Automotive:

Car Shopping Success Hands-Free Phone Calls School Bus Safety Parents Help Teen Drivers Buy Pre-Owned Vehicle Car Battery For Winter Find Geat Used Cars Vehicle History Reports

Navigating The Roadmap To Car Shopping Success

(NAPSI)-Despite a wealth of information available to help consumers find a vehicle, the car shopping process can still be intimidating for some--especially women.

A recent survey from AutoTrader.com, the Internet's leading auto classifieds marketplace and consumer information website, found that about one in four women finds shopping for a vehicle "stressful," compared to only 15 percent of men. Furthermore, while nearly half of men feel "certain and confident" when visiting car dealerships, only one in four women feels the same way.

According to Courtney Hansen, host of Spike TV's "Powerblock" and author of "The Garage Girl's Guide to Everything You Need to Know About Your Car," shopping for a car can be a fun and rewarding experience, regardless of the buyer's automotive know-how.

"Long gone are the days when making car purchases is a man's role. In fact, women influence over 80 percent of all automotive sales," she says. "Doing your homework on sites like AutoTrader.com and arming yourself with a few simple tips will help anyone in the market for a new car feel more satisfied with the purchase in the end."

Developed by Hansen, the new AutoTrader.com Roadmap to Car Shopping Success makes it easy for women to approach the car- shopping experience with certainty, regardless of how car savvy they are. It also provides them with tips and insights needed to find the right vehicle for them.

Some of these tips, available at www.AutoTrader.com/roadmap, include:

Researching and Planning

• Determine what vehicle features--passenger seating, storage capacity, fuel costs and part replacement--are essential to your lifestyle.

• Compare vehicles, research prices, look at videos and photos, find specials and access local inventory on sites like AutoTrader.com. Bring this research to the dealer or seller.

Visiting a Dealership or

Private Seller

• Ask questions to show that you're prepared and knowledgeable.

• Get up and take a walk if you ever feel uncomfortable.

Test-Driving and Inspection

• Bring a friend to the test-drive and to help you fully examine the body, interior and engine.

• Conduct a thorough visual inspection after the test-drive.

Considerations and Precautions

• Get a CARFAX history report before buying any pre-owned vehicle, based on the vehicle's Vehicle Identification Number.

• Review government and insurance company crash test ratings for any vehicle you're considering.

Negotiating

• Go to the dealership armed with the best interest rate that you can locate on your own.

• When negotiating a monthly payment, focus on the actual price of the car.

• Ask the dealer or seller to explain how the cost breaks down and get it in writing.

For more information, visit www.AutoTrader.com/roadmap.

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Make It A Priority: Create A Hands-Free Environment In Your Vehicle

(NAPSI)-Although busy schedules and the growing demands of everyday life are helping pave the way to a very dangerous highway trend--texting or talking on handheld cell phones while driving--you can save yourself. The fact is, in spite of growing accident statistics and a number of laws banning the use of handheld devices while behind the wheel, millions of motorists still think it’s acceptable to multitask while driving.

Driving a vehicle is a complex skill that requires your full attention. Operating a handheld phone, using the navigation system or controlling the air or audio can be driver distractions that can take your eyes off the road or your hands from the steering wheel.

Statistics show that driver distractions are major contributors to automobile crashes. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly 6,000 people died in 2008 in crashes that involved distracted driving. Also, the National Safety Council estimates that 28 percent of crashes-1.6 million crashes per year-can be attributed to cell phone talking and texting while driving.

Fortunately, one luxury automaker offers an array of technologies in its vehicles to help reduce driver distractions. Standard equipment on Lexus vehicles includes steering wheel controls for audio, Bluetooth technology and voice recognition. In addition, some models with navigation have a thin film transistor multi-informational or available heads-up display that shows the driver turn-by-turn directions within his or her sight line.

At the push of a steering wheel button, the Bluetooth technology allows hands-free outgoing phone calls using voice commands to dial by name or number from select Bluetooth cell phones. A microphone built into the car lets you talk without holding your mobile phone, and the other caller’s voice is channeled through the vehicle’s audio system. To answer an incoming call, the driver simply presses a button on the steering wheel.

Additional hands-free features are taken to new heights with the available navigation system’s voice command/voice recognition technology. Voice command enables you to place calls with your compatible Bluetooth phone and operate climate, audio and navigation functions. For example, if you say “lower temperature,” the climate control will be reduced by one degree. If you say “coffeehouse,” from the destination menu, the navigation screen will display options in your surrounding area.

