Lauren Fix's Guide to Loving Your Car: Everything You Need to Know to Take Charge of Your Car and Get On with Your Life

Lauren Fix's Guide to Loving Your Car: Everything You Need to Know to Take Charge of Your Car and Get On with Your Life

by Lauren Fix

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781429991278
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 06/10/2008
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 224
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

LAUREN FIX is a nationally recognized TV automotive expert and the host of "Talk 2 DIY Automotive," on the Do-It-Yourself Network. Lauren has been a guest numerous times on The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Today Show, CNN, The Early Show, NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, to name just a few. She is the author of several automotive books and articles.

LAUREN FIX is a nationally recognized TV automotive expert and the host of "Talk 2 DIY Automotive," on the Do-It-Yourself Network. Lauren has been a guest numerous times on The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Today Show, CNN, The Early Show, NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, to name just a few. She is the author of several automotive books and articles.

Read an Excerpt

Lauren Fix's Guide to Loving Your Car

Everything You Need to Know to Take Charge of Your Car and Get on with Your Life

By Lauren Fix

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2008 Lauren Fix
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-9127-8


What's the Best Car Out There for You?

I'm constantly asked, "What is best car out there — for me?" My answer is a series of questions:

What category are you interested in?

What price range can you afford?

Do you want a sedan, sports car, or convertible?

Do you want a minivan, truck, SUV, hybrid, or crossover?

You get the idea.

Before you buy a car, you must consider a world of choices.

My job is to help you know what cars to consider for your needs, what questions to ask yourself and the seller, and how to successfully close the deal. As buyers we need to be empowered. This chapter will guide you through selecting and deciding on the perfect car — for you!

So you want to buy a car. Do you go with a used car? Certified pre-owned? Should you buy a car from an online auction site? Is it best just to get a new vehicle?

A car dealership can be an intimidating place, but there are simple ways to get prepared to be happy with your choice. With the abundance of information on prices and options on the Internet, from all kinds of car magazines and just plain talking to your friends, more people are doing research online and arriving at dealerships knowing exactly what they want. Follow their fine example. Before you rush to begin shopping, decide first what you want. At least try to pull a few ideas into the ballpark. Ask yourself what meets your budget, family size, and lifestyle.

Many of us overlook these details and buy the first car that fits our emotional needs the exact moment we are standing in a car lot. I can't begin to count the people who've told me how unhappy they are with such a purchase. It's not that they hate their car — it just doesn't meet their needs. Now they are stuck in a lease or they can't sell their vehicles without taking a loss.

You never want to put yourself in that situation.

So let's take a step backward and read the road signs! Better to evaluate your needs first and make your purchase from an informed stance, rather than a purely impulsive and emotional reaction.

What kind of car do you picture yourself owning?

Should you buy a zero-option silver Honda Civic Hybrid or a fully optioned bright blue Toyota Sienna? Do you belong in a classy black Cadillac, an economical white KIA Spectra four-door sedan, or a hot red Ferrari? (Remember that all Ferraris are red — but red is just a pigment of your imagination.)

I personally could never drive a wagon or minivan. Not that they are bad vehicles or don't fit my needs; it's just a personality thing. In order to be content with what I drive, I feel that my car has to fit my lifestyle like a glove, and that includes fitting my aesthetic sense. I prefer a sporty, unique vehicle that says this automobile belongs to Lauren Fix. I like to stand out in the crowd. "Arrest Me Red" is my color of choice. (I have to hope the police treat me kindly.) It's important to purchase a car that fits your personality and your needs.

Unless your budget says otherwise, if a vehicle doesn't fit your style, leave it at the sales lot.

Every time I hear "I only need a car to get me from point A to point B," I cringe. I want to fight that philosophy. By that logic someone might say, "Who cares what I wear? My clothes exist only to keep me from being arrested," or "I'll eat anything. I don't hate any food and it's no more than sustenance to me." I think you get the point. We spend around 30 percent of our lives in our cars. They have a huge impact on our daily lives. We need to be happy with what we buy.

What you want and what you need may seem to lead to different cars. So grab a piece of paper and let's break down this wide array. Let's find a car that makes sense for you.

A Few Questions to Guide You to The Right Vehicle

The questions below should get you thinking about your lifestyle, your needs, and your wants; after you answer these questions you should be in the right frame of mind to make a decision on what types of vehicles interest you and fit into your lifestyle. So here we go ...

How many people are in your family?

It may sound silly, but sometimes we fall in love with a great auto and forget what we really need.

How many people do you usually carry in the car?

Think soccer games, dancing, friends, carpooling, parties. Do your kids always say, "My mom will drive"?

Will you be carpooling?

Remember that backseat leg, head, and shoulder space is critical for adults and their laptops and briefcases.

If you have pets, do they ride in the car with you?

I have my Yorkies in a dog car seat, but some people prefer harnesses or crates. Animals still take up a seat in your vehicle. Did you consider that?

Is anyone in your family involved in sports or other activities?

Don't forget that even scrapbooking supplies and coin collecting can take up a lot of storage space.

