MONEY Autos

A Pop-Up Tesla Store Just Started Its US Tour

Tesla Model S
Tesla Motors Tesla Model S

First top: Santa Barbara

Electric-car maker Tesla Motors TESLA MOTORS INC. TSLA 0.86% is already known for its unique approach to selling its cars, bypassing dealerships and instead selling its vehicles directly to consumers in company-owned retail locations in upscale shopping areas. But it wants to push the boundaries of what consumers are accustomed to in the auto retail experience even further. Showing off the flexibility of Tesla’s direct-to-consumer model, the electric-car maker is meeting customers at popular summer locations with a touring, full-fledged store experience — a feat auto dealers may have difficulty matching.

Tesla’s mobile store
When transported, Tesla’s new mobile store fits on a single flatbed truck and is about the size of four shipping containers sitting side by side. Once expanded and transformed, the store is about 20 feet deep and 34.5 feet wide.

“Designed in-house, the shipping container arrives and unfolds to double its size in just a few hours,” Tesla said in a media release. “The mobility and convenience of the design allows Tesla to bring our unique retail approach to customers in new locations where we do not yet have a brick-and-mortar location.”

The store will highlight Model S components, including the Model S’s electric powertrain and battery architecture. People visiting the store will be able to “learn about electric driving with enticing visuals and interactive displays,” as well as to test-drive the Model S.

Just in time for the busy Memorial Day weekend shopping, Tesla’s mobile container store landed in Santa Barbara, California, today, and will have its public grand opening tomorrow. After finishing up the month in Santa Barbara, Tesla will then transport its mobile store to its next stop in the Hamptons.

As Twitter user @TonyJGiannini pointed out, Tesla’s mobile store is already touring in Europe. Mostly slipping under the radar in the media, the pop-up store made an appearance in England at the Bluewater shopping center in November and December.

There are three of these mobile stores in Europe and one in the U.S. The three in Europe are currently in Denmark, France, and Switzerland. Going forward, Tesla could very well expand its investment in these stores, Tesla spokeswoman Alexis Georgeson told The Motley Fool.

Tesla’s secret weapon?
During Tesla’s fourth-quarter earnings call, CEO Elon Musk said the company had “a secret weapon on the demand side that we’ll probably start to deploy later this year for demand generation,” adding that it could be a “good weapon against the dealers.”

Is this unique touring retail experience the company’s “secret weapon”? It’s quite possible.

It would be difficult for traditional automakers to set up similar direct-to-consumer pop-up shops to sell their vehicles. Doing so would likely require the vehicle manufacturer to refer visitors to nearby dealers for test drives and sales, in order not to interfere with the local dealer network. Dealers, too, could have trouble matching Tesla’s mobile store. They probably wouldn’t want to set up shop far from their dealership, since the majority of dealer profits come from servicing cars — not auto sales.

There’s good reason to believe Tesla’s investment in mobile stores is likely to pay off handsomely

First, Tesla’s demand is arguably limited by the company’s small retail footprint. So, every additional store is important.

Not spending a dime on advertising, Tesla relies heavily on its limited yet fast-growing retail locations for sales. Touring its mobile stores in high-foot-traffic locations could help Tesla expand its retail footprint to key areas without having to take the time to set up a physical brick-and-mortar location.

Second, Tesla’s spending on retail locations to date has proven to be a lucrative investment. Musk said last year that sales per square foot for its retail stores are double Apple’s. Apple was previously thought to have the highest sales per square foot in the world.

Last, customer education plays an important role in Tesla’s selling process. In Tesla stores, customers ask employees many questions about driving electrically. By bringing mobile locations to popular destinations where Tesla doesn’t have a retail footprint, the company can educate more people who are unfamiliar with the company’s fully electric vehicles.

Tesla’s growing footprint of retail locations has been a key driver in sales growth. Model S deliveries were up 56% year over year in the company’s most recent quarter.

Is Tesla’s production catching up with demand?
With Tesla constantly ramping up the pace of production for the Model S, the company’s further investment in these mobile stores could be a sign that its production is finally catching up to demand. While Tesla did say orders continued to grow in Q1 and that it expects global order growth for Model S to continue to rise throughout the year, perhaps the level and rate of Tesla’s production ramp-up is getting closer to the level and rate of order growth.

If Tesla’s production ramp-up for Model S is catching up with orders, will an investment in mobile stores help Tesla achieve its goal to increase Model S sales by about 50% for the entire year?

