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Category: Car lovers

A tiny orange Smart car is parked, plugged into a charging station.
The Smart Fortwo – a little car with big passenger protection.

You may have heard a grumpy refrain from an elder that “smart cars” offer no protection in an accident. The one that comes to mind is this tiny car, made by the manufacturer, Smart Fortwo. It’s one of the smallest cars on the road and depending on the model, is either gasoline-powered or electric. While a car this size is an extreme example often used in safety concerns, it actually holds up fairly well in crash tests.

So are EVs any better in crashes than gas-powered vehicles? Despite news stories about EV fires, it turns out they may have some safety advantages to traditional vehicles.

Some EVs are safer than others

Though having a smaller car may be more dangerous than a full-size sedan, the little Smart car has better safety ratings than you think. The car received 5 stars on their Fortwo’s side crash safety test

Tesla’s vehicles are among the safest on the road. The Tesla Model X is on the Kelly Blue Book Best Rated Electric Cars of 2019, and the Tesla Model 3 received top crash test ratings in various safety organizations.

Other EVs with great safety ratings include the Chevrolet Volt, the Subaru Crosstec, and Volvo XC60 and XC90.

Easy maintenance = fewer accidents

Electric cars are simpler and require less maintenance. There are simply fewer parts to take care of, and therefore, to malfunction or cause a breakdown. They don’t need oil changes, fuel filters, spark plugs, or emissions checks. Needless to say, the fewer things that can go wrong, the safer you’ll on your drive.

Less maintenance also means less cost for you in the long run. You’ll be more likely to spend on repairs when they do actually arise, making sure your vehicle is in working order.

More space for safety

Fewer components also mean engineers have more room to add safety features in EVs. The motor has more room to be moved within the car and leaves more crunch-room for collisions.

Less chance of a fire

A black Smart car is on fire on the side of the freeway
Electric vehicle fires are rare compared to their gas-fueled counterparts.

Despite the appearance of electric car fires in the news, occurrences of EV fires are much rarer than gasoline-powered vehicles. An average of 150 gasoline-fueled car fires occurs daily. However, since EVs are relatively new, the news focuses on EVs and the dangers they pose.

However, while EV fires are rarer, the fire are more difficult to put out due to the nature of a battery. This is a drawback, but ultimately a small one considering the fire will be less likely to happen in the first place.

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What should you buy for your first car?

Are you setting out on your own? Getting your first job? Just want some independence? Choosing a vehicle to buy can be confusing. Take our quiz to see what kind of car you should buy.

 

If you’re looking for your first vehicle, there are several factors you’ll want to consider before you buy.

Safety

A young man with long blonde hair sits in the driver's seat of a black jeep, looking back at the camera
Is safety a priority for you?

Various vehicles have different degrees of safety. Sedans, SUVs, and electronic vehicles tend to have the best safety features. They’re not built for style as much as they are for function, so they’re often tailored to be safer rather than hotter. The only safety drawback is that some of these vehicles are smaller and provide less protection if you’re hit by a large vehicle.

Trucks can be very safe because you’re up higher if someone hits you. They become more dangerous when you’re driving through curves at higher speeds. Trucks are top-heavy and more likely to rollover.

Sports cars are similarly built for function instead of safety. They’re smaller and therefore less protective in big crashes, but they can navigate quickly, which could also help prevent an accident.

The least safe of our list would be motorcycles and mopeds. Both offer little protection from crashes and could end in serious injury. The positive for these vehicles is, like a sportscar, navigability.

Passenger capacity

You might not think about driving anyone but yourself for now, but later on you might find yourself wanting to carpool with friends. Sportscars, motorcycles, and mopeds only allow for one passenger – maybe more for sports cars, but with crunched backseat space. Trucks sometimes have cramped passenger space as well.

Sedans, SUVs, and EVs often have more spacious interiors for packing in the friends for a late-night Ihop trip.

