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Archive for January, 2007

Introduction to Automotive Maintenance

January 31st, 2007 at 11:29 am

Automotive Maintenance is something most of us ignore, until our vehicle stops functioning, that is. And then we wonder what went wrong, where. Auto Maintenance is one of the most serious aspects of ownership. It determines the longevity, performance and reliability of whichever vehicle you drive. Looking after your vehicle involves more than taking care of its external coat of paint and keeping it clean and shiny.

Car Maintenance means taking care of all the parts, even those that are inside the bonnet. These are the ones that directly concern the performance of your vehicle. Besides taking it to the service station at regular periods, it is a good idea to go through the owner's manual that will give a fair idea about its routine maintenance.

Checking the battery, keeping a check on the oils, changing the oils, checking the electrical system, are some of the absolutely unavoidable things to keep your vehicle in good shape. Keeping a log book in which you keep all the details regarding repair, auto maintenance, routine check-ups etc. will not only give you an accurate idea of what needs to be done when.

Tuneup - an old-fashioned maintenance term that's nearly non-existent today. With electronic ignition and fuel injection came computers that took over control of engine settings. Early versions allowed for some tinkering, but today's engines require advanced equipment and training. We could however learn some basic rules to follow and in turn prevent some of the faults in Car. Auto Maintenance is a could be good fun and a lot of learning experience.

Finding the best car for you

January 31st, 2007 at 11:27 am

There's no "best" car for everyone, but there is a best one for you, and you should choose it based on your needs.

Consider the following questions when choosing a car:

Q 1. Who's driving?
2. How old are the passengers?
3. How many passengers?
4. What's the primary use?
5. City or country car?
6. How much horsepower do you need?
7. Is economy important?
8. Is space important?
9. Will it fit in your garage?
10. Do you haul equipment?
11. Are you choosy about color?
12. How long will you own it?

Q Who's driving?
A Parents buying a car for a teenager should consider safety first. Usually, that quickly eliminates sports cars and SUVs. Kids drive differently when a bunch of others are in the car and they're trying to impress them. Young working adults probably are on a budget, so they should first consider an efficient, economy car. Older people may need small vehicles that are easy to maneuver.

Q How old are the passengers?
A Minivans are best if the primary passengers are small children because sliding doors make it much easier to position toddlers in car seats. Both the very young and the elderly can get in and out easily.

Q How many passengers?
A If you have three children, you might want to consider a minivan, station wagon or SUV that has third-row seating. If you buy a sedan that seats five, there's no room for company. An aunt or grandparent can't ride with the parents and children in the same car.

Q What's the primary use?
A If you're buying a car for commuting, gas mileage and comfort will be major considerations. Sit in a car before you buy and see if it supports your back. Check out the climate-control system. If you live in a cold climate, pick a cold day and drive a car before it's been warmed up. See how long it takes to get warm and how effectively it defrosts the windows.

Q City or country car?
A If you drive a lot in the city, you should consider small economy cars and minivans that are easy to maneuver and ideal for traffic and parking.

Q How much horsepower do you need?
A If you love performance driving, or have to accelerate rapidly onto crowded freeways, a four-cylinder car may disappoint you. If not, a four-cylinder car can give reliable performance while cutting fuel, maintenance and insurance costs.

Q Is economy important?
A Economy cars and hatchbacks usually get the best mileage, as do the new hybrid vehicles or one of the Volkswagen turbo diesel engines such as the Jetta or Golf, which get up to 40 miles per gallon.

Q Is space important?
A If you or your children participate in sports or have hobbies that need a lot of cargo space, you're going to need more than a car with a trunk. Look for a minivan, SUV, a wagon or a new crossover vehicle.

Q Will it fit in your garage?
A Some SUVs and vans are either too wide or too high for many garages. Measure before you buy.

Q Do you haul equipment?
A Need a vehicle capable of towing a boat or RV? Many small cars simply don't have the horsepower, transmission or chassis to handle those demands. Even some SUVs are not up to the task, so check on the vehicle's towing capacity.

Q Are you choosy about color?
A Naturally, you should pick a color you like, but keep in mind some unusual colors, such as yellow, can affect not only the car's resale value but also the cost to insure. Red generally costs the most because insurers associate red-car owners with being younger and more prone to get into accidents. White cars cost the least to insure.

Q How long will you own it?
A Look at car guides and check out Internet sites to see which vehicles hold their value. Every car drops in value, but some drop much less than others. The Mercedes Benz CLK class retains 64 percent of its value over a three-year period while a 2003 Chevy Tracker two-wheel drive retains only 17 percent.

Once you have narrowed your search, find comparable vehicles in that class. For instance, if you're interested in a Honda Accord, check out the Toyota Camry and the Ford Taurus to compare options, features, insurance rates and operating costs to find the best deal for you.