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MONEY Travel

The Cheapest Way to Roadtrip Might Surprise You

people camping in RV
Gary John Norman—Getty Images

Is traveling by RV really cheaper than staying in hotels?

Working or retired, who doesn’t dream of traveling more? When I early retired, we aspired to travel several months out of the year. So we bought a small RV. RVs are flexible and comfortable. You travel on your own schedule, overnighting any place that interests you. You sleep in your own bed and eat your own food. It’s like being at home while being on vacation.

I assumed that owning a small RV would save us money. And it does. But if you’re thinking about renting an RV this summer? Well, you might want to reconsider. Here’s why.

Let’s crunch the number on three modes of road-trip travel: (1) driving your own car and staying in hotels; (2) owning a small RV; or (3) renting a small RV. (I focus on small RVs here—those less than about 25 feet in length—because they are most cost effective. These modern small RVs are economical and comfortable for a couple or small family.)

For each option, we’ll compute the cost per mile of owning the vehicle. To this, we’ll add the cost of driving the vehicle, based on its fuel consumption and the current national average cost of gasoline, about $2.70 per gallon as this is written. That will give us an overall cost per mile of operating the vehicle.

Next, we’ll figure the daily expense for traveling, based on average hotel and camping rates. For food costs, we’ll compare the expense of dining out for hotel travel with preparing meals in an RV. I’ll use national averages when possible, plus my own experience and estimates.

What we’ll discover is that the essential trade-off of RV ownership is that it saves you on daily costs at the expense of mileage costs. An RV is more expensive to own and drive, but saves you each day on lodging and meals. Your personal breakeven point will depend on your lifestyle and travel plans. Let’s dig into the numbers.

Staying in Hotels

On a traditional driving vacation you use your own car, stay in hotels, and dine out. Assume a used vehicle purchased for $20,000 with 20,000 miles, an expected lifetime of 150,000 miles, a salvage value of $2,000, and annual maintenance costs of $900 over 15 years. That comes to a capital cost of $0.24/mile. Assuming 30 mpg gives fuel costs of $0.09/mile, for a total operating cost of $0.33/mile.

Using the national average hotel room rate of $121 per night and assuming that dining out costs $60 per day, we arrive at a daily cost of $181 for a traditional vacation. (These costs could be far higher in choice vacation spots.)

Owning Your Own Small RV

Next let’s look at the cost of owning a small RV. Assume a used rig purchased for $80,000 with 20,000 miles, an expected lifetime of 150,000 miles, a salvage value of $4,000, and annual maintenance costs of $1,700 over 15 years. That comes to a capital cost of $0.78/mile. Assuming 15 mpg gives fuel costs of $0.18/mile, for a total operating cost of $0.96/mile.

Using an average campground rate of $25 per night and groceries of $30 per day for preparing meals in your RV, we arrive at a daily cost of $55 for vacationing in your own RV.

Renting a Small RV

Finally, let’s consider renting a small RV. There is no ownership cost. The total operating cost is $0.18/mile based on fuel consumption. (This assumes you stay under the typical 100 miles per day average allowance for a rental RV, otherwise there would be an additional mileage charge.)

Based on my survey of RV rental prices at three regional dealers and one national chain, the average rental rate for a small RV is about $205 a day. Adding to that a campground rate of $25 per night, plus meal costs of $30 per day, we arrive at a daily cost of $260 for vacationing in a small rental RV.

Bottom Line

Now that we have per-mile operating costs plus daily living costs for each mode of travel, we can calculate the total cost for two representative vacations: a 500-mile trip over 7 days, and a 2,000-mile trip over 21 days.

Owning a small RV is the clear winner for both trips, with costs of $865 and $3,077, respectively. The traditional vacation is next at $1,433 and $4,466. And the rented RV is most expensive, at $1,910 and $5,820.

Owning a small RV lets you travel for only 60%-70% of the traditional car-plus-hotel cost. That means half again as much vacation time, if you’re living on a fixed income in retirement! The exact savings will depend on the nature of your travel. Low-mileage, long-duration trips are the most cost effective in an RV. The breakeven point is about 200 miles a day. If you drive less than that on average, an RV beats the traditional car/hotel vacation.

