Archive for the ‘Buyer Tips’ Category
With the release of our Tesla Model S road test, there have been many questions regarding what other models stand out. Here, we present the current class valedictorians, those cars that have faced our more than 50 tests and managed to earn an A.
Sure, the Tesla Model S may be our newly named prom queen, but there are a dozen other current cars that have scored 90 points or above on a 100-point scale. The most significant takeaway here is the diversity, where we’re seeing family sedans, sports coupes, and luxury sedans stand out with impressive overall scores. It is clear, that it isn’t necessary to spend $90,000, like we did on our Tesla, to get a great car. It just takes a few minutes of research and your own test drives.
|Make & model||Price as tested||Overall test score|
|Tesla Model S (base, 85 kWh)||$89,650||99|
|Infiniti G37 (sedan)||$37,225||95|
|Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE||$29,052||93|
|Audi A6 (3.0T)||$56,295||93|
|Lexus LS 460L||$79,354||92|
|Chevrolet Corvette Z06||$64,890||92|
|Hyundai Genesis 3.8 (sedan)||$39,850||92|
|Toyota Camry XLE (V6)||$32,603||92|
|Audi A8 L||$91,275||91|
|Honda Accord LX (4-cyl.)||$23,270||90|
|Honda Accord EX-L (V6)||$30,860||90|
At least an 8.0 rating on The Car Connection‘s full reviews from three years ago–in this case, the 2011 model year At least four circles on J.D. Power‘s predicted-dependability rankings, or at least average reliability on Consumer ReportsAt least four stars overall from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or a Top Safety Pick award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
In this list, we’ve examined the field of sport-utility vehicles–including crossovers–and come up with 18 of the best used SUVs on the road today, with the bottom line from our 2011 review:
With a few notable flaws in styling and features, the 2011 Acura MDX still impresses us with its friendly handling and gutsy power.
The 2011 Audi Q5 is one of the best upscale picks in a compact crossover, thanks to its sleek lines, practical interior, responsive feel, and city-savvy size.
The 2011 Cadillac Escalade delivers solid, luxurious, and spacious accommodations with an advanced feature set. If you can live with the thirst of non-Hybrid models, it’s unbeatable.
The 2011 SRX has the comfort and refinement luxury crossovers expect—plus a little Cadillac attitude.
If you don’t need a third row, the 2011 Chevrolet Equinox is just right for small families; it’s refined, secure, and versatile, and gets very impressive fuel economy in four-cylinder form.
2011 Chevrolet TraverseThe 2011 Chevrolet Traverse isn’t fun to drive, but it’s one of the best large crossover wagons for transporting the family comfortably and safely.
The 2011 Dodge Durango is the anti-crossover, especially with the HEMI and R/T trim, and if the world still sanctioned big SUVs for small families, the Durango would be elbowing its way to driveways everywhere.
Provided you don’t need a third-row seat, the 2011 Ford Edge is at last, at the leading edge of mid-size crossovers, with one of the best driver interfaces in the business.
The 2011 GMC Terrain looks bold and edgy on the outside, but it’s a softy inside, with a comfortable, refined cabin and excellent fuel economy.
Much better than its predecessor, the 2011 Hyundai Tucson needs a touch more power and steering feel to top carlike utes like the Nissan Rogue.
Kia hits game reset, and gives the 2011 Sportage an appealing new look and feel.
The swinging style sets an audacious mood—and the 2011 Lincoln MKT backs it up with turbo V-6 thrust.
You won’t need any excuses to say you’ve chosen the 2011 Lincoln MKX; it delivers on the promise of the brand: top-notch American luxury, with some of the best luxury and tech features wrapped in.
The 2011 Mazda CX-9 can carry seven in comfort, but it loves curves more than almost any other roomy crossover.
The 2011 Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class has the rugged look U.S. shoppers want, in a sensibly sized package. We only wish it were a little more fuel-efficient.
The roomy, versatile 2011 Subaru Forester handles better than just about any other small crossover, though the need for a more modern transmission and a little more cabin refinement keep it from greatness.
If off-road capability is a top requirement, the brawny 2011 Toyota 4Runner is a good choice—with surprisingly good road manners to boot.
The 2011 Volvo XC60 offers top in-car tech and luxury features, in a secure package that’s big enough for small families.
REPOSTED BY MIDWEST GLASS TINTERS FORM:
Automobile Magazine selected the most promising production cars slated for release in the next two years, as part of its annual sneak peak issue.
Why: Acura needs a performance halo car–even more so now than when the original NSX debuted back in 1990.
As the crucial halo car for Honda’s premium brand, the mid-engine Acura NSX will combine the magic of the original, aluminum-bodied NSX sports car with the technology of a hybrid whose electric motors power the front wheels and provide for torque vectoring, as well. Think Porsche 918 Spyder at one-seventh the price. The NSX is expected in showrooms by 2015 and will look much like the 2012 concept, which was updated with a sumptuous two-seat interior for the 2013 Detroit show. United States-based designers and engineers are leading development of the sports car, which Acura will assemble in Ohio. The ’15 NSX is expected to have a 3.7-liter V-6, two electric motors for the front wheels, and a rear motor providing a combined 480 hp fed through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. A 370-hp, 3.5-liter version of this powertrain is found in the all-wheel-drive iteration of the Acura RLX luxury sedan. Late last year, American Honda’s president, Tetsuo Iwamura, hinted that since the RLX is also available in nonhybrid form with front-wheel drive, it’s possible that we could see a nonhybrid NSX with rear-wheel drive only. True, it would have less power, but it would be lighter and, thus, very true to the original NSX.
