100 BEST CAR TIPS
1. Rainproof Your Windshield
Manufacturers recommend replacing your blades every three months. Keep a spare set in your trunk. A product such as Rain Clear can also help minimize the work of your wipers; spray it onto the glass every few weeks. In some light rains, it makes the wipers almost unnecessary.
2. Skip the DIY Car Wash
Washing a car at home uses five to 20 times more water than a professional car wash. You also aren’t doing your car any favors: A recent study at the University of Texas proved that a single DIY wash can leave scratches as deep as a tenth of the paint’s total thickness.
3. Eliminate Distractions
As driving instructors stress, your hands tend to follow where your eyes are looking. Adjusting the radio dial takes 5.5 seconds—and that’s 5.5 seconds when his eyes may not be on the road and both hands may not be on the wheel. Dialing a phone triples your risk of a crash. Reaching for a moving object increases it nine times. Worst of all is texting, which makes you 23 times more likely to crash. “Avoid the temptation to multitask behind the wheel altogether and put your cell phone in the glove compartment every time you get in the car,” says Ray Lahood, U.S. Secretary of Transportation.
4. Lower Your Seat
Drivers who sit higher feel as if they’re driving slower. Thus, SUV drivers, who are already piloting the vehicles most prone to roll, drive faster because they feel like they’re creeping along. So lower your seat to get the sensation of more speed.
5. Turn Your Lights On
A Canadian study from 1994 found that people who drive with their headlights on during daylight hours have an 11 percent decreased risk of being in an accident with another automobile.
6. Assume the Position
Smaller blind spots mean you’ll crane your neck less. Try this mirror adjustment method from Tom and Ray Magliozzi, hosts of NPR’s Car Talk: Set your rearview mirror as you normally would, then tilt it upward so you sit up straight. Lean your head against the driver’s window, then set your left mirror so you can see the back corner of your car. Lean right to do the right mirror.
7. Save Your Clutch
Don’t ride your clutch in anticipation of shifts. You’ll accelerate quicker and your clutch will last longer if you use it like expensive cologne—sparingly.
8. Check Your Hands
Your seat is positioned properly when you can hang your wrists over the top of the steering wheel. And remember not to grip the wheel as you would a tennis racket, with your thumbs wrapped around so that they connect in back with your fingers. Instead, leave your thumbs on top of the wheel. Otherwise, in a collision, the wheel can whip back around and snap your thumbs.
9. Don’t Jump the Gun
Ramp metering, or the use of traffic signals at freeway on-ramps to regulate flow, forces a small time penalty on drivers at the beginning of their commutes, but it pays off. “Requiring vehicles to wait 20 or 30 seconds can save drivers 5 to 10 minutes on their trip,” says David Schrank, Ph.D., of the Texas Transportation Institute.
10. Look Left, Then Right
Forty percent of car crashes occur at intersections, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, as do 22 percent of all fatal crashes.
11. Deal with a Deer in the Road
Don’t take radical evasive action to avoid a collision, which is more likely to cause you bodily harm than making contact with the animal will. Plus, you’re facing a wild animal, and there’s no way to tell in which direction it will flee. If you have time, flash your headlights to try to scare the creature out of your path. If a collision is imminent, brake with your steering wheel straight. At the last possible second, steer away from the animal’s midsection to prevent the animal from crashing through your windshield and landing on your lap.
12. Downshift Like a Racer
Try the heel-toe shift, recommends driver Robby Gordon, winner of three Baja 1000s. “Use your foot to apply the accelerator and brake at the same time,” he says. “As you apply the brake, keep your right foot on the right side of the pedal so you can rock your foot over and use your heel to blip the throttle, which raises the rpms and allows the car to drop into gear more easily.”
13. Ford a Stream
Do not drive in water higher than the air intake, which is typically on the front side fender. Pick an area where the flow of water is slow and enter at an angle to cut down on the surface area of the vehicle being pushed against by the stream. Enter gently but with enough speed to cause a bow wave, which pushes the water forward, creating a shallower area, and ford at a constant speed.
