Fall into Winter Shoes for your Car

It’s fall…about to be winter.  You haven’t rotated or looked at your tires in a while.  Maybe you’ve always gone to the dealership for tires, or maybe you are like me and scrutinize the discount tires, tire rack or eBay looking for the best deal on tires and are a DIY kind of person.  No matter the case-it’s time to look at them!

By now, that little ugly light on your dashboard that looks like two parenthesis with an exclamation point inside of it in a beautiful amber or red color has already reared it’s head with the first temperature drop in your area…most likely when it went from 80 to 40 degrees like we did here in Texas a few weeks ago.  This is NOT the day to go to your friendly tire shop to start looking at tires, as the lines to air up tires and get these lights to go off are nuts.  Hopefully you’ve passed that first tire test of the season and you perhaps are rolling nicely this fall.  Let’s talk about your shoes for your car…

What do I need to know?  Rotate your tires every other oil change or every six months at the most.  Simple.

How do I know I need new tires, and what does 9/32, 5/32 or 2/32nd mean?  Plain and simple:  Most new tires are 10/32nd tread depth.  That’s how deep the “grooves” are in your tires’ tread.  5-6/32nds are about half worn and you will most likely need tires in a year or so.  Why is this important?  Grip on the road, handling in wet surfaces, gravel and all around terrain.  The lower the number the balder your tires.  If you see anything below a 4/32nd…it’s time to get new tires.  If you are a 2…you are bald.  Just like your head, bald is not cute.  Time to take action!

There are several ways to measure tread, my preferred and most tire shops, dealers and auto gurus use a tread measuring tool conveniently found anywhere you can buy automotive supplies, but you can also measure your tread the good ole’ fashioned way with a penny or quarter.  You can also go by mileage or just visually inspect your tires.  below I will illustrate all the methods.

On average, most tires today last ABOUT 30k miles.  That’s about two years of driving.  If you drive a minivan with thick cushy tires you may get 60k miles and if you drive a two seater with thin hard tires you most likely get 15k.  On average most of todays sedan and small SUV tires get about 30k miles or about two years based on a 15k average commute per year.  Some vehicles have larger tires in the rear than in the front-mainly sportier vehicles and this is called a staggered set up.  Typically they are more expensive and the ONLY way to rotate your tires is from side to side, which really doesn’t do much.  Some vehicles also have directional tires meaning they can only roll a certain direction and can only be rotated front to back, not all the way around.  If you have just normal every day tires that are the same size, it’s BEST if you can remember that every third time you rotate, tell them to go side to side not just front to back.

Thanks to companies like Discount Tire, they offer lots of education online and in store, which I borrowed below.  Also many companies now offer free air check, free TPMS light resets and free rotate/balance when you purchase tires from them.  If they don’t-maybe you should go to Discount Tire.  I’m not a paid employee nor do I receive any benefits from DT, but I will say they are one of the best.  Tirerack.com is great, Sams or Costco are great also.

Today’s blog won’t cover everything but I will say it is very common to have uneven wear on tires.  Most often you need an alignment.  It’s recommended to have an alignment at least once every 15k miles and every time you get a new set of tires.  The right balance on your tires can compensate for harsh roads, temperature variances, potholes air discrepancies and loads your vehicle might carry from time to time.  It’s also best to check different rows of tread on at least one front and one rear tire yourself to make sure your tires are wearing evenly.  I will cover that one in another blog.

So-let’s get to it…how to measure tread and what tread amounts require replacement.  Pictures tell a thousand words, so I’ll let you feast your eyes on these.  Till next time, keep the good times rolling!  Rolling with good tread that is.

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Valuable? Car Buying Experience

I recently helped a customer actually not buy a car from me, and they told me that it was such a great experience, proceeded to thank me.  Wow.

I’m in the business to sell cars.  Or are we?  I like to think the cars sell themselves and people just buy because they like me.  Reality check # 1:  It’s a mix of both perhaps.  Oh there’s a little thing called marketing and advertising, no it’s a real thing $$$$, but this is where value and perceived value come in to play.

By most consumer definitions value today seems to be more for less.  Or a sale, or something free, a gift with purchase.  Retailers have dubbed and pinged us so much based on our purchasing patterns that they can literally direct us into a store or restaurant to purchase WHENEVER they want, and we accept like card swiping robots. Value, however has a deeper meaning when you peel it back.  Not everything FREE is good.  What if you get a coupon AFTER you check out or after you visit the establishment and don’t have plans to go back any time soon or ever?   What if money did not drive you to purchase?  These throw the retailers into a spiral cash register tape tizzy when this happens, but it’s true.  Sometimes value is a “feeling”.  Yes I said it.  Value has feels.