An advanced telematics system, Safety Connect or Lexus Enform with Safety Connect, is available on all new Lexus vehicles with a complimentary one-year trial subscription. Safety Connect helps provide peace of mind and includes an Emergency Assistance Button (SOS), Automatic Collision Notification, Enhanced Roadside Assistance and Stolen Vehicle Location.

For convenience, vehicles equipped with navigation feature Lexus Enform services, Destination Assist and eDestination, plus the four Safety Connect services. By simply pressing the Destination Assist button on the navigation screen, whether you’re driving or parked, a live agent comes on to help locate a specific address or point of interest. The agent wirelessly sends the location to the vehicle’s navigation system for route guidance.

Driver distraction is a growing trend that affects everyone. By using common sense and taking simple steps such as incorporating and utilizing the hands-free devices in your vehicle, you can help reduce driver distraction and drive more safely by keeping your eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.

You can find more about these features at www.lexus.com.

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Save Young Lives--Stop For The School Bus

(NAPSI)-When it comes to staying on the road to safety, drivers can give themselves a more than passing grade if they remember not to pass a school bus loading and unloading children. To do so is illegal, and for good reason. The potential for injury caused by motorists passing a stopped school bus with its red lights flashing and stop arm extended is extremely high.

The Good News

School buses are the safest way to get to and from school; nearly 12 times safer than passenger vehicles, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Buses today are safer than ever and have numerous safety features.

The Problem

The greatest danger riders face is getting on or off the bus. According to the School Bus Information Clearinghouse, a service of the National Association for Pupil Transportation, dozens of children are seriously injured each year in school bus−related pedestrian accidents. While it's always wise to avoid distracted driving, this can be especially vital during mornings and afternoons, when buses are on the road.

What Drivers Can Do

"The safety and security of the students we carry is our core value. Schoolchildren are put at risk each time a motorist on the road decides to save a few seconds and illegally pass a stopped school bus," said Linda Burtwistle, president of First Student, the nation's largest provider of student transportation. "It is unconscionable that tens of thousands of motorists illegally pass school buses every day."

"Passing a stopped school bus that has its red lights flashing and stop arm extended while boarding or unloading is one of the leading violations involving motorists and school buses," explained Chuck Canterbury, national president of the Fraternal Order of Police, the nation's largest organization of sworn law enforcement officers. "Law enforcement agencies are working with community leaders, schools and transportation providers to reduce the number of stop arm violations," Canterbury added.

What Students Can Do

Students can also take steps to improve safety when getting on and off the bus. Paying attention, listening and looking both ways before stepping on or off the bus or crossing the street is simple but important advice. "Another problem we see emerging is 'distracted walking,' often caused by hoodies and headphones. These items can impair students' key senses when sweatshirt hoods block their full vision and earphones drown out other sounds. Students are also becoming increasingly distracted by texting and using other portable electronic devices," said Burtwistle.

Learn More

For more safety information and tips, visit www.firststudentinc.com.

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How Parents Can Help Teen Drivers

(NAPSI)-There’s good news for parents of teens who are about to get behind the wheel. Because experts agree that parents can have a tremendous impact on the safety of their teen drivers, AAA has created a new website to help parents get involved in their teen’s driver education and training.

TeenDriving.AAA.com is designed to be easy to use and provides users with specific information based on where they live and where their child is in the learning process—from preparing to drive (pre-permit) through the learner’s permit and solo driving.

Plus, it can help eliminate confusion and guesswork, with everything parents need to know in one place.

“Parental involvement is critical in developing safe and prepared teen drivers,” said AAA President and CEO Robert L. Darbelnet. “AAA recognizes the learning-to-drive process can be intimidating, particularly for today’s busy families. TeenDriving.AAA.com is a unique and comprehensive teen driver safety website that simplifies the process by offering parents the tools and resources they need as they progress through each stage of the process. This makes what can be a daunting task for parents and teens much easier to manage.”

Featured on the site is Start- Smart, a series of online newsletters and webisodes based on the National Institutes of Health’s Checkpoints program, which has been scientifically shown to help parents improve teen driver safety and is being offered nationally for the first time. Some of the topics covered in these 18 newsletters and webisodes include:

• Nighttime driving;

• Distracted driving;

• Alcohol and other drugs; and

• Developing parent-teen driving agreements.

