Archive for August, 2010
The Fit may be getting a bit fitter.
Honda has announced plans to introduce a hybrid version of its popular Fit subcompact car at the upcoming Paris Auto Show, according to USA Today. The car, known as the Jazz in Europe, has been a hit for the automaker both in the U.S. and overseas.
One of the key advantages to the Fit, and smaller cars in general, is fuel economy. A hybrid version of the vehicle would mean even greater fuel economy than the 28 city and 35 highway miles per gallon currently attained by the base 2010 model.
Yet the news source speculates that the Fit hybrid, currently only a concept, may not see the light of day in the U.S. because of “slim profit margins” and a generally lackluster attitude among consumers toward hybrids with electric vehicles like the Leaf on the way.
Drivers shopping for a vehicle may want to consider the Fit as an agile subcompact option with great fuel economy. Though the car already starts out affordable, drivers can save even more by shopping on the used car market.
A minor facelift to the current Honda Accord model will see the car achieve a greater fuel economy in the 2011 model year, according to the company.
USA Today reports that while the Accord is still two years away from a full redesign, Honda decided to make a few minor upgrades that will give the car between one and three extra miles per gallon. While the model has yet to be rerated by the EPA, the current 2010 version gets 21 miles per gallon in the city and 31 on the highway for a combined rating of 25.
The automaker says that low rolling-resistance tires and better aerodynamics allowed the vehicle to achieve the increase. In addition, Honda has made some minor changes to the interior and exterior, including a new grille, new taillights and the relocation of some instrument panels.
Honda also plans to introduce an “SE” package for the car that will be priced a bit higher than the base package. The Accord SE’s features have not been fully announced, but Honda says leather upholstery will be one of the options included.
The Honda Accord is a classic car with a long shelf life. Drivers should be able to find plenty of used Honda Accords on the used market at a reduced price compared to their brand new counterparts.
After massively hyping its new subcompact, the Fiesta, Ford‘s momentum was derailed somewhat after a parts issue and Hurricane Alex delayed delivery of vehicle pre-orders.
However, those who bought the car aren’t disappointed with the quality of the vehicle, according to customers interviewed by the Detroit Free Press.
“It doesn’t feel like a small car, and it drives like a sports car,” said Deborah Melvin, a teacher from North Carolina.
“It’s definitely worth the wait,” said Amy Spradlin, 19, who bought a black Fiesta hatchback with plum seats. “It’s a great college car, and it’s a great car if you are on the go.”
Ford’s heavy use of social media to promote the vehicle seems to have worked. On Facebook groups and other websites, drivers were able to join the “Fiesta Movement,” a community built around love for the car. And although many of the pre-order customers are frustrated, especially since their custom-built orders are taking longer than regular models, those who have received the car tell the others not to worry.
“I tell them just be patient. It’s worth waiting for,” said Sue Moon, of Pennsylvania, whose white Fiesta with custom graphics was delayed for months.
The Fiesta is already an economic option, but drivers may wish to wait for the car to hit the used auto market in order to take advantage of even more savings.
Nissan has announced that it will begin taking orders for its upcoming all-electric Leaf, a highly-anticipated vehicle that, along with the Chevy Volt, is expected to determine how alternative fuel is accepted by the general public.
While the company has already received 18,000 reservations at the price of a refundable $99, those do nothing more than hold a buyer’s spot for the vehicle. To actually place the order, buyers will need to go through all the options at their dealer, according to Reuters.
One of the options is a $700 “fast charger” that can reportedly bring the vehicle to 80 percent charge in 30 minutes, expected to be popular with drivers.
The Leaf will be rolled out in Arizona, Tennessee, California, Oregon and Washington before expanding to Hawaii and Texas in early 2011 and eventually the entire country by the end of next year.
Buyers who are interested in the all-electric vehicle may want to wait until it hits the used car market, as the current cost of the technology is rather expensive, but may decrease in the next few years.
Nissan has announced that it will debut five models, including one from its luxury Infiniti line, at the upcoming LA Auto Show.
According to Automobile Magazine, a production-spec Leaf will be unveiled for the first time. The highly-anticipated electric car has only been shown with unofficial parts that will not be in the final factory order. The car is set for a December release.
