How to Avoid Getting Ripped Off by Your Mechanic

You know how to fill up your gas tank, how to turn on your car, and how to push your brake and gas pedal to stop and go. Unfortunately, though, that’s about as far as your car expertise goes — and the mechanic knows it. Face it: your car will eventually break down, and you’re going to have to put your trust in a stranger to fix it.

And when it comes to strangers, many mechanics seem to be the greediest when it concerns taking your hard-earned cash. With that said, here are six steps to help you avoid getting ripped off by your mechanic.

Try to Diagnose (and Possibly Fix) the Problem Yourself

Image via Flickr by ::w i n t e r t w i n e d::

Image via Flickr by ::w i n t e r t w i n e d::

Sure, your knowledge of cars might stop at being the driver of one, but that shouldn’t preclude stepping out of your comfort zone and getting your hands dirty. There are a lot of issues with cars that are easily fixable if you have a car manual and the necessary tools. Do-it-yourself auto repair is relatively easy with a Chilton’s manual, which provides in-depth directions on how to fix most problems on many makes of models of cars and trucks.

Follow Recommendations From Family Members and Friends

If you’re not adventurous enough to try to fix the problem yourself — or if you tried, and the repair is just too big a job — the next step is to start looking for a mechanic who’s credible for the right price. Considering that everyone has to get their vehicle serviced or fixed from time to time, the best way to find a local shop worthy of your business is to ask family members and friends for their opinion and references. They’re likely to point you in the right direction.

Do Your Homework Before Committing to a Shop

If your family members and friends don’t know a reliable mechanic — let’s hope that’s not the case — then it’s time to start doing your own investigative research. In the world before the Internet, this was a lot harder to do. With the Internet, though, you have an unlimited amount of resources at your fingertips for finding out which shop is shady and which one is trustworthy.

If you really want the best of the best, consider getting a consumer report. Resources like the Better Business Bureau and Angie’s List are also good for doing your homework on a potential mechanic.

Ask Questions and Don’t Let the Mechanic Control the Convo

Once you find a shop and walk through the door, the mechanic will love to hear nothing more than “Do whatever is necessary to get this car driving!” Translation: “my money is your money, no matter how much.” Although you might not have the know-how to fix the car, you shouldn’t let that intimidate you from talking with the mechanic and asking detailed questions. After all, you’re paying them to do the work, not vice versa.

Put Everything in Writing and Get Signatures

Before you and the mechanic agree on the work they’ll do on your car, make sure what’s getting done, what’s included in the cost, and how much it’ll be after parts and labor. They legally can’t start work until you sign off (if fact, you’re entitled to ask for a written estimate in most states), so if anything seems fishy, this is the stage where you need to ask the right questions.

Don’t be surprised if the shop asks for wiggle room on the estimate just in case something unexpected happens, either. No matter the case, put it all in writing and make sure you and your mechanic sign off on it. That way, if anything happens, you have proof or price.

Make Sure You Get a Guarantee and Warranty for the Work

You want to make sure the mechanic shop you go to works on all type of vehicles, whether it’s luxury suvs or older model compact cars, and you should make sure they offer a warranty on the work they do. This guarantees that the shop’s work will happen in the best interest of keeping the customer satisfied as opposed to filling up the cash register in the fastest amount of time. Additionally, make sure you keep all receipts and warranty paperwork in a safe place for future reference.

Do you have a trustworthy mechanic shop you can count on? What are their best qualities? Share your experience with other readers of the blog in the comments section.

 

Fuel Economy Tips for Hybrids Cars

We’ve written plenty of blogs about fuel economy tips for ”regular” cars but this is our first for Hybrid cars. The fact is, many of the gas saving and maintenance tips that we’ve given for conventional automobiles will also apply to hybrids, plug-in hybrids and all electric vehicles (EVs) but below are a number of additional tips specifically for hybrids and EVs that will help you to keep these advanced vehicles running smoothly and using less fuel, whatever that fuel happens to be.

The first is simply to read the owner’s manual. Hybrid automobiles all vary a bit but they are significantly different in design then traditional automobiles, especially the way that they use and manage their energy. One type of hybrid might be significantly different from another as well, and some tips will work with one type that won’t work with another. The company that manufactured your hybrid vehicle will know how to operate it and maintain it in maximum fashion, so reading their owner’s manual is vitally important. It will help you to maximize not only fuel economy but also battery life and driving range as well.

