Consumer Reports lists most reliable used cars

Statistics show that more people are shunning new cars and making purchases of used cars in this tough economy. But according to Consumer Reports, some used cars are better than others.

Looking at cars between 1999 and 2008, the magazine identified the most and least reliable vehicles among the 1.4 million that were compiled by its Annual Auto Survey.

The company says that Honda and Toyota dominated the list with the Honda Civic and Toyota Echo topping the small car list and the Honda Accord and Toyota Prius leading the pack of best used family cars.

It also found some cars that can be purchased at relatively low prices, including the 1999 Acura CL and 2003 Buick Century which can often be found for under $6,000.

The state of the economy has made it a good time to make a used car purchase. According to the National Automotive Dealers Association, used car prices fell in every category in the last year and Dow Jones recently reported that prices for used cars fell 8 percent in 2008.

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Man charged $81 billion to fill his Camaro

The cost of gas has hit many Americans where it really hurts – in the wallet. But one man was recently in for the shock of his life when he was charged $81 billion to fill up his tank.

According to Tri-City Herald, Juan Zamora filled his 1994 Chevy Camaro at a local Conoco station and used a PayPal debit card to pay the $26 in gas.

Zamora says he later got an email saying his debit card was overdrawn and called a customer service representative to see what was wrong. That’s when he got the news that a flaw in the system had mistakenly charged him $81,400,836,908.

“That’s a B, as in billions!” Zamora wrote in an email to the Herald.

He told the paper that it took some time to get customer service to believe his story with the representative asking him at one point if he got the gas. “Like I had to prove that I didn’t pump $81,400,836,908 in gas,” Zamora wrote to the paper.

According to the Lundberg Survey released earlier this week, the average price of unleaded rose 2.6 cents in the past week to $1.94 a gallon. At that price Zamora would have had to pump almost 42 billion gallons into his Camaro.

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New Jersey could be leader in hydrogen powered cars

If the country is to truly get away from fossil fuels to run its automobiles it’s yet to be determined what alternative energy source will take its place. But if hydrogen is the way of the future it’s likely that New Jersey will lead the way.

According to Jim Henry, writing for Examiner.com, the home of BMW North America is in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey where the company is in the process of building the first hydrogen refueling stations in the U.S. which will service the company’s test fleet of hydrogen-powered cars.

The proponents of hydrogen say it’s the cleanest of all the alternatives, producing only water as a byproduct. But critics say the technology is not yet feasible and question the safety of the fuel.

Iceland is already working towards using the product as the main fuel in the country. According to the Christian Science Monitor, Iceland had hoped to convert the entire country to hydrogen by 2040, but delays in car manufacturers producing hydrogen-powered cars has placed them behind schedule.

“If somebody were to say to me today, ‘I’ll bring 20,000 hydrogen cars to Iceland every year for the next five years at the same cost as a conventional car,’ it would not be a problem for us,” Jon Bjorn Skulason, general manager of Icelandic New Energy told the news provider.

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Family-friendly features to look for in used cars

Family-friendly features to look for in used cars

When looking for a new vehicle, families on a tight budget might be in the market for a used car to ease the financial burden. MSN Autos says there are some features every family should be on the look-out for.

From safety to entertainment, even used cars today have a number of family-friendly features that can keep the kids occupied while easing parents’ minds.

Some of the latest features to save the sanity of parents and keep kids occupied during long trips are entertainment systems like rear seat DVD players and television.

For a few dollars a month, Chrysler vehicles equipped with Sirius Backseat TV can keep the children quiet as they watch programs from Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and the Disney Channel. The website says more mainstream channels like ESPN may be offered soon.

Another factor is safety. Most late model cars will come equipped with air bags, anti-lock brakes and stability control, but concerned parents can go the extra mile and look for cars with side curtain airbags and even a rearview camera which can help make sure the little ones are not behind the vehicle as you back up.

Earlier this month Edmunds reported that a half million people who would have normally purchased a new vehicle bought a used car in the past three months.

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Lending is still available for used car purchases

The credit crunch has made it more difficult for potential car buyers to get funding to make the purchase of a used car. But that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible.

According to TheDay.com, banks small and large say it is getting easier to get a loan to purchase a used car, although some lenders are being more conservative with their funding.

Cheryl Dunaj, vice president of retail services at Groton, Connecticut-based Ledge Light Federal Credit Union says the lender has contacted sellers in the area to let them know they have money to lend.

“We’ve been able to do loans that otherwise would not have been able to get done,” Dunaj told the website.

The company’s CFO, David Sacco said that more goes into the decision to lend than just a person’s credit rating. He says the lender will “still look at people and make decisions on what is going on in people’s lives and not (just) their credit score. Unless we give them money and try to get them back on their feet, the economy is not going to change.”

If people can get funding it’s a good time for them to buy a used car as the National Automotive Dealers Association recently announced that used car prices fell in every category in the last year.

