The Truth about Renting a Car

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If you need to rent a car you’ve probably either taken a trip or had an accident. When you take a trip, and you’re footing the bill, you probably have some control over the type of car you get but when the insurance company is supplying a replacement vehicle you may discover how little input you get.

Driving a car you are not used to can be tricky, especially if it’s manual when you’re accustomed to automatic. Another curveball can come when the rental is five or eight years newer than you’ve ever driven. Many of the new bells and whistles, like autonomous driving or keyless entry, have an adjustment period.

So do what most folks never do when negotiating your insurance rate and research what the rental clause actually covers. One of our writers recently activated the loaner vehicle clause in his insurance during repairs and discovered that a “mid-sized” car is actually tiny and has only three doors.

Most Overlooked Thing

It’s important also to make note that you will need to give the car back not only when the car is fixed but alternatively when the car is considered non-repairable by the mechanic in question. It is therefore vital that you make any contingency plans (looking for cars, etc.,) while you still have access to a vehicle. While most people are optimistic that something might be done by the garage. It’s just that not having a car makes it much more difficult to shop for another car one.

Some of the more strange but somehow frequent issues while using a rental include that you’re more likely to lose your keys, you won’t recall your license plate number if you need to fill out paperwork, and not being able to fit your child’s car seat into it. Granted, these are not world-ending issues, but they stress your day if you don’t think ahead a little.

When traveling, most people default to big brands such as Hertz or Enterprise. In reality, you might be better off doing some digging on the internet to find a local company. Why choose a name you are unfamiliar with in a foreign town? Well, you might find a better deal for one thing. You might also get some good local advice, like “there is no parking for large cars in our town so we recommend our small cars” or “gas here is cheap, so why not use the largest option you can.”

If you must use an international company trying to reach a local branch directly When you reserve through the national switchboard or website you get the official rate. The local office may be slow at the time and ready to talk deals. They may also advise you on the best places in the area to visit. (PS going local is always good advice, flowers, for example, are always cheaper local than national.)

Another Tip

If you happen to be traveling you may note that airport rental companies are more expensive. This includes services that come pick you up at the airport. So one technique is to hire a rideshare to a close by the hotel. Then stand in the lobby and order your rental car delivered there. The price per day is generally worth the effort. Do a little research though because occasionally you’ll find an airport where they competition is intense and drives prices even lower than elsewhere.

Renting Trucks?

It might surprise you to know that trucks are rented a great deal more than cars, especially by huge companies. Penske and U-Haul, for example, can be found everywhere helping people move.

For those not looking to move house, but simply trying to haul a piece of equipment or load of bark dust, for example, you can often rent a pick-up truck, the most common rented vehicle of all.

A group of antique scavengers, known as “pickers,” often rent trucks instead of buying their own. This allows them to drive a more economical car while on the hunt around the country and only bring in a truck to move something big. Money is always tight when you are running a business, it seems.

There seem to be two kinds of people when it comes to rental car treatment. The more famous kind, abuse the daylights out of it, but surprisingly most people use kid gloves. Partially because we want to avoid any fees for nicks and scratches, and partially because most people treat things they don’t own with respect. If you do create a particular mess it could be worth a vacuum to avoid spending money. If you scratched the paint somehow, consider getting a little wax and buffing it out. Many tiny cosmetic issues disappear when they don’t catch the light.

Whatever your reason for renting a car it can feel good to get back behind the wheel of something you own. Life seems much more normal.

 

Converting Ambulances?!

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There are many vehicles which can be converted to ambulances. Though modern readers probably envision a large van, believe it or not only a few decades ago they used station wagons. Most ambulances these days start off life as an ambulance though they’re built on a van frame. The only real reason to alter a vehicle to an ambulance would be if you were transporting it to a foreign nation that didn’t have a local manufacturer, and then it is relatively simple to just get an old ambulance and save all the effort of converting.

ambulance-168279_1920So if converting a van seems a fruitless task what about ambulance cars? They are more widely known as a non-transporting EMS vehicle, or perhaps “rapid response vehicle.” In other words, they are a way to get the doctor to the scene of an accident. In Germany, they are also known as “Physician Cars” though clearly when you translate that into English it conjures images of a luxury vehicle a well-paid doctor might use might drive for day to day use.

They convert vehicles like the Renault Scenic, maybe due to the ease of size. The problem again that they are generally bought from the supplier as ambulances, though it goes without saying that the supplier needs to work out how best the vehicle will work as an ambulance car.

