Car Carnage: Harvey, Irma, and the Pitfalls for Auto Owners

Pete Diaz of Key Largo had just spent $100,000 restoring his ’65 Corvette, but his garage didn’t prove much of a haven—it got inundated by Irma and is a total loss. Also gone is his wife’s 2016 Mercedes, another Corvette and a Harley.

Storm-wracked cars and trucks from Harvey pile up at Royal Purple dragstrip in Houston. (Royal Purple Raceway photo)

Should Pete have sought higher ground? Where would that have been? The hurricane covered the entire state of Florida, as well as several states to the north. We’ve seen images of flooded Ferraris, Lamborghinis and a Ford GT40, all of which are now at the Royal Purple Raceway, a dragstrip where waterlogged cars are going to die.

This image is from Connecticut in 2009, but you get the idea that you can lose your exotic–like this Audi TT ragtop–in a second. (Selbe Lynn/Flickr)

Import Image Racing deserves a Hero of the Month award for offering to take in enthusiast cars—free of charge—at its warehouse in Fort Myers. Other companies paid back in other ways. Tesla, for instance, used its vaunted update-by-wire ability to temporarily (until September 16) extend the range of its Florida-based cars—giving owners a better chance of getting away. It wasn’t announced ahead of time—people just woke up to find their Model X and S cars charged past any point they’d known in the past.

Like Image Import Racing, the Coast Guard warehoused its cars high and dry ahead of Irma. (Coast Guard photo)

I like the concept; it shows Tesla taps into original thinking. Of course, the roads were so clogged that not many stragglers could get out by that point, but the thought was there.

An Irma left-behind. Don’t buy this car! Even if it looks good! (Jacek Polchaco/Flickr)

Meanwhile, down in Texas, the state is reeling from Hurricane Harvey damage that could tally as much as $180 billion. A significant part of that loss is cars and trucks, and more than 100,000 claims have already been filed—the number could climb to 500,000. Katrina took out 600,000 cars in New Orleans.

Katrina made a big mess, and this Corvette was one of its victims. (JLBelteau/Flickr)

There’s a number of points to be made here. Florida hurricane victims with auto or truck losses should cross their fingers and file their claims as soon as possible, because the available insurance funds may be exhausted. As the New York Times pointed out, the big, deep-pocketed insurance companies long ago abandoned the state because of the coastal risks involved. The Florida Catastrophe Hurricane Fund has only $17 billion on hand, and that is not likely to cover the losses.

Second, be very careful of too-good-to-be-true car deals in the wake of Irma and Harvey. It’s not always obvious that a car has been in a storm, with water up to the bucket seats. There are plenty of quick fix-ups being offered for sale now, and new carpeting or upholstery is one sign of a problem.

A loaded car fleeing from Irma. They were getting out when the getting was good. (Abby Flat Coat/Flickr)

Another thing to watch out for is a “salvage” title—run from any such vehicle. Salvage titles go to cars declared a total loss. Legitimately, some undamaged parts can be sold off those cars, but buying these swimmers as bargains is asking for trouble. The National Insurance Crime Bureau maintains a free VINcheck system that will give you the straight dope on the title of any car you’re considering.

Other things to look for, according to NICB:

  • Rust on screw heads in the console area, where water doesn’t normally reach.
  • Dampness, mold or mildew in seatbelt retractors, spare wheel wells, in the crevices of alternators crevices and behind wiring harnesses..
  • Door-mounted speakers that no longer work because their cones got wet.
  • A white powder coating or pitting on aluminum or alloy wheels.

Have a mechanic check the car out if you don’t feel up to these tasks.

Storm response could only do so much after Irma, and their focus is on rescuing people, not vehicles. (Florida Fish and Wildlife/Flickr)

Getting back to the original question—what should you do to protect your car before the storm—the answer is pretty simple. Get vehicles to the nearest high ground, preferably indoors but if outside at least away from trees or objects that can become projectiles.