14. Corner on Dirt
Going sideways is the quickest way through a corner on dirt, driver Rhys Millen, who was the General Lee’s main stunt driver in Dukes of Hazzard. “To do it well,” he says, “initiate the slide through input to the steering wheel—you oversteer into the turn. Flick the wheel in the opposite direction of the curve to break traction, then whip it back the other way to initiate a slide in the direction you want to go. Once the car starts to slide, you can ‘steer’ by adjusting the throttle. More or less throttle will make the car slide at a wider or tighter arc, respectively. More gas makes for a more sideways slide. If you lift off the throttle, the car will still go sideways, but it will start to reduce speed and straighten out again.”
15. Drive on Sand
Before driving onto a beach or into the desert, get out and drop your tire pressure to 12 psi, which helps you “float” on the sand. If you do start to sink into the sand, keep the momentum going: Do not stop. If you really feel the car getting stuck, reverse, back out, and look for a better way forward.
16. Survive a Rear-End Collision
First, pull your seatbelt taut. Next, release your foot from the brake and put the car in neutral. This will help distribute the force and may prevent you from being rear-ended twice, which can happen if you’re applying the brakes after being hit and the car behind you is still moving forward.
17. Get Unstuck
If your tires have sunk into mud, snow, or sand, driver Cameron Steele, a Baja 1000 winner, says to lower the tire pressure way down—as low as 5 or 6—and dig out space in front of the tires to give yourself a run. “If you still don’t get traction, put down some pieces of carpet, he says. “But always put a leash on what you use for traction—say 50 feet long—and tie it to your bumper so you don’t have to run back into the mud or gunk to pick up the pieces.”
18. Survive a Water Landing
Almost all cars have electronic windows that short out when they come in contact with water. So invest in a center punch, a device shaped like a screwdriver but with a sharp center point. It makes breaking a window a cinch. Store it in your center console or glove box—not your trunk.
19. Maneuver Tight Corners
At the BMW Performance Driving School, instructor Jim Clark says these four words over and over: “Slow in, fast out.” When taking a corner, you need to scrub as much of that speed as you can while the car is braking in a straight line, then you can accelerate out of the curve. The converse is “Fast in, maybe no out.”
20. Add Trees to Your Commute
Even if it takes you out of your way, trees may make your ride less stressful. An Ohio State University study found that scenic drives were more calming than those involving strip malls and endless asphalt.
21. Add Some Horsepower
If you drive a turbo, all you need is a bit of computer programming to add some power. Whether you’re driving a twin-turbo Bentley or a simple 1.8-liter VW diesel, a few minutes of “chip tuning” by your mechanic can add 20 percent more power.
22. Get Out of a Lease
If your lease is in its final six months, you can sometimes buy the car outright at a huge discount—below wholesale in some cases. Otherwise, a company such as Swapalease can help you pawn your lease off on someone who is willing to take on the payments. ADVERTISEMENT
23. Give It a Rest
Shift into neutral at traffic lights. The transmission doesn’t care, and it makes life a bit easier for the engine. This technique reduces the amount of heat carried by the cooling system and can increase gas mileage a tick or two.
24. Find the Center
The folks at DriveCam analyze driver behavior using video recorders installed on vehicles. Safety specialist Julie Stevens recommends sticking to the center lane on freeways. Rear-end crashes happen less there than in adjacent lanes. “Every time you change lanes you add risk,” she says, “and the slow lane always has the most action.” Other research has shown that the “chronic lane changer” saves a mere four minutes out of an 80-minute drive.
25. Use Your Headrest
Before you hit the road, sit up straight, raise your head as high as you can, and press it into the headrest. Hold it there for five seconds, then relax and repeat five times. This will improve your posture and put muscles like your multifidus to work to keep your spine erect. This, in turn, will reduce the strain on your neck.
26. Jump-Start a Dead Battery
If your battery terminals are corroded, crack open a can of cola and pour it directly onto the battery terminals. The acid in the cola will bubble away the corrosion, improving both your connection and the odds of a successful jump-start. Once you’re home, run water over the battery to remove the cola residue and dry it with an old rag.
