TIME Autos

Google Wants To Make Android-Powered Cars

Google Car
A Google Inc. map is displayed on a screen in a Tesla Motors Inc. Model S sedan electric vehicle (EV) parked in the area of Cyberport in Hong Kong, China, on Friday, July 5, 2013. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

More tech giants are eyeing the "connected car"

Not content to control your life on your PC and your mobile phone, Google is now going after your car.

The search giant is planning to build the next version of its Android operating system, dubbed Android M, directly into automobiles, according to Reuters. That would allow drivers to access the Internet and use Android apps without the synching their car with a smartphone.

Google already has a foothold in automobiles through Android Auto, its operating system tailored for cars, and the Open Automotive Alliance, a partnership through which several large automakers like Hyundai and General Motors have pledged to bring Android functionality to their vehicles. But the company is now eyeing making Android central to the driving experience rather than a supplement, according to the Reuters report. Such tight integration could give Google more vital user data, which it uses to power its business.

But Google is hardly alone in trying to bring tech to automobiles. Apple is rolling out an iOS-powered car operating system called CarPlay, while some automakers are also building their own proprietary Internet-enabled interfaces.

[Reuters]

MONEY Autos

Cuba’s Classic Cars May Be Available, But Are They Worth Anything?

Classic 1959 White Cadillac In Veradara, Cuba.
A classic 1959 White Cadillac In Veradara, Cuba. Education Images—UIG via Getty Images

Cuba is home to a trove of classic American cars, but the ingenuity that has kept them running may have ruined their value.

If there’s a product Cuba is famous for—other than cigars—it’s cars. After Fidel Castro assumed power in 1959, he imposed a new law that prevented anyone without government permission from importing foreign automobiles. That turned Cuba into a car museum in the making, sealing the island off from the automotive future.

For the past fifty-odd years, the streets of Havana have famously been filled with what have become classic cars. And now that President Barack Obama is encouraging Congress to remove a ban on Cuban imports, everything from Studebakers to mid-century Chevys could be available to U.S. buyers. The question for collectors is: Are they still worth anything?

“The problem is that, in general, the collectors know these cars have not really been maintained,” says Steve Linden, a vintage car appraiser. “They’ve been actually driven and used as daily cars.”

That’s an issue because a classic car is valued precisely for its classic components. Cubans have been unable to import new parts, so they’ve had to make repairs by creatively mixing and matching what’s available. A particular car might look like an original Dodge Coronet, but under the hood could be a frankenstein mix of pieces from other models. “The ability to keep these things running is what diminishes the value of the car because they’re not original,” Linden explains.

Some collectors might consider buying a car and restoring the original components, but that might not make sense either. A restoration, according to Linden, would cost somewhere between $40,000 and $80,000, depending on the car. Meanwhile, he estimates the same cars in good condition could be bought in America for somewhere between $15,000 and $70,000, with ’50s Chevys—ubiquitous in Cuba—on the low end, and Cadillac convertibles on the high end.

Jonathan Klinger, spokesman for Hagerty, a collector car insurance company, agrees the value of Cuba’s classic cars might be overblown. “I think some people have this vision of a treasure trove of lost cars, but some of the greatest cars from the days of the Cuban Grand Prix have already left through other countries,” said Klinger in a phone interview. “What’s left are a lot of 1950s American cars that have remained through the circumstances, and it took a tremendous amount of passion and ingenuity to keep them on the road.”

Donald Osborne, owner of Automotive Valuation Services, says there are rumors that exotic sports cars were abandoned as their owners fled Cuba, but nobody’s ever seen proof they exist. One of those cars, like a Mercedes 300SL Gullwing, could sell for over $1 million. But the average Chevy? “Run-of-the-mill 1950s American cars make no sense as restoration projects,” declares Osborne.

But for both Osborne and Klinger, the value in these cars isn’t their classic nature, it’s in the story they tell. That story could lead some car connoisseurs to pay premium prices for a piece of history. “They’re not overly valuable, but they’re extremely significant,” says Klinger. “Line five cars up at a car show and one of them is tattered looking, but it came from Cuba? That’s interesting.”

Linden isn’t so sure the historic value of Cuba’s cars will be enough to make them valuable. He notes that when former Soviet territories began to open up, they boasted a similar cache of classics, but interest was tepid and few were repatriated to the United States. People might be more willing to import cars from nearby Cuba, admits Linden, but “My opinion is they probably won’t.”

