Trying a Test Drive

There’s a number of things you can’t determine from a test drive, such as safety features and reliability. Many people feel guilty about taking a car on an overnight test drive, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.

If you require a test drive, it may be tougher to do a private sale–dealerships are set up for a test drive. Ironically, if you want the car inspected, you may have more luck getting a private seller to let your mechanic or pre-purchase inspector look at the vehicle. We recommend prepurchase inspection and not just because one of our sponsors ( is a leading provider of car inspections. One of the largest used car dealers in the US absolutely forbids you from getting a prepurchase inspection…makes you wonder why, doesn’t it?

The challenging thing about test driving a car is trying to evaluate the value and safety of the car while also determining if it’s a good car for you. Pulling double duty here is the primary reason you should get a prepurchase inspection so you don’t have to think about anything except if the car is a good fit for you.

Before you drive the car:

Before you go on test drive you might like to check around the car for dents, rust and cracks. Check the windshield for little nicks. Kick the tires—take a close look at them. Take a flashlight with you and shine it on the brake pads. It’s your  responsibility to verify working brakes before you drive a vehicle.

After walking around the car, look under the hood. Check for obvious problems and check too, that the engine is cold. Sometimes when a seller knows the car has trouble starting cold, they’ll make sure to run the engine a bit before your scheduled to drive the car.

The engine should be quiet when it runs. Leave the hood up, start the car and get back out to close the hood. Listen for clicks and knocks that you can’t hear inside the cabin.

How easy do you find getting in and out? It’s these little things that determine a sale.

Are the instruments clear to you? Can you reach the controls? How easy is it to reverse? Look at the handling-can you drive it without the need of adjustment?

It helps to find out how your children find it, if they require child seats do they fit as well as the previous one? Is there enough space for their feet? And so forth.

During the Drive:

Changing gears shouldn’t be clunky and cause a crunching sound, doing so may be sign of wear.

While driving slowly down a neighborhood road let the steering wheel go and see if the car is pulling in one direction or the other. A little probably okay since most roads aren’t level, but a lot could mean you need an alignment. Slow to 10 miles an hour and jam on the brakes. The steering should be responsive, and the brakes should only stop in a straight line.

The test drive looks at the drivability or roadworthiness of the vehicle. How simple is it to operate? How are the signals and the brakes?

Car sellers seem to get nervous when you take the car down a hill, but it’s one of those things new drivers have to check. How does the car steer while feathering the brakes.

You do need to look at how the car handles in a town road, country road and on highways, just so that aren’t any surprises. Ideally, you could see how the car handles different weather conditions, but since you only have a weekend to test drive this would be asking too much.

You should also look at low speed maneuverability and parking as this can be a problem with new cars. Does it work as well as other cars you have driven?

There is technology to help you park these days, but some cars are harder to park than others. Definitely try to park the vehicle to see how hard it is. If you know you struggle with things like parallel parking, consider eliminating cars from your list that don’t have that tech, before you ask for a test drive.

An electric car especially needs to be taken for a test drive, you may not be familiarwith how to charge it for instance. You either need to be able to drive to work on a single charge or find somewhere to charge it when you’re at work. Some employers have become used to supplying a charge station at their place of work, it depends on the demand.

In the end, the question is–does the car feel right?

What Bad Steering May Mean

If your car pulls to one side that means that the alignment of the wheels is off-you should get your wheels aligned as soon as you get new tires. This is known as a torque steer. It is rather dangerous so it is important to fix.

A “memory steer” is when the car seems to continue in the same direction when you release the wheel instead of coming back to true. You might be a lack of air in the tires or worn out parts like suspension or steer.

Should the car move forward in reverse on a hill, this is a sign that gravity is more powerful than your car’s idle. The idle is set according to the vehicle’s specs, but as the car ages it can lose power. Having the idle set too high burns extra gas at stop lights so just make sure your mechanic is setting it to factory specs and hold the brake and apply some gas when on a hill. Don’t shift to reverse and then let the car be pulled forward because you might damage the engine.

Side Note: It may seem ridiculous but it’s worth mentioning–You can still drive with the handbrake pulled if you have enough throttle. DON’T! Driving with the brakes on damages your brakes as well as your transmission so it is not recommended.

Steering Rack Issues

A steering rack is another name for the rack and pinion steering system and consists of universal joints, main and intermediate shafts; the central unit is the part that receives information. The steering rack when it wears out can cause a considerable hazard. If you have an older car that seems to always have an alignment issue, have your mechanic check the steering rack.

When the tilt function of the wheel doesn’t work the wheel cannot be positioned correctly. Again, it is because of the steering rack.

