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84 posts from January 2007

January 31, 2007

Let’s Cover the Gap

Dv1979007_1 by Christina Briggs
Gap insurance is a must have when financing a vehicle.  I had personally never heard of gap insurance before working at a car dealership, and I will never loan money for a vehicle without it!  After reading this article, I’m sure you will feel the same.  Gap insurance will save the car of your dreams from becoming your worst nightmare.

So what is gap insurance and why is it such a great idea?  Quite frankly, your car is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it and when it comes to accidents or theft, Insurance companies aren’t rushing to hand out thousands of dollars to pay off your lease or loan.  Gap insurance protects you, the consumer, by paying off the difference between what the insurance company values your car at, and what you really owe.  It’s simple, really.  A small investment (approximately $500 - $600, depending upon which state you do business in) could save you thousands of dollars. 

Sad_face Let’s visit a scenario:  Say you purchase a car for $25,000 and begin making your $500 payments at 6% interest.  Then your brand new car is stolen!  You call your insurance company, and the adjuster researches the area’s auto auctions searching for the ‘value’ of your car.  Auto auctions typically are overflowed with rental company cars that severely bring down the value of vehicles across the country.  The adjuster determines that your vehicle is only worth $20,000.  The car may only be a couple of months old, but cars will lose 20% to 30% of their value before you even drive it off the lot.

Unfortunately the finance company still wants the full amount you owe them. With interest, tax and license fees they figure that to be $27,000.  This is where gap insurance saves the day.  Your $500 investment you made a couple of months ago just saved you from having to pay $7000 for something that is not there anymore.  Some gap insurance policies even cut you a check for up to $1000 to use as a down payment for your next car.  These reasons are why gap insurance is a MUST!

Cash_6 All this protection for a small price!  So, why do most people not have this protection on their vehicle loan?  It’s a simple lack of knowledge.  Be an informed buyer and ask questions.  If your car is totaled or stolen, carefully follow all requirements made by your auto insurance company. For example, some companies require you to continue making car payments on your totaled vehicle until the money from the gap insurance is paid out.

So when considering a new or used car purchase, always remember to ask your loan officer or salesperson about gap insurance. If you have an accident, your vehicle is stolen, or a tree flattens your car, you'll be glad you planned ahead.  As stated before, gap insurance could save the car of your dreams from becoming your worst nightmare.

Christina Briggs
Special Finance Manager
Jim Fresard Pontiac

Cars And The City

So what did your car do over the summer vacation besides Bust Bugs and Burn Gas?

Devil_girl2 The Devil went down to Georgia… and he obviously has a summer home here. After driving through the hottest summer I can remember as a “Peach”, glistening mightily (because we southern gals don’t sweat, we “glisten”), I started worrying about just what this inferno has been doing to my car. After a lengthy chat with my favorite automotive expert, Tim Presnell, I learned exactly what could happen, and what to do about it. 

Hot Seats: Short skirts, August and leather seats are a wicked combination. To prevent this “butt-burn”, keep a towel handy to place on the seat after you get out of the car, to avoid this little unpleasantry. Your thighs will thank you for it!

Every 3500 miles, change your oil, and top off all fluids. My friend Debbie Sue thought she could buy a car, and just drive it until it breaks. She is so mad about the sunburn she got while waiting beside I-85 yesterday for the tow truck…

Average temperature inside your car after 2 hours at 95 degrees is 200! So, if you have a stink that you can’t quite find, just throw some cookie dough on the dashboard before you get out… you’ll have a sweet ride home, and a snack for the traffic jam…

Tires need extra attention. High rates of speed coupled with searing heat from the road can not only deflate your tires faster - decreasing your gas MPG - but also expand the metal reinforcements in the rubber, causing a nasty blowout.

Tinted Window tinting can come in quite handy. Not only does it keep the interior of your car about 50 degrees cooler, it keeps the guy next to you from staring into your window… and you can just go on about your driving makeup application without a care in the world.

