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.

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Best of the Web: supercar auction?

Credit Bonham’s

Story Link
Swiss authorities confiscated the luxury stash of vehicles from Obiang in 2016 after an investigation into money laundering. All the cars were sold without a reserve price and none had racked up more than just a few thousand miles

Lightweight Cars

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Caterham 7

“Lightweight” is a subjective term but many cars, usually sporty varieties have special techniques to get the weight down. Reducing the weight can increase road performance, cost to manufacture and fuel economy. Lightweight can refer to hardcore sports cars and many of the mass market cars as well. The challenge is to have the same horsepower as a more built up car in the lighter model.

There is the Caterham 7 for example which only weighs 1,201 lbs. They market themselves as “less is more” and with good reason. The tubular steel chassis is apparently important to make the car so light. Should you have the opportunity to see it on the racetrack you’ll be impressed with the Caterham’s fantastic top speed–155 MPH.

Ariel Atom

Ariel Atom

On the other hand, the Ariel Atom might resemble driving a go-cart. The light weight is accomplished through what the company calls Lightweight Innovative Flexible Technology, which is car jargon for a “double unequal length wishbones” which is really just o a pair of flexible components which slightly resemble a wishbone. The suspension doesn’t just move up and down so dump that Y Shape in your mind’s eye and picture instead thick strands of hair. We’re assuming there’s still something wishbone-like about the design.

The way the Lotus Elise Sprint managed to shave off the pounds was by substituting carbon fiber for the metal used in making the car. The designers couldn’t just leave it at that, so they also redesigned the interior and added a new instrument panel with Bluetooth. It seems it’s not just about being light with Lotus Elise Sprint it’s also about creating a brilliant experience while you drive.

210300Another car which uses carbon fiber is the Noble M600. It is given the description “Superlight” by its marketing team. There are three different types of M600; the Coupe, the CarbonSport and the Speedster (the original version was the Coupe).  Perhaps the most unique feature here isn’t the weight but the fully bespoke interior meaning you have to design it yourself. Clever marketers call it an “unlimited color palette.” Could you design a car’s interior? Yeah, us neither.

mazda-1296295_1920.jpgAnother popular example is the Mazda Miata. In common with the Noble M600, it comes in three different trims; those being Sport, Club and Grand Touring. The Grand Touring price tag weighs the most. Despite the lightness in weight they still have both back and front suspension as well as power assist. Many of the cars above skimp on the power steering, but to be fair, lighter cars don’t need as much. Perhaps the Miata targets a crowd with a smaller physical stature.

ktm-x-bow-gt-photos-and-info-news-car-and-driver-photo-503669-s-originalThe KTM X-Bow GT may look like a racing car but it’s still a brilliant car to drive on the streets. The most unusual item that the X-Bow comes with is a luggage system, but it does have some additions which might suit a racing car, a center console, sun visors; a windshield with no actual frame and so on. The design calls to mind Tony the Tiger, but it sort of pulls it off, if that makes sense.

This is by no means an exhaustive list…there’s no end of light weights, and that’s okay.

The First Car Buying–Sage Advice Part 1

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Op-Ed by Paul Wimsett and A.R. Bunch

Let us talk directly to some of you on those of you late teens for this blog, with the voice of a couple car experts instead of your over-protective parent…which I’m sure have already weighed in.

There comes a point in your life as a teenager where you have “come of age” and require your own mode of transport. Though you may be tempted to look for a sports car, or even something like an SUV these aren’t recommended. Just like your “rents” have been preaching, the best type of car is a simple, late model, mid-size passenger cars. Here’s why…

This is about more than just trying to break away from being ferried around by our parents. It’s bigger and more symbolic than that; it’s a machine which can take you (within reason) wherever YOU want to go. Instead of, stand here at this time and I’ll get you, it’s be home by a certain time. The subtle difference is huge because now you are responsible for everything it takes to hit the mark and all the free time that responsibility creates. Therefore, the fastest way to more freedom with your car is to impress your parents with your car buying decision.

Making a good choice in purchase:

What you might not immediately consider are airbags but if you are learning to drive, they are definitely a good idea. Go for side air-bags as well. You might also look for an anti-lock braking system, just to be on the safe side. When you voluntarily pick a safe car, it signals your parents to worry less about you.

The first car might be one that we stick with quite a few years. After all, how long will it take before we can afford a new one? That being the case you can’t just buy the cheapest car you see, chances are that it will only break down. No, it needs to be relatively inexpensive, but operable.