As for motorcycles you might need to change the traction control to deal with the new use. You also need foot shields, hand guards and fairing protectors. To clarify “fairings” are extra structures used to aid streamlining of the vehicle. The biggest noticeable change is the color, as ambulance motorcycles are never black; they are by and large a luminous yellow shade.

What about the other way around? How do you convert an ambulance into a regular type of vehicle?

First things first, licensing requirements vary state to state. Some states go off the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) and once something was born an ambulance it will always be one. Therefore you can turn it into anything you want for all anyone cares, but you still have to acquire the proper license to drive it. You need to make sure that you are licensed to drive such a vehicle.

What to turn an ambulance into? Good question. There aren’t that many other uses really, it’s too small for freight for instance. Possible other ideas would be a furniture truck or a catering van.

ambulance-2214593_1920However, one of the most common uses for an old ambulance is a camper van. The big draw here is that it’s a high-end van, with upgraded load capacity, and best of all, it’s already wired for the additional electric needs of a camper. You’ll need to do some additional outlets and such but it’s a lot less work than starting from a basic van. No doubt you also have to add some kind of oven, some beds, and the odd table.

Another good point about an ambulance is that it already has a backup battery which is a lifesaver if you are stuck in the middle of nowhere. You may also be able to repurpose built-in overhead lighting and heating, as well as cupboards.

You may have to change the insurance if you want to alter the purpose of a vehicle, as a camper van is classed as HGV (Heavy Goods Vehicle), whereas an ambulance is not. The distinction here is that an ambulance would have a commercial vehicle policy in addition to regular coverage. A camper van is hauling a lot of expensive equipment that you own like microwave, toaster ovens, etc.

It will be quite interesting to drive. An ambulance has a number of buttons on the dashboard that you don’t find in regular camper vans. Removing the sirens might also be something the law requires when privately owned.

This is probably a gold mine; after all, there are many ambulances for sale. But like with any gold mine it involves a certain amount of spade work. Still, you might be able to get brilliant vacations and even money from selling such vehicles on sites such as eBay. In a crowded market, it helps to have new ideas.

Surprising Glove Compartments

We wanted to name this “Past, Present, and Future of Glove Compartments” but it was a bit long and some of what we ran into was surprising. For example, the future of glove compartments is not a sure thing.

We take the idea of a glove compartment for granted, most people knowing it as an area to the left of the dashboard in front of the passenger’s chair. It is not known as the glove compartment in all areas of the US though, the other names being a cubby hole and around the Rocky Mountains the jockey box. The strangest name must be the torpedo compartment, maybe due to being an ideal spot for a villain to hide a torpedo release button? Brits call it a cubby box by the way.

 

But where does the whole thing of a glove compartment come from? Well it should be obvious that it dates back to when gloves were a prime piece of equipment for the driver. With a rough steering wheel which got oily or hot, gloves were seen as useful to keep the hands cool and clean.

The first use of the term is thanks to a racing driver, Dorothy Levitt who is believed to have used a glove compartment, but it was in a different position than we find it today. The location of the glove compartment was to be found under the driver’s chair and was a just a set of drawers, presumably used for storing more than one set of gloves. The driver’s chair was raised higher than today’s chairs and there was no passenger’s chair next to the driver’s chair. There were no trunks in early cars; the storage was in hampers or baskets. The term “trunk” may have come from a huge box used to store certain equipment in the car.

The alterations to what was stored in the glove compartment came as early as the 1930s. No one would use them to store gloves at this stage.  It has been more often used as an area to store valuables or just to show you had valuables that you could afford to keep in a car.  In modern days these luxuries have included laptops and mobiles as well as Sat-Navs. Or you may keep documents associated with your vehicle.

And it seemed like a no-brainer to keep the glove compartment near the dashboard so you wouldn’t need to go under your seat to find anything and could also make the seat lower.  The weirdest thing that has been kept in the glove compartment would seem to be tiny dogs, though personally, I would worry about how much room they would have.

So why do we think the humble glove compartment might actually be dwindling in popularity. Many cars, even luxury cars do not come with glove compartments. It seems that a sizeable amount of the vehicle owning public don’t use the space at all, 25% prefer to keep the space empty.

If you don’t have a glove box you will likely need alternate solutions to your storage needs. Kelly on Hative.com has loads of creative ways to store things in your car if that’s your challenge.

Of course, another reason you might need more storage in your car is that you have too much CRAP in there. In that case, we bring you Aby of Simplify101.com with ideas about the best way to clean out your glove box. Starting with this quote:

First, clear everything out of the glove compartment and load it into a portable storage container. Take your bucket of stuff inside to a flat surface (I used the kitchen table) and sort like with like. Toss out the things you don’t need (like old ketchup packets) and find a new home for items you need but not in your car.