Will you be using your vehicle to travel to college, on vacation, cross-country?

You may not carry a mattress, dresser, and dorm gear every day, but if moving is something you do a lot, a MINI Cooper is not for you.

Do you plan to tow boats, bikes, snowmobiles, campers, trailers of any kind?

Be sure to know the weight of what you are hauling and the towing capacity stated for the vehicle. The type of hitch and trailer may also influence your choice of vehicle. Some can be installed while others may require trailer brakes and special attachments.

Do you live in or travel to an area where it snows?

Snow can limit your choices. Think about your climate when you purchase and not just those nice summer days.

Does a convertible make sense if you are concerned about your hairstyle?

Don't laugh. Many people buy them and never put down the top. Too bad, because the open air can be very liberating.

Do you plan to expand your family in the near future?

If you plan on having a family or have elderly family members traveling with you regularly, make sure to consider the strains of installing car seats, belting in children or passengers, and entry and exit for elderly passengers, which can be a stress on your back and theirs. Consider a lower riding vehicle for everybody's ease.

Is gas mileage a critical issue to you?

If you sit in traffic, a hybrid should be considered. If not, and there's a budget issue, you'll find many great fuel efficient vehicles to choose from that will fit into your budget.

How long do you plan to keep this auto?

Look at factory warranties, resale values, cost of ownership, and insurance rates. The Internet can guide you to forums where you can chat with owners of specific vehicles. This can be a great resource. (We'll chat about buying, leasing, and budgets later.)

Does a full-service maintenance plan seal a deal for you? (Will it keep you from performing or force you to perform proper maintenance on your vehicle?)

If yes, then get it. If you want to do it yourself, then pass on the maintenance plan.

When do you need a new car?

If you are what you drive, you may want a new car. If you drive a lot of miles, you may want a new car. If a factory warranty is important, you may want a new car. If price is not a big issue, get a new car.

Now Let's Get More Specific ...

Do you prefer a two-door or four-door sedan?

If you have little kids or babies, or if you carpool, go for a four-door.

How do you feel about a hatchback?

A hatchback is great if you prefer a two-door car and haul equipment. It looks a little sportier, too.

A station wagon?

Why not? It has four doors and a hatchback — great for a bigger family.

Is a minivan what you really want?

You don't have to be a soccer mom. For those who work in a service job and travel, this may be the best choice. You get the ride of a car with the storage of a truck.

Are you attached to the height and vantage point of an SUV?

SUVs are great if you like a higher point of view. You'll pay in fuel economy, however, because SUVs are heavy. These vehicles were designed for hauling, storage, and off-road capabilities. If those activities don't fit your vehicle use, keep the dollars in your pocketbook.

Would a crossover utility vehicle (CUV) fit the bill?

A crossover is a combination of a station wagon, a sedan, and an SUV, like a Ford Edge or Infiniti EX. You get the car ride, better fuel economy, and the SUV storage — these vehicles are a whole new segment of the industry that is growing quickly.

Are you thinking about a hybrid vehicle?

Remember, hybrids were designed to protect the ozone and reduce harmful emissions; fuel mileage is secondary. If fuel consumption is your main concern and you spend a lot of time sitting in traffic, don't forget that there are some great alternatives that get fantastic fuel economy and cost less than hybrids. Here are some great hybrid choices: Toyota Prius, Honda Civic, Ford Escape, and Saturn VUE Green Line.

Hybrid Cars — Are They Worth It?

Hybrid cars weren't designed for better fuel economy. No matter the hype, they were designed to protect the environment. Great fuel economy is a bonus. I get a lot of questions about hybrids. You will have to decide what best meets your needs and budget.

What should I think about before buying a hybrid?

While there's no question that hybrids are more fuel-efficient than their conventionally powered equivalents, the difference is not as great as the fuel economy numbers suggest. As of 2008, new calculations for fuel economy are changing to take into account today's driving lifestyles, which are different than those of the 1960s. Prices for hybrids are also higher than comparable gasoline models, as much as $3,000 to $6,000 more. Despite impressive gas mileage, you may have a tough time making up the price difference at the pump. Breaking even on your hybrid could take five to seven years, depending on the cost of gasoline.

How fuel efficient are hybrids?

Hybrids are designed to work so that low-speed driving uses the battery-only mode with higher speeds using the gas-driven power. When the gas engine is offline, no fuel is used, though fuel is needed to automatically recharge the batteries. Each system works slightly differently. In normal use, the margin between truly comparable hybrid and nonhybrid cars could be less than 10 percent.

Will they stand the test of time?

Yes, they should stand the test of time, but basic maintenance is still required. Gas-electric hybrid engines use several large batteries that are very reliable. Disposing of the batteries when they outlive their usefulness raises environmental challenges. Replacing a battery five to seven years down the road could be expensive — and it may be hard to dispose of a battery that is considered hazardous waste. A solution is farther down the road.

Does it cost more to maintain a hybrid?

