Many people out there don’t quite understand just how drastically different winter tires are from others and as a result, those same people really don’t think that winter tires are completely necessary. “I have all wheel drive, what more do I need?” some will think, or “I have a truck, nothing can stop me” still others will say. Well sadly, circulating the internet one will find plenty of funny Youtube videos of attempts at winter driving that prove otherwise.
Winter tires are unique in several important ways, a significant one being that they are made of a softer rubber allowing them to flex more than the standard summer (or even all-season) tire. The flex causes the sipes to essentially grab an edge, much like a ski does, and grip the loose snow, sleet and ice. Think of it this way, when the car turns it causes the rubber to deform (more easily than other tires thanks to the softer rubber) and instead of driving on comparatively flat surface, you are now driving on many tiny rubber edges, giving you the unparalleled ability to turn. There is a similar reaction when you accelerate or brake, causing an incredible difference in stopping, going, and turning abilities when compared to any other tire.
Some people consider themselves good winter drivers. Either they grew up in climates with adverse conditions or have taken a winter drivers-ed class. However, it’s the unexpected that gets you, that point when you need to turn to avoid the piece of lumber that fell off the truck in front of you, where you really need the winter tire. The only downside to these rubber wonders is that because of the softer compound, they won’t last quite as long as standard tires. It is recommended that you only run them in cooler temperatures as the softer rubber will wear much more quickly on warmer days.
Admittedly, nobody likes lugging an extra set of tires to and from the local tire shop, but we promise you that when you avoid the deer that decided it REALLY wanted to give you a heart attack by standing on the other side of the blind corner, you will be thanking yourself for investing in those tires. Do yourself, and other motorists around you, a favor and get a set of snow rated tires.
As automotive enthusiasts, general car knowledge as well as a basic understanding of vehicle operations and our own desires, are things we take for granted when shopping for the next thrill. Questions that we are asking ourselves as well as the dealership may not come naturally to those who aren’t as nutty about cars as others. However, that makes asking the right questions that much more important, so we have provided a guide to some of the basics you should be considering before thinking about that next car or truck.
1) First and foremost, you should be thinking about the purpose this new vehicle will be serving. Is it going to be the daily driver? Will it see some long road trips with the family or be more of a fun weekend toy? Think hard about what this vehicle will be doing, a more thoughtful buyer is more likely to be happy with their decision for a longer period of time.
2) Know ahead of time what your rough budget is, and be sure to include insurance, gas, maintenance etc.. This will save you a lot of time and keep you from falling in love with vehicles that are out of your price range, making it seem like you are compromising by getting something that is actually within your budget.
3) Know whether you prefer new or used, but don’t be close-minded about saving some money by going with a used vehicle. Often people automatically write-off a used vehicle because the allure of that new car smell is too strong. However, there are used vehicles out there that will outlast even the newest, freshest smelling car, you just have to know which to look for. Additionally, warranties are often still in effect for the lower mileage used cars.
4) Which leads to: do your research! There are so many sites out there to make sure buyers are informed (KBB.com, truecar.com just to name a few) so there is no reason you can’t have a sense of what you should pay for your new or used vehicle. If you really want to dig deep, try looking for forums dedicated to your specific brand as there are often dedicated owners that post common problems, easy fixes, and what to look for when you buy that car. These are often harder to find but can be the most helpful, examples are www.nasioc.com for Subarus and www.ih8mud.com for Toyota trucks. While these forums are not always endorsed or supported by the manufacturer, there is wealth of knowledge to be found if you have the time and dedication to dig around a bit.
5)If you plan on servicing the vehicle at the dealership, it doesn’t hurt to work with them to establish a relationship with them. These are, after-all, the people who will be working on your vehicle, and sometimes working with a local dealership vs. taking your business out of town can mean the difference between getting a loaner car and hitching a ride in the back seat of a friend’s car every time you need some work done.
These are just some of the basic tips and questions that will help improve the overall buying experience. Make sure you spend time to really think about what you want and do your research. Be an informed buyer and understand what you are getting yourself into because buying a car should not be taken lightly. If you have any more questions, feel free to ask us and we’ll get back to you promptly.
While the boy racers of the world have been in an ongoing search for cheap power for what seems like thousands of years, there are still some out there that just want to enjoy their daily commute in a car that doesn’t empty the wallet. Well for those people, there are a couple of options out there for a reasonably priced, fun car that will make you the envy of the other road-goers.
1) Honda Civic Si: Everyone knows the Honda Civic as the boring, hum-drum sedan that runs forever and hasn’t gotten anybody’s heartbeat going any faster that a slow crawl in a couple decades. Well the Si is a tuned up version that has about 200hp and can turn any on-ramp onto something worth drooling over. It still retains that Honda reliability and won’t break the bank at the shop or the gas pump. Expect to pay somewhere around $15k or less for later year models with average mileage, with higher mileage or older examples going for less.