Which should leave you with the bare essentials and a few extras. Nationwide insurance suggests the following list of must-haves:

  • Medical information.
  • Emergency contact numbers.
  • Pen and paper.
  • Proof of insurance.
  • Owner’s manual and maintenance schedule.

We have a couple luxury items to add to that list, of course, but it’s enough of a topic to rate it’s own post soon. If you’re a traditionalist and actually want to store gloves in there, here’s a set that come well recommended.

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Autodromo Slingback Driving Gloves

The glove compartment could be an area ripe for innovation though, with car space being at a premium.

As we’ve recommended before, if you have an old cell phone on pay as you go, you could keep it in the glove box so you can use the GPS location to find your car if it’s every stollen.

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According to Thrillist, the 1957 Eldorado Baughm by Cadillac came with a cocktail set for the glove compartment. Perhaps a better concept would be an area to keep drinks cool.

If you have any ideas about what the glove compartment could be used for or maybe what a replacement for this cubicle could be please comment below. All innovations have to begin somewhere, after all.

 

Negotiating for a Vehicle with Diminished Value

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You’re in the market for a new ride, and negotiating is nearly a requirement. When you first check out a car, make sure you get the full vehicle report. If the vehicle was in an accident—even if it was “just” a fender bender—there’s diminished value. That means that the car isn’t worth the blue book price, even if it was completely repaired.

Let’s say that the vehicle was in a small parking lot accident. The bumper was dented but has been replaced. That’s good news for you. It still has diminished value, even if the entire part that was damaged has been replaced.

The reason for this is simple, repair shops do what makes the insurance company happy and not the car owner. They may very well have repaired the vehicle to its pre-loss condition, but that’s the exception, not the rule. So, value standards companies discount value based on the standard practices.

Quick Plug for Independent Car Inspection

A good inspection service like our sponsor, Tire Kickers, will help establish a car’s true value along with verifying it’s safety. By examining the cars history for you, along with what similar cars have sold for nearby, and the actual condition of the vehicle they can give you a true value to use as a club during negotiations.

Your Opening Argument

headlamp-2940_1920You might not know about diminished value claims, and the seller might not either. Many insurance policies actually have a diminished value claim as an option, but they don’t advertise it. When you’re in an accident, you can file this claim in order to make up for the loss of value. There’s usually no time limit for filing this claim.

You might have to educate the seller a little. They can still file that claim, even when they’re about to sell. This way, you can pay less for the car and the seller still gets the money. It’s a win-win situation for both of you, but this isn’t always a possibility since their policy might not have the option.

crash-test-1620600_1920Get the Facts

You should have the full vehicle report and a 150-point inspection before purchasing a car. If you’re considering a classic or collector car, a specialty inspection is in order. You need to consider the dollar value loss that an accident caused. Whether or not the car was repaired doesn’t matter.

You’ll be the one dealing with the diminished value when and if you sell the car. You weren’t the one in the accident. It’s not fair that you’ll be taking the loss down the road. The seller might not think it’s fair, but nobody can argue with an inspector’s bottom line.

Is it a Smart Move?

You need to decide if it’s a good decision to purchase a vehicle that’s been in an accident. The car will always have a diminished value. However, you also have to consider safety. It’s generally accepted that cars that have been in a collision might not be as safe.

Consider the accident, where the car was impacted and decide wisely. Remember that it’s not just your money that’s on the line, but also the safety of yourself and your passengers. You might be able to score a great deal on a car with diminished value. However, just make sure that it’s still up to snuff in the safety department.

#10 Car DIY: Handle Car Body Damage Yourself

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In this Series of How-To posts, we’ll be covering knowing when to do something, how to do something and our own hack to try at your own risk. A big thanks to Tire Kickers, our sponsor and consultants on all things mechanical. They can be found on Facebook, or check out their auto health & safety advice.

(Note: this is the best information we could gather from our research and consulting our automotive advisors, but at the end of the day, our purpose is to entertain and inform. Don’t let us shame you into taking on something if you don’t feel qualified to do it. Trust your gut.)

Know When

Clearly, if you’ve got an insurance claim to file then you need to run everything through the insurance. However, sometimes there’s some parking lot damage that you don’t notice right away, or someone didn’t leave you a note. On occasion, insurance cuts you a check and you have a better use for the money than fixing some cosmetic issues on a car that’s not as new as it once was.