When: 2014 (coupe, sedan), early 2015 (convertible)
Why: The M3 is an icon for BMW, which makes the name change for the two-doors tricky business.
Know the code
Whereas the 3 Series is known internally (and among BMW fanboys) as the F30, the M3 takes the development code F80 and the M4 is the F82.
Ever since the arrival of the new BMW 3-series sedan (and maybe even before), those who worship the blue-and-white roundel have been waiting for the next M3-and M4, as it turns out. With the standard two-door’s change in designation from 3-series to 4-series, the two-door M versions will follow suit: the coupe (illustrated below by a spy artist) and convertible will be called M4; the sedan will remain M3. It’s a risky move for a model designation that is held in such esteem, but the car to which the badge is affixed ought to satisfy the faithful.
The upcoming M3/M4 is slated to switch from the current normally aspirated 4.0-liter V-8 back to a straight six, albeit one bolstered by twin turbos. Displacing 3.0 liters, its output of approximately 420 hp will be slightly higher than the current 414 hp, but M is not gunning for ultimate bragging rights in this department (leaving that to Mercedes-AMG). Instead, it has focused on reducing weight and improving overall performance-as well as fuel economy. “It needs to be lighter; it needs to be more powerful,” M division executives acknowledge. It also needs to have a manual transmission, because the North American market (in particular) demands it-although we don’t demand it as much as we used to. On the E46-chassis M3, manuals accounted for 50 percent of sales; for the current-generation E90, it’s more like 20 to 25 percent. Still, that’s enough to keep it in the mix. “As long as there is demand for a manual,” said the division’s bosses in a recent interview, “then we [will do] the right thing by offering it.” Ergo, we will see a six-speed stick along with an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic, which supplants the current seven-speed. Aluminum (door skins) and carbon fiber (roof, hood, trunk lid, and brake discs) serve the cause of weight reduction. The goal is to bring the weight below 3300 pounds, down from 3700 today. What about an über-M4, akin to AMG’s Black Series line of cars? BMW would point out that it has had the M3 GTS/CRT models, but those cars were never sold in the United States. Expect that situation to change next time.
Why: Because no luxury brand can resist the siren’s call of the SUV.
Plans for Bentley’s first-ever SUV hit a bump in the road when the EXP 9 F preview concept suffered cripplingly bad public reaction, but the project has been merely delayed, not derailed. The exterior is being redone by Luc Donckerwolke, Bentley’s recently installed chief designer, so what you see here is the concept’s interior, which is likely to remain intact as the vehicle transitions to production. The Bentley SUV will share a platform with the next-generation Volkswagen Touareg,Audi Q7, and Porsche Cayenne. Conveniently, Bentley’s current head of engineering, Rolf Frech, comes from Porsche, where he was director of engineering during initial development of the Cayenne. Frech recently spoke with us about his role at Bentley and the new SUV.
What do you bring to Bentley?
“I bring the experience from a company [Porsche] that grew from two car lines to three, to four, and then to five, as you see today. Of course, I bring the experience of the SUV to Bentley. That’s essential to Bentley at this time.”
What are the differences between developing a new Bentley versus a Porsche?
“The value of the Bentley brand is luxury performance. If we are bringing a Bentley SUV, it has to fulfill brand value and be the most ‘luxury performance’ SUV on the road. From the engine to the interior, we need to be the pinnacle of the segment. The Cayenne Turbo S is a fabulous SUV, but we want the Bentley to be above that in areas like interior execution. We want to be above the Porsche with a twelve-cylinder engine, with the interior, with everything.”
Is off-road ability important?
“We have to show that it is possible. It’s like a 911 and the racetrack. How many customers are really going on the racetrack? The key is they know that, if they want to, they can.”
Any interest in diesel?
“I think it makes the most sense for the SUV. We are looking at this and at a plug-in hybrid.”
Why is an SUV appropriate for the brand?
“Looking at our customers, many of them already own an SUV. Why should it be a Range Rover or a Cayenne? It should be a Bentley.”
When: Late 2015
Why: Buick needs a flagship to solidify its premium-brand credentials, and the name Riviera still has cachet.
Flashback: The seminal ’63-’65 Riviera was a design icon.
The Enclave is currently Buick’s most expensive offering and the LaCrosse its biggest sedan, but neither is a proper halo model for the brand. When General Motors reregistered the Grand National and GNX names, rumors erupted that a hot-rod Buick would return. GM has reregistered the Riviera name, too, and it’s this car that would best serve as a halo Buick. Folks in the know tell us that the new-age Riviera is a larger four-door coupe–perhaps much like our illustration–in the mold of the Mercedes-Benz CLS-class, BMW 6-series Gran Coupe, and Audi A7, although considerably cheaper. Overall length will be in the 195-to-200-inch range, placing it in the same full-size category as the Chrysler 300, for example. We expect the venerable 3.6-liter gasoline direct-injected V-6 to be the only engine. A Riviera GNX could be the division’s riff on the Cadillac V-series, but it would likely have a turbocharged 3.6-liter V-6 instead of a small-block V-8.
The question is which rear-wheel-drive GM platform the Riv would ride on. GM’s flexible Alpha architecture already underpins the Cadillac ATS and will support the next Chevrolet Camaro and Cadillac CTS with its longer-wheelbase iteration. But even in that form, it might be too small. The Chevy SS’s Holden Zeta platform is larger, but its long-term future is uncertain. Cadillac’s Omega platform for the upcoming S-class fighter makes the most sense. That may sound expensive for a Buick, but the added volume would bring down its per-unit cost, and it would recall top-of-the-line Buicks from the time of the early Roadmaster to the 1963-1977 Riviera, which were only a half notch below Cadillac in prestige.
