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Traveling Tips for 4th of July

June 28, 2010

1.  Get an Early Start-  Getting out a day ahead of everyone else on the evening of July 1st or the morning of July 2nd will make for less traffic on the road and an easier, quicker and more relaxing drive to your destination.  Also, if you wait until July 6th (July 5th is the national holiday) to return then you will enjoy these same benefits on your trip home.

2.  Preventive Maintenance-  Make sure you have you vehicle tuned up before heading out on the road.  The last thing you want is to break down or blow a tire while driving.  Make sure your oil is changed, your tires have the proper amount of tread and are properly inflated and that your hoses and gaskets are in good working order.  Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

3.  In Drive Entertainment-  When traveling with the little ones, make sure there are plenty of things to keep them entertained.  Good things to have are books, multimedia devices (iPods, Nintendo DS, Sony PSP), CD’s to listen to and, if you want to splurge, a DVD entertainment system for them to watch movies on.  This will go far in helping you avoid the dreaded phrase all children love, “Are we there yet?”

4.  Proper Planning-  Remember to have your route planned out so that you can be efficient while travelling.  Bring a regional map along with you with details on the area such as where to eat, get gas and places to spend the night.  This will allow you to drive with the peace of mind of knowing where you are at and not having to worry about getting lost or off track.

It’s all about Dad

June 18, 2010

Happy Father’s day to all our dads! 

Here’s some fun facts about Father’s Day:

Background Trivia:

  • The idea of Father’s Day was concieved in Washington by Sonora Dodd in 1909.
  • Sonora wanted a day to celebrate her father, William Smart, a windowed Civil War veteran who was left to raise his six children on a farm.
  • The first presidential proclamation honoring fathers was issued in 1966 when President Lyndon Johnson designated the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day.
  • President Nixon signed the day into public law making it permenant in 1972.

Best Dad gifts (according to www.askmen.com):

  1. Landscaping services
  2. Sports Tickets
  3. Meat
  4. Driving Gloves
  5. Wine
  6. Leather Wallet
  7. Golf clubs
  8. Fishing gear
  9. Alcohol
  10. Grilling Tools

Best Dad Cars.  I asked our Auto Expert dads what they considered to be the best dad cars, here’s what they would want:

  • Ferrari
  • Bentley
  • Lamborghini
  • Maserati
  • Corvette
  • Mustang
  • Challenger
  • 1976 Monte Carlo
  • 1964 Chevy Impala convertible
  • 1968 Shelby GT500KR

What to consider when in the market for a used car

June 9, 2010

If you’re in the market for a used car, here are 10 considerations before making your purchase: 

1.  What is my budget?

Before considering any purchase, always determine a budget for it.   If you are paying cash for a used car, you won’t have to finance a monthly payment.  So consider how much you’re willing to spend and if the car fits into that budget.  If not, are you willing and/or able to finance the rest?  If you’re planning to finance the purchase, consider what you want for a monthly payment rather than how much to spend overall because, when financing, you’re buying a monthly payment.  Get pre-approved before starting your search, even for used cars.  Contact your financial institution to apply or find a local credit union (credit unions tend to give lower rates than most banks).  To learn about the benefits of a credit union, see our Credit Unions page If searching and pricing vehicles through dealerships, don’t forget to consider tax and license into the final cost of the vehicle.  A general rule is to add 10% for tax and license for the total, out-the-door cost.  For example, a $10,000 vehicle will cost roughly $11,000.  However, if you’re buying private party, you will have to pay tax and license at the time of registering the vehicle with DMV.  In addition, if the registration fee is due within 60 days, this fee will be added to the total amount owed to the DMV. Lastly,  find out if the vehicle you have in mind will increase your insurance rate.  Insurance can increase significantly, depending on the type of vehicle and your driving record.  To learn more about auto insurance, see our post about Understanding Auto Insurance. 

2.  What type of cars am I considering?

Once you determined a budget, now consider the type of vehicle that would fall under that budget.  Remember to give yourself some wiggle room on price, so unless you’re willing to spend more than what you planned, don’t find something that will barely squeeze by your budget.  Before searching, create a list of your needs (kid-friendly, roomy, towing capability, good gas mileage, reliable) and your wants (body-style, colors, fuel-efficient, luxury options), then cross-reference the two lists.  Don’t buy a vehicle that meets all your wants, but none of your needs.  