MONEY Autos

New Alfa Romeo Is a Beauty and a Blast

The Alfa Romeo 4C isn’t a car so much as it is a Milanese fashion model on wheels.

A very, very, fast fashion model. I will admit to a certain amount of man drooling when this creature showed up. And I was not the only guy on the block with that reaction. What a looker: a swept-back, mid-engined beauty whose lineage dates back to Alfa Romeo’s 33 Stradale supercar of the 1960s.

The 4C gets its curves from technology. It isn’t assembled so much as shaped from carbon fiber over an aluminum frame, which allowed the designers to devise the 4C’s sinuous looks. The Alfa is also fashion-model skinny, weighing in at about 2,500 pounds — some 1,000 lbs. less than the Jaguar F-type, for instance. The Alfa is also lighter on price than the F-Type: $53,900 vs. the F-Type’s $65,000; to get the baddest F-Type, the R model that matches the Alfa’s speed, it’s going to cost you $99,000 to open the door.

Alfa’s corporate masters at Fiat (it will be sold here by Fiat dealers) have been able to keep the 4C’s price relatively modest by creating a very basic animal. This thing comes with few accessories, and there aren’t a lot of toggles and knobs to play with. If you want the Jag’s ultra-plush, 14-power control racing chair with the inflatable side baffles — very nice in 90-mile-per-hour turns — you should expect to lay out 100 large. The Alfa driver’s seat slides up and back using an old-fashioned ratchet mechanism. The car is barely four feet tall, and given the size of the cockpit and my own 6-foot-2 frame, I had to push it all the way back to get my legs in. It reminds me of an ancient MG in that regard.

Understand that with the 4C you’re going to have to give up things along with weight. Like comfort. The car won’t coddle you. You’re four inches off the ground in a carbon tub, the suspension has no intention of making New York City’s potholes any softer, and the guy in charge of sound reduction at Alfa had the day off when this thing was designed. It’s loud, and turning up the radio just adds to it.

And if you’re looking for the latest in interactive accouterments, such as a touchscreen navigation system or voice-activated controls, the 4C laughs at you. It’s a sports car, not some Wi-Fi hotspot. There’s an input for your mobile phone in the form of a collection of loose wires stuffed into a sleeve below the glove compartment. Except that there is no glove compartment. Instead, there’s a slot on the back wall above the center console. It’s a very handy spot to store your speeding tickets.

There’s no backup camera, either, which is a shame because there’s basically no rear view. The engine is in the way. Nor is the peripheral vision all that great. The 4C is designed for fast forward. Don’t count on taking a long road trip in this thing, unless you travel very very light. The trunk space is ridiculously small, and there’s no storage beneath the hood.

All the 4C’s shortcoming are quickly forgiven quickly once you start it up and the automotive aria that is sitting behind your head begins to sing. And this is not the fat lady singing, either. Even in the engine compartment, the 4C is slim : a turbo-tuned, in-line, four-cylinder power plant puts out a mere 237 horsepower. You might be tempted to snicker, given that the top-end F-Type is pumping out 550 hp and Chevy’s even faster Corvette muscles up to 460 hp. Keep in mind, though, that the new Ford Mustang is available in a four-cylinder version, and I’ve been on track with that Pony at 132 mph. The 4C, though, is so much lighter that its power-to-weight ratio is in the supercar class. Which means that if you touch the pedal, the response is, si, signore, and you are blowing past traffic in hilariously fast intervals.

What we‘re talking about is fun — knowing that whatever traffic is in your way will be out of your way on command. You do that with the pedal and the 4C’s dual clutch transmission. There’s a funky gear selection on the center console: R for reverse, and then a 1 for forward, as in drive. There’s also a button that lets you select automatic or the paddle shift, six-speed mode. (There’s no stick shift option.) In auto mode, there’s an interesting knock-down feature. If you’re in sixth gear and cruising, and decide you want to make a pass, the engine downshifts a gear to fifth to provide more torque.

Like most new sports cars, the 4C has a tunable ride. A three-mode toggle called D.N.A. lets you switch from normal driving mode (in which can get an admirable 28 miles per gallon combined, although you’ll need it with the 10-gallon tank) to an all-weather mode or to dynamic mode (and if you hold the switch in dynamic for five seconds, you’ll engage the Alfa’s race mode). The all-weather mode is designed to keep the wheels from spinning by not overresponding to the pedal while an anti-slip regulation (ASP) keeps brakes and engine in sync. Put it into dynamic, however, and all bets are off. The pedal response is reflexive, and gear shift times are reduced by 25%, according to the company. That’s another way of saying that when you bang on the accelerator, the trip to 60 mph — which takes a shade over four seconds — feels nearly seamless.