The site also offers an online version of the Dare to Prepare workshop and lessons from the motor club’s Teaching Your Teen to Drive coaching program, both of which assist both young people learning to drive as well as their parents.

Parents can also find information about their state’s graduated driver licensing (GDL) system, how to select a driving school and finding the right vehicle for their teens. Parents will also learn how to better prepare their teen for common risks and about driving in adverse conditions.

In a recent study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, only 25 percent of teens practiced under a variety of conditions, including bad weather and nighttime driving.

For more information, visit TeenDriving.AAA.com. And for additional safety tips and for information on other AAA services, visit AAA.com.

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What You Need To Know To Buy A Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle

(NAPSI)-Car buyers no longer have to choose between buying a new car or a used one.

A new category is attracting the attention of cost- and quality-conscious drivers.

That category is certified pre-owned and it offers several benefits. Buyers don’t have to spend top dollar to get the cars they long for but, on the other hand, they don’t face many of the risks associated with buying a used car.

Certified pre-owned programs don’t just take any car. For example, not all pre-owned Lexus vehicles are worthy of the Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) designation. If a model is older than six years or driven for more than 70,000 miles, it’s immediately rejected.

Every vehicle in the program must pass a comprehensive 161-point inspection by a Lexus-trained technician.

If any discovered flaws cannot be repaired to the manufacturer’s standards, the vehicle won’t be certified.

Because each vehicle is reconditioned and inspected, Lexus offers a three-year-from-the-date-of-purchase or 100,000-total-vehicle-mile limited warranty, whichever occurs first. This is included in the purchase price.

If you are considering buying a certified pre-owned vehicle, you may want to be sure:

• the vehicle is certified by the manufacturer rather than the dealer.

According to Edmunds.com, manufacturer-certified programs are more reliable, as they tend to go through more rigorous testing.

• you are entitled to a Carfax vehicle history report. This can help both you and the dealer identify potential problems that might otherwise be difficult to detect.

• that you receive 24-hour roadside assistance, trip interruption coverage and dealership amenities.

A strict certification process can eliminate many of the risks associated with financing pre-owned vehicles.

Before you make a decision, ask yourself the following questions:

What does certification mean and what does it cover? Get the details, and if you don’t understand something, ask more questions. For example, does certification mean that parts that were used for any necessary mechanical repairs are warranted by the manufacturer?

• When can you take it for a spin? Even though the car has been repaired by a factory technician, take it for a test-drive and give it the once-over.

Do the doors open easily? Does the paint match? Check for the VIN number.

What’s the price? Before you buy, go online to a recognized site such as Edmunds.com or Kelley Blue Book and see what the certified pre-owned price should be. Then you have a ballpark figure to discuss.

What are you getting for the price? Under pre-owned certification programs, you may get the same kind of warranty and extras that you get with a new car. The Lexus CPO program, for example, entitles you to 24-hour roadside assistance, trip interruption coverage and dealership amenities. In addition, the vehicle’s first basic service is complimentary and a loaner vehicle will be provided for qualified repairs.

For more information, visit www.lexus.com/cpo or see your Lexus CPO dealer for details.

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Keeping Your Car Battery On Track For Winter

(NAPSI)-Preventing a frozen battery in the winter is easier than you may think if you take some time to check out the situation before nasty weather sets in.

To ensure that your car battery starts dependably, no matter how outrageous the weather, Interstate Batteries cold weather expert Gale Kimbrough offers some simple tips to protect your car battery against severe cold conditions:

Test the starting power: The cold weather can dramatically reduce a battery’s available starting power, so have the vehicle’s starting and charging system tested every three months or every oil change.

Charge the battery: Use a battery charger to maintain charge levels and keep the battery in good condition. If the battery is more than three years old, it should be tested to make sure it can survive the coldest winter months.

Test the battery: Have the battery tested before taking a long trip or after it’s been recharged.

Inspect the battery cables, posts and fasteners: Preparing your car for the winter doesn’t end with the battery itself. You need to inspect your battery cables, posts and fasteners. Make sure the cables are in good shape and are secured firmly to the battery. Corrosion keeps power from flowing freely from the battery, reducing the power that is available to start the car.

Keep it clean: Clean the battery terminals with a wire brush or spray some battery cleaner on the terminals.

