Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Getting Your Vehicle Ready For Winter | Auto Sales & Finance

Car Care Tips from the Pros Prepare You for Fall and Winter Driving

It’s foolhardy to head out in a poorly maintained vehicle in the dead of winter, of course, but even vehicle owners in temperate zones need a car care check as the days grow shorter, note the pros with the nonprofit National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), an independent group that tests and certifies the competence of auto technicians.

“Regular, routine maintenance can help improve your gasoline mileage, reduce pollution, and catch minor problems before they become big headaches,” says Tony Molla, vice president of communications at ASE. ASE offers these car care tips to give you peace of mind during fall and winter driving:
  • Before you do anything else, read your owner’s manual and follow the manufacturer’s recommended service schedules.
  • Get engine performance and driveability problems — hard starts, rough idling, stalling, diminished power, etc. — corrected at a reputable repair shop that employs ASE-certified repair professionals. Cold weather makes existing problems worse.
  • Replace dirty filters, such as air, fuel, and PCV. A poorly running engine is less efficient and burns more gasoline.
  • As the temperature drops below freezing, add a bottle of fuel deicer in your tank once a month to help keep moisture from freezing in the fuel line. Keeping the gas tank filled also helps prevent moisture from forming.
  • Change your oil and oil filter as specified in your manual — more often if your driving is mostly stop-and-go or consists of frequent short trips. A poll of ASE Master Auto Technicians revealed that regular oil and filter changes is one of the most frequently neglected services, yet one that is essential to protect your engine.
  • The cooling system should be flushed and refilled as recommended. The level, condition, and concentration of the coolant should be checked periodically. A 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water is usually recommended. Do-It-Yourselfers: Never remove the radiator cap until the engine has thoroughly cooled! The tightness and condition of drive belts, clamps, and hoses also should be checked regularly by a professional technician.
  • The heater and defroster must be in good working condition for passenger comfort and driver visibility.
  • Replace old blades regularly. If your climate is harsh, purchase rubber-clad (winter) blades to fight ice build-up. Stock up on windshield washer solvent — you’ll be surprised how much you use during the winter months. And don’t forget to always carry an ice scraper.
  • Have your battery checked. The only accurate way to detect a weak battery is with professional equipment. However, most motorists can perform routine care: Wear eye protection and protective rubber gloves. Scrape away corrosion from posts and cable connections; clean all surfaces; retighten all connections. If battery caps are removable, check fluid level monthly. A word of caution: Removal of cables can cause damage or loss of data/codes on some newer vehicles, so always check your owner’s manual first. Be sure to avoid contact with corrosive deposits and battery acid.
  • Inspect all lights and bulbs. Replace burned out bulbs; periodically clean road grime from all lenses. To prevent scratching, never use a dry rag. Clouded lenses can be refinished by many service outlets or by using a DIY kit found in major auto parts outlets.
  • Exhaust fumes inside your vehicle’s cabin can be deadly. Have the exhaust system examined for leaks and problems while the vehicle is on a lift. The trunk and floorboards should also be inspected for small holes.
  • Worn tires are dangerous in winter weather. Examine tires for remaining tread life, uneven wearing, and cupping; check the sidewalls for cuts and nicks. Check tire pressure once a month, letting the tires “cool down” before checking the pressure. Rotate as recommended. Don’t forget to check your spare, and be sure the jack is in good working condition. Under-inflated tires or poorly aligned wheels makes your engine work harder and thus use excess gasoline.
  • Have your brakes checked periodically for safety and to prevent costly repairs that can be caused by neglect.
  • The transmission is often neglected until a major failure. Routine checks and fluid changes at prescribed intervals can prevent very costly repairs down the line.
  • Always carry an emergency kit with you: extra gloves, boots and blankets; flares; a small shovel and sand or kitty litter; tire chains; a flashlight and extra batteries; and a cell phone and extra car charger. Put a few “high-energy” snacks in your glove box.

Monday, November 3, 2014

What to Do After a Car Accident | Auto Sales & Finance

Scenes like this are all too common on American highways. Accident prevention is important — but knowing how to react is also essential.

Each year, thousands of people are involved in traffic accidents during the holiday weekends. If you are one of these unfortunate people, will you know what to do in the aftermath of a collision? How you react can prevent further injuries, reduce costs and accelerate the clean-up and repair process. If you are involved in a traffic collision, try to remain calm, and follow these steps: 

Action Plan to Deal with Accidents:

1. Keep an Emergency Kit in Your Glove Compartment. Drivers should carry a cell phone, as well as pen and paper for taking notes, a disposable camera to take photos of the vehicles at the scene, and a card with information about medical allergies or conditions that may require special attention if there are serious injuries. Also, keep a list of contact numbers for law enforcement agencies handy. Drivers can keep this free fill-in-the-blanks accident information form in their glove compartment. A set of cones, warning triangles or emergency flares should be kept in the trunk.