Next is to always use the Economy Mode. Many hybrid vehicles come with an economy mode (or something similar) that will maximize your car’s fuel economy. In most vehicles this can be activated at the press of a button. Keep in mind that when using economy mode other features of your vehicle might decrease in performance, including its rate of acceleration, in order to save fuel.

Do your best to avoid hard braking. Just like with a traditional automobile, you should do your best to anticipate stops and then brake gently and moderately. Doing this will give your car’s regenerative braking system the time it needs to recover energy from  its forward motion and then store it in the batteries as electricity. If you brake too hard your conventional friction brakes will jump in to help and your car won’t recover any energy, or much less.

For EVs and plug-in hybrids, always keep the battery fully charged. Doing this ensures that you will use as much electricity as possible, and thus as little gasoline. This will not only save you gas but also save you money (natch) and, with EVs, it will help to maximize your cars driving range.

By the way, EVs and plug-in hybrids normally use lithium-ion batteries that don’t degrade if you “top them off” with electricity. This also won’t make it drain more quickly, so if it’s not fully charged you can always recharge your battery without any concern.

Finally, you’ll want to use your accessories wisely. Heating, the entertainment system and definitely air-conditioning will all affect the fuel economy of any vehicle but, on hybrids and electric cars, it has an even more noticeable effect. If you’re trying to maximize your fuel economy or the range of your electric car, you may want to preheat or pre-cool the cabin while your vehicle is still plugged in, something that will definitely extend its range.

We hope you enjoyed our first Fuel Economy Tip blog for hybrid and electric cars. We’re sure it won’t be the last, so check back in the future for more tips and advice.

The 6 Best Cars you can Purchase Used for Under $10,000

These days, the “average” American can’t exactly afford to go out and purchase a new car every three or four years. Heck, even every seven or eight years is a little bit of a stretch .

Recently, Cars.com determined that the “price gap” between the cost of an average new car and the cost of a used one is around $20,000. That’s a huge difference and prices of many Americans completely out of buying a used car.

On the other hand, there are literally millions of used cars on the market for sale and, as most people know, buying used can sometimes be a much better deal than buying new. The reason is simply that, when you buy a new car, approximately 20 to 25% of its value is literally erased as soon as you drive it off of the dealer’s lot.

That’s a lot of money to waste just for the sake of having a car that’s new, especially when there are so many excellent used cars waiting to be purchased.

“There are a lot of great used cars on the market, and with a significant price difference between new and used cars, we know that many shoppers choose to go the used route,” Cars.com Executive Editor Joe Wiesenfelder said.

For those consumers who might be priced out of purchasing a new vehicle, they recently released a list of the Top Buys for cars around $10,000. (That’s give or take a few hundred dollars, depending on the model, where you purchased it and the year it was made.)

If you’re needing a new vehicle, but can’t afford to purchase an actual ”new” car, the automobiles listed below were rated by Cars.com as some of the best on the market for that price.

The 2007 Honda Civic isn’t really a surprise on the list, as Honda has always manufactured excellent vehicles. Cars.com said that the Civic has “Nimble handling, impressive cabin materials and good fuel efficiency make this Honda an excellent choice for compact-car shoppers.” That sounds like a pretty good deal to us.

Another car on their list is the 2009 Hyundai Sonata. Hyundai hasn’t been around for a long time but their cars are considered to be some of the best on the road. Cars.com said that the Sonata has a roomy cabin and a list of excellent safety features that make it a good choice not only for first-time drivers but also for families.

Mazda made it on the list with their 2008 Mazda6. This is more of a “sporty” car and Cars.com said that, for the price, the Mazda 6 is a “compelling” choice for families searching for a family sedan but don’t need a ton of space and so can give up a little for some extra sportiness.

As for this next car, Cars.com said that it combines both excellent power and fuel efficiency. It’s the 2007 Nissan Altima and, if you can find one, $10,000 is definitely an excellent price for this dependable automobile.

Of course no list of Top Cars would be complete without at least one Toyota, and the 2007 Toyota Prius made the list due to its excellent gas mileage and the standout reliability, according to Cars.com.

With a mix of excellent safety features, including six airbags, the 2008 Scion XB is, according to Cars.com, an excellent choice for first-time drivers due to its plethora of safety features.