The other vehicles are all-new. The Ellure concept car is an aggressively styled four-door coupe designed to compete with upper-echelon vehicles like the Mercedes CLS-Class. Nissan will also show the Quest Minivan, which has only been glimpsed in teaser photos at this point. The last car from the Nissan line is the Murano CrossCabriolet, which Nissan says is the first all-wheel drive crossover convertible in the world, and expected to be an option on the Murano in 2011.
Infiniti meanwhile, is set to debut its M35 hybrid sedan, which the automaker has hyped by saying it will deliver “V-8 performance with four-cylinder fuel economy.”
As brands introduce new models, older ones get pushed to the used car market, where they can be found at a reduced price. Considering the number of changes planned for Nissan in the next few years, drivers may want to consider shopping for a used Nissan the next time they need a car.
Mercedes is set to debut a slew of new vehicles over the next few years, including the first appearance of the B-Class hatchback in the U.S.
While not overhauling its entire lineup over the next few years like some automakers, Mercedes has announced a variety of new models, many of which will be options on existing models – convertibles or coupes on some sedans, for example.
According to Automobile Magazine, the heart of the new lineup will be the B-Class, a popular model in Europe and overseas. The compact hatchback is expected to come with a number of trim levels, including sedan, convertible and coupe options. Mercedes has also announced that it will bring an AMG high-performance version stateside eventually, featuring a supercharged V6 engine.
The CLS-Class, which many credit with kicking off the “four-door coupe” phenomenon among luxury automakers, will see its second generation redesign debut this September. Other models, like the next generations of the C-Class, S-Class, and CL-Class, are expected to undergo thorough redesigns by 2013.
As models are replaced, older versions hit the used car market, meaning drivers may be able to get some great deals on used Mercedes in the near future.
It’s back-to-school time, and while most teenagers will likely stamp around the house upon hearing the word, their temperament is likely to be tamed when Mom and Dad hand them the keys to a brand new car.
Well, maybe not brand new. Many families opt to purchase used cars for their children when the time comes, as they are less expensive than newer models and will likely only be driven for a few years at most. However, that doesn’t mean the car doesn’t have to be nice, and parents should carefully consider a student’s needs when it comes time to choose.
Kelley Blue Book, the company that sets most used car values, recently revealed their picks for back-to-school cars. While some of the picks were new, half of them were older models that parents can likely easily find at their local used car dealer or auto auction. Here’s a few that made the grade.
Coming in at number 8 was the used Ford Crown Victoria from 2006. While Kelley acknowledges that the Crown Vic isn’t the first car that comes to mind when one thinks of the youth demographic, it defends the decision, citing the Crown Vic’s utility (it is the top choice of cab drivers and police officers) and roomy interior compared to many budget compact cars. Safety, another big concern for parents, generally improves with larger cars, and the Crown Vic’s long wheelbase and wide body offer that in spades.
In the fourth spot was the 2008 Pontiac Vibe. Kelley recommended this hatchback for students involved in lots of extracurricular activities, as the extra trunk space allows students to transport sports equipment and band instruments. It also helps for students that it looks sleek and stylish. Parents should be aware that the Vibe was co-developed by Toyota and GM, and drivers will find almost the exact same features on a used Toyota Matrix.
But the top spot was reserved for a perennial best seller, a used Honda Civic from 2006. Kelley called the model “the smartest car purchase you can make,” reasoning that the Civic has everything a student wants – affordability, reliability, space for cargo and books, stylish while also being extremely easy to sell once the kid heads off to college (yet it’ll still be around to hand down to younger siblings).
Custom parts maker Brabus, best known for its suspension systems, brakes and bodywork, has unveiled its latest creation, a custom Mercedes S600 decked out with Apple gear.
The “iBusiness” Mercedes features a slew of Apple products that have turned the backseat into a fully-functional office environment. Two iPads connected to Bluetooth keyboards are suspended from the driver’s and passenger’s seats, along with a drop down screen on the roof connected to a Mac Mini computer. Brabus has also wired the entire car to have Internet connectivity anywhere, and polishes the whole package off with touches like a 64 GB iPod integrated in the front and wireless controls for the car’s existing functions, like GPS and radio.
And because it’s Brabus and not Geek Squad behind the modifications, they couldn’t resist doing a little work under the hood: this office will scream down highways, powered by a 6.3-liter V-12 beast of an engine that cranks out 750 horses.