Even better, put yourself in the car, and drive it out of the danger zone well ahead of the crowds. That’s the good advice that state and federal officials were handing out weeks ahead of Irma. With Harvey, Houston’s mayor told people to stay put (to avoid gridlock on the highway) and time will tell if that was a smart decision or not.

Jim Motavalli

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Save

Save

Save

Traffic Stinks!

We all have complained about traffic before. I do it, you do it, everyone does it. Because it stinks. There’s really no way around it. It’s a time-waster and we can all think of other places we’d rather be than stuck behind an old car with a bad exhaust problem for an hour or so after work. To put things in perspective, TomTom has released a very informative study that they’ve conducted that shows the worst cities for traffic. Some of it may surprise you, some of it probably won’t.

Top 10 Most Congested Cities in the United States
(report is for both North and South America)

4. Los Angeles (no shocker there)
6. San Francisco
7. Honolulu
8. Seattle
10. San Jose
11. New York City
14. Miami
15. Washington D.C.
16. Portland
17. New Orleans

The real shocker?

39. Dallas-Fort Worth

Maybe I think it’s worse when I’m stuck in it, but I was surprised by DFW being ranked number 39. It also makes me not want to travel to Los Angeles or San Francisco anytime soon. The top three most congested cities across the Americas are Rio De Janiero, Mexico City and Sao Paulo. That makes feel wonder just how bad it is down in Brazil with the World Cup going on right now.

A few more interesting findings on the report are the lightest and heaviest days for traffic. In Dallas – Fort Worth, the lightest morning commute is on Friday, while the heaviest is Tuesday. The lightest evening commute is Monday, while the heaviest is Friday, which doesn’t surprise me at all. Anyone who has been in traffic here in DFW on a Friday evening knows that it’s a parking lot all over the metroplex.

Houston and Austin are both above Dallas-Fort Worth on the list (number 23 and 25, respectively).

Check out the full report here and see where your city ranks!

 

Save

Our suggestions for a last-minute Labor Day road trip

Couple driving in convertible under sunny sky
  • Image Credit: Getty Images/Blend Images

Labor Day

Not to be the bearer of bad news, but Labor Day, the unofficial start of the fall season, is today, September 4th, 2017. That means time is running out on all those ambitious plans for barbecues, lounging at the beach and road trips.

On that last matter, we’ve got you covered. If you’ve left your planning to the last minute or are fresh out of ideas for your Labor Day road trip, let us propose five great scenic routes out there waiting for you. We recommend not merely driving them, but enjoying them in a convertible, the classic summer car.

Check out our look at five classic American roads that you need to see this Labor Day:

Route 1, Key Largo, Fla. to Key West Fla.
  • Image Credit: cupprof

Route 1, Key Largo, Fla. to Key West Fla.

Distance: 127 miles.

Key West is one of America’s most notorious party towns, but in this case, getting there can be as much fun as the destination.

The most well-known site along the 127-drive from the greater Miami area is Seven Mile Bridge, which stands as one of the iconic American crossings. It greets drivers west of Marathon, Fla., and continues over a seven-mile stretch in which drivers can see a beautiful blue horizon much more easily than land at the far end.

If checking out Key West, the one-time pirate cove and home to Hemingway, sounds a little too touristy, there’s plenty of out-of-the-way stops along the drive to make the trip one for the ages. There are mangrove swamps, crocodiles, pelicans and even the rare wild orchid found along the route, as well as a fisherman’s paradise and several state parks.

Route 2, M-22 in Northern Michigan
  • Image Credit: jimflix!

Route 2, M-22 in Northern Michigan

Distance: 117 miles

OK, so the Sleeping Bear Dunes garnered a bit of national attention this past year when Good Morning America named the national lakeshore the most beautiful place in the country. But Michiganders know that the road to get there, M-22, is just as picturesque as the towering sand dunes.

Starting on the north end in Traverse City, the curvy route showcases quiet lakes, cozy vacation towns and the sand dunes, all while following Lake Michigan’s shoreline south. Much like our first selection of U.S. 1 in the Florida Keys, this route in northern Michigan also traverses some classic Hemingway country.