So owning a small RV is the cheapest mode of extended travel. But try before you buy. This is when a RV rental can make sense. Once you’re certain RV living is for you, shop used RVs. We bought our 3-year old rig for about half price, and it has held its value well. Finally, never take on debt to finance vacation or travel costs. The last thing you need on returning home is more bills to pay!

Darrow Kirkpatrick is a software engineer and author who lived frugally, invested successfully, and retired in 2011 at age 50. He writes regularly about saving, investing and retiring on his blog CanIRetireYet.com.

MONEY stocks

Carl Icahn Was Way Off on His Apple TV Set Projections

150521_EM_AppleTVIcahn
Victor J. Blue—Bloomberg via Getty Images Billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn

The activist investor predicted that an Apple-designed TV could bring in $37.5 billion

It’s time to call it. The mythical Apple APPLE INC. AAPL 0.88% TV set is dead. Well, it’s dead to the extent that it was ever alive to begin with. While Apple has never officially acknowledged that it was interested in jumping into the hyper competitive TV market (how often does Apple tell you directly that it’s working on something?), there has been plenty of evidence over the years that the Mac maker seriously considered it.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the company has abandoned its plans to build a high-definition TV set. To be clear, Apple did think long and hard about making such a product, reportedly researching the idea for almost 10 years. Technically, the project wasn’t killed, but let’s be realistic. Apple isn’t making a TV.

R.I.P. Apple TV set. We hardly knew thee.
When Apple enters a market to disrupt the status quo, it needs a breakthrough innovation that differentiates itself while giving it stronger pricing power than incumbents. These innovations typically come in the form of interface paradigm shifts, like the iPhone’s capacitive touchscreen.

However, the TV market is notorious for slim margins and rapid commoditization since TVs are inherently little more than large displays. There’s simply not a lot of room to innovate or differentiate on the platform level. TV user interfaces absolutely have room for improvement, but there are some unavoidable limitations with trying to create a truly revolutionary TV interface.

Apple supposedly researched a wide range of display technologies that could potentially allow it to stand apart, and the company also considered adding FaceTime capabilities to the product. But video calling on a TV isn’t a “killer app.” It’s not like people rush out to buy Microsoft’s Xbox One primarily so they can Skype with friends and family.

Lacking any powerful differentiators and considering the high level of risk, Apple shelved the plans over a year ago, so says the WSJ.

Carl Icahn sees 85% upside
Incidentally, the report came out just hours after activist investor Carl Icahn published his latest open letter to Apple. Every few months, Icahn pens a letter to Tim Cook to applaud Apple’s ongoing aggressive capital returns and to continue to speculate about Apple entering new markets. In February, Icahn believed that Apple could build a $37.5 billion TV business in just 2 years.

Icahn now believes that Apple will enter not one, but two new markets in the coming years: the TV market and the car market. For the latter, Icahn thinks the Apple Car will be launched by 2020, in line with prior rumors. For this reason, he does not include any estimates in his model, which only goes through fiscal 2017. For what it’s worth, Icahn now pegs Apple’s valuation at $240 per share.

 

Saying “no” is one of Apple’s greatest strengths
Apple has said numerous times that TV remains an “area of intense interest” and that it feels that it can contribute to the space. But the thing is that Apple can accomplish those strategic goals and reap the benefits without getting too deeply into the hardware side. Consumers are now willing to buy set-top boxes beyond the ones that cable operators provide, a stark contrast to how the market was just five years ago as Steve Jobs observed.

That increased propensity opens up the door for opportunities to innovate, and that’s precisely what Apple is doing. The company is expected to release a new Apple TV set-top box next month at WWDC and is reportedly putting together its own slimmed-down subscription TV package. Who needs an Apple TV set?

MONEY Holidays

Memorial Day Weekend Traffic, Sales & More, By the Numbers

We know for sure that during the holiday weekend, sales will be big, traffic will be heavy, and many, many hot dogs will be eaten. Here's a big roundup of fun factoids about the holiday weekend ahead.

  • 95¢

    In this May 8, 2015 photo, vehicles drive past a gas station in Andover, Mass. Even after the typical springtime run-up, the average price for gallon of regular gasoline should top out around $2.60.
    Elise Amendola—AP

    Approximate difference in the price of a gallon of regular gasoline this Memorial Day, compared to the holiday weekend in 2014. Even as gas prices have surged steadily for over a month, filling up the tank is substantially cheaper than it was a year ago. The last time gas was this cheap over Memorial Day weekend, it was 2009.