2) Subaru WRX: Probably one of the more popular cars with the tuner crowd, the Subaru has also gained a reputation as one of the best all-weather fun cars thanks to the legendary Subaru all-wheel-drive. As a cherry on top, they come in hatchback form for added practicality and get decent gas mileage considering how much they are oriented towards driving pleasure. They are not without their faults as they can be picky on which oil they like, and older early 2000’s models have weaker transmissions. Prices can vary significantly, but a good, mid 2000’s model can be found for around or under $15k depending on mileage, making it a fast but relatively affordable car.
3) Mazdaspeed 3 or 6: These left-field Mazda’s can be a little harder to find but when in good shape can be a lot of fun for a little money. The Mazdaspeed 6 was the fast version of the last Mazda 6 sedan and is no longer made, but the Mazdaspeed 3 was, and still is, a very popular alternative to the Subaru and others. As a bonus, they actually have very nice interiors for their class and size. You can also find the Mazdaspeed 6 in all-wheel-drive form making it all the more desirable for those who live in inclement weather states. If you can find them, expect to pay up to 18K for the well-cared for Mazdaspeed 3, and even more for the 6.
4) Volkswagen GTI: Well known as one of the best all-around hatchbacks thanks to its incredibly well appointed interior and the German fit and finish that other automakers can only dream of, the GTI is a very lively front wheel drive hatchback that has a little more character than its Japanese counterparts. Be wary though, these little firecrackers can cost a little more than average when they go in the shop as German cars in general are a little more difficult to work on. GTI’s can go for as low as $13K for 2010 model years, and up to $20K for newer vehicles.
5) Honda S2000: This was Honda’s attempt at making a fun, affordable, lightweight 2 door convertible for the “masses”. What we ended up with was a fun little screamer that handled well and looked great without sacrificing on reliability and convenience. Made with one of Honda’s well established 4 cylinder engines, and a true manual transmission, they have a comparable recipe for fun to the legendary Mazda Miata. They aren’t easy to find as they were never made in huge numbers, but if you can find one expect to pay around $20K for low mileage late model examples, with less pristine versions going for somewhere in the teens.
6) Ford Mustang GT: As the only American example here among those from foreign soil, the pony car holds its own with a 4.6 liter engine offering up over 300 horsepower in earlier iterations. As far as cheap power goes, it’s hard to find something that can keep up for this amount of money. As newer body styles keep coming, the older versions keep dropping in price, but don’t expect to get a lot of luxury for your money, this car is about a big motor powering the rear wheels and not much else. These will be easier to find with many examples on ebaymotors and similar sites, with models from around the late 2000’s going for a little under $20K.
7) Mazda Miata: We all know the little fun-loving roadster that is the Miata. Legendary handling, well balanced driving pleasure in a 2 door package, it truly is hard to beat. However, be wary when looking at used models as there is a good chance it has been tossed around a bit by the previous owner. They are generally pretty reliable, but never make that assumption when checking one out,always get a 2nd opinion. Prices are all over the map as they sold in high numbers through the years, so you can expect to pay over $20k for a late-model with low mileage, or around $6-8k for a well-used example with some wear and tear. If you are going for a newer model, the third generation’s engine received an update with a higher redline being a highlight.
For those of us that need to haul around kids, dogs, gear (or just about anything from Costco) a bigger vehicle is always a necessity. But with the prices of new full size SUV’s reaching new highs, there are reasons to look at used vehicles, and definitely specific things to look for when shopping for these land yachts.
First question you should attempt to answer is whether the vehicle in question has spent any time off the beaten path. If the answer is a yes, then there will most certainly be more wear and tear on the suspension, engine, and transmission, among other things. However, if you find a vehicle (or special edition of that vehicle) that was meant to go off-road, i.e. Z71 or TRD packages, you are probably ok as those were meant to take some abuse and keep on ticking.
The second question is whether there was any towing done in the vehicle’s past. Often these family fortresses on wheels are used to pull the weekend camper, a boat, or even another car. Towing greatly increases the stress on the drivetrain and can shorten the life of a vehicle pretty quickly if it wasn’t designed to tow any serious distances in the first place. If the answer is yes, then check that the transmission fluid was changed regularly, closely inspect the rear suspension for sagging, and ask whether there is a transmission cooler installed.
Check the tires for even wear. In connection with the potential towing and off-road shenanigans, tires do wear significantly faster when subjected to the more aggressive activities listed above.
Other than the above, the usual rules still apply when searching for a used SUV. Don’t be afraid to ask about the history, talk to previous owners if possible, and take it for a long test drive. Other than that, just be sure you are ready to take on the ownership of a full size SUV because bigger can often mean pricier.
