Don’t Buy That Car Until You Check Out These Specs

specsBuying a new car is an exciting time but if you don’t know a lot about vehicles, it can also be a little bit overwhelming. There is a lot more to buying a new car than just how it looks of course, but what specifications are really important?

There are a few things you need to know before you start the process of buying a car. We’ve outlined these below so you will have the information you need to not feel like a fish out of water when you go to buy your car.

What are Your Preferences?

preferencesBefore you ever talk to a salesman or step foot on a lot, you need to have a good idea of what you’re looking for in a car.  This does not mean that you have no flexibility, it just keeps you from purchasing something off of sheer emotion rather than looking at factors that you may need due to your lifestyle and budget.

Here are a few of the things that are good to know before your search begins:

  • Do you have a preference for a certain make? – Are you a fan of a particular make of vehicle? Is this written in stone or just a preference? When it comes to choosing a car it is always better to know what make you prefer.
  • What size vehicle are you looking for? – Are you single and looking for something small to get you back and forth to work or school? Do you have children and you want a vehicle with more room in it for everyone? Or do you want to get something racy and sporty?  Size will determine a lot of things, but know ahead of time the size vehicle you are interested in.
  • Do you want a certain color? – The color of your car isn’t necessarily something that is crucial but sometimes the color of a car is very important to a consumer. If you only are interested in white vehicles, knowing this ahead of time can reduce the amount of cars that you consider.
  • Do you need or want a 4-wheel drive? – If you live in an area that gets a lot of snow or rough weather, you may be considering a 4-wheel drive. Again this is something that will reduce the amount of vehicles you will need to look at. If you want a 4-wheel drive and that is not a negotiable point, then you won’t need to bother looking at anything that doesn’t have it.
  • Will You be Towing Anything with Your Vehicle? – If you are purchasing a vehicle to tow a boat or trailer, it will need to be a certain size and weight and have the ability to tow the things you need to tow.
  • What Electronics do You Want in Your Vehicle? – Even though things like DVD players, stereos and GPSs can be added on, it is important to know if you want these in the vehicle you purchase.
  • Do You Want Leather Seats? – This is another feature that can be upgraded or added on a new car, but again, you need to know ahead of time if you are set on leather seats or if you don’t really care what the upholstery is.
  • Automatic or Stick? – Stick shifts or manual transmissions are sometimes regarded as difficult to drive but when you learn how to drive them, oftentimes they are preferred over automatics. If you need to have one of the other, you will need to know this ahead of time so you can eliminate the cars that don’t have the type of transmission you are looking for.

Important Specs to Look at When You Start Shopping

shopping-for-carsOnce you have an idea of what you are looking for in a car, it’s important to know the specs that you should look at when you start the actual shopping process.  These specifications are what determine the performance, gas mileage, power and other important factors the car has.

If these specs are not posted where you can see them, be sure to ask the salesman for this information.  You may want to jot these specs down so you won’t forget any of them when you are actually looking at cars.

