Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Buying a Used Hybrid Vehicle

As hybrid vehicles continue to gain popularity due to their fuel efficiency in an age of rising gas prices, more used hybrids will become available and demand for them will grow. Now might be a good time to check used car lots and online ads for a second-hand hybrid, but keep in mind that selecting one is not simply a matter of kicking the tires and taking it for a test drive.

Benefit from depreciation

While hybrid cars have been able to keep a higher proportion of their original retail value owing to tight supply, they still are subject to deprecation. So buying a used one will enable you to benefit from lower pricing that reflects one or more years of depreciation.

Don’t fret about battery life

Any discussion of the merits of buying a used hybrid inevitably focuses on one key aspect — the main hybrid battery and how many years before it has to be replaced. Many potential buyers fear that battery failure during, say, the first eight years could nullify all the savings on gas from fuel efficiency.

To date, though, the hybrid battery pack has proven far more durable than anyone anticipated. Hybrid manufacturers say their batteries’ expected life is as long as that of the cars themselves, about 15 years.

The San Francisco Taxicab Commission has reported impressive durability for its Ford Escape hybrid taxis: some have passed 300,000 miles (482,803 km) of use with no battery problems. (Also, the Commission found brake life to be three times normal, due to the hybrid’s regenerative braking system.)

Toyota's warranty on major hybrid components (including the battery) covers eight years or 160,000 km. And the warranty protects not only the first owner of a Toyota hybrid but subsequent owners to whom the warranty is transferred.

If the warranty has expired and you have to pay for the battery’s replacement yourself, you’re facing a cost of $3,000 - $4,000 (including five hours of labour and tax). Though a substantial sum, this is no worse than what you might pay to replace an automatic transmission -- and it's less likely to happen. Also, the costs of hybrid batteries have fallen significantly, and will likely drop further as more hybrid cars appear on the road and battery technology improves.

Exercise vigilance

That said, buying a second-hand hybrid is just as risky as purchasing any other used vehicle. You still need to be careful about whom you buy from, its previous history and its general condition.

Be sure to review carefully any available paperwork on maintenance for the vehicle. It will reveal whether the maintenance schedule was followed correctly and will detail what overhauls were done, what components were replaced and what fluids were changed. It's also important to look at the vehicle's inspection report for an indication of its pre-sale condition.

If you're acquiring a hybrid in a private sale, have the car inspected by an authorized dealer of that make. Yes, it will cost some money for the inspection, but it will be worth it. If you are buying a hybrid from a dealer, look for a certified pre-owned vehicle. If that’s not possible, then have the hybrid inspected by an auto shop.

For information about PRUDENT VALUE CARS, visit our web site: www.prudentvaluecars.ca

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Avoiding Distractions While Driving

Driving while distracted is potentially as hazardous as driving while drunk, speeding or exhausted, and it occurs much more frequently.

A 2006 survey by the Insurance Bureau of Canada revealed that 89% of Canadians were very or somewhat concerned about driver distraction. And they have reason to be. Driver distraction has been identified as a factor in 8 out of 10 car crashes – about 4 million – in North America every year.

Yet 60% of the drivers surveyed said they would not stop using their cell phones while driving, even when informed that the habit put them at four times as great a risk of getting into a collision.

Here’s how to avoid distracted driving.

Before you get behind the wheel

Figure out how to reach your destination before you leave.
Be sure to consult a road map or an online mapping Web site such as Yahoo Maps to plot your route prior to setting off. If you get lost or are unsure you’re taking the correct route, pull off the road in order to check your map or GPS unit.

Be familiar with the car's controls before setting out.
The location of the controls varies from one car model to another. If you’re driving a newly bought car or a rental, it’s vital to learn in advance of your trip the location of the major controls, such as the gearshift, turn signals, windshield wipers and headlights. You don’t want your attention diverted by the unfamiliar placement of controls while you’re en route.

Drive when you’re rested. If you feel too tired to drive, pull off the road. Trying to reach your destination before falling asleep behind the wheel requires more effort to control your car.

Secure your passengers and pets.
Teach your children not to distract you while on the road. Make sure they’re buckled into their seats, and give them suitable books, games and toys. If they act up and you need to calm them, pull off the road to do so.

Don’t squeeze too many passengers into the car and don’t get involved in heavy conversation with them while you’re driving. If you have to tell them to be quiet, then don’t hesitate to do so. Secure your dog or cat in a carrier or harness while you're on the road. Never let your pet to sit on your lap while you’re driving.

Don’t be a multitasker

Don’t use your cell phone except when you’re stopped.
Using a hands-free phone doesn’t reduce distraction, because you’re still talking on the phone when you should be concentrating on the road. Even worse than making a call while driving is texting, which takes both your hands off the steering wheel.

Don’t eat and drink while driving.
If you are eating while driving, you are focused on the food instead of the road. You may not be distracted by chewing and swallowing but by unwrapping your food, reaching for the mustard, spilling your drink, and cleaning up—all unnecessary distractions while driving. Better to allow enough time to stop and eat.

Look good before you leave.
Make sure to shave, adjust your hair or apply your makeup before you leave. While driving, you should only be looking in mirrors to spot the traffic around you.

Don’t be distracted by the passing scene.
Keep your eyes on the road rather than turning your attention to a traffic accident, a car pulled over by the police or a billboard advertisement.

