The Down & Dirty on Car Washes

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The first semi-automatic car wash which used a series of pulleys was introduced in Detroit in 1914. It did require manual brushing of the vehicle though.

car-wash-1408492_1920.jpgThe first big car washing franchise was Dan Hanna’s Rub-a-Dub. Starting in Oregon, Hanna Enterprises (as it became known) in 1955 it soon had 31 car washes all other America. In the 1960s the idea of soft friction washing, roller on demand conveyor belt (also known as a tunnel) and wrap around brush was introduced. It was not until the 1970s that you they introduced the automatic wheel cleaner and polish ‘n’ wax. By 1988, Hanna Enterprises grew to 80,000 car washes in 56 countries, the second biggest franchiser of the time, after McDonald’s of course. It now trades as Colman Hanna Carwash Systems and still owns a number of patents and trademarks linked to the car wash. So if you’ve used a car wash, you’ve probably used a system created by Hanna Enterprises.

Mobile car washes are a more recent invention using plastic water tanks and pressure washers. A number of car users prefer this type of car wash to the automatic type as they believe it damages the paintwork, etc. Just because they don’t use machines doesn’t mean that this type of service can’t deal with a huge number of customers, some of them even operate a fleet cleaning service.

With an average price per basic wash of $15 it’s likely that most of the profit comes from upgraded services. 20% of car businesses charge more than $18 per customer, which doesn’t sound too unreasonable though it is not clear what the maximum amount is. If a car wash is getting enough passing trade it should be receiving at least $1,500 per month.

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As with anyone starting a business you need traffic, (pun intended) which you might derive from social media. However, conventional wisdom is to generate your leads offline as well. This starts with the golden trifecta of business—location, location, location! Find somewhere which is easy to get to, especially if it is near a supermarket or freeway. There also needs enough room for you to operate, there’s no point if you can only get two or three cars on site. As with any other business look to see what the competition are doing-can you undercut them? Or maybe you should look to offering a premium service instead? It sounds obvious but still many businesses go bust in the first six months.

Here is a glossary of terms:

A car wash service which wishes to clean the inside and the outside of a vehicle with at least one automatic system is technically known as a detail shop.

A full service is a garage that both repairs, clean cars, inspects the vehicle, etc.

Exterior only is a car wash that only cleans the outside, usually an automatic system one step at a time.

Self-service is similar but it isn’t done by a machine.

 

 

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The Secret Parts of Cars (part 2)

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From the UK desk…Paul Wimsett

In part 1 we discussed some of the neat secret parts designers work into a car to help it appeal to a consumer, but Mercedes-Benz has included a secret part strictly for its own good. Location circuitry which can be used to invade privacy and spy on you.

Not disclosing that a car has spyware that pinpoint its location seems controversial. We are talking 170,000 cars in Britain and it could be further afield too. Apparently according to Mercedes-Benz, it is not about permanently tracking customers, though the same equipment could be used that way so it is hard to see how it would not work like that.

secret-2725302_1920It should come as no surprise that this is illegal according to the laws in Britain, should it be used in that manor, which again is not what the car maker claims the circuits are for.

It is not known how long these “sensors” (trackers might be a better word for them) have been in operation. The fact that Mercedes-Benz didn’t tell anyone about their built-in tracker makes it seem more suspect. The fact that no other car dealer factory installs such trackers also makes it seem more suspect. It seems that Mercs are on their own when it comes to this practice, Land Rover, BMW and Volkswagen confirmed that they do not use similar techniques and as far as I know the same is true for other car companies.

Company -owned fleet vehicles often have tracking built in which that company can use to determine the location of property they own, which seems reasonable. Police cars and government owned vehicles also have built in tracking in case someone steels them. Citizens can have “lo-jack” equipment installed into their vehicle to aid in recover for the same reason. And of course, you can often use Sat-Nav to locate a lost vehicle. But all these things are intentionally installed “after-market,” and the people who can access this information are the legal owners of the vehicle.

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So why is Mercedes-Benz doing it? The idea is it should only be used when customer has breached the financial agreement and hasn’t made other arrangements. The ability to repossess a vehicle in America is limited to it being parked on a publicly visible location. Certainly, it would assist agents of the lender to know exactly where a vehicle is, and perhaps even when it will be at a location it might be more easily seized.

This is a big grey area for many of us. It relies on an interpretation of a person’s rites under the law, that is based on the notion a car is stolen when you are far enough behind on your payments.

