Buying the Best Used Car for Your Needs

Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia

 

Buying a used car in Canada will give you the independence you need at an economical price. Used cars can be a great deal for the money, and there are many well-maintained cars that will provide you with a great source of transportation. Finding the right used car means matching the right car to your individual needs.

Start With a Budget

Your budget will be the determining factor in which car you ultimately choose. When it comes to used cars, a car that is between two and four years old will offer the best value for the money. These cars often come with the original warranty which can save you on annual repair costs. A late model used car may also offer the same features as its brand new counterpart.

Understanding what car you can afford will help you to save money if you are planning to finance your purchase. Beware of simply looking at the monthly payments when planning your car purchase. Factor in the cost of monthly maintenance, licensing, insurance and taxes. These costs add up quickly and can easily take a bite out of your budget.

Give it a Spin

Test driving a car is an important part of the buying process. This will give you an idea of how well the car drives and whether it has any mechanical issues that should be addressed. Many people visit a mechanic with the car before making a purchase decision. Your mechanic will determine whether the car will need major repairs and can give you recommendations on the car’s stability and performance.

Be Prepared to Negotiate

The key to winning the car buying game is to negotiate from a position of strength. If you are desperate for a new car and short on cash, you will be at a disadvantage when it comes to buying. Don’t be in a hurry to buy the car and be prepared to walk away if you don’t get a deal that matches your needs. If you are planning to finance a car, it helps to know your credit score and secure financing before you get to the dealership.

Buying a used car can mean newfound independence and freedom. A used car can give you years of enjoyment in addition to being a reliable source of transportation. Do your homework before shopping for your used car and find the car that will best fit your needs. Be prepared for the negotiation process and know your financial standing before going to the dealership.

There are many great certified pre-owned and used cars on the market, and finding one that will meet your needs is simple. There are many research sites online that will match you with the perfect car for your budget.

 

Fuel Saving Questions and Answers for Summer Travel

Hopefully you’re having a wonderful summer. Gas prices have remained relatively stable, which means to say that they’ve remained at their high price but haven’t gone much higher. Many people traveling a lot this summer are doing their best to squeeze as many miles out of their fuel dollars as possible and, to that end, we have  answers to a number of questions about fuel saving and summer travel in today’s blog. Enjoy.

Question: What’s the overall best way to cut down on fuel costs?

Answer: Drive slower. In test after test performed  around the country, it was found that driving your vehicle slower, especially on the highway, can increase your car’s fuel efficiency between 10 and 15%, and sometimes more. One  study found that when a typical vehicle increases from 55 mph to 75 mph on the highway, it’s similar in gas usage  to switching from a compact car to a large SUV or truck. Even going 10 miles an hour higher, from 55 to 65 mph, can lower your fuel economy up to 8 miles per gallon. So if you want to save gas, simply drive slower.

Question: What should I do if I want to carry things on the roof of my car?

Answer: Purchase an aerodynamic container or use your trunk space. Today’s modern vehicles are aerodynamically designed to reduce drag and increase gas mileage. Even adding a roof rack with nothing on it can lower your car’s fuel efficiency by up to 5% but, if you carry a lot of stuff on your roof like bicycles, kayaks and luggage, you can see an unbelievable drop in mileage of almost 20%. Whenever possible, use the storage space inside your car instead of the roof.

Question: Which is better, using A/C or opening the windows?

Answer: The difference, unless you are traveling at a very high rate of speed, is negligible. Most studies done to determine whether air-conditioning or open windows use more gas have found that the difference between either one is negligible. The only time there was a measurable amount of difference, approximately 4%, was when a car was being driven above 65 miles an hour with the windows open,  which would make using the A/C on the highway a better gas saver. In every other situation it’s pretty much the same.

Question: When my low fuel warning light flashes, how far can my vehicle still drive?

Answer: Between 25 and 40 miles depending on the vehicle. Frankly, there’s no set rule and all cars are different. Most will still have between 1 and 2 gallons of fuel left when the low fuel light starts blinking so the best thing to do is determine how far your vehicle can go on a gallon gas and figure it out from there. Even better is to never wait until your low fuel light starts to blink to begin with.

Question: Does installing a specialty air filter improve gas mileage?

Answer: In modern cars, no.   Today’s modern cars use computers to automatically control their engines and maintain the correct air to fuel ratio. Installing “specialty” air filters won’t affect your mileage one way or another but, depending on their cost, might just make a dent in your pocketbook.

