Archive for September, 2012
Experiencing the charming realm of a caravan holiday is hugely stress-reducing, and caravanning is a simple and easy way of going bush with a few of the extra creature comforts that can make the adventure that much more laid-back and comfortable. If you’ve ever had the chance to camp, most of you will agree that the relaxing times in tents and caravans, away from technology, can be one of the best ways to recharge your body batteries. Caravans offer much more comfort and shelter than a tent, and they can be kitted out with everything that you need for camping. So, when the time comes to head away, you just hook up the caravan and away you go.
Touring Australia by caravan is the best way, I reckon. Although, my love of motorcycling is hard to flick off. The right car for the job is a big must. Not just any vehicle is going to be happy towing a caravan, so you’re advised to check what the vehicle manufacturer says your vehicle can tow. If you want to tackle some of the more remote areas, which will inevitably mean you’ll travel Outback roads and tracks, then a 4×4 like a Nissan Patrol, Land Rover Discovery or Toyota Land Cruiser will do the job, no probs. Your caravan will also need to be up to the task of travelling off the tarmac, and there are plenty of very good caravan designs which are suitable for off-road work. Roadstar Caravans and Creative Caravans are two examples of Australian caravan manufacturers who make a super nice caravan that can withstand the rigours of off-road work.
If the idea of getting lost in the Outback is not for you, then caravanning the coast of Australia is easy-as, and can be done in your Holden Cruze or Toyota Corolla – even, as long as you stick with towing lightly designed caravans. Just think: cheap accommodation, your own bed, own food and you can even get up and leave when you want to. Now that sounds relaxing!
What to do when nature calls? If your caravan doesn’t have a built in bathroom and toilet, then the best way to cater for heading off to the loo is by using one of the vast array of portable toilets. These are very easy and cheap to buy at any outlet that sells camping gear. Even Kmart will have one. A spade in the boot is the next best option. You can use this for digging a long drop – and when you get your vehicle stuck the spade is a must have.
Having a good supply of fresh clean drinking water and plenty of easy-to-make meals is a good idea. Take some candles for lighting purposes, as thay are not only simple and easy to use, they create a romantic atmosphere to you caravan interior as you sit sipping wine and watching the red sun set. Sometimes Australia can get really cold, particularly overnight. Do make sure that you have a good supply of blankets and warm clothing. A good Australian atlas is a must, especially one that will show you where the caravan parks, camping areas and 4WD tracks are – not to mention fuel outlets. If the track you care to take will take you to the never-nevers, then it’s wise to let someone know your whereabouts and your expected time of arrival. An emergency kit with anti-venom and a cell phone are other really important items.
Whatever the vehicle is that you are using for towing the caravan, make sure that you are up-to-date with its servicing. The last thing you want is a break down in the middle of nowhere. Checking the condition of the caravan is important, too. The chassis, wheel bearings and tyres are the key areas to keep in good nick. Carrying some tools and materials for emergency repairs is a wise idea – depending on how ‘go bush’ you will be going.
Heading off in your favourite drive, be it the C-Class Estate, Landie or Sportwagon, with a caravan towing behind, there are fewer more satisfying ways of exploring this great country of ours. And whether you have children or not, you are going to make for yourself some great long-lasting memories.
The chances are if you’re on the hunt for a new set of wheels that viagra from canada you already have one set sitting in your garage or on your driveway. You can, of course, trade the old vehicle in for the new one, but you tend to get a few more shekels if you sell it yourself – well, usually. This depends on the vehicle you’re selling and what your local car dealer can offer you in the way of a trade-in. But often, if you do your homework, you end up working out that you can probably get more by being your own used car salesman/woman/person.
Online auction sites like EBay (by far the most popular and international online sales site) are very popular for selling off your stuff. People go on that site for fun “just to have a wee look at what’s out there” and also when they’re seriously hunting for a car. And there are many upsides to doing so, as well as the odd downside.
One of the downsides is that you usually have to pay an insertion fee – after all, the operators of EBay have to eat. And even though listing some things on EBay can be done for free, cars can’t be, as you’ll find out if you read the small print. And you also have to pay a percentage of the final selling price. Make sure that you factor these costs in when you set the reserve price on the auction. At this point, you still want to be sure that you’re getting more cash in hand for your old wheels than you would get by using the vehicle as a trade in. Also consider this when setting your reserve price and your “buy now” price. The same applies to other online auction sites that allows private individuals to list stuff for sale.
