Jul 24

Five Common Stick Shift Myths

Although stick shift cars are nowhere near as popular as they once were, accounting for less than 7% of new cars sold this year, plenty of diehard fans still exist, eager to defend manuals as superior and more desirable than their automatic counterparts.  Unfortunately, many of the reasons devoted drivers use to support stick shifts never were, or no longer are, accurate.

The following are five common stick shift myths:

  1. Cars with manual transmission always get better fuel economy than cars with automatics. While this is generally true, many automatic cars now offer similar, if not better, fuel economy than manuals as a car’s fuel-efficiency is dependent on several factors, not just its transmission.
  2.  A car with a manual transmission costs less than the same model with an automatic.  Today, many manual and automatic vehicles cost about the same; that is, if you can even find a manual version of the vehicle. More than 64% of 2012 models on the market are only sold as automatics.
  3. The coolest sports cars only come with manual transmissions. Many sports car manufacturers, including Porsche and Lamborghini, provide customers the choice of an automatic or a manual.  However, several other carmakers like Ferrari only offer automatics in certain models.
  4. If your dream car comes with a standard manual transmission, you can always get an automatic as an option.  Just like myth #3, this is not true either.  A small group of cars, mostly sport vehicles, only offer manual transmissions, including the Ford Shelby GT500, Mazdaspeed3, and Volkswagen Golf R.    It’s best to research available transmissions before falling in love with a new car.
  5. Teenagers really, really want to learn to drive stick shifts.  This is definitely not the case anymore.  Since manuals are not as common, teenagers have little need or desire to learn how to drive one.

Stick shifts may not be as popular or as desirable today, but one factor remains the same…they are without a doubt fun to drive!  Plus, knowing how to drive a manual is still an important skill, particularly if you are caught in a situation where the only car available is one with a stick.  So while myths abound concerning stick shifts, fans still have reason to love the manual. 

Jul 12

What Consumers Need to Know About Automotive Quality Reports

Many factors should be considered when researching a car purchase including fuel efficiency, size, and available features but quality is generally the most significant element drivers use to make their final decision.  Recently, J.D. Power and Associates released their 26th annual Initial Quality Study (IQS), a quantitative report on vehicle quality and reliability using data pulled from recent car buyer surveys.  How important are these types of quality studies though and what is the right way to use them?

The first quality study was developed by J. David Power, a former Ford analyst, in 1970, revolutionizing the automotive industry.  Today, J.D. Power and Associates is the leader in quality research, surveying tens of thousands of consumers annually.  Their Initial Quality Study, which measures out-of-the-box quality by measuring vehicle issues over the first few months of ownership, has become the manufacturer standard.

However, the IQS only provides one measure of vehicle quality and therefore should not be the only study shoppers use in their decision-making process.   J.D. Power, as well as other research firms, produce several additional studies that may actually provide more relevant data for consumers.  For example, J.D. Power’s Vehicle Dependability Study analyses a vehicle’s condition after three years.   This information is helpful as three years is generally when a vehicle’s factory warranty will run out.

The question of what matter most, things-gone-wrong or things-gone-right, is also causing debate in the industry.  Current quality studies only take into consideration vehicle problems but with quality at an all-time high and the gaps between manufactures shrinking, these studies are becoming less and less useful.

The bottom line is that quality reports are reliable and helpful tools in comparing makes and models for significant manufacturing issues but they do not provide a complete picture of a vehicle’s overall quality.  Taking the time to study several industry reports will produce the best research results and provide car shoppers a comprehensive analysis, helping to ensure the car they end up purchasing meets all their requirements and lasts for many years to come.

 

Jul 05

Driving Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Hybrid

Excellent fuel economy is the cornerstone of hybrid vehicles but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to improve those figures even more.  By following a few simple tips, hybrid owners can truly maximize their cars efficiency.

First, hybrid drivers should understand the benefits of a continuously-variable transmission (CVT) and how to use it to their advantage.  Accelerating with the engine, and then once the desired speed is reached, switching to electric mode for cruising will use the least amount of gas and electricity.

Stop reading text messages and start reading the road.  By paying attention to what’s happening ahead of you, you’ll be able to back off the gas pedal earlier and brake more gently.  This will allow the regenerative braking system, which almost all hybrids use, to supply more power back to the battery.

Also be sure to use accessories in moderation.  In saying this, feel free to crank up the air-conditioner in the middle of summer, but opt out of it on cooler summer days.  In addition, by putting your hybrid in “eco” mode, air conditioning and other accessory settings will be changed so they use less power.