Does the wheel seem to wobble to and fro of its own volition? If so, it is impossible to drive as well as highly dangerous—call your mechanic immediately. It takes a few days to replace a steering rack.

When it’s not the Steering Rack:

Another condition to watch out for is needing to make a large turn in order to make the car move forward, it is not safe at all. The power steering or an associated mechanism could be breaking down.

If the steering wheel feels quite tight and is harder to turn than usual it could just be that it needs more power steering fluid. (These are cars without electrical power steering). Other signs to watch out for are groaning sounds, especially while turning and a smell of burning oil, or maybe a squeaking sound. If the fluid is changed constantly this will prevent the problem somewhat.

A clunking or grinding noise may indicate that the steering rack is constantly rubbing against metal. It’s due to the steering rack wearing out, where seeing a mechanic comes in.

It could however be due to “struts” which are connected to the steering rods. Because replacing the steering rack is so expensive it is vital to get it right.

When Steering Problems Occur

After discovering a problem, you should attempt to get off the road as quickly as possible but make sure also it is safe to do so.

Another symptom to keep an eye out for is that the steering wheel feels lose and doesn’t seem to return to the center. The vehicle might seem unstable and you may not be able to keep it in the right lane. With a bad steering system every obstacle such as a pothole becomes twice as hard to negotiate. So take any sound or maneuverability issue as serious and get it to a mechanic ASAP.

Texan Car Factories

There is a long history of car manufacture in Texas, as early as 1917 a plant in Fort Worth. As many companies manufacture in a number of states it’s hard to find an individual characteristic that explains why a particular car is made a particular place. For instance, we may associate Cadillacs with Texas, but they were originally from Michigan. Still, if car makers prefer to locate factories there, either the State government is friendly to them (tax wise) or Texans as enterprising individuals.

The reason why cars were first made in Texas was to do with promising tax breaks. The first factory created Chevrolet’s. It didn’t look that much like a factory; the windows were too big. It would be satisfying to say the first car was a success, but it was given to a local reporter who promptly crashed it – so much for promotions.

The tax breaks for Chevrolets unfortunately didn’t last beyond 1922 and the factory had to close. Fortunately, a similar one opened in downtown Fort Worth.

“Texans” by Plymouth/ Dodge were also made in Fort Worth in 1922, almost forgotten about now. Their slogan was “first in endurance, durability and speed.” They might have had too much of the last feature with a massive 35 hp, more than they cope with. In their glory days they produced 20 cars a day, but it seems they did not live up to demand.

One factory that is still running is at Arlington – Arlington Assembly. The factory has operated more than 60 years creating large SUVs and Chevrolet and Cadillac, although when it started in 1954 it also made aircraft. During the 1990’s they also made roadsters such as the Buick Roadmaster. The names were reminiscent of long past – The Chevrolet Monte Carlo, the Oldsmobile Cutlass, the Pontiac Chieftain, despite this only being the 1990’s.

As with other factories they have recently moved into battery powered cars, with many developing cell technologies. The Chevrolet Volt was the first mass market plug-in hybrid. The Tahoe, described as a “full-sized SUV” with several versatile features, is also produced here. There are plans for a new underbody for both the Tahoe and Suburban – other improvements are more cargo space and electro-hydraulic brakes for both vehicles.

At this factory plans were announced in December 2019 for an expansion costing 1.6 million. In addition to this, there will be a $1.4 billion spent on an improved body and paint shops. So, it doesn’t appear this factory is going anywhere soon.

Tesla chose Austin to build a plant for the Cybertruck and the site also produces the Model Y, a small SUV. Reports say that they are concentrating on the East Coast, not the whole US, planning to invest $1 billion. Since they are planning to have a Cybertruck out there in 2021 they may need to get a move on.

Another car maker in Texas which don’t immediately trip off the tongue is Union Tank Car Company. Their focus is railway engines and carriages, but they also manufacture cars. And as with many automakers they manufacture in other states as well.

The Pain of Tolls

The payments involved in a running a car seems never-ending, maintenance, insurance, tax. But most annoying of these is probably tolls. It is always important to know how to pay a toll before you travel on a specific road: the onus is on you, should you wish to travel from one state or another or through a number of states.

The term toll road is mainly west coast terminology. In the east tolls exist but they’re called turnpikes.

Shunpiking – is the term for cheating tolls by running tollbooths or concealing tags (RFID). It has unfortunately increased, especially in areas where the toll is thought to be too high or when the road isn’t managed properly. Shunpiking – from shun meaning to avoid and turnpike which is the old name for a toll road. Of course, people have been trying to evade tolls as long as they’re have been tolls to avoid.

