Tag Archives: cars

Hurricane Sandy Strikes Again…This Time In Your Garage

Right after Hurricane Sandy struck the New York/New Jersey coast, I explored the good, the bad, and ugly effects of the storm from a financial perspective. In the past few months, though, it’s become clear that the long-term ramifications of this mega-storm could impact your household – and, more accurately, your garage – for months, even years, to come.

Take A Look At This Picture

Take a second to click on the link to this picture from the New York Post. Not quite sure what you’re looking at? It’s not bumper-to-bumper traffic through midtown Manhattan, but 15,000 cars parked on a private runway on Long Island. Each one of these cars was declared a total loss by the previous owner’s insurance company following Hurricane Sandy. They represent just a small fraction of the number of cars deemed “undriveable” after the storm – as many as 200,000, according to the Post.

What will happen to all these vehicles? Right now, they’re all owned by the insurance companies that sent them to the junk yard (or in this case, the air field). Some are true losses and will be, at best, scraped for usable parts. Others will be sold by the insurance companies on the used car market.

Can you say, send me a CARFAX?

How These Used Cars Affect You

Going used car shopping in the near future? Then there are two things you need to know:

First, in the short term at least, expect used car prices to soar. U.S. News and World Report estimated used car prices could jump as much as 1.5 percent, as victims of Hurricane Sandy receive insurance payments for the loss of their old vehicles and head to the used car lot to purchase a replacement vehicle. Some of my friends have seen this firsthand; even friends who live hundreds of miles from the impact zone told me they’d received letters from their local car dealerships telling them that now was the time to get top value for their used car.

But the second, and more insidious, after-effect of Hurricane Sandy will be felt for years to come. It’s likely many of these totaled vehicles will end up back on the used car market, where you may run across one without even knowing it.

Doing Your Research

Federal law requires used cars declared “totaled” by insurance companies to be listed on a national database. While this should be enough to protect would-be used car buyers, there are ways around this. Some crooked dealerships may move a totaled vehicle to state after state after state in a process known as title washing; the goal is to move the vehicle around so much, so widely that some of its most negative aspects are “washed” off the title. Other scammers may try to switch vehicle identification numbers, make it impossible to locate the car on a nationwide registry or get an accurate CARFAX report on it.

If you live in the Northeast – in closest proximity to all these water-logged used cars – you’ll have to be on the highest alert. Ask to see a used car history before purchase, and consider taking the vehicle to a third-party inspector – someone who is in no way affiliated with the seller – if you suspect anything fishy. Common signs of water damage are water lines on the interior or exterior of the car, a rusted undercarriage, water condensation inside the head- or taillight compartments, or a foul, moldy odor.

What Happened To Flying Cars From The Jetsons?

As a kid, one of my favorite cartoons was The Jetsons. I’m sure my child’s mind enjoyed the plot twists and turns of George, Jane, Judy, and Elroy, but my real passion for the show was the technology: flying cars passing the skyscrapers that were built above the clouds on stilts, moving sidewalks, robots that cooked and cleaned. To me, the show was a realistic glimpse of the future; it’s what my juvenile self truly expected the 21 st century to be.

Well, it’s 2012, and the adult I’ve become has a question: where’s my flying car?

The Myth

Hands down, my favorite futuristic aspect of George Jetson’s life was his flying car. I loved watching him zip around the sky like a bird, playing the role of his own personal airline pilot. Of course, at the time I was watching these shows (on cable in the late 80s), I didn’t even know how to operate a bike, much less a motorized vehicle, but I didn’t see the point, really; by the time I hit 16, I’d be taking my driver’s license test in a flying car, not one with four-wheel drive and a stick shift.

The Reality

Of course, I didn’t get to take my driver’s exam behind the wheel of a flying car. But here’s the cool thing: I soon might.

The big buzz at this past spring’s New York International Auto Show wasn’t an automobile at all; rather, it was a car/plane hybrid by Massachusetts-based Terrafugia. The company’s name should give you a hint as to its products. Terra is Latin for earth or land, while fugia comes from the Portuguese verb “fugir,” which means to escape – and that’s literally what Terrafugia’s Transition model does. It allows you to escape the bounds of earth’s gravity.

The Transition isn’t quite ready for The Jetsons, though. One of the first road blocks? The price tag: reports suggest it could retail for $279,000. And that’s not all – while the Transition can literally transform from a road-ready vehicle to a light sports aircraft in 30 seconds or less, it still requires a runway for takeoffs and landings, meaning you won’t be able to traffic hop during rush hour. You’ll also have to pay for pilot lessons, as the Transition requires 20 hours of flight training and certification before you can get behind the wheel.

Volkswagen also generated a lot of hype this year when it unveiled its new hover car – which looks more like a wheel than an actual vehicle. And speaking of a wheel, this car doesn’t use one for steering; instead, the VW hover car uses a joystick to change directions. It relies on electromagnetic levitation to hover just a small distance off the ground and – best part – produces absolutely no emissions.

The Future

For the folks at Terrafugia, the future is now. The company is already taking orders for its Transition model, provided you can afford the $10,000 refundable down payment.

As for Volkswagen, the new hover car is still merely a concept vehicle. VW has yet to announce when or where it will be available on the market.

Reader, did you dream about flying cars like I did as a kid? What other technologies are you yearning to try in the future?

Use AAA DMV Services to Save Time

Hate DMV lines? Go to AAA to save time on many license and registration services. This is the best time-saving trick ever!I’m pretty sure everyone hates going to the DMV. The lines are super long, there are a lot of weirdos there, and everything has to be way more complicated than they should be. It took me over 2 hours to change my ID to reflect my true sex.

There are few things that people dread more than trips to the DMV. It took over 2 months for me to convince Lauren to go to change her last name (and address). Now, New Jersey won’t even let you smile for your picture.

Well, I just found out something awesome: there’s a way to completely skip the long lines and avoid the DMV for many common situations.

Over the past several years, the DMV has allowed many people to process some transactions online, but you still have to go in for many license and registration changes.

Most DMV registration services are available at your local AAA branch. This includes registration stickers, drive’s license address changes, and vehicle transfers.

Usually, AAA lines are much shorter than DMV lines, and while you can’t make an appointment at the AAA branch, my experiences there have been very friendly and quick. Very few weirdos.

Also note that all DMV services must be paid for by cash or check.

Here’s a full list of what DMV services are available at AAA branches:

  • Vehicle and vessel registration renewals
  • Duplicate registration and stickers
  • Driver’s license change of address
  • Release of liability
  • Used vehicle transfers
  • New and used boat transfers
  • Duplicate plates
  • Parking placards
  • Personalized license plates
  • Disabled plates
  • Off Highway Vehicle Registration Renewal

Readers, did you know about this already? Would you take advantage?