Presumably other terms of sale could be made, or bailiffs could be brought in? And the fact that the cars are tracked 100% of the time is a reason to worry. We’ve only the company’s word that they only check the location when they need to take the car back.

The customer should know when they are being spied on and not disclosing this feature until it was discovered independently deprives consumers of their rites in my opinion.

Best of the Web: Farting Tesla’s? You betcha!

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This is kind of news you need to get hot-off-the-presses, and we couldn’t hold it back.

Elon has been tweeting again and this time it’s not just hot air. Government regulations require EVs to emit some noise at speeds under 20 mph. On the serious side this is a safety need for people with disabilities to prevent accidents because they couldn’t hear the silent cars.

However, there is no direction as to the exact sound and in a twist of whimsy, that the writers at the kicker blog truly applaud, Tesla will offer a few options that are truly inspired. Fart sounds for example.

 

Another option could be the sound of coconuts clopping, or more cowbell.

No this isn’t April fool’s. Just a car company with the guts to not take life too seriously.

Proof we didn’t just make this up.via GIPHY

Saving for a Car–Sage Advice Part 3

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Op-Ed by Paul Wimsett and AR Bunch

Following on from the information Sage Advice #2…

A car is one of the biggest expenses we have at any one time and a source of constant frustration. Sure, home ownership will come with lots of things that need fixing from time to time, but cars are moving things full of moving parts. It’s a whole other level of ability to destroy itself from the moment you buy it.

Good advice starts with this…get a high yield savings account especially for the car and label it, “fix or replace.”

You may decide to trade-in your current car, or sell it for cash, to help with the down payment for the next car, but that’s not adequate. You don’t want to be financially destroyed by unexpected auto breakdown. These things happen at the worst time.

Searching the market to get the right account for this. It might seem over-cautious but owing for a car is one of the ways that debts accumulate over time. No one here is legally qualified to give you financial advice, but we’ve done enough research to know that savings accounts do exist, that give a slightly higher interest rate in exchange for limiting the number of times you can access it per year. That’s what you want.

Putting as much down as you can will reduce your monthly payment, which is turn lets you squirrel away a little bit toward your next down payment. The idea is to turn some of the money you pay in interest on a car loan into money you’re paid interest on when saving toward your next car loan.

Obviously your going to potentially dip into this account for big repairs but that’s not something you can include when doing the math. (Just consider the decision to fix your current car as delaying the purchase of the next car so your adjusting the timetable buy the amount you’re taking out of savings now.) So for the purpose of doing the math work only with saving toward your next purchase.

Doing the math:

A quick word about maintenance; you should try to keep your car at least five years, which shouldn’t be difficult with regular oil changes and tune ups. (Do not take oil changes/tires/gas etc out of your repair fund—those are operating expenses.)

percent-226316_1920Even though your car SHOULD last five years, assume that you’ll need at least the down payment for new one in two years. There is no telling what sort of car you’ll buy in two to five years, or what it’ll cost, so look at the newest model of the same car you own now. What’s the price of a 2020 Honda Civic, for example? $21,650

What’s price will that car be when you buy it 3 to 6 years from now?

Some models depreciate better or worse than others and an individual car might fair worse than others of the same model. Most cars depreciate about 20% in the first year and 15% each year after that so that 90% of the value is gone in 10 years.

At this rate our Civic should sell for about…

2023 $12,514
2024 $10,637
2025 $9,042
2026 $7,686

The fast way to double check the numbers is to compare to KBB.com when the time does role around. But for the sake of pedicting we’re we’ll use these numbers.

Price will have fallen in half by the year 2024 which is why we’re recommending buying a car 3 to 6 years old. Whenever possible put 20% down and take out a 60 month or shorter loan.

$10,637 x 20% = $2,128

To save that in 2 years just divide it by 24 months = $88.65/ month.

Other Car expenses:

Look to budget for car-related expenses, insurance, roadside assistance, taxes & registration and so on. What is the best way to pay these bills? Would it work out cheaper monthly, quarterly or yearly? Obviously the bills come when they come, but be sure to increase the size of your regular savings to account for saving toward those expenses.

Try to limit your expenses, which is easier to say than to do! Experts we know say that household accounts are where money tends to evaporate and your efforts will be in vain if you leave the heat up on vacation, etc.

Secrets to Saving:

The secret to success is automating your savings. This sounds a bit glib, but there are ways your bank can automatically move money to saving each month so you don’t have to think about it.

Know the bank’s rules on overdraft should you have to take one out.