In just 30 seconds, Interstate All Battery Center locations can provide motorists with a free printout analysis of their vehicle’s battery condition-from projected battery life to cranking performance. It’s important to have the battery and electrical system checked by a professional. Sometimes the naked eye cannot detect the presence of corrosion because it is hidden under the metal between the connection and the post.

A fully charged battery is the best defense against cold weather and vehicle nonstarts because engines require more cranking amps in colder weather. The cold also reduces a battery’s efficiency, reducing its charge acceptance and ability to start an engine. An engine at 32 degrees Fahrenheit often demands more than 150 percent cranking power from the battery than it does at 80 degrees. At 0 degrees Fahrenheit, it can be 250 percent.

For more information, visit www.interstatebatteries.com.

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A Lesson In History Helps Find Great Used Cars

(NAPSI)-Experts say the nation’s economic downturn is causing a growing number of consumers to see used cars as a smart way to get good value without having to pay new-car prices.

However, as demand for quality used cars increases, the available supply is decreasing. To find the right cars, it’s crucial for consumers to do their homework before they buy.

To help buyers have confidence in vehicles they are considering, a well-known vehicle history service has introduced a new feature.

History—A Guide To Vehicle Value

Every car has a unique history and, therefore, unique value. A low-mileage car with records of routine service may be worth more than a similar model vehicle with high mileage and multiple owners, for example. Carfax, the vehicle history service, can help you understand how a car’s past history affects its value in the market.

The new Carfax History Impact tool helps consumers determine if a car is worth more or less than retail book value, based on vehicle history data reported to the service. This information is especially useful when comparing similar model cars.

Tips For Buying Online

Today, three in four used-car shoppers are likely to compare vehicles online before buying. Here are some tips:

• Start by comparing listings to find the best price on sites such as autotrader.com and cars.com.

• Next, research vehicle retail book values by visiting sites such as kbb.com and edmunds.com.

• Get a vehicle history report and see how adjusted retail value compares to the seller’s asking price.

• Be sure to buy from a reputable dealer and have a trusted mechanic do a prepurchase inspection.

A Valuable History Lesson

Dealers have long considered vehicle history as a key factor when evaluating and pricing used cars for their inventory. Now used-car consumers have a tool that gives them more confidence during the buying process by helping them know what a vehicle is worth, based on its unique history.

“You can’t buy a car without knowing the price,” said Larry Gamache, communications director at Carfax. “Consumers can be more confident they are paying the right price when they see how a vehicle’s history affects its value.”

To learn more, visit carfax.com.

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Avoiding Flood-Damaged Used Cars

(NAPSI)-It’s important to steer clear of used cars that were waterlogged in floods, hurricanes and other storms. Experts say over 75 percent of declared federal disasters are related to floods. The vehicles can turn up in areas thousands of miles from where the damage occurred, and unknowing consumers who purchase a waterdamaged auto from a dishonest seller may have little recourse.

A Growing Concern

It’s estimated that the number of waterlogged wrecks on the market has doubled in recent years, despite the fact that most flooddamaged vehicles are writtten off by insurance companies. Indeed, many of the cars make their way back to the used-car market, rebuilt and disguised as ordinary used cars with clean titles. Fortunately, there are ways to spot the telltale signs of a flood-damaged car. Carfax offers these tips:

Look Around

Check the trunk, dashboard and glove compartment for silt, mud, rust and other signs of water damage. You should also examine upholstery and carpeting closely. If it doesn’t match the interior or fits loosely, it may have been replaced. Discolored, faded or stained materials might indicate water damage.

Run A Test

Test the interior and exterior lights, as well as the windshield wipers, turn signals, DC power outlet, radio, heater and air conditioner several times to be certain they work. Also, turn the ignition key and make sure the accessory and warning lights and gauges work properly. Be certain the ABS and air bag lights come on, too.

The Nose Knows

Smell the interior of the car to check for musty odors. It’s also smart to flex some of the wires beneath the dashboard. Wet wires become brittle upon drying and may crack.

Get A Second Opinion

Bring the car to a trusted mechanic for a prepurchase inspection. Always get a vehicle checked before handing money over.

Know Your History

Ask to see a detailed vehicle history report. Thousands of dealers provide them free—just say, “Show Me the Carfax.” A Carfax Vehicle History Report can reveal any number of hidden problems from a vehicle’s past, including flood titles. Used-car shoppers worried about flood damage can also check for free at flood.carfax.com.

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