Car shopping can be a stressful event even for the savviest negotiator. For most people a car is the second most expensive purchase they’ll make next to buying a home — all the more reason to be prepared and have a plan for picking a car out and financing the purchase. A snap decision at the dealership can easily lead to buyer’s remorse you’ll have to live with for years.
“All big purchases can be stressful,” says Wade Newton, spokesperson for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, “and considering how durable cars are today, they can be a long-term commitment.”
Your car purchase needs to start long before you set foot in a car dealership – with background work that will pay dividends not only financially but for your peace of mind.
Determine your budget
Like any major buy, determine your budget and define your needs within that constraint. Your car expense shouldn’t exceed 25 percent of your monthly household income, and that includes all of your vehicles. Besides monthly auto loan payments, you should factor in operating costs such as gas, maintenance and insurance.
Once you know how much you’re able to spend, you can start to narrow down the list of cars you want. It’s one of the fun parts of buying a car, but comes with challenges of its own. “Consumers have seemingly endless choices when it comes to buying a car, which is a good thing,” says Newton. “But it also means you have to look around at all of the options. Automakers provide hundreds of different models designed to meet a variety of needs, and consumers’ options are growing.”
Conduct the necessary research
Start by visiting the websites of automakers and other car sites to get an idea of model inventories and features available in your area. With your list of preferred choices, you can then look at whether you want to lease or buy new or pre-owned. Used cars offer the best upfront value but have shorter warranties and higher loan interest rates. “If it’s not a new auto, always be sure the vehicle isn’t under an active recall,” says Newton. “It’s easy to check at safercar.gov, and you can search by VIN.”
Leasing a vehicle allows you to get a more expensive car, but there are restrictions to “ownership” and you’ll have to turn the car in after the lease term is up. If you choose to buy new, you may not have the budget for as many features, but you’ll get a full warranty and lower interest rates.
Determine total ownership costs
After you determine the exact model you want, you can determine the monthly insurance and fuel expenses to figure your total ownership costs. You’re then able to shop for the loan. Keep in mind, dealers sometimes offer loan incentives for the model you’re after if you qualify. Either way, securing your financing secured before you walk into the dealership can make for a simpler, less-stressful process.
Know the price of the model you’re leaning towards
Next, research your model’s invoice or wholesale price. This gives you a general idea of what the dealer paid for the vehicle and puts you in a better negotiating position. Shoot for a sales price close to that amount before any discounts, keeping in mind that dealers need to make at least some profit to stay in business.
Speaking of discounts, check the automaker’s website for promotions or rebates. You may also find discounts aimed at specific groups, such as students or military personnel. Whatever rebates, discounts and other incentives you uncover can usually be combined.
Go for a test drive
With all your research in hand, you’re finally ready to visit the dealership. Make an appointment for a test drive, and take your time behind the wheel until you’re sure it’s the right fit for you. Play with the controls and make sure the car’s features fit your needs. For example, is the trunk large enough for all the items you plan to carry? If you have regular passengers, will they be comfortable?
Negotiate a fair price
When you’ve made your decision to buy, you can start the negotiating process. If you have a trade-in, keep the two separate and focus on the new car, factoring in the discounts you’ve researched. The dealer will have a list of fees associated with the sale; check that each is accurate and not an unnecessary add-on.
Finally, if something doesn’t feel right with the car or the deal, don’t be afraid to walk away.
Few cold-weather maladies are more irritating than frozen pipes.
Turning on the bathroom or kitchen faucet and seeing only a few drops or a trickle of water could indicate that water inside the pipes has frozen – preventing a free flow. But don’t panic. You may be more equipped to deal with the situation than you think. Here’s a quick lesson on how to thaw a frozen pipe.
Step 1. Turn on the faucet
Keep it running. Allowing the faucet to drip even slightly can help prevent a pipe from bursting. It’s simple – when freezing takes place, extreme pressure builds between the faucet and the ice blockage. An open faucet relieves this pressure buildup, in turn preventing a burst from occurring.
Step 2. Apply heat to the frozen area
Slowly apply heat using a hair dryer. Begin directing air close to the faucet end of the pipe and gradually move toward the coldest section. Be careful not to overheat the hair dryer or blow a fuse. Remember, the faucet should be left on while heat is being applied.
Step 3. Continue to apply heat
Don’t stop heating until full water pressure is restored. Even then, it’s a good idea to leave the faucet open for a few minutes after the pipe is thawed. This will give the ice time to completely clear from the line.