  • 5%

    Rosen Shingle Creek Hotel resort exterior property swimming pool, Orlando, Florida
    Rosa Irene Betancourt—Alamy

    Average percentage rise in hotel rates this year compared to 2014. According to Priceline data, daily room rates over Memorial Day weekend are up even more than that in cities such as Orlando and Dallas, while prices at Virginia Beach, Detroit, and Fort Lauderdale have fallen compared to a year ago. Meanwhile, forecasts from AAA call for a 16% increase in rates at lower-end (two-star) hotels over the weekend.

  • 14

    person clicking seatbelt
    Getty Images

    Number of days that police around the country are aggressively enforcing a “Click It or Ticket” campaign to get drivers and auto passengers to wear seatbelts. Look for police to pull cars over and issue a disproportionately high number of tickets for not wearing seatbelts from May 18 to 31.

  • 14+

    Colonial Williamsburg
    Bob Stefko—Getty Images Colonial Williamsburg

    Number of freebies and special discounts available to veterans and active military on or around Memorial Day, per sites such as Military.com and MilitaryBenefits.info. For instance, at Colonial Williamsburg, admission is free this weekend for all active duty, reservists, retirees, and veterans—and their dependents get in free as well.

  • 25

    War Memorial to Confederate Soldiers, Macon, Georgia
    Sean Pavone—Alamy

    Approximate number of American cities that have laid claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day, the majority of which are in the South and held celebrations in the aftermath of the Civil War. (One of them is Macon, Ga., whose War Memorial to Confederate Soldiers is pictured above.)

  • 54%

    George W. Bush International Airport, Houston, Texas, USA
    Alamy

    Percentage of Americans who said they prefer to travel on non-holiday weekends rather than holidays like Memorial Day, according to a survey conducted for Citi ThankYou Premier card. Only 11% named Memorial Day as the best summer holiday for travel.

  • 57%

    man grilling fish
    Stephen Lux—Getty Images

    Percentage of Americans who say they will grill food on the barbecue during Memorial Day weekend.

  • 60% to 70%

    Cabela’s, Scarborough, Maine
    Gregory Rec—Portland Press Herald via Getty

    Discount off the original prices that shoppers can expect during many Memorial Day sales.

  • $199

    2015 Buick Verano Turbo
    Tom Drew 2015 Buick Verano Turbo

    The hot per-month lease price available for more than two dozen new vehicles during the busy holiday weekend, according to Edmunds.com. The auto research site also notes that there are an exceptionally large number of 0% financing offers in May, including 0% financing deals on several Toyota and Nissan vehicles and most Ford models.

  • 383

    overturned car
    Sebastien Cote—Getty Images

    Estimated number of fatalities from traffic crashes that will take place over Memorial Day weekend, according to the National Safety Council. Drivers and passengers can expect another car crash-related 46,300 injuries over the weekend as well.

  • 818

    hot dogs on plate
    Greg Elms—Getty Images

    Number of hot dogs consumed every second in the U.S. from Memorial Day to Labor Day, known as peak hot dog season, when we’ll collectively wolf down 7 billion dogs.

     

  • $200,000+

    toasting with beer pints
    John Giustina—Getty Images

    Amount of money raised for military-focused charities last year with the release of a special craft beer, Homefront IPA. Ten craft brewers have made their own versions of Homefront IPA for the charity effort this year, and the official release date for the brews is Memorial Day, May 25, 2015.

  • 1.75 Million

    Passengers board a Bolt bus to New York in Washington, D.C.
    Jay Mallin—Bloomberg via Getty Images

    Projected total number of travelers in the U.S. boarding buses on rides of 50 miles or more from Wednesday, May 20, through Monday, May 25. That would be a 5% rise over the holiday period last year, and the highest total for Memorial Day weekend bus travel in 25 years.

  • 37.2 Million

    Interstate I-10, Arizona
    Natalia Bratslavsky—Alamy

    Number of Americans that AAA is projecting will travel at least 50 miles from home over the big holiday weekend. That would represent a 4.7 increase over last year, and the highest volume of Memorial Day traffic since 2005. Nearly 9 in 10 travelers will get to their destinations this weekend via automobile.

  • 42+ Million

    U.S. Marines march during the National Memorial Day Parade on Constitution Avenue in Washington, May 27, 2013.
    Yuri Gripas—Reuters

    Number of American men and women who have served their country in the armed services during war time over the centuries; approximately 1.2 million lost their lives in the course of their service.

