Anyone who has ever bought a new or used car from a dealership knows the minefield of add-ons customers must generally navigate before signing on the line which is dotted. Just this week, my own parents were presented with a deal sheet that showed an admin fee ($799), tire warranty ($499), and undercoating ($999) on a second-hand Lincoln from a non-Lincoln store. They walked.
Consumer Reports has recently published a list of dealership extras they recommend binning when buying your next car.
Dear TTAC Readers,
Thank you so much for your patience over the past couple of weeks of my absence while I have been dealing with family issues. Unfortunately, time is what it is and family members get old and as much as we try and prepare ourselves, it still happens.
It’s a safe bet that most DIYers are grateful to the wrenching deities for the democratization of LED illumination – especially when talking about work lights. Your author used to toil under cars and in tight spaces with incandescent work lights that heated themselves to approximately the surface of the sun, as I’m sure you all did as well.
There are some things best enjoyed without filters – Instagram photos, discussions about pay with your boss, and those Camel cigarettes from the ’80s. What definitely does require a filter is the oiling system on your car’s engine. We’ve gathered a few of them here.
There will be a few in our readership who are going to immediately point out that cordless drills aren’t strictly an automotive tool or accessory. And, for once, they’re technically correct. The first genre one generally thinks of when an ad for cordless drills appears is the construction industry. An maybe the props department for a science-fiction B-movie.
As a lifelong Snow Belter, I’ve long considered myself a fairly good snow driver – and I’ve long understood the need for winter tires, even over all-seasons in some cases. A recent trip to the ski town of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, courtesy of Bridgestone, confirmed some of what I already knew – and taught me some new things in the process.
For example, one can be a pretty good snow driver, and yet be pretty far from excellent. More on that in a bit.
Let’s get something clear right from the start: these locks are best thought of as a deterrent to the scourge that is vehicle theft and not an outright prevention tool. If two identical cars are parked side by each, one with a steering wheel lock and one without, there’s a good chance the robber is going to target the one sans lock.
Before you get bent out of shape, know that this post isn’t about those infernal gadgets that late-night television tries to sell us. You know the ones – they promise to send an electric charge through the body of a vehicle to allegedly neutralize conditions in which rust normally forms. The less said about those, the better.
We know, without a doubt, there are several readers in the audience shouting into their screens that few people use a phone mount these days. One’s phone generally stays in a pocket or unceremoniously flung into storage bin or cupholder. And, yeah, you’ve got a point.
Whether you’re working on a collector car or a daily beater, having a multimeter on hand when one’s required can be a lifesaver. Not only can it help diagnose electrical issues but it can also help narrow down issues and prevent the replacement of perfectly good parts.
It’s all well and good to reminisce about the good old days but, chances are, we’re looking at another time through seriously tinted rose-colored glasses. Sure, more than a few of us used to bounce around on the bench seat of a station wagon or in the bed of a pickup truck but there’s no way anyone can argue in good faith that it was very safe.
The first thing that many people do when their new car is ready for its first set of replacement tires is to ditch them for something else. Whether that’s a tire with a high tread mileage guarantee, an ultra-grippy tire, or the cheapest thing they can find, few people actively seek out the exact same tires that their vehicle came with from the factory.
If OEMs could have just selected the best-rated tire from the Tire Rack website, or asked people on a forum what they preferred, and called it a day, wouldn’t they have done that? If you think you’re smarter than an entire team of OEM engineers, then go ahead and slap on that 80,0000-mile-guaranteed set of tires. But, you will want to understand what you might be giving up in the process.
I recently had a local shop confirm the need for O2 sensors in my Jaguar S-Type. With 97,000 miles on them, it seems very likely they need replacement, and the mechanic wants to install factory sensors at the cost of some $650 for the parts. I can purchase Denso or Bosch from the local parts store for less than $200. As these parts were originally designed to last at least 80,000 miles (Federal warranty requirement), I figure that replacements from any reputable source will last quite a long time.
