The Car Talk Show’s Top 10 Lists

Car Talk guys

The Car Talk radio show with Tom and Ray Magliozzi is one of the things I miss by living in Mexico. I probably could get it on Internet radio, but I’m lazy. Of course there’s the website, which contains good advice, smart-ass commentary and a lot of blather, just like the show, naturally.

These guys started in Boston in 1977, so it’s no wonder their humor sometimes gets tiresome and repetitive. But, as I’m sure you know, they dispense good, sensible car advice, and they love lists. We’ll tell you about a few of these.

Some of their lists play off the obvious, like “Best Ways to Keep Your Car Running.” Wanna hear No. 1? It’s “Don’t Drive.”

What makes these lists worthwhile is that the boys always tell you something that is not obvious.

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How to Find the Best Price Online for a Used Car

The way you shop for a used car online is changing.

In the past, a shopper might have used the online Kelley Blue Book or NADA appraising tools and then felt like he or she had done enough research to hit the road and shop.

While those indeed are valuable tools, there’s been a technological breakthrough that can help the good online car shoppers become great ones. It’s called the CarGurus DealFinder. Use it in your next used-car search, and it could save you thousands of dollars.

What makes DealFinder different, and where can you find it? Keep reading to find out.

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Crazy Racers: A Bright Spot in the World of Facebook Apps


I haven’t been on Facebook long, but I’ve been there long enough to already despise invites and updates on things like Mafia Wars, Gangsta Life, Horse Head in the Bed, and whatever other mob-inspired games are out there.

I’m already sick of them and think someone needs to order a hit on them all.

This is why I surprised even myself when I was sucked into a friend’s post about something called Crazy Racers. I think the whacked-out Taxi is what grabbed my attention. Whatever the reason, it was only about 30 seconds after that first click that I was racing my new Clown Car against that old Taxi in an ice race. And I won! And I wanted more.

Crazy Racers is the latest game offered by Car IQ on Facebook, a fast-growing car community created by the folks at CarGurus.

Just log on, pick a car (you can choose between a tank, an ice cream truck, a school bus, and more) and challenge your friends. Or me. When your challenge is accepted, you’ll compete in either a drag race, a demolition derby, a cannonball run, or an ice race. Then take your prize money (called “carsh”) and buy upgrades until your car is nearly unbeatable! It’s simple, addictive, and most of all, fun.

The Car IQ community is great because it’s built around people who love cars. They share pictures of their cars, review cars they’ve driven, and can even create virtual garages and fill them with every dream car imaginable. Have a question about a car? Submit it to an expert and join the nearly 20,000 folks who have already gotten answers on everything from what year Civic to buy to why a Mitsubishi doesn’t run.

Then there’s the Car IQ game itself, another addictive game in which you try to identify cars by year, make, and model. It’s harder than you’d think, especially as you move up in the game. You can even add pictures of your own cars to the quiz, too, just by uploading some to your garage. Of course, that means sometimes a car can be mislabeled (apparently some people don’t know the difference between a Dodge Charger and a Challenger), so if you see a mislabeled car, there’s a link you can use to report it.

For someone who loves cars, the Car IQ community and the new Crazy Racers game have been a blessing in an online world currently controlled by the mafia. Maybe we can call work together to run the mob down with our cars, then challenge them to a Crazy Race.

Who’s gonna challenge me to a Crazy Race? See if you can beat me and my upgraded Clown Car! Find me on Facebook here.


Should Auto Companies Be on Facebook?

No love on Facebook...

No love on Facebook...

There are over 250 million people on Facebook.

That’s like the population of four Englands, so it kind of makes sense to advertise there, no?

I’m not just talkin’ banner ads, either (anyone still click on those?). I’m talkin’ a full interactive presence that sites like Facebook offer. For most companies a Facebook presence is a no-brainer. If you’re an auto company, though, I’m not so sure. The problem? You lose all control of your marketing message, and that’s not good if you post pictures of a car no one likes.

Take Honda, for example. Remember the Crosstour, that unfortunately shaped wagon Honda is creating to do battle with the Toyota Venza? Well, people hated it. A lot of people. And they weren’t shy about letting Honda know their feelings on Honda’s own Facebook page after photos were published there. Suddenly a marketing plan meant to sell cars turned into an all-out Honda hate-fest. Can you say corporate nightmare?