Question:  Can debris in my fuel tank hurt my car’s engine?

Answer: Probably not. Most of today’s modern cars have a fuel filter in the gas line and the gas tank, making it unlikely that any debris that might be in your tank will ever make it to your engine. Also, unless your car is exceedingly old, any driving causes enough movement in your gasoline that debris there won’t be able to settle anyway.

Those are some of the most asked questions about fuel and fuel economy that we see on a regular basis. Hopefully the answers have enlightened you as to how you can stretch every mile out of every gallon of gas. Happy driving!

The Importance of Proper Asset Allocation

Proper asset allocation is the key to any investment portfolio. The goal of asset allocation is to balance your risk and reward, and often times differs based on your age and lifestyle.  I think the term asset allocation sounds a lot more complicated than it actually is. You essentially have three different types of investments; equities, fixed-income, and cash & equivalents. Equities are your basic stocks, fixed-income includes annuities and income producing bonds, and then you have your cold hard cash. The question still remains, what should your ownership allocation of each be?

For the beginner investor the best bet is usually a target date fund. I have a good portion of my 401k and IRA investments in target date funds currently. Most brokerages will have a series of these age targeted funds that hold a mixture of investments based on your target retirement date. For example, I currently have a Fidelity 2050 fund, meaning me goal retirement year is in 2050. The further out the year then the riskier the portfolio is to start, and as the years roll on the fund will reallocate itself to safer and more liquid assets. There are many critics out there that claim these types of funds ignore the uniqueness of each person, but the truth is that they are safest and low cost way for a novice investor to stash money for retirement. Say you want to increase your risk then you simply invest your money in a target date fund in a year that is further out than you actually plan to retire, and vice versa if you want to reduce your risk profile.

I gave you the three major types of investments, but let’s take a quick look at the individual investments within each of those categories. As I said before, equities are stocks and can include dividends, large-cap stocks (also known as blue chip), mid-cap, small-cap, and even emerging market stocks. While each of them carries their own individual risks, as a whole these are the riskier types of investments in your portfolio. Binary options are an investment derivative that fit within this category as well. What is binary options you may ask? They are an option that predicts the movement of a stock, up or down, and if you predict right then you stand to make some money. Next we have fixed income investments. These can include government or municipal bonds, and are often considered much safer in nature. Though there is still some risk involved, just think about all of the municipal bankruptcies after the economic meltdown.  Cash and cash equivalents are the safest ways to hold cash, but they are also prone to inflation. This could be a bank CD, a money market account, or even cash stuffed under your mattress!

Do your Tires really affect your gas Mileage?

Okay, so you’ve heard that under or over-inflated tires can affect your gas mileage. Did you know however that the size of your tires, their weight and the type of tread that they have all impact fuel efficiency as well?

A lot of things affect your gas mileage, including driving in cold weather, your speed, the amount of air drag on your vehicle, how well your engine is tuned and many other factors. It’s been calculated that just the combination of heavy braking and quick acceleration can decrease your mileage by almost 30% when traveling on the highway.

It’s also been calculated that the size of the tires you use, and their overall design, can have a 4% to 7% impact on your fuel economy. This differs slightly depending on whether you’re driving around town or on the highway. Also, while using larger tires will usually reduce fuel efficiency, the actual design and construction of your tires can sometimes offset the loss due to their larger size.

The impact that “rolling resistance” has on your fuel efficiency can be quite high. This is caused by the amount of friction or resistance that your tires cause when contacting the road and, since larger, heavier and wider tires contact the road more than smaller, lighter and thinner tires, they create more friction and thus decrease your fuel economy.

Interestingly, the tires used on race cars, called “slicks”, have no tread at all and are the best for fuel economy. The problem is that, without tread, they are also much more dangerous because they don’t “hold the road” well. In effect, your tire’s treads reduce your gas mileage but increase your car’s safety factor greatly and thus are a necessary evil.

There are tires that have been designed for better fuel efficiency however, and usually they have a tread that is shallower and they’re made of materials that generate less friction and thus less heat when driving. Usually the best tires for fuel efficiency are the ones that come “stock” with your car from the factory. The reason is that automobile manufacturers want to be able to get the highest miles per gallon possible when they undergo US Environmental Protection Agency tests.