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Top used fuel-efficient cars

As more and more people head to used car lots over new they are increasingly looking at fuel-efficient cars that won’t break their bank at the pump. When considering what used car to buy Cars.com says there are a few fuel-friendly vehicles to consider.

It should be no surprise that at the top of the list is the Toyota Prius. The site says that the 2004-2008 Prius is the best bet when looking for fuel efficiency as it averages about 45 miles per gallon.

Coming in second and third on the list are a pair of 2004-2008 Honda Civics. At 42-45 miles per gallon, the Civic Hybrid gets slightly better gas mileage than its traditional twin. Both models were redesigned in 2006, which included side curtain airbags as a standard.

Finishing out the top five are two more Toyotas as the Corolla and Camry Hybrid both get better than 34 miles per gallon on average. For the Corolla, the site suggests the 2004-2008 model, while the Camry Hybrid was just introduced in 2007 meaning there are a limited number available.

The 2010 Toyota Prius is expected to get even better gas mileage that the current incarnation. According to the company the car should get close to 50 miles per gallon when it hits the road next year.

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Morgan Freeman sued over car crash

Morgan Freeman is being sued by a woman who accuses the actor of negligence when they were involved in a car crash in which she was a passenger.

Demaris Meyer also denied that she was Freeman’s mistress, saying the two were not involved in a romantic relationship.

Last August, the 71-year-old Freeman was driving Meyer’s Nissan Maxima while she was in the passenger seat. Authorities say the couple was driving through a dark highway in Mississippi when the car went off the road, flipping several times before landing upright.

Meyer says the crash, which left her with a broken wrist and torn labrum, has changed her life.

“I could not take care of myself for several months. I have not been able to go back to work and still am suffering both physically and emotionally as a result of the accident,” she said on Wednesday at a news conference at the office of her lawyer, Gloria Allred.

Meyer did not announce how much she was seeking in the suit, but said she was looking to recover medical expenses, lost wages, property damages, permanent disability and pain and suffering.

Obama gets automobile history lesson

In President Barack Obama’s address to the joint session of Congress earlier this week he said the U.S., as inventors of the automobile, needed to give support to U.S. automakers. But it turns out that’s not historically accurate.

On Tuesday, the president said, “I believe the nation that invented the automobile cannot walk away from it,” a statement that has been critiqued not for its promise of spending, but for its accuracy.

Although American Henry Ford helped to bring the automobile to the masses in the 1890s, it is widely accepted that a German, Karl Benz (of Mercedes-Benz fame) invented the combustion-powered vehicle in 1885 that led to the cars we see on roads today.

The carmaker Daimler, which was born from the work of Benz and fellow German Gottlieb Daimler, says the president needs to brush up on his auto history.

“It’s a fact that Daimler invented the car,” Han Tjan, U.S. spokesman for the company told USA Today. “If someone says the U.S. invented the car, either it’s an incomplete statement or sloppy research.”

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‘Green’ car rental helps stars stay environmentally friendly

During awards season, hundreds of A-list stars are driving – or being driven – to events like the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards in rented cars, which has given one company the idea of lending “green” cars to Hollywood stars.

The “green” movement in cars is popular these days not only for its cost savings at the pump, but because many people are trying to reduce their carbon footprint. The environmental impact is probably most important to the Hollywood elite who want to at least look like they’re doing their part.

It’s no surprise then that GreenSUV, a California company that rents hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles to celebrities, is getting attention from stars like Penelope Cruz.

According to TheDailyGreen.com, Cruz and fellow actress Meryl Streep used the car service to get the Academy Awards on Sunday and a number of stars used the service for the Golden Globes.

“I felt it was time for a luxury car service to take part in eliminating gas-guzzling, high-emission vehicles from the roads,” Green SUV CEO Damien Breen told the website. “We realize many people want to contribute to the environment, but can’t see themselves being driven around town in a Prius.”

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Most popular used cars

As Americans take measures to cut costs and save as much money as they can, more and more people are turning to used cars as a way to make a purchase without breaking the bank. But it appears that a lot of people are looking for the same used cars.

According to the last study done by Cars.com which looks at used car searches during the third quarter of 2008, a couple of Hondas topped the list.

The Honda Accord and Honda Civic took the top spots on the list, which was established after the company looked at email requests to dealers and private sellers for used vehicles. The two Honda models swapped places from the previous quarter when Civics were number one.

In terms of years, the 2005 models of both the Accord and the Civic were most popular.

With the exception of the Ford Mustang (which came in third), the Ford F-150 (which came in sixth) and the Jeep Wrangler (which came in seventh) the remaining cars on the list are fairly fuel-efficient cars from foreign automakers.

People searching for these cars should be able to get a good deal as Dow Jones recently reported that used car prices fell 8 percent in 2008.

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