Buying A Used Hybrid Car


Hybrid cars have been on sale in this country since the late nineties. Hybrids provide the benefits of having two different propulsion sources in one vehicle - electric motors and a traditional internal combustion engine. These vehicles, which were once something of a novelty, are now mainstream. Initially aimed squarely at economy car buyers, various car manufacturers are now offering hybrids that range from basic compact economy cars to full size family sedans, SUVs, and luxury performance vehicles. For the past few years, new hybrid car sales in the US have been close to half a million vehicles per year. With so many hybrid cars sold over the years, used hybrid cars are now commonly available for sale.


The chief reason people buy a hybrid car is the improved fuel economy over regular, gas only cars. New hybrid models often cost thousands more than regular versions of the same vehicle. This means you’ll be driving the car for a few years before the greater fuel economy negates the extra money spent buying the hybrid. A used hybrid can be a good way to save money on fuel without shelling out a premium during your initial purchase. As with any used car, there are things you should check out on the vehicle before buying it, and there are some things specific to used hybrid cars you should be aware of.


Battery Life - A hybrid car’s electric motors are powered by its battery. These batteries are  generally warrantied to last 8 years or 100,000 miles, sometimes even longer. If you’re buying a used hybrid car that’s only a few years old with low mileage, then the battery will probably last for a long time. If the hybrid you’re considering is older or nearing the 100k mile mark, you should consider the cost of a new battery that you may need to buy soon. Brand new replacement batteries can cost between $1500 to $4000 depending on the vehicle. Besides age and mileage of the car, condition and maintenance history are big factors. The battery in a hybrid will last longer in a car that’s been maintained and driven carefully than in a car that’s been abused and neglected.


High Voltage - The battery used to drive the hybrid’s electric motors (and other systems, like air conditioning) is a much higher voltage than a regular car’s standard 12 volts. While the high voltage system is sufficiently insulated to prevent accidental shock during normal use, you should be careful if you’re evaluating a hybrid car for purchase. Most people examining a used car will look under the hood and sometimes disconnect wires, etc... to check their condition. With a hybrid, disconnecting random plugs under the hood could lead to a bad shock if you don’t know what you’re doing.


Hybrid Driving Experience - If you’ve never driven a hybrid car before, the first thing you may notice during a test drive is how quiet a hybrid car is - at least in electric mode. Some hybrids are propelled only by their electric motors when driving at low speeds, with the gasoline engine kicking in for higher speed driving. When a hybrid car is in electric only mode, it is very quiet. People used to driving regular gas only cars sometimes find it too quiet. The transition between electric and gas driving modes also varies on different makes & models. Some hybrid models

seamlessly transition between propulsion modes, while other hybrids make the transition more noticeably, and annoying, to drivers. Many people love driving hybrids, but it’s not for everyone, so make sure you enjoy it before buying.   


Usual “Regular” Car Items - In addition to the battery / electrical items specific to hybrid cars, you’ll still have to evaluate all the other items that hybrid cars have in common with regular vehicles - the gas engine, tires, suspension components, etc… Those components all wear the same and have the same failure modes as they do in a regular car and should be checked before purchasing the car. As with any car, it’s best to get a pre-purchase inspection by a qualified mechanic. In this case, you want to have the PPI done by a mechanic who has experience working on hybrids.


Hybrid cars are basically regular cars that have electric motors in addition to their gas engines. While there are some differences when compared to regular cars, evaluating one before purchasing isn’t really harder than checking out a regular car. After all, it’s still a car, not a spaceship designed in another galaxy. Just be aware of the differences and do your due diligence when buying one used.

When Extended Warranties Pay Off



About 4 years ago a family member bought a used Lexus, along with an extended warranty contract that covered the car for 5 years and an additional 60,000 miles.

The contract cost about $1,200 and was quickly forgotten once the paperwork was completed.

Meanwhile, my brother purchased a 2007 GMC Acadia, and an extended warranty. Before the ink even dried, his transmission failed, and the warranty more than paid for itself by covering the repairs. Other issues on the Acadia have come up since, and the warranty covered them all.

With my brother’s warranty set to expire, he’s preparing to sell the car rather than risk more repairs.

The Lexus has been flawless for many years, until this month, when it began running hot and experiencing other problems. The car was in the dealer’s shop before the warranty was remembered. With just a few thousand miles left on its coverage, it paid for a new radiator.