What is your opinion as to brand specific parts versus more generic replacement parts?
I suspect the original supplier was actually Bosch anyway so in my mind they are the same.
Suppose you have a front-wheel-drive vehicle and you’re looking to fit a set of winter tires. Also, let’s assume that two of those tires have much more tread depth than the other two. On which end of the car do you install the better rubber?
According to the CBC, a woman in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada (that’s my town!) ran into just this problem, complete with conflicting advice from two repair shops: One said putting the fresher rubber up front is safer as the vehicle is front-wheel drive, while the other said giving the rear more grip is the best course of action to reduce the chance of a spin out.
Which one is correct?
Volkswagen may not be the only one that was cheating on their emissions testing. Reports coming out of the European Federation for Transport and Environment are shining light on other manufacturers which could be putting out dodgy emissions figures. I found the Vauxhall Zafira Tourer on one such report and decided to take a look at the Chevy Cruze Diesel due to related engine technology. I was surprised by what I found.
Somewhat oddly for the site that used to prioritize being FIRST POST above everything else, Jalopnik was last out of the gate with their review of the Viper ACR. I think it was worth the wait, because it was written by legitimate sports-car-racing hero Andy Lally. You can check it out here. As competent a racer and driver as I think I am, Andy’s obviously on the proverbial next level.
Which is why it made me sad to read one of the story’s last paragraphs.
As I’ve mentioned before, I spent about four years as a “deal spotter” for Bring A Trailer. Much of that work consisted of browsing eBay, Craigslist, and various marque-specific forums looking for interesting deals on classics. Of course, I have a day job as well, so I try and minimize the time I actually spend looking at cars while simultaneously looking like I’m actually working. The eBay app for my Android helps in this matter, so I can work on my side job while indisposed.
So, I spend nearly an hour or two every day trying to quickly assess every car by the lead photo before moving on. I can quickly spot deals or find those auctions that won’t sell. It’s like automotive Tinder – swipe left for the rotted F-body, swipe right for the longhood 911.
Have I told you that I love you? Very, very much? Well it’s true, as your questions are the lifeblood of the column I envisioned many moons ago. And that’s why I’m again asking for your help to keep it running. Otherwise I’ll be forced to continue progress on my Edelbrock crash cymbal.
A couple of years ago my son bought a 2004 Saturn Ion sedan from a friend of ours. It has about 90,000 miles on the clock and ran fine…until I insisted that he bring it in and get the ignition recall done. A few weeks after the recall work was completed, he was driving on 2 lane road at about 40 miles per hour and the car competely shut down…no power steering, weak power brakes. He was glad he wasn’t going faster & he wrestled the car into a parking lot, let it sit for a while, restarted it and drove home. He called the local GM dealership and they downplayed the incident and told him to bring it in at his convenience.
Now I’m really scared for him. Any advice?
I live in Brooklyn and I have a 2011 Prius that I still owe about $10k on. Before mocking my choice of personal transportation, remember that driving dynamics mean next to nothing when you live in a place where it’s hard to go above 40 MPH at any given time and the roads resemble 1990’s Kosovo. That said, my best friend is the service manager at a Volvo dealership and she just received a 1993 Volvo 940 wagon on trade.
TTAC commentator M0L0TOV writes:
Greetings All-Knowing Sajeev,
I am looking for some insight on an ongoing issue with my workhorse. I have a 2003 Ford Focus ZX-5 with 160,000 miles. A little bit over a year ago, I had Aamco rebuild the automatic transmission on my car for the tune of $2500. Apparently, my car seems to have an appetite for transmissions, I’m on #4 now (original, warranty, junkyard, Aamco).
Sajeev, I enjoy your TTAC contributions very much. I have a 2002 Dodge Ram with a 5.9 liter V8. Starts every time and idles fine initially. But just when it transitions over from the cold start sequence to Normal running it starts to act as if it is gasping for air.