To get a good idea of what your starting price and what your reserve price should be, have a look at other cars listed of the same age and type as the one you’re selling. Your price should be roughly around the same level, although you need to take mileage and overall condition into consideration.
Photos are an absolute must when you’re selling a vehicle online, but not all photos are alike. It can get a little ho-hum if the only photos you put up just show the exterior of the car from different angles. Yes, your car looks pretty good and you’ve done a nice job with the polish, but often buyers want to know more than just that – at least I would. If you’re looking for, say, a Honda Accord, and you see half a dozen listings that just show the front and side, and they’re all similar colours, they all start to look the same. So what sort of photos should you include?
- Side, front and rear views of the vehicle, and ensure that the licence plate is showing
- Shot of the dash and possibly a close-up of the odometer to prove that the mileage is really what you say it is.
- View of the boot plus things like the spare tyre.
- Shot of the engine bay – it doesn’t have to be steam cleaned!
- If the seats fold down, show them in folded and upright position
- A shot of any special features, e.g. alloy wheels
- A shot of any flaws that you’ve mentioned in your description so the viewers know exactly what they’re in for, e.g. that worn tyre or that little ding.
Be reasonably detailed when describing your vehicle and don’t just copy and paste the relevant page out of our car reviews (I’ve seen this done). Let your buyers know all the basic stats like the year, the engine size, the mileage, and all that sort of thing. If it’s got any special features or if you’ve recently replaced some parts, then list these as well (e.g. “brand new tyres on front”).
You may or may not want to list minor flaws. The key word here is “minor” – small things that you’d like to know if you were the buyer. You may also want to list the reason you’re selling it, but use discretion. “Owner going overseas,” “Expecting new addition to the family,” and “We’re downsizing and don’t need a second vehicle,” are all good reasons why you could be selling, but don’t explain that “It’s a thirsty brute and I’m not supporting its drinking habit any longer.”
There are a lot of cars for sale online so your vehicle may not sell the first time you list it. Often, the second attempt is more successful (but you might strike it lucky first time). Patience pays off… or you might like to try another method.
It wasn’t too long ago that your family would take the traditional road trip and your dad would be attempting to drive while peering over a large map. He was lost, had too much pride to stop and ask for directions, and your holiday was hampered as a result.
Today, road trips have been forever changed by GPS navigation systems. These slick computer systems can get you from point A to point B, offering the quickest directions. Have a detour? No problem. Your GPS will automatically create a new route…and family road trips can be fun again.
While you’re probably familiar with punching in the address to where you want to go on your GPS, there are a bevy of new features that are being released on many of the new GPS systems today, allowing users to truly get the most out of their GPS navigation system.
Set Your Home
Most GPS systems have a “Take Me Home” feature, which allows the user to simply click home and receive directions back to their home address. The only problem is, most of the time this feature is hidden. You’re never asked for your home address right in the beginning.
Search your instruction manual and figure out how to input your home address. The next time you’re in an unfamiliar place and need to get home, you’re only one button away.
NOTE: If your car is ever stolen, you don’t want to give the car thief directions to your front door. Therefore, instead of programming your exact address as “home,” just program the address of a landmark in your neighborhood.
Need Gas? Food? A Hotel?
Before GPS systems became more sophisticated, you either called information for the closest gas station or asked around. Today, GPS systems are a one-stop shop.
Use the “Point of Interests” feature on your GPS to find the closest gas station, hotel or restaurant. Some of the better GPS systems will give you the actual name of the restaurant in their directory and include the phone number so you can call and make a reservation if need be…and there are even a couple of systems that will show you reviews so you can see which restaurants are worth going to and which aren’t.
And if you’re ever low on petrol, this feature will also point you to the closest service station.
Avoid Heavy Traffic
Did you know that most new GPS systems actually offer live traffic updates? There’s no more wondering how backed up the highway is or if the turnpike construction is completed.
Live traffic updates allow you to avoid those busy areas and save a significant amount of time. Of course, theres’s a catch: these systems are usually only available in major metropolitan areas, and many of them carry a monthly service fee.