Not all of us can afford the high sticker prices of new, high-line cars that grace the covers of automotive magazines everywhere. Others are just looking for a reasonable daily driver to get to A to B with no bells and whistles. Whichever camp you are in, finding a vehicle within a tight budget can be a challenge when you don’t know where to start. We’re here to help with that search to make sure you find a well-cared for vehicle that will serve its purpose with minimal trouble.
Firstly, you shouldn’t be afraid of vehicles with higher mileage, so long as you do your research and have the history of the vehicle. If you are looking at Car A that was driven by a little old lady for 100k miles and Car B that was driven by a teenager with a heavy right foot for 50k miles, you can guess which we’d pick. The key is finding vehicles that have proven to be reliable, durable and inexpensive to own, which can be tricky.
There are certain manufacturers that have always been associated with longevity and quality. Toyota and Honda are consistently rated at the top (as well as Acura and Lexus of course), and some other brands such as Subaru are slowly making their way up the list. If you are looking at higher mileage vehicles, your focus should be on brands such as these that will run for many more trouble-free miles.
Secondly, check for rust. A higher mileage car has generally been exposed to more inclement weather and as a result, has a higher chance of being affected by rust (especially here in the Northeast. As with any used vehicle, have it looked over by a trusted mechanic but pay close attention to rust on the underbody as well as under the paint. Rust is not only something that is VERY expensive to fix, but is also something that keeps eating away at your car unless you fix it right away. Higher mileage cars are more likely to have rust that has eaten away at critical components, so it is always something to keep an eye on.
A complete service history is always a MUST! Knowing how the vehicle has been treated is crucial to knowing how many more miles can be expected out of it. If you are buying a vehicle with over 100k miles, be sure that the timing belt or chain (if applicable) has been changed as most manufacturers usually recommend this at or around 100k miles.
Additionally, make sure you look up the proper services that should have been performed (most can be found online) and check that with the history of the vehicle and the CarFax report. Depending on the car and mileage, a lot of vehicles will be needing new brakes or suspension once they get a bit over 100k miles, and those are expensive maintenance items.
Other than that, just pay close attention to how the vehicle drives and behaves on the road. If it checks all the boxes and feels solid when you drive it, there’s a good chance it has been well maintained and is ready to serve its next owner loyally!
Used car buying can be a gamble. If you aren’t informed, or if you haven’t done your research, you could end up buying someone else’s nightmare. However, breathe easy my readers because there is hope. Used car buying can be a great way to save money off the sticker price, and a way to find a reliable vehicle for much less than what you would pay for a new one. So pay attention deal seekers, because here you will find the basics to finding that perfect pre-loved vehicle to make your own.
As with any car buying, new or used, do your research. Check all of the popular sites such as KBB.com and Consumer Reports for reliability ratings and known issues etc. for particular models you are considering. Additionally, many brands have a loyal following and as a result, forums (websites) dedicated entirely to their brand. These are not usually endorsed by the manufacturer, but can be an incredible source of knowledge. Examples would be NASIOC.com for Subaru and ih8mud.com or yotatech.com for Toyota SUV/Truck owners. Not only will these sites prove helpful for choosing a brand, but they can even give you some insight into which particular model year performed better than others. As always, don’t take everything online as gospel, but time spent on these sites will be well worth your while.
If you have found a particular car you want and plan to go see it, go prepared. Make sure you have gotten a background check on that car and gone over the history (the most common method is CarFax). Know that while this is extremely helpful, history reports don’t always tell the full story. Ask the seller (private or dealer) if they have receipts for the services, being mindful that the big services (timing belt, brakes, suspension etc.) are among the most important to have record of.
When looking at the car, keep in mind a number of things. Even if you have already fallen in love with the car after seeing pictures, try to be as objective as possible. If possible, don’t go and see the car in the rain as wet paint tends to hide blemishes. Keep an eye out for any little dents or scratches, and take a good, slow walk around the car looking for anything that might be off. With your fingers, feel around the edges of doors, the hood and rear hatch etc. and if there is any roughness (or pronounced edge) that might mean it has been repainted which can be taken as a sign that it may have been in an accident. Look under the car where it is parked to see if there are any obvious leaks on the pavement. Take it for a spin and don’t be afraid to push ALL the buttons to make sure everything is working as electrical issues can often be the hardest to tackle.
Finally, after you have taken a good look at it, have it looked over by a trusted mechanic not associated with the seller or dealer. The quick inspection by a mechanic can prove invaluable if there is something that your un-trained eye might have missed. If you get the go-ahead from them, chances are it’s a solid vehicle and you should feel comfortable making an offer on the car.