2. Keep Safety First. Drivers involved in minor accidents with no serious injuries should move cars to the side of the road and out of the way of oncoming traffic. Leaving cars parked in the middle of the road or busy intersection can result in additional accidents and injuries. If a car cannot be moved, drivers and passengers should remain in the cars with seatbelts fastened for everyone's safety until help arrives. Make sure to turn on hazard lights and set out cones, flares or warning triangles if possible.

3. Exchange Information. After the accident, exchange the following information: name, address, phone number, insurance company, policy number, driver license number and license plate number for the driver and the owner of each vehicle. If the driver's name is different from the name of the insured, establish what the relationship is and take down the name and address for each individual. Also make a written description of each car, including year, make, model and color — and the exact location of the collision and how it happened. Finally, be polite but don't tell the other drivers or the police that the accident was your fault, even if you think it was.

4. Photograph and Document the Accident. Use your camera to document the damage to all the vehicles. Keep in mind that you want your photos to show the overall context of the accident so that you can make your case to a claims adjuster. If there were witnesses, try to get their contact information; they may be able to help you if the other drivers dispute your version of what happened.

5. File An Accident Report. Although law enforcement officers in many locations may not respond to accidents unless there are injuries, drivers should file a state vehicle accident report, which is available at police stations and often on the Department of Motor Vehicles Web site as a downloadable file. A police report often helps insurance companies speed up the claims process.
Texas law requires that a Crash Report, Form CR-2, be filed when an accident occurs that results in injury or death, or when damage to property or vehicles is more than $1,000. If law enforcement does not come to the accident scene or complete a report.

6. Know What Your Insurance Covers. The whole insurance process will be easier following your accident if you know the details of your coverage. For example, don't wait until after an accident to find out that your policy doesn't automatically cover costs for towing or a replacement rental car. Generally, for only a dollar or two extra each month, you can add coverage for rental car reimbursement, which provides a rental car for little or no money while your car is in the repair shop or if it is stolen. Check your policy for specifics.

The final question in dealing with an accident is usually who will pay for the damages? If the accident was minor, you and the other drivers may decide to handle the damages yourselves without the involvement of an insurance company. But this isn't always the best idea, for several reasons.

While the other driver may agree to pay for the damage to your car on the day of the accident, he may see the repair bills and decide it's too high. At this point, time has passed and your insurance company will have more difficulty piecing together the evidence if you file a claim.

Also, keep in mind that you have no way of knowing whether another driver will change his mind and report the accident to his insurance company. He may even claim injuries that weren't apparent at the scene of the accident. This means that your insurance company may end up paying him a hefty settlement, or worse yet, you could be dragged into a lawsuit. So make sure that your company has your version of what happened and check your policy — if the damages paid out by your insurance company are below a certain amount, the accident may not be considered chargeable. And you will avoid the penalty of a premium hike.

Auto accidents take a tremendous toll on everyone involved, both financially and emotionally. If you're one of the lucky ones who have thus far avoided a serious accident, hopefully the tips on prevention will help keep it that way. The chances are high, though, that at some point you will be involved in a minor accident. Just keep your head and make safety your primary concern. You'll have plenty of time to deal with the consequences later.


Friday, October 31, 2014

Tips for Driving in the Snow

Winter driving is not without its own unique set of challenges, dangers and frustrations. When ice or snow begins to build up on the roadways, your driving abilities are put to the test. And while no one, not even the most experienced driver, is completely safe when road conditions are deteriorating, the following list of tips for driving in the snow may help to improve your chances of arriving at your destination safely.

  • Tip #1: Stay Home: The best advice is to stay off the roads. When the roads are icy and snowy, avoid making unnecessary trips in your car.

  • Tip #2: Clear the Snow from Your Car:  While this may seem obvious, this is a rule too many drivers ignore. Do not be content with simply wiping away a strip of snow from your windshield. Instead, to ensure optimal visibility, clear the snow from every window as well as the headlights, taillights and side mirrors. Snow that has collected on the roof and windshield of your car will also affect visibility. So it is best to take the time to remove this as well.

  • Tips # 3: Practice: If you are an inexperienced driver, or if this is the first snowfall of the year, consider taking a moment to practice in an empty parking plot. This helps you get a feel for how the vehicle will handle, stop and start during slippery conditions. 

