4 Credit Cards That Can Help You Save for a Car

Saving for a car can be much easier when you've got credit cards with major rewards and perks.

[DISCLOSURE: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]

The more you save up for a down payment on your next car, the better off you’ll be financially when you drive off the lot. A bigger down payment can reduce the amount you need to borrow,  increase the range of cars you can afford and even lower your monthly payments. But saving up for a car can be difficult when you’ve got many other expenses.

Cash back credit cards can help you save by earning money back on your purchases, putting cash back in your pocket.

These four credit cards can earn you cash back and that you can use to help you pay for your next ride.

1. Discover it Card

Rewards: 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases per quarter for rotating bonus categories, 1% cash back on everything else
Signup Bonus: Discover will match the cash back you earn in the first year.
Annual Fee: $0
Annual Percentage Rate (APR): 0% for six months on purchases and 18 months on balance transfers, then variable 11.99% to 23.99%
Why We Picked It: Long-term planners can use Discover’s cash back match for down payment assistance.
For Your New Car: This card earns 5% cash back on bonus categories, such as restaurants and home improvement stores, that rotate every quarter. All other purchases earn 1% cash back. Plus, Discover will match all the cash back you earn in the first year. If you have a year or more to save up for your new ride, that bonus can help you make a final push to boost your down payment.
Drawbacks: To get the most out of this card, you’ll have to do the work of tracking and activating spending categories each quarter.

2. Chase Freedom

Rewards: 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases per quarter for rotating bonus categories, 1% cash back on everything else
Signup Bonus: $150 bonus cash back when you spend $500 in the first three months
Annual Fee: $0
APR: 0% for 15 months, then variable 15.74% to 24.49%
Why We Picked It: The 5% cash back bonus categories and signup bonus can help you quickly save.
For Your New Car: With 5% cash back on quarterly rotating bonus categories like gas stations and grocery stores, you’ll have plenty of ways to save. There’s also a $150 bonus when you spend $500 in three months, which shouldn’t be too difficult.
Drawbacks: Like Discover it, this card requires a bit more maintenance.

3. Blue Cash Preferred by American Express

Rewards: 6% cash back on up to $6,000 in yearly spending at supermarkets, 3% cash back at gas stations and select department stores and 1% cash back on everything else
Signup Bonus: $150 bonus cash back when you spend $1,000 in the first three months
Annual Fee: $95
APR: 0% for 12 months, then variable 13.99% to 24.99%
Why We Picked It: Multiple ways to earn special cash back rates means you’ll have many ways to save for your car.
For Your New Car: With 6% cash back at supermarkets, 3% cash back at gas stations and certain department stores and 1% cash back elsewhere, there’s no shortage of opportunities for saving. Plus, $150 bonus cash can go right toward that down payment.
Drawbacks: There’s a $95 annual fee, which slightly reduces the potential profitability of your card.

4. Citi Double Cash

Rewards: 1% cash back on all purchases and an additional 1% upon payment
Signup Bonus: None
Annual Fee: $0
APR: 0% for 18 months, then variable 14.49% to 24.49%
Why We Picked It: If you religiously pay off your balance each month, you’ll consistently earn 2% cash back on all purchases. (Full Disclosure: Citibank advertises on Credit.com, but that results in no preferential editorial treatment.)
For Your New Car: With all purchases earning 2% cash back by the time you pay, you can earn a solid cash back rate no matter what you’re buying.
Drawbacks: You’ll have to wait until you pay to earn the full cash back rate.

Choosing a Credit Card to Help Save for a Car

Cash back is the primary way credit cards can help you save for a car. When picking a credit card to help you afford your next ride, you’ll want to choose a card that rewards the way you spend. You can try to find a card that offers special cash back rates on the purchase types you make most frequently. Or, if you tend to spread your purchases around at many types of merchants, a card with quarterly rotating purchase categories or a flat cash back rate on all purchases might be a good fit.

Be sure to check the cash back redemption options on any card you’re evaluating. Some cards will let you redeem your cash back as a deposit to your bank account, while others may only provide a credit to your credit card statement. The latter method can still help you save for a down payment as you’ll have a smaller credit card bill, but it’s something you should keep in mind.

It’s also important to remember that a cash back card works best when you pay off your balance in full each month, especially once any 0% APR period expires. That’s because interest charges will eat into the cash back you’ve earned.

What Credit Is Required for a Card That Helps You Afford a Car?