That would not describe the steering, which lacks electronics, At slow speeds you have to pull the wheel to get the tires to come with you; forget about trying to parallel park. On the other hand, there’s an electronic torsion control that brakes the interior tire on turns so you’re getting optimum grip on the outside wheel. That means you can power through turns at will.

So how do you size up a car like the 4C? It’s impractical, not particularly comfortable, and rather loud. It has a lousy infotainment system and no trunk space. Then again, it’s flat-out gorgeous and race-car fast. It is both beauty and beast, and a wonderful one at that.

View an extended version of the Alfa Romeo 4C video on YouTube.

TIME Autos

Ciao Ragazze! Ferrari Considers Leaving Italy

Ferrari SpA Chairman Montezemolo Interview And Auto Plant Tour
An employee works inside a red Ferrari F12 Berlinetta automobile on production line at Ferrari SpA's plant in Maranello, Italy on May 8, 2013. Alessia Pierdomenico—Bloomberg/Getty Images

The iconic Italian brand could look to set up a tax headquarters elsewhere in Europe, a report says

For some, Ferrari leaving Italy would be like the Pope leaving Rome — but it could very well happen soon, according to a Bloomberg News report.

The report says that the storied Italian automaker — which recently announced a spin-off from Fiat-Chrysler — could follow its parent company in registering in a country such as the Netherlands, listing in New York and being based in London.

While it might make sense from a financial standpoint, it’s hard to imagine Ferrari being based anywhere other than Italy. The car has come to be associated with Italian luxury — the automotive equivalent of an Armani suit. The colors of the Italian flag are even featured prominently in the company’s logo.

The manufacturing of the cars would still take place in Italy. Fiat Chrysler representatives declined to comment to Bloomberg, which noted that maintaining full Italian residency was still an option.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

MONEY Autos

Toyota Tries to Nudge the Camry Upscale

A test-drive of the new 2015 Camry shows how Toyota is using fancy trim and gadgetry in a bid to make a thoroughbred out of its workhorse.

Living in New York City, I am always amazed to see how many beat-up old Camrys prowl the streets.

A lot of them are missing fenders or sporting that two-tone, quarter-panel-from–the-junkyard look. Nobody here seems to buy a Camry to style around town. It’s a car you buy because you can beat the crap out of it, and 100,000 miles later you can let your kid beat the crap out of it or sell it to someone else who will do likewise.

Toyota redesigned the 2015 Camry to give its prized midsized mule a little bit more thoroughbred swagger and sheen — making it look like something you’d want to take care of, so that maybe when you’re backing into a tight parking spot you’ll be less inclined to tap bumpers. It’s got a rear backup camera, which will help. But this newest version is also sharper-elbowed and sharper-shouldered in its styling, and on some trims there’s a new front grill that‘s really trying to look angry. “Demands respect at every corner,” barks Toyota’s marketing department.

We hear you, Toyota, but in the wheelhouse there’s not much that’s new. The Camry’s engine choices haven’t changed. Long a paragon of four-pot pragmatism, Camry offers its standard four-cylinder, 2.5 liter engine on the 2015 models, which gets you to 178 horsepower and a combined 28 miles per gallon. The XSE model, which we drove, also offers a 3.5 liter, 236-hp V-6 engine to do the loud talking, with fuel economy at 25 mpg combined. There’s also a 200-hp (combined) hybrid electric engine available that gets about 40 mpg.

Things were going well in the XSE, with its blue-tinted entry lights on the bottom door sill, the broad moon roof bathing the car in light, the phone charging wirelessly on the clever Qi pad on the center console. The XSE also had $1,200 worth of safety options such as a blind-spot monitor, lane monitor, and pre-collision braking system — options that should become standard.

I was beginning to buy into the whole bold new Camry idea when the voice from the passenger seat T-boned into the sentences forming in my head. “This feels like a rental,” my wife said.

How brutal! No, no, no, she responded, as if the Camry might hear her; it wasn’t a putdown, just an observation. The Camry is a fine car indeed, she said.

