticket.
  4. Tickets in other states do not change insurance: Not only do insurance companies regularly find these tickets, but if they find them after the event has occurred you may be dropped from coverage completely or they may refuse to pay a claim as it was a fraudulently obtained policy. It is expensive regardless so make sure your insurance will pay if a claim needs to be filed by being above board to start with.  
  5. Full or comprehensive coverage insurance means they pay for everything: Full coverage insurance is a loosely defined term to mean both liability coverage and loss coverage. With comprehensive coverage damage to your car in an accident, theft, and fire are typically covered. Glass coverage, towing and rental coverage, theft of property in the vehicle, etc. are areas that may or may not be included. To compare policies and premiums you need to look at each of these things, not simply request a quote for full or comprehensive coverage as that definition can be very different from one policy to another.  

Policy limits also exist in every policy so even if the same things are covered but one insures for a total of $10,000 medical coverage (a 3 day stay or less sometimes in a hospital) and the other for $100,000 then the rates are different and rightly so. Often super cheap policies are dropping all coverage to the minimum legal amounts for a state. Saving $30 every 6 months is not a bargain at the risk $90,000 in medical bills if the situation would warrant the latter.

Most full service insurance agents will happily take the time to go over different options available to you in car insurance from ways to cut the cost down to ways maximize protection in the areas of coverage you need. AXA is an example of a website that allows you to tailor a policy online and then have an actual agent review the policy to address any questions. Many online insurance companies now will allow you to print all the policy details to compare accurately. Doing the investigation before shopping for your new car or used car can save you a lot of frustration with car insurance down the road,  Literally and figuratively speaking.  

A Vehicle History Report Won’t Tell You Everything

Alfa Romeo Spider
Alfa Romeo Spider

I have gotten a few emails about this so I thought I would talk about what a Vehicle History Report will and won't tell you.

I am sure most people have seen information and advertisements for a Vehicle History Report, such as Carfax and Autocheck, but are they worth it and can you trust what they say? Well … the answer is bit mixed.

In my opinion you should it is always good to try to get all the information about a used car before you buy it. These Vehicle History Reports hardly give you the whole story of a used car most of the time though.

Let's say you are looking at a used car, such as a Honda Accord.  This Honda Accord looks fine and good to you and you can't see anything wrong with it.  Hell mechanically the car seems to be running fine and the Carfax or Autocheck report come out clean.  So should you buy it?  My answer to this question, “Hell NO!”  You should ALWAYS get a used car checked out by an independent mechanic before you hand over any cash, check, credit card, money order, wire transfer, etc.  Even if that report comes out clean.

The reason?  What you may not realize is that a vehicle history report takes data mostly from insurance companies and dealerships.  That means only cars that have been fixed via an insurance company claim will show up on a Vehicle History Report.  Sooo, it can tell you data that is useful but you must realize something.  Body shops are not required to report to any state agencies or databases the work they perform.  That means it is easy for a body shop to repair a car and sell it to you even if you check a vehicle history report.  Dealerships and body shops do it all the time actually.

I have a friend and his dad used to paint cars in NASCAR back in the day.  If I took a car that I had to him that needed some bodywork or had been in an accident, he could make my car look like new.  It would be hard to tell if the car had been painted and it wouldn't be reported to anywhere and therefore wouldn't show up on a Carfax or Autocheck report.  

Besides most vehicle history report systems can never keep up with the amount of cars getting into accidents.  (That sounds unfortunate but true!)  Bottom line, cars should be checked out by a professional mechanic before you bu no matter what.  

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Important Tips when Buying a Used Car

Alfa Romeo Spider
Alfa Romeo Spider

Important Tips when Buying a Used Car

With 2013 bringing so many great new cars to the market and with new car sales trending upwards for 2013, many people are getting into new cars while selling off their old cars. This has made a great opportunity for used car shoppers since these used cars typically are only owned for a short period of time (1-5 years).