Cards with strong cash back offers and signup bonuses usually require good to excellent credit. Before you apply, you’ll want to be reasonably sure you can get approved, as a hard credit inquiry resulting from a credit card application can slightly hurt your credit score. You can check two of your credit scores completely free at Credit.com.

At publishing time, the Discover it, Chase Freedom, Blue Cash Preferred by American Express, and Citi Double Cash credit cards are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for this card. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).

Note: It’s important to remember that prices for products and services frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms cited in this article may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with the company directly.

Image: BraunS

The post 4 Credit Cards That Can Help You Save for a Car appeared first on Credit.com.

This Brooklyn Grandmother Fought Back Against a Shady Used Car Dealer and Won

Rhoda Branch, 52, lost thousands of dollars and her mobility when a used car dealer took her for a ride. But with the help of a consumer protection group, she fought back — and won.

This story is Part II of a MagnifyMoney investigation into the risky business of subprime auto lending. Read Part I here

Rhoda Branche’s rocky road began with Superstorm Sandy in 2012. After the hurricane totaled her car, she turned to Giuffre Motors in Brooklyn to shop for a new vehicle.

“They said they would help me,” recalled Rhoda. “They were very friendly – and then they just starting pushing the papers through.”

She said the dealership promised her $4,000 in incentives to buy a used 2004 Volvo SUV – and offered to arrange a loan for her.

According to a copy of the contract obtained by MagnifyMoney, the incentives were missing from the sales contract Rhoda signed. The financing was no bargain either – a subprime loan with an annual interest rate of 23.5%.  Subprime customers are typically high-risk borrowers who pay more in finance charges because of poor credit histories.

Worst of all, Rhoda’s $13,000 SUV would soon stop running. Instead of repairs, the dealership gave her the runaround.

“It was a vehicle that shouldn’t be on the road,” Rhoda said. “They just said the vehicle was fine. It looks good on the outside, but it was a lemon.”

In desperation, she took the Volvo to other mechanics and spent $3,000 from her own pocket, but the SUV kept breaking down. As a last straw, she surrendered the title of ownership to the finance company that held her loan.

Without a car, it often takes Rhoda two buses, a subway ride, and 90 minutes to travel nine miles from her apartment in Coney Island, N.Y., to a hospital where she frequently seeks treatment.

“I have to take public transportation,” said Rhoda, who suffers from injuries that required operations on both knees. “It is very time-consuming. It causes a lot of pain. I have pains all over my body because I had surgery.”

Not the Only One

“Many sellers of cars to people with subprime credit sell you junk. And they know they’re selling you junk,” said Remar Sutton, a former car dealer turned consumer advocate. He wrote about the tricks of the used car trade in his book, “Don’t Get Taken Every Time.”

“They sell you a car they know you cannot pay for, or they know will break down, and they repossess it because you can’t pay for it or it breaks down,” said Sutton. “And then they sell it again.”

Rhoda did not know she was the latest in a long line of customers who were victims of the dealership’s unethical sales tactics.

The New York attorney general sued Giuffre in 2010 on behalf of 42 customers who claimed they were cheated. In Kings County Supreme Court, a judge ordered the dealership to pay more than a half-million dollars in fines and restitution for its illegal business practices.

Giuffre had “a common practice of strong-arm sales methods and unethical conduct,” wrote Judge Bernard Graham in his 2011 decision. “The list of grievances is extensive and unsettling.”

Rhoda was one of at least one dozen consumers who filed complaints against Giuffre with New York City’s Department of Consumer Affairs. Under pressure from the DCA, Giuffre agreed to pay $180,000 in fines plus $100,000 into a restitution fund as part of a consent order in April 2014, nine months after Rhoda’s complaint.

From the settlement, Rhoda confirmed she received roughly $4,600 in restitution. And two months after the consent order, Kings County Civil Court dismissed a $5,000 claim against Rhoda by a finance company that tried to collect the unpaid amount of her car loan.

Owner John Giuffre could not be reached for comment. His lawyer did not respond to MagnifyMoney’s interview requests.

As a result of the DCA consent order, Giuffre was forced out of the car business in New York City. His last dealership closed in December 2014; its doors and windows remain boarded shut. But consumers have plenty of reasons to remain cautious.

“There are, unfortunately, thousands of companies in America that will deliberately sell you cars that they know are going to break down,” said Sutton.

Rhonda hopes she can afford to buy another car someday. But she’s afraid of being ripped off again.

“Now I’m very skeptical going to other places because I remember what I went through,” she lamented. “I don’t know what dealership I should trust when I’m ready to buy another vehicle.”