If you’ve decided not to get something professionally repaired its likely small enough that you might be able to fix it yourself. That’s a win/win, keep the money and still get a better-looking car.

Know How:

See the hack below for some crazy shortcuts that often reduce the appearance of damage to almost invisible.

EDC/Hack:

You can buy car wax at any automotive store and you’d be shocked how many sins it can wipe away. Simply apply with one clean rag and wipe off with another. Superficial scratches can catch the light and make damage seem large. Shadows can appear as dents. If the paint and metal aren’t actually damaged simply buffing out the scratches will improve your appearance dramatically.

Another trick we’ve heard of, but not had a chance to try yet is taking a common house plunger to medium-sized dents. We’ve used some of the commercially available dent removal options with mixed results. Honestly, anything that starts with the words, “drill a whole,” is something you want to live with or pay a pro.

 

 

#9 Car DIY: Value of a Dash Cam

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In this Series of How-To posts, we’ll be covering knowing when to do something, how to do something and our own hack to try at your own risk. A big thanks to Tire Kickers, our sponsor and consultants on all things mechanical. They can be found on Facebook, or check out their auto health & safety advice.

(Note: this is the best information we could gather from our research and consulting our automotive advisors, but at the end of the day, our purpose is to entertain and inform. Don’t let us shame you into taking on something if you don’t feel qualified to do it. Trust your gut.)

Know When

 

You never know when you’re going to need a dash cam. In the early days, go cams were the rage, strapped skateboards, and duct taped to helmets to capture your crazy stunts. Now they are vital in our legal state of the union to help you tell your side of the story. Here’s a video of a fake accident in England by a team of hustlers. If you watch this and don’t order a dash cam, then you probably never will.

(https://youtu.be/zAczz3nYuh4 Video Link)

Know How:

Follow the instructions that come with the one you buy. Heres a link to a couple that have nice features. The key is to know what’s important to you feature-wise. Do you want battery life, recording quality, hard drive space, external memory slots, etc. The features we’ll point out is twin cameras facing front and back, and some sort of inertia crash detection.

Apeman wins on bang for the buck.

This one has got to be the least obtrusive if you find that you can live without an in-car recording of your passengers.

EDC/Hack:

You can turn an old cell phone into a dash cam. It has all the right stuff—two way camera, GPS, memory, etc. All you need is one of the many apps available on the market. As an added bonus you can easily find mounts because they’re standard sized. There are quite a number of apps so try this link or this link to compare.

 

#8 Car DIY: Escape a Sinking Car

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In this Series of How-To posts, we’ll be covering knowing when to do something, how to do something and our own hack to try at your own risk. A big thanks to Tire Kickers, our sponsor and consultants on all things mechanical. They can be found on Facebook, or check out their auto health & safety advice.

(Note: this is the best information we could gather from our research and consulting our automotive advisors, but at the end of the day, our purpose is to entertain and inform. Don’t let us shame you into taking on something if you don’t feel qualified to do it. Trust your gut.)

Know When

The unlikely event of a water landing when driving a vehicle doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Unlike the duck and cover method of avoiding nuclear explosion you were tot in school, it actually can save your life to know how to escape a submerged vehicle. Assuming you were wearing your seatbelt so you weren’t knocked unconscious when your vehicle struck the surface of the water, you will have a little time before your car sinks—but not long.

The challenge is that the water pushing against the door will make it impossible to open the door. You’ll need to let the water in so that the pressure inside and out is equalized. Clearly, if you aren’t a professional free diver you’ll want to exit the car before it sinks too far, but the less air in the car the faster it will sink. Then there’s the whole needing to breathe. Bottom line, evacuate the vehicle swiftly without panicking.

Know How:

Roll a window down. Don’t freak out when it’s cold and you can’t do much until it’s full. Breathe while you still can. Then remove your seat belt. Visibility may be bad after the car is full of muddy water so make your preparations quickly. Still better to keep your seatbelt on until the rush of water is done—unless you need to get your kid out of a complicated car seat.

If you can’t roll down the window, because the water shorted your power systems, use a special device to break the window by striking it near a corner. It’s actually not easy to break a car window and there’s a good chance that you’re going to cut your hand. So plan on cutting your hand—it’s better than drowning.

EDC/Hack:

If you don’t have one of the many devices we recommend below for smashing car windows, you can remove your headrest and use you metal legs.

#7 Car DIY: Get Cheaper Extended Warranties on Used Cars

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In this Series of How-To posts, we’ll be covering knowing when to do something, how to do something and our own hack to try at your own risk. A big thanks to Tire Kickers, our sponsor and consultants on all things mechanical. They can be found on Facebook, or check out their auto health & safety advice.