3.   Am I being realistic?

After considering your needs versus wants list, are you being realistic with your expectations?  For example, if you need a fuel-efficient vehicle, but you need it to fit 8 people with towing capability, you’ll probably have to choose one or the other.  Also,  research the prices on the type of cars you’re looking out and find out the average price of an 8-passenger vehicle with a towing package.  If the average is around $25,000, don’t assume you can get one for $10,000.  And, if you can, it probably is too good to be true.  Sometimes an awesome deal in the initial purchase will cost you more money after the purchase with repairs. 

4.  Am I being too picky?

From experience, Auto Expert has had our fair share of picky consumers, which is an attribute that works well when searching for newer vehicles since there are more options to choose from.  However it doesn’t work so well when searching for a used vehicle (especially with a lower budget), UNLESS you’re willing to wait months for us to find your SPECIFIC vehicle in mind.  For example, if you’re looking for a 1998 Honda Prelude with silver exterior and black interior with no more than 15,000 miles, you’ll be waiting forever because it probably doesn’t exist.  When considering to buy a used car, be flexible with your specifications.  

5.  Should I consider a certified used car?

Choosing a certified used car depends on how much you’re willing to spend.  Typically, certified pre-owned (CPO) cost more than ones that aren’t, and they tend to be newer models.  Manufactures’ certified programs have taken much risk out of the used car shopping experience because they offer excellent warranties on very clean, refurbished used vehicles.  And, only certain vehicles qualify for certification.  Usually, the vehicle must be under 5 years old and have less than 75,000 miles. 

6.  Should I purchase through private party or a dealer?

This depends on you.  General rule, if you’re looking for something under $4,000, you’ll probably find what you’re looking for through private party or a smaller ma-pa type dealership.  If purchasing private party, remember you’re buying “as-is”, unless stated otherwise.  Most, if not all, private party purchases don’t include a warranty.  If you finance the vehicle through your credit union, you can purchase a warranty through them, depending on if it meets the year and mileage requirements.  Going back to Consideration #1, factor in repair costs after buying a used vehicle through private party or through a smaller dealership.  Sometimes spending a little more up front, will save you money after the fact.  If you’re purchasing through a dealership, most dealers offer extended or “aftermarket” warranties.  And, like stated above, if you’re financing through a credit union, most credit unions offer extended warranties, depending on if it meets the year and mileage requirements. 

7.  If purchasing through a dealer, are they reputable?

If considering purchasing a used vehicle from a dealership, find out if the dealer is a reputable dealer.  If the dealership is a franchised, 5-star dealership they will have better quality vehicles on their lot.  Smaller, ma-pa type dealers have cheaper vehicles, however the quality of them is highly questionable.  Auto Expert only partners with franchised, 5-star dealers, or at least, very close to that standard.  Our dealer partner list is extensive in the fact that we only work with dealers who have quality vehicles on their lot.  These vehicles are put through inspection and checked for frame damage and salvaged titles.  Larger, franchised dealers sell their unwanted or vehicles that don’t meet their standards to smaller dealerships.  We DO NOT work with these smaller dealers because of this fact.  Granted, the vehicles are still used, however quality should still be factored into consideration when purchasing a used vehicle. 

8.  What kind of warranties am I able to get?

Extended warranty options, also known as MBI or Mechanical Breakdown Insurance, are insurance policies that insure your new or used vehicle against mechanical failure.  With MBI policies, you can usually choose any mechanic in the U.S. to service your vehicle.  MBI varies greatly depending on coverage desired, model, and age of the vehicle.  On average, credit unions can offer policies as low as $800 compared to the average dealers cost, which can range between $1500 to $3500. Learn more about Credit Union Lending here. 

