EcoDriving month includes race team with carbon-neutral goal

May is National EcoDriving Month, and one association says that tips that could reduce the environmental impact could help save money for new and used car owners as well.

EcoDriving USA wants drivers to reduce their carbon footprint and improve mileage by driving more efficiently.

Simply driving at a steady speed, either through cruise control or good pedal control, could save drivers up to $200 a year in fuel costs, according to the Department of Transportation figures, and observing posted speed limits can increase mileage by nearly a quarter.

Grand Prix driver Nelson Philippe is part of this effort with a team he is heading, which has an interesting goal: become the first race team at the Indianapolis 500 to run a carbon-neutral race.

For Philippe, it may include tactics he already knows, saying, “Race car drivers need to practice EcoDriving too because a race can be won or lost on the track by saving fuel. I apply that same principle when I’m on the road.”

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New Volkswagen marketing campaign has familiar faces

Television viewers who have already seen Volkswagen‘s latest marketing campaign have seen Max the Beetle, a character based on the original Beetle beloved by millions.

New commercials for the brand will also bring back a 1963 Micro bus as the two cars have conversations in the 30-second spots about models like the Jetta TDI.

For those who may find more nostalgia in the old cars than be interested in their newer brethren, some Volkswagens may offer great bang for the buck.

For example, the Jetta, which competes against the Honda Civic and other high-quality compacts, gets more than 30 miles per gallon when equipped with a diesel engine.

The 2008 Jetta was complimented by Edmunds.com editors for its strong performance against the competition, luxury features like one-touch power windows in an entry-level model as well as easy-to-use interior controls for things like the radio and air conditioning.

While Volkswagen hasn’t made any cars like the Micro Bus, those looking for an updated Max may find the New Beetle an attractive option, since Edmunds.com cited the 2005 model for great safety and a laundry list of standard features.

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Actor Ben Stiller prefers German engineering for his ride

While he has the money to plunk down payments on some of the most expensive cars in the world, Night at the Museum star Ben Stiller was recently spotted by photographers stepping out in an Audi Q7.

Reports didn’t mention Stiller’s rationale for buying the Audi SUV, but the Tropic Thunder actor may enjoy the powerful V8 engine in the top-of-the-line trim package that puts out 350 horsepower and still gets up to 18 miles per gallon on the highway based on EPA estimates and retails for around $60,000.

The Q7 was introduced in the U.S. in 2006 for the 2007 model year, and base models from then may be had for below $30,000 for the luxury make’s seven-seat SUV, according to Edmunds.com editors.

They also praised the vehicle’s handling with adjustable air suspension and top-notch design and craftsmanship.
Stiller, of course, may be using his to tool around in preparation for Little Fockers, the third installation in the Meet the Fockers series that is currently in pre-production.

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Congressmen sign on to support Right to Repair Bill

A bi-partisan group in Congress has put its weight behind the Right to Repair Bill, including representatives from across the country.

Currently eight members of the House of Representatives, including initial sponsor Democrat Edolphus Towns, have signed on to support the bill that would require auto manufacturers to provide any information that may be used by independent shops to repair cars that it does to dealerships.

While language in the bill supports the protection of trade secrets, it also states that car owners and repair shops should have any tools and information used by dealerships made available at a similar cost.

One of the principal concerns is the more advanced computer systems that control most modern cars, which may require special esoteric information in order to decode.

It may also benefit owners of new and used cars looking to keep more money in their pocket: the bill as written recognizes that if enacted, it would help to promote competition that could benefit consumers.

“Right to Repair has become more important than ever as motorists seek new neighborhood repair shops because a dealership has closed in their area,” said Kathleen Schmatz, Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association CEO. “This … ensures that local auto repair remains available to car owners throughout the country.”

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Crazy car construction takes “use”d cars to new extreme

Used cars may eventually end up unable to be driven, but some enterprising young people have found a way for their image to live on.

At a high school in Colorado, a well-thought out high school prank left a flagpole looking like a pen embedded into a Hot Wheels car after four seniors managed to enclose it with a welded together AMC.

The flagpole emerged intact, and Fruita High School Principal Jody Mimmack told the Grand Junction Sentinel that the teens were probably off the hook as long as they helped to remove the car and clean up the area.

Across the pond, one British art student took camofluage paint to a whole new level with a paint-matched Skoda junker that she says she painted for class, according to a Telegraph report.

For a class, she decided to paint the car to match the exterior of her studio and the parking lot, finding the right shades for the asphalt and paint lines, and she told the news provider that “people have been stopping in the street to look and coming up and almost bumping into it, so it’s had the desired effect.”