How to Buy a Used Car Without Being Cheated

Shop for financing before you look for a vehicle: The subprime interest rate a credit union can offer may be half of what a car dealer charges you. Don’t assume that your poor credit history means you won’t have a shot at getting a loan from a reputable lender. It’s perfectly fine to get your own financing outside of a dealer — and, as our story shows, it’s often much more affordable. To make matters better, if you come in with a verified offer from another lender, the dealer has an incentive to try to beat their offer.

Check your credit score yourself: Don’t take a dealer’s word on it when it comes to your credit. Your score may be good enough to qualify for a better rate on a loan elsewhere, but the dealer may not want you to know that.  You can check your credit score on a number of sites for free, including the Discover Scorecard. And again, if you shop around for rates before you go to the dealer, you will know exactly what rates you deserve — and when they are offering you a bad deal.

Buy a car that works: Bring a mechanic or a knowledgeable friend to check it out before you decide. You can also check the vehicle’s background by getting a vehicle history report through resources such as the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System, CARFAX, and AutoCheck.

Buy a car you can afford: If a dealer makes promises, be sure to get it in writing. Go in with a firm idea of what kind of car you want and how much you can afford to pay.

And slow down: Never sign a contract in a hurry. Dealers may be friendly, but they’re not really your friend. To double-check a dealer’s reputability, check out their reviews and rating on the Better Business Bureau website.

Additional reporting by Mandi Woodruff

The post This Brooklyn Grandmother Fought Back Against a Shady Used Car Dealer and Won appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

This Woman Fell Into a Used Car Loan Trap — Now She’s Fighting Back

Mary McDuffie, 31, was sued by an auto financing company after she stopped making payments on a used car that had mechanical issues. Now the mother of four, who said she was misled by the company, is fighting their claims in court.

This story is the first in a two-part series on the risky business of buying a car from a used dealer.

In the summer of 2013, Mary McDuffie Morton, 31, needed money to buy a car. At the time, the recently divorced mother of four had a poor credit history. So she was excited to hear she could get a subprime loan at a used auto dealership in Bronx, N.Y.

“It [seemed] too good to be true,” Mary recalls. “As long you have a job, you’re approved. It’s like wow, OK, I’m guaranteed approval.”

Nationwide, customers like Mary owe more than a quarter-billion dollars in high-interest, high-risk subprime auto loans. A recent report by Moody’s Investor’s Service found that Santander Consumer USA Holdings Inc., a major originator of subprime auto loans, has been slacking when it comes to verifying the income reported by loan applicants, according to Bloomberg. This can make it easier for car buyers to take on more debt than they can afford to repay.

But big banks aren’t the biggest problem in auto lending. About three-fourths of subprime auto loans do not originate in banks or credit unions. Instead, they are often signed at car lots like the one in Bronx, N.Y., where Mary was lured by the promise of easy credit.

In many cases, those customers are taken for a ride by predatory dealerships and finance companies alike.

“Their main job is not to care for you. It’s to care for their pocketbook, and that’s all they’re there for,” says Remar Sutton, a former car dealer turned consumer advocate.

“How many of you have seen the ads that say, ‘No credit, bad credit, no worries, we’re the credit fixer’? That is not why those ads are running. Those ads are running because they know if you think you have bad credit, you will pay anything for a car, and they’ll knock a homerun on you,” warns Sutton.

That’s what happened to Mary. To buy a used 2003 GMC Envoy XL, the dealer told her she needed to first borrow roughly $7,000.

“The dealership told me they were going to shop around for lenders for me – and they were going to call one and get back to me,” Mary says.

The dealer selected Dependable Credit Corp. of Yonkers, N.Y.. The interest rate on Mary’s loan was a whopping 24.9% – just one-tenth of a point below the threshold of criminal usury in New York State.

Mary signed the contract, despite an interest rate so high that it was nearly illegal.

“I was scared that if I didn’t go along with that deal, I wouldn’t get a car, ” she says.

The Secret Bonus

Like many lenders that work with auto dealers, to get business from dealers, Dependable offers them a secret bonus. It’s called a “Dealer Reserve Advance,” and it can add an extra two points of interest to the consumer’s loan. The dealer keeps 70% of it as a reward for making the referral to the finance company.

“When you go into that dealership, do you think they’re going to point you in the direction of a cheap loan? Of course not. They’re going to send you to the finance source that will pay them cash up front on the loan,” says Sutton.

Dependable executives did not respond to multiple requests for an interview or comment.