Other sources of Money for a Car:

Some folks have been able to take out a second mortgage, leveraging the equity in their house instead of financing car? The logic behind this, is that borrowing larger amounts of money results in a lower interest rate. On the downside, your house is essentially securing your car.

As we mentioned in part one of sage advice, if you are buying your first car, you’re probably involving “the Bank of Mom and Dad,” but beware of the stress in family loans can put on relationships. Find out how much are they willing to spend and ask if they need something in writing?

Overall Budget Considerations:

Experts say you shouldn’t spend more than 20% of what you take home on your car. You might have to play this one by ear though, for a low paid job 20% might not be a lot.

Keep in mind cars are a handy tool, but a terrible investment. So don’t make sacrifices to have a nice car. A lot of this advice has been boring common sense, more than sage advice, but it’s a good idea to think logically about cars.

The Secret Parts of Cars (part 1)

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From the UK desk…Paul Wimsett

Leaving the controversial secret car parts for later, let’s start with the fun ones. Let’s begin, instead with the “not exactly hidden” feature. For instance, the “Curry hook” in a Nissan. This hook, about the height of your seat, allows you hang a bag containing your curry. This will make more sense when if you know that the British “pop out for a curry” the way Americans order in Chinese when they’re going to binge-watch their favourite show on the telly.

Then there is a gear stalk for the Volkswagen Golf in the shape of a golf ball. Again, these are maybe not exactly secret but just hard to spot.

brake-2026820_1280Now for some that are truly not visible. The Murano has a technique which is ideal for the driver either of less than average height or of greater than average height. It’s the ability to move the pedals both nearer to you and further away than you. It’s certainly a plus if you’ve ever got into a car and thought “These pedals are not designed for me.”

The secret vase in a Volkswagen Beetle is quite an attractive addition. Who doesn’t want flowers in their car? Quite a few people, now I think of it…

You might not expect to find sand in a car door but it can be discovered in early Lexus cars. This is used to deaden the sound of the radio, though it is debatable how much sand in a car door would fix this problem. An innovation which seems more complex than the problem, in my mind.

bmw-m3-e30-2995003_1920.jpgIf your hood gets stuck there’s an addition in the E30 which allows you to enter a screwdriver and make sure that the hood is released. This one seems so simple; you should be able to adjust things easily after all.

Not all secret parts are hidden or practical. The Spatz cars have additions which might cause a bit of confusion. Designers found they had room for a number of clocks on the dashboard. But instead of just having clocks they decided to paint on several analogue faces, just for design’s sake I suppose.

All this goes to show that the secret parts might help to sell a car, or alternately, confuse a potential buyer.

Keep a sharp eye out for the part two in this series, because there is a car out there with a secret feature that’s not strictly legal…

What’s news: truck wars continue.

You may have noticed that we’re not weighing on the auto workers strike. In one hand it’s a fairly cyclical thing, natural to collective bargaining and on the other it represents an utter failure on the part of an industry that is doing it’s best to ignore deeper issues and no one is really innocent.

In other words, why report on the staff if the Titanic rearranging deck chairs. When they start working together to be relevant again that will truly be news… until then it’s back to something happy.

Here’s more on the battle for truck dominance.

And here is an interesting take on third quarter sales.

Best of the Web: Drifting a Big Rig?!?

Our staff ran into this little six minute gem that will drop you jaw for sure. Wait for the ice trick, it’s astounding! The rig is modified, obviously, 1100BHP powered semi truck. It’s set in Fursten Forest(Germany).

Big thanks to the mechanics at Tire Kickers for pointing this one out to us. Get your cars inspected folks. What’s your excuse? It’s not the right time? When is it ever the right time?

 

First Car Buying–Sage Advice Part 2

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Op-Ed by Paul Wimsett and AR Bunch

As a follow up to the last article, what’s the best standard advice or conventional wisdom around what car to buy, as a first car. Well, if you are a teenager with an unrealistic sense of financial responsibility (which is actually a trend these days), then we do have some advice for you.

If you chose a car that has sold well for a long time you’ll probably find a make & model that hasn’t built a bad reputation and you’ll be able to find parts for it for many years.