Buying a new car vs. buying used

January 31st, 2007 at 11:26 am

The allure of a new vehicle can be powerful, but three times as many used vehicles are sold each year in this country than new cars. Your budget and mindset -- some people just can't stand the idea of "buying someone else's trouble'' -- may determine which is right for you. If you're on the fence, here's a breakdown of benefits and drawbacks.

New-car benefits and drawbacks

Benefits Drawbacks
It comes with a comprehensive manufacturer's warranty of at least three years or 36,000 miles that will cover almost any eventuality. Some go to 10 years or 100,000 miles.
It will likely have the latest safety, comfort and convenience features available.
There are no surprises. You are the first owner and there are no doubts about previous mechanical problems or accidents.

It will cost significantly more than a three-year-old used car.
Comprehensive and theft insurance costs could be significantly higher than buying used, although insurers offer discounts for newer safety features.
It will lose 25 to 40 percent of its value the moment you buy it, likely locking you in to long-term ownership.

Check your credit first

January 31st, 2007 at 11:25 am

Right off the bat, this is where the great majority of car buyers go wrong. After budgeting for an auto purchase, this is the very next thing you should do.

But most people leave it to the very end: Once they've decided on a car, driven it around the block and hammered out a price with the salesman and his manager, only then do they apply for credit and find out what their credit score is.

Do it the smart way: Check your credit up front, before you set foot in a dealer's showroom. Start this process months before you plan to purchase, if possible, because if you have incorrect or outdated information that's lowering your score -- and therefore raising the interest rate you'll have to pay -- it can removed, but it takes at least 60 to 90 days.

Get your credit report
There are three national credit reporting agencies, Equifax & Experian. You will need to get your report from all three agencies. You can get them by paying a nominal fee, usually less than $10. Better yet, thanks to the 2003 Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, every American is entitled to a free report from each agency every 12 months. You may also qualify for a free report under certain circumstances -- being turned down for credit or if you suspect frau, for example. If you're married, make sure to get one on your spouse as well.

First, check to see what your FICO score is. Named after Fair Isaac Corp., the firm that developed the scoring model back in the 1950s, FICO compares the information in your credit report to what's on the credit reports of thousands of other customers.

FICO scores range from about 300 to 900. The higher your score, the better a credit risk you will be considered. It's very difficult to say what's a "good" or "bad'' score, though, since lenders have different standards for how much risk they will accept.

A used car lot that boasts it will finance anyone likely will not care if your FICO score is 500. That's because they will have jacked up the price on their cars and their interest rates to cover their costs of repossessing the vehicles they sell to high-risk customers who default.

How is credit score determined?
Your credit score is based on five factors: past payment history
outstanding debt
how long you've had credit
how much new credit you've sought recently
the types of credit you have

Using your credit report -- or your general knowledge of your credit situation -- you can estimate your FICO score by clicking on this free FICO Score estimator. The vast majority of people fall into the 600 to 700 range, and the best auto financing rates are generally available only to those who score above 700.

Correct mistakes
Next, check the report for misinformation, such as accounts that don't belong to you, accounts that have been closed but still show as open, billing disputes that were resolved, incorrect credit limits or balances. Look for outdated information. As a general rule, a negative report stays on your record for seven years; a bankruptcy for 10 years. The credit reporting company has to support the information it has on you. No support -- no black mark. So ask to see it. If the support is erroneous, write to the company with which you originally did business. Send it copies of any documents you have supporting your position, and request that it send corrected information to the credit bureaus it reports to.

You have the right to include a statement of as many as 100 words in your report to explain your version of the disputed item. This will be included in reports provided in the future.

The credit reporting companies make mistakes -- oodles of them. So many, in fact, that there is a 50/50 chance that there's a mistake on yours. The Fair Credit Reporting Act gives you the right to challenge the reports, and have them corrected if they're wrong.

The Federal Trade Commission's Web site presents a concise summary of your rights under the act, written in language that's easy to understand.

Recheck your score -- it could be worth it
Once you have corrected mistakes, check your FICO score again in 30 to 60 days to see how much, if any, it has changed. How important is, say, a 50 point swing in your score? It could mean the difference in getting approved for a zero percent loan offer or paying 7 percent.

Is it worth the wait? Let's say you were financing $20,000 for five years. A zero-percent loan would give you payments of $333.33 and, naturally, zero dollars of total interest over the life of the loan. A loan at 3.9 percent would mean monthly payments of $367.43 and total interest of $2,045.71. A 7.9 percent loan would mean payments of $404.57 per month and $4,274.28 in total interest, or $71 a month more than the zero-percent financing.