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Proper research, right questions may ensure a good used car purchase

If now is the time for a used car according to federal figures that say used car prices are the lowest in months, it may be beneficial to make the right choices before making the purchase.

First, knowing what one can afford is important in establishing a budget, but may also provide some talking points in ensuring that a dealer can’t persuade one to go after a more expensive model that could be unaffordable.

Going online to do research on cars can help because used cars generally have more reviews than their newer brethren, giving potential buyers a leg-up in understanding the positives and potential pitfalls of their model.

It may also offer insight into similar cars within a class whose features or price points may offer a better fit for the used car buyer, and also provide average nationwide values that can help a buyer figure out if a price is fair or not.

Once a model has been picked out, having a friend who is a mechanic or a trusted repair shop take a final look at the vehicle may enable an automotive newbie to make sure that their future ride is not a lemon.

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New venues allow drivers to vent about others on the road

Until cars come with scrolling billboards or other instant communication possibilities with other drivers, it remains difficult to vent about poor driving habits such as speeding and cutting other cars off.

Using Twitter, the online site that allows users to post short messages, has allowed some in Alaska to make posts about questionable driving habits, according to a CNN.com report.

It was designed to provide more relief because when “you yell out the window or give them the finger, you really don’t get any vindication,” the Twitter feed’s co-creator, Molly Hutchins told the news provider.

Another website, platewire.com, goes one step further by allowing users to list license plate numbers of vehicles that annoy posters, and is part of a growing number of websites that give voice to frustrated motorists, according to a Slate report.

Websites that have been effective in modifying driver’s behavior, notes the news provider, include a blog by a bicycle rider in Wisconsin who took video footage of the close calls that trucks and other vehicles had while he was using the same roadways, or one Chinese city’s posting of traffic violators at their work place.

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Proper maintenance may limit engine deaths

Car rental companies sometimes suffer from the same beliefs as some car owners: if there’s nothing wrong with the car, why worry about maintaining it?

Enterprise recently learned the potential downfalls of such a belief when it delivered a Saturn Outlook to a local dealership with 30,000 miles on it and reportedly only one oil change, according to a Jalopnik report.

The engine, which may cost thousands of dollars, needs to be replaced according to the news provider, providing a sobering image for those considering skimping on routine maintenance to save some money.

Prices for routine maintenance for used cars on the other hand, may cost a fraction of that. For example, a 60,000 mile service on a 2004 Ford Explorer costs around $350 to $600 in New York or Los Angeles according to Consumer Reports.

While the Outlook may be a somewhat unique case of auto negligence, the economic downturn may lead to more people ignoring the check engine light.

Used car buyers who want to make sure they are not buying a car from such an owner may want to consider an inspection that, if done by a qualified person, can turn up such information prior to purchase.

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A legal way to outrace cops may reduce accidents

A driver pulls up alongside a police cruiser, revs his engine to do a little burnout to raise the wheel temperature and anxiously waits for the red light to go green so he or she can outrun the cop.

It may sound like a recipe for a ticket and a stern talking to from local law enforcement, but in Florida there is a program called Beat the Heat that allows aspiring drag enthusiasts to battle it out with police from Miami suburbs at County Line Drag Way, according to a WPLG report.

Davie police officer Ron Bradley said that since the program began, street races in his town’s warehouse district have screeched to a halt, acknowledging to the news provider that some competitors tell him “We used to race in Davie. You probably used to chase us around, and now we’re here on the track and we want to race your car.”

In more than 20 states including Connecticut, police officers have outfitted cars to compete in drag races at legal drag strips, according to the Beat the Heat program website, in a bid to educate kids and adults about the dangers of street racing.

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Memorial Day weekend travels may be easier with a Hyundai Elantra

There are three holiday weekends coming up, including Memorial Day Weekend May 23 -25, and while traffic may make vacation travel slow, riding in the right vehicle may lower the stress of both driver and whatever passengers he or she decides to bring along.

It may seem somewhat strange for a compact car to be a good choice, but U.S. News wrote that while it’s in the news provider’s affordable small car class, it’s actually classified as a midsize car by the EPA, offering more space for a small family.

They also ranked the Hyundai Elantra as one of the most cost effective to own because of its reliability and costs of repair and maintenance.

If you don’t need the space of the new Elantra Touring edition, which comes as a wagon, previous models may offer a similar quality for used car buyers.

According to Edmunds.com editors, the 2005 Elantra offered an affordable price to go along with a laundry list of standard features. Users on the site agreed, citing its mileage and the quality interior of GLS trim Elantras.

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