My wife wants me to sell our pristine, time-capsule 90 Cressida for a 4Runner (or similar) because we live in winter-world. I am looking at used 4Runners and the prices are crazy. Typically a rusted 1996-98 with 350-390,000KM will be asking $5,000 – $6,000CDN. I have seen Lexus LS with half the mileage, far better condition and all services done for that price.
What gives? Are 4Runners that good?
Capitalism has no loyalties.
Everybody is replaceable.
Products. Employees. Employers. Services. Alliances. Joint Ventures. Financiers. Even the executives of multinational firms along with their board of directors are only as good as whatever quarterly numbers can be cooked up by their ‘independent’ auditing firm.
Capitalism is the ultimate “Let’s go!”, “Do it!” and “Screw you!” of economic systems. You name the angle or need in capitalism, and chances are that there is a market substitute that can immediately fill the gap. Even government regulations can be routinely challenged by trade organizations, international courts, and the all too common political handshake.
All this reality happens… on paper.
I have a 2010 Audi S5 with about 45k miles. My local mechanic recommended Mercury Warranty for mechanical breakdown coverage… is $4,700 a good deal for 5 years, or an additional 52k mileage in coverage?
I’m worried that it would be easy to add up to that $ in repairs.
TTAC Commentator bpscarguy writes:
I need some advice – I am struggling with a decision on what to do with our daily driver. It’s a 2002 Infiniti I35. 140,000 largely trouble-free, easy, no fuss miles. It does everything we want, has some creature comforts, is in very good, clean condition.
This is going to take while to get to the point. For those with logophobia, skip to the last paragraph. Those people who think How I Met Your Mother was too rushed, keep reading. Sajeev, you have to keep reading too. You do say to “spare no details”. (Fantastic. – SM)
That was the asking price for a 2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser down at my local Chrysler dealer back in June 2008. Throw in a $1500 rebate or the “Refuel America” $2.99 per gallon guarantee into the equation, and you may have ended-up with a pre-tax, tag, title price right around $10,300.
Not bad. Not bad at all.
Then again, was it? There are a lot of long-term factors to consider when approaching any of the less popular new cars that are in their last years of production. Not all will be a good deal. But you may be surprised. Join me now as we journey down the PT-shaped rabbit hole.
TTAC Commentator HEATHROI writes:
A friend–definitely a friend as I would just buy a new mustang and be done with it–is looking at early 00s 911 (probably the 996) as he has entered mid-life crisis mode. He must have the porker. I know there can be some issues with the drive train. I’d like to see if anybody knows a little more about 996 problems what to look out for and how much he might be looking at. Handy, he is not.
The bases are loaded and the score is tied. Two outs in the bottom of ninth. 3 balls. 1 strike.
You know this pitcher better than you know your brother. The last pitch had almost cleared the left field pole, and the entire stadium. Your swing was as beautiful as Mickey Mantle in his prime. Just a few inches to the right and you would have been on your way to a private party with friends instead of another walk back to the batter’s box.
The catcher signals, and you catch one finger out of the very corner of your eye. Fastball. The pitch comes, right down the middle. It’s almost like a dream and yet, you can’t do anything about it.
The stomach pangs in stress and anguish as the rest of your body remains still. You watch it go past. The thud in the catcher’s mitt. The umpire bellowing, “Stttaaarrriiikkeee!!!” Your manager had told you not to swing and now, you have 50,000 fans booing as you curse under the breath and step away from the batters box.
Will you get a pitch that good again? The pitcher grins as he now knows, his mistake ended up giving him an advantage.
An unsellable car comes in many forms.
The three-door minivan. The stickshift attached to a non-sporty wagon. The Daewoo. The conversion van with design graphics rooted in sexual fantasy.
Then there is this car. A car designed in the Reagan era with a cheap plastic grille, an even cheaper plasticized interior, and a luggage rack on the trunk that would do Lee Iacocca proud.
God I love this thing. What the hell is wrong with me?
