Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Used Truck Buyer's Guide - Part I

Truck Classification

Truck classification has changed a lot over the years.  When trucks first started being built, they were classified by their payload capacity, which means how much stuff they could carry.  The standard ratings were 1/2 ton, 3/4 ton and 1 ton.  Some people even consider compact pick ups like the Chevrolet S-10 and Ford Ranger to be 1/4 ton trucks.  So what do these tonnage ratings mean now?  Nothing really.  Even though the old ratings are still used to classify trucks, they aren't accurate.

The best way to keep truck classification straight is to think of the ton ratings as a basic guide.  A way to generally separate the different classes of truck.  A good rule is to follow these classification guidelines: 

2006 Dodge Ram 1500

1/2 Ton -  Light duty trucks like Ford F-150's, Chevy's 1500's, Dodge 1500's and so on.  These are your entry level trucks designed for personal use.  Dump runs, helping friends move, light towing and hauling are all fine to do with a 1/2 ton truck.  

2007 Chevrolet 2500

3/4 Ton - Medium duty trucks like the Ford F-250, Chevy 2500, Dodge 2500, etc..  Medium duty trucks are a bit beefier and capable of more difficult tasks than the 1/2 ton trucks.  Some light commercial work, more difficult towing and hauling are where the 3/4 ton shines.

2006 Ford F350 XLT

1 Ton - Heavy duty trucks like the Ford F-350, Chevy 3500, Dodge 3500, you get the idea.  This is where you can really put the truck to work.  1 ton trucks can handle much heavier loads, large fifth wheel trailers, and can handle much more abuse.

Hopefully this information helps clear up any confusion you may have about truck classification and tonnage ratings.  It is important to understand that not all trucks are created equal.  Make sure you have a clear idea of what you will be using your truck for so you can pick the right one.

The Used Truck Buyer's Guide - Intro

Let's face it, trucks are just plain useful.  Dump runs, moving, towing, hauling and having fun are all part of a truck's resume.  They are the Swiss Army Knives of the automotive world.  Yet new trucks can cost an arm and a leg these days.  Do you really want a truck that cost you so much you're scared to get it scratched or dirty?  I know I don't.  So that leaves buying a used truck as the only reasonable option for most of us.

Because of the way trucks are used and sometimes abused, they present their own set of challenges when shopping for one.  You probably aren't going to be concerned about towing capacity or lift kits when looking for a Toyota Camry for instance.

In this series of articles we will be discussing some of the Do's and Don'ts of shopping for and buying a used truck.  Whether you are looking for a smaller, fuel efficient pick up or a big bruising 1 ton diesel, you are sure to pick up (pun intended) a few tips that will save you time and money.

There are many used truck specific things to look out for when shopping for one.  We will explain more details of each area in the following articles.  These areas are:

Truck Classification - This statistic has become more and more confusing over time.  Most people and dealers refer to trucks as being 1/2 ton, 3/4 ton or 1 ton.  In a nutshell, this relates to how much weight the truck can tow or haul.

Body Configuration - Trucks come in all shapes and sizes.  Regular cab, shortbed, crew cab, long bed and lots more...

Drivetrain - From basic two wheel drive to four wheel drive to all wheel drive.  The basics: how many wheels are actually being powered when and why.

Engine Type - Being trucks, you have all sorts of options that can get more than a little confusing.  It all depends on what you will be using the truck for.

Brand Specific Details - Yes, there are definitely Chevy people, Ford people, Dodge people and so on.  However, each brands' trucks do have their own special quirks that you should know about before buying one.

So, stay tuned to learn everything you need to know about shopping for, and buying the right used truck for you...

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Important Changes to Vehicle Property Taxes in North Carolina

There are two truths in life right?  One of them is certainly taxes.  And the thing that stays the same about taxes is that they are constantly changing.  The latest change that effects us here in North Carolina is how property taxes are paid on vehicles.  According to :

"The North Carolina General Assembly passed House Bill 1779, creating what we call the Tag and Tax Together program – a more streamlined method for vehicle owners to pay their registration and vehicle taxes. Beginning in 2013, annual registration fees and vehicle property taxes will be paid to the Division of Motor Vehicles. In turn, the DMV will distribute the taxes to the appropriate counties."

So what affect do these changes have on me when I buy a vehicle, you ask?  Excellent question.  From now on, when you purchase a vehicle in, and live in North Carolina, not only are the sales tax and highway use taxes due, but also your property tax on that vehicle.  The way this works according to the “Tag & Tax Together” Dealer Information is :

"beginning 9/1/13, vehicle property taxes are due at the time the title work is done, but payment may be delayed if the dealer chooses not to collect property tax. If payment of vehicle property tax is delayed, the owner will receive a Limited Registration Plate (LRP), issued by dealers using online titling systems, or the license plate agency, with a “T” (for temporary) sticker. The “T” sticker will expire no earlier than 60 days after the vehicle is titled. When the LRP is delivered to the owner, a Limited Registration and Property Tax Notice stating the amount of the vehicle property taxes due will also be provided by the dealer or the license plate agency."

Also, either you or the dealer can choose to delay your payment of the property tax according to the "Tag & Tax Together" program instructions.

I suppose we will all have to wait and see how these changes really affect us in the long run.  What are your thoughts on these changes?