  • Tip #4 Go Slow: It’s better to arrive late than not at all. So do not be in a hurry, even if other vehicles are speeding on past you. Remember that rapid movements lead to skids and loss of control. Counter this by concentrating on making sure every movement is slow and fluid.

  • Tips # 5: Make Room: Simply put, when the road is slick, stopping can take more time than you suspect. To avoid ramming the car in front of you, be sure to allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the other cars on the road.

  • Tips #6: Scan the Road Ahead: Road conditions can deteriorate quickly, and black ice can be next to impossible to spot.  Don’t let a clear road lull you into a false sense of security. By continually scanning the road ahead, you can anticipate any trouble spots and put yourself in the best position to successfully maneuver through any situation.

Tips #7: Go Easy on the Pedal: This includes both the gas and the brake pedal. When braking, start your stop earlier than normal. This will allow you to gently push the gas pedal, which can offer valuable insight into how the car is responding to any slippery road conditions.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Preparing An Emergency Kit | Auto Sales & Finance

Anything That Can Go Wrong, Will
Imagine you're on a road trip with your family. You have planned and prepared for this trip for weeks, and you're finally on your way. The car is packed to the roof with suitcases and various other vacation essentials, but as you wind your way along that steep mountain road deep in the hinterland of your favorite national park, you hear a terrible sound, feel a thump, thump, thump, and realize that you have a flat tire. 

You pull to the side of the road, unload the suitcases that are covering the spare tire in the back, only to discover that the tire is flat and the jack is missing. As the sun slowly sets behind the mountain ridge you began to scramble around looking for that flashlight. As you flip open your cell phone to call for a tow truck, you see that the battery is almost dead... 

OK, this may be a worst-case scenario, but it might have even been worse. The adage that says, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," while cliched, is true. Had this family taken a bit of time to assemble a basic roadside emergency kit, their journey would have been far easier that day. 

What to Put In Your Kit

Your trunk space is limited―especially while traveling ― but there are certain items that you really should carry with you in the event of an emergency. 

You can assemble these items yourself at an auto supply store, or department store, or purchase a pre-assembled kit online. The American Red Cross offers an emergency kit, and the website Outdoor Lodge recommends the following list of items:
  • Flashlights and extra batteries.
  • A folding camping (Army) shovel.
  • Jumper cables (8-12 feet long).
  • Set of tire chains. Know how to install these beforehand.
  • Fuses. There are several types, so make sure you have the right ones for your car.
  • Tools: pliers, flat and Phillips-head screwdrivers, and an adjustable wrench.
  • Wool blanket.
  • All the necessary fluids for your car, including 2 quarts of motor oil, brake fluid, power-steering fluid (if applicable), automatic transmission fluid (if applicable), a gallon of water, and a gallon of antifreeze. Also include a funnel, and keep a few rags handy in case of spills.
  • Fire extinguisher.
  • Road flares.
  • Gloves, wool socks, and a pair of boots.
  • Electrical and duct tape.
  • WD-40.
  • Knife.
  • Bright cloth or emergency road sign to display in your window in case of trouble.
  • Other items to consider are:
  • Non-perishable food items and a can opener
  • Rain gear
  • Extra clothes
  • Folding chair(s)
  • Pillows
  • Sleeping bags
  • Snacks
  • Books and games
  • Toilet paper
As our example illustrates, it's important to make sure your cell phone is charged up before you hit the road on a long trip. Having a car charging cord is a great idea if you will be driving for several days at a time. Another item that would be useful to have in your car in case of emergency is a first aid kit. A small manual with instructions on how to do some basic roadside repairs is a good thing to have in your kit, as well. 

Be sure to walk through changing a tire in the safety of your driveway, so you know how to do it before you are called upon to do it in the dark in the driving rain. 

Check the contents of your kit when the seasons change. The blanket, chains and ice scraper are important for winter driving conditions, but you may not need them in August.
Keeping a roadside emergency kit in your car will arm you with both peace of mind, and the tools you'll need to rescue yourself in the event of an emergency during your travels. 


