Smart Car Shopping
So, you want to buy a new car. You know you are likely to own it for at least 7 years or longer. That’s pretty typical these days. So, you not only want to get the best deal today, you also want to make sure it remains a smart choice for many miles and years ahead. Our FYI reporter Lauren Morrison knows the ins and outs of smart car buying, and she’s up next to give us the lowdown.
LAUREN MORRISION: Today’s savvy car buyers know that spending quality time online, researching models, specs and prices...
... ”will save time and money here, on the dealership lot. Doing your homework ahead of time is key, and there are plenty of shopping tools available to help guide your decision.”
Stephen Dupal and his fiancee Sherryn Daniel are in the market for a small, economical commuter car to replace Stephen’s aging Corolla. Before heading to commercial web pages for option packages and pricing info, several federal government sites helped narrow their search in the areas of fuel economy, safety and alternative fuels, three of their key parameters.
The joint Department of Energy and EPA Fuel Economy website provides convenient, one stop shopping for everything most buyers will ever want to know about maximizing mpg in their next car.
Here, consumers can compare up to four different vehicles at a time, and their fuel economy ratings, energy and environment scores, basic engine and transmission size, driving range, and annual fuel costs, along with real-world fuel consumption data provided by actual owners. The web-site had over 25 million user sessions last year!
STEPHEN DUPAL: I like to have like those charts and plots and graphs to kind of compare things in a numerical basis so I know what I’m looking for and then I can verify..oh yes, this car will have what I need based on these metrics..
LAUREN MORRISION: Other useful content on the website, and free fuel economy mobile app, includes driving and maintenance tips to help you get the most out of your vehicle, easy-to-understand descriptions of new vehicle technology, information about available tax incentives for advanced-technology vehicles, trip calculators, and more!
In the area of safety, you can start with the government’s “safercar” website (safercar.gov) for how a car fares in mandated crash testing and rollover ratings. The site spells out which vehicles go beyond requirements, and have cutting edge safety technology.
SHERRYN DANIEL: What I like about the safercar website is there’s just so many little applications, where all we have to do is enter the make and the model of the car, and we can see if it was recalled, we can look for certain safety features, I even learned about rollover that this is the most lethal type of car accident and that with the best type of car, you can prevent damage.
LAUREN MORRISION: But, you’re a consumer or a fleet manager that is up to date... Maybe even ahead of the crowd. So, perhaps a plug-in hybrid or even full electric car fits your lifestyle or business. Or, a vehicle that runs on another non-traditional fuel like e85, bio-diesel, natural gas, propane, or even hydrogen.
Now, you need to know not only the specs, but the pros and cons, and practicality of each fuel. Well, for that, more than 1.5 million users a year check out the Energy Department’s “Alternative Fuels Data Center” website (afdc.energy.gov).
The afdc website and alt-fuel app are designed to eliminate your confusion over the various types of alternative fuels and their vehicles. And now that plug-in and alt-fuel vehicles are being sold with ever increasing range, the website’s fueling station database is enjoying increasing popularity as well.
SHERRYN DANIEL: …there’s this link where you can just type in your state so, if we bought like a hybrid, or a car that uses natural gas or something like that, we can look up stations nearby ahead of time when we travel.
LAUREN MORRISION: The end game in all this is to be the best informed new car shopper you can possibly be. And ultimately, to buy or lease a new car, SUV, or truck, you can live with today, and way into the future. These commercial-free, dot-gov websites can help you to avoid costly mistakes and surprises, before and after you visit the dealership.
Each year in the US, about 12- to 14 million vehicles reach the end of their useful rolling lives, and about 99-percent of those end up in a scrapyard. But usually, that’s not the end of their story. Stephanie Hart visits a local salvage yard to show us how automobiles are recycled, and the crushing first step to a new ride tomorrow.
STEPHANIE HART: I’m here at ConservIt in Hagerstown, Maryland. 40- to 45-thousand vehicles are shredded each year. Their materials are then used to make entirely new products, which is a win for the environment. Alright, I’m going to put on my safety gear and head out to check out the shredding plant.
Just look at this place! Very cool! Vehicles are actually the most recycled objects in the United States. Globally, 27 million vehicles are recycled each year. 12 million of those vehicles come from the United States. Once plastics are removed, what’s left of the modern automobile are most metals such as iron, aluminum and steel. All can be efficiently recycled!
HOLDEN METZNER: The individual metals are separated using magnets and other technology. So, a car goes in– mixed metals and waste– and it comes out as furnished-ready steel, aluminum, copper, brass. The benefits of recycling automobiles is you’re taking something that has very little value and breaking it down into items that can be reused or recycled.
STEPHANIE HART: Recycled vehicles in the U.S. and Canada provide enough steel to build about 13-million new vehicles. Plus, recycling end of life cars eliminates the need for 85 million barrels of oil that would otherwise be used to make new and replacement car parts.
HOLDEN METZNER: Being able to make new metal from recycled metal saves a ton of energy. It’s much more environmentally friendly from emissions to the energy that’s used to– to melt the aluminum or steel, to the mining that takes place to get the– the raw materials that would be necessary to make new cooper or new aluminum or new– new iron.
STEPHANIE HART: It’s no wonder the car recycling industry is the 16th largest in the U.S., contributing about $25 billion to the national gross domestic product.
HOLDEN METZNER: The steel from automobiles goes to steel mills that make items from rebar, to I beams, to plate, to coil. They can be used to make new cars, appliances… they’re used in buildings, bridges… They can be used to make new equipment.
STEPHANIE HART: Recycling cars is nothing new, it’s been underway since the first vehicles rolled off the production line well over 100 years ago. Its success is built on an entrepreneurial spirit, a love of cars, and a desire to satisfy the needs of an evolving automotive ecosystem.
Cars are more complex these days, so it’s only gotten more challenging for recyclers as far as effectively recovering all of the metals.
HOLDEN METZNER: The technology and the auto-recycling industry has also been improving. It’s allowing us to identify and— and capture, uh, scrap metals that otherwise we weren’t able to, such as insulated copper wire, circuit boards. And also, the sizing of what we’re able to capture. Now, we’re able to capture much, much smaller part sizes versus what we were previously able to do.
NICK REED: So, all the cars that come in– they’re all different, every make and model. Um… So it kind of gives you a challenge to figure out how to process them the best way. Um… that’s probably why I like my job.
STEPHANIE HART: ConservIt employees also feel good, knowing with each car they crush our planet is being preserved for future generations.
SAM METZNER: It’s nice to know that these, uh, items aren’t going to be landfilled or–or disposed of in a way that’s not beneficial for the environment.