Accessorize with a fabulous sun shade for your windshield. It only takes a few seconds to put this up, and protects your dashboard and steering wheel from cracking… which goes a long way for the trade-in value of your car.

entilate your vehicle by leaving the windows cracked. Just one inch can drop the interior temperature several degrees, and keep internal pressure from building. It won’t keep your lipstick from melting, but it will keep your hairspray from exploding…

Emergency necessities such as a cell phone, some sunscreen, and a few bottles of water should always be kept inside your car, as well as an insulated bag for groceries, and a first aid kit.
So, while we glisten and pray for October so we can finally wear the fabulous Fall Fashions that we’ve already bought, just remember…

If the "Devil Wears Prada"… you can bet your flaming asphalt She’s got some cool designer seat covers!

Ginger the “G”   

January 30, 2007

How Old is too Old to Drive?

Driving laws can’t be one-size-fits-all

To drive or not to drive, that is the current question for many of us who are reaching an age and stage when we need to think clearly and deeply into the question while we still can make a good decision.

Writing for The Journal of the American Society on Aging, Sue Sampson and Loren Staplin discuss a number of myths that exist in our collective mind about the performance of older drivers on our roads.

First, many of us think it is imperative to remove older drivers from the roads just because they have attained a certain age. The fact is that although we certainly must do a far better job of finding and removing those drivers with true functional impairments, for their own and others’ safety, most older people are safe and careful drivers.

Read the rest of the Anne Gowans article here and post your comments on Ask Patty!

Auntiepearl My Auntie Pearl was 102 when she passed away recently but she was driving into her late 90s! She was almost 100-years old when she finally gave up driving. Not once did she ever get into an accident in her old age. Talk about great driving record - almost a century old and better records than most 25-year olds!

So how do you feel about age and driving? Does driving maturity come with age or do those skills fly out the window as you become older? Let us know what you think!

Because I'm A Woman

Lori_johnson_1 by Lori Johnson
When I was working at a dealership as a technician, for the most part, the other techs treated me like everyone else. They helped me and I helped them and there really wasn’t an issue about me being female in an all male environment.
The first conflict came about when a retired gentleman came in with a radio problem. Because the car’s mileage was below the first 3,000 mile service, it came to me. I checked the radio and found no problem with it. When the service advisor talked to the customer he asked to speak to the technician. I could tell by the look on his face that he was surprised when a woman came out to talk to him.

I explained how the radio worked and that it was working as it should. He told me that he was not satisfied with my answer and asked if he could speak to a male technician. I took him back out to the advisor and explained his request to speak with a male technician.

At that point, even though I was angry at being questioned, I went back to work and on with my day. About 20 minutes later I saw the owner of the vehicle motioning for me to come over to him. He seemed much more reserved and was having trouble looking me in the eye. I asked him what I could do for him and he told me that he had just come over to apologize to me. He said that not only did the male technician tell him the same thing that I did about his radio, but that the other technician asked him why he had questioned me, was it just because I was female?

Womanmechanic02_4 The man felt a little sheepish and didn’t give an answer, but it was obvious, since he asked for a male technician, that he had questioned my ability to work on his vehicle. I told him that I was angry that he questioned me because I was a female, but that I appreciated the fact that he came over and admitted his mistake.

The interesting thing was that from that time on, whenever he came to the dealership for work, he would come over and see me and ask me about the technician working on his car. He always asked me to check on it and let me know what they found.

Even though we were from different generations, and had been raised with different ideals, we were able to find common ground. It’s important to admit when we’re wrong; it’s the only way we grow, as people and as a society.

Ask Patty Blog Carnival Week Around the Auto World: January 30th

Welcome to the Ask Patty blog carnival. We scoured the web for the latest and greatest blog and news fodder relating to all things automotive! We have stylish car accessories and gas saving tips, as well as leasing information and some great top women int eh industry! Put the pedal to the metal!

Gasmoney Your gas mileage depends more on the way you drive than on what car you are driving. Do you ever wonder why you don’t seem to get the gas mileage that is advertised as the EPA rating for your car? Those tests are conducted under ideal conditions driven by an ideal driver. Most of us don’t realize how much our driving habits affect our mileage, and what little effort it takes to improve it significantly. Wise Bread has all the tips and tricks for gas efficiency.

