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March 2012
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Expert Automotive Information
by Randall & Sherry Reed

Q: Dear Randall,
We are looking to get a second car that is more fuel-efficient. What should we be looking for to ensure what is best for us? We like the idea of an electric car, but we drive a lot and do a lot of road trips, so that offers some potential concerns. Any ideas, would be great!
~ Higher MPG for Me in Texas

A: Higher MPG for Me,
This is a question many are facing. Everyone wants to get more for the MPG, but it's key that you look at what your needs are versus what savings your would like to achieve. Is a smaller car right for you? Does your family require a mid-size sedan? Is an SUV a must have? Or, is a truck a requirement. The good news is that no matter what your needs there are now better choices available to help you save. Here are just a few things to keep in mind.
1. Evaluate vehicle needs/desires. Sit down with any other drivers and/or family member and think about what you need in a vehicle and what the various options are.
2. Trade offs.  Think about the trade-offs between fuel economy and vehicle size you want/require.
3. Safety matters. When shopping for a fuel-efficient vehicle, make sure you keep weight and safety of the vehicle(s) you are considering in mind. However, don't forget the fact that demographics don't necessarily tell the entire story.
4. EPA ratings.  As you probably know, automakers are required to post their vehicles' fuel-economy ratings as certified by the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on the window sticker. The only exception is for vehicles having gross-vehicle-weight ratings over 8,500 pounds. The info provides the miles per gallon estimate for city and highway driving. It also estimates the fuel economy range that most drivers achieve with that specific model. Remember: Fuel economy is not set in stone. Depending on what, how and where you drive can make a HUGE difference.
5. EV Power! There are now several electric vehicle (EV) options on the market. For many, the purchase price, battery range and charging time are the three biggest drawbacks when pondering an EV. While the range of a conventional car is typically 300 miles or more before having to stop for gas, an electric vehicle (varies with each vehicle) tends to be shorter. While gas stations are easy to find, public charging stations can be more of a challenge. The good news is that there are a flurry popping up across America.  It's good to look at what is available in your area. Another consideration… recharge time. Many take hours to fully recharge, so it's important to factor that into how you drive. Last, many wonder about battery life and the cost to replace it. Again, what each manufacturer offers can be different but most provide a warranty. So, ask what they provide and the cost, should you ever have to pay to replace it yourself.
6. Mixing it up. Gas/electric hybrid cars and trucks combine the benefits of gas engines and electric motors. There are different types of hybrids available. Basics: These vehicles have a battery pack that gets charged from excess engine energy and braking with an electric powertrain alongside a traditional gas engine. When the car needs extra power, the electric powertrain draws on the batteries to help turn the wheels. Hybrids typically get better mileage, produce lower emissions than a gasoline counterpart and can be especially economical in traffic. Again, it's key to ask how your hybrid works, what makes it different, savings and about any additional cost you could incur down the road.
7. Diesel? Yes, it's an option. It may seem like it wouldn't be a choice, but diesel engines can get 20 to 30 percent better mileage than gas engines.
8. More out of gas! If you'd rather stay with a traditional gasoline engine there are a myriad of awesome options available to you, and you don't have to settle for a teeny, tiny car that seems more like a golf cart. Automakers are creating cars, SUVs and trucks that give you more MPG for your money. There are a number of gas vehicles that offer space, luxury and you can still get 30 to 40 MPG. There are even a variety of trucks on the market that offer upwards of 20 MPG.
The bottom line: Do your homework, ask questions, shop around and make sure you get the right vehicle for the right price that will be right for you today and down the road.

Q: Dear Sherry,
I have a car that is about 3 years old. I keep it in pretty good shape, but I'm wondering if there is anything I can do to save more money on gas.
~ Seeking Gas Savings in Texas

A: Seeking Gas Savings,
There are lots of things you can do to save gas. You can look online to find a ton of gas-saving tips. Below are seven simple car-care tips you can do to start saving immediately.
1. Use a lower-octane gas. Mind you, this only applies IF your car doesn't require a higher grade, so be sure to check your vehicle guide. However, for those that don't Buy the lowest grade or octane of gasoline that is appropriate for your car. Unless your car requires a premium fuel, filling up with high-octane gasoline can be a waste of money.
2. Check your cap! Not all vehicles have caps these days, but if yours does, gas can and will evaporate if your cap is loose, damaged and, of course, missing.
3. Get pumped. If you are driving on under inflated tires, not only are you wearing them down a lot faster, you are also lowering your MPG by as much as 15 percent!
4. Stay in tune. If your car requires a tune up, don't put it off. Did you know that a misfiring spark plug can reduce your vehicle's efficiency by as much as 30 percent?
5. Filter savings. It's important to replace your air filters regularly. If your engines air filter gets clogged, it makes the engine worker harder. That means it's less fuel-efficient and that can quickly add up to a heftier bill at the pump more often. According to the Car Care Council, you should change your vehicles air and oil filters every three months or 3,000 miles. When in doubt, it's best to check your owner's manual out.
6. Oil aware. People may not think about it, but using the right oil can help you save, too! Make sure you use the manufacturer's recommended grade of motor oil. You can also look for motor oils that have the words "energy conserving" on the API performance label. This means oil contains friction-reducing additives. Again, check your manual or with your mechanic if you're unsure of what oil is right for your vehicle.
7. Stay cool… As the temps start to rise, it heats up your car quick. That means your gas tank, too. What does that mean to you? More evaporation. So, opt for the shade or covered parking whenever possible.


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Published by Randall Reed
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