No, maintenance is not significantly more expensive than for a non-hybrid. As with any car, you need to "Be Car Care Aware." On top of initial hybrid cost you will have to keep up with basic maintenance. This includes changing the oil, coolant/antifreeze, wiper blades, tires, brakes, and filters. I suggest following the directions in your owner's manual. If you fail to do this, your automotive expenses are sure to increase.

Separating the truth from hybrid myths:

No, you don't need to replace the electric motor.

No, you don't need a special mechanic to service the car for oil changes.

No, the EMT rescuers won't refuse to help you because the car is a hybrid. Yes, there is a fear or myth that EMTs may get zapped from the electric motor or batteries.

New training techniques for EMTs have dissolved most of these myths.

No, the batteries will not create more of an environmental mess than they cure.

Does a hybrid give you any savings besides better fuel economy?

Federal and state incentives will go a long way toward reducing that hybrid premium. Check online and at the dealership. Your state or company may have additional incentives.

Many people buying and driving hybrids are not trying to save money. They have other reasons such as reducing emissions, reducing our usage and dependence on oil, and being friendly in other ways to the environment.

Create A Car Buying Checklist

1. I'm looking for a


* Minivan / Van

* Wagon

* Sedan

* Convertible

* Luxury

* Truck

* Coupe

* Hybrid

2. Key points to consider in deciding if this is your car

* Visibility — can you see out the windows, and can you see the corners of the auto, when sitting comfortably in the driver's seat?

* Are the seats comfortable for the driver or potential drivers?

* Test-drive the model that you're thinking about buying.

* Begin with a visual inspection of the exterior.

* Inspect the interior for proper fit of components such as armrests to your body.

* Be sure that the safety belts feel comfortable.

* Make sure that all interior controls are within easy reach.

* Check to ensure that gauges are clearly visible and easy to read.

* Be certain that your feet comfortably reach the pedals.

* Be sure that the driver's seat gives you a good view of the road with proper back and thigh support. Visibility is most important.

* Check for good engine pickup, performance, smoothness of ride, and the ability to handle bumps and curves.

* Check the rearview mirror to be sure no tailgater is behind you, then brake hard to get a feel for how the vehicle comes to a stop.

* Drive the car on a freeway (or other limited-access highway). Check acceleration from the entrance ramp to the high-speed lane and see if it makes you feel comfortable.

* Observe noise levels at highway speeds.

* Drive some of the roads that you usually travel.

* Try parking the vehicle in a tight parking spot to get a feel for turning radius.

* If you can park your car in your garage, check the fit.

* Test-drive the vehicle for as long as you need to. Don't feel pressured to drive a certain route designed by the sales consultant.

* Drive all the cars you are considering before you make a final decision. If the sales consultant pressures you to make a decision, remind him or her that you still have other cars to test-drive. Most good salespeople will respect that.

* Never buy on impulse. Come back a second time, or a third.

3. Find a good dealer

In my travels I've heard endless stories of vehicle purchases from both dealers and buyers. Dealers complain that customers want only the lowest price and base their decisions on that one factor. Consumers complain that all salespeople are trying to rip them off. So where are all the straight-shooting dealers? They are probably right in your neighborhood. Where are all the customers who look for service as well as price? They're right outside the dealership window, looking in. Let's take a closer look at the situation. What makes a good dealer?

* A dealer wants to create a relationship with a buyer.

* The dealer wants to provide long-term quality service on a vehicle.

* It's in the dealer's best interest to make you happy.

* Good service leads to referrals and, in turn, leads to more sales.

What makes a successful sales consultant? They're the ones who lend you their cars when yours is in for service, they send birthday cards, follow up to make sure you are happy with the product and the service, offer you a tour of the dealership and introduce you to key people to make life easier, invite you to seminars at the dealership, and create a friendship that always leads to referrals. This is true with any business relationship, and that's what you have to build.

How to Know When This Car Isn't The Car for You!

The best approach to buying a car is to treat the process like eating a jelly doughnut. If you don't like the first bite, pick another flavor.

VISIBILITY This may be obvious, but if you can't see out of the windows or can't judge the location of the car's four corners, then this isn't the car for you!

SEATING COMFORT We are all built differently and seats don't feel better as time goes by. If you can't find a seating adjustment that makes you comfortable, then this isn't the car for you!

ALL THE NEWFANGLED OPTIONS AND CONTROLS If you feel that a car's controls are too complicated (especially the new all-in-one buttons) and you hate technology, then this isn't the car for you!


Excerpted from Lauren Fix's Guide to Loving Your Car by Lauren Fix. Copyright © 2008 Lauren Fix. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


1 What's the Best Car Out There for You?,
2 Now, What About Insurance, Warranties, and Roadside Assistance?,
3 Let's Hit the Road!,
4 "What if ...?" How to Handle Emergencies,
5 How to Talk With Your Car Technician,
6 Do It Yourself,
7 Love the Shine, Not the Grime,
8 Personalize Your Ride,
Appendix A "Three for the Road",
Appendix B What Do Crash-Test Ratings Mean?,
Appendix C Online Buying and Selling,
Additional Resources,

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