Blog

Car Headlights

Why you should take your vehicle’s lighting system more seriously

You may not think of them as such, but your car’s headlights are arguably one of your vehicle’s most important safety features.

Headlights are designed to not only enhance your ability to see the road ahead, but also to notify other drivers of your intentions. If they’re not working properly, you could be putting both yourself and others at risk.

Read below to learn more about the importance of headlights:

Visibility

In order to ensure you can properly see the road ahead, it’s important to keep your headlight lenses clean and clear at all times. It’s particularly important to check them regularly in the winter, as debris can quickly build up and ultimately hinder your view.

Fortunately, there are a number of polishers available to clean off any debris yourself.

Fog lights

While headlights do a tremendous job of enhancing your vision behind the wheel, they don’t always do the trick. If the fog outside is super thick, your headlights may actually hinder your ability to see, as the light can reflect back onto your eyes.

In this instance, it’s important that your fog lights are in working order. Just remember that fog lights are not designed for driving on clear nights. If you are using them when it’s not foggy, remember to turn them off when encountering oncoming traffic.

Brake lights

In order to communicate with other drivers that you’re slowing down or coming to a complete stop, it’s pertinent that your brakes lights are fully functioning.  Remember that they should be bright red. If not, you may increase the risk of other drivers not seeing you and getting rear-ended.

Turn signals

Thousands of accidents occur every year because of drivers failing to signal properly. While the majority of these accidents occur due to negligence on the driver’s behalf, some can occur because their turn signal stopped working.

As a result, it’s crucial that everything is in working order. Imagine driving behind a vehicle that doesn’t signal before changing lanes on the highway?

It should be noted that you should always cancel your turn signal after successfully completing your turn. Failing to do so can confuse other drivers and potentially place them in a dangerous and unwanted situation.

Check regularly

In order to ensure you stay as safe as possible behind the wheel, you should make a habit of checking your light system regularly. It may seem tedious, but it’s really quick and easy.

First, turn on all your lights at night and do a quick walk around your vehicle to ensure everything is illuminating. If you’re with someone else, you can get them to step out of the car and ensure your brake lights and turn signals are working too.

This simple test can be done in just a couple of minutes, so there’s no excuse for not doing it every few weeks.

Safe travels!

 

How city driving can affect your vehicle

If you commute to and from Toronto on a daily basis, you already know how frustrating city driving can be – especially if you’re running late for work. However, what you may not realize is how much stress you can put on your vehicle if you’re doing the majority of your driving in the big city.

Below are some common problems associated with city driving along with some tips on how to mitigate any potential damage to your car:

Too much starting and stopping

If you’ve driven downtown before, you’re aware of how much stop-and-go traffic you’re forced to deal with.

Frequently starting and stopping your vehicle can put a high degree of strain on your brakes, which can cause them to wear out much more quickly. As a result, it’s important to have your brakes checked regularly to ensure they’re still safe to use.

Stop-and-go driving can also affect your transmission, as the constant starting and stopping can take a toll overtime. It can also cause the transmission fluid to overheat, causing further issues.

Finally, it can cause your tires to experience more wear and tear. You may want to get them rotated more frequently to mitigate this issue.

Try to increase the distance between you and the car ahead of you when you’re driving downtown to reduce the amount of hard braking.

Poor roads

While it’s not always the case, city driving often means that you’re driving on rougher roads compared to cruising on the highway.  Driving on uneven terrain or through a pothole can either damage your vehicle’s suspension or cause it to deteriorate more quickly.

Make sure to drive slower when the roads aren’t as smooth to avoid any potential damage. That can be tough to do when you’re in a rush, but failing to do so could result in a costly repair job.

If you see a pothole downtown, you can always call or tweet 311 or email the city to have it looked at.

Idling

Heavy traffic means more time spent idling, which can have a negative effect on your vehicle’s well-being. If you idle for too long, your engine could have difficulty getting proper ventilation and begin to overheat.

Unfortunately, idling is tough to avoid in heavy traffic so there’s not much you can do in terms of changing your driving habits. However, that does mean that your cooling system will need to be checked regularly to ensure it’s fully functioning.

Proper maintenance

Taking care of your vehicle is always important, but it’s even more crucial to have it checked regularly if you do the majority of your driving in Toronto.