MONEY Autos

5 Reasons This Could Be the Worst Road Trip Weekend Ever

Crazy traffic is a given. But that's hardly the only reason Memorial Day could be a nightmare for road trips.

In a new survey conducted for Citi cards, 54% of Americans said they prefer to travel on non-holiday weekends rather than holidays like Memorial Day. The most common reasons given for staying home for the holidays were traffic (47%) and high costs (30%).

Maybe these people are on to something. Here are a handful of reasons why the Memorial Day weekend is shaping up as a less-than-ideal time for getting on the road. As you’ll see, traffic and high costs are only part of the problem.

Horrendous Traffic
The forecast from AAA calls for 37.2 million Americans to travel at least 50 miles from home over the big holiday weekend. That’s an increase of nearly 5% compared with Memorial Day 2014, and it would represent the heaviest amount of traffic on this weekend in a decade. Only a small portion of these travelers will fly: roughly 9 out of 10 will be in automobiles.

Cheap gas, an improving jobs scene, and pent-up demand after a long and brutally snowy winter in the Midwest and Northeast have been cited as reasons why so many Americans are more than ready to kick off summer with a road trip. The East Coast will be particularly clogged with cars. An estimated 890,000 vehicles will drive Maine Turnpike over the weekend, a 5.2% increase over last year. Nearly 1 million New Jersey residents are expected to travel this weekend—in a state that has a population of just 9 million. “Motorists need to pack their patience along with the sunscreen as they set out for the Jersey Shore,” a spokesperson from AAA Mid-Atlantic cautioned.

Aggressive Police Enforcement
To cope with holiday weekend crowds, police will be turning Miami Beach into a “mini police state,” in the words of the Miami New Times, with road closures, parking bans, barricades, one-way traffic loops, and police checkpoints in popular areas. Around the country, police have stated they will be aggressively enforcing everything from so-called “slow poke” left-lane driving rules to laws mandating the wearing of seatbelts with a national “Click It or Ticket” campaign.

Crackdowns on DUIs will be widespread as well—in Arizona, California, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee, to name just a few states. In the latter, police may employ “No Refusal” tactics, which allow them to seek a search warrant and draw blood from someone who is suspected of driving under the influence and refuses a breathalyzer test. The same kind of enforcement will be used by police in parts of Texas, where the “No Refusal” process can be applied not only to car drivers, but those behind the wheel of boats as well.

Drunk Drivers, Car Accidents
The main reason for ratcheting up enforcement of DUI laws and other driving regulations on Memorial Day weekend is that, hopefully, it sets the tone for the entire summer season. The holiday weekend starts what’s known as the 100 Deadliest Days on American roads (for teens especially), and the goal is to crack down hard at the beginning to save lives in the long run. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, 146 people were killed in crashes involving impaired drivers during Memorial Day weekend in 2013.

Data from the National Safety Council forecasts that there will be 383 fatalities from traffic accidents over the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, and car crashes will result in another 46,300 injuries. What’s scary is that historically, the days around the July 4 holiday are even more dangerous for drivers and passengers than Memorial Day.

Texters, Tailgaters, Bikers, New Yorkers
Texting behind the wheel is the behavior most likely to induce road rage from fellow motorists, according to a new survey conducted on behalf of Expedia. Tailgaters and left-lane hogs tied for second place in terms of aggravating people on the roads, while New York City came out on top for having the country’s rudest drivers. All of this rage has manifested itself in drivers yelling or using profanity behind the wheel (26% admitted to doing so), and by employing a rude gesture that probably involves a single finger (17% admit to this, while 53% say they’ve been on the receiving end).

Memorial Day is also a traditional time for many biker rallies, which have been known to bring about traffic (and worse) in the past, and which this year may cause locals, police, and motorists to be more on edge than usual given the recent biker shootout that left nine people dead in Waco, Texas. Major motorcycle gatherings are planned this weekend in Washington, D.C., Red River, N.M., and Myrtle Beach, S.C.,, among other places.

Soaring Motel Rates
Hotel rates are up roughly 5% nationally compared to last year. That doesn’t seem like a big deal. But the one segment of the lodging industry favored by road trippers has spiked to an outsized degree. According to AAA, rates at supposedly cheap two-diamond properties are averaging $144 per night, a rise of 16% over last year. That kind of sharp increase may more than offset the money you’re saving thanks to cheap gas.