There’s lots of advice out there that says to skip extended warranties, but experience says they’re worth it—when done right.


My advice on the topic of extended warranties is simple: When buying new, skip it, along with saying no to the undercoating, fabric protectant, paint protectant and other extras. When buying used, budget for the extended warranty, but purchase it through a credit union, if possible, because the price will be lower than buying through a dealer. However, avoid rolling the cost into the loan, because you’ll pay interest and quickly escalate the warranty’s cost. Pay cash if you can.

In all likelihood you won’t ever need the warranty. Even with the Lexus, the repair costs made the warranty cost a wash. However, with the warranty long paid for, the free radiator repair was a blessing at a time when cash was short.

In my brother’s case, the thousand-dollar warranty saved about $10,000 in major repairs. So, when buying a car with an expired, or soon to expire, manufacturer’s warranty, the extended warranty could be a wise decision!

How To Get The Most Money For Your Used Car Trade In



If you’re buying a new car, there’s a good chance you’ll be getting rid of your old one. The two things people usually do to get rid of their old car are to sell it on their own, or trade it in to the new car dealer as partial payment for their new car purchase. Selling your used car will probably make you the most money, but it’s also a headache. Trading in your car to a dealer is much easier, but you’ll also get less for your car. Dealers take used cars as trade ins with the intent of reselling them.  Since they need to make a profit on the resale, they won’t be able to pay full retail for a used car. While you won’t get the same value for your trade in as you would doing a private sale, there are some things you can do to maximize the credit you get when trading in your old car.


  • Know Your Used Car’s Value - In order to make a good deal to trade in your car, you’ll need to know its “trade in” value, the typical going rate to trade the same car as yours (same make, model, year, mileage, color, options etc…) Kelley Blue Book and NADA both have tools you can use online to get an idea of your vehicle’s trade in value, as well as typical retail value.


  • Pick The Right Time Of Year - The easier it is for a dealer to resell your used car, the more money you’ll get on trade in. How easy it is to sell certain types of vehicles is heavily dependent on the time of year. People are more likely to buy convertibles and and high powered sports cars in the summer when the weather is nice. Conversely, four wheel drive SUVs are in high demand during winter in snowy regions. To maximize your car’s trade in value, make sure to trade it in during a season when it will be in higher demand.


  • Clean It Up - An easy thing to do to get the most for your trade in is one that’s often overlooked by people. Clean your car. Making your car look more presentable can help get you a better deal. You don’t have to go crazy doing it. A basic washing / waxing along with cleaning the glass and vacuuming the interior and cleaning out junk will do the job.  However, be sure not to take out all of your personal effects from the car. Dealer’s will check out and test drive your car before making a trade in offer. Letting them see your car completely cleaned out of personal items will signal to the dealer that you’re anxious to get into a new car and make it harder for you to negotiate.


  • Fix Small Problems - If there are any minor problems with your car, such as a non-functioning window, worn tires, or small dents, you should have those taken care of before going to the dealer. A dealer would have to fix problems like those before they could resell your car. It’s better for you to have them fixed beforehand, otherwise the dealer will take the problems into account before making a trade in offer.


The above tips are all pretty easy. Follow them, and you’ll be sure to get the best deal trading in your used car.

The Case for Extended Warranties on Used Cars


Buying a used Audi seemed like a great idea at the time.

I found the 2008 Q7 on a dealer’s lot and used the CarGurus price analysis tool to determine that the car was a good value. I was smitten with the Audi’s color, strong stance, room for 7 people and pre-installed roof racks. The car was everything I needed, and I was able to negotiate a price significantly lower than the asking amount.

With 88,000 miles on the clock, I figured I had some time before things started going wrong. I was correct in that now I have 98,000 miles and a repair bill that is making me second-guess my choice.


In all fairness, the biggest problem isn’t the fault of Audi or the dealer who sold the car. It’s my own fault for using the cupholders that were placed directly above the center console. Turns out, all it takes is one flailing kid’s knee and a full cup of iced tea to take out all audio and electronic car setup features Audi has to offer.

Then last week, on a toasty 97-degree afternoon, my air conditioning wouldn’t blow. I tried everything and, while the display showed the temperature set to a cool 69 degrees, no air came from the vents. Twenty minutes and 3 gallons of sweat later, the fan turned on along with a sound inside the dash that might as well have been a dying squirrel.