Are there any good insurance options for old, low-value non-collector cars? I’m going to have a pretty good handful of antique-plated vehicles in the next few years, and it seems silly to have regular insurance for stuff that might get driven once or twice a month, but “collector” car insurance is geared towards show-winner ’65 Mustangs and such.
Imagine over 500 cars at your disposal, and you pick the exact ones you want to test on the open road.
There are no mind games. No bait and switch tactics. Nothing but you going to a computer, figuring out the most worthy candidates, and letting a salaried employee fetch the keys and answer the relevant questions to your car search.
Sounds too good to be true? Well, it’s already happened. There’s only one problem.
The place that does it primarily sells used cars, not new cars.
TTAC Commentator slance66 writes:
The B&B helped me choose a car three or four years ago, and now I’m thinking of its replacement, ahead of time. I bought a CPO 2007 BMW 328xi, which has been nearly flawless to 67k. I only drive 8,000 miles a year with a 3.5 mile commute each way, so it should last a long time. I love the car and do plan to keep it a few more years, but, I don’t know if it will survive the potholes.
I have recently come into possession of a 1994 Isuzu Trooper (pictured above). 158k, One owner, with good service history until 100k. After that the (affluent) previous owner basically used it as a Home Depot Hauler for 7+ years so besides oil changes and tires, not much was done. That’s fine by me as the truck cost $1600 and it is pretty great running shape.
5 cars – 5 sticks = 0 Customer Demand
I hate looking at that equation. But these days, it’s about as true for the car business as Georgia is hot. An older stickshift vehicle that isn’t an all out sports car will sit at a retail lot for months on end.
Nobody knows how to drive them except for those folks who are either too middle-aged, too arthritic, or too affluent to buy an older car with a manual transmission.
Don’t believe me? Well, here’s five vehicles that have become the equivalent of heavyweight paperweights at my humble abode. The funny thing is I like driving them all… I just wish I wasn’t two stickshifts away from driving a different handshaker every day of the week.
Rookies. All-stars. Hall of Famers.
Those were the only three types of baseball cards that I thought were worth the trade when I was a kid. I was eight years old, but that didn’t stop me from becoming diligently schooled by my three older brothers who knew the ropes of other similar hobbies such as comics, coins, and stamps.
The drill was simple. Every time someone wanted to trade cards with me, I would ask them one simple question.
“What’s your favorite team?” From there, I would bring out an album loaded with baseball cards. Every one in mint condition and encased in plastic sheets. “Pick your favorites!” They would gather their own, and I would go through their collection, find the fresher cards in mint condition, and gather mine.
Over 30 years later I do the exact same thing with cars. I sell based on interest and buy based on condition and long-term reliability. I’m still not loyal to any brand or model these days. For me, even after all these years, the opportunity to buy and sell any car comes down to three simple concepts I learned in my youth.
Condition, presentation, and price.
I’ve had a 2009 Dodge Caliber SRT4 for a few years and it’s coming up to its first all-around brake job at 50,000 miles / 80,000 km (I drive like a granny). I work at a dealership (different brand) but can get parts at a bit of a discount. Still, OEM brakes + pads on this thing are $980+tax Canadian. From what I’ve seen I can get aftermarket ones for a quarter of that. One of the mechanics here suggests I put on OEM pads and aftermarket discs.
Two hundred thousand miles.
It’s a beautiful moment for many a car owner.
As for me? Well, I admit that I cheated when I saw that number flash by in my wife’s car back in March. Like many an enthusiast, I had bought it used and was planning on keeping her daily driver for the long haul.
The question for me was, “How long would the long haul be?” Since I buy, fix and sell a lot of vehicles, and have deeply imbibed the fluids of wisdom at the Bob Is The Oil Guy web site, I decided to live my life on the wild side.
I performed an oil analysis.
I own a 2006 Audi A3 2.0T with the DSG dual clutch gearbox. I really like the car, and my plan had been to keep it for a long time. As the original owner I’ve racked up nearly 125,000 miles. I’ve scrupulously kept up with the maintenance, and service on the car, though those 125,000 miles haven’t been exactly trouble-free.