Adventure compatibility

If you’re an outdoor type, you might want a vehicle that can carry all your supplies through some rough roads. When it comes to toughness, pickup trucks and SUVs are your best options. Not only are they better equipped to handle off-roading, but they’ll have space for camping gear, kayaks, etc.

If you’re the type to explore what the city has to offer, you might be better off with a moped or smaller vehicle. This gives you better MPGs and can get you in a tight parking space in town that a big truck just couldn’t.

Fuel efficiency

Though you might not be thinking about gas now, you’ll thank yourself later for getting a fuel-efficient vehicle when you’re at the pump.

The most fuel-efficient will be an electric vehicle. This can be more cost upfront for the vehicle and possibly an at-home charging station. However, it’ll be much cheaper overall than paying for gas every week. Bonus? You’ll prevent CO2 from being expelled into the atmosphere.

A young woman sits on a motorcycle in a tropical setting. She has sunglasses and short overalls
Do you care if your car reflects your personality? Are you looking to make a statement?

After EVs, mopeds and motorcycles are next up. The less car, the less weight to drag you down.

Next in efficiency are hybrids, sedans and sports cars often get the best MPGs. They’re more aerodynamic, which means your car will be working less against the wind. The less resistance, the better fuel efficiency.

The worst for fuel efficiency are trucks and SUVs. They’re bigger, heavier, and less aerodynamic.

Cost

Any type of vehicle can have a high price tag, but this is typically the price range for all these types of vehicles:

A person sits on the floor with a bunch of 100 dollar bills fanned out in their hands
Are you short on cash or rolling in the dough?

Note that overall cost is affected by how you use the car, how much gas you have to put into it, and how well you keep up with maintenance. For a starter vehicle, we typically recommend a sedan or SUV since they are in the lower price range, but also have better safety features.

Cars are not so environmentally friendly. The latest CO2 emissions data (2017) puts the U.S. as the second-largest contributor to greenhouse gasses, only second to China. And one-third of that contribution is from transportation. We all need transportation to get to and from work and other activities, especially here in the sprawling land of Texas. Often, cars are among the least eco-friendly.

But just because transportation is problematic doesn’t mean we can’t use it while reducing our carbon footprint. There are many steps we can take to reduce emissions while driving.

First, take the quiz to see how much you know about being an eco-friendly driver. Then, read more about these questions (and their answers) below.

Are you an eco-friendly driver?

In 2015 transportation emissions accounted for about a third of total emissions in the U.S. Passenger vehicles make up 60 percent of this. New technology has allowed for lower emissions in vehicles, but there are other ways your drive can impact the environment as well.

Take the quiz below to see how much you know. Then, read more about these answers below.


As you can see, being efficient isn’t always straightforward. Here are our answers and why they’re important.

1. What is the best way to conserve energy on the road?

There is some truth to each of these statements. Turning the AC off and rolling the windows down can reduce your fuel consumption, but only when going about 40 mph or under. And even then, it depends on your type of vehicle.

Going an average of 55 mph is an agreed-upon speed for optimum efficiency, but not 65 mph. And turning off headlights can save a bit of gas, but, this too, depends on the type of headlights. The effects of both can be marginal.

The one consistently useful tactic of conserving energy is to start and stop gently. Gas is wasted on sudden increases or decreases of speed. While slow stops and starts may not be viable in every situation on the road, it’s a good rule to drive by.

2. What sort of car is the most eco-friendly?

Your best bet for an eco-friendly car is going to be an entirely electric sedan. Some all-electric options include the Audi A3 e-Tron SUV, the Chevrolet Bolt, the Hyundai Ioniq Electric, the Kia Niro EV, and, as mentioned in the answer, the Nissan Leaf.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are recently-recalled Volkswagen models that include the 2014 Jetta. Several VW models faked their emissions test results and actually produce more emissions than recommended by the EPA.

