Vehicle Emissions & Arguments of Moral Responsibility


I simply wanted to understand vehicle emissions a little better. Before I knew it, I was reading scholarly articles on the arguments, logic and reasoning behind moral obligations to reduce recreational Sunday drives. There’s no question that the topic of emissions is a hot potato, because it’s personal. For anyone who drives or breathes air, it’s personal. We all have a connection to the issue of car emissions, whether or not we feel a responsibility for it. Let’s begin where I began.

Vehicle Emissions

How Does a Catalytic Converter Reduce Vehicle Emissions?

Wanting to know how a catalytic converter works, I set off. The idea was developed through the 1950s. In the 1970s, the three-way converter came into production. Essentially, this wonderful little assembly takes the hot, dirty exhaust from the engine’s combustion and catalyzes redox (reduction or oxidation) reactions to convert toxic pollutants to less toxic pollutants. (That is to say, one substance loses electrons, another gains them, and the ingredients all rearrange themselves into new compounds that aren’t as bad for the environment as the ones that came out of the engine). Allow me to quickly summarize the molecular gymnastics that goes on in a catalytic converter.

  • Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and carbon monoxide (CO) are two of the main pollutants exiting the engine.
  • Once in the catalytic converter, NO2 converts to plain old N2 and O2 (nitrogen and oxygen). These are good.
  • In the next segment of the converter, nitrogen, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons (basically, unburned fuel, or HC), plus oxygen, encounter each other.
  • Poisonous carbon monoxide meets oxygen: CO + O2 = CO2 (The resulting carbon dioxide is better for our world than carbon monoxide).
  • The hydrocarbons (HC) mix with oxygen (O2) and rearrange to become H2O and CO2.
  • Finally, the overall output is carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen (N2) and water vapor.

It’s really quite brilliant. But not perfect. Too much CO2 is causing trouble for our atmosphere. There’s more of it than can be used by plants or absorbed by bodies of water. Lots of cars are putting lots of it into the air. Of course, industry contributes a fair bit too. Let’s not forget about that. I think this is what the scholar was on about when he was complaining about frivolous Sunday drives.

Anyhow, depending on where you live, you may or may not be legally required to regularly test your car’s emissions. State and provincial law varies greatly on this one. If you’re looking to sell a car, you might get an emissions test done. It’s $30 that might be very well spent, in proving that an engine runs well and is road-worthy. Over the last few years, come Canadian provinces and American states have removed requirements for emissions testing, or just never had them. On-board diagnostics (OBD) in newer vehicles is impressive. Cars can diagnose their own emissions and turn on the ‘Check Engine’ light to let you know.

When you bring it to a mechanic, a diagnostic can be run to narrow down the problematic area. If work needs to be done on the catalytic converter- for example, liquid fuel is getting in there, causing it to burn too hot and melt the ceramic blocks within- make sure your mechanic finds out why the liquid fuel was getting in there in the first place. Fix the problem that caused trouble in the converter. If a replacement one goes in and the same thing happens, a manufacturer’s warranty will not cover it.

That was a rabbit trail. Back to emissions. If you want to you’ll find a heap of tricks and hints about how to pass an emissions test with a vehicle that is expected to fail. Know that behind this bothersome emissions testing lies the truth that we all need to breathe the air into which your car is kicking fumes. Emissions testing is a government’s way to protect its people and resources— albeit an controversial and money-making one.

As for my search leading me to scholarly and philosophical arguments, I have to admit that I find the question intriguing, “Do individual citizens have a moral responsibility to decrease emissions?” It’s a question worth asking, then arguing about- because arguing means you care about something, and caring is good.

The Psychology of Car Buyers Remorse & What To Do When It Hits


The second I hung up the phone, I realized that the 5-day cruise that I had just booked us onto was a mistake. I immediately called my credit card company but was too late. I called the BBB, hoping that I had, at least, given my money to a reputable company. Yes. Phew. Then it set in… that heavy, aching and ominous feeling, in the pit of my stomach. It’s called “buyer’s remorse.” It has a few others names too- “buyer’s regret” or “post-purchase dissonance.” Whatever you call it, it’s not fun.