 

Car Buying Plan

The importance of creating a car-buying plan

Buying a car is a big decision and thus not one you’ll want to rush into. Planning ahead before you walk into a dealership is extremely important, as performing proper due diligence can ensure you purchase a vehicle that is optimal for your needs.

Here are some tips for making your own car-buying plan:

See how much you can afford

Budgeting ahead of time can ensure you’re not stuck with a vehicle you’ll have difficulty paying for. While many adults would prefer to drive a luxury vehicle, it’s important that you buy a car that you can comfortable afford.

Fortunately, there are a number of calculators available online that can help determine how much you should be spending on a new vehicle. While this is only an estimate, it’s wise to respect this figure.

Remember that if you’re trading-in your old vehicle, you may have some cash that you can put towards your new purchase.

Determine your personal needs

There are dozens of quality vehicles on the market, but there may only be a handful that directly address your needs.

If you’re a young, single person who only uses their vehicle on weekends, your needs will be much different than someone who has children and uses their car to commute to and from work every day.

Establish what you want in a car before you enter a dealership, so you can narrow your choices and look at vehicles to meet your own specific demands.  Some factors to consider are style, fuel efficiency, colour, safety, comfort, technology, and capacity.

Check your credit score

If you’re planning on taking out a loan to help pay for your vehicle, it’s important that you know your credit score ahead of time. Finding out at the dealership that your score is much lower than you thought isn’t a fun time for anyone involved.

Obtaining a credit report with Equifax or TransUnion ahead of time can allow you to sort out any potential issues and will allow you determine what your loan rate will be.

Do some research

Choose three or four vehicles that you’re interested in and do some research on each one to determine which one best meets your needs. Sometimes, peer reviews can be your best friend, as they allow you to see what similar drivers think of their vehicle.

Get an insurance quote

Once you determine the make, model, and type of vehicle you’re interested in, you’ll have enough information at your disposal to get a suitable insurance quote. While you can always shop around to find the lowest rate possible, this will at least give you a sense of how much you’ll be paying for insurance and should be incorporated into your budget.

Typically, vehicles with good crash-test ratings are less expensive when it comes to insurance.

Happy shopping!

 

driving on black ice

Safety tips on how to deal with black ice

Winter driving is often stressful for a number of reasons, but maybe the scariest scenario is having to deal with black ice.

Since black ice is difficult to see with the human eye, drivers often put themselves in dangerous situations without even realizing.

Here are some quick tips on how to deal with black ice:

What is black ice?

Black ice gets its name because it’s so difficult to see that it takes on the colour of the dark pavement below. Black ice typically looks black or grey to drivers.

Black ice typically forms when there’s freezing rain or there was rain earlier in the day. Many times, black ice forms when rain from the early afternoon freezes after the temperature drops at nighttime. Black ice is much more prevalent when the sun is down, so make sure to look out for it on your daily commute – especially if there’s been any recent rainfall.

Keep your windshield clear

While black ice is difficult to spot, it’s not impossible to see. However, you’ll have virtually no chance of seeing it if your windshield isn’t completely clear.

Before beginning your trip, you should do everything in your power to ensure you have maximum visibility.

Note: Don’t rely on your windshield wipers to clear off ice, as doing so could significantly damage them.

Stay calm

If you happen to drive over black ice and lose control, the most important thing you can do is avoid overreacting. Doing so could cause you to slam on the brakes, which will almost certainly result in skidding.

Instead, relax and keep the steering wheel as straight as possible.

Remember that you’re more likely to lose traction if you make sudden movements. It’s obviously tougher to stay calm when you’re losing control, but it’s vital to your safety that you remain level-headed.

Head for traction

If you can, head for areas with more traction, such as a snow patch or sandy spot. This will help you to re-gain traction and avoid skidding.

Avoid cruise control

It’s important that you stay vigilant when the conditions aren’t ideal. Never use cruise control, as it could slow down your reaction time if you’re skidding.

Get snow tires

If you don’t already have snow tires, make sure to get them ASAP. Driving in Canadian winters is simply too dangerous without them, especially when the roads are wet and icy.

Just because you haven’t gotten in an accident yet doesn’t mean you won’t get into one in the future. Increase your chances of staying safe by getting snow tires today.

Don’t make assumptions

Remember that even if your vehicle is equipped with winter tires and all-wheel drive doesn’t mean you don’t need to drive cautiously in the winter. Sure, these safety features are great to have, but you can still lose traction, so it’s important you don’t take anything for granted.