Step 4. Check all faucets
Check each faucet in your home for any other frozen pipes. One frozen pipe may mean that others have been affected as well.
If the problem persists, contact a plumber. You can prevent pipes from freezing again by taking simple steps before you travel like keeping the temperature in your home above freezing and turning off all the water to your house before you leave.
And remember, a frozen pipe isn’t the only issue that comes with cold weather. Find out other ways to protect your home during the winter.
If you’re moving out of a home you own, you might be wondering whether to rent your house out or sell it. Both of these options have benefits. It’s important to look at your individual situation and weigh the pros and cons before you decide.
Many elements factor into choosing whether to rent or sell your house. Some of the first questions to ask yourself are what the market is doing in your area and what the long-term outlook for your particular neighborhood is. Are property values increasing, or are they on the decline? If they’re increasing, you might benefit from renting out your house and then selling it for more money in another year or two.
However, if property values in your neighborhood are declining and you have concerns about how the market may fare over the next few years, it might be advantageous to sell your home now to potentially avoid taking a loss.
What to consider before you rent out your house
Even if you determine that it could be financially advantageous to rent out your house, it’s not time to put the “For Rent” sign in the yard just yet. Here are some personal factors to think about before assuming landlord duties:
The pros of selling vs. renting
Weighing the pros and cons of each scenario is a good way to determine whether selling or renting is best for you. Here are some pros to consider:
Getting stuck in the middle of a big pile of snow or on a stretch of ice can be an all-too-common occurrence during the cold winter months. Luckily, we have a few tips and tricks that can get your car free in no time, even if you don’t have one of the best vehicles for winter driving. Here are some things you can do if your car is stuck in snow:
1. Clear a path around your tires
Try to dig snow and ice away from the drive tires. You want to free up a few feet in front of and behind the tires so you can move the car back and forth. Be sure to also dig out any snow under the front or middle of your car that is higher than its ground clearance.
Of course a shovel makes this much easier, so try and store one in your trunk along with some other winter emergency items if you plan on driving in snowy conditions.
2. Rock your car free of the snow
Carefully switching from drive to reverse can help dislodge some of the snow around your wheels. “You go into drive, then reverse, then repeat,” says Mark Osborne, who oversees Michigan Technological University’s Winter Driving School. “But you have to be careful not to wreck your transmission. I put my foot on the brake at the peak of each ‘rock,’ so the car is motionless when I change gears. It’s also helpful to shift to neutral for a second before making the transition.”
3. Don’t floor the gas
You’ll always be tempted to floor it if you’re stuck in snow or ice, but don’t. Go easy on the pedal to give the vehicle just a little gas for a moment, then let off. Repeat to enhance the needed “rocking” motion. It’s momentum that sets you free, not power.
4. Improve traction
If you still can’t get your car free, you can next try and improve traction under your wheels. Things such as sandbags, salt, dirt or even kitty litter can be used when your car is stuck in snow. Throw several handfuls under your tires for improved traction, then try the gas again.
It is also important to remember to turn off traction control if you are stuck in snow. This feature can help you keep control of your vehicle if you hit ice on the road, but leaving it on while stuck in snow is a different story. Traction control prevents wheelspin, which is the rotation of a vehicle’s wheels without traction, and can sometimes help you get your car out of snow.
5. Get others to help push your car
If you have other people in your car, or friendly onlookers who can help, simply pushing your car out of the snow can be an easy solution. Gently press the gas while the car is being pushed to add additional momentum. Safety always comes first, so make sure you’re in forward gear and the ground isn’t too slippery for helpers to push. Using snow chains can also help create traction under your tires, making it easier to move through snow and ice.
Always keep a cool head
Whether you’re stuck in snow or hit a stretch of ice, try and remain calm. Don’t do anything abrupt, like slamming the brakes. “If you do that, you’ll transfer your vehicle’s weight to your front wheels,” Osborne says. “That lightens up the rear, making it likely that your rear end will spin.” Instead, Osborne says, gradually let off the gas and hold the steering steady until you’ve cleared the ice.
If all else fails, an emergency roadside assistance service can give your car a tow. Learn more about the benefits of our Roadside Assistance program here.
Your car getting stuck isn’t the only concern when winter comes along. Snowy and icy pavement can lead to accidents. To help you navigate inclement weather this winter, check out our safety tips for driving in a snowstorm.
SPI Reflections Blog
Our blog is about educating our customers and the public about important insurance information that we feel is meaningful.