Car Buyers Remorse

Chances are you’ve had a similar experience. Car buyer’s remorse happens frequently. Psychology would tell us that its root is in cognitive dissonance, which is the tension you feel when your thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, feelings or behaviors are at odds within yourself. You purchased that new car and perhaps paid beyond what you intended to, and now you’re at home wondering how massive of a mistake you just made.

I can’t afford this. Shame on me, it’s way too extravagant. I got conned. These are the thoughts behind car buyer’s remorse. This after-the-fact reasoning is, unfortunately, not the reasoning that convinced you to sign the sales contract. Once that sales contract is signed, the car is yours. Full stop. As soon as you drive away, the dealer does not want it back. Law likes contracts, and it will side with a dealer who has your signature on a sales contract.

But what about the 3 days I have to return the car? There is no “3 Day Rebate” law, not for a sale done with disclosure, for a car that performs as you were told it would, providing you didn’t misrepresent your credit score or who you were buying the car for. The US Federal Trade Commission’s ‘Cooling-Off Rule’ pertains to sales made at your home, workplace or other temporary location. It’s aimed at high-pressure door-to-door sales, not vehicle dealerships. Most car dealers don’t have written policies about returning a vehicle, so you’re fully at their mercy. Of course, it would be wise to talk about this in the negotiations before a car’s purchase. After a sale, it would be well worth any reputable dealer’s time, to discuss how you might renegotiate ownership of a more affordable car. However, they are under no legal obligation to extend that to you.

How to Avoid Buyer’s Remorse

Do your research. Read our car buying tips. Know what features you want and why. It’s OK to buy a pair of shoes on impulse, but not a vehicle. Be prepared by getting your credit score and financing set up ahead of time. Make sure you know how to read the numbers in the sales contract.

Make sure that you test drive the model, maybe even rent one for a week to really get a sense of its driveability and fit for your lifestyle, driving habits and body size.

Ensure that your purchase is based on reason, not emotion. Go in with a strong sense of agency- “I am prepared. I know what I want and I will walk away from a deal that isn’t perfect for me.” There will always be another deal at another time. Remind yourself that you don’t owe a sales person anything for their time. If it’s not right for you, it’s not right.

Ask yourself, “How will this be of value to me after I buy it?” That way, when you do feel a sense of regret creeping in, you can remind yourself that your decision was well-researched and made for what is important to you.

Last year was a record-setting year for vehicle sales. The 17.5 million cars and light trucks sold in in the US in 2015 broke a sales record that was 15 years old. According to the Autodata Corporation, 70% of those buyers experienced car buyer’s remorse. You owe it to yourself to do what you can to help turn that statistic around.

As for our accidental cruise, the remorse hung around while I spent the day trying to figure out how I’d tell my husband that I’d just committed $5,000 that we didn’t have to a trip that we had no idea we were even thinking of taking. His response? “The Bahamas…. Let’s do it! Let’s make this awesome.” So we set out to make something out of the regret. With a shift of thinking about the mistake, I managed to trivialize the voice that told me that I was a failure. No, I just failed at making a good decision. Big difference. Now I know better.

The Basics of Vehicle Reliability & Dependability


For many people about to purchase a car- whether it is a new model or a used one- one of the chief questions remains- how reliable is it? After all, when so much money is sunk into an investment like a vehicle, we want it to work. We want to drive it, not drop it off at the repair shop. There are a few great tools out there to help you with determining vehicle reliability , especially if purchasing a newer model. Disclaimer: Any data needs to be received with discernment and maybe even skepticism, so don’t take my word for it. Do your own research. Talk it up- word of mouth might just be your best tool for you to evaluate your best, next car.

Vehicle Reliability

Vehicle Reliability and Dependability Studies

The J.D. Power 2015 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study was released in February 2015. Having almost completed its 26th year, this study categorizes 177 problem symptoms that your new vehicle may experience into 8 categories. The 2015 study is the result of input from 34 000 original owners of 2012 models, following up during and after 3 years of owning. In this study, the “PP100” (or, “problems per 100”) is a measure of how many problems were reported per 100 of a said model. A lower PP100 score is better.

