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.


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.

With Winter Comes Poor Gas Mileage

Have you been thinking that your car’s fuel economy has been lower over the last few weeks? If you have, it’s not your imagination it’s just the fact that, in winter, your fuel economy usually does go down, at least a little bit and in some cases quite a lot.

In fact, some cars can lose as much as a third of their fuel economy when the outside temperatures drops to 20°F, according to new research from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Not only that but on short trips during cold weather your fuel economy drops even further.

Bo Saulsbury, from Oak Ridge’s research group, said that “cold weather and winter driving conditions can reduce your fuel economy significantly,” adding that “fuel economy tests show that, in short-trip city driving, a conventional car’s gas mileage is about 12% lower.”

Oak Ridge compared to the fuel economy of over 600 conventional vehicles as well as 14 hybrids during weather that was 20° and compared that to their fuel economy during “normal” weather.

Interestingly enough, battery-based vehicles saw the biggest drop in fuel mileage, from between 31% and 34%. So, for example, a car that’s getting 45 MPG regularly will drop to only 30 mpg when the temperature outside  drops way down. Gas powered cars fared a little better but still didn’t do that well. For example, a car that normally gets 30 mpg will, when the temperature is 20°F or lower, drop down to 24 mpg during short trips.

The temperature alone isn’t the only reason that an automobile will be getting reduced fuel economy. Some other factors include;

  • Roads that are icy or snow-covered, something that can decrease traction and waste fuel as a car literally spins its wheels
  • Driving slower on ice, snow or slush covered roads. Most cars deliver their best mileage at higher speeds
  • Operating a vehicle for long periods of time in four wheel or all-wheel drive
  • Fluids like oil that have lower viscosity in the cold, increasing friction and the time it takes for a vehicle to reach optimal operating temperatures
  • Power blower fans, seat heaters and defrosters using more energy
  • Lower energy level gasoline blends made for the Winter
  • Warming a vehicle up for an inordinate amount of time

One of the biggest problems that battery and gas powered vehicles have is the battery. When it’s cold a car’s battery is less efficient and thus requires that the alternator run more frequently. In a hybrid vehicle, cold batteries hold less energy and thus limit range and energy efficiency.

There are a number of things that drivers can do to improve their mileage, according to Oak Ridge. These include parking the car where it will stay warmer, combining trips and using an oil recommended for winter driving. Limiting the amount of time that your vehicle warms up is also a good idea, especially when you consider the fact that it will heat up faster while you’re actually driving it.

Then of course there’s the old standby, tire pressure. As the temperature falls, your tires aren’t as energy-efficient and if they are already low on air they become even less efficient because they don’t get an adequate grip on the road.

Hopefully these tips will help you to increase your mileage but, frankly, if you’re really worried about increasing your mpg during the winter it might be just a matter of getting up and moving to a warmer state like Florida, Texas or Southern California. If not, be careful and be safe while driving this Winter.

Kids: A Waste of a Life Insurance Policy

Life insurance for children is widely available, but is it a good investment? Many people purchase life insurance for their children because some clever agent convinced them it was a great idea, but in most cases, such a policy is an unnecessary expense. There are a few central factors that make your kid and most others less than ideal candidates for life insurance coverage.

Your Kid is Unemployed

Life insurance is intended to protect the financial standing of surviving dependents when a breadwinner passes away. Children have a notoriously low work ethic, and many of them are unwilling to even go on a job hunt, let alone maintain a job that makes them the main source of income in a household. Most non-famous children earn very low if any salaries for their work, and although their loss would be emotionally devastating, the lost income would be minimal and household expenses would likely decrease. Visit this link to find out more about what AAMI can offer you and your family.

Your Kid will Outlive You

Another core benefit of a life insurance policy is to provide for funeral costs after death, but children are typically vibrant and healthy, as they enjoy the benefits of a body with very low mileage. While a whole life policy for a child is guaranteed for life, very few people develop conditions that deem them uninsurable before adulthood. Modern medicine and an immune system working at full capacity enable many children to continue living for years, even decades at a time with a bit of good fortune.

A family with a history of illness or genetic concerns may want to consider a policy as a safeguard against future concerns, but the reality is that you are likely to need your final costs covered well before your child does. At the very least, your kid should be alive long enough to purchase a life insurance policy of their own, and rates for healthy young adults are extremely affordable.