...for the Crosstour

The Honda spectacle is sure to be studied in future college marketing courses as an example of corporate social networking gone horribly wrong. So how can it be done right?

Ford’s corporate page is a bare-bones place to dump press releases and link to its fan page for the Mustang. That’s a strategy that has virtually no risk, because Mustang fans are devoted and passionate, sure to slather nothing but praise on the car and future variations of it. It’s a smart move by Ford, as evidenced by all 323,000 Mustang fans it has on Facebook.

Then there’s Volkswagen, which has a nifty app on its page that analyzes your profile information and matches you with two possible V-dubs. (I’m a Tiguan or a Jetta SportWagen. What are you?) It’s clever, interesting, and most of all, it gets people curious about the brand. Then they tell their friends. Brilliant.

And speaking of apps, if you’re on Facebook, check out Car IQ. If you think you know cars, this will either prove you right or force you to bow to the true masters. It’s cool… and addicting.

Should car companies be on Facebook? Which ones are doing it right? Also let us know how you do on Car IQ!


Jay Leno’s Advice to Car Collectors


Jay Leno writes a column for Popular Mechanics that you may have read, especially if you have an interest in classic or collectible cars. In addition to his comedic talents, Jay is of course one of the great car enthusiasts, and his thoughts are always worth reading. For the May issue, he talked about what makes cars collectible and which ones might be valuable in the future.

The gist is:

Buy cars you like; don’t buy them as an investment. Buy cars that are simple, like the original Miata; technically innovative, like the first Prius; or styling breakthroughs, like the first-generation Taurus. Buy styling goofs, like the Aztek, or popular “nerd cars” like the AMC Pacer and Gremlin. Buy cars that will generate nostalgia: the Cadillac CTS-V with standard 6-speed, or the Hummer (“the ’59 Cadillac of 2025”). Avoid all newer Ferraris, which will cost you an arm and a leg to repair.

1988 Buick Reatta

Now we’ll add our two cents. First, don’t just jump in, but get smart about the car collecting field and investigate current values. It’s easy to get burned.

There are lots of online and print resources you can rely on—e.g., blogs like Duffy’s Collectible Cars, print mags like Hemmings Motor News, Automobile Quarterly, and Collectible Automobile, and sites with pricing info like NADA’s Classic Car Pricing, which gives data on collectibles, special interest cars, exotic and muscle cars, etc. Listed are cars from Alfas and Allards to Zimmers.

1990 Mazda Miata

Implicit in Jay’s advice is another admonition: Buy newer cars and wait for the value to accrue. Unless you’ve got lots of cash, leave the early Cobras and the Packards to the pros. The collectible market is like any other: Right now, it’s mostly in decline, except for the really high-end cars, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad time to buy. Here’s one collector’s list of collectibles over the past 25 years.

Trust your instincts and your research!

Have you ever bought a “collectible car,” either because you loved it or because you thought it would appreciate? Tell us about it.


Daddy, how are cars made?


As another weekend descends upon us, here’s a quick little piece of  fun from the automotive world:

The other day my 7-year-old son asked me how cars are made. That’s not a question that’s easily answered, and I didn’t feel up to a lengthy, boring description. So the two of us sat down and asked Google: How are cars made?

We found was this animated children’s site from Toyota. It’s a fun, entertaining, and educational explanation of how a car gets made. While it is extraordinarily simple, it satisfied my son’s curiosities about the car-building process. 

The site took us on virtual tour and covered everything from development to assembly to sales. I was surprised to see that Toyota took the time to create something like this, but I guess the “how is a car made?” question comes up often enough to justify it! 

Enjoy your weekend, and let us know if you stumble across anything automotive that you want to share! 


April Fool’s Day Roundup

Since my trusty and humorous colleagues tgriffith and jgoods have left me driving our blog, among other things, alone while they’re on vacation, I’m taking a quick and easy approach to inject a little April Fool’s Day humor. Here’s a list of some of my favorite funny posts from around the auto-blog world today – please feel free to share yours with a comment. Enjoy!

Maude Buys GM Hyundai’s new i10 pope-mobile is for the frugal religious leaders BREAKING: VW changes mind again, renames animal after sport Chin Jabber Wakes Drivers Porsche Panamera Shooting Break… My dream comes true! Rick Wagoner joins the eGMCarTech team!