History of Tolls:

In Nevada, 100 toll roads were laid between 1850-1880. This was to finance stagecoach companies and mining countries, though it is now run by individual organizations such as Transportation Corridor Agencies in Florida 

In the east, the highways were nearly all toll-roads by 1950s, only 10% of road funding came from taxes. So, it’s a long-held tradition.

Legal Ways to Skip Tolls:

A boycott occurred at the James River Bridge in Eastern Virginia, starting from 1955. Trucks of the Smithfield Packing Company who always used the bridge before, were told by their employer to take a different route. This continued for twenty years until finally the toll was dropped.

Legal ways of skipping the toll exist. With a little bit of research, you can route around them. Take the Delaware Turnpike and similar ones in Pennsylvania and Oklahoma. In fact, some toll roads exist merely as a shortcut to bypass a congested artery.

Sometimes a private landowner fights government attempts to acquire their land for a road but succumbs to an opportunity to make far more money by leasing the land to a developer who builds a toll road across it. Want to get there for free? A way exists. Want to get there fast, pay a little and you can.

Paying Tolls:

When it comes to paying the tolls there are easy way to do it, such as the E-Z Pass on the north- eastern roads. In some cases, the license plates are registered, in other cases, drivers pay after they used the road. Some sites such as a FasTrack account (which works in California, including San Francisco’s Golden Gare Bridge) allow for the addition of a temporary number plate, e.g. from a rented car.

Transponders are a common way to pay tolls; they record your badge to charge your tolls, either by check or by debit cards. Sometimes by prepay and other times after each use. These are a good way of saving you money if you regularly pay tolls. Look at the math and see what the best option is. (Why this method of payment is called a “transponder” is a bit of a mystery., it’s some kind of wireless device, nothing to do with transport or the internet as such).

When using a manned toll booth take some time to count your cash. An unmanned toll booth tends to use a basket, it’s important to have the correct change.

As well as toll roads you need to pay extra money to use High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes or express lanes. Much like the private toll roads mentioned earlier, these lanes exist to allow you to skip the congestion for a small fee. It’s probably worth it if you are trying keep to a deadline.

What’s news: Amazon new EV delivery van

“Amazon unveiled its first all-electric delivery van on Thursday. The vehicle, built by EV startup Rivian, will come with state-of-the-art technology, like sensing equipment and an advanced driver-assist system. The e-commerce giant says it expects to have 10,000 vans on the road making deliveries “as early as 2022,” with a total fleet of 100,000 vehicles expected by 2030.”

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Best of the web: Bronco looking good dolled up

  • Ford just revealed the 2021 Bronco Overland concept, which is built on a four-door Badlands model.
  • It has 17-inch Fifteen52 wheels wrapped in 35-inch mud-terrain tires, a Yakima rooftop tent, and an ARB fridge in the back.
  • The four-door Bronco starts at $34,695 and will go on sale in the spring

Unveiled and on display at Bronco Super Celebration East in Townsend, Tennessee—the biggest classic Bronco gathering in North America—the Overland Concept is based on a four-door 2021 Badlands model painted in Area 51 colors.

Story link 1

Story link 2

Car Buying On A Budget

There are a number of things that might go wrong buying a cheaper car. For starters, some automakers have a better reputation for reliability and maintaining value even at high mileage. You will see that reflected in what’s not available at many used car lots.

So, there is an increased chance of getting a lemon, and it’s unlikely to be green car if that’s your desire. Most people’s first cars need to be a cheap car, so let’s dive into the topic.

Strategy #1 Do you really need a car?

Do you even need a car? Maybe look towards buying a motorbike or similar. Okay, you still have to look at tax and insurance, but it does bring some of the costs down. Or, perhaps you could continue with mass transit until you can afford a reliable car.

Strategy #2 Really ask yourself what your must have in a car!

Look at which sort of car you want. Is it just for two people or a family car? Should you wish to compare prices there are a number of websites that do that. Get a sense of what cars cost by shopping online before your ever talk to a salesman. (, (, (

Strategy #3 Small Car

You are looking at a small car, such as a Volkswagen or Toyota Yaris. If you are looking at a secondhand car you may avail yourself with more choice, but top-of-the-league motors may be out of your league, like something like the Octavia.

Small cars tend to be less expensive. Especially used.

Strategy #4 Buying Used.

Buying second hand can add to the number of breakdowns. If it does break down often it you may still be able to use it as a commuter car, just not for traveling long distance.

If you have some skills with a wrench, maybe a car with some problems is a good way to save money. Put in the sweat equity and get more bang for your buck. If you aren’t a skilled mechanics and you have to pay for service, you may spend what you saved and more on a mechanic’s bill.

Do some additional research on the cost and availability of parts for different makes and models of cars. You want to find a car with an engine that was used for many years on more than one model of car.