On its website, the finance company claims it does business with 250 used car dealers in seven states – Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and New York – and has financed more than $200 million in loans.

“They’re in hundreds of dealerships because they’re making millions of dollars because people who are poor, people who are worried about their credit, are being taken advantage of by that business,” says Sutton, a co-founder of FoolProof, a nonprofit website devoted to consumer education.

Mary said the vehicle she purchased had mechanical problems that the dealer refused to fix. Sensing that she was being cheated, the former Bronx resident refused to make loan payments until she received a title proving she owned the car.

“They sold me a lemon,” complains Mary. “I knew that the deal was just a big scam.”

A Long Fight in Court

Dependable repossessed the Envoy when Mary’s payments were five weeks delinquent. By the time she received the title, the car was gone – and she was thousands of dollars in debt.

According to records obtained by MagnifyMoney, the finance company sold the vehicle to an undisclosed owner for $4,200 – a price that was $5,000 less than what Mary paid just four months earlier.

Then Dependable sued her in Bronx County Civil Court for a bill packed with extra charges. The tally includes nearly $1,200 in repairs by Westchester Auto Center and more than $1,700 in storage fees charged by Saw Mill River Realty.

The three businesses are located at the same address. State records show that all three share the same chief executive.

Dependable continues to charge Mary 24.9% interest on a loan for a car it repossessed and sold to someone else three years ago. Last year, the company told the court Mary owes nearly $11,000.

“Unfortunately, most places that want to make you a subprime loan simply want to make more money on you,” says Sutton.

With the help of a legal aid group, Mary is countersuing. She alleges she was cheated through deception and illegal business practices by the finance company and the dealer.

In a counterclaim filed by Mary’s attorney, Shanna Tallarico with the New York Legal Assistance Group, in October 2016, Mary claims that the dealer also required her to trade in her 2004 Cadillac CTS in order to purchase the used Envoy.  The dealership agreed to give her just $1,900 for the vehicle, citing “a significant problem with the Cadillac’s engine,” according to Mary’s counterclaim. Days later, she claims the dealership listed that same Cadillac for sale for $9,999. Efforts to reach the dealer for comment were unsuccessful.

Efforts to reach the dealer for comment were unsuccessful. Mary’s case is still pending, Tallarico says.

“I felt like I had just thrown money in the garbage,” says Mary. “The whole experience was a waste of money.”

How to Buy a Used Car Without Being Cheated

Shop for financing before you look for a vehicle: The subprime interest rate a credit union can offer may be half of what a car dealer charges you. Don’t assume that your poor credit history means you won’t have a shot at getting a loan from a reputable lender. It’s perfectly fine to get your own financing outside of a dealer — and, as our story shows, it’s often much more affordable. To make matters better, if you come in with a verified offer from another lender, the dealer has an incentive to try to beat their offer.

Check your credit score yourself. Don’t take a dealer’s word on it when it comes to your credit. Your score may be good enough to qualify for a better rate on a loan elsewhere, but the dealer may not want you to know that. You can check your credit score on a number of sites for free, including the Discover Scorecard. And again, if you shop around for rates before you go to the dealer you will know exactly what rates you deserve — and when they are offering you a bad deal.

Buy a car that works: Bring a mechanic or a knowledgeable friend to check it out before you decide. You can also check the vehicle’s background by getting a vehicle history report through resources such as the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System, CARFAX, and AutoCheck.

Buy a car you can afford: If a dealer makes promises, be sure to get it in writing. Go in with a firm idea of what kind of car you want and how much you can afford to pay.

And slow down: Never sign a contract in a hurry. Dealers may be friendly, but they’re not really your friend. To double check a dealer’s reputability, check out their reviews and rating on the Better Business Bureau.

Additional reporting by Mandi Woodruff

The post This Woman Fell Into a Used Car Loan Trap — Now She’s Fighting Back appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

Americans Are Traveling (& Spending) More Than Ever This Memorial Day

memorial-day-travel

This year, Americans want to spend their Memorial Day weekend away from home, despite reports that gas prices are going to be the highest they’ve been in more than a decade.

This is according to a recent report from AAA, which used economic variables to forecast domestic travel volumes, as well as data from research firm IHS Markit. The study — which qualified Memorial Day travel as going 50 or more miles away from home during Thursday, May 25 and Monday, May 29 — predicts that 39.3 million travelers will be hitting the road this year for the long weekend, which is up 2.7% (roughly one million) from 2016, making this the highest volume of Memorial Day weekend travel since 2005.