3. Which of these has an impact on your fuel efficiency?

All of these answers had big impacts on fuel efficiency. Cars vary greatly on MPG. Hills and rough roads can contribute to a lower fuel efficiency because your car will have to work harder against the elements of friction and gravity.

One factor you may not have realized, that impacts your carbon footprint, is the kind of electric grid your city has. However your state fuels electricity determines whether that energy is high or low emissions in the long run. If you’re charging up your EV in West Virginia, odds are you’re doing more harm than you would using gas-powered vehicles. Why? Because 92% of West Virginia’s power grid is fueled by coal-fired electric plants, and coal emits more CO2 than gasoline.

4. Which of these is not a direct fuel source for cars?

This is a little more straightforward. There is no way to power your vehicle via wind (at least not yet!), though some cities partly power their electric grid with wind energy. This energy is more eco-friendly than coal-produced electricity.

5. A typical passenger vehicle produces about how many tons of carbon dioxide per year?

The average vehicle emits 4.6 metric tons of CO2 every year. That’s over 10 thousand pounds just for one family vehicle.

6. Which of these is not helpful in reducing your transportation footprint?

There’s no advantage to keeping a low vehicle occupancy except for the extra weight causing a bit of drag. Overall, it’s more eco-friendly to carpool when possible to reduce the number of trips taken.

Talking about reducing trips, doing all your errands in one go will save gas, as opposed to taking several separate car rides.

Idling through the drive-thru is taking a greater toll on the environment as lines for fast food grow. In 2018, an average of 234 seconds was spent in drive-thru lines. That’s several minutes you could be saving gas by walking in the door.

Another way to reduce your car emissions is to unload unnecessary weight and/or drag. Especially if you have an outside weight like a kayak loaded on the luggage rack or a tow trailer attached.

7. Which of these car maintenance items can help you get your best MPG?

Car maintenance helps make sure your car isn’t using more energy than it needs to. For things to run smoothly, you’ll want to keep it in top condition.

 8. Which is a benefit of electric vehicles?

People may actually wave at you on the street, but it’s not likely. The biggest advantage to an electric vehicle is that they quickly make up for their (typically) high price tag in energy savings. Unfortunately, their emissions do not fight CO2 emissions, but we can’t have it all, can we?

To find a smart, efficient vehicle, visit the EPA’s website.

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A red classic convertible sits on the side of a road with the sunset in the background
These bad habits could be getting your car to the end of the road sooner than you think.

Whether your car is your beloved baby or simply the reliable way you get around, it is an important tool and a big investment. The longer you can keep your car on the road and avoid spending big bucks on a new vehicle, the better.

But many people unintentionally make mistakes that shorten the length of their car’s life. Here are the five most common ways people reduce their car’s lifespan and how you can avoid making the same mistakes.

  1. Making a mess

How your car looks shouldn’t affect its lifespan, right? Actually, grit and grime can lead to excess wear and tear on a vehicle, on both the interior and exterior of the car. What’s more, having a messy car can affect how you take care of it in other aspects. Keeping a car looking nice and clean can motivate you to be more aware of the vehicle’s care, and more likely to take it into a shop when it needs professional attention.

  1. Putting the pedal to the metal

Are you a little too eager to lay on the gas or the brakes? Not only can reckless driving be dangerous, but it can also cause greater wear on your vehicle. You’ll do your car a favor (and keep the streets safer) by staying a calm, safe driver.

  1. Not scheduling regular check-ups

Just like you have regular doctor’s visits for preventative care, your car should get check-ups too. Have a professional take a look at your car twice a year to ensure that everything is running smoothly. This step can save you money in the long run and can add years to the lifespan of your car. In Texas, yearly inspections help make sure cars are in good running condition.

  1. Being lax on level-checking

While it is important to get your car in for regular maintenance, you shouldn’t leave it all to the professionals. Take a few minutes every couple of weeks to check things like tire pressure, oil levels, and transmission fluids. Many people skip this simple step in car care, and it can cause serious damage in the long haul.

