Does the Gasoline You Use Matter?

Gassing up your vehicle used to be simple. But today, with gas quality being regulated and monitored, there are questions that arise regarding what type of gasoline is good (or bad) for your vehicle’s engine.

Gas is legally required to have certain levels of detergents, octane, ethanol, and other ingredients. So what is the difference between “name brand” gasoline and the gas you get a discounted stations?

Truthfully, not much. There is a good chance that the gasoline you use at discounted stations is made by the same company that provides name brand gas to specific retailers.

gasoline-station

However

Using cheaper off-brand gasoline can cause expensive problems to your vehicle’s engine, including reliability.  And this may not be entirely your fault. Half of the new cars being manufactured have what is called gasoline direct injection, or GDI, which means the gasoline gets directly injected into the cylinder. It’s a new and different way of optimizing your engine using a different mix of air and fuel.  

If you have an GDI engine, gas quality immediately becomes important.  According to Rebecca Monroe, a fuel engineers at General Motors, “proper gasoline detergency is necessary for keeping engine components free of deposits.” Top-Tier gasoline contains certain additives that prevent build up and fuel deposits in the cylinders. These engines are very sensitive to the type of fuel you use.

There are generally 3 types of unleaded gasoline available at any given gas station, and the price rises with the fuel grade (octane ratings). If you drive a high-performance vehicle, you will need a higher octane fuel because the engine was designed to generate higher compression and increased power. High pressure and low octane aren’t a good match.  Your vehicle manual will determine whether your vehicle needs standard 87 gasoline or higher octane gasoline.

gasoline-pump

The American Automotive Association compared Top Tier gas to “off brand” gas to new GDI engines and the results were clear: Off-Brand gasoline caused 19 times more deposits than Top Tier brands after 40,000 miles.  Long story, short: It’s not about quality… it’s about brand. This means you can get the lowest grade gasoline, as long as it’s from an approved brand.

While the Top Tier gas might cost three-cents more, it will save you money on engine repairs down the road.

Tips for Taking a Test Drive: What to Look For and What to Bring Along

Whether buying a new or used vehicle, taking a test drive is one of the most important steps in the car buying process. It is the only way to determine if a vehicle is truly a good match for you and your lifestyle – just because it may look good on paper does not mean it will handle in a way that is comfortable for you.  

Depending on where you are in your search for your next car, you may be ready to pull the trigger on a new car the same day, or you may just be starting to look and want to take your time.  Regardless of where you are in the process, here are a few tips for making your test driving experience easy and hassle-free.

What to Bring to a Test Drive

Important Documents

Most importantly, bring your driver’s license when you are planning a test drive.  Dealerships will want proof that you are eligible to drive before handing you the keys to one of their vehicles.  

Regular Cargo

If you regularly drive with cargo in your vehicle, like a carseat, you will want to bring that along on a test drive to make sure it can be easily installed, fits comfortably, and meets safety requirements.  

carseat-test-drive

A Notebook

While this isn’t the most important thing you’ll need, it will help if you can take notes and write down the things you like most about the car you are driving.  Especially if you are in the early stages of buying a car, this can help you remember what you liked and didn’t like about each car you test drive.

What To Look For Before You Start a Test Drive

Entering the Vehicle

Is the vehicle easy to get in and out of? Do you have to squeeze into the seat? Considering you will be getting in and out your car daily, make sure that you don’t have to maneuver yourself to get comfortable.  

Adjust the Seats

Take your time adjusting the seat to get it just right. Are the seats electric or manually adjusted? Is there enough headroom? Can you see over the steering wheel? Is there proper lumbar support? Do your legs feel cramped? Make sure you can answer all of these questions before getting started on your drive.  If you can’t get comfortable, there’s a good chance that car is not for you.

Familiarity of Controls

Make sure you know where all the controls are – turn signals, windshield wipers, and headlight controls are important before you hit the road.  Every vehicle has a slightly different control panel and dashboard, so familiarize yourself and make sure it is something you are comfortable with.  

Tips While You Are on the Test Drive

How the Car Handles

Be conscious of the steering and how the car handles. Each car handles differently, so see if the steering feels heavy or if it is too light. Depending on where you drive on a daily basis, you may not want to feel like you are struggling to turn the car around tight city corners, while if you drive bumpy country roads, you do not want to feel like the steering is too loose and you could lose control.

Brake Reaction

It’s important to feel comfortable with the braking of the vehicle. Is the brake reaction time slower than what you are used to, or is the braking very sensitive? Everyone has a personal preference as to what kind of braking they prefer, so if you are not confident in the vehicle’s ability to stop, then move on and try another car.  

Transmission

If you are driving a car with an automatic transmission, pay attention to how smoothly the vehicle upshifts and downshifts, especially on hills.  If you are test driving a car with a manual transmission, make sure you are comfortable with the ease of shifting. Is the clutch heavy? Is it hard to discern between first and third gears?