Your Kid Can Go to College Anyway

Some life insurance policies are marketed as tools for educational savings. Although it is true that you can borrow against the value of the policy up to the amount in premiums you have paid tax-free, a mutual fund frequently provides the same benefits and much better returns while also having nothing to do with the death of your child. The money you would spend for insurance premiums would be much better used in a dedicated savings or money market account.

As an insurance provider, a child is the ideal choices for coverage. Their young age means a long future of collected premiums, and their good health means that they are unlikely to require a payout for quite some time. As a parent, you are better off investing in your child’s life than their life insurance.

Save on Gas, Don’t Drive

Listen, let’s be honest; the best way to save gas money is to not drive your car.  As silly as this may sound there are many people that make 2, 5 and even 10 small trips a day around their town that just aren’t necessary and waste a lot of gas.  You use much more gas driving around town, stopping and starting the entire time, than you do on the highway at a constant speed. So the 1st thing you can do if you want to save gas is use a bike, walk or plan your small trips and make one big trip to the grocery, school, hair salon, post office, doctors office or wherever.

Of course if you live in or close to a major city you can use public transportation, but if there’s no way to get around using a car then you’ll want to purchase one that gets the best mileage.  Below is a list of the Top 5 in that category with the only caveat that these comparisons are based on using gasoline 100% of the time.

The Toyota Prius is the #1 car on the road today for great gas mileage and delivers an average of 50 mils to the gallon.  That’s really good, no doubt, and you can get a late model Prius starting for under $27,000.00 also which makes it a great deal.

The #2 is a perennial favorite, the Honda Civic Hybrid, with an average 44 mpg.  This well-built and easy to maintain sport sedan is worth every penny of its relatively low price of under $25,000.00. The lower price really makes it almost equal to the Prius.

Honda makes the list again with the Insight with 42 mpg and that storied Honda value and reliability. It happens to tie with the Lexus CT 200h but, since the price is about $10,000.00 cheaper, we have to go with the Insight hands down. Of course the Lexus is a bit more luxurious so you’ll have to make up your mind if you want great gas mileage and are willing to pay a 10 grand more for cushy seats.

Toyota makes the list again with their Camry Hybrid and its 41 mpg average.  In our opinion it’s even better than the original Camry and, since it gets about 25% better mileage, it’s worth the price at just under $30,000.00

And there you have the Top 5 cars on the road today as far as gas mileage is concerned.  A great bunch of cars all they will save you many dollars at the pump during their life.

Tips to Get More for Your Gasoline Dollar

Buying gasoline has become quite the costly proposition over the years, and it doesn’t look like it’s getting any simpler any time soon. Because of that, it’s time to re-evaluate your fuel economy and figure out what some of the best ways are to use less gas, and in turn, save some precious money that can be used elsewhere!


Do Your Research

In the market for a new car? Do your research on fuel mileage. Many new cars nowadays have picked up on the trend of high gas prices, and there are models from all shapes and sizes to be fairly gas-friendly and fuel-efficient.


Figure out not only which style car you may be in the market for, but what might be a good fuel mileage for you to strive for when it comes time to buy. This can save a lot of money, time, and a headache at the pump.



Yeah, walk! Maybe not across town, but re-evaluate all of your trips and figure out exactly what and when you could be walking instead of driving. Heading to the post office a mile away from your home? Walking might be easier, and it will certainly save money on gasoline.


Go through all the daily trips you make, and your errand route, and figure out exactly how and where you might do best walking instead of driving your car.


Public Transportation

Public transportation can be a big hassle depending on which city you reside in, but if you take the time to figure out bus routes or subway stops, you can come away a winner. In many cities, public transportation has become seamlessly integrated into life, and everybody can gain some value from it.


So do research in your city, and figure out exactly where you can use public transportation. Even if it’s only once or twice a month for certain trips, those miles add up, and every time using public transportation is a time not spent on gasoline in your precious automobile.


Make Efficient Trips

Re-think how and where you make your trips, and start to plan on doubling up errands and more. Instead of making two trips here and there, or running inefficient errands on opposite sides of town, figure out where you might be able to piggyback these trips, and save some cash on gasoline. It may not be huge, but even a few dollars can make a huge difference!


All in all, it’s up to you and you alone to become more fuel-efficient and travel smarter. Gasoline prices will continue to rise. Instead of acting like they surprise you, be proactive and save some money in the process!


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