  1. Horsepower – The term that measures an engine’s output is called horsepower. Where horsepower comes into play in terms of being an important spec, is when you are purchasing a vehicle that you will be using for towing, hauling, working, etc.  While you will still want a good, powerful car if you’re not using it for those things, it becomes less of an issue when it is just used for driving.  There isn’t a “perfect” number for the right horsepower since other factors are involved in determining the performance of the car as well. Those include the weight of the vehicle, the aerodynamics it has and the gearing system.
  2. Gas Mileage – With gas prices fluctuating as much as they have been, many people want a car that gets good gas mileage. Something to be aware of is that the gas mileage readings that are on the car sticker are not obtained through what would be considered real world use in varied conditions. Those figures are estimates that are obtained from the federal environmental protection agency. They conduct their own tests, but since they are not conducted in real world situations, the actual gas mileage you get will not necessarily be what the sticker says they are.
  3. The 0 to 60 Spec – 0-60 is a measurement that states how long it takes the vehicle in question to go from zero, a standstill, to 60 mph. These numbers are usually obtained by either professional drivers on a test track or from the factory.  Why is this important for you to know? Aside from just sounding cool when the 0 to 60 rating is fast, it can also give you a good idea of how fast the car will accelerate when you are getting onto a highway.  If you 0-60 speeds are not that fast, you will know that you need a bit of extra time to get up to speed and can allow for that when you’re coming onto the highway.
  4. MSRP (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price) – Another name for the MSRP is the sticker price. You should always know what the average MSRP is for the vehicles you are looking at. This prevents you from grossly overpaying for a vehicle when the sticker price is much lower. It also prevents salesmen from being able to tell you something different if you’ve already done your homework ahead of time and let them know that YOU know what the MSRP is for the vehicles you are interested in.
  5. Safety Ratings – Be sure to go to a good source when looking at the safety ratings for the cars that you want to look at. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is a nonprofit organization that performs many safety ratings, but they are funded by auto insurers.  It is wise to also check with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration which is a government body that performs the same type of safety tests and they give their own ratings as well.  All manufacturers will say their vehicle is sage and that they have this rating or that one, but research in this area will be your best bet to get unbiased, helpful information.
  6. 4 wheel drive/all wheel drives – The main difference between 4 wheel drive and all wheel drive is the driver’s participation in the operation. All wheel drive is automatic and doesn’t require the driver to intervene to get it to work; it just automatically kicks in.  Both provide extra traction and both will use more gas and require more maintenance, but when you live in an area that has bad weather, having a vehicle with extra traction capability is a must have.
  7. Cargo Volume – How many cubic feet of room you have in the trunk of a car you are considering is important, especially if you have family. A nice roomy trunk is very valuable when there is luggage, groceries, the kids’ extracurricular activity equipment and any number of other things to carry back there.  A small trunk can be a real headache, so don’t forget to check this spec put when you’re shopping.
  8. VIN Number – The VIN number of the vehicle you are considering is a valuable identifier that will provide the manufacturer, where and when it was made, and other details. If it is a used vehicle you are looking at, you can use the VIN through any online database to see what kind of history it has. It’s not foolproof but it can definitely help when it comes to protecting your money by seeing if there is anything that is not being told about the car.
  9. Warranties – Warranties are a very important part of purchasing a car. If you are buying a brand new car, it will come with a warranty of some kind. There are many different types of warranties available and even extended warranties that kick in after the manufacturer’s warranty runs out.  There are even different stages of manufacturer’s warranties.

Do some research on the types of warranties available so you understand a little more about them when the salesman starts explaining them to you.   It is not recommended to buy a car without one, so even if you are purchasing a previously-owned car, look for the dealerships that offer warranties of some kind

The main thing to remember when you are purchasing a car is to be prepared before you ever start talking to anyone.  When you know what you are looking for, and you know the specs to check, the likelihood of getting a vehicle you don’t want is drastically reduced.  When you have the right knowledge you will also prevent most salesmen from trying to undercut you or add a ton of extras you don’t need or even understand.

Make your lists ahead of time about what you’re looking for and the specs you’ll be checking out and walk in with confidence.


Understanding New Car Manufacturer’s Warranties

car-warrantyWhen you purchase a new car it will come with a warranty of some kind. Warranties can be extremely confusing if you don’t know anything about them, so we’re going to change that by giving you some important information on the typical types of car warranties that are offered when you buy a car. Having this information before you purchase your car can give you confidence that you are not paying for something you don’t need.

Manufacturer’s Warranties

A manufacturer’s warranty is also called a factory warranty. These are provided by the companies that make the cars.  There are four types of manufacturer’s warranties:

  • Bumper to Bumper
  • Power Train and Drive train
  • Corrosion/ Rust
  • Emissions Warranty

Bumper to Bumper Warranty – This is the most comprehensive warranty offered with your car.  It covers all the parts and systems of your vehicle except for those things that incur normal wear and tear. Those will include your tires, the brake pads and windshield wiper blades.