Vehicle Safety Ratings

How to better understand car safety ratings

We see it advertised everywhere: “[Car-X] has been rewarded a five-star safety rating for a sixth year in a row.”  It sounds great, but what does this mean? Who determines this ranking? How are the tests conducted? Is a five-star safety rating better than a Top Safety Pick Award?

To help answers these questions and gain a better understanding of the safety rating systems that exist today, read ahead.

Who am I trusting to rank my car?

The two main providers of safety testing are the National Highway Testing Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).  Although their ranking systems vary slightly, they are both considered reliable sources that thoroughly measure security via extensive testing methods.

NTHSA

The aforementioned “five-star safety rating” is an example of a NHTSA ranking, with five being the highest possible score. This U.S. federal government organization performs tests for crashworthiness based on frontal impact and side-impact, along with a rollover rating.

The frontal test measures the probability of driver or passenger injury after a vehicle crashes into a static barricade at roughly 50 km/h.

The side-impact assessment, involves two tests. In the first one, the car is hit from the side by a dummy vehicle traveling at a similar speed. The other test measures a driver’s likelihood of injury after making impact with a pole.

Once these tests have concluded, the NHTSA will assess a car rollover rating before providing an overall star level.

IIHS

The IIHS is a non-profit group funded by various insurance companies. Instead of the star ranking system, they classify their ratings in four ways; Poor, Marginal, Acceptable and Good, with Good being the highest. Vehicles are then put through five tests to determine their overall safety.

The small-overlap and moderate-overlap front test measure a car’s impact after hitting a barrier at different areas of the frontal region.

A side test measures the impact after contacting a large barrier at 50 km/h, whereas a roof-strength test indicates the likelihood of collapsing during a rollover.

The final experiment (the head-restraints-and-seats test), considers the level of force delivered to a driver’s neck and head during a collision.

Once these tests are concluded, the scores are aggregated and given a final ranking. Vehicles with a “Top Safety Pick Award+” and “Top Safety Pick Award” exhibit exceptional safety.

Do I want a “Five Star” or a “Top Safety Pick Award+?”

The answer is both. The in-depth research and testing the NTHSA and IIHS conduct reassure drivers and passengers that their safety is prioritized. As these results are made publicly available on their websites, users should reference both ranking systems when they’re considering buying a new car.

At the end of the day, you can’t put a price on safety.

 

What is a Drivetrain

How to know when it’s time for a new vehicle

Deciding to get rid of your vehicle can be a difficult task, especially if you’ve owned it for an extended period of time. However, hanging on to an old vehicle can be unsafe and costly, which is why it’s important that you know when it’s time to say goodbye.

Here are five sign it’s time for a new car:

You’re spending more at the gas pump

If you find that you’re visiting the gas station more and more frequently, it may be time to trade in your car for a more fuel-efficient option. As your engine and other complementary parts begin to age, your vehicle consumes gas less efficiently, causing you to spend more on fuel as the months and years progress. If your car is significantly worn out, you could end up paying a small fortune at the gas pump.

You have a family

If you originally purchased your vehicle when you were single and now have a significant other and kids, it’s probably in your best interest to upgrade to a more family-friendly car.  Driving with children is a lot less stressful in a roomier and more comfortable ride. Remember that when you look to purchase your next vehicle.

You’re spending too much on major repairs

If it seems like you’re getting a major part repaired on an annual basis, it’s definitely time for a new vehicle. Instead of trying to get the last little bit out of your car, just upgrade now.

Otherwise, not only will you be spending a lot on mechanical repairs, but you’ll still need to buy a new car anyway in the foreseeable future. Get it out of the way now to save more money in the long run.

Your safety is at risk

If you don’t feel safe in your vehicle you shouldn’t be driving it. It’s as simple as that.

Neglecting safety concerns not only puts yourself at a greater risk of collision, but it also places your fellow passengers and surrounding drivers at risk too. Be responsible and either fix the issue or buy a new car if the cost of repair is too expensive.

If you do choose to buy a new vehicle, you should consider finding one equipped with up-to-date safety features, such as electronic stability control, forward-collision warning, lane departure warning, and blind-spot warning.