What this means is that, when you go to replace the tires that came with your car, you should definitely ask the tire vendor you plan to use to give you advice on which tires have the best (i.e. lowest) rolling resistance.

Finally, as we mentioned earlier and as (hopefully) most of you know, properly inflating your tires is the best way to make sure that you get the highest gas mileage as well as protect your tires and make sure they last as long as possible. Every car owner should have a tire pressure gauge in their glove compartment to be able to check their tires at least once a week. The best time to do this is before you drive when the tires are cool.

It’s been calculated that you will save as much as 3% when driving on tires that have been properly inflated, which can amount to quite a bit of money if you do a lot of driving.

Consumers Should Take Advantage of This

Consumers can easily take advantage of special offers throughout the U.S. automobile market. On major holidays, there are plenty of nationwide discounts and other special promotions available on car leases and purchases. It is a tradition for car dealerships to mark down prices significantly during major holidays like Christmas, Independence Day and Thanksgiving. Local dealerships team up with auto manufacturers to come up with exciting ways to attract new customers.

For example, some dealers might host special events like barbecue cookouts during summertime holidays. Of course, the ultimate goal is to sell brand-new cars that are nicely displayed in the parking lots. However, auto dealers understand that customers should have a good time in order to show some interest in buying new vehicles. Zero money down is one common offer made during special promotional periods at car dealerships. Zero percent APR is available for a limited length of time, such as 12 months for a financing term that’s 48 months in total.

These days, consumers do not always have to visit a car dealership right away in order to browse a selection of models that are up for sale. Websites are loaded with listings of all the cars in stock in local dealerships. A simple entry of a zip code can yield results featuring the nearest car dealers within a maximum radius from a customer.

When browsing virtual listings, customers can reserve some cars online. Several days are given for patrons to visit a dealership and test drive the reserved vehicle. Communication by email, text message and phone is available when making reservations on cars that are part of a local dealer’s inventory. The MSRP of a brand-new vehicle is typically negotiable. However, the addition of feature packages obviously brings up the price significantly. At the same time, customers can request that certain optional features be removed or substituted in order to adjust the final sale price according to a specific budget. Exploring Toyota Land Cruiser offers and other deals is one way to make buying or leasing full-size sport utility vehicles more budget-friendly.

The Longest Lasting Cars on the Road

While most people talk about how to save a few dollars on gas, the real savings when it comes to an automobile is holding onto a car for as long as possible and, as long as it isn’t costing you a lot for maintenance, driving that sucker until the wheels fall off.

With that in mind, we put together a list of the longest lasting automobiles on the road today, as per the data that was recently released by iSeeCars.com.  If you’re looking for a vehicle that will last you from now into the next decade and further, these next five cars should be high on your list of the ones to buy. Enjoy.

The Subaru Outback is one of the best cars to purchase if you’re an outdoor enthusiast because it has standard all-wheel drive and, while the interior isn’t what you call luxurious, it is very capable and practical. What’s even more impressive is that quite a few of these excellent cars make it to 200,000 miles.

A big surprise, especially for people who love to bash the American automobile industry, is that the Ford Taurus actually was tied with the Honda Civic and Acura TL for reliability, and the ability to put 200,000 miles on its odometer.

Speaking of the Acura TL, it’s not  surprising to see one of them reach 200,000 miles when you consider that Honda has been making reliable cars for decades. Acura is their luxury line and the apple didn’t fall far from the tree as far as quality is concerned when they made these cars.

Of course any list of reliable, long-lasting cars wouldn’t be complete without the Toyota Camry but, truth be told, it’s only slightly ahead of Acura, Honda and even Ford when it comes to vehicles that have reached or exceeded 200,000 miles on their odometer. Still, it’s America’s best-selling car for something, and longevity is a big part of the equation.

We already mentioned the Honda Civic, one of the best-selling models from one of the best-selling automobile brands in the world. Although it’s tied with the Acura TL as far as the percentage of cars that reach the 200,000 mile mark, the numbers are a bit skewed because the Civic sells a lot more than the TL.

While the Altima is one of the best selling cars in the country, it’s the Nissan Maxima that appears to be hitting 200,000 miles more often. It’s on the same par with the Toyota Camry, although it does sell in lower volumes that either the Altima or the Camry.