Several key findings emerged. Primarily, 60% of the top problems reported aren’t due to malfunctions or defects but are design-related. The top trouble category was “Exterior,” followed by “Engine/Transmission” and, in third place, Audio/Communication/Entertainment/Navigation” (especially as it pertains to connectivity and usability of technology- specifically Bluetooth pairing and voice recognition). As more technology becomes standard in new vehicle models, this category will certainly become a focal point for manufacturers looking to earn re-purchase loyalty. Because I know you’re curious, the top five scoring vehicle makes in the J.D. Power study are: Lexus (4th year in a row at the top, with a PP100 score of 110), Toyota (111), Cadillac (114), Honda & Porsche are tied for fourth ranking (116). The bottom-ranking brand earned a PP100 score of 273. The industry average was 147 this year. Note that this 2015 study was redesigned significantly, so be careful in drawing comparisons between it and previous years’ reports. Look for the 2016 report to be released next month.

Another popular report to consider is the 2015 Consumer Reports’ Vehicle Reliability Study. It seems to be relatively consistent with the findings of the J.D. Power Report. Again, Lexus tied with Toyota (2nd year in a row) on the top of this list. Audi comes in at number two for reliability and a three-way tie happened for third between Subaru, Kia & Mazda. Surprising to many, Be warned; whatever reasons, there exists some opposition to Consumer Reports. I’m just letting you know that the tool, the information is there.

I stumbled across the Long Term Quality Index (LTQI); it caught my eye mostly because the above-mentioned reports look closely at new models, but the LTQI does the opposite. It’s an interesting tool, and worth looking at. It’s quantified data from 300 000+ cars, based on information given at time of trade-in. (Yes, I know, such gross possibility for under-reporting might be cause to throw out said data, but I figure that the skew caused by a Toyota owner who underreported something is balanced out by the Mazda owner, the Ford owner, the ­(insert brand here)­­ owner who also did the same). If nothing else, it’s an intriguing set of graphics displaying a variety of issues around longevity and vehicle reliability, as well as life span mileage. For the data heads among us, it’s worth a peek.

On a purchase- no, an investment- of this magnitude, you owe it to yourself to look a little beyond the flash that sometimes blinds you when you walk onto the car sales lot. Take some time, ahead of your visit, to explore and learn from the stories of vehicle owners who may be able to save you some precious time and money. There is no best car for you to buy; just a best car for you. It is up to you to do the work to find out which vehicle that is. Good luck!

Wanna buy a Subaru?- A Peek Into the World of Right Hand Drive Cars


I am a traditionalist. I like convention and norms. Over the last few years, as I see an increasing number of right hand drive cars on the road, and after my little brother tries to convince me to buy his right hand drive car Subaru from him, I ask myself, What is the draw to these right hand drive cars? Are they worth owning?

Right Hand drive Cars

People make their choice for a vehicle by a variety of criteria- novelty, cost, functionality, interest and a dozen other reasons. In a world where two-thirds of its citizens drive a LHD on the right side of the road, more and more North Americans each year are choosing to import right hand drive cars. When the craze first hit the continent, the imports were often high performance cars; think, twin turbo with intercooler and the power of 300 horses. In the hands of eager, young drivers, right hand drive cars initially got a bad name. But times are changing. A wider range of motor vehicle imports are landing in the hands of a wider range of people. Many right hand drive cars are available for low cost, and they often come with very low mileage and a body that is in great condition. Shipping of such a car begins at a cost of around $1 500 USD to several thousand, depending on the car and shipping company.

Unfortunately, for those who want to import a right hand drive car into North America, registration, licensing and insuring a right hand drive car is a most difficult endeavor. Dozens of insurance companies may reject you before you find one that won’t. Studies around procedural road safety have scared away wannabe RHD owners. Making a left hand turn or passing another car seem to be the most popular accusations. In the numbers and details of insurance claims for RHD vehicles, however, there is no corroboration for these arguments. There simply seems to be not-enough data to make any sweeping claims either for or against RHD safety.

Other Considerations for Right Hand Drive Cars in North America

Another consideration for importing a RHD car is the inconvenience around maintenance and repair, which translates directly into cost for the owner. A foreign vehicle sometimes requires foreign parts which are expensive and very slow to make their way across the globe to your mechanic’s repair shop. You can be certain that some modifications will be required (e.g. headlights that were directed to the ditch on the left are now shining in the eyes of an oncoming driver). These should always be done by a certified mechanic. Converting your car to a LHD is also possible, at a variety of levels and costs. For a professional conversion, it will run you up a bill of around $20 000 USD.

