New Car Sharing Service Hertz Zipcar

Conservative talk show host Bill “I swear the nuns didn’t beat me” O’Reilly likes to rail on (and on and on) about America’s cultural degradation. In fact, it’s one of our country’s greatest strengths. Rappers who started by singing (well, shouting) the praises of capping cops end-up in Bentley-and-bling filled videos that make unbridled consumerism seem like the ultimate revenge against The Man. Hell, there ain’t nothin‘ we can’t assimilate! For profit, obviously. And the people who profit most are always the distributors. I’m not sure what Karl Marx had to say on the subject– I’ve got “How To Make a Killing off of Karl Marx” on my night table– but he who controls the distribution owns the gold. So along comes Zipcar. Nice idea: rent a car by the hour. Here’s your card. Pick up a car, swipe ‘n go. After eight long years, they get a bit of traction: 5,500 cars in 13 cities. Rad dude! I guess we’re showing those big rental companies how it should be done! Problem: Hertz.

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Former AutoWeek scribe Jeff Sabatini is now driving a keyboard for The Wall Street Journal. While our own JL loved the Honda Fit, Sabatini sees the model as the motorist’s Messiah. “While conventional wisdom says that cheap gas should damp enthusiasm for a compact fuel-sipper, I’m not going to be deterred. The Fit is unquestionably my favorite car, a vehicle that’s the best all-around transportation available from any auto maker at any price.” Wow, talk about showing some love! “Well equipped Fits may just outdo the Mini Cooper for the cheap to buy, fun to drive, feel good drive of the year. Move over BMW, the new kid is strutting his stuff. While the iconic BMW 2002 remains a cult classic because it does much with little, today’s BMWs are porkers best suited to poseurs. The Fit has recaptured the cheap to buy, cheap to run, fun to drive crown in part by being ‘nearly 1,500 pounds lighter than, say, a BMW 5-Series, that perennial best-car-on-the-road contender.'” Jeff then takes both the Big 2.8 and Honda to task for not building more Fit-like whips…

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Car Buying Tips: Three Ways to Reduce The Cost of Owning a Car

The American Automobile Association recently calculated the average cost of driving a car. News flash: your automobile is devouring your children’s college fund to the tune of 52.2 cents per mile. Multiply that number by 15k miles and decades of driving, and automotive ownership costs make Ivy League tuition seem like a bargain. Thankfully, you can lower your cost of ownership (of the car) with three strategies. Each one will put a nice six figure dent back into your savings account, and a big fat smile on your face whenever you turn the key.

The first strategy is conservation: spending as little money as humanly possible. Automotive conservationists aren’t motivated by performance, comfort or snob appeal. All they want to do is get from Point A to Point B while keeping as much money in their pocket as humanly possible. They want to save in the showroom, at the pump, after service and at trade-in time.

Conservationists are, by their nature, small car aficionados. They’re willfully oblivious to the fact that small cars are an SUV’s accidental toe jam. They happily endure cramped quarters, sloth, low status and any of the other so-called downsides of owning a small, “boring” car. They concentrate on their econobox’s purchase price and operating costs.

Conservationists are big fans of Kia, Hyundai, Suzuki, Subaru and, of course, Honda and Toyota. They’re value junkies who scour the value of used cars before they even think about buying a new one.

To become a conservationist, find someone who drives a small, cheap, boring car who can tell you how much they spend on their car per month AND annually. Internet owners’ forums are an invaluable resource. Just register on a site dedicated to an inexpensive small car (“Cheap bastard” ought to do it) and post a thread asking “How much does it cost to run your X?”

The second strategy is endurance.

When most folks think of a car that last forever, they think of an old Volvo or Mercedes. That’s so last century. These days, most every automobile built can crest 100k miles without much trouble. In fact, 150k is the new 100k: the way point that tells an owner that he or she’s found a machine that can go the distance. Which is, let’s face it, one of your cheapest possible ownership options.

Frugal endurers are closet conservationists. They tend to pay cash up front (they consider monthly payments and interest charges an automotive fashion victim’s sin tax) for two-year-old or older cars.

They’re looking for vehicles blessed with [documented] factory-approved maintenance that have passed the “is it a lemon?” threshold. They look for unloved, low-spec models. Depending on their dedication, they’ll happily forgo such basic comforts as air conditioning and power door locks.

As endurers aren’t looking to trade in their wheels (i.e. they plan to run the vehicle into the ground), they couldn’t care less about their purchase’s short-term residuals. It’s all about keeping the car going, to get to those “cheap miles” at the end of the [hopefully] epic ownership period. And that means fastidious maintenance, extended warranties and celebrating the inevitable wear-and-tear.

To benefit from endurers’ sagacity, buy the most reliable car you can and hold it as long as possibly can. Period.

Mule trading is the third money saving strategy.

Mule traders buy from used car auctions. They buy whatever vehicle [they believe] will hold its value in the retail market. Due to a fickle public and sinister depreciation curves, many mule traders skip the way cool late model stuff and go for ‘sleds;’ vehicles that cost $5k or less. They drive em’, fix em’, sell em’, rinse and repeat.

Of course, not all mules are broken down beasts of burden. There are plenty of hot (though inexpensive) used cars available at auction that will protect the mule trader’s money (e.g. the Mini Cooper, Scion Xb, and Honda Fit). After anywhere between six months to 18 months, the traders simply sell the vehicle to a dealer, who uses them as high profit ‘finance fodder.’

The mule trader takes on the depreciation risk on the assumption that today’s hot new car will be tomorrow’s hot used car. The keen-eyed mule trader gets a higher trade-in value for the car, the dealer receives a larger profit off the financed vehicle. Everyone wins– save for the poor bastard with the hot car and large monthly payment.

Whether you reduce your overall automotive operating costs by conserving cash, fixing costs (endurer) or taking advantage of automotive fashions (mule trader), there’s always an opportunity to save a chunk of change on your motoring expenses. The challenge: determining which mindset best suits your budget, skills and time. As Patek Phillipe’s ads used to say, choose once but choose wisely.

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  • Norman Stansfield Why are leaf springs still a thing on this truck?
  • Syke The expected opening comments. Have had mine for two years now, the car has done exactly what I want out of it, and a little better. I'm quite happy with the car, haven't had to adjust my driving style or needs in the slightest, and . . . . oh, did a mention that I don't give a damn what today's price at the pump is?Probably going to go for a second one in the coming year, the wife's happy enough with mine that she's ready and willing to trade in the Nissan Kicks. Eventually, the not often used van will end up getting traded on a Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, basically ensuring that we don't use gas for anything except the occasional long trip.And the motorcycles.
  • Bobbysirhan I've never found the Allegro appealing before, but a few years of EV rollouts make it seem downright desirable.
  • Scoutdude I know that dealership. Way back when my friend's grandfather was that Turner that owned the Chrysler Plymouth International dealer, in MacPherson. Of course the International was dropped when they didn't deem the Scout reason enough to keep the franchise. I moved from there in late 1978 so it is possible I saw this running around town way back when.
  • Lou_BC "Overpriced" is a misnomer. Arguably, if they are selling they are not overpriced. "Dealer mark-up above MSRP" is a mouthful but more accurate. Simple, don 't buy anything marked up. A computer will help you search the country. It's a PITA but doable.