One final tip is to use EV modes the right way.  Even though Toyota says the Prius can only get up to 25 mph in EV mode, it can run in EV mode up to 40 mph if you accelerate with the gas and then back off and cruise in EV.

Keep in mind that these driving techniques should help, but that mileage gained will vary.  Some weeks you may achieve figures better than EPA estimates and others you may not.  Test out these tips to see which one applies best to maximizing fuel efficiency of your hybrid.

Jun 27

Edmunds’ 15 Best Used Cars to Buy

Car buyers in the market for quality used cars have struggled over the last year due to inventory shortages as a result of the economy and the lack of trade-ins.  Recently however, the used car market has been on an upswing with more cars available resulting in lower prices.  Plus, vehicle quality is reaching an all-time high.

“Almost a million more used vehicles will be added to the industry this year as a result of more trade-ins on new-car sales,” said Ricky Beggs, auto analyst at Black Book USA. “This is a significant driver of lower prices, combined with additional rental cars being sold at auction and dealers preparing for the coming 2013 models.”

To help consumers take advantage of growing used car inventories, Edmunds compiled a list of the 15 best used cars.  Limited to vehicles between two and seven years old, each used car was evaluated on reliability, safety, value, and availability.

Edmunds “Best Used Cars” are as follows:

  • Compact Sedan: 2005-2010 Hyundai Elantra
  • Midsize Sedan: 2005-2010 Nissan Altima
  • Large Sedan: 2006-2010 Hyundai Azera
  • Coupe: 2005-2010 BMW 3 Series
  • Convertible: 2005-2010 Mazda Miata
  • Wagon: 2005-2010 Pontiac Vibe
  • Compact SUV/Crossover: 2005-2010 Honda CR-V
  • Midsize SUV/Crossover: 2005-2010 Ford Explorer
  • Large SUV/Crossover: 2005-2010 Chevrolet Tahoe
  • Minivan/Van: 2005-2010 Honda Odyssey
  • Compact Truck: 2005-2010 Toyota Tacoma
  • Large Truck: 2005-2010 Ford F-150
  • Luxury: 2005-2010 Infiniti G35/G37
  • Hybrid: 2005-2010 Toyota Prius
  • Sport Compact: 2005-2010 Subaru Impreza WRX

 

Which one of these used models strikes your fancy?  Contact Pfeiffer Used Cars for more information on these or any used car model or stop by their Grand Rapids dealership to take a test drive.

Jun 21

Best Used Cars for Grads

With graduation season behind us, many young adults are in the market for a “new” used car to get them back and forth from their recently acquired first jobs or for that vital job interview question regarding reliable transportation.  To help narrow the used car field down, AutoTrader.com compiled a list of the top five “Best Used Cars for Recent Grads” based on reliability and affordability.

Toyota Matrix – A standout in the small car class for its optional all-wheel-drive powertrain, the Matrix provides superior function and economy.  The redesigned 2009 or newer model years are recommended, with several low mileage options available.

Mazda2 – The fun-to-drive and fuel efficient Mazda2 was only introduced in North America in 2010 but quality used models are still available, many under $16,000.  Drivers love its comfortable and stylish design and city drivers appreciate its compact size, making parking a breeze.

Ford Ranger – The versatile Ford Ranger is great for active grads, as well as those who may need to move several times.  Several model configurations are available providing the perfect mix of power, roominess and affordability.

Volvo C30 – Being both sporty and fuel efficient, the Volvo C30 is a great option for the grad on a limited budget who doesn’t want to compromise on style.  With its distinctive, retro-inspired glass hatch and available turbocharged engine, the C30 acts more like a sporty coupe than the reliable and versatile hatchback it truly is.

Honda Element – Grads looking for utility will love the Honda Element.  Providing the space of an SUV without being too big, the Element is perfect for the adventurist or just someone who wants extra space and ruggedness.  Plus, as a Honda, the Element exudes reliability.

Want to learn more about these or any other used vehicle perfect for new graduates?  Stop by Pfeiffer Used Cars in Grand Rapids to speak to one of their friendly sales associates who will be happy to help you find the perfect “new” used car for the road ahead.

Jun 19

Tips on Finding a Great Mechanic

In the summer, many of us take frequent, long road trips to visit family and friends. When packing for these trips, it is easy to forget to check up on one essential item: your car. A quick trip to a good mechanic will save break downs and car troubles when traveling this summer. Here are some tips on finding a great mechanic near you.