Need a break? At Pyramid Point, hikers can enjoy a tree-lined three-mile trail to a lookout that offers a spectacular view of the Manitou Islands, a few miles offshore. But those wishing to stay in the car will get spectacular views throughout the drive south to Manistee.

Route 3, Aloha Loop
  • Image Credit: jshyun

Route 3, Aloha Loop

Distance: 266 miles

This one may require some degree of advanced planning. But we couldn’t think of a road that better captures the spirit of the MX-5. If you can make it over to the Big Island of Hawaii, this would be a road trip worthy of any bucket list.

After ostensibly renting your ragtop at Kona International Airport head down Route 11 to Captain Cook, where you can stop off at Hookena Beach Park and do some snorkeling. Make your way around the southern tip of the island and spend ample time at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Let’s be honest: There are majestic views from just about anywhere along this road. For more points of interest, stop at Akaka Falls State Park as you make your way around the island in a counterclockwise direction and check out verdant rainforests and sugarcane fields, from which you can view Mauna Kea, one of the tallest mountains in the Pacific. (And for the adventurous, you can ski in February and March).

Jeep Wrangler
  • Image Credit: Jeep

Jeep Wrangler

The perfect road-trip vehicle – if your plans involve going off road. The Wrangler may be one of the most capable Jeeps ever made, and the standard soft top can be folded down or the hard top removed for trips along mountain trails.

The two-door Wrangler comes with four-wheel drive standard and a 285-horsepower, 3.6-liter V6 engine. For those headed off road, it’s important to note that electronic stability control, traction control, brake assist and hill-hold control also come standard.

Research the 2017 Jeep Wrangler

Route 4, Monument Valley, Arizona
  • Image Credit: mosoltysik

Route 4, Monument Valley, Arizona

Distance: Approximately 208 miles.

Skip the crowds at the Grand Canyon during the peak summer season and head toward the northeast corner of Arizona and into Monument Valley Tribal Park. Long before John Ford’s classic westerns made the area famous, the Navajos knew it well. Indian artifacts and history abound here.

There’s a 17-mile route inside the park that curls around some of the sandstone towers perfect for new offroaders. It’s unpaved, rocky and rutted. And it’s the only way to access some of the best parts of the park. Merrick Butte and Mitchell Mesa, named after two prospectors killed by Ute Indians, are two of the more spectacular monuments, as is Bird Spring, from which visitors can look out over vistas and sand dunes.

Route 5, Death Valley, Calif.
  • Image Credit: Frank Kehren

Route 5, Death Valley, Calif.

Distance: 310 miles

To see the Corvette at its best, you need a flat, open expanse to test its capabilities. No better place than the arid desert of Death Valley National Park.

Start off your journey near the Panamint Springs entrance to the park – and with plenty of gas. There’s plenty of dunes to see along the way, as well as remnants of lava flows, distant peaks and overlooks across the desert.

The power of the Camaro can be harnessed as motorists make their way from the lowest elevation in the United States in Badwater Basin, at 282 feet below sea level, to one of the highest in the park, at Dantes View, at more than 5,000 feet.

Along the way, you can stop and see abandoned mines, rattlesnakes, fringe-toed lizards and hikeable canyons. One thing you will not see a lot of is water, so bring plenty for everyone.

Why does buying a car seem so hard?

Recently a customer came by our store and, in idle conversation, asked, “Why is car buying so difficult?”  I understand why she said that, because it can be very challenging, not to mention a bit scary and can be as equally frustrating for both a customer and the dealer.  As an insider, let me explain why.

There are three main components to buying a car:  price, trade in and financing.  Today I’ll review price.

Are You a Frustrated Buyer?

Price should be the easiest part of the car buying process.  When a customer researches & test drives a car, truck, SUV or crossover and gets quotes from multiple dealerships, they should compare apples to apples. Meaning that you want to make sure you’re comparing the same vehicle with the same equipment and options.  A simple way to do this is to make sure the MSRP’s are the same.