However buying a used car it can be challenging for first-time drivers or people who have a limited budget to spend. A few good tips can help in making a wise decision and choice when shopping for that perfect used car.

Budget

Figuring out how much you can spend on a used car is the first step you need to make before take the plunge into shopping. Have you checked you credit scorce? Do you know a reasonably amount you can borrow? This will ensure that you do not get swayed by a salesman who will try to lure yo to buy a used car, or even new car, you might not be able to afford.  Please read my article “The DOs and DON'Ts of Car Financing” to get a better idea of what you need to do and think about.

The Right Fit

Just like a baseball glove or sweater the you car buy should be a suitable fit for, your lifestyle, and preferably style. Though you need to be flexible about the color of the car and features when buying a used car, looking through all the car options that fits within your budget including contemplating on the pros and cons, will help you make the best choice when selecting a used car.

Test Drive

Obviously before you buy a used car make sure to test drive the car you will be purchasing. This will give you an exact idea about the way your potential “new car” works and how you like driving it. While test driving, particularly look for how it feels on the road and how the mechanical systems works such as the brakes, transmission, suspension, etc. Does the engine make any abnormal sounds and vibrations? Are there any general rattles when the car is moving?

Check it Out

Getting a used car inspected and checked by an independent trusted mechanic is a must. Consider what you found on the test drive an d let them know. With the help of a mechanic, ask them to help you inspect the chassis of the car, if the headlights and indicators are working, the battery condition, any repainting or bodywork signs, air conditioning, HVAC, electrical systems, etc. If the car needs repairs it might be fine, but it will allow you to negotiate a much better deal.

If you are not a member of a credit union I would highly recommend joining one in your area. Credit Unions are non-profit and owned by the members who are part of it and not shareholders. This allows them offer much lower rates on loans compared to traditional banks. Many credit unions charge have the same interest rate on new cars as used cars, which is unheard of at traditional banks.

After you have found the best used car for you needs and feel comfortable moving ahead, make sure to negotiate the best possibly deal. Try to make it reasonably for both you you and the seller of the car. Confirm that the paperwork is in place and properly filled out and being transferred to you the new owner and that the current owner actually owns the car. You should be good to go.

Buying a used car for a first-timer or a veteran can still be a challenging and frustrating experience. Used cars can vary widely in condition but if you follow these tips you should be good.

If you have any questions about buying a used car please contact me and I would be happy to help you out.  If you have find this article and information useful please follow Adam’s Auto Advice on Facebook and Twitter.

5 Tips for Buying a Used Car

Alfa Romeo Spider
Alfa Romeo Spider

Car buying is on a new upswing.  Reuters recently reported that overall car buying (new and used) has risen drastically in the past 4 years.  Car sales rose 13 percent to 1,188,865 cars and light trucks sold during the month of September at U.S. auto dealerships.  That was the best month since March 2008, just after the start of the recession and this shows promise for the auto industry.

The upswing is mainly due to rising consumer confidence, making people feel safer to open their wallets on car purchases.  However, many Americans are still feeling the tight with their money in this economy as it is still moving at a snail's pace.  That's why more people are considering used cars over new cars these days.  If you are one of these people here are “5 Tips for Buying a Used Car.”

Preparation is Key

Preparation is crucial in a used car buying search. Spending time researching different models and trims can help you get a better price and know what car fits your needs. The internet offers a wealth of information about used cars – learn about the different models, options, reliability, prices, etc.  The more you know the better, the better prepared you are to find the car you want and get a good deal.

Check Your Credit

If you're a used car buyer with potential credit issues who might find it difficult in getting approved for a loan, again turn to the internet to better educate yourself. Better yet, you should probably know your credit rating in advance, so the entire discussion about financing and credit isn't a surprise to you.

I recommend you look for a reputable credit union that will offer great financing for pre-owned and used vehicles at reasonable rates.  Credit unions offer much better financing than what you will find at a bank all with personalized service.  Credit unions actually offer the same loan rates on new cars as used cars, making them straightforward and easy to understand.  They can also help you improve your credit and some even offer classes on financial literary.