27. Avoid the Hot Seat
If you want to become a dad, don’t turn up your heated car seats this winter. A study in Fertility and Sterility found that when healthy men sat in a temperature-controlled seat for 90 minutes, their scrotal temperature jumped as high as 99°F—four degrees above the optimum temperature for sperm production.
28. Ace the Details
If you want to customize a new car without making it look like something out of Pimp My Ride, start with the wheels. A rim upgrade can be inexpensive ($1,500 or so) and quick (your car won’t be laid up for a week). If you have a higher-end car, you don’t even need custom rims—just get the wheels powder coated in a new color.
29. Roll ‘Em Up
Nixing the AC lowers fuel consumption, but only if you’re not driving on the highway. Otherwise, opening the windows uses more gas because of the drag you’re putting on the car. Instead, run your AC in recirculation mode, which recycles some already-cooled air from inside the car, requiring less energy than completely cooling the air that comes in from outside.
30. Hit the ‘Net
Research your dream vehicle online and you’ll spend 1 hour and 20 minutes less time at the dealership, according to a 2007 study published in the Journal of Consumer Research. Build the exact car you want at a site like Edmunds.com, and then use the site to request quotes from at least three dealers.
31. . Start Negotiating
Your weapon: e-mail. Once you have quotes from multiple dealers, play them against each other. Don’t set foot into a showroom until you know who’s giving you the best deal. Remember: The dealer’s first offer—even if it is that $12,000 discount—is always a bad deal. Tell him, “I need you to do better than that.” See how low you can get the salesman to go before you give your opening offer.
32. Time Your Attack
Sellers are desperate to hit sales quotas at the end of the month, so pounce then. And shop early: Sales managers sometimes offer a bonus to the staff member who closes the first deal on a Saturday, according to a former salesman Michael Royce, founder of BeatTheCarSalesman.com.
33. Arrive Armed
Before going to the dealership, learn your credit score and check with your bank about loan options—or you’ll be at the mercy of the dealer’s finance office. Just don’t take on a loan that will last longer than you’ll own the car. As a general rule, if you have to stretch the payments beyond four years, you can’t afford the car.
34. Skip the Discounts
“Buy now and save $12,000!” It sounds tempting, but you’d better really like the car (read: want to keep it for at least 5 years). Steep discounts now create horrible resale values later. The same applies to discontinued models.
35. Buy, Don’t Lease
Leasing is more expensive because you’re using up the best years of the car‘s life. A monthly lease payment is precisely calculated to ensure that you pay for every penny of that dizzying depreciation, along with interest and other fees. If you’ll keep the car at least 5 years, buying is usually a better deal.
36. Choose From the Lot
Dealers use credit to pay for their inventory, especially cars that are on their lots for 3 months or more. This motivates dealers to sell their own stock first.
37. Hide Your Emotions
If a car takes on human attributes, you’re more likely to evaluate it positively, according to Canadian researchers. That’s why your salesperson calls it “she.” Keep the talk technical and ignore the rep’s attempts to humanize the vehicle. Similarly, the longer you sit inside a new vehicle the more you’ll feel as if it’s yours.
38. Skip the Trade-In
Learn your car’s value at kbb.com. Sell it online if the dealer’s offer isn’t within $500 of the private-party price.
39. Go for a Spin
This is the last step. A test drive should only break a deal you’ve settled on, not serve as the basis of your purchase. “Dealers want you to drive the car as soon as possible,” says Eddie Sotto, a showroom designer. If you have an emotional connection, you’re more likely to buy.
40. Empty Your Pockets
The average guy spends 67 minutes each day behind the wheel. A thick wallet in your back pocket raises one hip above the other, twisting your spine and straining your lower back. Plus it can put pressure on your sciatic nerve, a common source of lower-back pain, says Stuart McGill, Ph.D., of the University of Waterloo, in Ontario.
41. Be Careful in the Country
Rural roads have a death rate 2.5 times higher than that of any other type of road. The reasons include dangerous, poorly marked curves, lack of streetlights, distance from medical care, and a higher percentage of alcohol-impaired drivers.