You can avoid a lot of haggling with pros (car dealerships) by shopping private sales online. To avoid scammers, robbers, and worse kinds of creeps, mention that you’re going to have the car inspected by a mobile service like Tire Kickers. Be ready to pay in cash to make the purchase a simple transaction and bring someone with you who has some life experience. (Aunt Sally the x-marine will do nicely).

Obviously, never digitally hand over a deposit for a car you haven’t seen, just because the guy says he’s had a lot of interest—there’re actually a lot of decent cars out there so don’t worry.

Here are two pieces of advice that will serve you well in life–Don’t show your fear & haggle a little. There seller probable has more experience buying/selling cars that you do, but they don’t know that for sure until you open your mouth. Just nod and agree with what they say, and if the amount’s too high and they won’t haggle, the best thing to do is move on. Always haggle a little, because it actually reduces the remorse after the fact—wondering if you over paid. Just because they’re asking more than the car is worth doesn’t mean they need to come down in price, they might fail to sell it to several more people before coming to that conclusion. Sales fall through for dumb reasons all the time. Don’t let it get you down, just move on to the next car.

You’re probably noticing a theme to this section—don’t fall in love with the car before you buy it. That’s literally the job of a car salesman at a car lot—get you to fall in love with it before you talk money. So think logically about your car until you own it, then fall in love with it.

Is color important to a car? NO! go back and re-read the last paragraph! Holy cow, did you already forget the lesson. If you’re excited about the color you are not buying right. Look at the engine, the interior, the acceleration, the fuel economy, how suitable a car is for your needs. Then you can work out if it is the right color or not. (One exception: you can turn a car down if the color is too awful.)

What your Parents Aren’t Thinking:

Most teens assume that their Mom or Dad is primarily concerned with price. They don’t want you to overpay, but they don’t want you to drive an ancient gas guzzler either. Sometimes you might have to adjust your ambitions. Don’t worry about your parents; it’s probably you who will have to keep up with payments.

I know we just said to pay cash for the car, why are we talking about payments?

There is a way to finance a car and pay cash if you can pull it off. Some of the smartest teens we’ve interviewed were able to make an arrangement with their parents. They worked and saved up most of the down payment for their vehicle purchase. Then they looked around for the general type of vehicle they wanted and went to their parents with an offer. Match the down payment and co-sign a personal loan. This sort of loan isn’t tied to the vehicle. If you stop paying your parents will have to make the payments. Many banks won’t consider an unsecured loan because they want the title to the car as collateral, but with your parent’s signature and a sizable down payment some of them will. This allows you to take the amount of money you need out of the loan to buy the car in cash.

Paying cash gets you the best price on a car, usually, and by owning the title you can potentially reduce the cost of your insurance.

The key here is picking a car that your parents are impressed that you chose and try and keep to any agreed budget.

Good luck in buying your new car and here’s to safe driving out there.

PS if your parents don’t agree to help you buy a car you have only two recourses. 1) find ways to get better grades, a promotion at your job, and act more responsibly. 2) use your down payment money to buy a motorcycle…your parents will change there mind about the car…

motorcycle-4182173__480

Standing Up in Cars

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If you’re riding in a car you’re probably sitting down. But if you have ridden in a bus a number of times it’s likely you’ve stood up. And if you drove a Segway or an e-scooter you definitely stood up to operate it, there’s no other way to make it work.

So why is there no standing up in cars? It’s such a simple idea, yet you’ve probably never thought about it before. Cars are full of people sitting down, that’s just how it is.

There is some logic in the sitting down car, evidently. Cars came from horse drawn carriages and when passengers rode in them, they sat. Having said that, one style of coach used as a taxi, called a hack, did require the coachman to stand while holding the reigns and looking over the roof of the passenger apartment, but most styles of coach did have a place for the driver to sit.

The Toyota FV2 is one vehicle which hoped to fix this discrepancy. It’s described as a Segway on steroids and surprisingly it’s supposed to have the power to read minds. It slightly resembles a land-yacht, except it works by motor, not sail.

The problem here is that was introduced in 2015 and many people still haven’t heard of it. The marketing theme is making cars “fun to drive” but seems more likely to make cars far too exhausting to drive. The inventors did say they were looking at tech that will be discovered in 5 to 10 years’ time, which is the way of concept cars, but it still seems the need for this type of vehicle has yet to arrive, and maybe will never fully arrive.