As a salesperson, the hardest question to answer for a customer is “what’s your best price?”  When asked that question, I’ve told my sales people to show customers the invoice.  This shows what the dealer paid on that car.  Most good dealerships will gladly show you the invoice so you see in black & white where their numbers are coming from.  You should calculate in any rebates, as well as a small profit, which all dealers are entitled to make.  It’s that easy.

Here, check out this video..the audio isn’t Grammy quality, but you can still learn a lot from it

Has your experience been that the price is the most difficult part of the car buying process? Share your experience here and check back for part two:  trading in your vehicle.  Of course, if you want to talk in person, just swing by and I’ll make it the easiest experience you’ve ever had.

Google Maps will help you park in 25 more cities

For a few months now, drivers in 25 U.S. cities have had access to a Google Maps “Parking Difficulty” rating on their smartphones. As of today, the feature has been expanded to an additional 25 major cities in other countries — Canadian cities being the most useful among them for American drivers.

If you haven’t seen this feature, it’s pretty simple: Plot a route, and at the bottom of your screen, you’ll see a rating, as shown above. The ratings are “limited,” “medium” or “easy.” The message is simple: If you draw a “limited” rating, you’d better leave early and allow more time to find a spot.

The rating is determined through historical data and the usual unnamed Google juice. (Though in Google’s example above, anyone who has ever driven in gridlocked downtown Seattle knows from personal historical data that parking around Westlake Center is “limited” to put it mildly.)

The task of finding a spot is made easier by another feature out today, Google’s new “Find Parking” feature. It lets you browse streets, lots and garages near your destination, on a map that shows estimated walking time from them to where you’re going. You can choose a location and plot a course, then the directions will switch to walking mode to get you the rest of the way.

The “Find Parking” feature is only offered in these cities: Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas/Fort Worth, DC, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York City, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Portland, San Diego, Sacramento, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis and Tampa.

The Parking Difficulty rating is available on Android and Apple. Find Parking is, for now, only available on Android.

Here are the added cities for the Parking Difficulty rating:

Alicante, Spain
Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Copenhagen, Denmark
Barcelona, Spain
Cologne, Germany
Darmstadt, Germany
Dusseldorf, Germany
London, England
Madrid, Spain
Malaga, Spain
Manchester, England
Milan, Italy
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Moscow, Russia
Munich, Germany
Paris, France
Prague, Czech Republic
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rome, Italy
Sao Paulo, Brazil
Stockholm, Sweden
Stuttgart, Germany
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Valencia, Spain
Vancouver, B.C., Canada

Related Video:

The factors that influence your insurance rates

There are many factors that influence insurance coverage

Love it or hate it, you are required to hold insurance on every vehicle you drive…period. Now don’t go trying to run to another state to escape having to hold insurance coverage, as every state requires it. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s say that you’ve got a good driving record and all of the added claimed factors that could mess up your insurance rates are absolutely in your favor. Yet, your car insurance is still high. . Yet your unemployed, accident prone, ticket collecting buddies across the US pay less for their car insurance?

Now, I know this doesn’t seem fair, but there are many factors that go into your car insurance rate. Some of it you can change and some of it you can’t change.

You can’t change:

  • Your age
    Dick Clark and Sophia Loren notwithstanding, aging is unavoidable. And while you may be a mature-looking teen or a youthful octogenarian, the oldest and the youngest drivers are far more likely to have accidents.
  • Gender
    Whether it’s the mothering instinct or fewer NASCAR fantasies, women statistically make safer drivers.
  • Marital Status
    OK, you can change this, but there have been no reports of people marrying simply to lower their insurance rates.

You can change:

  • Geography
    Where you live matters. For instance, those living in rural America are far less likely to have a collision or a stolen car than those living in a city. But, sometimes even just moving across the street can change your rate.
  • Driving violations
    Speeding tickets, running red lights, failure to yield, etc. all count toward your auto insurance rate.
  • Your vehicle
    If you must have that cherry red Corvette or the Ferrari GTO, be prepared to pay for it. Your insurance premiums will be higher.
  • Accident claims
    While you can’t change the past, keeping your slate clean and free of accidents will hold you in better stead than lots of fender benders.
  • Credit rating
    That’s right -” many insurance companies view having a poor, or even no credit history as suggestive of higher risk.”
  • Occupation
    A little easier said than done. Believe it or not, insurers have found correlation between your occupation and risk. Makes sense that the pizza delivery guy could be a higher risk!