Still, if the prospect of getting stuck in traffic gets your blood boiling, a monthly service fee is a small price to pay.
The Book of Heroic Failures (a very popular and funny collection of spectacular failures and epic fails) quite naturally has an entry for the worst car ever. The (dis)honours in that book go to the Ford Edsel. And the Ford Edsel is certainly a bit of a dog. It was a gas-guzzler that came out just as a recession was hitting. The design of the front end was downright peculiar and the car itself wasn’t overly reliable. And then there was the name – naming a vehicle after the offspring of the company founder might have worked for Mercedes Benz (Mercedes was the name of Daimler’s daughter) but didn’t work when they tried naming this one after Edsel, son of Henry Ford Junior.
However, Ford Edsels are still knocking around and are considered classic collector’s items. After all, the cars were slightly notorious. However, they are still around to be collected. The same cannot be said for another contender for the title of Worst Car Ever, the Ford Pinto.
It is something of a tribute to all the other Ford cars that the company survived both of these spectacular failures. Having produced two such dogs (or lemons) would have ruined a lesser company.
But the Pinto! Regular readers of this blog will have noticed the Pinto turning up in the list of the (possibly) ugliest cars and the cars with the silliest names. The ugliness of the Pinto is, of course, debateable, and some people might like that rather interesting and slightly pointy back end. And an awful lot of people don’t. And the name is also unfortunate. My guess is that the designers of the Pinto were thinking of the horses, keeping this car in line with the Mustang. Horse-lovers, of course, know that “pinto” is the American name for a piebald or skewbald horse (black and white or brown and white for those who aren’t horsey) and they were really popular with Native Americans, so you’ve got a bit of a Wild West touch. However, because the name derives from the Spanish word for “paint” (because the horses look like they’ve had large blobs of white paint chucked at them), it’s also the name of a type of bean that also has a two-tone colour job. And it’s the Spanish for “pint”. In Portuguese, however, it means something different again – it’s the word for a willy, and I don’t mean the company that first came out with Jeeps.
But a bad name and debateable looks aren’t the utter kiss of death for a car. Ugliness is debateable and a car with a bad name can be perfectly reliable and efficient. But being dangerous is unforgiveable. And this is why the Ford Pinto really should have the title of Worst Car Ever. The Ford Edsel’s mechanical foibles pale by comparison beside what the Pinto could do.
It’s all in that sloping back end. You see, the design of the back end meant that if the Pinto was rear-ended – possibly one of the most common types of accident – the fuel tank would be shoved forwards and bits of it would break off, meaning that it was more likely to burst into flames in an accident. The sloping back end meant that the fuel tank didn’t have an awful lot of protection at the rear – not much of a bumper and absolutely no crumple zones. This is one reason why you don’t see too many Ford Pintos as collectors’ items: a lot of them exploded and ended up on the scrap heap.
The true ugliness of the Ford Pinto was revealed when a corporate document about this car was leaked to the public. You see, the heads of Ford at that time had become aware that this design flaw turned the Pinto into a death trap. And then they did a nasty piece of accounting where they weighed up the costs of recalling and repairing the vehicles versus the cost of paying compensation when drivers and passengers were burned alive – and found that compensation was cheaper so they decided to go with that (A copy of the original exposee is available here). A recall was forced on them eventually and the company was hauled into court with one heck of a lawsuit that the infamous cost–benefit analysis hadn’t quite factored in (full details on this website).
Ford survived and Ford has cleaned up its reputation since then. The Model T, the Anglia, the Mustang, the Thunderbird, the Escort and others remained popular. And Ford Europe and Ford Australia didn’t go near the Pinto. So Ford everywhere survived.
In many ways, the Ford Fiesta took the place of the Pinto shortly after a major lawsuit, becoming the compact economy model that had been the original aim behind the Pinto. Modern Fiestas got 5 stars out of 5 in the ANCAP safety tests.
By far the most frustrating driving experience is being gridlocked in a traffic jam. But once you read about the worst jams in the world you’ll be much more composed- if not thankful, when you get delayed by a few minutes in your next traffic hold up.
The worst traffic jam in Australia is probably seven hours. This occurred in April 2010 on the F3 Freeway (Pacific Highway) heading north out of Sydney, when two trucks collided and stranded commuters from 4pm until 11pm when it was finally cleared.