TTAC commentator Bobby Flashpants writes:
I have an unique issue with my 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid. I’ve posted about it at fordfusionforum.com, and no one so far has heard of anyone with the same issue. Here’s the link for the post, and the text is reproduced (and edited to remove site-specific context) below:
“Steve, what car should I buy?”
“Well, if I give you the real answer, you’ll roll your eyes and buy what you want anyway.”
“No really. I’m open to new ideas.”
“Okay then! Buy a 2012 Malibu. Buy a Buick Park Avenue. Buy a Dodge Raider or buy a Suzuki Equator.”
“Ummm… are you sure about that?”
“Hell no! Now go buy me a soda and buy yourself a Camry!”
Huge fan of TTAC and the piston slap articles. My problem is that I noticed my car(2007 honda civic)would shudder, under light throttle and low rpms especially when going up a slight slope. This usually happens at 30km/hr or 40km/hr. I took it to the honda dealer(4 months ago) and he said the torque converter(tc) needs to be replaced(300 for tc plus 900 for labour and stuff).
Frozen in KC writes:
Long-time reader, first-time questioner with a 2005 Ford Expedition Eddie Bauer 4×4 question: My local Ford dealer says there is no block heater available to install on my Expedition. As you may know, it has been extremely cold in the midwest lately and my Ford is in the driveway. I have an outlet nearby and would love to be able to start up an already-warmed engine in these bitter cold mornings, not just for my comfort, but for the longevity of the engine. I’m pretty handy, but not an advanced mechanic.
Can the Best-And-Brightest possibly be of assistance? Thanks!
TTAC Commentator Thunderjet writes:
Last year I picked up a ’91 Lincoln Mark VII LSC for $800. It’s in decent shape for being a Chicago area car and having 153K on the clock. The body has no major rust issues except for the front fenders, which have rust holes due to the sunroof drains, so the car will eventually need new fenders. The under body and frame are rust free and very clean. The car sat for several years before I purchased it and over the last year I have put about $500 into the car replacing various wear/tune up items (water pump, hoses, belt, cap, rotor, plug wires, spark plugs, and the starter). The car runs well and I’ve always wanted one, being that I have been a Fox Body nut since I started driving.
6:30 P.M. on a Sunday evening… and three more vehicles just pulled up to my car lot.
You may think that’s a good thing, and it would be if people didn’t park all over the place.
One person parks in one direction. The guy coming from the west parks right in front of that guy, and so forth. This happens in infinite combination until the process of getting people in an out becomes a personal pantomime of moving and motioning cars. At certain times of the day my work becomes comparable to the late Marcel Marceau.
I knew I had to do something about it. However, I didn’t expect that something to become the enabler of my 11 year old son’s criminal history.
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- El scotto My iPhone gets too hot while using the wireless charging in my BMW. One more line on why someone is a dumbazz list?
- Buickman yeah, get Ron Fellows each time I get a Vette. screw Caddy.
- Dusterdude The Detroit 2.5 did a big disservice by paying their CEO’s so generously ( overpaying them ) It is a valid talking point for for the union ) However , the bottom line - The percentage of workers in the private sector who have a defined benefit pension plan is almost non existent - and the reason being is it’s unaffordable ! . This is a a huge sticking point as to have lower tier workers join would be prohibitive ( aside from other high price demands being requested - ie >30% wage gain request ) . Do the math - can a company afford to pay employees for 35 years , followed by funding a pension for a further 30 years ?
- El scotto Human safety driver? Some on here need a human safety thinker.
- Carlson Fan Stupid vehicle, that can't do any of the things a truck should be able to do. If I want something fast/quick and sporty I'll get a corvette or a 4 dr sport sedan. Taking a truck & neutering it to try and make it into something it's not is just pointless. But maybe that's the point of this road disaster