To top it all off, I’d been driving around for the last 6 months or so with a taillight out. The same light went out just after I purchased the car, which the dealer kindly replaced at no cost. Trouble is, the light went out again a week later and has been dark ever since.

While at the dealer for an oil change, I asked about all of these items. The center console is not repairable and can be replaced for just $700. The blower motor is going out and can be replaced, also for $700. The taillight, which should be a simple $5 fix, will take more investigation, because replacing the light bulbs didn’t work. My technician suspects a problem somewhere in the electrical system and would need more diagnostic time to figure it out.

None of these issues are major, and the car runs and drives as though it’s only gone 20,000 miles.

I politely passed on all repairs and drove out of there intent on figuring these issues out on my own. I already found a blower motor online for $160, which will probably be my first project. Listening to the radio might have to wait a few months!

During all of this, my wife asked if there’s anything that can be done for a buyer of a used car that starts experiencing a lot of problems. The answer, unless a used car warranty is in place, is no.

The lesson here for used car shoppers is to be careful with used cars approaching 100,000 miles. If it’s an option, I highly recommend buying an extended warranty. Had I made that wise decision, it would have already paid for itself.

Does Mileage Matter For Used Cars?



The average car in America gets driven about 15,000 miles per year. If you’re in the market for a used car, mileage is a major consideration. Generally speaking, the typical 5 year old car you look at will have 75,000 miles. Some used cars will have mileage way above average and some will have mileage well below average. Used cars with lower than average miles on the odometer are usually more desirable. Does that mean cars with average, or even high milage, are a bad choice?


While a used car with low mileage may have been driven less than average, how the car was driven and maintained by previous owners is more important.

You could check out two identical used cars - one with only 40K miles, the other with 80K miles. Going by the raw mileage number, you’d think the lower mileage car would be better. However, if the low mileage car was driven in a city over rough, pothole filled roads in stop and go traffic its whole life, a lot of the car’s components and systems may be prematurely worn. Even more so if the owner didn’t have required maintenance done. If the higher mileage car was driven mostly on well maintained highways, at consistent speeds, and the owner kept up with all required maintenance, the higher mileage car would be a better vehicle to buy.


Along with how a used car has been driven & maintained, previous accident history is a major consideration. It’s possible a low mileage used car could have been in a bad accident and the damage repaired before being put up for sale. If the repairs were done correctly, it may not be a big deal, but incorrectly performed repairs could mean trouble down the road. A used car you’re checking out might look like a low mileage creampuff to an untrained eye, but there could be serious problems from a previous accident that have been covered up.


While vehicle history reports and service records may help give you a rough idea of how a used car was driven and maintained, the best way to tell the condition of a particular vehicle is to have a pre-purchase inspection (PPI) performed by a competent mechanic of your choosing. A PPI from a good mechanic may cost you a couple hundred dollars, but it’s worth it. A skilled mechanic will spot worn out parts and poorly repaired accident damage that you might not have noticed.

Years ago, a car that hit 100,000 miles was considered ready for the crusher. Nowadays, thanks to better manufacturing and rust prevention techniques, modern cars can easily go well over 100K miles if they’re properly cared for. While it’s nice to buy a used car with low miles, a car’s overall condition and maintenance history is much more important.

Car Warranty, Extended Warranty, & Vehicle Service Contract Defined



Car Warranty: Technically speaking, the only true car warranty is the one provided by the manufacturer or factory. These warranties are only available on new cars, and some cannot be transferred to a new owner if the vehicle is sold. These car warranties are commonly referred to as a manufacturer warranty or factory warranty.

Vehicle Service Contract:

This is a contract between a car owner and a company that specifies specific repairs that the company will help pay for and under what circumstances the company will pay for the repairs. Sometimes these contracts have restrictions on where the car can be repaired. These contracts are sometimes referred to as extended warranties.

Extended Car Warranty:

While vehicle service contracts are often referred to as an extended car warranty, legally vehicle service contracts are not considered warranties. Consumers looking for an extended warranty are actually looking for a vehicle service contract.

Because many consumers are familiar with warranty terminology, warranty terms are sometimes used to describe vehicle service contracts. For example, some common types of vehicle service contracts are exclusionary warranties (also called “bumper-to-bumper”), stated component warranties, and powertrain warranties.

Vehicle Protection Plan:

Some companies offer vehicle protection plans. These plans are similar to vehicle service contracts and cover specific car parts and repairs resulting from malfunction.