And as the amount of travelers increase, so do gas prices. The gas prices averaged at around $2.74 in 2015, dropped to $2.32 in 2016 but are predicted to rise to the highest gas prices since 2005, AAA reported. This is unfortunate news for the 34.6 million Americans (88.1% of travelers) who reportedly plan to drive to their destinations.

“The expected spike in Memorial Day travel mirrors the positive growth seen throughout the travel industry this year,” said Bill Sutherland, AAA senior vice president, Travel and Publishing. “Higher confidence has led to more consumer spending, and many Americans are choosing to allocate their extra money on travel this Memorial Day.”

What You’ll Pay to Get Away

Although the survey reports travelers intend to drive despite high gas prices, this isn’t the only thing they’ll need to consider as they get behind the wheel. According to last year’s accident and traffic data from Waze, a community-based mapping app, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York were the busiest metro areas over Memorial Day weekend, especially on Thursday and Friday. An extra precaution should be taken for most drivers especially because the number of car rentals are increasing this year as well. AAA’s car rental bookings are 19% higher than last Memorial Day and the cost has risen to an average of $66 per day, 7% more than last year.

The 2.9 million Americans choosing to fly to their destinations are also seeing a cost increase. AAA reports airfare rates are higher than last Memorial Day, saying the average airfare for the top 40 domestic flight routes will be 9% higher. If you do plan on flying anywhere this Memorial Day weekend, you may want to read up on the best credit cards to use at every major airport in America to help ensure you get the best bang for your buck when you’re there. Just remember, these travel cards tend to require you have an excellent credit score to qualify. So, if you’re looking to apply for one, it’s a good idea to check out your credit ahead of time. You can see two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com.

While driving and flying dominate the survey, AAA projects travel by other modes (including trains, buses and cruises) will rise to 1.75 million this year, the highest level since 2009. The cost for transportation isn’t the only thing on the rise — hotels costs are also going up. The average AAA Three Diamond Rated Hotel for this Memorial Day weekend costs an average $215 each night, 18% more than last year.

Whether or not you’re traveling this holiday weekend, you will want to check out these 50 ways to honor the true meaning of Memorial Day

Image: pixdeluxe

The post Americans Are Traveling (& Spending) More Than Ever This Memorial Day appeared first on Credit.com.

5 Lies Your Car Mechanic Might Tell You

 

By Kelsey Green

Whether you’re getting an oil change, having your tires rotated, or facing a more complicated repair, like replacing the alternator, it’s possible your visit to the auto repair shop will end up being more expensive than you anticipated.

Automobile maintenance costs an average $792 per year, according to the AAA’s 2016 “Your Driving Costs” study, and you don’t need mechanics padding their bills with unnecessary repairs and charges.

Most technicians genuinely want to help, says Lauren Fix, who is known as “The Car Coach” and is the spokesperson for the nonprofit Car Care Council. But there are times when you should question what the mechanic tells you.

Here are five common lies and ways to combat them.

1. “You can use any kind of oil in your car.”

Technicians often say you can use any oil in your car despite what your service schedule or car manual states.

“Run the oil that your service schedule tells you,” Fix says. “Running the wrong oil in your engine can void your warranty.”

If your car needs synthetic oil, which is for turbocharged, supercharged engines, or high-performance vehicles, make sure your technician uses that kind.

2. “You need to fix this now before it’s a problem.”

Sometimes a technician may exaggerate a problem because he wants to talk you into paying for a repair you may not need at that time.

Check your service schedule before saying yes, because it’s the “Bible for your car,” Fix says. If you’ve lost your service schedule or you bought a used car, check out carcare.org for a customizable service schedule specifically for your vehicle. This will act as your guide.

You can save more than $1,200 a year in repairs if you follow your service schedule and are proactive with any problems, the Car Care Council states.

Fix also warns that sometimes a technician will exaggerate to make you understand that there is actually a problem with your car. Ask for a second opinion if you’re unsure.

“Even if he finds a new problem with your car while working on a problem you have already discussed, you have to assume that it is possible,” Fix says.

3. “That damage didn’t happen here.”

Sometimes it’s just a small scratch or ding. Accidents happen, even by people who are paid to repair your car.

A California shop tried to cover up severe damage to Michelle and Albert Delao’s automobile after it fell several feet from a lift in 2015, the couple says. Employees didn’t tell the Delaos what happened to their car, instead saying that the shop was waiting on a part. The store offered to pay for a rental car while their vehicle was being worked on.

When they finally got their car, Michelle says she immediately knew something was wrong.