Hotrods_and_girls Rachelle Jacobs is the sort of girl who doesn't mind picking up a wrench and getting her hands dirty. Then she'll clean up, put on a dress, heels, some red lipstick and pin curls in her hair, and head out with her boyfriend to watch a local band. The ladies form these hot rod clubs are in it for the cars and the opportunity to wrench on them, as much as they are for the great friends and fashion!

Leasing_lot Is leasing a car more of a viable alternative for you than buying one? For some, it is. With a lease, your monthly payment may be less than if you were buying the car outright. But industry experts are cautioning you to check the figures. Also consider what the car may be worth after a three year lease agreement is up. has done the research and has great info in their latest post.

Cars_seat The Graco company has inked a deal with Disney to feature a pattern based on Disney's hit movie, Cars. The car seat' ahs padding that is removable and machine washable, all while being covered in cute pictures from Disney’s sojourn into automotive animation! They will be sold at Toys R’ Us and Celebrity Baby blog has the scoop!

Chelsia_lau_02 Chelsia Lau, one of Ford's chief designers, was just named  the World's Outstanding Chinese Designer for 2006 by the Hong Kong Design Centre. According to Edmunds Driving Women blog, Lau who uses new trends in fashion, film and travel as inspiration to create Ford's concepts is also responsible for several key vehicles, including the Mercury MC4 and Ford Explorer SportTrac concepts.

Cars_1 The previous owners of cars that are now coveted as targets for collectors today probably didn't know that the occupier of the garage or carport would be treasured as a classic. The same may be true for you today. That family car that you rely on to shuttle you and your kids around could be tomorrow's treasure for some collector. Can you imagine that 2005 Toyota Sienna you are driving around might be considered a classic? What makes a classic? Glad you asked.

2006_ford_fusion03 CNN Autos reported that the Ford Fusion midsized car and its Mercury Milan sibling scored big in Consumer Reports' annual new car reliability survey, just beating out the industry's quality standard-bearers, the Honda Accord V6 and Toyota Camry V6. But, overall, Japanese brands are still the ones to beat. Of the 47 vehicles with the highest predicted reliability, 39 are Japanese. Of those, all but seven are made by Toyota or Honda.

122vw1 Getting women to take the plunge and buy a new car might seem like a daunting task. How does an automotive brand stand out compared to others? How can a testosterone-laden industry show its softer, feminine side? Offer the ladies a set of stylish accessories to decorate themselves and their cars, that's how. Volkswagen teamed with Lutz & Patmos and Hable Construction to create an Eos line of accessories, which of course promotes the new Eos. Some items include cashmere wraps and pretty head scarves.

Dv2051005_4 Ann Job at the Detroit News is speaking out about how women are viewed as “distracted, stupid fools” when it comes to driving. There was research done by Carnegie Mellon University showing that men are 77 percent more likely than women to die in car crashes, but people still stereotype women as poor drivers! Check out the entire article for Job’s opinions.

Bilde_2 I am woman, hear me roar! To say that Marion Luna Brem is successful is like saying that the sun is a little bright. The adjective doesn’t quite describe her. Brem is a one-woman conglomerate ready to inspire those who come into her orbit. As a cancer survivor, single mother of two, innovative entrepreneur and book author, she is a powerful role model who leaves you no option: Either you succeed or you succeed.

Pict0344 Holly of Edmunds Driving Woman blog shares her experiences at the Bridgestone Winter Driving School. Ask Patty represented at the same course! Holly shares her experience with the instructors and the differences between men and women and their driving abilities. "Typically, men are more ego driven and aggressive. They want to come in and do things with a bigger hammer," noted Johnson. And women? Check out the article to find out!