The company has announced that owners of new and used Mercedes S-Class vehicles can contact the company to have their car receive a similar treatment – for a price, of course.
In an attempt to make consumers more receptive to the environmentally-friendly vehicles, the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed new stickers for alternative energy and electric vehicles that will break down the comparison between those cars and gas-powered vehicles.
With the rise of plug-in hybrids and gas/electric mixes, fuel economy can be confusing. The new stickers assign letter grades, ranging from A+ to D, for each vehicle in addition to miles per gallon and other environmental ratings, according to CNET. Electric and alternative fuel vehicles get further information that breaks down how long it takes to charge, what the miles per gallon equivalent is, and how much a user can expect to save on average over the purchase of a similar gas vehicle.
The new labels also have a scannable barcode for use with smartphone apps. A user can point his or her phone’s camera at the image in order to be taken to the EPA website, where more information can be gathered.
Fuel economy is important, but hybrids and alternative energy vehicles can be expensive. Before making the switch, drivers may want to wish for the cars to hit the used car market in order to take advantage of increased savings.
When buying a new or used car, some of the most important information lies in the vehicle’s specifications. These numbers – things like horsepower, torque and ride height, ultimately determine how well a car will perform on the road.
Of course, a driver can research all the numbers they want, but it won’t mean anything until they get the car out on the road. Often, a car performs better or worse than the numbers initially indicate. The driving experience can also be highly subjective. One driver may want a smooth ride above all else, while another likes to feel the seat vibrate as they open up the engine. Many factors contribute to the right car.
American muscle car fans will contend that nothing beats sitting behind the wheel of a Mustang. BMW purists, meanwhile, will tout the blazing speeds and smooth rides of an M3 Coupe. For years, Ford‘s signature car couldn’t compete with its European rival. But now, with a complete redesign to the Mustang line, MotorTrend felt it was time to take a 2011 Mustang GT to the track and test it against the BMW M3 Coupe.
With both equipped with V8 engines, the Mustang slightly edges out the M3. While the Coupe boasts 2 more horsepower (414 to 412,) the Mustang has a better power-to-weight ratio (8.8 “pounds per pony” to the M3’s 8.6), meaning its horses do a bit more work and make it slightly faster. Although both cars posted a 4.4 second 0-60 time, the Mustang beat the M3 in longer straight races. Yet that means nothing on an actual track, with turns involved. This battle couldn’t be settled just yet.
To keep things fair, the cars can be driven in two different styles. Inexperienced drivers will opt for electronic stability control and other assisted driving implements on, while pros will turn all those off and do things manually. So the news source had two different drivers attempt lap times at the track – the unprofessional automotive writer and a racing champ, Randy Pobst.
In the end, the cars were evenly matched. The “average” driver posted a faster time with the Mustang by about half a second, while the pro favored the M3 by .09 seconds. The M3 costs a fair bit more, but preference ultimately comes down to what a driver is looking for from a vehicle – both are mean machines capable of handling any track.
Either way, the prices on these bad boys will set drivers back a bit, so they may want to wait a few years until the models hit the used car market before making a decision. But if drivers want to get behind the wheel now, they can likely find a late-model used Ford or BMW at their local dealer today.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued a recall on used Ford Windstar minivans because of a problem with the rear axle.
The New York Times reports that Ford will recall 462,750 vehicles from 1999-2003. The Windstar’s rear axle, which is U-shaped, acts as a repository for salt that can be kicked up off the road. The salt can then corrode the axle to the point that it gives way.
The NHTSA revealed that it had received 234 complaints about the problem that led to 2 accidents but no injuries. More than half of the reports said the axle had split completely.
Ford will fix the vehicles free of charge and issue refunds to anyone who has paid for them.
The Ford Windstar is a popular used minivan, but buyers have lots of other options when it comes to buying a used car. Those interested in a minivan may want to look at a used Honda Odyssey, Chrysler Town and Country or a Windstar that was made outside of the years mentioned. They should also know that drivers in states that don’t salt their roads as much have not reported as many issues.
Used Toyotas were once known as bastions of reliability, but recent recalls have caused the automaker to pull back millions of its signature vehicles.