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Quick Fixes for Your Credit Score | Auto Sales and Finance

Your credit health is kind of like your physical health--there's no fast lane to a perfect credit score or perfect health; it's a long-term journey. But just as you can make healthy diet and exercise choices today, you can do the same for your credit.
Here are a few things you can try right now to boost your credit health.
Task: Ask for a higher credit limit.
Benefit: Lowers your credit card utilization.
Time: 10 minutes
Tactic: Calling up your credit card company might seem like a daunting task, but if it could help your credit health, shouldn't you do it? Most companies review credit limits on an every-six-months basis. If it's been a while since you've received a credit limit increase, you can try requesting one.
First of all, know that this tactic will likely only work if you've had an excellent record with your credit card company. Find your creditor's phone number on your latest statement or by searching online. Call them up and get an agent on the phone. Once you're talking to someone, tell them how good of a customer you've been, how you've always made your payments on time, and how you've enjoyed using the card. After this initial framework, tell them that you'd like to request a credit limit increase.
Watch out for: Sometimes, credit limit increase requests can come with a new hard inquiry to your credit. Make sure to ask first if this will happen so that you know what to expect and if you'd still like to go through with your request.
Task: Write a "Goodwill adjustment letter" for a past late payment.
Benefit: Removes a late payment from an otherwise good-looking credit report.
Time: 15 minutes
Tactic: If you've recently made a late bill payment when you're ordinarily on top of things, asking to have that one, small black mark removed could work for you. In your letter, you'll make a case for why the delinquency should be removed. Show what a loyal customer you've been and how much you've improved your financial situation since this one mistake. Model your letter after this example and wait about 30 days before following up, if you haven't heard anything.
Watch out for: Remember that your credit card company doesn't have to remove the delinquency, so be prepared for that instance.
Task: Make a plan to pay down your credit card debt at a faster rate.
Benefit: Lowers your credit card utilization.
Time: 30 minutes to an hour
Tactic: If you tend to carry balances on your credit cards from month to month, work out a plan to pay down your debts faster so you can get your credit card utilization rate to lower than 30 percent--that's the rate that credit experts recommend.
First, see where you stand by checking out your current rate in your Credit Report Card. Then, see your rate on individual cards in your My Accounts section. For the cards reporting more than 30 percent, work on those first. If you've only been making the minimum payments on those cards, increase that repayment rate so you can steadily decrease your utilization rate.
Watch out for: While you're working on lowering your balances, avoid using your credit cards with high utilization rates by leaving them behind when you leave the house. Otherwise, you'll just reverse all of your hard repayment work.
Task: Transfer your credit card balances.
Benefit: Lowers your credit card utilization and increases your total number of accounts.
Time: 15 minutes (then 7-10 days, typically)
Tactic: When you have lots of different credit cards with varying balances to repay, making multiple payments each month can seem tricky. There are several cards that offer introductory balance transfer rates, meaning if you transfer all or some of your other cards' balances, you won't pay any interest on those balances for a year or two (depending on the card). For instance, with the Discover It, you'll have 18 months to pay down your transferred balances interest-free. You'll also decrease your credit card utilization in the process. See more balance transfer cards.
Watch out for: In most cases, if you don't pay off your balance transfer completely during the introductory period, you'll have to pay interest on the entire transferred amount when that period is up. So this tactic is good for you if you're really ready to tackle your credit card debt.
Task: Get rid of credit report errors.
Benefit: Gives you a more accurate credit score.
Time: 1 hour (then up to 30 days)
Tactic: While some credit report errors don't affect your credit score at all (like inaccuracies in your personal information), others can severely impact your ability to get approved for credit (like inaccurate derogatory marks). Bottom line: Cleaning up your credit report should be a top priority. Use the step-by-step guide in How to Dispute an Error on Your Credit Report to help you through the process of cleaning up your reports.
Watch out for: While some credit repair companies will tell you they can remove all negative information from your credit report through this process, that's simply not true. Accuratenegative items on your report cannot be removed. Before you hire a company to help you dispute your credit report errors, read through our blog post on How to Spot a Credit Repair Scam.
Editorial Note: The editorial content on this site is not provided by the bank or issuer. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of the bank or issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank or issuer. Credit Karma may be compensated by companies mentioned through advertising, affiliate programs or otherwise. It is this compensation that enables Credit Karma to provide its members with services like free access to your credit scores and free monitoring of credit and financial accounts at no charge.