From a price perspective in the dark ages, “value” used to be defined as satisfaction received by a consumer from a purchase, simplistically.  Harvard Business Review (HBR) goes further to say that value is even an extension of the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  HBR talks about the 30 Elements of Consumer Value, a great read BTW.  https://hbr.org/2016/09/the-elements-of-value  They further talk about The Elements of Value Pyramid which peaks at the Social Impact of Value, having self-transcendence with one after value goal is reached.

In a nutshell…when we get our value, we text, chat, InstaFaceBookSnapChatTweet about it!  We feel good.  And that’s what companies want-for consumers to “feel” value.  Feels.

Value Pyramid

At Luxury Car Source we are constantly discussing value with our customers.  Not just the price of our quality pre-owned vehicles, but knowledge, information feedback and expertise to help them make better purchasing decisions-even if it’s not buying from us. After all, we are in the people business.  Sometimes showing a customer value might mean cutting to the chase and letting them know that their time would be better served looking elsewhere because we are miles apart from a deal.  Educating customers where car manufacturers stamp their vehicle panels to show them truly if a vehicle has been in an accident or not, eliminating the uncertainty of purchasing a car with a bad history is valuable to them.  We try to teach and educate our consumers at least one new thing they did not know when we touch them.  We try to make sure their time and our time is not wasted.  We provide value by not adding any additional fees to our transactions, stay open late and even do business on Saturday and Sunday on given occasions.  But there is more…sometimes value is something that’s created during the exchange of information.

Back to the story I opened up with…a young lady expressed interest in a vehicle we had.  She told us she had poor credit, said she loved a vehicle we had.  She wanted to spend way more money than she could afford for our vehicle, and knows her credit would not allow her to get credit.  However I knew of lenders that deal with not so perfect credit and dealerships that sell these vehicles. I could have easily just sent her some links and numbers but a bit of finesse and real talk about her needs and wishes helped me direct her to a much less expensive vehicle that she could actually afford with cash, eliminating the need for 30% interest on a vehicle and also talking myself out of a sale of my vehicle I have in our inventory.  At the end, she told me it was the best non-buying experience she ever had and even asked me to help her with her next vehicle, as her credit is climbing and she would be back to see us.  All I did was talk to her about what she values the most and directed her. I’d like to think I did good work with her and she valued her experience even though she did not buy anything.

Value is fuzzy, subjective and differs from person to person.  It can save time, money, feel good, simplify or give options.  It can save your life, provide more fun in your life, feel rewarding, make you more attractive or allow access.  At the end of the day value helps us all self-transcend.

Old School Customer Service

What happened to a clerk in a store walking your bag around the counter to hand it to you after you purchased something?  How about a simple “can I help you” instead of updating their FB profile or never mind saying “thank you” after your purchase?  Do you often find yourself stuck with expectations you have for others that are consistently unmet?

Might I be bold to suggest to you to give them the give of coaching!  Some old school customer service schooling.

I recently purchased a luxury item done right and I felt like I made a million dollar purchase, yet it was only $5.  Hint:  It was hot and brown and had a green and white cup.  Conversely I paid thousands for a commodity type of good that could be purchased anywhere with hundreds of competitors and I felt like my business didn’t make a difference in theirs.  Solution?  Tell them!

In the customer service/sales business, you have to be bold.  You have to dare to be different and dare to make a change.  As a small business owner, you are only as good as your last month or last quarter or last customer you interacted with because tomorrow is never promised.  Whether you own your own company or work for a Fortune 100 enterprise each and every customer has a value to them.  Don’t you think it’s time to appreciate that value?

If you feel under-appreciated, done wrong or slighted-make some noise.  Social media is a great outlet to appropriately describe your problem and look for solutions.  BBB might be another outlet.  A simple interaction with management or a call to the businesses customer service hotline may also provide a great solution.  I’m not talking about just complaining to get something for free, either.  Nope.  I’m talking about giving them the gift of coaching to help make yours and others experiences better.

I am just one of millions that is taken advantage of, slighted, shorted, scammed or under-appreciated for money spent for goods and services.  It’s time to tip the table and speak up!  Be heard-don’t let the bad experience go unnoticed.  The old adage of not returning or not purchasing from the business is not effective enough these days-you have to be bold.  If you know how you want to be treated and it’s reasonable and customary for a consumer to get what you are asking for-tell them!  It may be the tipping point!

Mystery or History? What kind of gambler are you when it comes to buying a car?