Make sure that you are committed to your RHD vehicle. When it comes time to sell your imported car, it may not be as easy as you’d wish it to be. Very few dealers will take it as a trade-in, and personally selling a specialty car is just that much more difficult.

RHDs are not just a hot topic in North America, by the way. Around the world, there are interesting stories going on and lobbying on both sides of the issue. Recently, the president of Rwanda lifted a ban on 20+ year old RHD trucks and buses only, so that the country might increase cross-border transportation and thus, investment. In Spain, only immigrants are permitted to import and register a RHD; residents are not. Many governments ban imports that are not of a minimum age. In the US, a car older than 21 years is exempt from meeting EPA restrictions. If it’s 25+ years old (from the date of manufacture, which you’ll have to prove), it is also exempt from having to comply with DOT Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. Canada may allow a car that is 15 years or older to be imported as long as it complies with Canadian safety standards; regulation and licensing is governed provincially. (For example, Quebec currently has stricter legislation around RHDs than other provinces).

One thing is clear, however, no matter where in the world you look at the issue of importing a RHD vehicle into a LHD country; there is often a lot of red tape surrounding it. Make sure you’ll be allowed to register it. Make sure it’s going to be street legal and meet all inspection requirements- or have a plan to pay for someone certified to make those changes. Ahead of time, find someone willing to insure it. You can get started now in filling out the governmental forms you’ll need to import your RHD- there’s a lot of them. In short, do your homework.

I have to admit that I was tempted to buy my brother’s right hand drive Subaru from him. But I never did. Right now, someone else is enjoying it. I wouldn’t have known what to do with that many ponies under the hood, anyway. I instead purchased a Camry. Each to his own, I suppose.

Is It Possible to Outsmart Vehicle Depreciation?


I asked myself this question sometime in the last few weeks as I am considering getting a new, used car. It’s an emotionally charged issue because the dialogue touches on value. The conversation is not just about how you spend money or how much money you spend on a vehicle that is new to you, but also about why you choose to spend it. Some see buying a new car as fiscally unintelligent and have vehicle depreciation at the forefront of their mind; others go out of their way to buy new.

Vehicle Depreciation

The best way to address the question is to say a tentative “Yes, there are ways to be smart about depreciation.” However, depreciation exists to knock off dollars from a vehicle’s worth over either a short or long time, so no it cannot be entirely outsmarted or avoided. Really, it’s beyond the scope of one article, but I will summarize the findings of my short time of research.

First of all, I will not assume that you even know what vehicle depreciation is. Essentially, it is a fact of the car industry that used vehicles sell for less than new ones. As soon as you buy a new vehicle and take it off the lot, it has now become a “used” car and will be worth less. That is depreciation. This specific, “off-the-lot” depreciation runs anywhere from 10-30% off the price you just paid for it. (I know, a ridiculously big range. Stick with 10-20% and you’ll cover most of the figures I found online). Add to that, the additional loss of value with each passing year of a car’s life. The curve of a depreciation line is much steeper in the first several years, a small but critical fact to remember in the topic at hand. Depreciation is a complicated mix of the economy at the time of resale, the condition and accident history of the car, mileage, and current market demand for it. It has a lot to do with perceived value of ‘new’ over ‘used’; ultimately, dealers need to make the purchase of a ‘new’ car compelling. Generally, a vehicle with high reliability will have a much lower depreciation rate because car owners seek out a vehicle that is dependable and not a sinkhole for repair costs. This popularity buffers a vehicle from rapid depreciation.

You have three choices to combat vehicle depreciation:

  1. buy used and let someone else pay that depreciation;
  2. buy new with the intent of holding onto the vehicle for at least 10 years;
  3. lease a new car so that you will not have to deal with a loss in value of the car you are driving. You’ll simply finish your lease and walk away.

When a new car is acquired, depreciation is an expense that the new owner must cover. He just has to absorb it; he will never get it back. If you were to purchase a used car that is 3 or 4 years old, the previous owner has already paid over half of that vehicle’s depreciation for you, since the depreciation rate is much higher in those years. Even better, buy a car that is 7 or 8 years old and avoid having to absorb depreciation almost entirely. Be sure to find out the consumer complaints that the model you are looking for has, so that you can have a sense of likely repairs that may be around the corner.

