It's finally that time of year--when schoolgoers of all ages get very sad, when parents breathe a sigh of relief.
It's time to go back to school, and the kids are almost set: tablets, new sneakers, a sweet backpack.
Wait, did you forget something? How about a new set of wheels? School time is a great time to consider a new car, because a new model year brings bigger discounts on the outgoing models. Never mind that; it's the perfect chance to show off in the pickup lane.
While you make one last back-to-school shopping list--cars to test-drive--we'll let you share our notes. We've picked our top choices for back-to-school vehicles, for every stage of education, from kindergarten to passing the bar. And in each case, we've picked some of the safest, most value-packed vehicles you can buy.
Elementary School: 2014 Ford Flex
You need something that makes the wheels go round and round with maximum safety, a minimum of fuss, and the most entertainment per mile. How about something that actually looks like a bus? The top-rated Ford Flex wagon is stuffed with its DVD entertainment systems, Bluetooth streaming, and excellent crash-test scores. The only thing missing? Maybe a coat of school-bus yellow paint. ( Continue… )
It's something Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] is discovering too, as sales of the Model S sedan are ramping up in the island state, and taking a healthy chunk of the market's electric car sales overall.
The Hawaii Automobile Dealers Association reports (via Pacific Business News) that Tesla sold 94 Model S vehicles from January through June, around a quarter of the 388 electric cars sold in the state over the same period. Those sales are accelerating too, as 72 of those were sold in the second quarter alone.
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Sales of electric cars in general have been steadily increasing in Hawaii, but the first half-year of 2013 is already outpacing 2012's total of 341 cars. That was a slight increase from 338 in 2011. The presence of the Model S, more affordable Leafs and Chevy Volts and the addition of a few more electric vehicles from other brands. Nissan put its high Hawaii sales down to one of the densest recharging grids in the United States--meaning EV drivers find it really easy to get around. ( Continue… )
Toyota has announced pricing for the 2014 Corolla Range, with an entry point of $17,610 for the Corolla L.
Available in L, LE, S and LE Eco trim lines, Corolla pricing runs from the sub-$18K of the L to $22,110 for a top-end S Plus.
This model features a, six-speed manual transmission, 17-inch alloy wheels, a moonroof, Entune Premium Audio with Navigation and App suite, and Smart Key as standard equipment.
Even L grade cars come with a reasonable equipment roster, with LED daytime running lights and low-beam headlights, Bluetooth connectivity and eight airbags. Raise the bar to $19,110 and you'll have access to LE trim, with a backup monitor, climate control, cruise, keyless entry and Entune audio. ( Continue… )
Safety sells. We know that wasn't always the case; but in today's market, the majority of new-car shoppers do value how well a car will protect them in a crash—or how it might help them avoid one altogether.
Trouble is, between the two U.S. agencies that conduct crash tests—the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)—there's a lot of information to distill. And to compound matters, the test results from these two agencies aren't always in agreement.
We already help make sense of that in the Safety section of each full review here at The Car Connection, and that's a great place to start when cross-shopping models before you head to the dealership. And to make this information even more useful to those who want one of the safest new cars, we've done some additional sorting to filter out the best of the best.
In order to come up with this list of safest cars, we looked at vehicles that earn top scores in both (sorry, Tesla Motors) federal and IIHS crash-test programs. First we separated out models that get NHTSA five-star scores overall, frontal, and side (allowing 4 stars for rollover): then we looked at which of those models also qualify for the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ nod. ( Continue… )
Yes, it's shocking. California automaker Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] is outselling a number of very well established vehicle brands in its home state—with only one model: the all-electric Model S.
In June, Tesla outsold (on the basis of registrations) Buick, Lincoln, Porsche, Volvo, and Cadillac—and far outsold Jaguar and Land Rover combined. And the long-established, full-line luxury brand Infiniti only posted just 51 more registrations in the state than Tesla. LEARN MORE: Tesla Model S: So Safe, It Broke NHTSA's Testing Equipment
This wasn't just a monthly sales blip, either. Even on a year-to-date basis, through June, Tesla has sold more vehicles in California than Land Rover, Jaguar, Lincoln, Volvo, or Porsche.
For years, we've reported on Google's development of self-driving cars -- or more accurately, on Google's development of self-driving car technology.
Until recently, many folks assumed that Google would only create the software for autonomous vehicles, then license that software to car companies, which would install the software on their own vehicles. That assumption was based on the lessons that Google seems to have learned through Android -- namely, that making hardware is a great way to lose money.
The end result of Google's efforts would be cars like the ones we've already seen, in which Google's autonomous vehicle technology has been installed on models like the Toyota Prius. Automakers around the world would be able to sell a "Google Package" (or whatever clever name they came up with) to eager autonomous car fans.