9.  Can I get a similar vehicle that’s a newer model that fits my budget?

Some cars, especially Hondas and Toyotas, hold a higher resale value because of the quality of the vehicles, (even through all the Toyota brake recall mess).   In these instances, the difference between a new and used version of the same model isn’t too far off.    Most of the time, any vehicle that is about 1 to 2 years old under 15,000 miles is very closely priced to a new one. For example, a Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) Honda civic is usually around $15,000 to $16,000 before tax and license.  A new Honda civic is around $16,900 before tax and license.  And, sometimes prices on used cars will even be more than what you can get the new car for, of course this depends on the vehicle.  In addition, manufactures are always providing rebates, which can lower the price on a new car versus a used one.   

10.  How do I get the facts about the car I want?

Now that you’ve considered at least 9 questions before purchasing, make sure the vehicle you’re buying is clean of salvaged titles or frame damage.  You can check this by ordering a carfax report at www.carfax.com.  These reports can cost upwards of $34.99, depending if you’re pulling  a report on one or more vehicles.  Most dealerships will provide a carfax report, IF you ask.    

Stop Congress from Infringing on your Payment Rights

June 3, 2010

Auto Expert is a HUGE supporter of credit unions, not just because we’re owned by one, but we appreciate their emphasis on member service and the fact that their stakeholders is their membership, not greedy stockholders.   (Learn more about credit unions here.)  Credit unions are always fighting the “good fight” on the political streets in order keep their fees low.   The “Restoring American Financial Stability Act” (S.3217) was designed to protect consumers, and credit unions do support this effort.   However, at the last-minute, Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) added an amendment called the “Durbin-Interchange Fee” amendment.

What does this Amendment mean?

Basically, this amendment allows large retail stores to negotiate with financial institutions for a reduced interchange fee.  The large retailers say that if the fees are reduced it will allow them to reduce their prices to consumers, but there is no language in the amendment requiring them to do so, which essentially allows them to pocket the extra profit.

What is Interchange?

Each time you use your VISA or MasterCard credit card or VISA/MasterCard Debit card, the merchant is paid immediately and the Credit Union receives what is described as an “Interchange” fee (paid by the merchant) through the card payment processing system. This fee reflects the merchant’s fair share of the costs of this convenient and beneficial payment system.  This is the fee that merchants are charged for the convenience of providing debit and credit card payment systems to consumers.   A portion of this fee is passed through to the financial institution to help support the cost of issuing debit and credit cards and to alleviate costs of fraudulent transactions.

Who benefits from this?

This amendment will mainly benefit large retail stores and large financial institutions simply because they have the transaction and debit card volume to negotiate discounts. This will give more power to the “Big Banks” while edging out the smaller banks and credit unions, as well as small businesses, in their ability to compete in this arena.

Since this amendment allows retailers to negotiate for Interchange Fee discounts, they can essentially choose which debit/credit cards to accept (and even charge a fee if you are not on their “preferred” card list) and which to reject, or to not allow the use of a debit or credit card for transactions under a certain dollar amount.

Importance of ‘Interchange’ for a credit union

At  your credit union, the income from interchange supports their credit and debit card programs and allows them to offer these cards with NO fees, low rates, free rewards and extra benefits such as their popular ATM surcharge rebate program. The credit union manages the costs of their card programs to ‘break-even’ by giving our members added benefits not readily found elsewhere.

Read more and take action at http://www.connectforthecause.org/

If you’re not a credit union member, we highly recommend becoming one.  Especially, if you’re not happy with your current “Big Bank”.  Find out who our partner credit unions are by clicking here or find a credit union near you by clicking here.

Credit Union Lending

May 20, 2010

There are several reasons why you should choose credit union lending over dealer financing.

  • Ancillary products such as GAP insurance and extended warranty options.

GAP (Guaranteed Asset Protection) Insurance protects you from financial loss in the event your vehicle is totaled or stolen.  GAP pays the difference between the loan balance and what your insurance company will cover, which is usually low blue book.  Credit unions offer GAP insurance at low rates, some start as low as $295.  Dealers, on the other hand, can charge anywhere upwards of $500. 