I agree: Nice ride, decent noise and vibration levels. Pretty comfortable. Nothing too fussy on the dash despite its Entune premium audio/navigation technology. But nothing to raise the pulse rate too much, either, and we were driving a jazzed-up version that weighed in at $35,000, not some fleet meat from the Hertz lot. Ours had 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, and dual chrome tipped exhaust. The leather-trim seats seemed a little underwhelming given the rest of the package, but how much higher can you drive the price of this car anyway before drivers start balking?

That’s the point, isn’t it? You can drive out of a Toyota dealership with a perfectly nice Camry for $25,000 without having second thoughts. When you start pushing $35,000 for a midsized nice car, your thoughts start to wander to Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, the new Chrysler 200, maybe even an Audi A3 — smaller but more luxurious.

It isn’t easy being popular, so all credit to Toyota for trying to raise Camry’s game and hold off the mid-sized hordes. But maybe there’s a better way to do this than add chrome and glitz and a higher sticker price. I’m sure Toyota will figure that out.

In the meantime, I expect that in 10 years someone will still be driving that XSE in my neighborhood. And there will be some big dings in that restyled grill.

MONEY Gas

Gas Under $2 a Gallon as Gas Stations Launch Price Wars

A sign displays the price for E-10 gasoline for $1.99 at the OnCue convenience store and gas station, Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014, in Oklahoma City.
A sign displays the price for E-10 gasoline for $1.99 at the OnCue convenience store and gas station, Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014, in Oklahoma City. Paul B. Southerland—AP

Gas station price wars have pushed the cost of a gallon of regular below $2 in one U.S. city, and similar price wars are expected in other metro areas around the country.

Less than a week ago, gas price analysts were forecasting that gas stations in some part(s) of the country would probably drop prices below $2 per gallon sometime in the near future—most likely “by Christmas.” Turns out it didn’t take nearly that long to dip under the $2 mark.

Less than one month after the national average dropped below $3 per gallon, a gas station in Oklahoma City apparently became the first in the country to plunge beneath $2. It happened sometime on Wednesday, and as Bloomberg News reported, within a few hours several other gas stations in the Oklahoma City area had engaged in a price war, with per-gallon costs falling from $2.11, to $2.03, to $1.99, to $1.98, and at least one reaching $1.95. As of Thursday morning, drivers in the Oklahoma City area are reporting four gas stations where a gallon of regular starts under $2, according to GasBuddy.

This doesn’t mean that all drivers in Oklahoma, or even in the capital city area, can expect to see such low gas prices. According to AAA, the statewide average in Oklahoma is $2.51, and GasBuddy estimates the average in greater Oklahoma City is around $2.42. It’s just that some stations are being particularly aggressive on pricing in order to attract drivers. They’re not making much if any money on sub-$2 gas, but the stations hope that customers grab coffee, snacks, and other purchases while they’re filling up.

Meanwhile, the latest press release from AAA notes that gas prices nationally have dropped 69 days in a row and have fallen nearly $1 from the 2014 high in late April, when the average was $3.70.

Based on the way things are going, prices at the pump should only get cheaper, indefinitely. “The holiday joy should continue as gas prices drop even further in the weeks ahead,” AAA spokesperson Avery Ash noted in the release. “We could see prices drop to the lowest levels since the Great Recession if the cost of crude oil continues to set multi-year lows.”

Another likely prediction is that Oklahoma City won’t be the only metro area where drivers will enjoy the financial benefits of gas price wars. Look for similar pricing competitions at a gas station near you, coming soon.

TIME Autos

Toyota Recalls Cars in Japan, China for Air Bags

Some 14 million vehicles, including Toyota cars, have been recalled worldwide over Takata air bags

(TOKYO) — Toyota is recalling 185,000 vehicles in Japan and 5,000 in China for a possibly defective air bag supplied by Takata, the Japanese manufacturer at the center of an unfolding safety scandal.

Toyota Motor Corp. said Thursday the latest air bag problem was discovered as a result of passenger-side air bags in some Toyota vehicles rupturing when intentionally deployed while being scrapped, a routine procedure under Japanese law for scrapping vehicles.

Toyota said it was not aware of any fatalities or injuries related to the latest problem.

The recall includes vehicles produced from September 2002 through to December 2003, including Corolla models, Noah, Voxy, Mark II and Will.

The driver-side air bags in the affected models are not being recalled because they were not supplied by Takata, said Toyota spokesman Naoki Sumino.