Whilst this one incident created enormous controversy, it pales into insignificance when compared to poor Zang Wei’s experience when travelling from Inner Mongolia into Beijing a couple of months later, where he, and a few thousand others, were held up for an unbelievable TEN DAYS!
So, here’s the ranking for the FIVE world’s worst traffic jams.
1. Beijing-Zhangjiakou Highway August 2010
Whimsically, a set of roadworks intended to alleviate congestion was blamed for the world’s worst traffic jam that lasted a staggering ten days. At its worst, with the jam stretching back 100kms., trucks joining the end of the queue were travelling at 3kp/d (that’s kilometers per day!!) attempting to reach their Beijing destination. Communist China also spawned the entrepreneurial spirit with roadside sellers sprouting up, selling food and drink at exorbitant prices. Local newspapers also reported many incidents of highway robbery, violence and even divorces (“don’t you believe that I am ten days late getting home- been stuck in traffic, dear?”)
2. Paris-Lyon Autoroute 1980
In 1980, at the height of the winter skiing season, everyone wanted to return to Paris at the same time. According to the Guinness Book of Records this jam tailed back on the Lyon-Paris autoroute some 110 kms. and consisted of around 18 million cars. It was reported that a normally 4 hour journey took up to 20 hours, with many, many cars abandoned by the roadside, bereft of fuel, still awaiting collection several days later. It was not reported as to how the owners got home, though they could have skied home more quickly. By distance it stretches further back than any other recorded jam.
3.Sao Paulo – June 2009
According to Time Magazine Sao Paulo in Brazil has the worst day-to-day traffic jams in the world, but June 10th 2009 surpassed anything they had suffered before with 300kms. of accumulated queues amassed around the gridlocked city. It was very quiet indeed in all the city offices as more than half the commuters never made it to work, going home in disgust. Yet you have to wonder what it would have been like if they hadn’t already instituted a last digit numbering system for peak hour weekday traffic! Whilst it was sorted out within 12 hours it still ranks as an all time high for the number of kms. gridlocked.
4. Houston, Texas- September 2005
The early warning system for Hurricane Rita prompted 2.5 million people to flee Houston, but they didn’t get very far very quickly, all travelling down- or not travelling down Interstate 45. Two days later many were still stranded in the melee. Some made a social occasion out of it-well, there was nothing else to do, chatting, having community BBQ’s, helping stalled cars and trucks out of the way and generally making the best out of it.It seems the impending hurricane took pity on these poor stranded motorists and avoided plonking the eye of the storm in the middle of the congested highway.
5. Patna, India- December 2009
India is not renowned for its traffic interface, and jams are just part of the experience. But the worst one noted was in Patna, a city of nearly six million people, nestled on the southern banks of the Ganges. It is a political centre and a whole number of political activists decided to protest on the same day- the first day of the month in December 2009. Not a good idea….it resulted in what was certainly the world’s most varied traffic jam, embracing gridlocked cars, trucks, tuk tuks, bicycles, scooters, horses and carts and even prams into the equation. The outcome was that hundreds of thousands of mobile Patna residents went nowhere whatsoever throughout the day- and their protests weren’t heard above the hooting horns!
Traffic Jams in Australia
We noted above the longest jam that we know about in Australia was on the Pacific Highway north of Sydney. It’s interesting to note that when the NRMA was established in 1920 its purpose was to lobby the NSW government for road improvements in the state, and its main target was “the Pacific Highway heading north of Sydney”. Over 90 years later the NRMA is lobbying the Government to make good its target of meeting the 2015 Pacific Highway Upgrade! (note: last year the NRMA’s Red Flag survey voted the Coffs Harbour to Macksville section of the Pacific Highway the worst stretch of road in the state).
On the other hand, according to the IBM Commuter Pain Study, Melbourne is the second best city for avoidance of traffic jams in the world, second only to Stockholm- huh, do you believe that?
So what’s changed? Are governments listening? They are certainly not keeping up with the pace of modern traffic.
Where are the worst roads for congestion in Australia? How do they compare with your experiences here and overseas?
We want to know so let’s hear you on our Facebook page now!
If you were asked “Which country has the highest car ownership in the world (per capita)?”, what would your answer be?