New issues keep popping up

Sometimes, it’s in your best interest to get rid of your old car even if a major repair isn’t needed. If you notice that every time you fix a small problem a new one pops up, it’s probably time to start car shopping.

If you’re constantly fixing little issues every few months, your cost of ownership will increase significantly. Sometimes, it’s actually the better financial move to just buy a new car.

 

4 useful leasing strategies you weren’t aware of

Many drivers are aware of how car leases work, but they may not realize just how intricate they can get. If you’re strategic about how you create your lease, you could end up saving a significant amount of money over the lifetime of the contract.

Here are four leasing strategies you may not have realized existed:

Extend your lease month-to-month

Just because your lease is about to expire, doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll need to determine whether to buy the car outright or find a new one right away. Many dealerships will allow you to extend the lease month-to-month if you’re unsure about your decision.

This allows you the flexibility to do further research on vehicles on the market and gives you more time to decide whether you’d like to purchase the vehicle outright.

Sign a single-payment lease

If you have an influx of cash and prefer to lease instead of finance, you should inquire about signing a single-payment lease.

Of course, this strategy will avoid the burden of having to pay a set amount each month and, in most cases, you’ll be able to get a lower interest rate using this strategy. This strategy can be useful for young drivers who likely don’t have much of a credit history.

In an ideal world, you could trade-in your current vehicle and a little cash to pay for the single-payment lease.

Gap insurance

Gap insurance covers you for the difference between the market value of the vehicle and the amount remaining on your loan should you get into an accident. Since you generally pay less on a monthly basis in a lease, it’s a very good idea to get gap insurance, as you could otherwise end up owing thousands of dollars if your car is totaled or stolen earlier in the lease.

Unless you’ve made a significant down payment up front, getting gap insurance is a smart decision.

Make a bigger down payment

If you’ve only ever financed vehicles in the past, you may have noticed that your down payment didn’t make a huge difference on your monthly payment.

However, since you’re only paying the difference between the price of the vehicle and the value at the end of the contract in a lease, making a bigger down payment makes a lot more sense.

For example, say you’re considering buying a vehicle worth $25,000. If you make a $2,500 down payment, you’re only paying 10 percent of what you owe if you finance. However, if the residual value of the vehicle is $12,500, a down payment of $2,500 would equal 20 percent of what you owe and have a much greater effect on your monthly rate.

Trading-in your old vehicle also has a greater effect when you lease, since it’s essentially used as a down payment.

 

Leasing in Newmarket

What is the difference between an open vs. closed lease?

If you’re considering leasing a vehicle in the foreseeable future, it’s important to determine what type of lease is right for you. For those who aren’t aware, there are two main types of leases: open-end and closed-end.

Read below to find out a little more about each:

Open-end lease

Open-end leases allow the lessee (the one who borrows the vehicle) to guarantee a value at the end of the lease. This is called the Guaranteed Residual Value (GRV) and is outlined in the lease contract. The lessee has the option of purchasing, selling or trading-in the leased vehicle at the end of the contract for the GRV provided the car is worth at least that amount.

If the market value of the vehicle is less than the GRV at the end of the lease, the lessee is responsible for the difference, whether they plan to buyback the vehicle or return it to the lessor. For instance, if the GRV is $10,000 and the market value of the car is only $8,000 at the end of the contract, the lessee will be responsible for paying the difference of $2,000.

In return for bearing the financial risk of the lease, the lessee typically pays a less expensive rate and doesn’t have to worry about a mileage restriction.

Closed-end lease

Closed-end leases are designed to put the cost of depreciation onto the lessor, instead of the lessee. Instead of negotiating a GRV, customers have the option of either returning the car at the end of the lease (assuming it’s in good standing) or buying it back from the lessor.

However, the lessee is responsible for paying for any damages at the end of the lease that go beyond normal wear and tear. Note: normal “wear and tear” is typically more stringent with a closed-end lease compared to an open-end lease.

Most closed-end leases also have mileage restrictions between 16,000-24,000 kms per year. If you exceed this limit, you will be forced to pay a fee at the end of your lease. If you go over by a lot, you could end up paying a good chunk of change.

Open End lease vs closed end lease

 

Which lease option should you choose?

If you spend a lot of your day inside your vehicle, an open-end lease is likely the better option for you. You won’t have to worry about surpassing the mileage limit and it can be a cheaper alternative as long as the vehicle doesn’t depreciate more than the GRV.