Please share any of your favorite car-related April Fool’s Day posts we haven’t mentioned in a comment.

-Steve Halloran

Scanning the Auto Blogosphere

Terrafugia's Transition in flight

Terrafugia's Transition in flight

The auto-blog world offers lots of coverage of a few big stories this week. As we noted in our last post, Congress will consider a “Cash for Clunkers” bill that would offer a voucher of $3,000-5,000 to anyone trading in an older car for a new one assembled in North America that costs less than $35,000 and gets at least 27 mpg on the highway. New-car deals get sweeter and sweeter, eh?

The government also earned a lot of auto-blog coverage today by approving a $5 billion plan to provide help to automotive parts suppliers, which have been hurt badly by the Big Three’s cuts in North American vehicle production. The Detroit News has lots of details.

Another topic that’s gotten lots of coverage today has to do with the latest J.D. Power vehicle dependability study results. Surprisingly enough, Buick and Jaguar both managed to outscore perennial winner Lexus this year, which took third. eGMCarTech has full results and the press release.

Two more stories generated auto-blog buzz this week. A number of folks published stories on the debut flight of Terrafugia’s Transition flying car (above). It’s still got a long way to go before you’ll find one at a local dealer, and the Transition doesn’t look particularly graceful airborne, but the (very short) video looks promising.

MR2 fans are getting into a lather over another story reported this week: Toyota is considering a performance hybrid based on a special version of the Prius’s powertrain that will carry on the name of Toyota’s much-loved roadster. Auto Express’s “artists’s impressions” look pretty hot.

We’ll conclude this week’s article with a couple of quick bits about the Big Three that suggest the times really are a’changing.

First, GM CEO Rick Wagoner said Tuesday that he thought increasing the federal gasoline tax to price gas at $4 per gallon is “worthy of consideration” (you’ll see that quote in almost every article on this topic). While gas taxes are regressive and therefore unfair, Europeans’ generally much higher gas taxes have driven them to select much more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly cars as a group. And that wouldn’t be such a bad thing here, would it?

Finally, as Chrysler happily points out on its own blog, the state of Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality has awarded a Clean Corporate Citizen award to the Global Engine Manufacturing Alliance (GEMA) plant in Dundee, MI. The GEMA plant is a joint venture of Chrysler, Hyundai, and Mitsubishi, so they can’t take all the credit, but it’s nice to see Chrysler participating in an exceptionally clean, efficient, and low-impact manufacturing process.

Anything you’d like to see get more – or less – coverage here on the CarGurus Blog? Let me know.

-Steve Halloran

Scanning the Auto Blogosphere

Bobby Darin's 1960 DiDio 150

Bobby Darin's 1960 DiDio 150

Time for another round-up of the last week’s auto-blog highlights. You’d think the current economic crisis, particularly among the Big Three, might make it hard to find good news about the car business these days, but I guess the spinmeisters work overtime around the big auto shows – we’ve already posted a preview of the current Geneva Auto Show, and we’ll likely post a wrap-up next week. Anyway, here goes…

The Geneva Auto Show’s “booth professionals” have gotten a huge amount of blog coverage this week, and given the photos we’ve seen, we can understand why. The folks at Jalopnik put together a very lovely gallery that should make anyone who appreciates beautiful curves forget, at least briefly, our current economic and automotive woes.

Consumer Reports recently posted its list of top 2009 cars. It’s a solid list with no huge surprises, but I find it a little sad that CR’s “best overall vehicle,” the Lexus LS 460, costs about $30K more than the next most expensive vehicle on their list, the Chevrolet Avalanche, and the top-end version costs $40,000 more than a maxed-out Infiniti G37, which took CR’s nod for “upscale sedan.” Given everyone’s increasing financial concerns and carefulness these days, maybe CR’s list of the best and worst used cars will prove more useful.

Automotive Traveler posted a terrific gallery of used cars, too, but they were all from the 2009 Palm Springs Concours d’Elegance and likely even more expensive than that Lexus. The best of show winner – a 1961 Alfa Romeo SZ Coda-Trunka – was a new one to me, and while I wouldn’t want to have to keep it running, I’ll bet my co-workers would be happy to head out for off-site lunches in it.

