Best and worst used cars

Published: Tuesday, March 03, 2015 @ 3:07 PM
Updated: Tuesday, March 03, 2015 @ 3:07 PM

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So much has been written about how to buy a new car. But truth be told, far more people buy used than they do new. So here's some guidance to help you get the best used car for your dollar!

 

Steer away from this list of the worst used cars

Consumer Reports is my favorite source of info on buying cars. They've recently started running a new feature called 'The Worst of the Worst Used Cars.'

These are used cars that are so bad, they make a hall of shame of cars you should not consider buying used! Here is a very partial and selective list of the used cars to avoid, in alphabetical order.

  • BMW 330i ’06; and 335Ci ’07-09
  • Buick Enclave ’08-11; and Terraza ’05-07
  • Chevy Cruze (1.4T) ’11-14; Cruze (1.8L) ’11-13; Uplander ’06-08; and Venture ’05
  • Chrysler PT Cruiser ’05-08
  • Dodge Grand Caravan ’05-12
  • Ford F-250 and F-350 (diesel) ’05-08, ’10-11, ’13; and Fiesta ’11-14
  • Jeep Wrangler (4-door) ’07-09, ’11-13
  • Mini Cooper S ’05-12
  • Saturn Outlook ’07-09; and Relay ’05-07
  • VW GTI ’07; and Tiguan ’09-11



For the complete list, you can either buy one-time access to Consumer Reports at ConsumerReports.org or check out the latest issue from your local library. And if you're driving around in one of these vehicles, don't shoot the messenger! This is not my list. It's the Consumer Reports list!

Consider buying from this list of the best used cars

At the other extreme, Consumer Reports also has a list of vehicles that they've deemed the best used cars, divided by price category. Here's a partial overview:

  • Mazda3 s (2008)
  • Pontiac Vibe (2005-08)
  • Volkswagen Rabbit (2007-09)
  • Acura MDX (2005-06)
  • Toyota Highlander V6 (2005-07)
  • Honda Accord (2008-12)
  • Toyota Camry (2010-12)
  • Lexus ES (2007-08)

When you're looking for a used car, you want reliable, dependable, affordable transportation. So let this list be your guide -- and don't forget to read this important info from me before you buy used!

4 things to look for to get the best life insurance

Published: Thursday, November 23, 2017 @ 10:55 AM

One key factor in buying a life insurance policy is to shop around because companies can vary widely.
One key factor in buying a life insurance policy is to shop around because companies can vary widely.

If no one at all depends on you financially, you are free to forget all about life insurance. But everyone else should set aside the cultural distaste for talking about death and work toward finding an individual life insurance policy plan to provide for dependents after you're gone.

» RELATED: Do energy-efficient bulbs really save you money?

According to Forbes contributor and wealth advisor Tim Maurer, those depending on a replacement for your income might include a spouse and kids, sure, but also an ex-spouse, life partner, sibling, employee, employer or business partner.

"You don't have to become an expert before you buy life insurance, but it's important to be an informed consumer and know your options," noted the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation.

Within those options, which all fall loosely into the categories of either term or whole life insurance, here are four things to look for before settling on the best life insurance.

A policy that offers enough coverage: A few numbers to consider are the amount it will take to cover such expenses as your mortgage, personal or car loans, property taxes and so forth, recommended DFR. You may also want to include enough life insurance payout to cover your final expenses, and, if you're a parent, some of your children's future college tuition and other expenses. 

But don't assume that life insurance will have to cover those expenses in their entirety, DFR added. It recommended also listing all the income sources and assets your family would have if you were gone starting tomorrow and using that to offset the total insurance benefit they would require. Also add the face value of any group life insurance you already qualify for. "Do not forget to include the ability of other members of your family to earn a living," DFR noted. 

A policy you can afford: While you want enough life insurance, buying a policy you cannot afford is counterproductive since you're likely to lose it when you can't pay the premiums, noted DFR.

If you're straining to purchase enough insurance to give your dependents the financial support they would need if you died, term life insurance is for you, according to Kiplinger, which added, "Dollar for dollar, term gives you the most protection for your money. Period."

» RELATED: 4 warranties you should always buy

A company that will be around a long time: You want to be sure the company you purchase from will be around long enough to protect your loved ones after you die, DFR noted. Obtain information about a company's financial strength from your insurance agent or a commercial rating service that evaluates insurance companies' financial strength and ability to pay claims, like Moody's Investor Service.