42. Forget Your Keys
On your next date night, leave your cars in the garage for a change and hire a car service instead. You’ll ride in style to and from a restaurant, enjoy a night of carefree drinking and dancing, and you won’t need to worry about staying sober for the drive home.
43. Beat Frost
Run the air-conditioning while defrosting the windshield. (New cars do this automatically, but in older cars, turn it on yourself.) AC air is dry, so it will take the moisture out of the air by dehumidifying as it cools. If you’re cold, adjust the temperature so that the AC pumps out warm air.
44. Use Your Eyes
A bad driving habit is focusing on the road in front of you or at the bumper of the car ahead. Practice looking farther ahead. By the time you’re in the turn, for instance, you should be looking ahead at your exit. It may feel like this will cause you to run off the road, but it won’t. Your peripheral vision will keep you in line.
45. Ditch the SUV
They accelerate more slowly, they brake more slowly, and it takes them longer to clear intersections. (One study suggests they can create up to 20 percent more “lost time” at an intersection, and lost time is a huge factor in congestion.) SUVs also obstruct the view of drivers next to them and behind them, creating blind spots and causing other drivers to be more tentative.
46. Check Your Emissions
The Blade is an aftermarket device that attaches to your car‘s tailpipe and reduces CO2 emissions by up to 12 percent. It also improves fuel economy by up to 12 percent by shortening the duration of your car‘s wasteful cold-start period, when fuel burn and particulate emissions are both at their worst.
47. Quickness Counts
Slipping a 5-speed’s clutch—that is, pausing briefly as it engages a gear—ensures a smooth start, but it also generates heat that diminishes its life. So don’t be bashful. Get in gear, then get off of the left pedal as soon as the car is rolling.
48. Wax Off, Then Wax On
Most old wax leaves a car on its own—in fact, three-quarters disappears after 2 months. But you’ll want to apply an ordinary car cleaner prior to waxing to remove the rest. Anal-retentive pros also use a Silly Putty-like material called paint clay to remove any remaining residue.
49. Get Some Support
If your car doesn’t have adjustable lumbar supports, buy your own backrest—or simply roll up a towel and place it behind you to fill in the small curve between your waist and hips. The more you support your spine, the less your back will ache.
50. Forget Your Schedule
Trips usually take 10 to 15 percent longer than planned, says Leon James, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of Hawaii and the author of Road Rage and Aggressive Driving. Accept this before you travel.
51. Lose the Junk
Every 100 pounds you remove improves economy by 1 to 2 percent, so clear our your trunk and your backseat before you leave home. Both of them are preferable to a loaded-down roof rack, however, which can fuel economy by as much as 5 percent.
52. Skip the Corn Nuts
Keep your blood-sugar levels under control by eating fiber-rich apples and pears and drinking water, says Monique Ryan, R.D., author of Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athletes.
53. Take Breaks
One long drives, take at least one 10-minute break every two hours. The combination of tight hamstrings and the pumping of your foot can stretch your sciatic nerve and lead to chronic pain. Muscles are meant to stretch—nerves aren’t.
54. Prevent a Ticket
Find lists of speed traps, submitted by users all over the country.
55. Rest Your Right Foot
Cruise control applies the throttle more smoothly, reducing fuel consumption and increasing mileage. (And each 5 miles per hour above 60 is like paying 6 percent more per gallon of gas.) When you use it on long stretches of highway driving, rest your feet firmly on the floor to take pressure off your lower back.
56. Check Your Tire Pressure
Less air means more contact and friction between the tire and road, which wears the rubber faster, makes the engine work harder, and uses more gas, says Chris Johanson, author of Auto Diagnosis, Service and Repair. Just don’t overinflate: The harder the tires, the less grip they’ll have.
57. Keep Your Focus
Staring down long straight roadways for longer than 5 minutes at a time fatigues the visual cortex of your brain, causing you to speed and underestimate distances between cars, according to a study in Human Perception and Performance. Check all three mirrors and your gauges at the end of every song on the radio to keep your vision—and brain—sharp.