If you plan to buy a brand new car, know the depreciation rate of it. To not do so, is to have no real idea of the cost you are about to absorb. (I’m guessing that if you’re reading this article, you aren’t one of the lucky few who can purchase a car without worrying about the price tag). There are several great depreciation calculators online for you to use. Though they are unable to consider all of the factors of depreciation, they are a good place to start. Based on average rates, they can help you have a sense of what you’re heading for. Also, know that you can haggle over the sticker price with the car dealer; it’s just a suggested price. Why not pay less from the start? Plan to hold onto your car for as long as you can. After about ten years, the depreciation rate is negligible. Do some research- buy a car with a reliable reputation, maintain it well inside and out, and you will be doing much to slow the depreciation of your car until you consider reselling it.

Your third option is to lease. In leasing, you essentially pay only for the depreciation of the new car. When you are done your 2 or 3-year lease, you can walk away and begin again on another new car. Leasing appeals to many people for reasons that may or may not be financial; some of the benefits have to do with lifestyle, or risk aversion, or just wanting to try out new cars. Don’t be quick to judge or dismiss leasing as a possibility for you. Though it does not build equity like owning a car does, it can offer other benefits that may be of value to you.

Know that from the moment you buy your next car, you are prepping it for resale down the road. Care for it thoroughly, maintain it regularly, and keep organized records of service- but most of all, enjoy it! No matter how you acquire your next car, let Car Buying Strategies walk with you through that process. Expertise goes a long way in this industry and Car Buying Strategies has it- guides, tips and advice, whether you’re buying new or used.

Are ‘American-Made’ Cars Still a Big Deal?


As it turns out, no- not to everyone. The once-pronounced gap between “foreign” and “domestic” vehicles has narrowed. Many car brand companies are global companies, moving money, parts and increasingly, plants, beyond their own borders. Purchasing a Toyota no longer guarantees a car manufactured in Japan. Do not be misled, however; this does not mean there is still not a very vocal contingent of North Americans that will lobby until they (or you) are blue in the face with the many reasons why you should buy a car from one of the Big Three. Nevertheless, what it does mean is that some of the lines that once demarcated foreign from domestic vehicles are blurred.

American Made Cars

There will always be loyalists- to a make, to a model, to a nation. But in this ever-increasing global economy and milieu, the world’s citizens are becoming less focused on the origin of a car whether it be an American made car or other and more concerned with its functionality, cost, reliability and resale. The gap in quality and reliability has somewhat narrowed over the last several years.

Though some may not like to hear it, foreign cars continue to dominate when it comes to dependability. According to the 2015 J.D. Power U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study, of the 19 brands above industry average, 8 of them are foreign cars. Of the top ten brands, four are a foreign make. Even more telling, perhaps, is that only one in the bottom ten is a foreign car.

Similarly, Consumer Reports’ 2015 Reliability Study places only Buick in its top ten, with the rest of the Big Three in the bottom half of the rankings. This is not good news for some. European brands finished ahead of most domestic cars, but behind those from Asia. Even Tesla dropped from average to below average over the last three model years. Over 1 400 owners of the Model S were polled for that one. Despite very high results on the road test, Consumer Reports cannot recommend the Tesla as it just didn’t perform when it came to dependability.

As for mileage, it’s still not much of a competition. The Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) index is the result of manufacturers giving their mileage numbers to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration who passes it onto the EPA for verification. Look it up and you’ll see the walloping that domestic cars are getting when held up against the mileage of foreign vehicles.

But it’s an argument that loves to be had. Does a vehicle qualify as “American-made” when it has at least 50% of its parts made in America? What percent of a car qualifies it as foreign? Does it matter where it is assembled? In whose factory? And by whom? Does it depend on where that company’s headquarters are? The companies that manufacture vehicles are global companies. From headquarter offices, to assembly plants, to distribution networks, to franchise owners, these companies end up creating cash flow at a variety of levels and in a variety of locations. They (hopefully) pay taxes in more than one country. They buy supplies locally and source parts from as nearby as they can (which, lucky for us, results in lower sticker prices!) You need to decide how much you care about these issues. If the argument of domestic vs. foreign matters to you, then what kind of a car you invest in matters for you. But if it doesn’t, those are moot points.