  1. Shrugging off symptoms

If you hear or feel a strange rattle in your vehicle – don’t ignore it. If you catch and solve a small problem early, you can often prevent it from becoming a major issue and a huge expense. So when that rattle shows up, go pay your mechanic a visit and get some professional advice.

By taking care to not make these all-too common mistakes, you can keep your vehicle running like a dream for miles and miles.

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Here is an easy-to-make organizer to keep the backseat from lapsing into chaos on the road. This will hold snacks, toys, books, and necessities like sunglasses or umbrellas.

Here are the steps to make it:

1. Buy a hanging shoe caddy with cubby slots. These are typically long, so you’ll want to clip it to size. Binder clips should be sufficient here.

2. Thread a ribbon or string through the holes at the top. Make the loop fairly small, so that it’ll hold it right up to the top of the seat. Put it around the base of the headrest holder, then put the headrest on after.

3. Put your kids’ necessities in the organizer and hit the road!

*Pro-tip* If the organizer moves too much, you can hook the clips to the base of the seat with small Command Hooks.

See more kid-friendly road trip hacks on our blog.


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This card game is not only simple, but it’s engaging for all members of the car, including the adults. They are durable and spill-proof for the inevitable backseat messiness and chaos.

Here are the steps to making this fun addition to your road trip:

1. Print questions

Find “Would-You-Rather?” questions on the web. Some have different tones than others – make sure you’re getting child-friendly questions. If your kids are older, you might find some that get a little more difficult.

Put these on a piece of paper divided by 6 squares. You can write them by hand or copy and paste them onto a document to print out. Double-sided allows you to pack more questions into your card stack.

2. Cut and laminate

Cut out the squares, then place them on a sheet of laminate (get the self-laminating sheets if you don’t have access to a laminating machine). Follow the directions to laminate, then cut the squares out again, leaving a border of laminate around the edges of the cards to keep them sealed in.

3. Hole punch and loop

Hole punch the top left corner of your cards and put them all on a binder ring. Clasp the ring shut and you have a compact card game that’ll entertain the car for hours.

See more kid-friendly road trip hacks on our blog.


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A toyota SUV sits in a campground
Family road trips are fun but also complicated. Make it a little easier with these hacks for the kids.

Road trips are hard. There’s so much prep for a long excursion, and keeping the kids entertained isn’t the most of your worries. We’ve put together a few “life-hacks” for keeping the kids organized and entertained on the road.

Read more for how-to’s and details.

1. Shoe organizer for toys

a pair of hands puts an umbrella, a cat toy and a rainbow pencil pouch in a hanging shoe organizer hanging in the backseat.
Use a shoe caddy to organize your child’s toys and road trip necessities.

Your kids use a lot of toys and accessories when it comes to a road trip, which can end up all over the backseat (and under the seat). This organization caddy allows for easy access to your kids’ stuff, which is not only easier, but safer when it comes to you reaching into the backseat to grab something they need.

Most shoe organizers are quite long (meant to hang the length of a door), so you’ll need to either cut it to size or (what we prefer) clip the excess back. Then, use a ribbon to hang it on the headrest of the front seat. Next step: Fill with toys, books, sunglasses, water bottles, snacks and more.

Here’s our video on how to make it.

2. Road trip bingo

A traffic-themed bingo card
Use a laminated bingo card to entertain your children

This game is easy to play for kids of all ages and simple enough that you only need one sheet and a marker.

You can make your own using online design tools, or you can buy one ready on Etsy, like this one from Rainbows and Rainboots. Keep your bingo card neat and erasable with a laminate sheet.

Give your kid a dry-erase marker to cross off squares, and they’ll easily be able to wipe it clean and start over again. Washable markers work in a pinch, but don’t stay on the laminate well.