58. Play a Game
If you’re feeling sleepy behind the wheel, ask your copilot to play Alex Trebek. An Israeli study showed that trivia games, not music, made drivers more alert. Try the electronic handheld Buzztime Trivia Sports Edition.
59. Beat Carsickness
If a passenger is prone to motion sickness or turns pale during a road trip, have him or her eat gingersnap cookies. Hunger worsens carsickness, but research has shown that ginger root can help alleviate and prevent it.
60. Let Loose
Getting the engine up to 70 mph for 10 miles once a month (on an open freeway) evaporates any water and gas buildup in the engine and exhaust system, says Chris Johanson, author of Auto Diagnosis, Service and Repair.
62. Add space
Tailgating destabilizes traffic flow, says Tom Vanderbilt, author of the bestseller Traffic. “People brake more than they have to when they follow too closely, so the drivers behind them do as well,” says Vanderbilt. “This creates ‘shock waves,’ which lead to stop-and-go traffic.” Aim for a 4-second cushion between vehicles. Drivers with less than a 2-second cushion are almost three times more likely to cause collisions, according to data from DriveCam, a driving safety service.
63. Stay in Gear
While coasting in neutral does improve gas mileage by a hair, it also levies a heavier burden on your brakes, leading to premature—and expensive—maintenance. Constantly reengaging an automatic transmission at speed also causes gear wear. So let your transmission provide engine braking as the engineers intended.
64. Mind the Music
A heavy beat might get your blood pumping, but it can also lead to unsafe speeds and accidents—particularly when you crank up the volume. Loud or up-tempo music slows your reaction time. Britain’s Royal Automobile Club Foundation recently named Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” the most dangerous piece to play while driving.
65. Replace the Filter
Just as a colander separates cooked pasta from water, the oil filter traps dirt that would otherwise harm your engine. Today’s best oil filters trap particles just 10 microns in diameter, a rate not possible 10 years ago and far superior to that of budget filters. Replace your filter every time you change your oil, lest old oil get mixed with the pristine stuff.
66. Rub It Down
Cleaning and moisturizing your dash, doors, and seats will extend their lives. Try to clean twice and condition four times annually. If you’ve got vinyl, apply a thin coat of vinyl cleaner, such as Lexol Vinylex. For leather, you’ll want both a cleaner and a conditioner. Stick to leather products if you’re in doubt, and “run like hell” from dual-purpose products, says Larry Reynolds, CEO of Car Care Specialties.
67. Warm Your Engine
Store your ride indoors when temperatures drop below 14 degrees. Very cold batteries produce almost no power, and they won’t send enough energy to the starter motor when you turn the key. Invest in an electric engine-block heater (about $20) if you help warming the engine. Some even have timers you can set to turn on at 4 or 5 a.m.
68. Fuller Is Better
Keep your gas tank more than half full during cold weather. Otherwise any void above the fuel in your tank will fill with moist air, which condenses to water in the cold. Since water is denser than gasoline, it settles in the bottom of your tank. If enough accumulates, it’ll be delivered through the fuel line to the engine.
69. Know the Numbers
Modern motor oils are engineered to flow at low temperatures and to provide adequate lubrication at high ones. Take oil labeled 5W-30, for instance, which is suitable for all weather conditions except desert Southwest climates. The first number indicates viscosity (the ability to flow) at low winter (W) temperatures. Five will work in the coldest of U.S. climates. The other number indicates lubrication performance under extreme heat. The higher the number, the better the performance under hot engine operating conditions.
70. Find an Open Space
Young drivers often panic and get visually locked on the thing they’re headed toward, such as a guardrail. So find a dirt road or an empty parking lot and teach them to look where they want to go and turn the wheel in that direction. While you’re there, have them practice correcting a skid.
71. Rail Against Distractions
Everything in the car can be a potential distraction, from talking on a cell phone to listening to loud music. Texting is the worst of all. According to a study for the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, drivers who text are 23 times as likely to crash as those who don’t.
72. Paint Pictures
Want an important message to fall on deaf ears? Use numbers: “It takes an additional 90 feet to bring a car traveling 60 mph to a stop for every second that braking is delayed.” Blah, blah, blah. Instead, provide context by saying, “The average car traveling at 60 mph requires 271 feet to stop—that’s almost the length of a football field!”