Most would say the USA, but, guess what? They’d be wrong. In fact it doesn’t even figure in the top ten! Worse still, if you were asked who ranks higher, Australia or New Zealand, you’d probably say Australia, but you’d be wrong again, drat it!
The actual top ten car owning nations (according to World Bank data) is as follows:- Click Here To Read More
There are some great interest rates around for new car buyers right now- even as low as zero percent. Are they the real deal or is there a catch?
Too often you hear the consumer watchdogs say ‘If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is”
So does that apply to these fabulous interest rate offers?
Well, yes and no.
When a manufacturer offers a great rate it will be honoured (unlike some sharks), but it will be on their terms-not yours. Often that means the deal isn’t so good for you after all.
Suppose you see a great 2.9 percent interest rate on the car of your dreams.
Should you rush in and buy?
Mmm, maybe, but there are a few questions to ask first before you sign up
Q1- Is the offer on the exact car I want?
You may find the dealer has a special offer only on a special spec car that they want to move quickly. Maybe the manual (but you want the auto- or vice versa), maybe it’s a run out model that could cost you thousands in depreciation when the new model is announced a few weeks later.
If it is the right car, right colour and right spec go on to Q2.
Q2- Do I get a discount?
Almost certainly the answer is ‘NO’.
The interest rate is usually only available if you pay the full manufacturer’s recommended price.
So you have to weigh the interest rate saving against the discount you don’t get- we’ll show you how later.
Q3- Can I delay delivery?
You may want your car right now, and that will be fine. But what if you aren’t quite ready and want to wait a few weeks before taking delivery? That could be a problem, the salesman wants his commission now and will almost certainly insist you sign up today- tomorrow may be too late and next month is a definite no-no.
Q4- Can I change the interest terms?
These ‘specials’ usually have restrictive and narrow terms. For example, they may be for a no deposit, no residual fixed term of three years. If you want a four year term with a residual payment, then – no deal. Similarly the deal may be for a high residual, but you want to pay the lot off with no residual. So-again, no deal.
Q5- Can I do a trade in?
Yes, they will usually accept trade ins, but you may not get the best trade in price.
Q6- I was going to pay cash but I can’t resist such a good interest rate.
Many feel like you- but think again. This ain’t a free lunch, so if you have cash, then use it to negotiate a discount that you otherwise wouldn’t get.
The Golden Rule is to check ALL the figures first!
Be careful, do the figures then check again to see if it’s still worthwhile.
Here’s what we mean.
You want to buy a new car that is $40,000. You have no trade in and you are happy with the 2.9 per cent interest over five years that’s on offer, and you’re ready to sign up.
Hold on! Wait! Check it out first!
Let’s suppose Private Fleet can negotiate a discount on the car of $3000, and you can get an interest rate from your own sources of 5.6 percent.
Now let’s look at the actual cost to you.
Example 1. Pay $40,000 and get 2.9% interest over 5 years. Your total cost will be $43,018.20.
Example 2. Private Fleet has negotiated a buy price of $37,000 and you are paying 5.6%. Now your total cost is $42,507.12. That, then, is a saving of a cool $501.08-straight into your pocket.
Not such a good deal after all, is it?
So to conclude, what really matters is your total cost not the enticement special.
Sometimes it can work for you, but so often you can do better-with our help of course!
As T.S. Eliot nearly said, the naming of cars is a difficult matter.* They say that having the wrong name for a car can make or break it, so the marketing team probably spend a fair amount of time picking the name for a new model. Or at least you would hope so.
We wonder why, therefore, General Motors have eschewed the Holden name in favour of Opel. That’s what they’ve done with the launch of the Opel brand in Australia this month, marketing four models.
Opel is a German brand owned by General Motors, so really it’s a Holden. In fact Holden have sold Opels before as Holdens. They’ve also re-branded Chevrolets, Vauxhall, Isuzu and Daewoo as Holdens for the home market.
Is it because they think that the ‘German’ name is synonymous with quality, and they can therefore get a premium price? Mmm, perhaps, and their Oz slogan ‘Wir lieben Autos” (we love cars) suggests that’s the case (to say nothing of the German accent in the TV ads!). But then the Astra is made in China, Poland and the UK as well as Germany, so there’s no guarantee ‘our’ Opel is made in Germany. I wonder if GM, Holden or Opel would care to comment?