While we’re on the topic of collectible vintage cars, have you seen Bobby Darin’s 1960 DiDia 150 (above)? CarLust’s article includes a few great pictures of a truly distinctive auto that anyone who appreciates ’60s cars – and fins – should see. And Ferrari fans will definitely want to take a look at the World’s Luxury Guide’s “Red Racers” slideshow. Yum!

Old-school still photos serve vintage cars and car shows pretty well, but video does a much better job capturing the spirit of cars in motion. Nihon Car’s video of an HKS GT-R completing a lap of the Fuji Speedway in less than 1:55 is darned impressive. And YouTube’s video of Vaughn Gittin Jr. setting a new drifting world record (not yet certified by Guiness) is amazing.

Okay, one last bit of good news, at least for the future. Apparently Fiat has just developed a new bit of technology that can adjust valve lift profiles while running to reduce fuel consumption up to 25% and CO2 emissions by 10% while increasing power and torque output. The company’s new Multiair feature is expected to debut in the 2010 Alfa Romeo MiTo, which looks like it won’t arrive in the U.S. until late this year, possibly as a 2011 model.

Anything you’d like to see get more – or less – coverage here on the CarGurus Blog? Let me know.

-Steve Halloran

Scanning the Auto Blogosphere

Hello again, car fans. Let’s get one bit of bad auto news that’s been widely reported over the last week out of the way pronto: GM posted a loss of almost $10 billion for the fourth quarter and over $30 billion for 2008. Ouch. That news probably contributed to Thomas Friedman’s suggestion that the U.S. government put money into start-ups instead of bailing out the Big Three, in which he called GM “a giant wealth-destruction machine,” but GM’s response, comparing Friedman to Sir Thomas More and calling him “a wealthy scribe” (does anyone at GM know what newspaper reporters get paid?), was just plain weird.

The Car Connection’s story rejecting a TechCrunch post suggesting Steve Jobs get put in charge of a merged Chrysler and GM was just plain funny and has a great title, but its inclusion of links to 50 Cent and Britney Spears info on the Internet Movie Database and Tyra Banks and Gillian Anderson videos, not to mention a swipe at Paris Hilton, seemed pretty gratuitous. Of course, as you should know from the video link at the top of this post, I’m not above the occasional gratuitous link myself.

I did manage to find some good news and evidence that optimism has survived our current economic difficulties this week. Hyundai has added a Plus to its well-received Assurance plan, meaning that the automaker will make up to 3 months of car-loan payments for any Hyundai new-car buyer who loses his or her income. The company hopes that will give customers time to get a new job and back on their feet, but if things don’t work out, customers can still return the car after those three months with no credit-rating impact.

Better Place has taken an interesting approach to electric cars and already struck deals with a number of national and state governments, including Israel, Denmark, California, and Hawaii, to build battery exchange stations as well as charging points. It hopes Americans will be much more open to driving electric vehicles if they don’t have to buy the batteries, which are a big component of the cost of an EV and have a limited lifespan. Better Place plans to charge based on mileage driven and keep its customers using the latest, longest driving range batteries in their BP-compatible cars.

A California dairy has taken a big step to reduce its dependence on imported petroleum that should also lower the chance that visitors will accidentally step in a cow patty on its premises. Hilarides Dairy has converted two 18-wheelers to run on biomethane made from the dairy’s abundant supply of manure. Bacteria breaks the manure down, impurities are removed, and the methane is pressurized into compressed natural gas. The dairy hopes to convert five pick-up trucks to run on biomethane, too.

And last but not least, I wanted to share an idea from Jil McIntosh, an auto blogger who was inspired by the story of Sam McLaughlin, founder of General Motors of Canada. She suggests that rich auto execs could help put people to work and boost the economy by spending some of their generous earnings on personal projects – a new garage on their property, maybe, or even better a local senior center or library – and making sure to hire local workers and use local raw materials. In the words of the challenge McIntosh advises auto execs to pass along to other bigwigs:

Each project may only directly help a small number of people. But if every one of us, who were fortunate enough in the good times, gets just a handful of people working, that number grows. I challenge all of you to do your part, one local job at a time.

Sounds like good thinking, no?

Anything you’d like to see get more – or less – coverage here on the CarGurus Blog? Let me know.

-Steve Halloran