73. Limit Passengers
“Statistics show that the more kids there are in the car, the higher the chances of an accident,” says Jeff Payne, founder and CEO of Driver’s Edge, a Las Vegas-based nonprofit that teaches kids defensive driving. The risk of having an accident increases fivefold with two or more teenage passengers, so make that the cutoff.
74. Set a Curfew
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 32 percent of fatal crashes involving teenage drivers occur between 9 P.M. and 3 A.M. So if you require that the car be parked in the driveway at midnight, your kid has half as much time to get into trouble.
75. Stop for Doughnuts
A ticked off, heartbroken, or tired teenage driver is a recipe for disaster. Suggest that pulling over for a doughnut and coffee is the perfect antidote for anxiety. Realistically they won’t ever pull over, but hopefully the slogan will help them take a deep breath.
When behind the wheel, speed and direction should never change abruptly. In other words, drivers shouldn’t accelerate quickly, slow down in a hurry, or turn on a dime. If your kid sees an exit but can’t get over, for example, remind him or her to wait for the next one.
76. Preach Steady Driving
77. Embrace Caution
Tell your kid “the road is full of tools”—as in morons. By using kid-speak, you have an edge over the dreary drivers-ed teacher, and you allow him or her to embrace caution as an attitude that’s defiant, rather than dorky.
78. Provide a Bolt Hole
When your kid puts himself in a tight spot, gently pipe up, “Where’s your bolt-hole?” Establish that you want to spend as much wheel time as possible in a spot where there’s an exit option.
79. Lead by Example
One of the single greatest predictors of unsafe driving in teens is having a parent who drives unsafely. Tame your rage and drive like you want them to drive.
80. Be Specific
Mechanics want to have a dialogue. Never just say, “I hear a noise,” and drop off the keys and leave. Describe the what, when, and where. For instance, say, “I hear a high-pitched squeal when I accelerate, and then it stops after 30 mph.” A good mechanic immediately knows to check your belts.
81. Buckle Your Seat Belt
One in five men thinks airbags make seatbelts unnecessary, when in fact going unbuckled turns an airbag into a deadly weapon. After reviewing 12 years’ worth of car crashes in which airbags had deployed, University of Pittsburgh scientists found that the incidence of neck or spine injury was 70 percent higher for drivers who’d gone sans seatbelt. That’s because if you aren’t buckled up during a collision, you’re likely to be propelled headfirst into an airbag coming at you at 200 mpg, say the study authors.
82. Fix Your Footing
Most people use their toe on the accelerator, which makes it harder to keep steady pressure and leads to excess gas consumption. Drive with your foot flat on the pedal, ease up on the accelerator a bit, and lower your top speed on the freeway.
83. Play Tough
If your car gets scratched in a parking garage, start by negotiation with its management. While almost any garage has a disclaimer purportedly limiting its responsibility, that probably won’t protect it against negligence. If that doesn’t work, threaten legal action. Often just a letter saying that you’re considering a lawsuit will make them cave.
84. Fight Overheating with Heat
To slow the rate at which the car overheats, open the windows and turn on the heater. It may sound counterintuitive, but doing so will draw heat away from the engine and into the car‘s cabin.
85. Brake, Then Park
Putting a car into park and then activating the parking brake causes the car to settle back, putting unnecessary weight on the transmission. With the car still in drive and your foot on the brake, activate the parking brake. Then put the car in neutral and release the foot brake. It should stay at rest with only the parking brake. Shift to park and all is good.
86. Have a Watchful Eye
If you can’t trust your teenage driver, install a tiny device called a CarChip. It plugs into your car’s onboard diagnostic port and records speed, fuel consumption, as well as hard accelerations and decelerations. There’s also an optional alarm feature, which can be set to go off when the driver exceeds a specific speed, acceleration, or braking limit.
87. Use Your Fog Lights
These beams can cut through water vapor better than regular headlights can, says Rae Tyson, formerly a spokesperson for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Fog lights are mounted low on the grille to prevent bounce-back glare off the mist—which is why high beams are your worst choice.