Find a mechanic before you might need one. Waiting until your car breaks down is definitely too late and is not safe for your family. If your car is under warrantee, head to the dealership to get a free or highly discounted service. If not, independent shops are definitely a cheaper option.

If you are looking for a good, independent shop, ask your friends and family. These references are more reliable then the phone book or online. It is also helpful to talk to other people who own the same model of car. Check out the classifieds or find an Internet forum for your car.

If you have a more modern car, make sure the service shop you choose has the right equipment. Special tools may be needed to diagnose certain problems on some advanced systems. Ask the mechanic what equipment they plan on using on the car and if it is tailored to the specific make or model. It also does not hurt to ask about what types of parts they plan on using and why. Factory parts are the best option for your car, but aftermarket parts are used often to save the customer money.

Read reviews. There are plenty out there and the information is accurate and honest. Also, look for certifications and memberships. ASE Automotive Service Excellence certification means that mechanics must pass knowledge tests, so you can ensure that the mechanics know what they are doing. ASA Automotive Service Association members must pledge to uphold certain ethics such as having excellent customer service and performing high-quality service.

Look for shops with a customer satisfaction guarantee. Make sure the shop you choose takes customer complaints and satisfaction seriously. If they are not willing to back up their work, they are probably not going to treat the car right. If you have more time, find a mechanic that specializes in your car. You will probably end up receiving better service since your type of car is what they know best.

Finally, do not be afraid to ask questions. The mechanic should be able to answer anything you ask without much attitude. If they blow you off or do not break down complicated concepts, you may want to consider finding someone else. Do your homework, find a great mechanic, and make sure to have your car serviced this summer.

Jun 06

Driving Tips Courtesy of the U.S. Postal Service

With the unofficial start of summer behind us and many people preparing to hit the roads, the U.S. Postal Service’s ‘Million Milers’ were asked to provide some tips for safe driving.  Who better to learn about safe driving tactics than from the thousands of postal employees who have driven over a million accident-free miles.

Since 2005, over 7,000 members of the U.S. Postal Service, the world’s largest civilian fleet, have each achieved ‘Million Miler’ status, which also requires 30 years of service and a safe attitude.   No other business comes close to this level of safety and dedication.

Orchard Park NY mail carrier and ‘Million Miler’ Nancy Pillard, says safety begins before she even begins her trip. “I make sure my vehicle is in complete operative condition every day,” she said. “I identify and report repair work for lights, tires, wipers and mirrors and I then make sure that the repairs are done ASAP.”

Additional tips from ‘Million Mile Drivers’ include:

  • Drive defensively — expect the unexpected
  • Maintain a safe distance of one car length for every 10 mph between you and the car in front of you.
  • Be courteous, use turn signals and obey all laws.
  • Keep your options open — have a ‘what do I do if I’m cut off’ strategy.
  • Turn off mobile devices when driving — no cell phones or texting.

Need help making sure your vehicle is ready for summer vacation plans?  Contact Pfeiffer Used Cars & Quick Lane to schedule a service appointment today!

May 30

Is Your Car Ready for Summer?

Hot summer weather can put a lot of extra stress on a vehicle’s mechanical systems and components.  Taking the time and effort to prepare your car, truck or SUV now will help save you from unexpected and costly repairs later.  Below are several helpful tips to make sure you and your vehicle are ready for the long, hot summer days ahead. 

Remove Snow Tires – Snow tires work best when snow is on the ground and will get worn out much faster on dry roads.  It’s best to have two sets of tires or all-season tires if you don’t want to have to change them. 

Check Tire Pressure – Tire pressure is a critical factor to ensuring safe driving conditions and also in increasing the life of your tires and improving gas mileage.  Hot temperatures may require you to adjust your tires pressure and improperly inflated tires can heat up more quickly and cause a blow-out. 

Change Engine Oil and Adjust Viscosity Grade – Oil viscosity, or thickness, can thin out in warmer weather leaving your engine improperly lubricated.  Changing to thicker oil during the summer will help keep your engine running properly.  Check your owner’s manual for oil recommendations based on climate or discuss with your mechanic to determine the proper oil grade for your vehicle. 

Inspect Belts and Hoses – While most belts and hosed can last a long time, it is always good to have them checked, and replaced if needed, especially if you plan on taking a long trip. 

Inspect Wipers and Wiper Fluid – Visibility is crucial to safe driving, especially during summer storms.  Make sure your wipers are not dried out and replace them if they are over a year old.  Also make sure your wiper fluid is topped off. 