Even when you think you have everything in your favor there are still a few other things that can affect your insurance rates such as:

  • Miles driven per year
  • Distance to work
  • Occupation
  • Years of driving experience
  • Business use of the vehicle
  • Whether or not you currently have auto insurance
  • Theft protection devices (often results in discounts)
  • Multiple cars and drivers (another opportunity for discounts)

Now that you are thoroughly overwhelmed, your best bet is to take your time and comparison shop. It will certainly pay off in the long run.

Do you use child restraints properly?

I found a perfect example of the how important it is to not only use a protective child seat, but to understand how to install it properly. Read below. I found this story at consumer reports. Not only does it emphasize the importance of child restraints, but also wearing YOUR seat belt as well!

You never think it’s going to happen to you. I was driving up to visit a friend for a playdate, both kids, 2 and 4, in the back. This was a tough winter in the northeast, and the roads were not perfect.

I was trundling along at the speed limit, not talking on the phone, not texting, when I hit some ice on the road. I completely lost control of the car, which hit the snow bank on the side of the highway. The car rolled one-and-a-half times and ended up upside down on the side of the highway.

I was trapped in the seatbelt (thank goodness!) and the kids were suspended from their carseats. Four or five cars stopped, reaffirming my faith in human nature, and helped us all out of the car, which was totaled. The kind strangers stayed with us until the police and ambulance arrived. Bottom line, we were all OK (except for the car).

This is what I took away from the incident: We were very lucky, but it wasn’t just luck that protected us that day. I was driving a Consumer Reports recommended vehicle. The kids were in Consumer Reports’ top-rated, carseats, which happen to be inexpensive. The seats were properly installed. The kids were correctly buckled in. My 4 year old, being just under 40 pounds (he’s a skinny one), was still using the 5-point restraint.

Things could have been, and likely would have been, very different if I didn’t use Consumer Reports ratings and follow Consumer Reports advice. My kids and I walked away from a horrific accident without a scratch. It’s not an exaggeration to say that I owe my life and my family to the people here who work day in and day out to provide this information to the public.

This is just one story out of the 1,000’s of serious accidents that happen every year. Luckily, this one had a happy ending, but not all are as lucky.

A properly used and installed car seat is paramount when driving with children. Further, you can teach them the importance of using their seatbelts as they get older. Hopefully, by the time hey start driving, using their seatbelt will be automatic.

Just have a baby? If you have any questions on how to properly install your car seat, swing by and we’ll show you!

Save

Is Filling Your Tires With Nitrogen Better Than Oxygen

Is filling your tires with nitrogen better than filling them with oxygen? The short answer is: “Yes”.

Here’s the science to support that fact. You may be surprised to learn that the air we breathe is roughly 78% nitrogen and 22% oxygen. That same air mixture gets pumped into your tires every time you fill up. You may be thinking, “Well, if it’s 78% already, shouldn’t that be enough? I mean, does 22% oxygen really make that much of a difference?” Again, the short answer is: “Yes”.

The key is how much oxygen gets displaced by that extra nitrogen. When the nitrogen content is increased from 78% to 99%, the oxygen content drops from 21% to less than 1%. The reason that this is good is that oxygen really isn’t that great for your tires to begin with. The problem with oxygen is that it expands when the tires get hot, this causes over-inflation and actually leaks out of the tires’ sidewalls at a much faster rate than nitrogen which is a much larger molecule. Ironically, this naturally occurring “over-inflation” directly causes “underinflation” which contributes to the degradation of the rubber. As if that isn’t enough, plain air contains water vapor which is corrosive to the metal rims as well as the tire pressure sensors.

Nitrogen has been used for many years in aircraft tires, racing cars and military vehicles, but how does it affect the average passenger car? Well, that really depends on the type and the amount of driving you do, as well as how faithfully you check your tire pressure. Not everyone has tire pressure monitors, though they are becoming standards on most new vehicles.