Lastly there’s the Honda Accord which, not surprisingly, is the number one longest lasting car on the road with nearly 2% of all Accords hitting the 200,000 mile threshold. This simply backs up what’s been known and said about Honda for the last few decades, that they make some of the most reliable and long-lasting vehicles in the world.

Saving Fuel Requires Lighter Cars

What’s the best way to get better mileage out of our automobiles? Make them as light as possible.

Think car roofs made out of carbon fiber, bumpers created from aluminum foam and windshields made out of plastic. The fact is, even though hybrid and electric cars are in the news, lighter materials are the real “final frontier” for fuel economy.

Known as “lightweighting” among automakers, experiments have been going on for decades to bring that weight of automobiles further and further down. With the new, tougher gas mileage standards that have recently been adopted the effort has definitely gained a bit of urgency of late. The fact is that most cars will need to lose a lot of pounds in order to meet the government’s 2025 fuel economy goals.

For those people that are concerned, the fact is that lighter cars don’t mean cars that are less safe. In fact, many of the cars being made with these new, space age material are doing quite well in government crash tests. Roughly 30% of the new vehicles already being made today have aluminum hoods that are as impact resistant as steel, and a number of auto manufacturers have teamed up with airplane manufacturers in order to get their data from years of lightweight material crash testing.

Developed in concert with the US Department of Energy, the Ford Fusion lightweight prototype car weighs approximately 800 pounds less than the Fusion already on the road, thanks to carbon fiber instrument panel, a rear window made from the same thin plastic that covers cell phones and aluminum brake rotors that are nearly 40% lighter than cast iron.

Due to all of these lightweight materials the new Fusion can use the same engine as the Ford Fiesta, an automobile that gets about 45 mpg on the highway already.

Of course the one drawback that it has is that these lightweight materials are ridiculously expensive. For example, the carbon fiber frames used for the seats are approximately $73 each, compared to the steel frames normally used that are priced at approximately $12.

This isn’t stopping automobile manufacturers however as they are constantly looking for newer materials that not only shave weight but also cost.

Matt Zaluzec, the technical leader for materials and manufacturing research at Ford, says that “These are the technologies that will creep into vehicles in the next three to five years.”

The 2013 Range Rover from Land Rover is a great example. When it was put on sale last year it featured an all-aluminum body and other lightweight components that enabled Land Rover to make it 700 pounds less than its predecessor.

It’s been estimated by Morgan Stanley that, if 1 billion cars on the world’s roads rose today were made lighter by only 110 pounds, upwards of $40 billion would be saved in fuel every year.

“Lightweighting is going to be with us for a long time,” said Hesham Ezzat, a technical fellow at GM. “Every manufacturer is going to have to leverage their entire palette of materials.”

So it seems that, even if they might not be looking for the better, renewable fuels, at least auto manufacturers are doing their best to design cars that are lighter and use less of the fuels we are already using.

Summer Tips for Saving Money at the Pumps

Summertime is here again and with it summer trips and the usual increase in prices at the pumps. If you’re keen on traveling this summer but don’t want to break the bank putting gasoline in your automobile, read the Tips below before starting out on any automobile adventure. Enjoy.

In this technologically advanced age, if you’re still driving all over town looking for the best price on gasoline you’re a little crazy. Smartphones give you access to a plethora of apps that will help you quickly find the best price in town, including one of the best called GasBuddy. Download it today and to stop wasting time and gas.

Purchasing your gas from a station that’s busy is a great idea because fresh gas is less likely to be contaminated and is better for your car’s engine.

Purchase a tire pressure gauge and check your tires once a week to make sure that they are properly inflated. This is an extremely easy and simple thing to do and, since tires that are under or over inflated can reduce your engine’s efficiency by 2%, is also a great way to save money on gas.

Definitely take advantage of your car’s cruise control when traveling on the highway. When your car is traveling at a specific, steady pace you increase fuel efficiency by upwards of 8%.

If you’re going to be stopped for more than 45 seconds it’s best to turn off your car because idling for any longer is simply a waste of gas.

Try to plan your trips so that you don’t drive through a crowded metropolitan area during rush hour.

Before setting off on a long-distance trip, have your car serviced and make sure that everything is running correctly, all fluid levels are where they should be and your tires are inflated properly.

If you are a fan of “topping off” when filling your gas tank, you’d be well advised to stop. The fact is that most gas pumps don’t contain sufficient pressure to deliver gas well in short bursts which means that, if you top off your tank, you might get shortchanged.