3. Question card game

a stack of laminated question cards sits on a purple clipboard on a white surface
These question cards will keep your kids entertained with zero mess.

For school-age kids, they may enjoy a fun game of “Would-You-Rather?” These cards are on a binder ring for safe keeping, and double-sided cards allow for a lot of questions for discussion.

For this, print out questions, double-sided, on equal-sized squares. Cut them out. Then, line them up on a laminating sheet and seal them. Cut them out again (cutting them the first time allows more edges for the laminate to stay together) and hole-punch the top corner. Loop them on a binder ring, and you’ve got a compact, durable game for hours of fun.

See our how-to video to make them here.

4. Washable window markers

A hand draws flowers and designs on a car window with colored markers
The car window is a big canvas for kids to draw.

Is your kid an artist in the making? Pack along some washable markers for them to draw on the window. Don’t worry – they wash off easily, and if your kids need a fresh canvas, they can wipe it clean and start over.

5. Marker and art supply storage

A child sits and draws on a window with a marker, and a clear shower caddy holds a colorful array of markers
Store your kids’ markers in a handy shower caddy.

Worried about losing all those washable markers? Get a little shower caddy for the window. These cheap little caddies will keep your kids’ markers in one place.

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An all-way stop sign set against a blue sky and white clouds.
There are a lot of weird laws out there.

Honestly, with America being a sprawling nation, it’s practical for different areas to have different driving laws. Some terrain requires different safety than others, some cities are prone to different (bad) driving habits, and people in different areas have different takes on what makes drivers safer.

With that in mind, there are some driving laws that are just plain wacky. Here are a few of our favorites.

A sepia photo of a one way sign in front of a brick wall with a window.
Going down a one-way is OK in Alabama, on one condition.

Alabama

An old law says that drivers can go the wrong way on a one-way as long as they have a lantern attached to the front of the vehicle.

Arkansas

Don’t honk your horn at a sandwich shop in Little Rock – it’s illegal for drivers to honk “at any place where cold drinks or sandwiches are sold after 9 p.m.”

California

It is illegal in CA for women to drive in…a bathrobe?

It’s also illegal to shoot animals from a moving vehicle. Unsurprising, but quite specific.

A car with a black interior has the front driver door open, showing the steering wheel and dash panel
You might need this vital car part in Illinois … or if you want to drive at all.

Illinois

Just in case you didn’t know the steering wheel is of vital importance, Illinois made it illegal to drive without one.

A man leads a camel down a paved, dusty desert road.
Is this normal, Nevada?

Nevada

It is illegal in NV to drive a camel on the freeway. But not on city streets, where you’re free to hold up traffic to your heart’s content.

New Jersey

Dogs and other pets must buckle up in the car or at least be in a pet carrier. One too many drivers were distracted by pets sitting on their laps while driving.

Also, those who have been charged with a DUI cannot apply to get a vanity license plate if the incident was within 10 years of the application. Trivial, but their lawmakers’ hearts were in the right place, I guess.

a green gas nozzle is inserted into the gas tank of a silver car
Women still pump their own gas there. Rebels.

New Mexico

Women are not legally permitted to pump their own gas or change their own tire. Of course, that’s assuming there will be a man around to do it for them.

New York

In Sag Harbor, it is illegal to disrobe in your vehicle.

boy leans forward while roller blading down a paved road with green grass in the background
This isn’t legal in some states.

Ohio

Rollerblading on the road in Ohio is illegal. Get off the road, kids!

South Carolina

In Hilton Head, it is illegal to have trash in your car.

close up photo of windshield wipers on a clean windshield
Even if you’re (legally) driving without a windshield in Texas, you’ll still need these.

Texas

In Lubbock, it’s illegal to drive within an arm’s length of alcohol.

In Richardson, U-turns are illegal.

In Galveston, it’s illegal to drive down Broadway before noon on Sunday.

Also, across the state, it’s illegal to drive without windshield wipers. Though there is no law against driving without a windshield!


