Prius gets good gas mileage, not too good acceleration

The Toyota Prius has changed the way many drivers in the country view fuel-efficient cars. There’s no question the hybrid saves owners hundreds of dollars in gas per year, but one journalist questions if it might be too slow for U.S. highways.

Clifford Atiyeh, who writes for the Overdrive blog for the Boston Globe says that while the Prius might save you some money in gas, forget about acceleration as he says the car makes all others seem like you’re driving a slingshot.

“The Prius saves fuel like it’s 2020, but drives like it came from 1987,” writes Atiyeh.

Atiyeh says the lack of acceleration isn’t a problem in city driving, but when a Prius driver is trying to drive onto the onramp of a highway it can be unsafe. When recently trying to merge onto a freeway in Boston, Atiyeh says he had the pedal to the metal, but still could barely keep up with the cars rushing past.

“That’s not adrenaline kicking in – it’s instinct telling you that zero to 60 in 10 seconds can be flat-out dangerous,” he wrote.

Toyota has said that its next generation Prius, which goes on sale later this year, is likely to get up to 50 miles per gallon. The carmaker is also starting to see some competition from other models like the Honda Insight.

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State considers Hummer tax

It seems that in addition to paying more for having to fill up more often, owners of gas-guzzling cars in Massachusetts might need to pay an additional tax for the privilege to drive around.

Although Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick did not go into the specifics of the proposal, the so-called Hummer tax would place fees on the drivers of cars with low gas mileage, and give incentives to the drivers of more fuel-efficient vehicles.

The idea of taxing citizens for driving gas guzzling vehicles has been on the table in a number of states for some time, but if a law were passed in Massachusetts it would be the first in the nation.

Chris Britt, CEO of a Boston accounting firm says he already pays $450 extra each month to park his Hummer downtown and says neighbors at his condo are proud to be drive more “green” vehicles and think it’s absurd he drives a Hummer.

“But in the last snowstorm, I saw people spending hours digging out their Priuses,” Britt told the Boston Globe. “With my truck, I can drive through anything. I can park it on a snowbank.”

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Man finds 35 pounds of pot in gas tank

A used car owner who couldn’t figure out why his fuel gauge never showed more than half full got a big surprise this week when a mechanic found 35 pounds of pot in the vehicle’s gas tank.

Utah police say about $35,000 worth of marijuana was found in the tank of a 2009 Nissan Armada after its owner brought the vehicle in to see what was wrong with the gas gauge.

Although the drugs were tightly wrapped in plastic, gasoline had leaked into the packaging leading investigators to believe it had been in the car for months. The car had already had several owners and was used as a rental vehicle for a period.

Police say the current owner is not a suspect but think it will be difficult to track down were the drugs came from because it has changed hands so many times.

Officials say the car should be fine and in complete working order once the drugs are removed.

According to, the Nissan has produced the Armada since 2004 and says this year’s model “hauls like a gorilla on steroids.”

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Half a million car buyers bought used instead of new

Despite a slumping economy, people still often need to purchase a car and according to, more people are turning to used cars to save some cash.

Edmunds, an online automotive resource, says that 511,000 of the used cars purchased in the last three months would most likely have been new car purchases in a better economy.

“It is safe to assume that many shoppers who normally would be tempted by ‘new car smell’ and the latest automotive technology made a more cost-conscious decision because of economic pressures,” said senior analyst David Tompkins.

According to the research, more than two thirds of the people who bought used cars did not even consider a new car when they began looking at vehicles. In a normal economy they would have at least considered a new car, says Tomkins.

The remaining buyers did look at new cars, but at some point decided to make a used car purchase instead.

Those who did make a used car purchase seem to have chosen a proper time to make that buy as Dow Jones recently reported that used car prices fell by 8 percent in 2008.

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Saturn’s days are numbered, maybe

Earlier this week General Motors announced that it would be discontinuing the Saturn line of cars after the current product cycle. But reports say Saturns could possibly continue production past the 2011 end date set by GM.

According to the Detroit News, Saturn officials, dealers and consultants are looking into ways that they could team up with another manufacturer to continue the Saturn line as an independent entity.

It is also possible that the brand could be sold to another company which could give possibly give a foreign automaker an inside track to American car buyers.

GM announced this week that it would be cutting back on a number of its product lines in the next few years as the automakers attempt to cut costs. In addition to losing Saturn GM will also cut out most of its Pontiac line of vehicles and could potentially sell the Hummer line to another company.

But it appears that buyers of used Saturns won’t need to worry about the future of their cars. In a letter to car owners this week, which was posted on, Saturn assured owners that GM would continue to cover warranties and that parts for the cars will continue to be available.