Mystery or History? It’s your choice! Many vehicles today available for sale by individuals as well as dealerships can come with no history, essentially making them a mystery to the next owner. With all the wonderful resources at our fingertips today from carfax to autocheck to KBB to Edmunds to TrueCar there’s no reason why an educated consumer can’t have a little insight into what they are buying but is this enough?

I don’t think so. Buying a used vehicle today is multi-sensory. You need history on whether a vehicle had an accident or not, you need to check the title for salvage/lemon/flood and you certainly need maintenance history on the vehicle as well. In addition to this information which is all based on a report you can request, you also need to look at body panels (more on that later) and check under the hood and trunk for additional clues to the history of the vehicle.

I can’t reveal all the secrets in this blog, but I can give you some basics on where to start.

Accident, Lemon Buy-Back, Flood and Salvage History

CarFax, AutoCheck and other resources can cover a broad review as well as a detailed view of your next vehicles reported accident, flood, salvage or lemon buy-back (when a car manufacturer buys back your vehicle due to repeated issues and deemed a “lemon”).  These reports range from $29.99 to $54 and can also give different information on each, so it many cases it’s great to get both.  Additionally, looking at the title of a vehicle can tell a lot of information as well.  Buying a vehicle from someone whose name is not on the title could be a risk.  Buying a vehicle that has a “clear” title could mean that it has a rebuilt/salvage title as well.  Some states allow wrecked vehicles once deemed as “salvage” or a complete write-off from the insurance company as newly “rebuilt” vehicles which means they have been fixed and passed inspection.  There could be major issues still lurking under the repaired damage (concealed damage) and other issues may unravel down the road for the next owner.  While CarFax/AutoCheck can give you a good idea if a car has been involved in an incident, accidents don’t always get reported on these mediums.  In fact it is estimated that as much as 25% of all incidents do not get reported to these organizations for a multitude of reasons.  Just because your vehicle has a clean carfax does not necessarily mean it’s never been in an accident.  Conversely just because your vehicle has a claim on it (or incident) doesn’t necessarily mean it’s been in a wreck.  Two examples:  You get drunk, take the corner going into your street too fast, hit a curb, drive up on your lawn and drive your car into your own garage damaging the hood, wheels, fenders and undercarriage.  You were ashamed and embarrassed to report this to anyone and decided to not go through insurance to repair it, and pay cash to have a neighbor friend put cheap used parts on the car to get it fixed enough to sell it.  Using salvage yard parts, eBay parts from China and a non-certified body repair shop after hours your car gets “repaired” and no insurance claim is made.  No carfax reporting.  Let’s say you are parked in your car at starbucks and an old lady backs into you, freaks out and calls the police to report the damage and her insurance company.  You settle with her and get the car repaired at your local dealership using OEM genuine parts by certified body shop repair personnel, but unfortunately this will be reported to carfax.  In those two very different scenarios which vehicle would you like to purchase?

Other things such as inspecting all major body panels for tape marks, overspray, rough spots under them and trim pieces as well as gaps between panels can be indications a vehicle has been painted, but not necessarily “wrecked”.  Sometimes we get a car painted due to hail, rock chips, road debris, animals or other things that can damage vehicles but are not accident related.  Also body panels should have a VIN sticker on them showing they are original parts to the vehicle.  All the stickers should match.  If you open a hood on a car and suspect it’s been painted due to bubbles in the paint, overspray and tape marks underneath where they masked it off, and look under the hood and don’t see a VIN sticker, safety warning sticker or emissions sticker then you probably have a hood that’s been replaced.  Replaced body parts CAN indicate an accident but not necessarily 100% of the time-hail for example.  Without the proper documentation on the panels, my bet would be it’s a substandard or used/salvage yard part, not an original OEM genuine new part.

In summary there are many ways to verify a vehicle’s accident history-from carfax to feeling body panels for looking at the title and body panels.  Be sure you check them all out to be as informed as possible!

Consumer Reports, JD Power & Associates, Edmunds, KBB as well as the original books, manufacturer’s websites, forums and even the original window sticker can also be great resources of information for your next vehicle!  If it has the original window sticker and books and all accessories, chances are the previous owner(s) cared for this car!

Service and Maintenance History

Most dealerships do not offer service/maintenance history on their vehicles and you’d be lucky if the dealership can even tell you what they did to the vehicle after they purchased it.  Many dealerships simply wash and vacuum their vehicles after they buy them and put them out on their lot.  Some do a comprehensive reconditioning spending thousands on aesthetic and mechanical refurbishment of their vehicles they sell.  Individuals may or may not have been as detailed with their vehicle but in most cases an individual should have some service history on the vehicle.