The next time you purchase new tires, consider radial tires instead of standard because they will cut your fuel bill by 2 to 3%.

Driving in the morning, late afternoon or at night is a great way to save energy because you won’t need the air-conditioning nearly as much.

It’s definitely a good idea to either use the GPS mapping on your smart phone or, if you don’t have that option, map out your route before you leave on a long-distance trip so that you can get to your destination while still driving the least amount of miles.

Hopefully these tips will help you to not only have some wonderful summer adventures in your car but also save a lot of money on gasoline. Enjoy your summer, drive safe and have a wonderful time.

Braking Properly Can Save on Gas!

Most drivers realize that an automobile uses the most gas when it accelerates. This most basic law of physics, that force equals mass times acceleration, also means that your car requires a lot less gasoline to keep moving forward than it does to get up to speed.

The reason is because inherent inertia, or your car’s forward motion, reduces the amount of gasoline that your car’s engine needs to push it forward. It also means that, if you want to improve your mileage, one of the things that you need to learn how to do is use your brakes as little as possible, especially in moderate to heavy traffic.

Here’s a great example; when a person is stuck in heavy traffic and, instead of controlling their speed with their accelerator pad only they have to control it with both their accelerator and their brakes, they end up using a lot more gas because they lose their car’s forward inertia and have to use more gas in order to get back up to speed.

These are the people that you see in traffic that speed up and then use their brakes, then they speed up again and hit the brakes again, doing this over and over while they sit in traffic and not only waste time but also waste a lot more of their precious gasoline.

This of course also poses a problem for the cars following directly behind this automobile, who must also brake unnecessarily in order to avoid causing an accident. In very heavy but still moving traffic over 90% of automobiles do this and, even though it’s relatively easy to hold a speed without stepping on the brake, they use them anyway and with them more gasoline.

The fact is that by simply keeping a little bit more distance between their car and the car in front of them these drivers would be able to use their accelerator only in order to keep their speed at a steady pace, even if it’s a slow pace, and keep their car’s inertia working for them.

This means not only paying attention to the car directly ahead of them but also to the cars ahead of that one so that, if necessary, they can anticipate when traffic is going to slow down and thus ease off of the gas instead of hitting the brakes.

What it all boils down to is simply this; every time you have to speed up you use more gas. It only makes sense that if your car is already moving forward, and you don’t have to slow it down constantly, you won’t have to speed back up constantly either and less you’ll save gasoline and money.

In fact, most experts say that if you can learn to do this and drive more efficiently you can save between 10 and 20% on gasoline cost, something that in this day of $4. a gallon gasoline is no small amount of savings.

Need more Fuel Efficiency from your Prius? Track your route

Okay, we get it. Your Toyota Prius is already an excellent car with mileage so high that it puts every solo gas using car to absolute shame.  But what’s that?  You say you want even better mileage from your Prius, so that you can use even less gas because you can run on your car’s battery for a longer amount of time?  Well then, you’re in luck, because researchers have just figured out a way to make your gas sipping car even more efficient.

The way they’ve done is to let you track the route that you take to work.

The solution that the Prius has right now is that, when you’re battery runs out of power, the Prius starts using your gas supply. It works, but it isn’t the best use of power by any means.

Now however a system has been developed by Chalmers University of Technology and professor Viktor Larsson that will analyze the daily route that you use to go to work, including any detours to places that you go to regularly (Starbucks anyone?), and once it knows your route will then determine the best way to get the most life out of your battery.

For example, when you’re on the highway your Prius may switch to gasoline as it’s more efficient, saving the stored power in your battery to use when you’re in stop and go traffic closer to the office.

It’s not going to save you a huge amount of money on gasoline by any means, but Prof. Larsson predicts that it could reduce the energy consumption of your Prius by up to 10% and, since the technology behind most hybrid cars is relatively the same, the new device will be able to work on most of them. It simply needs to be able to set up a communication between your car’s battery and engine via the computer in order to do it.

Similar technology has already been developed by Prof. Larsson for the Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid, where testing and simulations have already been carried out. Tests have also been done to see if using a smart phone, in place of the computer server that powers the cars management system, could be an option.

In any case, look for the new technology to arrive sometime in the next few months and help your already ultra-mileage hybrid vehicle to get even more miles out of a gallon of gas and its bank of batteries.

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