A bumper to bumper warranty will be a huge benefit if you encounter any problems with your electronics systems which can be really expensive to fix if something goes wrong.  The usual duration of a bumper to bumper warranty is 3 years/36,000 miles.

What that means is that your car is covered, from bumper to bumper for 3 years if you don’t drive 36,000 miles during that time frame or for 36,000 miles, even if you reach that mileage in one year. Some manufacturers offer longer terms but that is not very common.

There are conditions and exclusions to the bumper to bumper warranty, so be sure that you know what your warranty covers and what you need to do to ensure it does not get voided.

Power Train and Drive Train Warranty – This warranty is going to take care of many of the mechanical parts of your vehicle including the differential, the transmission and your engine. Your warranty coverage will be longer on a powertrain/drive train warranty than a bumper to bumper. Some manufacturers offer 10 year/100,000 warranties for this type of warranty.

The same “rule” applies for this type of warranty that we recommended for the bumper to bumper warranty and that is know what it covers and what it doesn’t. You can look at this before you ever purchase the car, so ask to see their detailed warranty information if this is something you really want to know about.  If it automatically comes with the car, it is still important that you know what it includes and what your part in keeping the warranty valid is.

Rust/Corrosion Warranty –This warranty covers premature deterioration of the sheet metal on your car.  This is a very basic warranty that only covers what it says.  Be aware that unless the rust has eaten all the way through the metal, they will not usually replace anything. Read all of the fine print on this warranty especially if it is being offered as an add-on. It may not be worth it to get it with the exclusions or guidelines it may have.

Emissions Warranty – This coverage will sometimes be included in the bumper to bumper but it is not standard so you will need to check the inclusions to see if it is.  This warranty is separate from anything else and covers any problems that may occur with your emissions system.  That will include things like the catalytic converter, Map sensor, ECU (emissions control unit) and other things that have to do with your emissions systems.

The biggest thing you can do for your own peace of mind is to thoroughly read your warranty and what it covers (and what it doesn’t) before you sign anything.  Not all warranty companies are reputable so see if you can do some research on the companies that the dealership holds warranties wit. That extra research will serve you well when it comes to having a warranty you trust.



Don’t Void Your Warranty by Doing These Things

void-warrantyYou’ve bought your new car and have a great warranty in place.  How do you avoid doing something to void it?  This is a concern many new car owners have.  Knowing ahead of time what your warranty covers and what you need to do in the way of maintenance can prevent a lot of mistakes and warranty voiding.

While it’s not something that you need to be walking on eggshells about, it IS important not to do anything to get that warranty voided.  Below we’ve covered some of the most common mistakes people make that get their warranties voided.

  1. Using Improper Fluids/Filters – Your new car warranty will specify the types of fluids that must be used in the engine to keep the warranty intact. They have come to these specific types of fluids through testing and the manufacturing process.  If you choose to use anything other than what the company specifies you should, and the engine fails because of it, your engine warranty will become void.
  2. Not Getting the Car Maintained – If you do not keep up with the recommended maintenance schedule, your warranty will become void. There is a reason they suggest what they do. Following those guidelines will help keep your vehicle running well and lasting a good, long time.
  3. Not Keeping all Your Receipts on Work that is Done – Very few people that buy a new car take it to the dealer it came from to get it serviced. For this reason it is crucial that you keep all receipts for any work done at any other service station.  It’s okay for you to go to those stations providing they use the appropriate fluids and OEM. (Original equipment manufacturer) filters.  If you don’t keep the service receipts and something goes wrong on the car, you will not get coverage because the warranty company can’t verify that the appropriate maintenance work was done. Not sure if you should keep a certain receipt? Err on the side of caution and keep them ALL in a safe place you can find them if they are needed.
  4. Towing with a Vehicle not made for Towing – If your vehicle is not made to tow a trailer and you tow it anyway, your warranty can possibly be voided because of the added strain you’ve put on the vehicle. Vehicles that are designed for towing have increased cooling systems and bigger suspension to handle the extra weight a trailer adds. They also have heavier duty brakes and special wiring to power the trailer.  If you tow a trailer with a vehicle not designed for it, it can cause overheating, frame damage, suspension damage, extensive brake wear and many other problems.  Problems that will not be covered once they find out the vehicle was towed, and they will find out.
  5. Making Modifications – Making modifications on the vehicle doesn’t automatically void the warranty but there are certain mods that CAN and you don’t want to do those if your vehicle has a warranty. Any kind of extreme suspension modification can void the warranty if the warranty company finds that it was the modifications that caused the problem. The car will be inspected before approval is given so it’s not something that will be able to be snuck by them.

