Hey! How about the price of gas?

March 10, 2011

You can’t control the price of gas however, you can control how much gas (and money) you will burn. With just a few simple adjustments you can increase your gas mileage and save a lot of money.

Getting Ed-Ucated on saving gas and money:
Give yourself more time to get where you are going. In a hurry? Slow down. Rapid starts and stops will waste gas. Driving efficiently could increase your mileage up to 33%.
Stick to the speed limits and use your cruise control on the highway.
Keep your car tuned up and your tires properly inflated.
Remember to change your gas and air filters regularly.
Use the correct kind of gas for your car. Don’t put 87 octane in a car that is designed to run on premium gas. Consult your owner manual if you have questions about what kind of gas to use.
Junk in the trunk? Remove excess weight. No I am not talking about you going to the gym. I am talking about removing unnecessary heavy items from your car.
Following these few simple tips can greatly improve your gas mileage and keep dollars in your pocket.

Another good reason to have a car broker.

December 27, 2010

This would have not happened using Ed Car Guy.

From the N.Y TimesIT’S the holidays and you want uplift.

Well, find an elevator, pal. Because here comes a downer.

Our tale this time comes from a hotel clerk and recent immigrant from India named George Karikulathileliyas — henceforth known as Mr. K. The question below is based on his e-mail and several follow-up conversations with the Haggler.

Q. I bought a Nissan Murano from Star Nissan in Queens last year. I thought the price was $35,985, because that’s what it said on the sales agreement I signed that evening.

But when I received my financing document from Chase, the price was $39,754. The difference — nearly $4,000 — is a mystery that I have spent more than a year trying to solve.

I also purchased a $2,495 service contract, which the salesman at Star Nissan said I had to buy or else I couldn’t drive the car off the lot. I called Easy Care, the company in Atlanta that administered the contract, and canceled it almost immediately. A rep there said that, per the company’s protocol, it sent a refund check to Star Nissan.

But my monthly payment has never changed. Easy Care said it did not have the power to reduce the outstanding balance of my loan, and my lending bank, JPMorgan Chase, said the same. Only Star Nissan, both companies contend, can do that.

I have called Star Nissan at least 25 times to get some answers about what I believe is an overcharge of nearly $6,300. And I have visited on roughly 10 occasions. Every time I’m told the same story: Only the finance manager can amend my contract, and he isn’t in the building.

I brought a friend along for one visit and after several hours of waiting, my friend asked what seemed like a reasonable question: “If that finance manager resigned tomorrow, who would we speak to?” A Star Nissan employee grew so enraged that he told us that if we didn’t leave, he would beat us.

I have been in touch with the state attorney general’s office but it has not helped. Can you? George K.

New Hyde Park, N.Y.

A. A call to Star Nissan was returned by Gus Tsolkas, the company’s general manager. The Haggler will say this for Mr. Tsolkas: He was willing to talk. And talk. Very loudly.

What he was unwilling to do was yield an inch.

He stated that on the day that Mr. K picked up his car, he had agreed to a number of add-ons — a $25,000 “theft benefit,” a seven-year warranty, a five-year roadside assistance contract, a car alarm and a remote starter. Together, Mr. Tsolkas said, these explain the aforementioned $3,800 gap.

It was news to Mr. K. that he’d acquired any of these goodies and protections. But he readily acknowledges that he signed many documents the night he bought his car, in part because his children were nagging him to leave — never bring kids to a car-buying negotiation! — and in part because he felt pressured by the salesman.

Mr. Tsolkas produced two of the documents Mr. K signed at the dealership, the roadside assistance contract and the $25,000 “theft benefit.” What he didn’t do was produce any figures that detailed how much these and other add-ons actually cost. Nor did he share any documentation of the purchase of the car alarm or the remote starter — two items you’d think Mr. K. would know he owned.

Mr. Tsolkas was also unable to explain why the Easy Care refund was never credited to Mr. K. (Easy Care confirmed that Star Nissan cashed that check.) He said he’d look into that.