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The interior of a Mercedes, featuring a leather steering wheel and dashboard.
You don’t have to have a luxury or new vehicle to have the features you want.

Have you ever found yourself lusting over luxury car features you know you could never afford? New technology has made cars more comfortable, safe, and connected than ever.

The good news is that many of these features can be added to your older vehicle. We’ve compiled a few of our favorite add-ons that can make your car feel up-to-date.

Seat warmers

A close-up of a front driver's seat with a black pad strapped to the bottom and back of the seat. Red arrows show where the heat goes.
Seat warmers are an easy and affordable addition to any car.

On cold days, seat warmers are the envy of every bum. These seat warmers sit on top of your seat and often have extra cushioning as well. Just slip over your seat and plug into the cigarette lighter and your buns will be toasty in no time.

Backup camera

A close-up of a florida license plate shows a small round black camera at the top middle.
This discreet backup camera fits on top of your license plate.

You don’t have to have a newer car to have a backup camera. Plenty are now available from popular electronic retailers. Just place the camera on your back bumper or license plate and you’ll be able to watch from your in-car screen. No need to be afraid to back into a parking space anymore.

Lane assist and collision warning sensors

Photo of online listing for a Garmin dash camera and description.
This dash cam doubles as a lane-assist device.

Not only are these helpful to give you peace of mind, but crash-prevention sensors are shown to reduce collisions. These are often on the pricey side, but often cheaper to add on your own than buying the car with the features built in at the dealership.

This Garmin camera works as both a dash cam and a lane-assist device. Some devices come with sensors for each corner of your car that improve the accuracy of collision warning.

Bluetooth connectivity

A photo of a small round device with three buttons.
Bluetooth connectors like this are an easy shortcut to hands-free connectivity.

There are several options for connecting audio in your vehicle, but the easiest by far is using a Bluetooth receiver. The receiver sticks to your dash via magnet and plugs into the audio input in your car. It allows you to play music or make hands-free calls through your car speakers.

Bluetooth connection is a gamer changer for both convenience and safety – and in some cities/states making a call is only legal hands-free.

Remote start

Photo of a remote start product in a yellow box labeled Viper. The box shows a phone and parked cars in the background.
Devices like this can start your car with a push of a button.

Though it requires installation, it’s easy and affordable to get a remote start system put into your older vehicle. Starting remotely can help you heat up or cool down the car before you get in. Many also come with a GPS component that can help you locate your car when you forget where your car is in the parking lot.

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Whether or not you have a spare pool noodle lying around your garage, these foam tubes can be great for more than fun in the pool. We have a couple of ways to use them for your car.

Protect your paint

Photo shows a car door opened against a pool noodle, cut in half and placed on the wall.
Protect your car doors from hitting the garage wall with strategically placed pool noodles.

When you pull your car in the garage, it can sometimes be a tight fit. To prevent hitting your car door on a hard wall, cut the noodles in half and adhere a few horizontally against the wall of your garage. When your door swings open, they’ll provide a soft bumper between your door and the wall.

You can also put some at the front end of your garage, and you’ll never have to worry about accidentally hitting the wall in front of the car.

For the kid’s seat

Do you have a small child who still requires a car seat? If so, this hack is perfect for you.

Photo shows a rear-facing car seat secured in the backseat with pink pool noodles wedged between the seats.
Use a pool noodle or two to fill the gap between baby’s seat and the backseat.

For rear-facing car seats, most parents struggle with filling that gap between the baby’s seat and the backseat. This gap can cause the seat to wobble which is unsafe for the baby. Some car manuals suggest you use a rolled-up towel, but sometimes the towel does not fill the space tightly enough to secure the seat.

Instead, take two or three pool noodles (depending on the size of your car seats’ gap) and cut them to the width of the base of your car seat. Be sure to reference your baby’s seat manual because some car seats ask specifically ask that you don’t use the noodles.

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