On every vehicle there are manufacturer’s recommended service intervals.  A, B, C or 15k, 30k, 60k, 90k or sometimes they go by years.  Whatever the case may be, it would be ideal if you could have some type of knowledge of what has been done over the years to properly maintain the vehicle you are about to purchase to hedge bets on what service you will have to complete after you purchase it.  Why?  To avoid costly repairs!  For example:  You buy a Toyota from a dealership that is nine years old.  It’s never had the transmission fluid changed.  You drive it home and the transmission slips and eventually fails on you, costing you $4k in repairs.  If you had known that the fluid had never been changed in nine years on that vehicle, do you think you wold have purchased it?

Brakes, tires, serpentine belts (drive belts), hoses, batteries, wipers, bulbs are all common things that would be ideal to find out about but oftentimes can be replaced somewhat reasonably and not at a dealership.  I would call these “wear and tear” items.  Other components such as radiators, timing belts/chains, power steering system, transmissions, starting system (battery/alternator/starter), emissions (spark plugs/exhaust/intake) suspension (shocks/struts/control arms), drivetrains (rear or front differential) are all major components that can and will eventually need to be serviced and/or replaced.  Most of the manufacturers today recommend all fluids in the vehicle be changed and all filters be changed at a certain interval.  Failure to do so could lead to defects and eventually failure of any of the above systems on your vehicle.  It’s nice to have some history on the vehicle you are buying, even if it’s just recent.  If you are looking at a vehicle and there is no history, plan on spending a good amount of money “catching up” with the maintenance that was neglected by the previous owner and you should plan your purchase price accordingly.  Some items are very expensive…shocks, rotors (brakes), power steering racks, transmissions, radiators, timing belts can start at the $1k range and go up to $5k for a transmission.  If you have light or limited history, maybe just some oil changes and tires/batteries, plan on setting aside some money as well for major component services as well.  The BEST scenario would be to find a vehicle that has had the major services done on it, or at least some of them.  Buying a 90k or 100k mile vehicle is not scary or a risk if it’s been properly maintained at all the major service intervals.  Conversely you could purchase a 50k mile vehicle out of warranty and it’s never had any major components serviced and you could be looking at a major risk.

Some vehicles, such as Lexus have an online portal for customers to view service history on their vehicle based on their VIN number.  This allows owners to keep track as well as plan out their maintenance on their vehicle.  Are you good with people?  If so, be nice to your service advisor at your dealership and ask them to check history on a vehicle for you or to print out your vehicle’s service history to help sell it when you are getting ready to.  Having the information that your vehicle has been properly serviced can only add value to it and help you sell it quicker.  On the other side of the coin, a vehicle that has a well documented history of service should be worth more than one that does not, however not all car buyers are aware of the costs and risks associated with buying a mystery car with no service history.  I do, and this is why I am sharing this with you.

At Luxury Car Source, we don’t sell vehicles that have been in accidents, had any salvage or flood or lemon buy back issues.  We only sell non-accident, clean title and carfax vehicles.  We only sell vehicles with full or partial service history on them and we go through each of our vehicles with a comprehensive 160pt checkup when we buy them looking at everything from tires to brakes to fluids and filters and wipers before we sell them.  Our typical cost of refurbishing our new vehicles we get is $1-$1,500.  Money that you could certainly save by purchasing a “mystery” vehicle.  However, the $1k you may save in the short term pails in comparison to a radiator leak costing you $1500 and later a power steering rack replacement of $1200 just because the mystery vehicle you thought was a good deal had never been serviced properly.  Think about it…do you want your next vehicle to be a mystery one, or one with history?  Your choice!

Visit http://www.luxurycarsource.com to see plenty of fantastic pre-owned Lexus, Mercedes, BMW and Infiniti vehicles with a great history!

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Careless Car Habits, A Multi-Blog Series of Habits that Deteriorate and Diminish Your Car’s Value

Other than distracted driving which includes (but not limited to) texting, talking, smoking and driving while impaired/tired there are many mindless habits we do in our cars.

We are all guilty of them, some more dangerous than others. Some habits shorten the life of your vehicle some diminish the value or aesthetic appeal.  Let’s face it your vehicle takes a beating already from the sun, the road, the rain, salt, snow, ice and other driver’s.  Not to mention the occasional passer-by who scrapes your car with their purse or box they are carrying too close to your mirror or car door.  Trees, acid rain, the paint truck driving in front of you and freshly repaired patches with tar in the road are not friends either.  How about those bugs?  They love your car!  Unfortunately a little too much as they can permanently damage your car’s exterior.  Let’s not cause additional damage to our vehicles by inducing harm to them ourselves.  I would like to take you on a journey through a multi-blog series talking about mindless habits that we all can avoid to maintain the pristine condition of our vehicles.