Do the Numbers

When seeking a used car, know what your budget is and where it will be a year from now. Don’t shop for a cool luxury convertible car if you’re living on a shoestring budget, try to find a reasonable and sensible small car that will be easy and not expensive to maintain and insure.

Most used car buyers try to manage a down payment of about 20 percent, while financing the rest. But don't let that get away from you either.  I don't recommending financing a car for more than four years (48 months), and it is a good idea to keep your monthly payment lower than 10 percent of your total income.

You can find great tools online to figure out what a reasonable monthly car payment is for you.  It's best to pay for the car as much upfront as you can but most will need to borrow a little money.

Get the Car Checked

You NEED to get any used car you are considering buying checked and inspected by a reputable independent mechanic BEFORE you buy it.  Unless you are a gearhead, like me, and know what to look for in used cars it's not a good idea to just take a dealership or individuals word on the history of a car.

Did you know that there is no law requiring body shops to report work they have done on vehicles they work on?  A friend's dad is master painter and bodyman and he can make any vehicle that has been in a serious accident look new again.  Meaning Carfax reports can be completely clean, but not tell the whole story about the car.

Eyes that know what to look for will be able to see if a car has been in an accident or if it needs any mechanical fixed to be road-worthy.  Having a used car checked out before you buy it is very important.

Watch for Trade Ins

Most used car dealers will ask if you're trading in a car for the new/used car you've got your eye on.  You want to be careful about talking with the dealership about this.  Trade-in talk shouldn't enter into the negotiation process in my opinion.  Smart used car buyers consider trade-in cars as a separate transaction, and as such don't mention a trade-in factor into the conversation until the end.  Also you will likely get more for your used car if you sold it online via Craigslist or other local ad listing service or website.  Did you know that dealerships typically make a killing on used car trade-ins and not much on selling new cars?  One of dealerships dirty little secrets!  To be sure you are getting a good deal utilize sites like ClearBook.com which assess the value of your used car for the approximate trade-in value.  You will find you typically won't get a good deal.

So don't fret if you are a first-time used car buyer or don't have the best credit rating in the world.  There are plenty of great tools to help you and you should always be looking for opportunities to buy if you are in the market for a new car.  Ask friends, family, and neighbors if they know of any good used cars for sale.  If you have any questions about buying a used car please leave a comment below.

 

My new Car, drive or ship?

1996 Honda Accord
Looks great for a 15-year old car!

 

I have great news, I am getting a new car.  Well… a “new” car to me at least.  I will be buying a 1996 Honda Accord from my Grandma in Irvine, California.  It has 120,000 miles on it, was kept in superb condition, runs and drives great.  Lucky for this car it has been in CA its whole life.  So no harsh winters, therefore no rust.  Originally it was my aunt's car and now I'm buying it.  Accords are such good cars, we want to keep this one in the family.  I know I will be able to get another 120,000 miles out of it easily.  Maybe even get 300,000+ miles out of this car.  Hey, it's a Honda!  It can make it.

The only problem is… well… I'm in Baltimore, MD and the car is in Irvine, CA.  That's on the other side of the county.  My two options are to ship it through an auto transport company, or drive it on a fantastic road trip across the country.  I would love to drive it, but my family feel it's better to ship it and not put extra miles on the car.  My thoughts are “It will be an adventure.  Besides it's a Honda, another 3,000 miles is nothing.  It should make it back to Baltimore no problem!”  The car does need a few maintenance items before it could make a cross country trip.  The back tires should be replaced, it could use a new battery, a brake flush, and probably an oil change.  Just that, then it should be set.  I'm having trouble deciding.  Shipping would be about $800-1000.  Driving might work out to be about the same, but it would be an unforgettable journey.

I would love to hear suggestions, comments, or advice from people.  What are your thoughts?  Ship or drive?

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