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Friday, August 16, 2013

3 Smartphone Apps That Will Save Car Shoppers Time And Money

Buying a used vehicle can be a daunting task.  In the old days it involved hours and hours of going from one dealer to the next, being bombarded with sales pitches and clunkers.  But now, thanks to the wonderful world of smartphone apps, there is help you can get to guide you through the buying process from the comfort of your home.  Following are just a few of the apps available that could help save you time and more importantly, money.


This is a great app to help you search for a vehicle to purchase.  It has the ability to select your search radius, price range, make, model and year.  The app will also compare the vehicle you are looking at to similar vehicles in your search radius.  Cargurus gives car shoppers as much if not more tools to make an informed purchase than any other online resource.


This app will give you the entire Vehicle History Report for any vehicle you choose.  It has the ability to not only accept a VIN you type in, but also scan the barcode located inside the door on newer vehicles.


 One aspect of vehicle cost that a lot of people forget about is insurance.  One way to help save you money is the Streetowl App.  This neat little app will record your driving habits and make that information available to insurance companies.  This could save safe drivers considerably.

Do you know of any other apps tailored for used car shopping?  Please share them with us.

Friday, August 9, 2013

How Can You Avoid The "Low Down" Trap?

We meet customers all the time who come to our dealership asking "how much do I need down?"  While it is certainly a valid question, it is always difficult to answer when it is the first thing a person says to you.  It is probably a result of two things.  Firstly, the economy has forced many people into situations where coming up with a large down payment for a car isn't possible.  The second is the overwhelming number of advertisements from car dealers stressing a low down payment as the chief selling point.
English: A 2007 MINI Cooper'S car shown soon a...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Unfortunately, the whole low down payment scheme can be a big trap for used car buyers for a number
 of reasons.  Some used car dealers are able to offer low down payments with Buy Here Pay Here financing because they get vehicles cheap.  Not cheap as in wow I got a great deal, but cheap as in you shouldn't buy it and no reputable finance company would touch it.  Getting salvage, flood or branded titled vehicles is much cheaper for used car dealers than getting them with clean titles.  Often the title status isn't disclosed to the buyer until papers are being signed or not at all.  This practice is not only dishonest but is also illegal.  Always, and we can't stress this enough, always ask if the vehicle you are purchasing has a clear title.

Another trap used car buyers fall into in the low down payment scheme is interest.  Some dealers take advantage of the knowledge that a buyer is desperate to find transportation.  The dealer will accept a low down payment on a vehicle.  Yet after all is said and done, the buyer ends up paying over twice what the vehicle is worth because the dealer tacked on a ridiculous interest rate.  As a buyer, you should always know exactly what your total payout will be for a vehicle.

Sometimes what seems like a good deal is nothing but a "Low Down" dirty trap.  But if you are vigilant and ask the right questions you can avoid being caught by it.

Have you ever been trapped into a bad deal on a used car?  Tell us your story here.
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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Understanding Vehicle History Reports

Almost everyone has seen the little fox on TV.  The cute and cuddly guy is a memorable and effective marketing tool for the company he represents.  The truth is that there are a number of other companies that provide Vehicle History Reports to car shoppers.  Which company you should use isn't something we will get into here.  As long as the company has access to the correct vehicle data, the choice is yours.

So where does all this vehicle information come from?  

The vast majority of the information comes from the (deep breath) National Motor Vehicle Title Information System, or NMVTIS for short.  What is NMVTIS?  As their website states:

"The National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) is an electronic system that provides consumers with valuable information about a vehicle's condition and history. Prior to purchasing a vehicle, NMVTIS allows consumers to find information on the vehicle's title, most recent odometer reading, brand history, and, in some cases, historical theft data."  

How does the NMVTIS get the vehicle information?

This is where the Good and the Bad of Vehicle History Reports comes in.

The Good:  The NMVTIS gets it's information from a variety of sources.  State agencies, insurance companies, repair shops, vehicle auctions, salvage yards and any other source that meets NMVTIS standards.  This makes for a very large pool of information sources.
The Bad:  The NMVTIS relies on these outside sources to report all of the vehicle information they provide.  This means for instance, that if a repair shop that rebuilds a vehicle damaged from a crash does not report the repair to the NMVTIS, then that repair will not show up on any Vehicle History Report.  If that same repair shop does report the repair but incorrectly reports the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), then not only would the repair not show up for that vehicle, but it may show up on another vehicle's history report in error.

So how much should I rely on Vehicle History Reports?

Even with the possibility of errors or missing information, Vehicle History Reports are an important part of the car buying process.  They give you, the buyer, a starting point when you find a car you are interested in purchasing.  You will see whether the car has been driven in snow states or in warm weather.  You will see how many owners it has had.  You will also see the car's history of emissions tests.  This is all valuable information in terms of whether you want take the next step in the purchase process or if you choose to find a different vehicle.

If a Vehicle History Report does show that a vehicle has been in an accident or has had repairs, don't automatically rule it out.  Have the vehicle checked out by a qualified mechanic to verify that the vehicle was, in fact, repaired as stated in the report and if so, that the vehicle was repaired properly.  Whether the vehicle checks out or not, you can then make a more informed purchase decision.

There is no easy answer and no single source of information when buying a used vehicle.  But the more information you have, the more likely you are to purchase the car of your dreams, not a nightmare of a lemon.  Vehicle History Reports are an important source of this information, as long as you understand exactly what they are, where the information comes from, and how to properly use them.

For more information on the NMVTIS, Vehicle History Reports and qualified service providers, please visit

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