Some things to think about the next time you get into or park your four wheeled friend:

Give Me a Door Ding, Please

Parking next to that old beater with dents all over it, filthy dirty is probably an indication that the owner/driver not only doesn’t care about their own car, but they certainly do not care about yours!  Avoid this common mistake and park away from them!  Tight spot?  Don’t do it!  Find another parking spot with more room.  Typically doors need at least 36″ to open and get a body out of the door.  If your door has large mirrors (truck, van, suv) or a large armrest inside, it may require more room to swing the door open or to get yourself out of the car.  Park closer to the car on the left of you, because you can control your door and more than likely the car to the left of you will have only one door opening (the driver) not someone entering/exiting on the passenger’s side.  If you can, find a spot that is adjacent to a handicapped parking spot or at the end or close to a curb/median or natural divider in the parking lot.  Avoid parking next to large trucks, suvs and vans as many times their large mirrors and easily ding your vehicle when they open the door.  Sound too OCD and anal?  Just a door ding?  They add up!  I recently paid $250 wholesale cost to my paintless dent repair expert to take out five dings on a car.  The deeper the ding, the more expensive.  If a ding has a crease in it or has cracked the paint, chances are you will have to paint your car, which is almost certain to have a negative effect on the value of your vehicle.  Taking small precautions in the parking lot can have a big payoff.

Bolster Blunders

Do you find yourself “plopping” into your cars seats?  Or do you shuffle or slide into the seat right to left?  If you do, chances are you are scuffing up what’s called the driver’s seat bolster area.  This is the far left part of your driver’s seat and is the most common damage to any leather interior.  Simple fix for this:  Get into your vehicle more carefully and slowly.  Place your right leg first into the vehicle over the left side of the seat, not touching it.  When your right leg is all the way in, you should be able to enter your left left right on top of the seat rather than sliding or plopping down, eliminating the chance of scuffing that seat.  If you wear studded jeans or pants or consistently wear belts you may also be doing harm to your bolster.  Sound too complicated?  Then move your seat back more and allow more room to get in.  On luxury cars you have settings like 1, 2 and 3 on the side of the door or seat.  Program 1 for your driving settings and 2 for your loved one and perhaps 3 would be for entering the car…slide it all the way back to allow for maximum room to get in and over that seat bolster.  Most seat repairs cost $250-$300 at dealerships to redye or touch up the seats.  With just a little more careful entrance to your vehicle you can avoid unsightly seat wear and unnecessary costs to your vehicles maintenance.  While we are talking about seats, if you have a light tan or gray leather seat, remember leather is porous.  If you wear a dark dye pair of your favorite True Religion or Seven Jeans or a fresh black leather jacket, chances are you may be bleeding that dye onto your porous light leather!  Remove it by spraying a little Simple Green sparingly on the leather reduced by 50% with water and a horsehair brush or soft brush.  If you let is sit too long, the leather may be permanently dyed with those favorite jeans or jacket color!

Windshield Scrapers

Windshields typically cost $600-$1k to replace.  From rock chips to salt to stars they can take a beating.  Why add to that?  Letting your windshield wipers get too low or tear and operating them with the metal scraping against your glass is a sure way to ruin your windshield.  Wipers cost $5.00 at Wal-Mart each–why take that chance?  Additionally using something OTHER than a windshield ice scraper like credit card or something else to scrape that ice or frost or snow off your car can be dangerous.  Lastly use Rain-X, Invisible Glass as cleaners and buff/wax your windshield a couple times a year when you wax the rest of your car to keep that windshield free of bugs, tar and other contaminants.  Have a kitty cat or lap dog that loves to ride in the car?  Don’t let them climb on your car or get in your lap close to the windshield!  Cat or dog claw marks can really scratch up a windshield!  If you happen to scratch your windshield badly with any of the aforementioned culprits try buffing them out with wax or rubbing compound.  For serious scratches professional detailers can take it out with an orbital buffer and believe it or not whitening toothpaste with baking soda in it!  Leave that one to the pros if you have never tried it.

Stay tuned for our next series of bad habits:  Tire Thriftiness, Sunscreen, Salt and Pepper, Heel Hole, Parasitic Drains, Remotion Commotion, Sticky Situations, Toxic Towels and Abrasive Cleaners

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