“I could tell from little things about the way the car was driving,” she says. “It was wobbly, and we could hear glass in the passenger window, which was weird, because we never had a glass or window problem before.”

To try to resolve the problems, they purchased a new set of tires to stop the wobbling. But they got a call a month later from a technician at the shop, they say. The couple learned that the car fell several feet onto its side, piercing the bottom and shattering the front passenger window, along with other damage to the car’s body. When the technicians could not get the car off the lift, a tow truck was called to pull the vehicle down, causing more damage, they say.

When she called the manager and store to ask about the incident, Michelle says both denied anything happened until she showed the owner the pictures from the technician.

After finding out the true extent of the damage, the Delaos took their car to the dealership, which confirmed all the damage at over $20,000, totaling their car. The couple has filed a lawsuit against the auto repair shop.

The incident has given the couple a severe distrust of technicians, Michelle says.

“It’s just sad, really,” Albert says. “It’s like when people need to go to the doctor. We have to have our car. We don’t know anything about it. We’re not mechanics.”

4. “This part cost more than we anticipated.”

An easy way for technicians to make more money is by overcharging for a part or repair. If you’re not sure how much a repair will cost, get multiple quotes in writing.

“Never do anything without getting a quote in writing,” Fix says. “That is how you know someone knows what they’re talking about and will uphold that when you get it in writing.”

If you don’t like to go in blind, you can get a general idea of what a repair or part will cost with research.

“Education and information are power,” Fix says.

Fix suggests RepairPal.com, which helps people not well versed in car mechanics be more prepared for when someone gives them a quote. You can type in your car’s mechanical issue to research the problem and the reliable cost for the part and labor for your area.

5. “The cheap tires will be just fine.”

When it comes time for new tires, technicians may try to talk you into buying the cheapest brands. Don’t listen, Fix says.

“When people come in saying they need to replace tires, they need to use the same tire brand and size,” she says. “The size and brands of the tires impacts your handling, traction, and safety for your car.”

Tires recommended by Consumer Reports, for example, range from $64 to $121.

Tips for finding a reliable car mechanic

  • Go to a certified technician. Look for signs that state the shops are certified by the Automotive Service Association (ASA) or the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). “Find a master technician when you can,” Fix says. “They are the best in the business.”
  • Ask your friends and family. Personal experience is the best way to find a reliable technician, so ask the people you trust.
  • Check with a dealer. Along with specializing in your car, they can also help with recalls or possibly help find you a new technician if your warranty has expired.
  • If your vehicle is safe to drive, take it to another mechanic for a second opinion.
  • If your check engine light comes on, head to your local auto parts store, not a mechanic. Their equipment will find the issue, which empowers you with information before you schedule your car for service.

The post 5 Lies Your Car Mechanic Might Tell You appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

Will Driverless Cars Lower the Cost of Auto Insurance?

Tesla has installed autopilot software on roughly 90,000 of its cars over the last two years. (Photo Source: Tesla)
Tesla has installed autopilot software on roughly 90,000 of its cars over the last two years. (Photo Source: Tesla)

Dozens of companies — from tech giants like Tesla, Google, and Microsoft to auto manufacturers like Jaguar and Audi — are in a race to put driverless cars on the roads in the U.S.

By some accounts, there could be as many as 10 million cars with self-driving functionality on North American roads by 2020. A more conservative estimate, coming from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, predicts there will be 3.5 million self-driving vehicles by 2025, and 4.5 million by 2030. We’re still quite a long way off from those benchmarks. Tesla, for example, has only installed autopilot software on roughly 90,000 of its cars over the last two years. The software is still in beta testing.

The question now is whether safer, driverless vehicles will lead to any significant declines in auto insurance costs. If driverless cars make roads safer and lead to fewer accidents, shouldn’t that be reflected in auto insurance rates? And, in a driverless car society, if computers are technically “manning” the wheel, shouldn’t the insurance burden be shifted from the driver to the auto manufacturer itself?

MagnifyMoney reached out to several experts in the auto insurance space to see how they expect driverless cars to change the insurance landscape.

A change is gonna come … slowly

Google delivered the first real build of its driverless vehicle prototype in December 2014. (Photo source: Google)
Google delivered the first real build of its driverless vehicle prototype in December 2014. (Photo source: Google)

Among other benefits, driverless vehicles are expected to significantly reduce auto accidents, as driver error is the cause of 94% of all accidents, according to U.S. government figures. When driverless cars finally become mainstream, car accidents could decline by 80%, according to KPMG, the audit, tax, and advisory giant.