TIME Autos

Why This New Takata Airbag Recall Is So Confusing

Consumers are left with one vital—and unanswered—question

Takata’s airbag recall isn’t just terrifying—the devices may spray shrapnel when they explode—it’s also leaving consumers with a very important unanswered question: Is my car included?

The recall has so far failed to provide a comprehensive list of which specific cars it applies to.

On Tuesday, the Japanese automotive parts maker doubled the number of airbags in its recall to 34 million, about one in seven cars in America. The faulty devices have been linked to six deaths. Compiling a full list of the cars included in the recall may take days, according to the the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Ten automakers must check their records against Takata’s before a full rundown of affected automobiles is made public.

In the meantime consumers are wondering if the cars they’re driving contain airbags that can do some real, potentially deadly damage.

A California driver told The New York Times that his car model, a 2003 Honda Accord, appeared on previous Takata-related recall lists, but his vehicle number didn’t show up as being recalled when he searched the government’s safercar.gov site. “This has been tough to follow,” John Young told the newspaper.

A post on the Safety Administration’s website told visitors to “check back periodically as a recall on your vehicle may not show up immediately.”

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

MONEY Budgeting

Shopping for Low Gas Prices Is a Waste

gas pump in the desert
Will Sanders—Getty Images

Don't bother.

I know a couple people who will drive five miles out of their way, ten miles round trip, just to save a nickel per gallon. I’m sure you know several folks that might even drive further to save a nickel or dime per gallon.

I never worry about saving a few cents at the pump. When I need gasoline, I usually just pull in to the first gas station I see. That is because driving out of your way to save a few cents doesn’t make much sense. Usually, the savings at the pump are eaten up driving around to get the bargain.

Once again, I will use my trusty spreadsheet to illustrate my point. The results are shown in the two tables below:

For example, lets assume you drive 10 miles out of your way (round trip) to save four cents per gallon at a cheaper gas station. Let’s also assume you buy 12 gallons worth of gas. Looking at the top chart, we can see that you saved 48 cents.

Now let’s assume you paid $3.00 per gallon of gas. Looking at the bottom chart, which assumes the car averages 20 miles per gallon, we can see that you spent $1.50 driving to the station with the lower gas price. So in reality you lost $1.02 ($1.50 – 48 cents) in your quest to save four cents per gallon!

Your loss would be even greater if the price of gas was higher, or you drove even further to save the money, or your car got less than 20 mpg.

For this example, even if you only drove five miles round trip and the price of gas was only $2.50 per gallon, you’d still lose 15 cents (63 cents – 48 cents).

When shopping around for gasoline, you should naturally expect any savings at all to become less as:

1. The price of gasoline rises.

2. The amount of gas you put in your tank decreases.

3. The miles you drive to realize the “savings” increase.

4. The average vehicle MPG decreases.

So next time you’re driving around and your tank is running on empty, don’t fret about finding the cheapest price. Unless the competing gas stations are within a couple blocks of each other, the odds are you won’t be saving much money anyway.

More From Len Penzo dot COM:

Len Penzo blogs at lenpenzo.com, “the off-beat personal finance blog for responsible people”.

MONEY Debt

Help! My Car Loan Outlasted My Car

black car being towed
Jordan Siemens—Getty Images

4 ways to get out of car debt fast

What happens if your car loan lasts longer than your car? While you may have every intention of driving a car long after it’s paid off, an accident (and inadequate insurance), expensive repairs, or mysterious problems your mechanic can’t fix could leave you with a vehicle that’s out of commission even though you’re still making payments.

“Longer-term loans are increasingly prevalent,” says Melinda Zabritski, senior director of automotive credit with Experian. Nearly half (48.2%) of model year 2014 vehicles purchased used were financed with loans of between 61 and 72 months, according to Experian Automotive data.

What can you do if you find yourself in this position? Here are four possible options.

1. Pay Off the Debt

Of course, paying off the balance of your loan would be your best option, but what if you don’t have that kind of cash sitting around? Or what if you need those funds for a down payment on another vehicle? In that case you may have to use another loan to pay off the car loan so that you can get the title and dispose of the vehicle. One option might be a 0% or low-rate credit card balance transfer offer. In many cases, you can have those funds deposited into your bank account and use them for whatever debt you want to pay off. Make sure you understand the fees that will be charged (usually 2% to 4% of the amount transferred) and that you can pay the debt off before the low-rate offer ends.