And you have them. Six excellent automobiles that, if you can find them, will sell for approximately $10,000 and give you a combination of safety features, excellent mileage and dependability that make them some of the best values on the road today.

Secured Auto Finance: How to Save Money when buying a Car

After unprecedented growth in 2013, the new car sales market in the UK is braced for a continuation of this trend in the year ahead. This is also impacting on the procurement of used vehicles, as private vendors and dealerships look to capitalise on soaring demand to maximise the profit in their vehicles. With the majority of vehicle purchases, however, it is necessary to request secured funding and deal with an established and reputable lender. This can slightly complicate the issue, however, unless you are able to think in a proactive manner and identify the most suitable lenders for your needs.

How to Access the Best and Most Affordable Car Financing Deal

With this in mind, what practical steps can you take to secure the best and most affordable care financing deal? Consider the following: –

Search for a Lender that Makes Borrowing Simple

One of the biggest issues facing borrowers in the complexity of secured loans, which can seem extremely difficult to understand if you are new to the concept. The fact remains that secured borrowing is relatively simple, as you apply for a principal amount that is used to fund the purchase of a selected asset. In this instance, the car that you buy serves as the collateral, while a competitive interest rate is applied to create a cumulative level of debt that must be repaid. The best lenders strive to explain this in great detail to consumers, and afford them the best possible chance of saving money.

Work Out precisely how much you need to Purchase a Car

While you may have a specific lender in mind, this means little unless you have budgeted carefully defined amount to fund your purchase. This requires you to identify a potential vehicle, and one which sits comfortably within your existing financial means. It is all too easy become overly casual when you are dealing with money provided through a secured loan, but the fact remains that this sum must be repaid as though it was withdrawn from your own bank account. Without this approach, you run the considerable risk of borrowing too much money and encumbering yourself with an unmanageable repayment schedule.

Compare the Market for the Best Available APR

Not all lenders are created equal, and each will offer a variable rate of APR. This will be applied to the principle borrowing amount and ultimately dictate the total sum that you will repay, so it is crucial that you shop around and compare the market for the best possible rate. APR is used by lenders to offset their risk and ensure that they are able to make a profit, although the secured nature of automotive financing means that the typical rate can be relatively low. Do not be afraid to invest time into this endeavour, as sourcing the best deal with help you to save considerable amounts of money over time.

One Way to Save Money on the Maintenance of your Vehicle

Keeping your automobile running can be extremely costly, and this will include fuel, insurance and any maintenance work, so whenever there is an opportunity to save money on one of these then it is important that you take it. Maintenance is one of the big ones, as from time to time something will stop working in your car, and that is because it is such a complex bit of machinery with so many different working parts. A lot of the time this will be something that will not require a mechanic, and if you have all the right tools for automotive repair along with the knowledge of how to get the job done then you may be able to fix it yourself for a fraction of the cost.

 

One of the more common problems that arises is that the gas struts stop working, and when this happens it means that your boot will not open properly and stay open, and this can be a real pain for those that regularly use the boot for storage and transportation. Replacing your gas struts is something that you can easily do yourself, and all you need is a spare pair of hands and a flathead screwdriver, but you may be able to solve the problem with an even more simple and cost effective method.

 

How the Service Works

This is a gas strut re-gassing service, and instead of replacing your old struts this service will re-pressurise them so that they will work again properly and do their job. This will cost a significant amount less than buying a brand new replacement whilst doing the same job, so if you want to save money on your car maintenance then this is the way to go. This service works by you removing your struts and then sending them off to a company that provides a re-gassing service, such as SGS Engineering amongst others, where the strut will be inspected and you will be told if it can be done. If so then they are re-pressurised, tested and sent back to you.

 

The struts are easy to pop back into place, and they should then be working as good as new. This is a great way to save money on the maintenance of your car, and all the hard work will be done for you as well.

Getting Yourself Covered if you are a Courier

Anybody that works in the courier industry should know that a regular vehicle insurance policy will not cover you if you were to encounter any problems whilst out on the road, and instead you will need something called courier insurance. The reason for this is that when you are a courier you will be out on the roads more frequently than other motorists and making longer journeys more often, and on top of this you will also be transporting expensive goods with you as well. This type of insurance will be needed whether you are delivering goods by motorcycle or by van, and there are different types of courier insurance too for you to choose from.