Mechanical Breakdown Insurance (MBI):

Like an extended warranty, MBI helps cover certain car repairs resulting from malfunction or mechanical breakdown. MBI is typically available for newer cars.

MBI can also be added to a typical auto insurance policy to provide additional protection than just repairs resulting from an accident. MBI policies can also have more flexibility to include certain car parts and can include coverage for more parts than an extended warranty.

Types of Extended Warranties:

Exclusionary warranty:

Also known as bumper-to-bumper coverage, exclusionary warranties cover all car parts except for the items listed in the contract. These warranties offer similar coverage to a factory warranty and are typically only available for newer cars with less mileage.

Stated Component warranty:

This warranty offers medium coverage. Stated component warranties only cover the car parts listed in the contract. Some extended warranty companies offer several different levels of stated component coverage, which allows customers to find a great vehicle service contract that is also affordable.

Powertrain warranty:

These warranties offer the most essential and basic protection for a car. Powertrain warranties typically cover the engine, transmission, and a few other major car parts.

Extended warranty and insurance cost

Pricing for all car warranties, vehicle service contracts, and MBI is based on the following:

  • a car’s mileage
  • a car’s age
  • a car’s make and model
  • the extent of the coverage purchased

Because the pricing varies so much, it’s difficult to pin down even general costs.

Generally speaking, the most expensive place to buy an extended warranty is a car dealership. Purchasing a vehicle service contract independently or adding MBI to an auto insurance policy tend to be more cost-effective for consumers.

Consumers should contact extended car warranty companies and insurance companies directly to learn more about product costs for their car.

Payment plans

Some car warranties and vehicle service contracts require consumers to pay for the entire warranty or contract upfront, which is why some consumers prefer to purchase MBI instead.

However, extended warranty companies, like Coverage Insurance!, permit their customers to set up an interest-free payment schedule that fits their budgets.




You’re on a bucket-list road trip. You’re driving out in the middle of the wide-open country and taking in the scenery. An unforgettable sight catches your eye. You pull over and snap a picture. After you climb back into the car and turn the ignition, the car won’t start. Instead, it’s making this terrible noise. You check the car maintenance log, call for roadside assistance, and wait. 

What do you have in your car that will keep you safe, prove vehicle ownership, and make you comfortable? 


Being Safe (and Legal) on the Road

It’s difficult to determine what you need to actually have in case of an emergency. Maintaining the following collection of items can help make your road trip or commute much more pleasant.

What to Leave in Your Car, and Where to Leave it

Emergency Items

You never know when things will go wrong. Plan for the worst by incorporating the following items in your car. All of these items, except the GPS and the first aid kit, should be kept in your trunk.

  • First aid kit: Store a first aid kit under the passenger side seat. In the event that someone gets injured, you will have the supplies to treat them. 
  • Shovel: At some point in your life as a car owner, you will get stuck in the snow. Having a shovel in the truck will help you get out and save yourself from a whopping towing fee. 
  • Water: According to the Mayo Clinic, men need 3.7 liters of water per day. That’s about a gallon. Women need 2.7 liters. That’s a little under three-quarters of a gallon. To play it safe, store one gallon for each person who will be in your vehicle. 
  • Blanket: In times of cold weather, you need a blanket for protection against hypothermia.
  • Sleeping bag: Store it in a stuff sack in case you do need to sleep in the back seat. 
  • Jumper cables: Even if you stay on top of vehicle maintenance, your car battery will probably need a jump at least once. More frequently, you will be the good samaritan, helping people who need a jump. 
  • Battery-powered charger: If you’re out long enough, your cell phone will die. Use a charger that doesn’t rely on your car battery and stay in communication.
  • GPS: The coordinates from a GPS unit can help you share your location with towing companies, search and rescue operations, and law enforcement. Put this in a place that’s readily accessible, such as the driver’s side door. 
  • Non-perishable food: Protein bars, dried food, and nuts will keep you feeling full for long periods of time. 
  • Full gas caddy: As long as you keep it full, you’ll never run out of gas in the middle of nowhere. 
  • Swiss Army Knife: You never know if you’ll need a knife, a tweezer, or a pair of scissors. A Swiss Army Knife has it all in one light-weight tool. 
  • Satellite phone or spot device: There are many, many places without cell reception. A satellite phone or spot device (which uses a satellite signal) can call for help even in the remotest areas on Earth. 