Ultimately, you will have to make a choice for your next car. After that, you will have to live with it. The only advice I dare throw your way is to remind you to do your homework. Ask around- even digital word-of-mouth (aka, online reviews) will be a great help for you in choosing a good fit. Don’t be afraid to test drive vehicles, or even rent them for a week from a local car rental company. You want to trust the car you buy, regardless of where it was made. Good luck! (By the way, if you’re curious, look at your car’s vehicle identification number on the manufacturer’s label. If it begins with a 1, 4 or 5, it was assembled in North America).

December 2015 Scholarship Winner Announcement

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail is pleased to announce the December 2015 winner of our $2,000 Bi-Annual Automotive Scholarship of America contest.


After receiving a multitude of scholarship entries we carefully took time to review each and every submission and after careful deliberation we are please to award $2,000 to Mason Daniel to further his university graduate goals. Mason is majoring in electrical engineering at West Virginia University.

If you know somebody who is studying at a college or university in the USA or Canada and that would benefit by receiving a scholarship award from please see the details of our scholarship contest here and let them know about that exciting opportunity.

Do I Have to Sit on a Cushion to Drive It?


My friend, Kristy, who stands at all of 5’ tall on a good day, in the morning, asked me to explore this topic. Being of average stature myself, this is one aspect of driving a car that I’ve never had to consider. I’ve yet to meet a car that had no possible combination of seat + steering wheel adjustment to enable me to reach the gas and brake pedals. I can always reach. Every time. But not so for everyone.

Tall and short drivers

It is with Kristy’s words in mind that I set out to explore this topic. Bearing in mind, all kinds of modifications and augmentations can be accomplished on a vehicle of your choice. From pedal extensions, hand controls, raised floor and special seat adaptations, a certified mechanic can help you fit your car to, well, you. But which vehicles are the best place to start in seeking something for a diminutive driver?

I wouldn’t want to be a designer for vehicle interiors. What, with the pressure for sleek to meet spacious to meet function to meet comfort to meet cost effectiveness…. I hope those designers are paid enough for their troubles. Add to that, an increasing amount of technology added to the dashboard, but in a way that must be functional- for those among us with short arms. Straining to reach anything is not fun and, especially when driving, can be very dangerous.

Visibility. Reach. Safety. These are the three keys to making sure a vehicle is the right fit, literally, for you. Visibility over the steering wheel and dash is obvious. Your eye level should be above the top of the wheel, not looking strategically through it. But also make sure that the beltline (this is basically the line along the side of the car where the metal of the door meets the glass of the car’s window) is not too high. In the last few years, as safety requirements have mandated thicker window pillars and more structural metal into the cabin of cars, it has meant that windows have gotten a bit smaller in most cars.

Reaching the gas and brake pedals are your next concern. Fortunately, there are a growing number of adjustments that can be made to positioning and comfort of the driver’s seats in cars today. It is critical to have proper positioning in order to react quickly in case of an emergency, where split seconds count. Positioning a good seat correctly will be of more value to you than having an amazing seat that isn’t set properly. Set it high enough, and reclined so that your back and shoulders bear some of your weight into the back of the seat. You should be sitting on the back of your thighs, not your tailbone- unless you want back pain. As for reaching the pedals, you should be able to pivot easily between the gas and brake, leaving your heel on the floor and not have to lift your whole leg to move between the two. Some newer models are even designed with moveable pedals, which sounds like something that my friend Kristy would be over the moon about.

When a driver is an ideal distance from the steering wheel, they are much safer. Experts say that anything closer than 10” puts a driver into an awkward and unsafe steering position, not to mention the damage that an airbag deployed at a speed of 300 km/hour towards would cause to your chin and face. Don’t think that you’ll outsmart that problem by disabling your airbag, because all that will do is compromise your safety even more. Ideally, a driver should be 10-12” from the wheel. Even better, look for telescoping steering wheel; they are becoming more popular in more than just the Audi A4s.

After a quick survey of a few “Top Ten Cars for Short People” lists online, there emerges a few makes of car that keep showing up as the best for short people- according to criteria around comfort and safety. You may want to test drive some of these gems:

  • Honda Accord
  • Toyota Sienna
  • Lexus ES & LS
  • Subaru Forester
  • Kia Soul
  • BMW 3 and 5 series

The Kia Soul deserves special mention. Its boxiness affords it a roomy interior, which suits taller folks and the need for space. It also has lots of glass to its windows, which means that it has higher visibility than the average vehicle.