 

You will generally find that this type of insurance will cost more than regular types seeing as you are on the roads more often and transporting goods, but of course this type of insurance could end up saving you a fortune if you were to have an accident and damage the goods. You can also save money on your premium if you know where to turn for this as well, and you will find that most regular insurers will not offer this kind of cover.

 

Finding an Insurer that Offers Courier Insurance

Specialist vehicle insurance companies will be the best place to turn, and this way you will be able to get a personalised service so that you can find the right policy to suit your needs as a courier. This might be courier motorcycle insurance, single van insurance or maybe a whole fleet of vans, and by getting in touch with the right insurance company it will save you money and time which will make it a stress free process, and before long you will be out on the roads with peace of mind knowing that you are protected.

 

If you were doing your job on regular vehicle insurance then you are putting yourself at risk and you could lose out on a lot of money if there was an accident, so make sure that you get yourself covered with courier insurance from a specialist insurer that will be able to offer you a personalised service and affordable rates, and with some of them you may even find that there are a whole host of benefits to go along with your policy too.

How to Buy a Used Vehicle Safely

The popularity of used cars has increased considerably in recent years. There are many advantages attached to purchasing a second hand vehicle over a new one, the most important one being the greatly reduced price. Whether you’re thinking of upgrading, looking for your first car or buying something bigger to accommodate additional family members, the second hand car market will have something suitable for you. Most people choose to buy used vehicles from trusted dealerships like Exchange and Mart, but if you’re looking at advertisements from private sellers, follow these simple steps to stay safe.

Before You See the Vehicle

There are certain checks that should be completed before you even go to view the car, van or motorbike in question. Ask the seller if they can provide you with the make and model, registration number, tax disc details and MOT test number for the car. Any honest seller will be more than happy to oblige. You can then use the DVLA’s online vehicle enquiry service to check if the details you’ve been sent match their records. You can also check that the MOT history matches and the MOT is up to date. You don’t have to leave anything to chance when checking out the history of a second hand car.

When Viewing a Second Hand Car

Always go to see the vehicle in daylight and avoid viewing in bad weather. Darkness and rain will make it more difficult to see scratches, chipped paintwork and other imperfections. Ask the seller if you can see the V5C vehicle registration certificate. It should have a DVL watermark and the details should match those you were given by the seller. It’s also a good idea to check the vehicle identification number and the engine number, and make sure that these match the details you received earlier.

Always Test Drive

It’s essential to take a vehicle that you’re considering buying for a test drive. Your trip should take around fifteen minutes and cover different types of road, fast and slow, and include corners and roundabouts. Check that the car’s features work and watch out for unexpected noises or vibrations as these could indicate a significant fault in the car’s inner workings. Once you’ve test driven and feel confident about the vehicle, don’t be afraid to haggle with the seller. You should set your budget and refuse to pay outside of that. If the seller won’t be flexible on price and is asking for an amount outside of your budget, remember that there are plenty more second hand cars on the market!

How to Avoid Life’s Financial Pitfalls

Perhaps for the more wealthy and affluent amongst us, the financial problems of today are not too disconcerting. But for the vast majority of ordinary citizens, money matters. Particularly when it comes to attaining significant financial goals – buying a home or owning a car  – setbacks such as major credit card debt do tend to stand in the way of complete peace of mind and financial security. Here’s how to avoid the pitfalls.

Work off that Credit Card Debt

Credit card debts are a large part of why the world is in the position it is in at the moment, financially speaking. So for two or three months, stop using your credit cards completely (or as much as possible) and begin paying only the minimums on them. Doing this will enable you to grasp the concept of only living off what you are actually earning. Once you have begun to live within your means, you can then think about paying off the debt on the card with the highest interest rate. Once you’ve managed to pay it off entirely, start on the card with the second highest rate.

Reduce the Cost of Your Vehicle

Vehicles are one of the biggest ongoing costs, but there are still ways to save money on them. Insurance is a killer, so look absolutely everywhere to ensure that you are getting the best deal possible. Shopping around for the cheapest gas will save you money in the longterm, as will looking after your car. There are even mobile apps which tell you where the cheapest fuel in your area is.