The latest news on the Toyota recall front, according to the Los Angeles Times, is a one million used car recall on 2005-2008 Toyota Matrices and Corollas. The automaker received several complaints of a stalling engine that it determined could be due to a problem with an engine control unit, an electronic part.
The announcement also includes the discontinued Pontiac Vibe, which was a joint venture between Toyota and General Motors.
The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration said it received 163 complaints about the issue. Toyota said it was aware of three accidents with one minor injury.
Although the company has recalled over 10 million vehicles in the past few months, the brand is still one of the most popular in the world. Drivers interested in used Toyotas shouldn’t let recalls scare them off, as careful research will allow them to find plenty of models that aren’t involved in the recalls.
Nissan’s strong sales combined with Toyota‘s stumbles have allowed the company to make significant progress in terms of surpassing second-place Asian automaker Honda in terms of North American sales, but a huge surge by upstart South Korean brand Hyundai may usurp them both.
According to USA Today, Toyota’s recall issues have led consumers to look elsewhere. While Toyota is still the top brand, many drivers have turned to Nissan rather than Honda when shopping for a new or used car.
Many analysts pegged Nissan to eventually unseat Honda as the number 2 automaker – and that still may happen by year’s end. But others are predicting that the affordable prices of Hyundai, coupled with its cheaper Kia brand, are leading consumers away from Japan’s Big Three in this tough economy – so much so that Hyundai will end up in second place by the time all is said and done.
“Really, Nissan’s biggest threat isn’t Honda,” Ed Kim, chief industry analyst for AutoPacific told the news source. “The one they need to be concerned about is Hyundai.”
Drivers looking for a vehicle should remember to factor used cars into their decision. Although Hyundai’s cars are usually cheaper when bought new, consumers who shop around a bit can likely find a great deal on a used Nissan, Honda or Toyota.
As Labor Day weekend approaches, many dealers will be offering incentives on 2010 models in order to make way for the new 2011 stock. That means that late-model 2010 vehicles will soon be hitting the used car market.
Crossovers are a popular vehicle among those shopping for used autos, and most companies now offer multiple crossover models. The mix of an SUV’s utility with the fuel economy and drivetrain of a smaller passenger vehicle has enticed a number of buyers.
Drivers shopping for a crossover will probably be looking at used Hondas, Fords and Nissans, among other brands. Yet because drivers are shopping on the used car market, they might opt to step up into a luxury crossover.
There are a number of luxury crossovers, but Cars.com recently listed a few of the better ones on the market. The Acura MDX, Buick Enclave and Lincoln MKT all have their fair share of followers, but the news source broke down the cars feature by feature.
In terms of price, buyers will find the Enclave as the cheapest of the three, with the MDX and MKT slightly higher. Yet the MDX and MKT both offer all-wheel drive, while the Enclave only has front-wheel drive.
The MKT blew away the competition in the horsepower department, with a turbocharged V6 engine and reactive transmission. The MKT’s handling was also praised.
However, the news source named the MDX as the best-handling vehicle, calling its ride experience “flat-out fun.” The MDX also won points for its recently redesigned exterior styling.
While all three models sport large interiors with three full rows of seats that fit seven passengers, they differed in cargo space, legroom and headroom. The Enclave took the cake on these fronts, with the roomiest experience. In the end, the website preferred the Enclave because of its cheaper price but competitive features.
Yet these aren’t the only three luxury crossovers in the game. Those looking for used autos will find options from several other manufacturers in regard to the luxury crossover, many of which can be found for quite a bit cheaper than the MDX, Enclave and MKT.
U.S News and World Report ranked Nissan’s Infiniti EX as the top crossover in the segment, beating out a host of other vehicles. Although the car’s engine may not be as powerful as some of it’s competitors and its interior is a bit more constrained, the car took top marks in safety features for around $35,000 new. A used Nissan Infiniti EX could most likely be found for quite a bit cheaper.
Mercedes-Benz offers two options for luxury crossovers. The company has the slightly smaller GLK-Class, which also retails in the $30,000 range, or the more expensive but also more spacious R-Class. The two models are considered to be top of the line in terms of engines, and come with the added prestige of the Mercedes name.
Finally, drivers should consider a used BMW X3 and X5. If buyers don’t need the extra space, the X3 offers great safety features and sporty handling. Those who want a slightly larger vehicle can instead opt for the X5, another solid choice for a crossover.
