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4 entries from January 2015

Monthly Poll: Can You Get Around Without Your GPS?

Navigating with GPS

I've not had the best relationship with in-car GPS systems. As I shared previously, my GPS thought making a U-turn in the middle of a busy freeway as well as driving a mountainous one-lane hairpin turn road instead of the regular two-lane highway were good ideas.

That GPS is history (good riddance!), but I'll admit I have warmed up to GPS apps (like Google Maps and Apple Maps) on my iPhone. In fact, every time I visit my brother in Victoria, I have to pull out the GPS - even though I've been to his place several times, the weird, windy and one-way roads of BC's fair capitol get me all turned around.

An article on Lifehacker suggests that I'm actually making it worse for myself by continuing to use my GPS apps. Their advice: print out the directions complete with street names and landmarks. That will help reinforce them and I won't need the GPS. Maybe I'll try that next time. But I will also make sure my iPhone is full charged and the address pre-programmed into Google Maps .. just in case.

So, how about you? Can you get around without your GPS? Would you use a non-technology alternate to an in-car or smartphone app GPS? Or are you like Lynne Martin (author of "Home Sweet Anywhere") who has named her GPS (coincidentally named Victoria) and takes it with her on all her world travels? Take our poll below!

- Rose R.

Driving Blind Can Get You Fined - Clean the Snow Off Your Car!

Snow covered car on the road

You're leaving for work. It's dark. It's cold. It snowed last night and your car is blanketed with several inches of powder. Do you:

a) Just give the windshield a swipe and hope the rest blows off before you hit the highway?

b) Get your snow brush out and thoroughly clean off your entire vehicle, cursing our Canadian weather and dreaming about the giant cup of coffee you're going to buy on your way to work?

c) Go back to bed?

If the answer is b) or c), you're good to go. But not thoroughly de-snowing your car is not only dangerous for you and other drivers, it's actually illegal. Fines for not completely cleaning off your car vary by province, but you can be pulled over and ticketed by police if they deem your vehicle insufficiently clean

Recently, in Ottawa, one police officer stopped 63 vehicles in the course of 90 minutes because they hadn't been cleaned properly. Lucky for the drivers, he let them off with a warning - but not before he personally finished cleaning off their vehicle.  

Leaving snow on your car creates a danger for other drivers - if snow or ice blows off your vehicle into their car, they could end up momentarily blind or with windshield or wiper damage. Winter driving is hazardous enough as it is - adding snow and ice flying off your vehicle as well increases the risk of accidents for everyone on the road.

Continue reading "Driving Blind Can Get You Fined - Clean the Snow Off Your Car!" »

Get a Grip: When and Where to Use Snow Chains for Winter Driving

Putting on snow chains

I've lived in Canada my entire life and have never put on snow chains. If you don't drive in the mountains or in extreme winter weather conditions, chances are you've never used snow chains either! But in certain winter weather situations, snow chains can be a life-saver and even if you never have to put them on, it's still good to know how.

What are snow chains?

Snow chains are sets of chains that you put on your tires to help with traction on ice or snow. Traction is increased by 100% when you use snow chains correctly; they also make stopping on ice and snow much easier. You can buy them at your local automotive store and they're sold in sets of two.

Snow chains come in a variety of configurations and some are easier to put on than others. Check your owner's manual to see what kind of chains they recommend for your vehicle; and definitely consult a professional when buying snow chains for the first time.

Continue reading "Get a Grip: When and Where to Use Snow Chains for Winter Driving" »

Questions to Ask When Buying a New Car

Buying a new car

We bought our current car back in 2006, brand new from the dealership. It was largely a purchase driven of necessity ... the old one had finally reached that tipping point where it was more expensive to repair than what it would be worth to trade it in. We also didn't do a lot of research because my partner is fiercely loyal to the Saturn brand.

But now that Saturn is no more (so much for brand loyalty), when we buy a new car again, we'll have a lot more research to do and questions to ask. Buying a new car (well, any car, really) seems so stressful. What are some good questions to ask when you hit the dealership shopping for your new ride?

  • Has the car been used as a demo or test drive? Not all test drives go smoothly; make sure you get the details on how the car has been treated. Did the salesperson practice doing donuts in the parking lot on Sunday morning? A small amount of mileage may be acceptable, but make sure you know what kind of mileage it is.
  • What is the total price of the car after fees and licensing? Dealerships will often try to focus you on the monthly payment rather than the total price of the car (after all, most of us budget on a monthly basis). But a few more dollars a month can really add up on a 5 year loan. Make sure the total price you're paying is in line with what you expect to pay. You may need to compare your options such as manufacturer's rebate vs 0% interest or the deal your bank offers vs the loan the dealership offers. Make sure you understand the dollars and cents of the deal.
  • Does this car make me happy? After you've taken it for a test drive, assess your mood ... does it make you happy when you drive it? Is everything comfortable and in reach? Will it fit your lifestyle (kids, large pets, surfboards)? Do you enjoy driving it? You don't want to buy such a big ticket item if it doesn't put a smile on your face.

  • Is that the best you can do? It's always worth asking this question at least once in your purchase process. Make sure you are taking advantage of manufacturers' rebates and incentives as well as incentives from the dealership. But car purchase negotiations can be incredibly stressful and aren't for everyone. There is help through services like Unhaggle and Car Cost Canada.  

These, of course, aren't the only questions you should ask., the well-known online source for automotive information, has an extensive guide for first time new car buyers.While the information is geared towards the American market, there is a lot of pertinent and detailed information in the guide.

Oh, and you won't be the only one asking questions at the dealership. The salesperson at the dealership will be asking YOU a lot of questions as well in an attempt to get you to do the deal. Anticipate what they will be asking with this helpful list.

And, finally, if you have an old car you want to trade-in or resell, check out our tips on preparing your car for resale.

Have you bought a new car recently? Any tips you want to share?

- Rose R.