That’s it for this week! Thank you for all of your submissions! Make sure to submit next week! Please remember to submit your article using the online form or by emailing Breanne at

January 29, 2007

Ask Patty Interviews Christina Conway of Xebra Electric Cars

Xebra_home We love alternative fuel vehicles at Ask Patty. We also love to see small companies succeed, especially when women are at the helm! So then the company is a little company Little Radio run by Christina Conway, and the product is an incredibly efficient and adorable electric vehicle, we practically fell off our chair with glee!

ASK PATTY: Can you tell us what a XEBRA is?
Christina: The Xebra is a 3-wheeled vehicle manufactured in China by Zap, that is the only production line electric vehicle available, capable of up to 40 miles per hour. Xebras cost $9,600 for the sedan and $9,900 for the truck.

ASK PATTY: Is it difficult to recharge a XEBRA car?
Christina:Not at all! Xebras can be charged from any outlet in your home (110V). You get 75% of your charge back in 2-3 hours and a full charge from empty in 7-8 hours. The Lithium Ion upgrade will be avail soon allowing for much faster charge times.

ASK PATTY: How long can you run on one charge?
Christina:With the standard batteries you can get up to 35 miles on a single charge. With the Lithium-Ion upgrade you can go as far as 80-100 miles per charge.

ASK PATTY: Where can we get a XEBRA and what will it cost us?
Christina:We have 2 locations in Los Angeles, downtown and Venice Beach. We can also ship anywhere in the US. Addresses and contact info are available on our website.

ASK PATTY: What else can we expect from Little Radio and XEBRA cars in the future? Any other models or new capabilities?
Christina:Little Radio EV is looking to carry 100% electric vehicles from all over the world. New models to be announced in 2007.

Xebra_small_3ASK PATTY: Are you marketing these vehicles to women and how are you doing that?
Christina:We are, by promoting our vehicles at local farmers' markets and open air shopping areas, and just by having me on the lot talking to customers.
These cars are very appealing to women who not only appreciate the affordability and stylish design, but also want to make an impact on global warming.

ASK PATTY: What made you get involved with electric vehicles?
Christina:We were looking to take Little Radio, our media company, in a socially and environmentally conscious direction that could effect real change.

ASK PATTY: What was the last car you bought and why did you choose that particular vehicle?
Christina:A Xebra sedan. To show the town what a Xebra was, and to know what the reality of driving one of the cars we're selling is.

Check out Little Radio for tons of info and pricing and specification info on these great cars!

January 28, 2007

Why You Should Look for an ASE-Certified Technician

Advisor_with_customer Finding a competent auto technician need not be a matter of chance. Much of the guesswork has been eliminated, thanks to national program conducted by the non-profit National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE).

ASE tests and certifies automotive professionals in all major technical areas of repair and service. With nearly 400,000 currently certified professionals, the ASE program is national in scope and has industry-wide acceptance and recognition. ASE-certified professionals can be found at every type of repair facility, from dealerships, service stations, and franchises to parts stores, independent garages, and even municipal fleets.

Certification Benefits Motorists
ASE certifies the technical competence of individual technicians, not repair facilities. Prior to taking ASE certification tests, many technicians attend training classes or study on their own in order to brush up on their knowledge. By passing difficult, national tests, ASE-certified technicians prove their technical competence to themselves, to their employers, and to their customers. Moreover, shop owners and managers who encourage their employees to become certified can be counted on to be concerned about the other aspects of their business.

How Certification Works
About 100,000 technicians sit for ASE tests each May and November at over 750 locations. Technicians who pass at least one exam and fulfill the two-year work experience requirement become ASE-certified. Those who pass a battery of exams (and fulfill the experience requirement) earn Master Technician status.

The tests, developed by industry experts with oversight from ASE's own in-house pros, are administered by ACT, the same group known for its college entrance exams.

There are specialty exams covering all major areas of repair. There are eight tests for auto technicians alone: Engine Repair, Engine Performance, Electrical/Electronic Systems, Brakes, Heating and Air Conditioning, Suspension and Steering, Manual Drive Train and Axles, and Automatic Transmissions. (There are also exams for collision repair technicians, engine machinists, parts specialists, and others.)