Some 14 million vehicles, including Toyota cars, have been recalled worldwide over Takata air bags, 8 million of them in the U.S. At issue are air bags whose inflators can explode, hurling shrapnel into the passenger compartment. At least five deaths and dozens of injuries have been linked to the problem worldwide.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is pressing for a nationwide recall. The recalls have so far been in high-humidity areas such as the Gulf Coast, because of evidence that moisture can cause the propellant in the air bags to burn too quickly.

Toyota said it still did not know the cause of the air bag problems.

“We decided to conduct a recall campaign as a precautionary measure and replace the inflator with a new one to help minimize potential risk to customers and to investigate the possible root cause through tests on the replaced parts,” the company said.

Takata has defied the NHTSA order to carry out a nationwide recall, insisting that automakers carry out the recalls, not suppliers, but promised to cooperate with any automakers that decide to do recalls.

Honda Motor Co. responded by saying it will comply with the NHTSA order. Toyota does not have any vehicles that fall under the expanded recall that the NHTSA wants in the U.S.

Takata has said it is investigating, but has repeatedly said its air bags are safe.

TIME Autos

Honda Will Expand Its Takata Driver-Side Air-Bag Recall

Japanese air-bag maker has refused to comply with a U.S. government demand for an expanded recall

Honda will expand its recall of vehicles with Takata driver-side air bags nationwide, according to reports.

Japan’s Takata has refused to comply with a U.S. government demand for an expanded recall of its air bags, which can explode and shed shrapnel. The decision was criticized as insufficient by the U.S.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and officials from the company are appearing before the U.S. Congress Wednesday.

As early as 2003, Takata ran an investigation into an air-bag inflator that ruptured in a BMW vehicle, but concluded the problem was an anomaly, the company said on Tuesday, ahead of a second U.S. congressional hearing on dangerous air bags it supplied.

In addition, technicians employed by the Japanese auto parts supplier in Michigan tested inflators for potential defects in 2004, over a year before Takata has said it first learned of defects that are now linked to five deaths, two people directly involved in Takata’s investigation told Reuters.

The disclosure that Takata was looking into problems with its air-bag inflators earlier than previously disclosed could open the company to more intense scrutiny from U.S. lawmakers, regulators and prosecutors in an ongoing criminal investigation into a series of recalls that now targets more than 16 million vehicles worldwide.

Hiroshi Shimizu, Takata’s chief quality officer, told a Senate committee hearing last month that the company did not begin to look into inflator defects until May 2005 when it learned of a 2004 accident involving a Honda Accord. Shimizu is scheduled to testify later on Wednesday at the second hearing.

This article originally appeared on FORTUNE.com

TIME Recalls

What You Should Do About the Massive Airbag Recall

Car Dealerships Ahead Of Total Vehicle Sales Figures
Honda Motor Co. vehicles are displayed for sale at the Paragon Honda dealership in the Queens borough of New York, U.S., on Monday, Sept. 1, 2014. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Millions of cars from ten automakers are subject to an airbag recall. Here's what you need to know

Takata produces about 300,000 airbag replacement kits per month, possibly increasing to 450,000 or so. At that rate, it will take from 2 to 3 years to recall and replace the defective airbags in the 16-million to potentially 30-million affected vehicles in the U.S.

So what do concerned vehicle owners do in the meantime?

Takata is the only airbag manufacturer to use ammonium nitrate as a propellant for its inflators. Ammonium nitrate is affected by heat-and-cold cycling over time, plus humidity, that can cause it to become too forcefully explosive when ignited in a crash.

To fix this potentially lethal default the company says it has (1) changed the compression density force with new press machines; (2) rejected products that are not meeting quality standards; and (3) changed humidity control during production and assembly. Takata also says it also improved the hermetically-sealed package to minimize effects of moisture that would deteriorate the chemicals and make them less stable. Perhaps NHTSA should consider outlawing the use of ammonium nitrate in the first place, or at least use a safer chemical in the recall campaign.

But there are safer alternatives. It should be feasible to re-program the software in the vehicles’ airbag control modules (ACM). By changing the software, including the thresholds of activation and the control algorithms, the system could be made safer— as a temporary solution. The threshold to trigger the airbags could be raised so that it would take a crash at 30 mph, rather than 18 mph. In these low-speed collisions, the driver and passenger would still be protected by wearing their seat belts.

Since the driver and passenger airbags are dual-stage designs, they could be re-programmed to inflate only at the lower-pressure level to help ensure that the explosive force does not exceed levels that cause the metal canister to become lethal shrapnel. Because of the inherent instability of ammonium nitrate, such lower pressures in the canister cannot be absolutely guaranteed, but the risk would be reduced. (On the other hand, passenger risks would rise in a high-speed crash.)