Manage the music.
Be it the car radio, a CD player or a digital music player, you don’t want getting the music right to be a source of distraction. So, plan on how to use these systems. Set your radio preset buttons and use them when you’re driving locally; if you’re on the highway, use the "Seek" function. You don’t want to be fiddling with the tuning knob.

If you use an iPod or other digital music player, create a playlist for your favorite songs so that you won’t be scrolling through menus while driving. However you listen to music, keep the volume low enough that you can hear potential dangers as well as see them.

For information about PRUDENT VALUE CARS, visit our web site: www.prudentvaluecars.com 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Buying A Smaller Car In Ontario

If you need a car mainly for commuting, doing errands and tooling around town, your best bet is likely a small car (a.k.a. compact or sub-compact). Because of their size, they’re easier to drive, maneuver and park compared to larger cars, trucks or SUVs.
Compact cars also provide better fuel efficiency and can be more affordable than bigger vehicles. In fact, when gasoline prices rise to $1.30 a litre, that is a “tipping point” for Canadian motorists to quit their gas guzzlers in favour of smaller cars.
And while a van or SUV is roomier, in recent years the design of smaller cars has focused more attention on maximizing interior spaciousness. Many small cars have tall roofs, offering plenty of head room. Hatchbacks are especially practical. By folding down the rear seatbacks and lifting the hatch, you can have interior space that approximates that of a small SUV.
Here’s what you should know and do when shopping for a smaller car.
● Identify dealerships near you that sell smaller cars. Online resources like http://carbyemail.com/canadian_car_dealer_directory.aspx can help you locate dealers in your area. The major brands for small cars include Chevrolet, Ford, BMW, Nissan, Scion, Toyota, Honda and Volkswagen. Look for dealers who sell them.fr
● Draw up a budget. Even though compacts may be easier on the wallet (than larger cars), they are still a costly acquisition. Prices vary widely, from $14,000 for a basic subcompact to $35,000 for a high-performance model. If you need to finance the purchase, figure how much you can manage for a down payment and monthly installments to help you create a budget before you begin shopping.
● Decide what features matter the most to you when considering small cars. Fuel efficiency, for example, will vary from 7.4 L/100 km in the city (Honda Civic) to 9.8 L/100 km (Volkswagen Golf). The number of passengers accommodated, access, the comfort of the ride and luggage space will also vary in different models.
These aspects are usually interconnected. For example, fuel efficiency is linked to low weight, small size, and modest power. You get a smoother ride in cars with a longer wheelbase and higher weight.
The strategy that is most economical is to choose a car that gives you adequate space but without buying more vehicle than you actually require. You can consult the lists of recommended small cars at ConsumerReports.org, starting with the smallest and least costly, and moving up to the more expensive.
● Be sure to consider the Consumer Reports’ safety ratings for the small cars you have in mind. Smaller cars won’t stand up as well as larger cars if they’re in an accident. So make sure the smaller car you buy has front airbags, lap and shoulder seat belts and electronic stability control (a computer-controlled device which automatically and selectively applies brakes to prevent a sideways slide.)
For information about PRUDENT VALUE CARS, visit our web site: www.prudentvaluecars.ca

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Choosing the Right Car Dealership

When you shop for a car, it’s important to deal with the right dealership. You want to be able to trust them and feel confident doing business with them. The best dealers strive to win life-long customers by providing value and good service at every stage of the relationship.
So how do you pick the right dealership? Here are some tips:
● Read dealer reviews – Be sure to consult online dealership reviews, available at: www.dealerrater.com or www.dealercheck.ca The reviews are posted by past customers and can provide a strong sense of the dealership’s overall quality.
● Dealer’s years in business - It is usually safer to buy from a well-established dealer that has served the community for several years than to go with one that opened its showroom less than a year ago. Dealerships with a history of treating customers badly seldom survive long term, so a dealership’s longevity is a positive sign.
● Check with the Better Business Bureau – Check with the local Better Business Bureau (BBB) to see if it has any complaints on file regarding the dealerships you are considering. The BBB records not only show complaints but also indicate whether the complaints were resolved in keeping with BBB policies.
● Ask others – Ask your friends, neighbours and co-workers where they bought their cars and if they were satisfied customers. Most people are forthcoming about their experience, especially if it was memorably good -- or bad. A personal recommendation is the best way to choose a dealer.
● Well-maintained premises - How well the staff maintains the premises can speak to a dealership’s quality. Good dealers take pride in their showroom. They keep clean the cars that are on display and on the lot. They have their sales, service, and support personnel dress professionally.
● Customer Service – Does the dealership value you as a customer? This will be evident in how the sales and service staff treat you when you’re on the lot or in the showroom. If you feel they are not answering your questions knowledgeably or are pushing too aggressively to make a sale, you should take your business elsewhere.
● Availability of services – Not all dealers provide the same kinds of services. Ask whether the dealership offers services that you may require later on. Does the dealer provide a free loaner car if yours has to be in the shop overnight? Do they have a shuttle service for the service department? Do you they have a quick-lube lane for half-hour oil changes? If you bring you car in for service and wait for it, do they have a clean, comfortable waiting area? Is the service department open evenings or Saturdays?
For information about PRUDENT VALUE CARS, visit our web site: www.prudentvaluecars.com