ASE requires technicians to re-test every five years to keep up with technology and to remain certified. All ASE credentials have expiration dates.

Finding ASE-Certified Technicians
Repair establishments with at least one ASE technician are permitted to display the ASE sign. Each ASE professional is issued personalized credentials listing his or her exact area(s) of certification and an appropriate shoulder insignia. Technicians are also issued certificates that employers often post in the customer-service area. Employers often display the blue and white ASE sign as well. Businesses with a high level of commitment to ASE (75 percent of service personnel certified) are entitled to a special "Blue Seal of Excellence" recognition from ASE.

Choosing the Right Technician
As with other professionals, automotive technicians often specialize. So it's wise to ask the shop owner or service manager for a technician who is certified in the appropriate area, say, brakes, engine repair, or air conditioning.

Acfc3caFor a free brochure on how to select a repair shop, send a business-sized, self-addressed, stamped envelope to: Choosing the Right Repair Shop, ASE, Dept. W-6, 101 Blue Seal Dr., Suite 101, Leesburg, VA 20175.

Choosing a Repair Shop Checklist
Here are some tips from the nonprofit National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) on finding a good repair establishment:

  • Start shopping for a repair facility before you need one.
  • Ask friends and associates for recommendations; consult local consumer organizations.
  • Arrange for alternate transportation in advance so you will not feel forced to choose a shop based solely on location.
  • Look for a neat, well-organized facility, with vehicles in the parking lot equal in value to your own and modern equipment in the service bays.
  • Look for a courteous staff, with a service writer willing to answer all of your questions.
  • Look for policies regarding labor rates, diagnostic fees, guarantees, acceptable methods of payment, etc.
  • Ask if the repair facility specializes or if it usually handles your type of repair work.
  • Look for signs of professionalism in the customer service area such as civic, community, or customer service awards.
  • Look for evidence of qualified technicians: trade school diplomas, certificates of advanced course work, and certification by ASE.
  • Reward good service with repeat business and customer loyalty.

Car Products To Keep Your Pets Happy While Driving

Doggles_430_1 The American Pet Products Manufacturers Association estimates that pet owners will spend more than $38 billion this year on all sorts of things for their pet including car seats, seat belts, and other automotive accessories.

For many owners, it has become a safety issue. It is estimated that every 1.5 million accidents are caused by distraction, with pets the third biggest distraction. Several states have laws that require that pets be restrained.

Stowaway In response, companies are offering all sorts of products to deal with the issue. Flexi-Mat is selling a Pet Stow Away, a multipurpose product that serves as a car seat, suitcase, and pet bed. The Pet Stow Away is hooked to the vehicle's seat belt and has a safety hook inside that attaches to the animal's harness. It retails for $89 (Ask Patty found it for $78 on Shopping Warehouse!).

The company also sells a hammock which is designed to attach to a car's front and rear headrests, keeping pets in the back seat and off the floor. It also features zippered openings for the vehicle's seat belts and a front compartment for storage. It sells for $66, though PetSmart and other retailers offer a similar product around about $50.

Dog_in_car2_1 Colorado based Ruff Rider has a vehicle restraint harness for dogs called the Roadie. The Roadie, which was rated the best in the industry by Tufts University's School of Veterinary Medicine in 2000, attaches to a vehicle's seat belt system and has a built in short walking lead. The basic model sells for $29.95. Another model with sheepskin lining sells for $59.95.

Several other companies sell pet restraints for as little as $10.

Finally, SUV owners can create space for their pet with vehicle partitions. These are designed to go behind the last row of seats and extends to the vehicle's ceiling. These products go for about $75 while add on pieces to adjust the size go for about $35.

Pets, like children, should be properly restrained and we're glad to hear there are many products available for them.

Reprinted from

Additional articles on
Volvo Goes to the Dogs, Cats, and Pets as Best Ride
Kaitlyn's Law Now For Pets

And check out this article from The Boston Globe for even more tips and ideas Read our previous post on great pet and car accessories and safety items as well!

January 27, 2007

What does Paris Hilton drive?