As Labor Day approaches, many dealerships will be offering incentives on their 2010 cars for sale in order to make way for the 2011 models. But soon after, these cars will find their way to used car dealers as late-model vehicles, where they can be found at a reduced rate.
When deciding on a late-model used car, fuel economy is an important factor. Since the vehicle was only built in the last few years, it’s unlikely to have many miles on it and thus drivers will be depending on the car for a long time. The more miles that a driver puts on a car, the more they end up saving – if the car has great fuel economy.
The Environmental Protection Agency rates every car’s gas mileage each year and posts the results online so that shoppers can easily compare vehicles across brands. If a driver considers fuel economy to be an important factor in their car-buying decision, they might want to keep their eyes peeled for a few of these models on the used car lot.
The most efficient car in the country was again the Toyota Prius. The Prius has come to symbolize the ideal hybrid and has been at the forefront of the class in terms of awards and recognition. With 51 miles per gallon in the city and 48 on the highway, average drivers can expect to pay just $780 per year on fuel costs.
That said, the Prius isn’t the only hybrid in the game. True, it has the best fuel economy by quite a bit. But fuel economy isn’t the only consideration when purchasing a vehicle.
Drivers who want a bit more power out of their hybrid, for example, might want to check out the Nissan Altima or Ford Fusion hybrids. Rather than the 1.8-liter engine found on the Prius, these both come with 2.5-liter engines. In addition, they’re both slightly cheaper than a Prius and have higher ratings in driver and passenger safety crash tests.
The Fusion clocks in with 41 miles per gallon in the city and 36 on the highway while the Altima gets 35 in the city and 33 on the highway. On average, this is about $200 – $300 more per year than the Prius, but drivers will have to weigh whether the cheaper price and additional features are worth it.
Another option is the Honda Insight. Like the Prius, the Insight comes as a hatchback, and though it only sports a 1.3-liter engine, it is $6,770 cheaper than its more famous counterpart. If a driver buys a used Honda Insight, they’re likely to save even more. The model still gets 40 miles per gallon in the city with 43 on the highway for an average of $952 spent on fuel each year.
The Prius might be the most well-known hybrid, and it still holds a 10 miles per gallon edge over its closest competitors. But when drivers really look at the numbers for a vehicle, the Prius’ competitors are all viable options as well, depending on what exactly a driver is looking for in a vehicle.
One of the great benefits of buying a used car rather than a new one is being able to get some classic luxury vehicles for a fraction of their original price. While a brand new Mercedes-Benz or Audi might be outside the price range of many buyers, lots of people are able to afford used BMWs every year.
James Bond has always been at the forefront of defining luxury and style, with the naming of a new Bond car typically enjoying just as much attention as the naming of a new Bond girl. Thanks to the reduced prices of the used car market, fans of the British superspy can now own some of his famous cars without paying the huge prices that they commanded when they were first introduced.
Cars.com looked at the top 10 vehicles to ever serve as Bond cars, and many of them may fit in the price range of modern car buyers.
Two of the Pierce Brosnan-era vehicles made the list, and both were BMWs. Bond used the 1997 BMW 750iL in “Tomorrow Never Dies,” where he drove it on a high-speed chase through a multilevel parking garage. Although the spy’s 750iL came equipped with rockets, tear gas, spike strips and magnetic flash grenades, drivers can likely find a used BMW with a few less options at an auto auction or used car lot.
Bond got a little more stylish for 1999, where he switched to a BMW Z8 for “The World is Not Enough.” This two-seater V8 coupe might move almost as fast as a missile, but most models unfortunately don’t come with the ground to air warheads that Bond had in his vehicle.
Some of the more classic cars on the list will likely be a bit rarer and tough to find. But if drivers find a 1975 Lotus Espirit from “The Spy Who Loved Me” or a 1961 Sunbeam Alpine from “Dr. No” they should try to snatch it up. The true classic, however, is the 1964 Aston Martin DB5 from “Goldfinger,” which took the top spot on the list.
These vehicles might have been among the most expensive in the world back in their heyday, but their prices have likely fallen quite a bit in the past few years. Drivers looking for a used BMW should keep their eyes peeled for a 750iL, Z8 or even a Z3, which was used in “Goldeneye.” The top spy cars of yesteryear can become the bargains of today.