Extended warranty options, also known as MBI or Mechanical Breakdown Insurance, are insurance policies that insure your new or used vehicle against mechanical failure.  With MBI policies, you can usually choose any mechanic in the U.S. to service your vehicle.  MBI varies greatly depending on coverage desired, model, and age of the vehicle.  On average, credit unions can offer policies as low as $800 compared to the average dealers cost, which can range between $1500 to $3500.

By choosing to finance through your local credit union, you’ll save when you purchase their insurance products versus purchasing the same policies with a dealer.

  • Better Rates

Credit unions usually offer better rates than dealer financing, especially for members with A+ credit.  In addition, most credit unions offer rate discounts, especially relationship-type discounts.  For example, the more services you have on your account (payroll direct deposit, other loans, savings and checking accounts, etc), you’ll be offered a loyalty discount.   Most credit unions have gone green and offer hybrid rate discounts.

Credit unions also approve based on more than your FICO score by considering your relationship with them, your credit history, debt-to-income ratio, your employment history, etc. 

  • Open-ended lending

Most credit unions offer open-ended lending, wherein you’re able to change the payment of the loan.  This would happen if you were to make a lump sum payment towards the principal.  Or you can add an aftermarket product to the amount financed after you’ve purchased the car, as long as the amount financed is within the credit union’s lending guidelines. 

  • Better member service

After you’ve financed your vehicle, you can trust that your credit union will provide you with the best member service.  In addition, you won’t have to worry about your loan being sold to another or several other financial institutions. 

For more questions about credit unions, click on the links below:

For questions about what your credit union offers, contact them directly or call us at 1-800-359-4567 or visit us online at www.autoexpertonline.com.

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Congratulations to our sweepstakes winner

May 5, 2010

Congratulations to Megan Arthur of Riverside.  Megan won a $40 gas card just for being a fan of Auto Expert on our Facebook page

For the month of April, we entered all our Facebook fans into a sweepstakes to win a gas card. 

Join our page because this won’t be the last contest we’ll have for our fans!

 

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Gas Card Sweepstakes ends soon!

April 29, 2010
Our gas card sweepstakes ends Friday!!   Hurry and enter to win – see the details below. 
Like Auto Expert? Join our Facebook page and you can enter to win a full tank of gas*!

It’s simple, all of our fans will be entered into a sweepstakes to win gas on Auto Expert! 

All you have to do is Like us at www.facebook.com/autoexpertsocal.

But, wait there’s more…there are two more ways to earn more chances to win! 

  1. Watch our new video and take a short survey.
  2. Invite your facebook friends to do the same!**  We made it easy for you, just copy and paste the message below on your wall and/or send a direct message to all your facebook friends:

I entered the Auto Expert Gas Card Giveaway  for a chance to win A Full Tank of Gas*, enter to do the same!  Spread the word and you can earn even more chances to win! Visit http://www.facebook.com/autoexpertsocal?v=app_11007063052

No purchase necessary!

Prize Eligibility:
Only persons residing in Southern California counties of Riverside, San Bernardino, Los Angeles San Diego, and Imperial and who are at least 18 years of age can enter.

Sweepstakes Starts: April 01, 2010 @ 08:00 am (PST)
Sweepstakes Ends: April 30, 2010 @ 11:59 pm (PST)

Official Rules:
*Full tank of gas, for this sweepstakes, is valued at $40. The winner will receive 2 $20 gas cards, value of $40.
**Your friends will need to complete the video review survey and become a fan of Auto Expert in order to count as a chance to win. 

The Auto Expert Gas Card Giveaway is open only to legal residents of California residing in the counties of Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Imperial and Los Angeles. Entrants must be 18 years of age or older with a valid driver’s license at the time of Promotion registration. The winner will be randomly selected. All current fans prior to this sweepstakes start date and new fans that join within this sweepstakes timeline, except Auto Expert employees, will be count as an entry. Secondly, an entrant can earn more chances to win by completing the video review survey. Thirdly, an entrant can earn another chance to win by inviting their facebook friends to become friends of Auto Expert, however this entry will only count if their friend becomes a fan and completes the video review survey.

Entries not available to Auto Expert employees.

Auto Expert reserves all rights to cancel the contest do to improper abuses by entrants. Please email sdeleon@autoexpertonline.com for any questions or comments.
 
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