2. Roll It Into a New Loan

An auto dealer may work with you to roll the balance of your loan on your current vehicle into a new loan. Technically “you can’t roll negative equity into a loan,” says Bob Harwood, vice president at CarLoan.com. but there are ways around it. A dealer can try to inflate the value of the trade-in and/or loan more than the value of the car. “Banks will put a cap on how much over value on a car (you can borrow),” he says. “It’s usually around 120% to125% if you have decent credit.” But with less than stellar credit, they may lend only 100% to 110% of value of the new vehicle — or even less if you have very poor credit.

And, yes, they will want your old vehicle even if it’s now a junker, says Harwood, if only to try to increase the value of the trade-in to make the deal work.

3. Park & Pay

You could simply park the vehicle and continue to pay off the loan. When it’s paid off, you can then get the title back and donate it to charity, sell it, or use it as a trade in on another vehicle.

But be careful: This strategy assumes you have a place to safely store it. And you may need to keep tags and/or a minimum level of insurance on the vehicle. Your homeowner’s insurer (or your landlord’s), for example, may not look kindly on an inoperable untagged vehicle sitting on blocks in your driveway. Or your city may require these types of vehicles to be garaged. Check with your insurance company, your DMV and city or municipality to find out what’s permissible.

4. Call a Bankruptcy Attorney

You may be able to use bankruptcy to get out of this mess. “Bankruptcy can be a ticket out of this type of situation,” says Atlanta bankruptcy attorney Jonathan Ginsberg. “If you qualify for a Chapter 7 you can surrender the vehicle and cancel the installment contract and owe nothing,” he explains. What if you don’t qualify? You may look into Chapter 13, which Ginsberg says may offer several outs: “’Cram down’ the loan to the value of the vehicle, ‘redeem’ the vehicle for the fair market value, or surrender the car and pay any deficiency at pennies on the dollar.”

More From Credit.com

MONEY Autos

Why Your Toyota Prius Could Make You a Theft Target

JAPAN-AUTO-TOYOTA
KAZUHIRO NOGI—AFP/Getty Images An employee fixes a main battery of the hybrid system in Toyota Motor's Prius.

Hint: A Tesla Model S driver wouldn't have this problem.

Hybrid cars are increasingly the target of theft, thanks to lightweight batteries that are easy to steal—at least for thieves who know what they’re doing.

Toyota Prius drivers in San Francisco seem to be getting the worst of it, a California ABC affiliate reports, with several thefts across the city in recent months.

Though there’s a serious risk of electrocution, thieves in the area have succeeded in quickly cutting cables attached to the 200-volt batteries, then removing them within about 20 minutes.

Prius batteries can go for as much as $1,000 on Craigslist, a tidy profit given the speed of the job.

Unfortunately for Prius drivers, replacing a stolen battery can cost about $3,000—and once you account for the cost of other repairs, like replacing broken windows, the final bill could be as high as $10,000. Buying a used battery online might be cheaper, but then you can’t be sure of just how used it is (or whether it was come by honestly).

Despite the risks involved, what makes the theft relatively easy is portability: The battery in the Prius weighs only about 150 pounds. Compare that to the Tesla Model S battery, which weighs more than 1,000 pounds.

If you own a Prius, there are a few steps you can take to prevent theft, including replacing the bolts fastening down your battery with tamper-proof ones.

TIME Autos

Airbag Supplier Takata to Declare Defects in 33.8 Million Vehicles

The announcement could prompt the single largest recall in U.S. history

Japanese airbag manufacturer Takata Corp. will reportedly declare another 33.8 million vehicles with its equipment to be defective, roughly doubling the number of vehicles subject to recall notices over the company’s airbags.

Takata is expected to announce the defects on Tuesday, according to several U.S. officials who disclosed the details to Detroit Motor News. Automakers will then review the findings to determine if the affected vehicles must be recalled for repairs. If the vehicles are recalled, it would mark one of the largest consumer recalls in American history.

The defective airbags have already prompted automakers to recall 17 million vehicles in the U.S. after a potentially lethal fault was discovered in Takata’s airbag inflator in 2013. At least six deaths and 100 injuries have been linked to a fault that causes the airbags to suddenly explode, sending metal scraps flying into the cabin.

Regulators with the National Highway Safety Administration have launched an extended investigation into Takata Corp., pressuring the company to expand its defect notices to consumers.

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