Why: Ford can’t afford to let the F-series franchise grow stale.
Ford’s next F-150 faces quite a balancing act. It must maintain supremacy as the nation’s best-selling vehicle without diminishing the kind of profit margins that come from cheap-to-produce body-on-frame construction. That’s good reason to question rumors that the new F-150, as previewed by the Atlas concept, will be made mostly of aluminum. The hood and maybe the door panels, sure, but whole bodies and frames? Seems unlikely.
We do expect the 2015 F-150 to grab design cues from the Atlas, such as its profile, huge grille, and LED head- and taillamps. A next-generation EcoBoost engine powers the concept, and although Ford won’t elaborate on what that means, stop/start technology will be part of the package. The six-speed automatic in the Atlas suggests that Ford won’t follow the new Ram with an eight-speed.
Features such as active grille shutters, adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, blind-spot warning, lane-keeping assist, trailer-backup assist, power-deployable running boards, and an electronic parking brake are more likely. The concept’s active wheel shutters and drop-down front chin spoiler wouldn’t help a tall vehicle with so much extra space around the tires.
The Atlas concept’s 150-inch wheelbase is 5.5 inches longer than the current (and most comparable) short-bed F-150 SuperCrew’s and would take advantage of the Corporate Average Fuel Economy “footprint” rule. Even with the longer wheelbase, the concept’s overall length and height are similar to today’s F-150, although it is even wider than a Raptor. To get a better idea of how the next F-150 will look when it goes on sale about mid-2014, imagine the concept about eight inches narrower.
When: Early 2014
Why: Fifty years after the Mustang’s blockbuster debut, expect Ford to set off some fireworks around the 2015 model.
The most certain thing we know about the 2015 Ford Mustang is that it will premiere at the New York auto show on April 16 or 17, 2014. April 17 will be fifty years to the day that the original Mustang made its world debut in that city. That car had a base price of $2368. (How about $23,680 for the base ’15 Mustang?)
We’re also reasonably certain that the new Mustang will edge away from the current car’s heavily retro appearance and possibly look like our spy illustration below. Our sources tell us that the new pony will be slightly smaller and lighter and will come close to retaining the current car’s muscularity. Several years ago, Ford separated North American designers who would work on U.S.-focused models such as the Mustang and the F-series from Euro-centric One Ford designers. However, Ford will sell the all-American Mustang in other markets, including Western Europe.
The ’15 Mustang will be trim enough that the current Shelby GT500‘s supercharged 5.8-liter V-8 won’t fit. The big engine for low-volume, high-performance ‘Stangs is tipped to be a 5.0-liter turbocharged V-8, the “EcoBoost Coyote,” with a normally aspirated Coyote for versions like the Boss 302. From there on down, mainstream Mustangs are expected to come with Ford’s 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6, the normally aspirated 3.7-liter V-6, and the EcoBoost 2.0-liter four-cylinder. In other applications, those engines make 365 hp, 305 hp, and 240 hp, respectively, so they’ll cover a wide variety of Mustang variants, including performance versions. The new Mustang finally gets an independent rear suspension, too. This opens the door for a much-needed rear-wheel-drive Lincoln flagship sedan built on the same platform, although we know of no plans for one yet.
Jaguar F-type coupe
Why: Jaguar’s new sports car would miss half the market without a hardtop, which should be an even more focused driver’s car.
Jaguar has big plans for the F-type as it tries to follow the much-envied Porsche 911 approach by spinning out a plethora of high-profit variants. The 2011 concept that previewed the F-type was a hardtop, and it’s easy to see how well that roofline works with the production F-type. So, with the roadster hitting showrooms this summer, the coupe will be the next model. The production coupe will debut at the Frankfurt show in September–probably looking a lot like this illustration–and roll into dealerships several months later. Expect it to offer the same supercharged engines as the roadster: a 3.0-liter V-6 (340 hp or 380 hp) and a 5.0-liter V-8 (495 hp). The latter should bring the 0-to-60-mph time down close to 4.0 seconds. The coupe will likely follow current Jaguar practice by being a bit more affordable than the roadster, whose base price range extends from $69,875 to $92,875. Jaguar, however, will be eager to bring out costlier temptations, offering all-wheel drive, hotter R iterations, and even an ultraextreme GT street racer. As the F-type lineup fleshes out, watch for the next-generation XK to edge away from sport and toward luxury–and to also move up in price.
When: Late 2013
Why: Maserati needs a sedan in this volume segment if it’s ever to become more than a bit player among luxury brands.
Second Act: This is actually the second time Maserati has resurrected the Ghibli name. The first was in the early 1990s on an evolution of the much-unloved Biturbo.
As the new Maserati Quattroporte has increased in size to better match up against the Mercedes-Benz S-class and friends, it opens up room for the Ghibli, a second Maserati sedan that will compete in the heart of the luxury-sedan market against Mercedes’ E-class and the like. The Ghibli could resemble the spy illustration above.
Although the name was first used on the classic late-1960s GT, the modern Ghibli is exclusively a four-door based on the same platform as the new Quattroporte (the next GranTurismo coupe will also use that platform). That means its chassis employs a control-arm front suspension and a multi-link rear. For European markets, the Ghibli is expected to be powered by Maserati’s first-ever diesel, a 270-hp, 3.0-liter V-6. For America, though, the Ghibli will have a direct-injected, 3.0-liter V-6 bolstered by twin turbos. The 60-degree V-6 has an aluminum block and cylinder heads and will appear first as the base offering in the new Quattroporte, where it is expected to produce 404 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque, which flows to the rear wheels through ZF’s familiar eight-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive will be optional. A plug-in hybrid powertrain is also expected, along with a so-called efficiency pack that includes auto stop/start, brake-energy regeneration, a coasting mode, and on-demand auxiliaries.