The intoduction of the Opel name to the Australian motorist makes me wonder how the marketing guys come up with some of these names.
Some car marques, especially the European ones, make things easy on the marketing team and simply stick to a series of numbers and letters. BMW and Mercedes are particularly good at this, and once you’ve figured out how the code works, you know exactly what’s what with the car. For example, in the BMW 320D, the 3 indicates the series (3-series) while the other numbers indicate the engine size. The D on the end means that it runs on diesel. And if you have an M and just one number such as M3, you know, as Edward Cullen informs Bella Swann in the first Twilight book, that it’s a fast, luxurious and powerful car (incidentally, the Twilight books – not sure about the movies – devote a fair amount of time to cars for a soppy romance story aimed at teenage girls. A new target market, maybe?). Other manufacturers who have cottoned onto the numbers and letters idea include Volvo, Audi, Jaguar and (a departure from Europe) Lexus. Mazda has also recently got on board the letters and numbers bandwagon, probably after some of the clangers mentioned below.
And that’s all very well and it does avoid problems and embarrassment by giving your brand new car a name that sounds silly or can’t be pronounced. However, for a lot of people, buying a car is an emotional decision and there’s nothing like a name or a word to stimulate the imagination. And actual names have another advantage for marketers: they’re easy to remember and get into the public’s heads via ads.
Successful car names that actually mean something tend to fall into several major categories. The first, popular with sports cars, is the “fast, dangerous animals” category. The winner here is Jaguar, which has an entire marque named after a big cat. Other worthy contenders include the Ford Falcon, Hyundai Tiburon (Shark in Spanish) and the Porsche Cayman (a caiman is a crocodile sort of thing). Or they have adventurous sorts of names like the VW Touareg (named after the desert nomads), Nissan Safari and Land Rover Discovery. Or they go for something that sounds upmarket (Holden Statesman) or like something to aspire to (Mitsubishi Aspire). Or they try to make you smile, like the Honda Jazz or the Fiat Panda.
Often, however, the people dreaming up the names tend to come up with things that sound a bit like real words or real words put together. Examples of this sort include Toyota’s Presara and Hiace. I’m not sure how they come up with these things. Apparently the marketing folk come up with screeds of suggestions that get slowly whittled down by the Powers That Be to a final solution. I sometimes wonder if they write down a list of suitable and appropriate words while sober, then get drunk and attempt to re-write the list with one person reading them out and the other person writing them down.
And the process does seem to come up with some odd results. We’ve probably all heard the story about the poor old Mitsubishi Pajero and how it’s supposed to mean “wanker” in Spanish. This didn’t stop it selling reasonably well in Spanish-speaking Bolivia, which is where this writer was living when the Pajero came out. After all, a good car is still a good car in spite of the name – the HSV is still popular, probably even with doctors, even though these initials being standard medical speak for the Herpes Simplex Virus. But the theory about the naming team getting drunk seems to be the only explanation for things like the Suzuki Kizashi, the Nissan Qashqai (that’s its overseas name – but is “Dualis” really that much better, sounding very close to Cialis?), Hyundai Getz, Ssangyong Kyron and the Toyota Yaris. Either that or someone was trying to get rid of high-scoring Scrabble letters.
The oddest car names are, like the ugliest cars, a matter for debate. And some really peculiar ones never make it out of Asia (e.g. the Honda Life Dunk or the Mitsubishi Mini Active Urban Sandal). But the following certainly deserve some (dis)honourable mention in this category (incidentally, I have owned at least two of the cars on this list at some stage):
- AMC Gremlin
- Mazda Bongo Friendee
- Mazda Marvie Proceed
- Isuzu Mysterious Utility Wizard (and MU isn’t much better than Mysterious Utility)
- Dodge Swinger
- Toyota Cressida (Cressida being a Shakespeare gal known for being unreliable and faithless)
- Isuzu Giga 20 Light Dump
- Daihatsu Naked
- Ford Pinto (a bean, a horse, Spanish for pint or “I paint” or Portugese for penis).
- Nissan Homy (yes, that is an M for Mike, not an R and an N close together)
More exist. Send us your suggestions, along with your ugly cars!
*What the poet actually said was “the naming of cats is a difficult matter”.