But that scenario may play out as expected. According to our colleagues at Motor Authority, Google is preparing to launch its very own car company.
Well, maybe. ( Continue… )
Earlier this week, trumpets were blown for Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA], whose Model S luxury electric sedan attained the highest-ever rating in the National Highway Traffic Safety Adminstration's crash tests.
It's an impressive achievement, particularly for such a young automaker. And while the feds weren't so keen on Tesla's revelation that it actually got a 5.4 out of 5 overall score, there's no doubting the Model S is a safe car.
But safest car ever? That's less clear, and for one important reason, notes the Los Angeles Times: Its closest rivals haven't actually been tested.
Not so long ago, we learned that Tesla's Model S sales are actually fairly healthy for its class. On price, it lines up beside cars like the Audi A8, BMW 7-Series, Lexus LS and Mercedes-Benz S-Class, and outsold them all in the first quarter 2013.
However, none of the above have actually been tested by the NHTSA, nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Crashing half a dozen new cars in the name of science is actually quite an expensive pursuit, seriously so when the cars in question are approaching the $100,000 mark.
For that reason, says the Times, the NHTSA tests the models "that best represent what is actually being purchased in the marketplace". Overall, around 85 percent of new cars are tested, typically the models selling in the greatest numbers. ( Continue… )
For several years, traffic fatality rates in the U.S. have been falling, reaching historic lows. Though there's some disagreement about the reasons for the decline, most credit improved safety features on automobiles (e.g. electronic stability control) and improved driving habits (e.g. wider disapproval of drinking and driving).
But the good news could be coming to an abrupt halt. The federal government's preliminary report on 2012 fatality rates suggests an increase of 5.3 percent, and the folks at AAA think they know what's behind the uptick: you've stopped caring.
Every year, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety polls thousands of Americans to gauge their attitudes on driving habits and traffic safety issues. The Foundation recently analyzed four years worth of data compiled between 2009 and 2012, and the findings are a little disturbing: ( Continue… )
Yesterday, we told you how all 50 states rank when it comes to the cost of car ownership. Now, the folks at GoBankingRates.com have published a related set of rankings, based on one of the biggest factors in ownership costs: insurance rates on auto loans.
The average auto loan rate is the U.S. is currently 3.65 percent. On the whole, drivers out West have a better shot at getting a low-interest car loan, while those in the North East pay considerably more -- typically 4 percent or above.
That said, the cheapest place to take out an auto loan is in America's car capital, Michigan, boasting an average interest rate of just 3.03 percent. That number can fall even further if drivers finance their rides through credit unions, where the state's lowest rate on a 48-month loan clocked in at just 1.49 percent.
All told, the five cheapest states for loans are:
At the other end of the scale, we find Rhode Island, where the average auto loan comes with an interest rate of 5.11 percent. With the exception of New York and Maine, other states in the North East didn't fare much better. Here are the five most expensive states for auto financing:
- Rhode Island (5.11%)
- Connecticut (4.82%)
- New Jersey (4.47%)
- Massachusetts (4.21%)
- Louisiana (4.20%)
If you're in the market for a new car, take our advice and secure your auto loan before heading off to the showrooms. You'll have time to explore a wider range of options, giving you a better chance to score a better rate.
When you go at it the other way -- shopping first, then securing a loan -- you can find yourself over a barrel. For starters, you'll often be pressured to buy immediately: "I've got three other people looking at that same car this afternoon!" That, in turn, can lead you to arrange financing through the dealership, which is usually a terrible idea. As CarsDirect's Christian Gulliksen points out, "The rate a dealer presents may not be the rate a bank offered – dealers often add a point or two and pocket the difference as profit."
Got any other tips for saving cash on car loans? Or maybe some horror stories of your own? Share them in the comments below.
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Tesla Motors has made no secret of its plans to move into the Asian market, and the company now says manufacturing plants in both Europe and Asia are on the cards. It's part of a large expansion planned for the electric car startup over the next few years, including new model launches, new factories and expectations of continually increasing demand.
According to Bloomberg, CEO Elon Musk says the arrival of a new, smaller model--potentially called the Model E, as a trademark filed last week suggested--will require the building of new plants. Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] expects demand for the Model S sedan alone to hit 21,000 units this year, and that number could double in 2014.
The new plants are best located close to its customers. The current Fremont plant is ideally located for U.S. sales, but less so for European and Asian markets. Tesla already assembles some Model S components in its recently-opened facility in Tilberg, Netherlands, from where it's conducting its European operations.
“We’ll try to locate those close to where people are, close to where the customers are, to minimize the logistics costs of getting the car to them,” Musk told Bloomberg. ( Continue… )