Maserati hopes that the Ghibli will sell in volumes of more than 20,000 units per year, as it’s the key player in the company’s planned march to 50,000 units per annum–from only 6300 in 2012.
Mercedes-Benz SLC AMG
When: Late 2014
Why: Like so many others, Mercedes-Benz wants a Porsche 911 competitor, and neither the SLnor the SLS hits that target.
The SLS was the first car wholly developed by AMG, and it won’t be the last. The next product of the busy complex at Affalterbach will be the SLC AMG. Although it steps in as the SLS departs, the SLC is not a direct replacement. Instead, it will be less expensive (starting just north of $100,000) and will have conventional doors and, for now at least, coupe-only bodywork (like the illustration at left). The 3400-pound SLC is the first AMG model to use the new 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8. The 90-degree V-8 should be good for 480 hp and 500 lb-ft of torque, which will flow to a rear transaxle. Oh, and if that’s not enough, there are rumors of a Black Series that would put out roughly 575 hp and 550 lb-ft.
Porsche 918 Spyder
When: Late 2013
Why: The dream of a latter-day Carrera GT was too strong to deny.
What’s in a number?
918 isn’t just the model designation, it’s also the production start date (9/18/2013) and the build quantity: 918 units.
Porsche’s new supercar, the 918 Spyder, is nearing production readiness, but are buyers ready for it? The concept car was first revealed at the 2010 Geneva auto show. Three years later the idea is intact: an ultra-high-performance successor to the 2004-2006 Carrera GT that uses a hybrid powertrain rather than a V-10, bringing the supercar firmly into the modern idiom.
The hybrid powertrain marries a mid-mounted 4.6-liter V-8, alone good for 570 hp, with two electric motors, bringing the total output to 795 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque. A seven-speed dual-clutch automatic handles the shifting. Top speed is said to exceed 202 mph, and the electric motors can push the car beyond 90 mph by themselves. Porsche is estimating a fifteen-mile electric-vehicle range (although presumably not at 90 mph). There is a plug-in charger and an optional fast charger; brake-energy regeneration also recharges the batteries.
The high-revving V-8 (redlined at 9000 rpm) utilizes dry-sump lubrication and an aluminum block, heads, and crankcase. It drives the rear wheels on its own or together with one electric motor. The second electric motor can drive the front wheels, creating on-demand all-wheel drive and torque vectoring. The front motor is the primary power source in EV mode, but the rear motor can kick in, too. That means the 918 Spyder can be rear-wheel drive, front-wheel drive, or all-wheel drive, depending on the circumstances.
A steering-wheel-mounted joystick allows the driver to choose from several operating modes: E-Power, Hybrid, Sport Hybrid, and Race Hybrid. Additionally, a Hot Lap button taps the full power output of the batteries to supplement the gasoline engine.
Riding on a 107.5-inch wheelbase, the same as the Carrera GT, the new two-seater is 1.2 inches longer and 0.8 inch wider than its exotic predecessor. A carbon-fiber monocoque, a two-piece lift-off roof, (optional) magnesium wheels, and body panels of carbon fiber, magnesium, and aluminum are all employed to help keep mass in check. With the 330-pound battery pack and electric motors, total weight is expected to be 3750 pounds (which is still some 600 pounds more than the Carrera GT); 57 percent of the weight is over the rear wheels.
The 918 Spyder will use four-wheel steering, which makes its debut on the 911 GT3. The rear wheels countersteer at low speeds to aid maneuverability and turn in sync with the front wheels at high speeds for improved stability. Porsche has stated that the 918 Spyder will lap the Nürburgring in 7 minutes, 14 seconds (handily beating the Carrera GT’s 7:32).
For all that, the question is whether the faithful are waving their checkbooks for a chance at this pinnacle of Porsche engineering. Not according to what we’re hearing. Word is that supercar buyers are unconvinced by the hybrid concept and put off by the pricing, which starts at $845,000 and doesn’t include extras like the fast charger and fancy metallic paint. Perhaps it will take a test drive to convince Porsche-philes to open their wallets, or maybe Porsche will find that the air is just too thin at this lofty altitude.
Last month Nakisha Bishop took out a loan to buy a $23,000 Toyota Camry and pay off several thousand dollars still owed on her old car. The key to making it work: she got more than six years—75 months in all—to pay it off. ”I had a new baby on the way, and I was trying to keep my monthly payment a little bit lower to help afford child care,” Ms. Bishop, a 34-year-old sheriff’s deputy in Palm Beach County, Fla., said recently. She pays $480 a month for the 2013 Camry, just $5 a month more than the note on her old car. The car won’t be paid off until her 1-month-old daughter is heading to first grade.
Ms. Bishop’s 75-month loan illustrates two important trends rippling through the U.S. auto industry. Rising new-car prices and competition among lenders to attract borrowers is pushing loans to lengthier terms. In part, banks see the longer terms as a way to attract buyers, by keeping monthly payments under $500 a month. The average price of a new car is now $31,000, up $3,000 in the past four years. But at the same time, the average monthly car payment edged down, to $460 from $465—the result of longer loan terms and lower interest rates. In the final quarter of 2012, the average term of a new car note stretched out to 65 months, the longest ever, according to Experian Information Solutions Inc. Experian said that 17% of all new car loans in the past quarter were between 73 and 84 months and there were even a few as long as 97 months. Four years ago, only 11% of loans fell into this category.