88. Be Defensive
Surveys indicate there’s a nearly 80 percent chance the average driver speeds regularly, a 53 percent likelihood that he talks on the phone while driving, a 4 percent chance he runs red lights—on purpose—and a 2 percent chance he has driven after he’s had too much to drink. How important is evasive maneuvering? For every actual crash, drivers experience 11 near crashes, according to a study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. Yet close to 30 percent of drivers involved in car crashes take no evasive measures at all, according to one study.
89. Stop a Spreading Crack
If a rock has chipped your windshield, you can act fast and to avoid the $200 to $500 cost of a replacement. So long as the chip is smaller than a dime, a glass shop can fill the crevice with an optically matched resin that should forestall the spread of cracks. Most insurance companies waive the deductible and cover this cost-saving procedure. But anything larger and you might need a new pane of glass.
90. Distinguish Yourself
James Bond had an Aston Martin DB5. Steve McQueen, a 1968 Mustang. You have…a used Kia? Your salvation: a classic sports car, says Joe Lorio of Automobile magazine. “It looks really cool, and nobody knows you paid the same as somebody who bought a new Ford Explorer.”
91. Be Realistic
Don’t think of your first classic car as an investment. “The best you can hope for is a minimal loss or maybe a maintaining of its value,” says Karl Brauer, editor-in-chief of the car-advice site Edmunds.com.
92. Shop at the Fringes
Stay away from clichés and you can buy a good, low-mileage muscle car for as little as $2,500 online, says Chris Jacobs, the former host of TLC’s Overhaulin’. For example, look for muscle cars made just after the “golden age” ended (in 1971, when emissions and safety laws changed) or consider a V-6. “What does 600-horsepower mean anyway?” asks Jacobs.
93. Get Educated
There isn’t one way to get the best price. Whether buying at auction, off eBay, or in person, just go in armed and educated. If you’re bidding sight unseen, money should not change hands until you’ve seen the car in person.
94. Think About a Dealer
You will pay more, but they offer security and you’ll have recourse. Even if the dealer says the car has no warranty, you’re buying from a business with a reputation to protect. Cooper Classics Collection is a great place to start and even provides financing.
95. Navigate the Auctions
Know what you’re looking for: Pick a few models and year, then study. The National Automobile Dealers Association appraisal guide, which lists all classic-car values in a variety of conditions, is essential. The leader in terms of volume is Kruse, which auctions more than 13,000 cars annually at more than 30 events around the country.
96. Go South
Barrett-Jackson throws two auctions a year, and they’re the baby boomers’ beating automotive hearts, with men (and some women) quite literally strolling down memory lane, past the cars that defined their youth. The main event is in January, in Scottsdale, and then a slightly smaller affair is held in Palm Beach every March. If you were in the market for a Ferrari, this would not be your auction. Though exotic imports will pepper the grounds, these are wholehearted displays of American muscle.
97. Seek Power
Mecum Auctions is a big player in the pony and muscle-car market, so come here for Corvettes and Camaros. It has less flash than the others, but plenty of content, with auctions spread across the Midwest throughout the year.
98. Find Art
Legendary auction house Christie’s premier event is the Exceptional Motor Cars auction, featuring an exclusive group of about 50 classics. It’s held every August in Monterey, California, to coincide with the annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, and it is also held in Paris, in February, and in Connecticut, in June.
99. Look for Growth
RM Auctions runs an ever-growing number of events, including the Monterey Sports & Classic Car Auction, in August; a sale held in conjunction with the Amelia Island (Florida) Concours d’Elegance, in March; the Ferrari–Leggenda E Passione, in Maranello, Italy, in May; and Vintage Motor Cars, held the same weekend as Barrett-Jackson, at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa, in Phoenix.
100. Buy Insurance
Try Hagerty. It has no mileage limit and, like other classic insurers, uses “agreed value” instead of Blue Book plus depreciation. This means you assert the car‘s value and back it up with photos. If the car is totaled, the insurer will pay out the agreed value