However, the majority of consumers still prefer closed-end leases as they’d rather put the financial risk onto the lessor. As long as you take good care of the vehicle and don’t exceed the mileage limit, you won’t have to worry about paying a lump sum at the end of the lease contract.

 

How to return your car at the end of your lease

Leases can be a smart alternative to financing, but they can also become expensive if you haven’t taken proper care of the vehicle. If you return your car in poor shape at the end of your lease, you could incur a number of charges that could ultimately lead to a hefty bill.

Here are a few things you should consider doing prior to returning your leased vehicle:

Ensure you have the appropriate tires

Make sure your vehicle is equipped with the proper tires before you have it inspected. If it’s well into the spring and you still haven’t changed your winter tires, make sure to switch them as soon as possible. Otherwise, you could end up being charged for a set of all-seasons.

If it is winter, it’s fine if you have a set of winter tires, but make sure they meet the manufacturer’s requirements ahead of time.

It should be noted that just because you have the right tires doesn’t mean you won’t get dinged. If you haven’t changed your tires since the beginning of your lease, there’s a decent chance they’ll have excess wear, meaning you will be charged for a replacement set.

Clean it

Bringing in a dirty vehicle will only start the inspection off on the wrong foot. Have the interior cleaned a couple days ahead of time to remove any garbage, dirt, and/or debris. If it looks like you take care of your car, your inspection is likely to go a lot smoother.

If you don’t want to clean it yourself, it may not be a bad idea to have it detailed instead.

Bring your maintenance records

Depending on the terms of your lease, you may be required to provide proof that you performed basic maintenance on the vehicle throughout the life of your lease. This could mean showing receipts for oil changes, filter changes, etc.

Book the inspection early

It’s a smart idea to have your inspection booked as early as the lease-return rules allow. If you wait until the last minute, you may not have enough time to correct any issues and could incur a number of charges that you could’ve otherwise fixed.

This also gives you time to get any quotes and determine whether it’s cheaper to correct the issue yourself or just pay the fee. Many drivers run into trouble when they believe the lease-return process is much quicker than it really is.

Return everything

It’s important that you return everything you received when you were given the vehicle. This means everything. A second sets of keys, the original floor mats, and a spare tire are all items that should be returned.

Negotiate

You should be aware that the inspection report you receive isn’t necessarily final. If one of the charges seems high, you’re free to negotiate a lower price.

 

how to fix credit score

Tips for improving your credit score

Unless you want to spend a large sum of money in interest when you buy a vehicle, you’ll want to ensure your credit score is the best it can possibly be prior to purchasing. If you’re struggling with reaching your desired credit score, read ahead for some helpful tips:

Follow the 30% rule

Just because you have credit available to you doesn’t mean you should be using it all. In fact, many experts suggest that you should never use more than 30% of your available credit.

For example, if you own two credit cards, both with a limit of $5,000, you should only be using $3,000 at most at any given time.

If you currently spend more than 30% of your available credit, it may be a good idea to have your limit increased. You’ll have a much easier time reaching your target goal.

Don’t close an old account

The longer you’ve had an account open for, the higher your credit score will be if you’ve shown a strong ability to pay off your debt.  If you transfer your old account to a different product, it will be treated as an entirely new account, which may decrease your credit score.

If you have an old credit card with an annual fee of $0, you should continue to keep it open and use it only periodically to boost your score.

Only apply for credit if you need to

Every time you apply for credit, someone will need to check your credit history to determine whether to accept your application. This entire process is generally referred to as a “hit” and will go against your credit score if you have many hits.

Credit card applications, rental applications and even some employment applications will trigger a hit. Therefore, if you’re looking to buy a car in the near future, make sure to limit these applications prior to purchasing.

 

Dispute any errors in your credit report

Once you’ve obtained a copy of your credit report, check it thoroughly to see if there are any errors. Remember that it’s your responsibility to point out any mistakes. Otherwise, you could be dinged harder than you think.

For instance, your score could take a big hit if your report states that you made a late payment that you actually made on time.

Pay off any outstanding balances

Of course, if you have any outstanding balances, it’s important that you pay these off in the months prior to applying for a car loan. Not only will you have a higher credit score, but you will also have an easier time paying off your monthly car payments by reducing the amount of outstanding debt.