Such long term loans can present consumers and lenders with heightened risk. With a six- or seven-year loan, it takes car-buyers longer to reach the point where they owe less on the car than it is worth. Having “negative equity” or being “upside down” in a car makes it harder to trade or sell the vehicle if the owner can’t make payments. Car makers have mixed feelings about long-term loans. They allow consumers to buy more expensive—and profitable—cars. But long loans may keep some people from replacing their cars, cutting into future sales.
Few lenders were willing to discuss the move to longer loans. Ally Bank, the largest car financier, declined an interview request but said in a written statement: “Generally, the current economic and consumer environment is more favorable for longer terms as compared with prior periods… The used vehicle market remains strong, current vehicle quality also helps to maintain appropriate values, and consumer credit profiles are improving.” JP Morgan Chase and other auto lenders declined to comment.
Credit availability has played a key role in the auto industry’s ups and downs. During the financial crisis in 2008 and 2009, banks reined in lending dramatically, which made it hard even for consumers with good credit histories to buy cars. For the last three years, auto sales have been rising, helped as banks have eased credit standards and became more willing to offer longer term loans. Experts say there is an appetite for more risk because banks see limited downside in auto lending. The delinquency rates on car loans are near record lows, and used car values are at record highs. And if a buyer defaults, the bank can repossess and sell cars with limited losses.
Melinda Zabritski, director of automotive credit for Experian, said the greater availability of credit is helping the surge in new car sales. The percentage of subprime loans isn’t far below the record level of 2007, and the length of loans is growing, she said. And while the length of the loan may seem long, the average age of a vehicle on the road today is 11 years. Vehicle durability continues to improve and used vehicles don’t depreciate in value as fast as they used to.
With increased competition between the banks for business, offering loans longer than 72 months, or subprime loans is one way to compete for new borrowers. “Consumers tend to be monthly payment buyers. One way that lenders compete is to offer longer term loans,” Ms. Zabritski said. She said that people who get the longer loans tend to have good credit scores, and are buying relatively expensive vehicles. Credit unions and independent banks have been more likely to use the long-term loans than finance companies operated by auto companies, Ms. Zabritski said.
Ford Motor Credit, the in-house lending arm for Ford Motor Co, has averaged between 59 and 60 months on new car loans for the past five years. Beyond the added risk, longer loans keep buyers from coming back as often, said Margaret Mellott, a spokeswoman for Ford. ”We don’t want to keep buyers out of the showroom longer than that,” she said.
The length of loans has come a long way since Lee Iacocca, then a Ford regional manager, helped pioneer auto loans in the 1950s. He became a management star by developing a ’56 for $56 sales pitch. The idea: consumers could buy a 1956 Ford for 20% down and $56 a month. The loans were paid off in just 36 months.
Negotiating your way to a great deal on a new car is a good start toward saving money, but it you don’t consider the long-term ownership costs, over time you may sped a lot more than you think you will. Kiplinger’s asked Vincentric, an automotive-data firm, for the 2013 models in four categories with the lowest five-year ownership costs. The numbers include fuel (assuming 15,000 miles a year), insurance, maintenance and repairs, and taxes. They also include financing the vehicle with a five-year loan, the opportunity cost of not investing your out-of-pocket expenses elsewhere, and depreciation. (The calculations assume you will sell the vehicle after five years.) In each category, we note the cheapest vehicle overall as well as the one that we think represents the best value, based on our annual rankings. Each vehicle named is a Top Safety Pick of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Compact cars. The Nissan Versa S (with a sticker price of $12,780) is the cheapest car sold in the U.S. That goes a long way toward lowering the overall ownership costs because you’ll pay less in interest and taxes. Plus, it gets 36 miles per gallon on the highway. Total ownership cost over five years: $27,405. But we think the Kia Forte LX ($16,175) is a better value. Its 2.0-liter engine puts out 156 horsepower (compared with 109 hp for the Versa’s engine) and delivers 34 mpg on the highway. Its interior and cargo space are competitive with larger cars, and the Forte’s standard features include USB and Bluetooth. Five-year cost: $29,769.
Family sedans. The midsize car with the lowest ownership costs is Nissan’s Altima Base ($22,550). It beats compact-car fuel economy, getting 38 mpg on the highway, and it received a Top Safety Pick + award for passing the new test that simulates a crash into a tree or telephone pole. Over five years, the Altima’s ownership costs total $34,404. The redesigned Ford Fusion S ($22,495) is our midsize value pick. It has killer new style, offers generous passenger and cargo space, and is great to drive. That helped the Fusion garner our Best New Car award in our $20,000-to-$25,000 category. It gets a Top Safety Pick + designation and features eight airbags (versus six for the Altima). Ford’s voice-activated SYNC infotainment system comes standard. The standard 2.5-liter engine delivers 170 hp and 34 mpg on the highway. Over five years, ownership costs for the Fusion S are $37,005.
Luxury sedans. The Buick Regal 2.4L ($29,910) slides into the cheapest slot for luxury sedans. Standard eAssist technology (think hybrid lite) helps keep fuel economy up (31 mpg highway) and costs down. We rated it Worth a Look in our rankings. Its five-year cost is $43,493.
Our value pick, the all-new Lexus ES 300h ($39,745), is $10,000 more than the Regal but costs only about $3,500 more to own for five years ($46,976). Combined city and highway fuel economy is 40 mpg, and maintenance costs are reasonable. The 300h puts out 200 hp and has ten airbags.