By and large, accident liability won’t go away completely even with powerful computers behind the wheel. That issue came to the forefront with a recent fatal crash in Florida, where a 40-year-old man was killed as a passenger in a Tesla self-driving vehicle.

Don’t expect insurance rates to drop if you purchase a car with an autonomous driving feature, several experts say.

“Insurance premiums will remain flat even with self-driving vehicles,” says Ashley Hunter, president of HM Risk Group, an underwriting firm located in Austin, Texas. Some automakers have made impressive progress in creating self-driving vehicles, but there is still room for error. “It still requires a driver behind the wheel in the event you need to take over,” Hunter adds.

Hunter likens driverless auto insurance to aviation insurance. “Once autopilot technology was created and became pervasive in airplanes, you didn’t see premiums go up – they roughly stayed the same,” she says.

Other insurance industry professionals agree.

“Liability insurance will definitely still be needed,” says D.J. Noland, an agent with McGhee Insurance Agency in North Little Rock, Ark. “The possibility of
the computer to malfunction is very real. Computers are only as good as their
designers and therefore have imperfections.”

The question of liability in the event of an accident is much trickier to answer. Who’s to blame when a self-driving car has an accident and is at fault while operating autonomously — the automaker or the driver?

“It will be interesting to see the insurance industry evolve to adopt new models to address the risk,” says Noland. “Ordinarily, the driver is the answer. Now we’ll have to look at the manufacturer of the car and the software company as possible liable parties.”

For that reason, new auto insurance policies will have to include a new price for these factors, and new underwriting models will be required to develop the pricing, Noland adds.

“Admittedly, without much data this early on, I think insurance prices will decline with mass adoption of driverless vehicles, but we’ll need more data — and a better understanding of the underlying technology — to accurately understand the risk and pricing by insurance companies,” he says.

A “nightmare” for insurance companies

For insurance companies, self-driving vehicles represent a “nightmare scenario,” says Joel Ohman, a certified financial planner and chief editor at CarInsuranceComparison.com, in Seattle, Wash.

Ohman sees a frightening scenario for auto insurance CEOs, where “perfect” robotic drivers will drive down accident rates and thus force insurers to drastically reduce their premiums.

“That’s why robotic driverless cars should be causing car insurance company CEOs to break out in a cold sweat at the mere thought of trying to sell insurance on cars that never get into accidents,” he says.
Other industry insiders say that while driverless-based insurance rates may decrease over time, there will still be risks that need to be covered.

Tesla’s “Autopilot” feature is currently in a public beta testing phase in roughly 90,000 cars. (Photo source: Tesla)

“For example, many self-driving car prototypes have sensors on the bumpers, so they’ll likely be one of the first parts damaged in the event of a simple rear-end collision,” says Ryan Ruffing, a spokesperson for EverQuote.com, the largest online auto insurance marketplace in the U.S. “Furthermore, there may be satellite damage to cover, cybersecurity claims and general wear and tear of self-driving cars.”

In the long run, as cars get safer, drivers should expect insurance rates to go down, Ruffing says. “However, it may be decades before that is the case,” he states. “In the meantime, self-driving car owners should ask their insurance agents what their future plan is, and how they plan to insure self-driving vehicles. They may want to ask their agents if they foresee rates rising or decreasing. If car owners aren’t satisfied with the response, they can always shop around and ask other insurance companies.”

What to ask your insurance agent

Ruffing offers three key questions to ask your insurance agent if you’re in the market for a self-driving car:

  1. What happens if my autopilot goes awry?
  1. Will you cover that type of claim?
  1. Will my insurance rates rise because of that, even though it would not be my fault?Right now, virtually no insurance companies are proactively insuring self-driving cars, primarily because there are no commercially available self-driving cars on the road today.  One of the rare insurers already offering robotic driving insurance is U.K.-based Adrian Flux Insurance Services. The policy covers several self-driving features, like self-parking and autopilot technology, as well as satellite-based systems failures and hacks from cyberfraudsters.

“We wanted to help provide confidence and clarity around the ongoing debate of ‘who is liable?’” says Gerry Bucke, Adrian Flux general manager.

Derek Benavides, an insurance agent with TWFG-Benavides Insurance, in Brownsville, Texas, says to tread cautiously before getting into any self-driving cars.

“Unfortunately, the majority of insurance companies don’t have programs in place or rating systems that will aggressively price self-driving cars,” Benavides says. “Before you get into any self-driving vehicle, it’s extremely important to be clear with your agent that they are insuring that vehicle, and get it in writing.”