Of course, your body needs to choose your car. A test drive or two is critical if you find yourself facing the same challenges that Kristy does. Add to the abovementioned items the following: Can I reach the back lift gate to close it? Does it have a back-up camera to help me see what’s behind me? Can I reach the touch screen? Is it easy to get up into the vehicle (especially a truck)?

I don’t pretend to understand the issues that my short friends deal with when it comes to driving. But at least, I am a little more aware now. Thanks, Kristy, for speaking up. Best of luck on that next car purchase.

Can I Have the Keys? – Things That Parents Should Consider When Buying a Car for Their Teen Driver


It’s something to take seriously; the leading cause of death among teens in North America is by accidental injury. Handing the keys over to my 16-year old daughter has become increasingly easier as she gains experience. Each time I drive with her, I notice improved skills- smoother turns, lane changes that aren’t jerky anymore, lots of advance warning to other drivers about what her intentions are, and an overall increasing sense of calm behind the wheel. She is proving herself to be a great driver- better than both her parents, as far as safely following the rules of the road go, to be sure. As a family, we need to purchase a new, (used) car. I’ve been exploring issues around teenage drivers and here is what I’ve found. I thought you should know.

Teenage Drivers

First of all, safety has to be the number one criteria in the car that we purchase for our teenage drivers over the next few years. I refuse to get something with more than 5 seat belts, as I want to limit the number of friends she is able to transport. As much as I am a cheapskate who loves to bargain shop for my next pair of jeans, I plan to look into purchasing, no- investing in a newer model that has up-to-date safety features, especially Electronic Stability Control (ESC).

Known by a few different names, according to the make of vehicle you’re talking about, ESC is the single-most effective safety improvement in vehicles over the last several years. It originated in Germany, and is now widely standard in many newer makes and models. Essentially, it is a set of sensors and controls that prevents things like side-skidding and fishtailing— which, for an inexperienced driver, usually result in over-steering or, even worse, rollovers. These controls are set to engage the brakes on specific wheels, based on the tilt, speed, etc. of the vehicle through a turn, say. And I was impressed with ABS when it came on to the scene! ESC covers for my teenager’s impulsive reaction to an emergency; the split seconds where it engages before she does could mean the difference between her life and her death. That’s worth a few hundred dollars as an added option onto the MSRP.

Additional features of an ideal vehicle for teenage drivers include things such as:

  • maneuverability- it has to be easy enough to be maneuvered through parking lots and back alleys, but not too small that it compromises crash protection, as many sub-compacts and compacts are infamous for
  • make sure it’s a large enough car with sufficient bulk, which affords crash protection- such as with a midsize sedan
  • low center of gravity to prevent rollovers- being low to the ground will build in protection for the chance that your teen takes a corner a little too fast
  • acceleration with not too much “muscle”- your teen has to be able to easily merge onto a highway, but shouldn’t be given more horsepower than is necessary as it’s just too tempting to speed or drive recklessly
  • side curtain airbags- these gems can not only cushion and protect, but also act to keep occupants safely inside of a crashed car, as opposed to being thrown out of it
  • communications features such as Bluetooth connectivity and iPod interfaces to reduce distraction as it relates to entertainment and communication

Here Are Two Authoritative Resources For Parents of Teenage Drivers

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has excellent resources on teens, driving and safe vehicles for you to explore. Their 2016 Top Safety Picks is a great listing of recommendations for your next vehicle purchase for your teen. The National Highway Safety Traffic Administration is another good place to start your research. Look into crash test results for yourself; valuable information for consumers is available.

I have already begun to involve my daughter in researching this very important topic with me, for us. I imagine that her list of must-haves will look significantly different from what I’ll be looking for in our new vehicle. But, I can rest assured knowing that she’ll have a pretty good shot at being able to safely enjoy her wish list if I make sure that I get mine.

Top Five Reasons Why Hybrid Cars Are Not Environmentally Friendly


While hybrid cars have been on the motor vehicle market from the late 1990s, before you think of placing a hybrid on the shopping list, there are still several peculiarities worth considering. The motivations why you would want to own and drive a hybrid car are quite numerous.