Strategy #4 Budget

While you’re on the web researching, definitely compare the price of insurance, which can change if the car is too old or too new. Budgeting isn’t a sexy topic but it’s step 1 in car shopping.

If you need it there is also online budget planners to look at fuel, insurance, maintenance, service and vehicle tax along with the household costs. Edmunds has one so does NerdWallet.

It’s always a good idea to stick to the budget as much as possible. A car loan (against the value of the vehicle) can make car buying ore doable. The problems come from paying it all back. You can help yourself a lot by raising your credit score.


Just because you are on a budget there’s no reason why you should get conned; always have someone with you when you see the car. Have a mechanic check it over, or better yet, have a pre-purchase inspection from a company like Tirekickers .

In closing, as well as cost you need to look at practical matters, like how big is your garage? Do you have parking near where you live? Would you need to start paying for parking near work?

You can’t be prepared for every eventuality, but you might see why buying on a small budget can introduce extra considerations. As a last practicality, consider buying a big car because if you screw up your budget too badly, you’ll be living in it.

The Car Wrecker

When you hear the term wrecker you probably think of one of two terms. Either the vehicle that transports a broken vehicle or the yard they transport it too, if it can’t be fixed.

The Tow Truck

Some companies can pick up cars or “wrecks” from outside your house or at the scene of an accident and transport it directly to the junk yard. In this case the is sometimes no upfront fee as the insurance company will settle up with them later.

Some places in the world charge differently for towing depending on the vehicle weight. Large trucks do require a larger specialized tow truck in order to hall them. Some vehicles can’t be towed via their back to wheels, so many tow trucks began using flat bed trucks that are able to lift the entire vehicle off the ground. This is a safer way to transport any vehicle and has since become the standard.

The Junk Yard

When a car has received damage such that the repairs are more costly than the value of the vehicle, then it is considered totaled. That’s not to say that it has no value at all. Your car will be essentially purchased by the insurance company and you’re given a check in exchange for the vehicle. What the insurance company will do with it is sell it to a wrecking yard.

Sometimes a car isn’t in an accident. It simply breaks down, but due to its age and condition it’s not worth repairing. In these cases, you can sell your vehicle to the wrecking yard.

According to various sources, a junk yard pays about $250-$500 for a car. They’re obviously getting a deal because they’re buying something no one else really wants—a transportation machine that can no longer safety transport anything. However, the remaining car body and mechanical parts have value so the wrecking yard can make money on it. When all the decent parts are sold, the picked-over carcass is sold for scrap metal, at which point the junk dealer is paid for the weight of the steel, minus the cost to remove the hazardous materials like oil, coolant, and transmission fluid.

In valuing a car the junk yard will look at the year, make and model. It is worth less if it is missing vital parts such as wheels or an engine. Their parts computer literally takes into account if the car was struck from front, back, or either side because this affects what parts are likely to be okay for resale.

Wrecking yards often sort, or even specialize in keep vehicles by category–vintage, classic cars or early models and late models, foreign or domestic.

When the vehicle is stored at a wrecking yard the computer registers what parts ought to be usable and lists it, as a group, online so it can be searched by other wrecking yards or auto parts stores. If the part must be shipped the wrecker pulls the part and ships it.

Some junk yards allow you to pull the part yourself for a lower price. When there is only a few parts left on a vehicle the wrecker pulls the rest of the good arts for storage in a warehouse and then sends the rest of the car to be crushed. Up to 75% of the vehicle can be recycled if it wasn’t reused as parts.

Turning in a Cart

You should hand in the documents and paperwork together-you need photo ID that it’s your vehicle (in the old days if you had the forms it was enough, now the authorities are more prudent.

In general, the car needs to be fully registered and insured, even if you’re not driving it into the junkyard yourself. Another document you need is the vehicle title. Sometimes you have lost the title, in which case you can apply to your state’s DMV for a replacement.

In Maryland for example you will also need to remove your license plate before the car is scrapped. But many states have different rules. Should you have no use for the plates (say that you are moving to a new state for instance) you may be able to get money back from it, for the time you won’t be driving that vehicle.

Some drivers take parts of the car before it is scrapped but remember if you do that you will get less money, depending on which parts you remove.

Make sure that the yard deals in cars and it’s worthwhile looking online for the best value junkyard. It’s not advisable to use unlicensed junk yards.

You need to let your DMV know that the car has been scrapped (this puts you in the clear if for some convoluted reason the car turns out not to be scrapped). You may need to visit them in person to fill in the forms. They’ll issue you some sort of certificate of scrappage (it has different names from state to state). All the paperwork and formality is created because of car theft and fraud.

Having scrapped the car, you can now invest the money you receive into a new and improved automobile.