Disclaimer: All information posted to this site was accurate at the time of its initial publication. Efforts have been made to keep the content up to date and accurate. However, Credit Karma does not make any guarantees about the accuracy or completeness of the information provided. For complete details of any products mentioned, visit bank or issuer website.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

11 Ways To Raise Your Credit Score, Fast | Auto Sales and Finance

A recent survey from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling indicates that more people would be embarrassed to admit their credit scores (30%) than their weight (12%).
While crash diets don’t usually work and can be unhealthy, it ispossible to change your credit score fairly quickly. But just as with weight loss, “quickly” is a relative term. Seeing any improvement could take 30 to 60 days, according to Liz Weston, personal finance columnist and author of Your Credit Score, Your Money & What’s At Stake.
But nothing will change at all if you just sit there on the couch, eating Cheetos and charging items on the Home Shopping Network. So get moving!
The first thing to do is get a copy of your credit report from three major credit reporting bureaus must give you one free copy per year, so plan to order one every four months.
Then use one or more of the following tips to boost that three-digit number that has increasing power over our everyday lives.
1. Dispute errors. Mistakes happen. You can dispute errors online through Equifax,Experian and TransUnion. After you’ve fixed any foul-ups, you might try to…
2. Negotiate. You can’t deny that you stopped paying a credit card bill when you were unemployed last year. But you can ask creditors to “erase” that debt or any account that went to collection. Write a letter offering to pay the remaining balance if the creditor will then report the account as “paid as agreed” or maybe even remove it altogether. (Note: Get the creditor to agree in writing before you make the payment.)
You might also be able to ask for a “good-will adjustment.” Suppose you were a pretty good Visa V +0.23% customer until that period of unemployment, when you made a late payment or two – which now show up on your credit report. Write a letter to Visa emphasizing your previous good history and ask that the oopsies be removed from the credit report. It could happen. And as long as you’re reading the report, you need to…
3. Check your limits. Make sure your reported credit limits are current vs. lower than they actually are. You don’t want it to look as though you’re maxing out the plastic each month. If the card issuer forgot to mention your newly bumped-up credit limit, request that this be done.
4. Get a credit card. Having one or two pieces of plastic will do good things to your score – if you don’t charge too much and if you pay your bills on time. In other words, be a responsible user of credit.
Can’t get a traditional card? Try for a secured credit card, taking care to choose one that reports to all three major credit bureaus. And if you can’t get a secured card, you might ask to…
5. Become an authorized user. This means convincing a relative or friend to be added to his or her existing credit card account. If you’ve had a checkered financial history, don’t be surprised if you hear the word “no” a lot. But you might luck out, especially if you’re a young person who has no history of poor credit use.
Offer to put an agreement in writing stating how much you can spend and how you will get your share of the bill to the cardholder. Then “do your part and use the card responsibly,” says Beverly Harzog, author of Confessions of a Credit Junkie. In other words, don’t buy more than you can afford and don’t leave your co-signer hanging when the bill is due. The point is to learn to use credit responsibly.
6. Under-use your cards. Yes, we did just tell you to get credit by any means possible. But don’t whip out the plastic to pay for everything. The “credit utilization ratio” should be no more than 30% and ideally even less. Harzog says that a 10% credit utilization ratio will “maximize this part of your FICO score.”
For example, suppose your Mastercard has a $1,500 limit and you routinely charge a grand a month. It doesn’t matter if you pay it all off before it’s due. What matters is the credit bureaus think “Curtis is using two-thirds of his credit! What a spendthrift!” And if you’re a cash-free kind of guy? Then try to…
7. Raise your credit limit. Ask your creditors to increase your limit, i.e. making that Mastercard good for up to $3,000. Be careful with this one, though: It works only if you can trust yourself not to increase your spending habits accordingly. Otherwise you’ll be right back to using 66% of your credit each month and how will that look?

8. Don’t close any cards. Canceling a credit card will cause your available credit to drop, which doesn’t look good to a bureau. One way to keep a card active is to use it for a recurring charge such as a utility bill. There’s room for that in your budget, right?
9. Mix it up. Using a different kind of credit can make for a modest boost to your score. For example, you might take out a small personal loan from the credit union or buy a piece of furniture or appliance on installment (but only if you’re 100% sure you can and will meet the payment schedule).  
10. Pay your bills on time. Seriously. Your payment history – including the ones you pay late or skip altogether – makes up a whopping 35% of your FICO score. If you’re absent-minded or merely overwhelmed (Hi there, parents of young children!), then for heaven’s sake, automate your payments. Even better than paying on time is to…
11. Pay your bills twice a month. Using too much of your credit limit at any given moment doesn’t look good. Suppose your limit is $3,000 and a month’s worth of havoc (car repair, doctor bills, plane ticket for kid to get to college) means you’ve charged up $2,900. Sure, you plan to pay in full by the 18th of the month – but until then it looks like you’re maxing out yet another card.
Instead, make one payment just before the statement closing date and second one right before the due date. The first will likely reduce the balance that the credit bureaus see and the second makes sure you won’t pay interest or a late fee.