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In the slumping economy, many Americans are turning to used cars as a smart way to save money on the purchase of a car. says it has had a record number of people using its site to look for their new used car purchase and has some advice on which cars to choose.

It seems that the people at think Fords make a good used car purchase with the website picking five Ford vehicles in its top ten used cars. One of them is the always popular Ford Taurus.

The 2005 Ford Taurus was mostly sold as a fleet vehicle, but according to, that might be a tribute to the strengths of the car. The website also suggests looking for a Taurus with the side impact airbags which may be hard to find as only 10 percent of the 2005 models came with them.

The site also recommends the Hyundai XG350 which it says established Hyundai as a maker of luxurious cars. The one thing lacking in the car is its fuel economy which the site says is around 19 miles per gallon.

According to Dow Jones, the price of used cars fell 8 percent in 2008 meaning this might be a better time than ever to make a used car purchase.

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Which cars are better used?

According to U.S. News & World Report, people interested in car shopping might want to consider looking at a used car first when it comes to a couple of models.

A number of reports have said it’s a good time to buy a used car with the Dow Jones reporting that used car prices had dropped in the last year, but according to the magazine, there are a couple of cars that would be good used car purchases anyway.

Take the Volvo S60 for example. It’s rumored that a new design for the S60 will be coming out in 2010, which means a 2009 model will depreciate in value more rapidly than normal. But the magazine says a 2005 model might be worth your while as Kelley Blue Book estimates it at $13,585.

Another car the magazine suggests buying used is the Mitsubishi Eclipse. U.S. News says a 2008 Eclipse is around $6,000 less than a brand new model and with a high depreciation rate, it’s likely you can an older model even cheaper.

Across the board it is cheaper to buy a used car today than it was a year ago with the National Automotive Dealers Association reporting that used cars in every category fell in 2008.

Man turns used car into electric vehicle

Sometimes the future of technology can be found by going to the past. That was surely the case of a man who turned a rusted 1972 Volkswagen Beetle into a car that costs a penny to drive.

As a former NASA engineer, John Hendrickson definitely had an advantage when turning the 37-year-old VW into an electric vehicle but his story shows that with some determination and a disdain for paying for gas, anything is possible.

“I thought gas stations were ripping us off, so I decided to just go build my own electric car,” Hendrickson told the Houston Chronicle.

After about two years of work, Hendrickson’s VW now gets about 50 miles on one charge and has taken home a number of awards.

But according to the paper, Hendrickson isn’t through tinkering with used cars. Now the 74-year-old intends on turning a used 1992 Isuzu Amigo into a hybrid vehicle that runs on electric and gasoline.

Although many would like to see the day when it is no longer necessary to make a visit to the gas station, it appears that hybrid cars are the next best thing for the time being. As another sign of the hybrid future, the New York City police department will soon unveil 40 hybrid vehicles that will be on patrol in the city, according to the New York Post.

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Getting a loan for used car purchase

The economic downturn may have made it more difficult for some people to get loans for a used car purchase, but there are ways to get a loan approval.

There is hope that a new economic stimulus package will open up the purse strings of lenders, but even if that doesn’t come to pass, says there is money out there to be had.

Jesse Toprak,’s executive director of industry analysis said that although consumer confidence is low and people are avoiding big purchases, there are loans available. He also says this is a great time to make a car purchase.

“If someone needs a car, they know the market is down, and this is a great buying opportunity,” said Toprak.

The website says buyers looking to secure credit should take a three-pronged approach which includes trying to optimize their credit score, coming up with a plan of getting the loan and then having dealers and lenders work together to get the loan for you.

Although there seems to be a never ending barrage of bad economic news, the current state of the economy could be good news for car buyers. According to the Dow Jones, used car prices have dropped 8 percent in the last year.

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Reporter defends the used car

It’s tempting to spend a lot of money on a new car even while the economy is tanking, but Boston Globe reporter Geoff Edgers makes the case for the used car saying a used car has something a new one will never have – soul.

Edgers admits it’s tempting to look at a new car, but he’s happy with his 1997 Buick Skylark which he says allows him to appreciate the finer things in life, like good wine. But perhaps more significantly, used cars have something that’s less tangible.

“Old cars have soul. They have character,” says Edgars. “They get us where we’re going without forcing us to spend money we should not be spending or should be spending on something important.”

A new car might seem essential, but Edgars says by spending less on a used car you can save money and buy something that might be more important. A $600 a month car lease, says Edgards, means an extra $7,200 at the end of the year.

Buying a used car may be even cheaper than it would have been a few years ago. According to the National Automotive Dealers Association, used car prices in every category dropped during 2008.

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