Paris_hilton Paris Hilton was spotted at The Ivy with her sister, mom, and aunt, driving a $400,000+ Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren after trading in her Bentley Continental GT. Just when I'm starting to feel pretty good about myself, somebody like Paris goes out and buys a car worth more money than most homes!

Paris owns a Mercedes Benz SLR, a Bentley Continental GT, and a Ferrari 360 Spyder!

Paris has been all over the news about her driving skills. Paris Hilton pleaded not guilty to drunk driving charges in Los Angeles. The star was not required to appear in court because the charges are misdemeanors and her attorney made an appearance on her behalf.

Hilton was pulled over by police in September for driving erratically and told officers at the time that she had one drink on an empty stomach and was on her way to get a hamburger at a nearby fast food restaurant.

Parismercedes Hilton has no prior drink driving arrests. If convicted, she could be sentenced to six months in jail and fined $1000. The minimum penalty for a first-time offender is a fine, probation and rehab.Paris Hilton was sentenced to three years probation today after pleading no contest to alcohol-related reckless driving stemming from a September arrest in Hollywood.

Hilton , who was not in court on Janaury 23, 2007, entered the plea through her attorneys, was also fined US$390 and ordered to attend an alcohol-education program by a Los Angeles judge, Reuters said. In California a no contest plea is the legal equivalent of pleading guilty.

Check out more photo's of her car here.

J.D. Power Says Shoppers Give Kia Site High Marks

G_jdpalogo_1 J.D. Power and Associates says that is seen by consumers as the "Most Useful Manufacturer Web Site for New-Vehicle Shopping" in a new study but cautions that overall, new-vehicle shoppers say the utility of manufacturer Web sites has decline for the first time since 2004.

Kia_site The findings were revealed in the J.D. Power and Associates 2007 Manufacturer Web Site Evaluation Study (MWES) -- Wave 1 released this week.  The semi-annual study measures the usefulness of manufacturer sites during the new-vehicle shopping process. New-vehicle shoppers evaluate Web sites in four key areas: appearance, speed, navigation, and information/content.

Kia ranks highest with an index score of 868 on a 1,000-point scale -- a four-point improvement from the previous study, which was released in June 2006.

"Providing a satisfying experience to all site shoppers, no matter what information they desire, is one of the most challenging site design tasks for manufacturers," said Steve Witten, executive director of marketing/media research at J.D. Power and Associates, in a release.

"Kia has accomplished this task and scores significantly higher than the industry average in all four areas measured in MWES. Kia provides straightforward navigation, light page weights for quick site speed and combines text and images throughout the site to clearly demonstrate its models' capabilities and functionality."

HUMMER, which ranked highest in the previous study, Mazda, Honda and Toyota, respectively, follow Kia in the rankings. Both HUMMER and Kia have ranked among the top 10 manufacturer Web sites five consecutive times.

Hummer_site"While HUMMER's site design is completely different from Kia's, using rich videos to demonstrate capabilities, vibrant images throughout the site and a detailed 'Build a Vehicle' tool, both manufacturers have created sites that consistently satisfy their specific shoppers," said Witten.

Across all manufacturer Web sites, the industry average of 834 is down four points from the previous wave of the study, ending a positive increasing trend in industry usability since 2004. The negative impact of incorporating advanced technology to the detriment of site speed has affected the industry average. Seven of the nine manufacturer Web sites that were redesigned since the prior wave of the study fell significantly in the MWES speed measure, which identifies shopper perceptions of a site's speed. These seven sites also have incorporated more Flash technology on their home pages or throughout their sites than in the previous wave.

"Clearly, some manufacturer Web sites appear to have gotten ahead of their shoppers' capabilities, forcing technology onto shoppers who just aren't ready for it yet," said Witten. "Knowing your shoppers and their technological capabilities and expectations should be one of the first steps in site design. The incorporation of Flash and videos into a site can negatively impact a shopper's experience if the site gets ahead of their capability curve or improperly implements the technology."

Continue reading "J.D. Power Says Shoppers Give Kia Site High Marks" »

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