Invest in Income Protection Insurance

Most people over a certain age will have life and car insurance, but what happens to your financial stability if unforeseen circumstances make it impossible for you to work? Not everybody can afford to take time off when they become ill or worse – have a serious accident at work. Investing in income protection insurance from a recognised firm such as Active Brokers, will ensure that you’ll always be financially stable, even when you aren’t working.

Give Yourself a Chance

Most average earners will experience money problems at some point in their life. Fortunately though, none of these issues are unsolvable. By working off your outstanding debts, reducing the cost of your vehicles and investing in income protection insurance, you stand a far better chance of avoiding the financial pitfalls of today.

How to Save Money in the Home

If you’re looking to stretch your pay check a little further each month, you won’t be alone. Many of us wish that we could save more and pay for things like holidays, home improvements and new cars without having to take out high interest loans or resort to using credit cards. However, there are plenty of simple and effective ways to save money in the home. You can get started today.

Reduce Your Energy Bills

Did you know that there are now apps that allow you to remotely control the temperature of your home? It doesn’t matter if you forget to turn the heating off or down before you leave, because you can do it via your handset. It’s important to do your research into the best deals available from energy providers, and there are plenty of price comparison sites online that will allow you to find the most competitive rates.

Start Selling

Those unwanted items lying around your house could be making you money. Start de-cluttering and deciding what can be sold. There are plenty of second hand shops that will pay for old games, music and DVDs, and technology like mobile phones and laptops can be sold for parts. Try online auction sites for clothes, shoes and accessories, and retailers like H&T Pawnbrokers for old jewellery or unwanted gold. You may have some real treasures in your loft or attic, so make sure you’re not sitting on some untapped income.

Take Up DIY

The increasing popularity of DIY is testament to the fact that you don’t always need to call in a tradesman when things need repairing or remodelling in your home. DIY can be a fun and productive way to spend weekends and evenings, and you can get the kids involved too. Painting and decorating tasks are great for children of all ages, and will allow you to spend hours with your kids engaged in a creative and practical pursuit. There are plenty of how-to guides and tutorials online and advice from experts, and this means that beginners can learn how to do simple tasks and quickly become more competent. Big jobs like complex plumbing and electrical wiring may require a qualified tradesman, but as long as you stay safe and realistic about what you can achieve, DIY can be a wonderful way to save money and have fun.

 

Ways To Save on Gas and Drive More Fuel Efficiently

It is essential that every motorist strive to
obtain the best possible fuel economy. Reducing fuel consumption puts more cash
into your pocket and curbs the amount of environmental pollution. Although electric
cars are an option, their limited driving range presents a challenge for some
drivers. Luckily, most car owners can improve their gas mileage by making a few
changes. Here are some ways to save on gas and drive more efficiently.

steering

 

Keep the vehicle properly maintained.
The upkeep of a vehicle has a direct impact on its fuel consumption. If the spark plugs are beginning to wear down, the combustion of the fuel will not be as efficient. A worn oxygen sensor can also cause a vehicle’s gas mileage to plummet.

Reduce your traveling speed.
Gas mileage tends to decline when traveling at speeds in excess of 55 miles-per-hour. Lowering your average highway speed from 70 mph to 60 mph can improve gas mileage by up to 15 percent.

Maintain the optimal tire pressure.
Each day, thousands of motorists will hit the road on a set of under-inflated tires. The increased friction against the pavement forces the engine to expend more energy. Always remember to check the tire pressure while the tires are cold.

Easy acceleration.
Many drivers unnecessarily punch the gas pedal upon accelerating. If the tachometer gauge rises past 3000 rpm, this is a good indication that too much pressure is being applied to the accelerator. When accelerating, try to keep the engine speed between 2500-3000 rpm on the tachometer.

Learn to coast.
Instead of racing from one stop light to the next, allow the vehicle to coast to a stop. This task can be accomplished by simply releasing your foot off the accelerator. The momentum will enable the vehicle to roll without using any fuel. The key is to always be looking ahead for slowing traffic.

Consider public transportation and walking.
Although there is nothing wrong with owning a fuel efficient Toyota Corolla, try to limit the use of your vehicle as much as possible. If your destination is not within walking or biking distance, feel free to take advantage of the public transportation system. Public transportation is very affordable. When taking the train or bus, the risk of being involved in a traffic accident also declines.

 

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