In the vain hope that at least some of this dispute stemmed from a failure of communication, the Haggler convened one of his patented Three-Way Conference Calls of Reconciliation, which brought together Mr. K. and Mr. Tsolkas for their first-ever conversation.

It didn’t go well. Mr. Tsolkas basically said he didn’t believe Mr. K.’s story. He said it was impossible to visit Star Nissan 10 times without meeting the finance manager. He also described as “ludicrous” the notion that one of his employees would threaten a customer.

At moments during this hourlong dialogue, contentiousness morphed into a place where low comedy meets sophistry. When the Haggler asked for written proof that Mr. K. had bought a remote starter, Mr. Tsolkas countered with this gem: “Why don’t you ask him to prove that he didn’t buy it?”

He also implied that Mr. K. was playing the guileless-immigrant card to win the sympathies of the Haggler.

The Haggler doubts it. And his doubts were deepened when he learned about a lawsuit filed against Star Nissan by Joseph Collins, who bought a $94,000 sports car and optional packages from the dealership in January 2009. Star Nissan later demanded another $10,000 for a maintenance package, which Mr. Collins contended a salesman told him was included in the original deal. A judge awarded him a full refund and Mr. Collins is now pushing for legal fees and punitive damages, claiming fraud.

As part of evidence collection for this lawsuit, Mr. Collins’s lawyer subpoenaed the more than 30 complaints against Star Nissan filed with the Better Business Bureau since April 2008 — a track record of contract disputes and refund issues that earned the company a B.B.B. grade of F. In a dozen instances, Star Nissan simply did not respond to the bureau, suggesting that it was not just Mr. K who had a hard time getting this company’s attention.

Will Star Nissan credit Mr. K. for that Easy Care contract? Will the dealership break out the costs of other the add-ons sold to him? Will Gus Tsolkas display even a millisecond of concern about the way Mr. K. was treated?

Most important, will the attorney general’s office — which is supposed to help people like Mr. K. — get involved?

This episode of the Haggler will be continued.

E-mail: haggler@nytimes.com. Keep it brief and family-friendly, and go easy on the caps-lock key. Letters may be edited for clarity and length.

A version of this article appeared in print on December 26, 2010, on page BU5 of the New York edition.

Keeping it simple and real

December 3, 2010

“VIVIAN” Wins 1st Place

Vivian was invited to a charity Car Rally held at the Foster’s Freeze in Burbank on Sunday November 7, 2010. The 34 cars were in the competition for a “Peoples Choice” Award. When Cheryl and I got to the show, I was amazed at some of the modified cars in the competition. There was an El Camino that had an all chrome engine and (at least) a $25,000-paint job on it. That car was worth about $60,000 As well as a 1970 convertible 454 GTO worth over $125,000 and some other awesome cars.

I didn’t think Vivian had a chance to win the trophy. I thought that, most people would vote for the flashy cars. Cheryl reminded me that, “Vivian is in a class by herself.”

Cheryl was absolutely right! People loved her originality, simplicity and how great she looked at 42 years old. Vivian won by a landslide! 39 1st place votes. The closest to her had 12 votes. It showed me there is something to be said for keeping it real and original.

I’m a classic, car owner that is…

November 18, 2010

I was attending an all Mustang car show on Sunday the 26TH 2010 with Camaro Cheryl at The Airtel Plaza Hotel in Van Nuys. While walking around the show, I saw this beautiful Brittany Blue 1968 Mustang with the licenses plate VIV 860. The owner of the car smiled and said “you want to take her off my hands?” I asked…. Why? He told me he had too many toys and needed room in the garage. I looked over the car and found it to be in GREAT condition and only 63, 700 original miles.

He showed me all of his very detailed documentation of the 1ST owner Martha Livingston. The original documentation was astounding. Cheryl and I left the show and went to lunch.

At lunch I could not get that car off my mind. I didn’t go to the show looking for a coupe. I wanted to get a 1971-1972 Convertible. Cheryl encouraged me to go back and look at the car again. We returned to the show just as it was closing. I looked at the car again and knew I had to get her.