Your best bet is to give our service department a call and we can evaluate and advise you on whether or not nitrogen filled tires are right for you and your driving habits and circumstances.

Want A New Car, Figure Out A Realistic Budget First

Almost ever person I know falls into the trap of wanting more than they can really afford…or more than they should be able to afford, in some cases. That’s just human nature. It would be great if the average person hand an unlimited budget to get the car the want, but we’re not all Paris Hilton who can buy a Pink Bentley easier than we can get gum at the corner store. No matter how much you believe your new car budget is, it is still best to figure out a true budget friendly car payment when you are planning to buy a new car. In fact, with a well thought out budget and some quality car research, you may find that you can actually get more for your money.

You can obtain a Reliable Annual Percentage Rate from your bank. It is helpful if you will conduct good research with several banks. Low APR however are only granted to creditors with good credit records. Those who have bad credit records are left with no choice but to bear the burden of high interest payments.

The useful tips in the video above can help you figure out a budget friendly new car payment. If you have any questions about setting a realistic budget, call us at Freeman Grapevine and we can put you in the car you want for a price you can really afford without much stress on your wallet, or your head.

GMC Strengthens Professional Grade “Like A Pro”

060217_Like A Pro image

New “Like A Pro” ad campaign personifies what it means to be Professional Grade

Originally published by GMC 2017-06-06

DETROIT — Today, GMC debuts “Like A Pro,” a new campaign evolving its “We Are Professional Grade” positioning. “Like A Pro” celebrates GMC vehicles and customers — people who passionately live life to a higher standard. The “Like A Pro” campaign illustrates the core values of “We Are Professional Grade” and shows the emotional connection customers have with their GMC trucks and SUV models.

GMC owners demand vehicles that are designed, engineered and built to a higher standard. For nearly 20 years, GMC has established a strong reputation with “We Are Professional Grade.”

“Our owners are dedicated individuals, respected by their peers, whose passion and abilities set them apart,” said Rich Latek, GMC marketing director. “Their values reflect our ‘Professional Grade’ spirit and we look forward to bringing that emotional connection to life. And we’re excited to show how we think our customers live their lives like pros.”

The new ads feature GMC Denali trucks and SUVs — the pinnacle of Professional Grade. Earlier this year, GMC Denali models passed the 1 million sales milestone and represent nearly 30 percent of GMC retail sales. The campaign also debuts the all-new GMC Terrain, which launches later this summer. Terrain joins the hot-selling, recently redesigned GMC Acadia in the GMC SUV lineup. GMC Acadia sales have increased more than 50 percent calendar year to date.

The lead ad, “How Do You Want To Live — Anthem,” will air in 30- and 60-second executions. This new work showcases those who reach higher in everything they do. On Father’s Day, GMC will debut “Dad Like A Pro” in select media, including the final round of a major golf tournament. The 60-second spot gives an inside look at the relationship between a father and his son. The emotional connection in the spot is further enhanced by the casting of a real-life father and son. In July, a new Acadia spot called “Third Row Like A Pro” will be added. This spot showcases a parent maximizing the versatility and capability of the GMC Acadia. In unique time-lapsed editing, you see the driver manage three rows, three sports … no problem.

The campaign will showcase the GMC brand across media channels and consumer touchpoints from broadcast television to the showroom floor. Join the conversation on social media using #LikeAPro.

GMC has manufactured trucks since 1902, with innovation and engineering excellence built into all GMC vehicles. The brand is evolving to offer more fuel-efficient trucks and crossovers, including the Terrain small SUV and Acadia crossover. GMC’s highest-volume vehicle, the Sierra pickup, is the most powerful light-duty pickup on the market, and the first full-size pickup to receive the highest-possible five-star Overall Vehicle Score for safety since the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration changed its New Car Assessment Program for the 2011 model year. Details on all GMC models are available at http://www.gmc.com/, on Twitter at @thisisgmc or at http://www.facebook.com/gmc.

Save