The other revolutionary principle of the Toyota FV2 is that it removes the driver from having to use a steering wheel, clutch or brake. Everything is done by body movements itself. But as said before, we don’t really like to drive this way, or so it seems.

Then there is the Honda Wander Stand, which resembles a saltshaker which you have to drive around. Was Hando just trying to reinvent the mobility scooter, no, they did that with the Honda Wander Walker already. Where the Wander walker would allow a person with limited mobility to navigate among pedestrians, the Wander Stand allows for safety among other cars…in theory.

The futuristic Sole is for short distance commuting. Its selling point is that driving in a car is sedentary; why not raise the passenger up so they travel more “normally?” It’s also ideal when there is a lack of parking space and areas for turning, though it does give off the appearance of being top-heavy.

Although there are some suggestions that using such vehicles solve congestion, the main effect would seem to be that no one goes out because they get exhausted standing up in a vehicle for long periods of time. It’s all right for short periods of time, spending hours there might prove trickily for the average driver. Imagine getting stuck in traffic in one of these.

If you have a back injury, then sitting for a long period might be an issue. If you have genuine interest in a vehicle that lets you stand up, you might investigate acquiring one of these concept vehicles. But be warned, concept cars serve as a platform to test out radical ideas. Most of the ideas don’t make it to market and rarely does the concept car get adopted as a whole. The difficulty with concepts is that they never seem to spread across the whole market.

Best of the Web: New Honda CR-V… hybrid

  • Honda is adding a hybrid version of the CR-V compact crossover for 2020, which promises significantly higher mpg.
  • Other 2020 CR-V models get revised styling and a few new features, while the base 2.4-liter engine is gone, meaning the turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder is now standard.
  • Nonhybrid 2020 CR-V models will go on sale this fall, with hybrid versions arriving at the beginning of next year.

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Hands free while driving?

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A massive 80% of the American public believe that hands free technology is safer than a normal cell phone and this is simply not true.

Using a cell phone, even a hands free one, is thought to be more distracting than listening to the radio or CD. A study in Queensland, Australia found that the reaction time was 40% longer if they were using hands free mobile, compared to just listening to the radio, the equivalent of 11 meters travelled before reaction, which could be difference between life and death.

The study negated the obvious distractions like holding your phone or looking at pictures, and measured actual conversation while not holding a phone against conversation with people in the car. The findings were shocking, leading to the conclusion that the “cognitive load” or the pressure of the brain having to focus on a conversation elsewhere is enough to cause a distraction. Conversing with people in your car is not so distracting to most people, as people in the car are aware that distracting a driver is equally dangerous to themselves.

A number of rear-end crashes seem to be linked to having a cell phone conversation. It’s possible that having a conversation with someone who’s not actually present activates the imagination more. It all comes down to whether or not you are using the mind to contemplate what is going on in front of you.

The problem is that many phones and devices have created hands-free modes. There is a hands-free Android for example. They have tried to get round this by reducing the “noise” or distraction caused having such conversations. Unfortunately it is still not safe enough. The difference in reaction times is somewhat comparable with alcohol.

road-44407_1280There have been efforts over recent years to create a “Do Not Disturb” period when driving. The difficulty is that the office (or gig work, or the family, or whatever) does tend to impose on quiet times. One idea is to program Siri to answer the phone for you and you simple create a verbal response to the content of the call. But since Siri isn’t a person physically present it’s not likely to be less distracting.

Maybe some research needs to be done in this area? After all both require the driving coming up with questions to phrase and then listening to a response. The plus point is that a Siri will tend to stay focused, rather than a colleague/friend/ relative who has no idea what is happening in the car. Can Alexa be trained in the same way? It’s certainly possible.

The first rule for cell phone use was in 2012 called the MAP-21 Act which prevented the general use of cell phones while driving. As time of writing, there is a growing effort to make rules more effective. This comes in part from the widespread use of rideshare. Drivers have little use other than to use their phones while driving—it’s the method of dispatching them to the next rider they need to pick up. And anyone who’s been a driver for Uber or Lyft can tell you that your rider will text you continuously to ask where you are. Is there a single federal law in the US? Not yet.

New York State law forbids talking on a hands-free completely. (It had already banned such activities as texting and sending an e-mail). Other states may still allow hands free so it is best to check when traveling between states on the laws of distracted driving.