I knew it was the perfect thing to do. The former owner gave me all the documentation on the car as well as the four 1ST Place trophies that Vivian had won in the past car shows for being all original.

I have all the original paper work and service records for the last 42 years! I will continue the documentation of this lovely ladies travels.

I love the classic cars. The more I learn about them the more I can help my self and others in this specialty field.

5 Tips You Need To Know Before Going To The Dealer

June 8, 2010

1. Know what you are paying for.
Here’s the scenario: You’re at the dealer and see a car you like. You ask, “What’s the price of this car?” The salesman replies, “Can you afford $400 a month?” This is when you should walk away. The key to any deal is to manage the numbers separately (the price of the car, fees, taxes, etc.). Getting preapproved at Burbank City allows you to handle the price of the vehicle without worrying about the financing numbers.
2 . EXTRAS! EXTRAS! (read all about them).
Alarm systems, GAP insurance, chrome wheels, extended warrantees and lease rates have negotiable costs. You can do research on your own or give me a call. I can offer specific advice and facts on how you may be able to save both money and time.
3. Take your time – do your homework.
Big, costly mistakes can happen fast at the dealership. I have members in my office every week that unknowingly put more cash in the dealer’s pocket because they didn’t do their research. Investigate rebates and incentives on the models you’re looking at. And don’t be pressured into signing forms you don’t understand. Taking time before you buy equals more cash in your Burbank City account!
4. Take a test drive.
This is the MOST important part of the car buying experience. What good is the deal, if you don’t like the way the car drives? Find out if you like the head room, storage space, how it feels and handles on the road, and try the heater, air-conditioner and entertainment system. Reduce your chance of “Buyers Remorse” by test-driving the car.
5. CarFax is good – but not perfect.
Buy a used car? CarFax is a good tool to obtain DMV information, but it does not indicate any potential damage done to a vehicle that was not reported to an insurance company. Therefore, spend some time with the car and take note of any dull surfaces or overspray which could be a sign of an unreported collision.

“Hybrids’ thirst for metal causes mining concerns”.

September 1, 2009

From The LA Times:
— J. Mark Sternberg

Hybrid cars are often lauded as a step toward a more sustainable future for cars. However, some of the rare earth metals needed to make the electric motors and batteries for cars like the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight are getting harder to come by.

Currently China is the leading provider of metals like neodymium and lanthanum that are used in hybrid batteries and motors. However, as China’s industries begin to use more of the metals themselves, there is less to be exported.

Hybrid enthusiasts can relax a little however, mines worldwide are sure to increase production to meet the growing need for hybrid technologies.

There is an open pit mine in Mountain Pass, Calif. (just north of the Mojave National Preserve on the Nevada border) that promises to supply a massive amount of rare earths. The mine was shut down in 2002 after major environmental concerns, and then finally competition from China drove the mine from profitability. However, with the decline of exports from China and a surge in demand for hybrid technology, the mine is set to reopen and cash in on California’s newest “gold” rush.

Should I buy a car after I have leased it?

June 11, 2009

I have a better question. (After all it is my blog) Is buying that car a good “deal” for you? When leasing, you pay for the car’s depreciation. The remainder is called the residual, which is the same as your lease end purchase price. It’s as if you went to a fortuneteller and they looked in their crystal ball and said, “this is what we believe the car WILL BE worth at the end of the lease. However, is that residual a good deal now? You will need to do some research to find out what the car is worth and compare that to your buy out on the lease. Auto trader .com, kbb.com and cars.com will give you a good idea of what your car is selling for retail. Of course the best idea is to pay closer to wholesale for the car.

Some times the leaseholder or the car dealership can lower the buy out price. Just ask! It can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Start with asking the company to whom you make your payment. The loan company will tell you if they can re-negotiate your buy out or they will direct you to the selling deal. It all depends on their policy. The closer you get to the end of your lease, presto change-oh, the price that they were not going to lower… is now magically lower.

Other factors to consider when turning in or trying buying out your car in at the end of the lease are…
Are you under or over the mileage?
Is there damage to the inside or outside of the car?
Did you check between the seats for spare change?