(Note: this is the best information we could gather from our research and consulting our automotive advisors, but at the end of the day, our purpose is to entertain and inform. Don’t let us shame you into taking on something if you don’t feel qualified to do it. Trust your gut.)

Know When

Your new car warranty probably ran out at 3 years or 36,000 miles. It’s a good idea to purchase an extended warranty after that time, provided you can get it cheaper than through a dealership.

Your dad probably drummed it into your head, “Never buy a used car warranty…” We’ll dad was right—mostly. When you purchase a vehicle you have an opportunity to roll the cost of a warranty into the loan for the vehicle. It’s like buying the fridge with the house. It’s easy on the pocketbook compared to going separately to buy the exact fridge you want, until you realize you’re paying for the fridge for the next 30 years.

We’re no financial advisors so do what you think is best. BUT the real reason to avoid buying the warranties are these. You are paying a heavy markup to the guy/gal who is already making a commission on selling you a car. So you’re paying more and you are paying someone for insurance against them screwing you over. “Here, this is a good car, but in case it’s not, why don’t you pay us extra to fix it.” It’s just not a sensible thing to do.

Know How:

If you are interested in a warranty on your used car, see our hack for a link to purchase a used car warranty independent of a dealership.

EDC/Hack:

The standard markup on a warranty is at least $1,000. Here’s a better option. Call around to pre-purchase inspection services and find one that can sell an extended warranty. Warranty companies love to sell through them because these are the guys helping you establish the quality and value of the vehicle. You’re less likely to need one if an inspector is willing to sell it to you and since they aren’t salesmen, they offer them at a much lower cost. Here’s a link to one such inspection service.

#5 Car DIY: Handle a Check Engine Light

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In this Series of How-To posts, we’ll be covering knowing when to do something, how to do something and our own hack to try at your own risk. A big thanks to Tire Kickers, our sponsor and consultants on all things mechanical. They can be found on Facebook, or check out their auto health & safety advice.

(Note: this is the best information we could gather from our research and consulting our automotive advisors, but at the end of the day, our purpose is to entertain and inform. Don’t let us shame you into taking on something if you don’t feel qualified to do it. Trust your gut.)

Know When

Don’t ignore check engine lights. I know it seems like it’s either going to be something really expensive or an annoying thing you have to pay to find out is nothing. What doesn’t come to mind, and should, is if you’re in danger of an engine failure that could make your vehicle unsafe.

Know How:

There are some ways to check the codes which may be included in your owners manual, but check the hack section for an easy way to know exactly what’s wrong in simple English.

EDC/Hack:

Check out the FIXD device. It’ll plug into any car made after 1996 and tell an app on your cell phone what’s up with your engine. Beyond peace of mind, being able to do your own diagnostic saves you money with your mechanic.

 

 

#4 Car DIY: Handle Cold Weather

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In this Series of How-To posts, we’ll be covering knowing when to do something, how to do something and our own hack to try at your own risk. A big thanks to Tire Kickers, our sponsor and consultants on all things mechanical. They can be found on Facebook, or check out their auto health & safety advice.

(Note: this is the best information we could gather from our research and consulting our automotive advisors, but at the end of the day, our purpose is to entertain and inform. Don’t let us shame you into taking on something if you don’t feel qualified to do it. Trust your gut.)

Know When

Don’t wait for bad weather is upon you to prepare. Set it in your calendar, depending on where you live. In mild climates, it can go on a list of actions you take whenever you turn the clocks back in fall. Here are some helpful links:

Know How:

When snow and ice are upon you, you’ll need some kind of liquid deicer or salt for your driveway and sidewalks. You’ll need a good plastic snow shovel with a flat blade. Metal flat bladed shovels damage the concrete of your driveway. Salt can wear out your car, but it can be used strategically and it can be a necessary evil.

Use a broom to knock off extra snow from windshield and windows. Don’t leave snow on your roof as this chunks fly off at speed and can cause accidents. Work from top to bottom for best efficiency.

Use a scraper, which you can store in your car.

If your door locks get frozen shut you need heat. There are devices on the market like this one that applies heat where you need it. Or see the hack section for a quick trick.

Also, check in the gadget section below for our recommendation for cold weather EDC (post link)

EDC/Hack:

One trick to ice scrapers is getting the right angle and trying both shoving it and pulling it to see which suits your needs.

To open a frozen lock, use hand sanitizer. The high alcohol content lowers the temperature at which water freezes just like salt does, but isn’t corrosive. It’s cheap and available in portable bottles.