 

The post Will Driverless Cars Lower the Cost of Auto Insurance? appeared first on MagnifyMoney.

Being Poor Can Cost You Big on Your Auto Insurance

 

Flickr/m01229
Flickr/m01229

If you’re single, a renter, out of work or haven’t owned a car in a while — even your perfect driving record won’t be enough to get a good auto insurance rate.

It’s no secret that auto insurers consider a lot more than just your driving record when they calculate your premium. New customers are routinely asked to provide personal details, such as whether they’re married or single, renters or homeowners, unemployed or employed, college- or high school-educated.

It is how you answer these personal questions — not your driving record — that can result in higher premiums, a consumer advocacy group argues in a new report.

In a study of five of the leading auto insurers in the U.S., the Consumer Federation of America found drivers with a good driving record pay 59% more — or $681 per year on average — when their answers to these personal questions point to a lower income status (e.g.: people who answer that they are single, out of work, or have only a high school education). The CFA has long studied how economic status can be tied to higher auto insurance premiums.

For this report, they used the online quote features at Geico, State Farm, Farmers, Progressive, and All State. They created four driver profiles to test — two men and two women, each pair including a high and low socioeconomic status — and requested quotes from each insurer in 15 major cities.

All four drivers shared characteristics in common. They each had a stellar driving record, with no prior accidents or traffic violations. They were each listed as 30 years old living at the same address in each city tested.

Where the two test groups (we’ll call them Group A and Group B, for simplicity’s sake) differed was in how they answered the personal questions on each quote request. In group A, one woman and one man were married homeowners with executive level jobs, a master’s degree and three years with the same insurance company.  In group B, the man and woman were single renters with high school degrees, and neither had owned a car in the last six months.

When the insurance quotes rolled in, an obvious trend emerged: across the board, Group B drivers were hit with higher premiums. On average, Group B drivers were quoted an average annual premium of $1,825. On the other hand, the married, home-owning, college-educated drivers from group A were quoted $1,144 per year.

Source: Consumer Federation of America
Source: Consumer Federation of America

GEICO and Progressive turned out to be the most costly option for drivers in Group B, charging premiums that were 92 percent and 80 percent more expensive, respectively, than premiums for Group A. In one extreme case from the report, GEICO quoted a man living in Minneapolis, Minn. from Group B two and a half times as much as the man from Group A – $1,840 per year compared to $528. The difference between premiums GEICO quoted for a low-economic status and high-economic status woman in Minneapolis was even more staggering — $2,158 vs. $528, amounting to a 300% upcharge.

MagnifyMoney reached out to all five insurers included in this report for comment. Each declined to comment.

James Lynch, senior actuary for the Institute, which represents the interests of insurers in the U.S., said insurers use personal information like marital status and education for a simple reason: they are highly predictive of whether a potential customer will cost the insurer in the future.

“Driving record is an important factor but it’s not the only predictor,” he added, noting insurers use upwards of 20 different factors to assess rates.

Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 11.34.27 AM

 

Get the best auto insurance rate possible

Short of state regulator intervention, auto insurers will be able to assess risk in their customers however they see fit. It’s up to drivers to do their due diligence in order to get the best rate possible. Even then,

Start with your state’s insurance department website. Since insurance is regulated at the state level, Hunter recommends checking your state’s office of insurance website to find out what average premiums are like in your area. This website should also list a number of reputable insurers you can contact for quotes. Take those names and check them out on the National Association of Insurance Commission’s database, which maintains a history of service issues and complaints.

Never accept your first offer. Asking several different insurers for auto insurance quotes is an important yet often overlooked part of the shopping process. As the CFA found in this report (among others), premiums can vary widely by state by state and insurer by insurer.

Let your good driving speak for you. Some auto insurers today offer usage-based tracking technology that allows them to see just how often and how well (or, how poorly) you drive. This technology can be a boon to good drivers who have low annual mileage and aren’t hit with any traffic violations. You’ll likely qualify for insurance discounts. It is entirely optional to allow your insurers to track you, as it obviously requires you to forfeit some privacy while on the road.

Have a question for us? Send us a note at info@magnifymoney.com 

Mandi Woodruff is the Executive Editor of MagnifyMoney and host of Brown Ambition, a weekly podcast about career and finance. Follow her on Tumblr or Facebook.

The post Being Poor Can Cost You Big on Your Auto Insurance appeared first on MagnifyMoney.