The rule seems to be at the moment when in doubt, don’t answer the cell phone; wait until there’s a safe time to do so. Safety may seem boring but…okay, it is. And it’s useful.

Gears and the Gearshift (for Youngsters)

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Op-Ed by Paul Wimsett and Andy Bunch

The old joke among generation X and Baby Boomers is that you can completely handicap a millennial by taking away their cellphone, giving them a manual transmission and writing the directions in cursive. Well, if you are want to understand gearshifts but don’t want to appear foolish by asking about it, here’s the skinny. Sorry, here’s the 4-1-1.

Those of us who grew up with gear shits are united by a common memory having the driver reach over and invade your space every time they needed to change a gear—which is pretty much all the time. The worst was the pickup trucks, which often had bench seats. If you had to fit in three people, and you lost the ro sham bo, you had to sit in the middle and move your legs all the time.

steering-801807_1920When car makers developed the automatic transmission, they moved the gear selector to the steering column which improved life immensely. As car makers increasingly started installing bucket seats in the front most modern cars have a “gear selectors” which looks like a gear shift, but instead of manually operating a physical gear box the way a manual stick shift does, it merely selects the gear for the automatic transmission.

(On a side note: some high end sports models allow for a manual operation of the automatic transmission by adding functionality to the gear selector.)

But by far, the biggest difference between manual and automatic is the amount of time it takes when first learning to drive a car.

To Operate a Manual

Since we know all of you can already drive a stick I know you’ll all be skipping this section, but just in case you don’t know how…

In order to engage the engine the driver must depress a pedal on the floor, called a clutch pedal. This disengages the engine from the drive train which powers the wheels. With the clutch depressed the driver must select a gear and slowly release the clutch while applying some gas to keep the engine from dying while it must re-engage the drive train. It’s a bit of an art form, officially known as “feathering the clutch.”

car-interior-1834270_1920The difficulty of feathering the cutch goes up exponentially when you’re attempting to start on a hill. The dreaded “hill start” is so bad because the moment you depress the clutch the car begins to roll backwards. The answer to going uphill is getting the engine engaged quickly. So effectively the driver must engage the engine before the car runs into another car behind it, but not so quickly that it kills the engine instantly.

If everything is going well there should be a slight vibration. Only now should you release the clutch pedal. Should you wish to accelerate further continue to take your foot off the foot pedal and put your other foot on the accelerator pedal.

Do you always need a gear shaft?

Not necessarily – sports cars often have levers known as paddles. One paddle shifts up a gear and the other down. Formula One cars also have paddles but they are mounted on the steering wheel. This complicated procedure is definitely not suited for the amateur and even paddles haven’t made their way into the mainstream. However, paddle shifter on the steering wheel in place or a gear selector on an automatic transmission has made it into the mainstream, but this isn’t the same thing as a true paddle shift.

Special Accommodation

It can be hard for those with either limited mobility or arthritis to operate a manual gearshift because it requires a certain amount of force. Instead a special adaption needs to be made or purchased. One way that they work is pressing a comfort handle rather than adjusting the gearshaft itself. Clearly an automatic transmission is way to go, depending on your disability.

Automatic Transmissions have proven themselves reliable and simple to operate. They are easier to learn to operate and make the entire process of learning to drive simpler. They can also reduce driver fatigue for city, stop-and-go, driving.

So are Manual Transmissions Obsolete?

Not exactly! Manual transmissions are a bit more fuel efficient, because a human intelligence can keep the engine in neutral at stop lights. Most stunt drivers agree that manuals give them better performance when precision moves are required. Other than heavy traffic, most drivers who know how to operate a “stick” prefer them over automatic.

Here’s the real difference that no one really talks about. An automatic transmission is a complicated thing. It’s more likely to breakdown and when it does, it’s more expensive to fix. The other issue is that manual transmissions can be rebuilt from pretty simple parts. It’s possible to get these parts long after that particular car is no longer manufactured.

Automatic transmissions are so complicated inside that rebuilding them isn’t cheap and soon the internal parts aren’t available for order. Then the only source of a replacement transmission is a junk yard. Even the junk yard becomes difficult eventually. How soon depends on the popularity of the vehicle you bought, but generally things start getting hard to find after 10 or 12 years.

So when you buy an automatic you’re basically buying a car with a shelf life, which seems counter to the ethics of most environmentally conscious millennials.