Family crossovers. Once again, the Dodge Journey SE ($19,990) is the cheapest midsize crossover. But you’ll pay extra for options other brands include as standard equipment, such as Bluetooth and a power driver’s seat. Total five-year cost without options: $37,849. The better-equipped Toyota Highlander Plus ($31,170) is our value pick, despite its $11,000 higher sticker price. In addition to a comfortable ride for seven, the Highlander’s standard features include a backup camera, Bluetooth, a power driver’s seat, seven airbags (same as the Journey), and one-touch, fold-flat levers for the second row. Over five years, you’ll pay $42,232.
SEE FULL SLIDE SHOW: 10 Cheapest Cars to Own, 2013
Flipping a car for profit is one part science, one part art form. The science is in identifying one that can be salvaged, and the art is in re-tooling it to look and perform like new. If you can’t balance those elements, you won’t make much money flipping cars.
Jeff Allen has been striking this balance for years. As the owner of Flat 12 Gallery in Lubbock, Tex., he buys, restores and sells classic cars. He has no guarantee whatsoever that he will find a buyer, or even make back the cost of getting a car to his shop from a faraway city. But he consistently earns top dollar for his flips, so he must be doing something right.
He doesn’t do it all on his own. Restoration artist Perry Barndt makes sure each detail is painstakingly restored, and technician Eric Ables has been known to bring even the most hopeless engine back to life. Last but not least, his fiancee of 18 years, Meg Bailey, runs the shop’s day-to-day operations, which includes making sure that once a car is restored, it gets sold, no matter how much Allen has fallen in love with it and wants to keep it.
What follows is a list of 10 memorable flips from Flat 12 Gallery’s history. All of them were discovered in different states of disrepair, restored to perfection and sold for a profit. Allen has provided his recollections of the circumstances that marked each car’s transformation from junkyard find to collector’s item.
1957 Chevrolet Bel Air
This car appears on the first episode of “The Car Chasers.” Allen found it in what he described in an interview as “excellent condition,” bought it for $18,000 and sold it for $25,000 to his next-door neighbor Chad. Chad would visit the shop daily in the hopes of finding a 1979 Camaro. Instead, he fell in love with the Bel Air and bought it before Allen could even finish working on it. “I was going to change the wheels to make it more modern and increase the value, but Chad wanted it as is,” he said.
1932 Ford Model AA
Allen said that he bought this 1932 Model AA for approximately $4,500 and sold it for “nine grand, off the top of my head.” He described the buyer as “an Australian fellow in the entertainment business. I forget which studio.” He said that the truck was originally the property of an elderly man, and it had been his “pride and joy.” The owner had kept it in good shape, but it hadn’t been driven in many years. This meant draining the fluids, fixing the radiator and carburetor, installing a new battery and giving it a complete tune-up in order to make it run again.
2008 GT Tjaarda 550R
This car based on the Ford Mustang appeared in the 2009 film “Fast and Furious,” and it set Allen back approximately $25,000 to buy it. He flipped it and sold it for roughly $40,000 at a Dallas auction. He said this car was in such excellent shape that it was like a brand new car when he bought it. “I didn’t fix it,” he said. “I just drove it. I drove the crap out of it. I loved that car.”
1929 Chevrolet Model A C Coupe
When the Ford Motor Company was manufacturing as many four-cylinder Model A cars as possible, Chevrolet tried to compete with the furious pace. Allen found this relic from that era in a garage where it had sat idly for years, but despite its vintage, it was in good condition and didn’t take much work to bring up to speed. He bought it for $10,000 and sold it for $12,500. This is not exactly a major profit for a flip, but in this case Allen was motivated by something other than money. “I sold it to a gentleman with a rare condition, and his doctor had given him two years to live,” he said. “I sold him the car on the condition that I would buy it back from his family after he died.”
1963 Chevrolet C10
Fans of the “Twilight” movie saga will recognize this truck as the one driven by main character Bella Swan. Allen bought it for $10,000 and sold it to a very committed fan of the movies for $14,000. The new owner had plans for the truck beyond driving it. She took it to conventions and charged attendees to have their pictures taken with it, and donated the money to the Locks of Love charity.
1965 Chevrolet Impala
Flat 12 Gallery is around the corner from another classic car dealership. This situation is a little complicated, as the dealership is owned by Jeff Allen’s father, Tom Souter. Despite the good-natured competition between the two, many of the cars Allen has flipped were bought from his father, including this 1965 Impala. Allen bought the car so that his fiancee Meg would have a suitable ride for her roller derby matches. “We had a pinstriper come in and paint the girl on the side of the car,” he said. It was later sold for $8,000, and he still misses it. “That car was so cool, I would buy that car back today if it was around,” he said.
1957 Studebaker Silverhawk
This 1957 Silverhawk cost Allen over $2,000 to transport from Tennessee and get up to snuff. The investment was worth it — in addition to everything else that she does for Flat 12 Gallery, Meg is also a journalist, and she featured it in an article for Hot Rod Deluxe magazine, which increased the value of the flame-shooting car. As is the case with many of the cool cars that come through Allen’s shop, he was tempted to keep it. He conceded that this was not an option, due to the limited amount of space that he has. “It’s cool and all, but the hard thing with me is that something’s always coming up,” he said. “I’m not like Jay Leno. Things pile up.”
1956 Chevrolet Gasser
Allen estimated that this former race car cost him $13,000, and was sold for $26,000. It took quite a bit of tender loving care, not to mention a lot of money, to restore. ”We took its original race photos and put the car back to how it originally looked,” he said. “We repainted it. Someone else put in modern, after-market seats, so we had to put a lot of money into it to restore it to its original glory.”