A carrier who charges the least for your health issues and habits: Before you shop for individual life insurance, recognize that rates are based on life expectancy. There are some factors you can't do much about: young people get better rates, for example, and so do women, because they statistically have longer life expectancies. But with other individual risk profiles, different companies are more lenient with certain factors, according to Kiplinger. It advised consumers to shop around for the companies with the best requirements in these areas:
  • Weight: Since obesity can cause or be related to other severe health conditions, insurers will consider your weight, Kiplinger noted. But the designated weight ranges for the best life insurance rates vary by company, so use an online quote site like AccuQuote or Insure.com to see who is most lenient if you have weight issues. Women should seek companies that use unisex weight tables, which ordinarily allow more weight for top rates.
  • Family history: All life insurance providers will determine whether your close relatives have died or been diagnosed with life threatening and chronic illnesses. But according to Kiplinger, an online quote site should divulge insurers with more lenient standards in this area.
  • Travel plans. People planning travel to risky parts of the world ordinarily have to pay a higher premium for life insurance. But comparison shopping pays off here, too, since rules on overseas travel vary from company to company. 
  • Credit history: Some life insurance providers will put your credit history into play. If you have concerns, like a bankruptcy in the past five years, find a broker or online quote service to tell you which insurers don't use this factor in setting rates.

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Do energy-efficient bulbs really save you money?

Published: Monday, November 06, 2017 @ 5:43 AM

Are savings from using energy-efficient bulbs worth the money? First, it helps to understand the basic versions of home lighting options.

They are:

  • Fluorescent, including linear fluorescent lamps/Circline lamps and compact fluorescent lamps.
  • Incandescent, including mercury vapor lamps, metal halide lamps and high-pressure sodium lamps.
  • Outdoor solar, including standard incandescent (A-type) lamps, energy-saving incandescent (halogen) lamps and reflector lamps.
  • Light-emitting diode (LED).

Cost savings

Switching from an incandescent bulb to a light-emitting diode (LED) light can save about $13 a year if the LED is used at least five hours a day, according to Money Talks News.

Incandescent bulbs cost about 50 cents each, while an LED bulb costs around $20. Exchanging your least-used bulbs - ones that are on for maybe only 30 minutes a day - results in savings of about $1.20 per year.

EnergyStar persuasion

However, a different story is told by EnergyStar: if all Americans replaced their inefficient light bulbs with ENERGY STAR-certified LED bulbs, they would save $1.5 billion in annual energy bills and prevent 17 billion pounds of carbon pollution annually.

LED bulbs are now an affordable option for the average consumer, with prices at around $2 per bulb across the country (and as low as $1 in many areas). Using less energy, the bulbs pay for themselves in a matter of months and can save households $50 to $100 each year in utility costs.

By 2020, the federal government expects to see widespread adoption of LED bulbs, as utility programs across the country educate consumers about the energy-efficient options that are available and continue to offer rebates on the bulbs.

Today, 71 percent of homes have no LED bulbs in use and most consumers have little knowledge about the various light bulb options. The average American home contains around 50 light sockets and about 60 percent of them still contain an inefficient bulb, according to EnergyStar.

LED bulbs that have earned the government-backed ENERGY STAR label are independently certified, undergoing extensive testing to ensure they save energy, deliver on brightness and work the way consumers expect. Bulbs that have earned the ENERGY STAR use 70 to 90 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs and last at least 15 times longer.

Health risks

If you're sensitive to light, those savings might not be worth the painful headaches that can be caused by LED bulbs.

Arnold Wilkins, professor of psychology at the University of Essex, in the United Kingdom, said LED light bulbs switch on and off hundreds of times every second, leading to disruption of movement control of the eyes and causing double or multiple vision. Headache risks also double while reading with a flickering LED light bulb.

LED bulbs are also capable of inducing feelings of dizziness and pain within 20 minutes of turning them on.

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4 warranties you should always buy

Published: Monday, November 06, 2017 @ 5:36 AM

From cars and houses to iPads and phones, no one wants to pay to replace a high-end purchase. But that doesn't necessarily mean you should pay for an extended warranty, either.

"From a purely economic standpoint, it usually doesn't make sense to buy an extended warranty," according to Rajiv Sinha, a marketing professor at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.
Consumer Reports goes so far as to call most extended warranties "money down the drain," noting that "retailers may push hard to get you to buy these plans because they're cash cows for them. Stores keep 50 percent or more of what they charge for these contracts. That's much more than they can make selling products."

