Car Stuff 101

The car business has become like the computer business – things change fast. Models change – radically – every four years (and sometimes everythree) rather than once every eight (or ten) as they used to back in the ’90s and before. Features undreamed of or found heretofore only in very expensive/exotic cars are now as common as floor mats. What else has changed? And what else should you “hip” yourself to? Here are a few to chew on:

* For the first time ever, it may make more sense to lease – that is, to rent – rather than to buy.

Part of the reason for this is that the cost to buy is too high (for a growing number of people) and the car companies have had to resort to extreme measures to keep inventory from stacking up on DURA LUBE HL-40199-06 ... Buy New $9.37 (as of 03:35 EST - Details) dealers’ lots. Example: Very recently, GM would rent you a Volt electric car for just $200 a month. For the simple reason that very few people were buying $34,000 (to start) Volts. You do the math. How much would it cost you to chew down $34,000 over say six years vs. just renting the thing for $200 a month?

The principle applies generally. Take a look. See what’s available. It may well be that it makes more sense to rent rather than to buy. You’ll have a lower monthly payment; no worries about repairs (and possibly, maintenance; some contracts include routine maintenance as part of the deal). Drive a new vehicle more often.

Of course, you’ll also always have that monthly payment (rent). 3M Headlight Restorati... Best Price: $11.94 Buy New $13.08 (as of 08:10 EST - Details)

* A high-end oil change could save you money and will definitely save you hassle.

You’ve probably heard about extended oil change intervals – as long as 10,000 miles ormore (vs. the previous once every three-four months and 3,000 miles). Part of the reason for the increase has to do with the way modern engines are designed – and run. They’re built to closer tolerances for one and for two, they burn fuel very precisely. Much less of it ends up (unburned) in the oil, so the oil lasts longer.

The Rag Company (4-Pac... Buy New $17.95 (as of 07:15 EST - Details) Another big factor is the type of oil (and filter) you use. A non-synthetic “good quality” oil that meets basic specifications and filters will usually require more frequent changeouts; typically on the lower end of the manufacturer of your vehicle’s recommended intervals. It’s not the oil (or filters) are “bad.” They just aren’t designed to maintain their protection as long as high-end oil and filters. So, if you go with (to name names) a good but basic mineral oil such as Pennzoil and a Fram oil filter, you may need to change them out once or twice a year (or when you hit say 6,000 miles or so; read the service recommendations for your specific vehicle for exact time/mileage intervals). But if you go with a high-end oil (Amsoil, for instance) and filter (Wix, K&N) you may be able to safely extend the changeout interval to 10,000 miles – maybe even 15,000 miles.

Pros: You’ll deal with oil and filter changes less often – and your engine will enjoy the benefits of superior protection, especially at extremes of cold and heat – which ought to increase engine longevity as well as performance and economy.

Cons:  The up-front costs (of the high-end oil and filters) will, obviously, be higher. The best synthetic oils (such as Amsoil) typically cost about 30-40 percent more than a good quality standard mineral oil.

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