Once a driver has settled on a used car, the important question is whether they want to buy or lease the vehicle. While each strategy has its pros and cons, drivers will ultimately have to decide which one is right for them.
MSN Autos examined some of the considerations that drivers will have to think about when it comes down to closing the deal on their used auto. A driver who is informed about the procedure that goes into buying or leasing a car will be able to negotiate better at the dealership.
The news source writes that for many years, leasing was not an economically effective way to own a vehicle. Buyers were often better off and buying a vehicle that they could keep for several years. However, leasing continue to grow in popularity as it allowed drivers to not have to pay a lot of cash up front and change their vehicle every few years.
Now, the news provider believes that the economic changes in the auto industry have made leasing a viable option, both in terms of perks and finances.
An important thing to understand about leasing is residual value. At the end of the lease, the driver has the option to buy the car outright for the residual value. This is calculated not at the time the car is turned in, but at the time the deal is signed, based on the mileage allotment and other factors. By negotiating a desirable residual value, drivers keep their options open.
But because the dealer will more than likely end up with the car at the end of the lease, it is in their best interest to keep the car running. This is why many dealers will offer free maintenance for the life of the lease – a feature that no potential lessee should pass up.
Another big benefit of leasing is that the monthly payments are often much, much smaller. If a buyer doesn’t have the ability to pay cash on a car, they’ll be forced to get financing with interest, not to mention that they’ll be paying sales tax on the full price of the car rather than just the fraction that they would with leasing.
Yet the real reason that leasing has become an attractive option is the unpredictability of the economy. It’s no secret that the auto industry struggled during the economy and while sales are up as of late, many dealers will still do anything to move their cars.
This is where a residual value becomes important. Dealers are making their estimates based on the auto industry today, and they simply don’t know what will come of the future. In two years, the car might be worth quite a bit more than the dealer first predicted. If it’s not, a driver isn’t stuck with the car like he would be if he bought it – he can turn it in or buy it if he wants to keep it. But if it is, he can buy the car for the residual value, then turn around and sell it for a profit if he or she desires.
That’s not to say that buying isn’t a great option – especially if the buyer has the cash to buy it outright. With dealers offering incentives and a number of great used cars hitting the market at reduced rates, it’s a great time to buy – or lease – a vehicle.
Before drivers enter the market for a used car, they often have to sell their own vehicle first. While there are many factors that go into the price of a car there are a few things that sellers can do in order to ensure that their vehicle goes for the price they desire.
MSN Auto recently compiled some tips that explain a few good habits that will help drivers sell their car for a higher price. They talked to Charles Vogelheim, editor of the Kelley Blue Book, for some thoughts on the car selling process.
Although maintaining the vehicle and ensuring that it is in working order is obviously an important consideration, Vogelheim points out that aesthetics play a big role in influencing what the vehicle is eventually valued at.
“The most important thing is to clean the car inside and out,” Vogelheim told the news source. “If the car is older, a good wash and wax on the exterior and vacuum of the interior is probably enough. The extent of the detail will vary depending on the age of the car.”
Vogelheim says that the car doesn’t necessarily need a full detailing. For those who want to save a bit of money, one of the premium options at a full service car wash will usually do the trick.
That takes care of the interior, but for the exterior, Vogelheim recommends paying special attention to dents, chips, scratches and dings. These imperfections can severely affect a driver’s ability to sell a vehicle. This can be a quick fix, and if a car has multiple flaws, many repair shops will do the work at a reduced rate.
Beyond that, buyers should focus on repairing any damage, as this can also prevent a vehicle from being sold. Lights, mirrors and windshields are all highly-visible areas that should be repaired in order to ensure a better price.
“The difficulty with repairing body damage is that the greater the amount of damage, the less return on your investment you will get when you sell the car,” said Vogelheim. However, he cautions that these can often be dealbreakers, especially if the buyer is considering trading their car into a dealer rather than selling to a third party. “You don’t want to give a buyer a reason to not buy your car.”
Finally, drivers should be certain that they have a vehicle’s service records in order. This can go a long way toward assuring a driver that a vehicle is in working order. At the same time, Vogelheim cautions that a driver is not required to provide any type of warranty on their vehicle, and should set the terms of the agreement clearly in the bill of sale.