Still, there are four extended warranties you should always buy, or at the very least seriously consider:

Protection for previously owned products

Used cars in particular often warrant the price of an extended warranty, Sinha said. Owners usually hang on to well-maintained, problem-free cars, while the substandard, poorly maintained cars make it to used car lots and online sellers. The odds of defects and damage in the pool of used cars makes buying an extended warranty a smart financial move.

A home warranty for This Old House

Even older homes that have been lovingly cared for can benefit from a home warranty, Sinha said. This is especially true if the appliances included in the sale are dated.

Extra coverage for items added to a home

After noting precisely what a home warranty covers and what conditions you are accountable for, it usually makes sense to buy a warranty for items you add to a home, including windows, fireplaces and shutters. U.S. News cites the example of Margaret King, who bought a lifetime warranty from Home Depot for all 26 windows of her Philadelphia town house. The warranty cost was added to the initial purchase, increasing the price by nearly 20 percent, but she's already replaced windows six times, avoiding $500 in out-of-pocket expenses. "It's quite refreshing to pick up the phone, not your checkbook, to correct any problems – from stains to breakage to track issues," King told the magazine.

When you need the peace of mind

If you're the type who experiences excessive stress and sleeplessness worrying about a smartphone emergency or laptop catastrophe, the $100 or so for an extended warranty is probably "money well spent," according to U.S. News.
Still, there's no need to cave to pressure at the checkout counter. For example, you can usually wait until just before your new car warranty expires to buy the extended version. According to U.S. News, ProtectCELL, which sells protection plans for tablets and phones, also allows some wiggle room, letting customers buy a warranty 30 days to 12 months after purchasing a device, depending on the product.

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Come clean: The truth about energy-efficient washers and dryers

Published: Monday, November 13, 2017 @ 5:39 PM

The average American family washes and dries about 300 loads of laundry each year ENERGY STAR doesn't rate dryers because their efficiency has been about the same for years Maintenance will not do much to make a washing machine more efficient Only products that have earned the ENERGY STAR are certified independently to save energy ENERGY STAR-certified clothes washers use about 25 percent less energy and 45 percent less water than regular washers You can save $490 over the lifetime of an ENERGY STAR-certi

The average American family washes and dries about 300 loads of laundry each year, according to Energy Star. So, you may think it would be wise to replace washers and dryers with newer models.

Yet dryers can last longer than washers since dryers have not changed much in recent years. Instead, they can be maintained just by cleaning the lint tray before or after every use. However, the story’s a bit different for washers.

In the case of washers, according to the Federal Trade Commission’s appliances guide, upgrading washers every 10 years or so can save you more.

RELATED: Is an energy-efficient dishwasher worth the money?

The EnergyGuide label can be a useful tool when comparing appliances. Here are a few facts about energy-efficient washers and dryers to consider before making your next purchase:

The truth about energy-efficient dryers.

ENERGY STAR doesn't rate dryers because their efficiency has been about the same for years, according to LifeHacker.com. The average cost of a new dryer is $550.

Regular dryer maintenance will keep your dryer from breaking and heat clothes a little quicker which can save you money. In addition to cleaning the lint trap every load, vacuum the area below the lint trap periodically to decrease the dry time and save a few cents every month.

Whirlpool Duet washer and dryer.(Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

The truth about energy-efficient clothes washers.

New models have become more efficient by switching to the front-load clothes washer, using around 50 percent less water and 37 percent less energy. The average price of a new ENERGY STAR washing machine is $750, also according to LifeHacker.com.

Maintenance will not do much to make a washing machine more efficient.

If your washer is over 10 years old or a top-load washer, you could save up to $135 a year on both water and electricity by buying a new or newer front-load washer.

The truth about HE vs. energy-efficient.


Beware of high efficiency (HE) claims since this designation is intended to match certain washer types (for example, front load) with specially designed laundry detergent.

With no standards for energy efficiency behind the HE label, only products that have earned the ENERGY STAR are certified independently to save energy.

Last word from ENERGY STAR

Clothes washers are the second largest water user in your home. If your clothes washer was manufactured before 1999, according to the federal government, you should consider replacing it with an ENERGY STAR-certified washing machine that uses four times less energy.

ENERGY STAR-certified clothes washers use about 25 percent less energy and 45 percent less water than regular washers.

Clothes washers and dryers that have earned the ENERGY STAR use advanced features, saving $490 over the lifetime of an ENERGY STAR-certified clothes washer and more with a washer/dryer pair.

Another cool energy-saving fact: If all clothes washers and dryers sold in the U.S. were ENERGY STAR-certified, the savings would be more than $4 billion each year and prevent more than 19 billion pounds of carbon pollution annually −equal to the emissions from 1.7 million vehicles.

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