You should also think about buying a car that’s already been broken in, and lost the rapid depreciation you get when a new car is now slightly used. So right now you’re looking for model years 2013 to 2016. If you have a good steady job, try to buy them 3 years old and sell them at 6 years old. The best selling car by year were:

Best Seller 2012 & 2013

#1
Ford F-Series
763,402 645,316 18.3%
#2
Chevrolet Silverado
480,414 418,312 14.8%
#3
Toyota Camry
408,484 404,886 0.9%
#4
Honda Accord
366,678 331,872 10.5%
#5
Dodge Ram
355,673 293,363 21.2%
#6
Honda Civic
336,180 317,909 5.7%
#7
Nissan Altima
320,723 302,934 5.9%
#8
Honda CR-V
303,904 281,652 7.9%
#9
Toyota Corolla/Matrix
302,180 290,947 3.9%

Chart by Good Car Bad Car

Best Seller 2014  & 2015

#1
Toyota Camry
429,355 428,606 0.2%
#2
Toyota Corolla
363,332 339,498 7.0%
#3
Honda Accord
355,557 388,374 -8.4%
#4
Honda Civic
335,384 325,981 2.9%
#5
Nissan Altima
333,398 335,644 -0.7%
#6
Ford Fusion
300,170 306,860 -2.2%
#7
Hyundai Elantra
241,706 222,023 8.9%
#8
Chevrolet Cruze
226,602 273,060 -17.0%
#9
Hyundai Sonata
213,303 216,936 -1.7%

Chart by Good Car Bad Car

Best Seller 2016

  1. Ford F-Series: 820,799. +5.2%. Ford.
  2. Chevrolet Silverado: 574,876. -4.3% …
  3. RAM Trucks: 489,418. +8.7%. …
  4. Toyota Camry: 388,616. -9.5%. …
  5. Honda Civic: 366,927. +9.4%. …
  6. Toyota Corolla: 360,483. -0.8%. …
  7. Honda CR-V: 357,335. +3.4%. …
  8. Toyota RAV4: 352,139. +11.6%

So putting it all together the first thing you’ll want to do is decide if you want a truck or a passenger car, but that’s a topic for a different sage advice post. For now lets ignore the trucks. The list really looks more like this…

#1 Toyota Camry

Tie for #2 Toyota Carolla & RAV4, Honda Accord, Honda Civic, Honda CR-V, & Nissan Altima.

There is one other factor, which is expert opinions on what was a good buy at the time. Without taking time to justify this opinion, since it is an “Op-ED” lets include the chronically under-rated, Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata & Elantra.

Now that you have a list or potentials, you need to start test-driving. This is where it gets dicey. The best way to test the cars you might want is to go to a car lot determined not to buy. (Literally, come up with some terrible thing you will do to punish yourself if you break down and buy something and tell a friend about it.)

But go where all the cars are and sit in them to figure out what fits you. That way you have narrowed it down to just a couple models and a small age range when you start looking for the right deal to make.

Once you have picked the right model and year you’re ready to establish the right price. This is easier than ever, fortunately, and it doesn’t require knowing a car curmudgeon like us. Any car is a good deal, depending on your needs and abilities. Can you fix minor problems yourself? Is your job one that will let you come in a little late if you get broken down unexpectedly. Really, you want a safe car, but maybe you can skimp on the super safe features a little because you’re a teenager who hasn’t learned that life is a thin flame in a hurricane of wind and rain.

money-1425581_1920Then its just a question of paying the right price for the exact vehicle. What makes it a bad deal is paying what comparable cars are worth when the car before you is not a good representation of that model. There is only one way to know the car you’re buying is priced right, and that’s getting it inspected. You need an expert who works for you, not the car lot, to examine the vehicle.

Its unbelievable how compelling car dealerships make it sound that they have inspected the vehicle and wouldn’t sell it if it weren’t good. Of course they inspected it. Of course they got rid of the junk. They bough it blind at auction! The first thing they did is check to see if they got a steal or got burned. Of course they turned around and re-auctioned the worst of the ones they bought. None of that means the car they kept is priced accurately for the condition its in! It helps a little if they give you a year warranty, but lets be real, they tend to warranty the parts that aren’t likely to go out or that their mechanic can visually inspect. It’s your job to know what you are buying. Don’t skip parts of the process because the dealer makes you feel foolish for asking.

Back to the question at hand, how do you know the right price? A good inspection service will come to the dealership or home of any car publicly listed for sale and inspect the car. It’ll include a test drive. It’ll also include a the use of carfax and other internet investigation which examines the history of the car, with KBB.com to show where that particular car lands compared to other cars of its make and model, that have sold locally, in the recent passed. Its the combination of all the information that can give you the actual value of the car before you–which is powerful information to have when negotiated the price you want to pay.

Look for Next Monday’s Sage advice to learn about cars and savings.