Maneuverability

How does the vehicle maneuver tight turns and curves on the road? Is it easy to fit in parking spaces? Is there rear-camera assistance for parallel parking? Does the vehicle accelerate properly for merging on to busy highways? These are all questions you should be able to answer during your test drive.  

Visibility

Be sure you can see in all directions and are aware of the car’s blind spots.  Take note of how well you can see out the rear window, mirrors, and over the dashboard.  

Amenities

Is the car stocked with the amenities you are looking for? Is there a rear-view camera? Parking assistance? Lane departure warnings? Bluetooth and hands-free technology? Navigation system? It’s important to be satisfied with the amenities the vehicle has, and that you know how to operate them properly.  

What’s Next? Tips for After the Test Drive

Even if you loved everything about the vehicle you just test drove, don’t let a dealership con you into buying right away.  As a general rule of thumb, it’s important to drive at least 3 vehicles before deciding on the one you want to purchase to keep your options open.  If you are offered a really great deal from your salesperson, write down that offer and let them know you will be in touch. Sometimes it helps to sleep on it before choosing a particular vehicle.  

If you have driven a few cars and you are ready to pull the trigger and purchase a vehicle, ask your salesperson a few questions that may influence your final decision:

  • Is there a vehicle warranty? And if so, what is included?
  • What is included in the price?
  • What finance options are available?

Knowing the answer to these questions will help determine future costs down the road – if there is no warranty, understand that you will have maintenance costs.  There may be hidden fees that increase the price (and ultimately, your monthly payment) that you are unaware of. Make sure you can get approved for a loan – unless you are able to pay cash.  Not all dealerships have the same financing options at their disposal, so it may come in handy to come pre-approved from a bank.

Buying a new vehicle is a big step, so take your time and don’t rush into a decision if you aren’t fully confident with the vehicle you test drive. When you are ready to find that perfect pre-owned vehicle, visit Trust Auto for great cars and great deals! 

How to Buy A Used Car

There are ways to save thousands of dollars when buying a car. One of them is to buy a used car.  You’re far from alone if you are looking into used cars next time you are in the market to purchase a new (or new-to-you) vehicle. In fact, over 40 million used cars exchange hands each year.  

By choosing a used car over a new car, someone else will absorb the depreciation costs that new cars suffer from the moment they leave the lot.  Of course, there is a certain level of risk involved in purchase a used vehicle, but if you do the proper research prior to test driving a used car, you’ll find one that makes you (and your wallet!) very happy.  

HOW TO BUY A USED CAR: DO YOUR RESEARCH

Budgeting for a Used Car

The older and more miles a car has, the less expensive it will be. That is common sense. But, make sure you account for wear and tear that is inevitable on older vehicles that can lead to more repairs down the road.  Find a balance between the initial cost and how much flexibility you have for maintenance repairs before determining a budget for your used car.

budgeting-used-car

To help determine how much you can spend on a used car, total up your monthly bills and compare to your monthly income.  This will give you a ballpark idea of what your monthly payment can be, and will be very helpful when it comes to negotiating your deal.

Finding the Right Used Car

Once you determine your monthly budget, you can start looking for vehicles within that price range.  Starting on the lower end of your budget will provide you with more savings and potentially more flexibility in options a used car dealership can provide, like an aftermarket warranty.

When looking for a car, consider your wants, needs, and what kind of car will fit your lifestyle. Do you carpool the kids to soccer practice? Do you need something fuel efficient for a long commute? Will you need optional 3rd row seating? Does your location require all-wheel drive, or can you stay with a forward-wheel drive vehicle? These kinds of questions are all things to consider when in the market to purchase a vehicle.  

Inspecting a Used Car

All used cars have a history. Maybe it was someone’s first car and they drove it throughout high school. Maybe it was the car the proverbial grandma drove to the farmer’s market every Saturday morning.  Regardless of the make or model, each car has a history, but it’s up to you to find out as much as you can about the vehicle before making a purchase.

Request all the documents you can from the seller to prove the car has been maintained properly and thoroughly inspected.  To get an idea of the vehicle’s accident history, request a CarFax report from the seller. Most dealerships will provide each used car with a comprehensive CarFax report.  

used-car-Inspection

Be sure to test drive the vehicle before making any decisions to get a feel for how the car handles, if there are any weird sounds, or if the car has that “new again” feel.  To ensure the safety of the used vehicle, have it inspected by an independent mechanic. Not all problems will show up on a report, so it is always a good idea to have a set of eyes check it out.  If the seller tries to convince you that the car doesn’t need another inspection, take warning. Sellers may try to hide a recent accident or recent damage that hasn’t made it onto a written report yet, so take it to a mechanic to be thoroughly inspected.  If the car doesn’t look, smell, or feel right, run, don’t walk, away!