1965 Corvette “Big Block”
Allen bought this Corvette for $18,000 and it sold at an auction for $40,000. It was desirable for its race history, and its possible ties to legendary hot-rodder Dick Guldstrand, who autographed the dashboard. Allen was never able to definitively prove that it had actually been Guldstrand’s car, which may have cost him thousands of dollars. ”Because it had been altered so much, he couldn’t confirm that it had been his car,” Allen said. “If we had the documents, the car would have been worth thousands and thousands of dollars more. It could have been a $100,000 car.”
1965 Flared Fender Corvette
“This one was built back in the day for the show car circuit with added fiberglass anywhere it could,” Allen said. “It had god-awful yellow flames and the motor was so obnoxious they had to cut a hole in the hood because the motor wouldn’t fit.” Allen made numerous modifications to restore it, including removing extra fiberglass from the windows and adding the correct wheels for the car’s vintage. He couldn’t remember what he paid for it, but guessed that he paid $20,000 and sold it for $30,000. “Once I sell them, I remember the stories and the good things about it,” he said, “but I don’t remember the money.”
Flat 12 Gallery owner and CNBC’s host of “The Car Chasers,” Jeff Allen, and his classic-car-dealer father, Tom Souter, offer up tips on how to best buy a car. As the owner of Flat 12 Gallery, a classic car shop in Lubbock, Texas, Jeff Allen has been successfully buying and selling unique cars for years. With no sure bets in the fixing and flipping game, each buy is a gamble. For Jeff, however, the business isn’t just a passion: it’s part of his genetic makeup. Now, as the host of “The Car Chasers,” a new series on CNBC Prime, Jeff and his team will take you inside the business, revealing some of the tricks of their trade.
His father, Tom Souter, aka “Roundman,” runs his own classic car dealership around the corner in Lubbock. The father-son duo regularly wheel and deal with each other, often eyeing the same car, or buying and selling to each other.
Souter says cutting a deal with his son is like being locked in a closet with a porcupine. “It’s gonna hurt but you know it won’t kill you,” Souter said. Here, both Allen and Souter offer up tips on how best to purchase a car. The next time you’re on the hunt for a good deal, keep these negotiating tactics in mind. Whether you’re buying a new or used car, the duo suggest that buyers follow these rules to help get the best bang for their buck.
1. Know your price point
2. Be willing to walk away
3. Make an offer and wait for a response. Usually the first person to speak after making an offer loses
4. Cash is king – always carry it with you for a purchase if you can
5. The first offer is not the last offer, so do not jump on it
6. Listen more and talk less
7. Cars can be an emotional investment for some, but keep your cool to get the best deal. Remember, buying and selling is all business
8. Always test drive any car before buying it to make sure you’re comfortable with it
9. Do your research: Allen and Souter say people often buy a car they fall in love with because it looks pretty. In a few days, weeks or months later, however, they realize it lacks practicality (or other qualities), and is not what they wanted.
10. If you intend to fix and flip, Allen’s number one rule is to buy a car you like so that you’ll be happy keeping it if you can’t find a buyer. But Souter’s number one rule is to buy a car – any car – that will make you money.
And once you have your new ride, get it tinted by Midwest Glass Tinters. Call today for more information or to book an appointment – 847-438-1133.
The future (and past) is here.
In Terry Gilliam’s classic movie “Brazil,” Sam Lowry drives around a dystopian future cityscape in a three-wheel Messerschmitt KR200, a 1950s-era European microcar that looks equal parts cool and ridiculous. For this year’s Geneva Motor Show, Toyota has taken the idea of a three-wheel, tandem-seat microcar to a modern extreme in a concept it calls i-ROAD, and because the future has more in common with “Brazil” than we might prefer.
Most major automakers are working on ideas of vehicles that fill the space between a small car and a motorcycle — something small enough to fit in tight urban environments, but sizable enough to provide weather and crash protection so that passengers wouldn’t have to wear helmets. None has advanced to the point of production, and the slow progress of a few start-ups has made such vehicles seem an answer to a question not many people have thought to ask yet.
But the trend lines say rising fuel prices and crowded metropolises will eventually demand a replacement for the four-wheel compact car. In the i-ROAD, Toyota combines an electric motor and battery that can travel 30 miles on a charge with a stability system to keep the trike upright; its front wheels raise and lower in turns to lean the body without toppling it. By seating two people in tandem, Toyota says the i-ROAD is no wider than a conventional motorcycle, and would require no special training to drive.
The chances of Toyota building a 21st-century Messerschmitt hover close to zero at the moment; the world’s largest automaker has plenty of demand for its real vehicles, and as the Scion iQ shows, four-wheel cars can get far smaller than most people find comfortable. But it’s impossible to rule that such vehicles will never emerge, and there may yet be a formula for drivers who want to lean into the future.
(For Slideshow, see original article below)
Like the human body, ignoring even the smallest signs of trouble in your car’s performance can lead to trouble down the road. And some missed signals cost more than others.
A new report by CarMD.com Corporation details exactly which maintenance mistakes can cause the most damage.
Here are the top 10:
1. Putting off recommended / scheduled maintenance
2. Ignoring the “check engine” light
3. Not changing the oil, or not having it changed on time
4. Not checking tire pressure
5. Neglecting coolant, brake, transmission and other fluid services
6. Continuing to drive when the vehicle is overheating
7. Not changing fuel and air filters
8. Having unqualified shops service your vehicle
9. Using generic aftermarket parts instead of original equipment manufacturer (OEM)-quality parts
10. Trying to service your own high-tech vehicle
The best example of the snowball effect of missed car repairs is the air filter. It costs about 20 bucks to replace, but if left alone, a dirty filter can bust oxygen (02) sensors in cars, which cost as much as $250 to replace. And when the sensor fails, you’ll first see your gas mileage plunge, then possibly wind up with a $1,000 bill to replace your catalytic converter.