Some include:

  • Those fewer gas station stops
  • The feel good thing about being green
  • Saving the environment
  • Being trendy

Hybrid Cars

However, in the long run, not all the above reasons will hold out. While Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) and Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) continue to gain popularity as greener and more efficient alternatives, several points need to be brought to the fore:

  • First off, hybrid cars basically remain internal-combustion; they are still gasoline powered vehicles and they still contribute to emissions as you drive them around.
  • Most of the Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) still tap into the national grids. In the US for example, much of the existing power grid comes from coal with its well known environmental impact.

1. More Heavy Metals Mined

Besides the nickel used in the batteries, most HEVs and PHEVs utilize huge quantities of copper in their extensive wiring and electric drive motors. Similar to nickel, these have to be mined, either from underground mines or from open pits. This has the potential of degrading the environment further.

When using the strip mining method, miners are known to clear everything from the earth surface as they seek the heavy metals, rather than dig deep. This has a huge negative impact on the environment that can last for many decades to come.

In addition, this method of mining contributes to significant amount of air pollution, besides destroying grass and plants as well as drying up streams. The impact of what goes into producing that perceived eco-friendly hybrid car may, in fact be triggering untold environmental havoc elsewhere.

2. Promoting Usage of Unclean Energy

If electricity productions sources that are environmentally friendly are at full capacity, then extra needed power would need to come from sources that are less clean such as coal. This increases our consumption of energy sources known to have negative environmental impact, despite using Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs).

Particularly when the extra electric power is being generated from coal sources, the impact is greater; the net carbon footprint is bigger. Toxic waste will find its way into our water systems and when these gets combined with careless disposal of the toxic batteries materials, the net contribution of PHEVs could be negative in terms of environmental impact.

3. Production of Batteries Harms the Environment

Conventional motor vehicles utilize lead-acid batteries. This has for a long time been a major source of contention within the auto industry. This is because lead is a known toxic chemical which when released into our environment, can cause long-term damage.

The majority of Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) and Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) use lithium-ion and nickel-hydride batteries which are deemed to be better for their environmental impact, although that may not necessarily be true.

  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) point out that nickel is likely to be a human carcinogen, and when improperly disposed, the nickel-hydride batteries could pose a potential human and environmental hazard.
  • In addition, the production of nickel batteries requires much more energy in production compared to lead batteries.
  • The minerals used in hybrid cars batteries depend on mined materials such as cobalt and lithium. The mining process for these minerals can be extremely destructive. In its wake, it has been known to leave entire mountains leveled.

4. Electric Cars are not that Eco-friendly

Simply because your car is getting plugged into a power source, it doesn’t necessarily mean that automatically you’re utilizing clean energy. Different states, cities and nations produce electric power via a diversity of energy sources.

If where you are located is tapping into hydroelectricity grid of your city, then perhaps you are contributing positively into conservation of the environmental with your PHEV. However, if the source of your states electricity is fossil energy based, then your electric car may not really be that eco-friendly.

This is because the electricity to charge your PHEV must have an energy source which probably is:

  • Often burning coal or oil
  • Using chemical-laden batteries which cannot be said to be particularly eco-friendly.

Essentially, electric vehicles could merely be shifting environmental problems to other areas away from the road, where they are contributing to significant increases in levels of human toxicity due to their manufacturing process.

5. Hybrids Aren’t Totally Emission-Free

It’s a fact that most hybrid cars do contribute towards the reduction of smog-forming emissions, although that might not be as high as many assume. When contrasting a conventional compact car to the hybrid counterpart, it can be expected that the emissions could come down by about 10%.

More smog-forming emissions reductions can be witnessed in hybrid SUVs, although the total effect in terms of reductions in emissions ranges between 10 to 15%. Though helpful and significant, but don’t however assume that because you’re acquiring a HEV you are not contributing to the pollution of the air.

If widely accepted, Hybrid electric vehicles and Hybrid Electric Vehicles do have a huge potential of improving the total environmental impact, although that doesn’t necessarily mean their technology can be said to be 100% green. Nevertheless, understanding the known facts regarding the potential negative environmental impacts of hybrid cars will help you towards making a decision that is more informed as you plan for your next car. Before you buy your next car read our new car buying tip sheet here.