The best rule to follow is not to make any modifications without checking with the dealer first on whether it will void the existing warranty. If they don’t know (they should) then call the warranty company themselves and ask.  The same rule applies to using anything other than OEM filters and recommended fluids.  It is always better to be safe than sorry.



Safety Advances in New Cars

car-safety-ratingsThere are a lot of safety features that are available in new cars these days. Some of them are automatically included and others are offered as upgraded options.  We’ve listed some of the most common new safety advances that you can find in some new cars today.

With accidents being so common these days and in many cases getting worse, having these excellent safety advances in your new car can add a lot of reassurance. It doesn’t replace safe driving and is not meant to, but it can aid a safe driver and prevent many accidental mistakes that can be made.

  • Forward Collision Avoidance System – this feature uses forward looking sensors to give the driver auditory or visual alerts when the vehicle gets too close to the car in front of you. They are good for helping reduce the amount of rear end collisions that happen.
  • Adaptive Headlights – The Highway Loss Data Institute did research concerning these innovative lights which allow the driver to see better when they are going around any curves. Property liability claims were reported to be down by up to 10% when cars were using these headlights.
  • Backup Cameras – This feature used to be available on in high end luxury cars but not anymore. Now they can be an option on midrange vehicles to give drivers help and assurance that nothing is behind them when they are backing out of the driveway or backing up in general. With the alarming rate of children that have been accidentally backed over, this is a feature well worth having if there are a lot of children in your neighborhood or you have children of your own.
  • Adaptive Cruise Control – By utilizing forward looking sensors and cameras, the distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you is watched and measured. The system will automatically slow you down in traffic to make sure you are staying at a safe distance. You don’t even have to brake, it’s done for you. As the traffic speeds up again, your car automatically accelerates to maintain a speed that has been preset.  This feature helps reduce rear end collisions.
  • Back up Sensors – Reverse – You can use this feature with or without a camera. The reverse back up sensors will beep if you’re about to back into something. A camera adds even more to this feature because you can actually see what is there.
  • Parking Assist – there are a lot of models of vehicles that offer parking assistance to get into nerve wracking parking spaces. This feature will detect the size of a parallel parking space and then guides you into the starting position. Once you get it started, you can take your hands off the wheel and the vehicle will automatically back into the space on its own with the computer guiding the way.
  • Sideview Assist – This is a great feature for vehicles that have a wicked blind spot. The sensors that this feature uses will detect if there is a car in your blind spot. It alerts you with a light in the side mirror or will beep if you turn on your turn signal to move into that lane.

These are just a few of the safety advances that have been made when it comes to making vehicles a safer place to be.  None of these features are meant to compensate for poor driving, so don’t fall into the mistake of being less careful or watchful. You still need to drive defensively, but these safety features will add to your already safe driving and keep you and your passengers even safer.  If you’re purchasing a new car, be sure to ask about the safety features that you are most interested in.  Some of them may be included automatically or you can add them as options.