No. 3 deserves special attention, as well. Technicians say ignoring oil changes is the “single most damaging car maintenance item that their customers neglect that they wish they could change,” according to CarMD.
The trouble with dirty oil is that it doesn’t jive well with the high-tech engines in today’s modern vehicles, according to Art Jacobsen, CarMD vice president, and can lead to engine failure if left ignored for too long. The old go-to rule for oil changes was to refresh every 3,000 miles. But most experts agree drivers should go by the schedule their car’s manufacturer dictates instead. ”Frequent oil changes do not necessarily mean better performance or longer engine life,” says CalRecycle Director Caroll Mortensen .
If you’ve been holding off on buying that new car, the end of the year may be your ticket to great savings. Keep in mind,though, that some models that are left on the lot may be there for a good reason, and your selection of colors and accessories may be limited. Additionally, certain days are definitely better than others in negotiating a great deal. Forbes.com says that car buying experts agree that shoppers visiting showrooms on New Year’s Eve will likely obtain the best deals of the month, with the next-best days to go car shopping being December 27-30 and especially Christmas Eve, when relatively few patrons tend to come walking through a dealership’s door.
Following is Forbes List of the Top 10 Best Year-End Car Deals:
Deal: 2012 models up to $3,000 cash plus $1,000 owner loyalty; 2013 models up to $1500 cash plus $1,000 owner loyalty.
Deal: Up to $3,500 cash on 2013 ActiveHybrid 3, $4,500 on 2012/2012 ActiveHybrid 5, $3,500 on 2013 ActiveHybrid 740 and $7,500 on 2012 ActiveHybrid 750 or 3.29 percent financing to 72 months on select models plus $750 owner loyalty bonus. It’s year-end discount madness on the full range of eco-friendly gas/electric hybrid-powered BMWs. The ActiveHybrid 3 is the best bet here, with lively driving dynamics and at 25/33 mpg city/highway, the best fuel economy of the bunch, with the larger and costlier ActiveHybrid 5 a close second at 23/30 mpg.
Deal: 2012 models up to $4,000 cash or 0.0 percent financing to 60 months, 3.9 to 72 months. The compact SRX luxury crossover SUV gets several revisions for 2013, but the outgoing model (pictured) is still worthy, especially with an additional $4,000 on top of the dealer’s markup to whittle down in the closing room.
Deal: 2012 models up to $4,000 cash or 3.24 percent financing to 72 months; 2013 models up to $1,500 cash or 0.0 percent financing to 72 months. The V6-powered versions of Chrysler’s stately full-size near-luxury sedan will see the biggest rebates and discounts, and they’ll save buyers an estimated additional $500 a year in fuel expense over the V8-powered 300C.
Deal: 2012 models up to 3,000 cash; 2013 models up to 1,000 cash. This attractively boxy seven-passenger crossover is ideal for large families and it’s far easier to drive and more economical than a full-size SUV, with many novel features offered.
Jeep Grand Cherokee
Deal: 2012 SRT8 version up to $4,500 cash or 3.24 percent financing to 72 months; other 2012 Grand Cherokee models up to $1,500 cash or 0.0 percent financing to 36 months, 1.9 to 60 months, 3.9 to 72 months; 2013 models (except SRT8) up to $1,500 cash or 1.9 percent financing to 36 months, 2.9 to 48 months, 3.9 to 60 months, 5.9 to 72 months. Jeep dealers are eager to move last year’s version of the sporty SRT8 Grand Cherokee, which is a guilty pleasure with its truly quick 6.4-liter 470-horsepower V8 engine. The rest of the line isn’t too shabby, either.
Land Rover Range Rover
Deal: 2012 models up to $5,000 cash or 0.0 percent financing to 36 months, 1.9 to 48 months, 2.9 to 60 months. The venerable Range Rover gets a major makeover for 2013, but if you can settle for not being the first one in your cul-de-sac to have the latest version, slashing $5,000 off the top on the outgoing model is a good place to start negotiating at the dealership.
Deal: 2012 models up to $9,775 cash and $1,000 owner loyalty bonus. That’s a hefty discount on this compact all-electric vehicle, provided its inherent range limitations (about 75 miles on a charge, often less) are copasetic with the length of your daily commute.
Deal: 2012 models up to $3,750 cash or 0.0 percent financing to 60 months, 1.9 to 72 months; 2013 models up to $1,500 cash or 2.9 percent financing to 36 months, 3.9 to 48 months, 4.9 to 60 months, 6.9 to 72 months. While the 2013 version of the full-size Ram 1500 (pictured) comes with many improvements, including a more powerful and efficient base V6 engine, the outgoing version may be a better deal with the added discount if you’re choosing the 5.7-liter V8, which carries over.
Deal: 2012 models (Executive, Lux, Sport versions) up to $5,750 cash or 0.0 percent financing to 72 months. Depending on one’s perspective, this midsize crossover SUV tends to either be overpriced compared to much of the mainstream competition, or a deal compared to the model with which it shares platforms, the Porsche Cayenne. Expect the line’s higher trim levels, mentioned above, to garner the top deals before New Year’s Day.
And be sure to make your new ride even sleeker by adding windows tinted by Midwest Glass Tinters.