To re-program your car’s Takata airbags, you’d drive over to your local dealership and download new software into your car’s ACM computer. It would likely take less than an hour, and then you’d drive away with a less-risky airbag system that could still offer protection in a crash. If the automakers and Takata cooperated, such software could be developed and tested and available probably within a month…. or maybe even a week.

I believe it should also be a requirement that each affected vehicle have a label attached permanently on the instrument panel, advising that the vehicle has been recalled and that a replacement airbag system has been installed. The date of such recall and replacement action should also be noted on the label.

Finally, I believe that all Takata airbag systems should have a “failsafe” pressure-relief mechanism to prevent any over-pressurization of the airbag. In the late-1970’s I became aware that too many pressurized beer kegs were exploding and propelling lethal shrapnel that injured or killed college students. I showed there was a solution, a simple device that would vent out any over-pressurization before it could cause the metal keg to explode. Lives have been saved by adopting such an inexpensive, simple device for beer kegs. Why not a use a similar device to prevent excessive forces from rupturing the metal canister that holds the airbag’s propellant? And yes, the canisters should be made stronger, too.

Byron Bloch has over 30 years of experience as an independent consultant and court-qualified expert in Auto Safety Design and Vehicle Crashworthiness. Over the years, he has inspected accident vehicles to evaluate how and why the occupants were severely injured, and exemplar vehicles to evaluate their structural details. He has qualified and testified as an expert in auto safety defect cases in Federal and State Courts coast-to-coast. He also lectures, writes, and appears on TV reports on auto safety design and vehicle crashworthiness.

TIME Autos

Car Shopping? Brace Yourself For This Shocker

Car Dealerships Ahead Of Total Vehicle Sales Figures
Honda Motor Co. vehicles are displayed for sale at the Paragon Honda dealership in the Queens borough of New York, U.S., on Monday, Sept. 1, 2014. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

You'll be paying it off for ages

If you’re in the market for a vehicle, odds are good that you’ll be borrowing more than ever to pay for your new ride — and you could be taking on more financial risk as a result.

According to new data from Experian Automotive, the average amount of a car loan hit a record high last quarter. In just a year, the average new car loan soared by nearly $1,100 to $27,799, while used-car loans crept up by almost $700 to hit $18,576 over the same time period.

“Monthly payments are at near or all-time highs,” says Melinda Zabritski, Experian’s senior director of Automotive Finance. For Americans already coping with stagnant wages and rising costs of everything from food to healthcare, it’s a struggle to make those heftier payments.

To cope, more drivers are leasing cars; the number of leases is up about 7% from a year ago. In addition, we’re borrowing more and borrowing longer. A record-high 54% of used car deals are financed, while roughly 85% of new car sales are financed. (that number hasn’t changed much.)

Experian finds that more drivers are borrowing for longer terms than the typical five-year loan. The number of new car loans with six- and seven-year terms has shot up by almost 25% since last year. Used-car loans for those terms are up by almost 20% in that time.

Today, more than 42% of new car loans and nearly as many used-car loans are for six-year terms, Zabritski says. This can be a risky strategy, she points out. Although most of us hang onto our cars for eight years on average, stretching out payments for nearly the entire time you own a vehicle has drawbacks.

“This is a depreciating asset, and if you don’t plan on holding onto your car long enough, you very likely owe more than the car is worth upon trade-in,” Zabritski warns. There’s also the fact that a five- or six-year old car might be at the point where it starts needing costly repairs, an expense that can be a bigger burden if you’re still spending a few hundred bucks a month paying down the loan. It also doesn’t give you much breathing room to start saving towards your next car after you’ve made the final payment.

Even with loan terms that stretch out payment for a longer period, people are still paying more per month. The average monthly payment a new car driver makes on his or her loan is $470, while used-car loans hit an average monthly payment amount of $358, an all-time high, according to Experian.

Of course, a longer loan term also means you’re paying more in accumulated interest. Interest rates on longer loans also tend to be a bit higher. Although Zabritski says people who take six years rather than five to pay off their cars save an average of $75 a month, they actually wind up paying several hundred dollars to buy themselves that extra time.

“Understand truly how much car you can afford,” Zabritski advises. “Realize the additional costs involved in car ownership and do your research.”

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