Check the Battery – Hot weather can add additional stress to a battery.  If your battery is more than three years old, have it tested, and if you don’t know how old it is, consider replacing it.   Also make sure there is no corrosion present. 

Check Coolant/Antifreeze Mixture – Test your radiator to make sure the proper mixture of 50:50 water to coolant is present to ensure proper function. 

Carry an Emergency Kit Inside Your Car – You never know when something might go wrong, therefore it is always a good idea to carry the following items: 

  • Flashlight, Flares and a First-Aid Kit
  • Jumper Cables
  • Extra Clothes and Gloves
  • Paper Towels
  • Extra Washer Fluid
  • Food and Water
  • Basic Tools like Wrenches, a Ratchet and Sockets, Screwdrivers, and Pliers or Vise-Grips

Need help with any of the tips listed above?  Contact Pfeiffer Used Cars & Quick Lane to schedule a service appointment today!

May 25

Is it Time to Call a Professional?

Knowing when to contact a professional is the best medicine for a broken vehicle.  While many simple car repair and maintenance items can be completed at home with the right tools and instructions, there are several more complicated fixes that are best left to trained technicians.  Below are the top ten repairs, chosen by the readers of Jalopnik.com, an auto industry and car website, and why it’s best to skip the do-it-yourself route. 

#10 Changing a Clutch – requires removal of engine

#9 Repairing or Recharging an Air Conditioner – numerous components and dangerous high pressure systems

#8 Working with or Around Airbags – best left to someone with significant training due to presence of explosive charge

#7 Replacing a Windshield – requires precision and ability to handle a large heavy piece of glass

#6 Rebuilding a Differential – gears need to be aligned very precisely to function properly

#5 Body Work – if you want it to look right, leave body work to those who know what they are doing

#4 Mounting and Balancing Tires – requires expensive equipment and training to balance correctly

#3  Repairing an Automatic Transmission – complicated and requires high precision

#2  Straightening a Frame – simply unrealistic

#1 Electrics – highly complex and potentially dangerous

Need any of these repairs completed on your vehicle?  Contact the service department at Pfeiffer Used Cars to schedule an appointment today!

May 22

Most Underappreciated Cars & Trucks

Cars.com recently compiled a list of the Top 10 Underappreciated Cars and Trucks, or those vehicles they feel should be more popular based on their significance and quality.  While their choices are not necessarily poor sellers, they have not reached their full potential based on Cars.com’s assessment, and therefore may provide those in the market for a new or used vehicle an excellent deal. 

Ford Flex – This roomy 7-passenger SUV is outsold by the more recognizable Ford Explorer yet offers more cargo and passenger space including impressive headroom and legroom. 

Suzuki Kizashi – The fun-to-drive Kizashi is an unknown gem in the midsize car class with an upscale interior, high-tech features, and both front and all-wheel drive options. 

Mazdas – Unfortunately Mazda’s lineup, while delivering on their fun-to-drive promise, have not reached American consumers on the level they certainly deserve.  A few of Cars.com’s favorites have included the RX-7, 323, Protégé and Mazda3.  “Wake up, America!”

Kia Optima – Cars.com’s Best of 2011, the midsize Optima provides a stylish, high-quality design with numerous standard features. 

Hyundai Genesis – Introduced in 2009, the Genesis is a true luxury sedan but priced well below most of the competition, while still offering both a V6 and V8 engine option and the upscale features one would expect in a luxury vehicle. 

Nissan Quest – In the competitive minivan class, the Quest is a standout in both looks and quality but has had to build a following from scratch.

Dodge Challenger – Cars.com’s 2012 Shopper’s Choice, the retro Challenger brings comfort, space and cargo room to the sports car class. 

Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen – The versatile SportWagen, Jetta’s roomier cousin, provides ample passenger and cargo space while remaining fun-to-drive like the sedan.  Cars.com particularly loves the clean-diesel TDI version. 

Chevrolet Avalanche – Providing 8,100 pounds of towing capacity in either a full-length truck or 5-passenger SUV, the Avalanche has the versatility and power to make any truck buyer happy.  Unfortunately it has not caught on and the 2013 model year will be its last.   

Chevrolet Volt – The misrepresented Volt plug-in deserves more success than it has earned so far, and GM’s sales expectations may have been too high, but don’t discount this green car. 

 

To learn more about these excellent, but sadly underappreciated vehicles, contact Pfeiffer Used Cars or stop by their Grand Rapids dealership to find the perfect car, truck, or SUV to fit your needs!