Financing a Used Car

Before you even set foot in a used car dealership, have a basic understanding of what your financing options will be.  Familiarize yourself with lending terminology and the process will be much smoother. It will help you to come pre-approved so you know what your potential interest rate and monthly payment will be, and chances are, the dealership will be able to match that or even get you a lower rate.  You can apply at several banks and other lenders before even walking into a dealership. Click here to read more about financing a used vehicle.

financing-used-car

Negotiating the Deal

“Talking numbers” might be your least favorite part of the car-buying process – and you’re not alone.  It can be uncomfortable to negotiate on prices and add-ons. It will help to stick to your budget and decide what your absolute maximum spending limit will be.  This way you can be talked into paying a higher monthly payment than you can afford.  In order to negotiate a deal, you’ll need to be educated on what the car you’re buying is worth – and you can check on reputable sites like NADA. Databases like  Kelley Blue Book are a bit outdated and do not account for the value of the car on the current market, so if you use KBB, know it could be a very different number than the actual value of the vehicle you are purchasing. 

Keep in mind that used car dealerships have a little less flexibility in negotiating on the price of a vehicle since they are not being sold at original market value.  So, instead of trying to talk down the price of the car, try negotiating a warranty or aftermarket add-on. You’ll have better luck getting a lower price!

Call Trust Auto today and start your car-buying process.

Distracted Driving Awareness Month

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month and Maryland State Troopers are cracking down on it.

Accidents can happen anywhere, anytime. It is one of the most random, split-second occurrences that can happen. And with people driving at such high speeds, it’s no wonder that approximately 1.3 million people are killed or injured each year in a car accident.

For more information, visit the National Safety Council and make the pledge to stop driving while distracted. Drive Safe. Drive Smart.

What to Expect if You Have Bad Credit When Applying for a Car Loan

Just because you have bad credit doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t get a used vehicle with financing, but it will affect the terms of your loan.

Millions of people face this situation every year – How to buy a car with poor or bad credit? – and what to expect when trying to purchase a used vehicle and if they’ll qualify for any financing options.  In fact, at the end of 2017, 1.24 million car loans were offered to customers with subprime credit scores – 649 or worse for Vantage Score and 669 or worse for FICO.

What To Expect If You Have Bad Credit

Many dealerships are unwilling to help customers figure out financing options. At that point, the customer should move on and find a dealership that will.  There are numerous used car dealerships who do not work with financing, simply because they haven’t invested the time and efforts into creating relationships with leading lenders.  At Trust Auto, we work with major banking institutions in order to offer an appealing financing option for 85% of our customers.

Expect Higher Interest Rates

People with bad credit are still able to purchase decent used cars, but it will affect the terms of their loan and financing options available. And, the lower the credit score, the higher the interest rate will be, since you are considered a higher risk  of default than people with outstanding credit scores, who are rewarded with lower rates. While it may not seem fair, it’s a way for banks and lenders to protect themselves.

bad-credit-high-interest-rate

To lower your interest rate, it may be helpful to offer a substantial down payment. In fact, many lenders may require a larger percentage down payment to decrease their risk of lending you money. A larger down payment will also reduce your monthly payment, so it can be beneficial to save up a sizable amount of money before shopping for a new vehicle. Not only that, but by offering a larger down payment, you will end up paying less in the long run, since you will pay less interest.  It’s something to consider if you have bad credit and are looking to purchase a used car.

Know Your Credit Score

Before you ever call or step foot into a dealership, it will help if you already know your credit score.  This reduces the risk of the dealership lying to you, but it will also give you an idea of what kind of options are available.  However, there are some credit situations that no lender will work with – many pre-owned car dealerships won’t accept credit that is lower than 435. In the event that you have extremely poor credit, work on improving your score before buying a new car.  This means lowering the amount of debt you have (pay off credit cards, any outstanding balances, etc.) and making payments on time.

Have a Reasonable Budget In Mind

Make sure you know what is an affordable monthly payment before agreeing to any financing option and locking in any interest rates.  This will also give you an idea of what cars are manageable and what cars are out of your price range before you fall in love with a luxury vehicle that costs more than you can afford. Look at your monthly bills, average used car loans, and how much you can afford before setting your sights on any used vehicle.  This will make your experience at any car dealership more meaningful and worthwhile.

Consider A Co-Signer

If the lenders have concerns with a customer’s credit and risk they pose, it may be required to have a co-signer on your loan.  In some cases, having a co-signer may allow lenders to provide you with a lower interest rate. With that in mind, the co-signer should know their responsibilities to pay the car loan in the event that your account is delinquent.

Of course, many lenders look at more than just your credit score when determining the kind of loan option they want to extend to customers with bad credit.  They will consider your employment history (stability, length of employment, etc.), gross income (to ensure you are able to make timely, monthly payments), and a variety of other factors.  Providing documentation of these financial factors may be required, so be prepared with the proper forms and documents.

Trust Auto takes the time to with with all customers to determine a finance option that is agreeable to all parties and makes an effort to find available vehicles for every budget.  They work with some of the leading lenders in the area in order to provide a variety of finance options. To see the full list, click here.