Legal Documents

Never leave your legal documents in the glove box or another easily accessible place in your vehicle. It makes you vulnerable in the event of a vehicle burglary.

  • Car maintenance log: If you haven’t kept track of how and when your car has been serviced, start immediately.
  • Vehicle registration: Don’t leave this at home, ever. It’s critical for everything from speeding tickets to roadside assistance.
  • Proof of insurance: Like the vehicle registration, don’t forget this. You risk getting a ticket, or worse, not getting roadside assistance. 
  • Two forms of identification: Bare minimum, you need your driver’s license with you and another form of state-issued identification. 
  • AAA and/or extended warranty: Roadside help is hard to come by. Get an extended warranty or AAA to get round-the-clock emergency service. 

Smart Things to Have

Not everything in your vehicle needs to be safety-focused. You do need things to keep you comfortable and entertained as you wait for help. 

  • Reusable shopping bags: If you don’t keep them in your car, you will absolutely forget them when you go to the grocery store. 
  • Extra pair of athletic shoes: You never know if you will have to walk to a service station. Don’t forget to store running shoes or hiking boots under your seat. 
  • Sweatshirt and pants: Sometimes it gets cold as you wait for roadside assistance. Fold an extra pair of warm clothes into a snap-lock plastic container.
  • Fresh underwear and socks: Stash an extra pair in a Ziploc bag and keep it in a place where they can’t get wet or dirty. 
  • Books and magazines: You might be waiting for a while. Save your phone battery and put analog reading materials in the back-of-seat pockets. 



Did you know there are over 4 million miles of road in the United States? While not all of those miles are ideal for summer road trips, enough of them are that it can be difficult to narrow down the best routes.

Traveling by highway and country roads gives you a chance to see scenery and history that you can't spot flying overhead in a plane. Road trips are also budget-friendly, allow more flexibility, and you don't have to worry about TSA packing restrictions.

Before heading anywhere, it's important to carefully prepare by planning your route, ensuring your car's maintenance is up to date, and enabling roadside assistance. If you're ready to map out your summer road trip, here are some of the best routes.

With over 650 miles of its primary segment from Orange County in Southern California to Mendocino County, Highway 1 in California (aka PCH) is renowned as one of the world's most thrilling, scenic drives. Along the PCH are local favorites like Neptune's Net in Malibu or Nepenthe in Big Sur, a cliff-top restaurant offering some of the most beautiful sunset and coastal views in the world. Enjoy white sand beaches and whale watching at many points along the coast and don't miss landmarks like Hearst Castle and the Golden Gate Bridge.




It's never an ideal situation when your car breaks down. You can typically expect expensive repairs, shattered plans, crazy logistics, and no shortage of embarrassment. Besides that, breakdowns can leave you stranded in a precarious and potentially dangerous position. Breakdowns happen for a variety of reasons from serious issues like a failing transmission to simple ones like running out of gas.

Hopefully, you never experience a breakdown. But if you do, your story surely won't be as crazy as some of the worst breakdowns of all time.

The Failed Cross-Country Trip in an Antique VW Beetle

Owning a vintage Volkswagen Beetle is challenging enough without taking it across the country. One owner decided to attempt such a journey with his 1974 Beetle and promptly broke down three times in the first 60 miles. The first breakdown occurred when the brakes seized on the way to an auto parts store. The second was the result of overheating as the car’s cooling fan caught a bundle of wires and shredded them to bits. And the third happened when the bolts holding the driver’s side front caliper let go. Talk about bad luck.

A Trans Am, GTO, and a Storm

Another story comes from an owner who was driving his 1977 Trans Am with his wife and daughter at night during a rainstorm. Suddenly, the Trans Am died. With no way to move it, he sprinted to his nearby house to get his 1967 Pontiac GTO and push the Trans Am home. The second breakdown occurred soon after when the owner's wife was left stranded as aged plugs to the distributor cap fell off. Then, during the torrential rainstorm, the GTO's shift linkage snapped, causing the owner to crawl under the car in inches-deep water to fix it.

Two Chevrolet Bel Airs and a Wedding Reception

A husband and wife team with a pair of custom Chevrolet Bel Airs drove from Maryland to Chicago for their wedding reception. On the way, they encountered a comically-long list of car troubles: wheel studs sheering off, closed repair stores, broken shift levers, tow trucks, electrical problems, forgotten spare parts, a wife who was pregnant, and a missed birthday. They still managed to get home 15 minutes before the first guests arrived at their reception!