Consumer Reports Most Reliable Car Brands of 2018 & Decade

Consumer Reports seems almost synonymous with trust.  Still, almost like a football team, everyone seems to have a favorite car brand…and their own idea of what makes a reliable vehicle. For some, a car that starts every morning and just needs basic repairs every year will do. Drivers expect more out of expensive vehicles known for rapid-fire acceleration or high-performance towing. Then there are those who say a vehicle’s not reliable unless it tops 200,000 miles.

For the nonprofit organization Consumer Reports, the most reliable vehicles must pass (or ace) 17 different tests. Even if an automobile runs like a dream, testers will knock it down a few pegs if the electronics system is hard to use or the interior scratches easily. Likewise, a vehicle’s owners report problems they experienced every year, which factors into the equation.

In other words, getting a top reliability rating from Consumer Reports takes some doing. Those that land the top scores a few consecutive years deserve the fans and buyers they get.

Uncanny, but some automobiles seem to manage to post near-perfect scores for many years in a row.  Here is the beginning of the top performing brands since 2010…starting with the 2018 Nissan Leaf.  You’ve gotta click through to see the entire list of 20 most reliable vehicles of the decade.

Nissan Leaf #20 – Among electric cars, Leaf’s 4 perfect reliability scores in 5 years stand above the pack.

elegant driveway view of white 2018 Nissan Leaf

While Tesla has mixed reviews for reliability, Nissan Leaf proved long ago that electric vehicles could stay on the road with the best of them. The first-generation Leaf landed the top Consumer Reports rating for four of its first five years on the market from 2011 to 2016. As the new-for-2018 model makes its way to the market, it also comes with above-average predicted reliability.

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7 Winter Prep Car Care Tips

Old Man Winter is going to try to shake you down in the coming weeks!  Stick it to him and get your vehicle prepared.  Here’s a handy checklist to help you get it ready for the cold weather:

  1. Recalls on Your Vehicle? – Just how safe is your vehicle to drive in Winter weather? Discovering safety recalls on your vehcile is a good first step. Enter your VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) here in NHTSA’s Recalls Look-Up Tool to learn if your vehicle has been a part of a safety recall in the last 15 years.
  2. Tune-Up & Routine Maintenance – Your trusted local mechanic  is the best next step for a seasonal tune-up and regular maintenance.  Leaks, old belts & hoses and any other parts and repairs should be your special request for them to check…especially your battery (e.g. for sufficient voltage, amperage and reserve capacity & tighten battery cable connections).
  3. Tires – Quick check for excessive wear and correct pressure. (Avg. mo. pressure loss is 1 lb.).  If you’re in snow country and need special snow tires…get ’em now!  Remember…spare tires lose pressure too…check it! Contrary to popular belief, the correct pressure is NOT the number listed on the tire. Look closely at your tread and replace tires that have uneven wear or insufficient tread. Tread should be at least 2/32 of an inch or greater on all tires.
  4. New Wiper Blades – Not being able to see through your windshield during a downpour is not a surprise you want to experience…old & worn wiper blades are dangerous.  Also…make sure your front and rear window defrosters are in proper working order.
  5. Fluids – Radiator (coolant system) & windshield washer fluid…Flush & refill as appropriate . Use high-quality “winter” fluid with de-icer.
  6. Lights & Signals – Emergency flashers, brake lights, headlights, turn signals, interior lights test & replace as necessary.


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Halloween Driving Safety Tips

Here’s the scary truth:  Halloween is one of the deadliest days of the year for pedestrians…especially children.

Pedestrian deaths are on the rise in general, reaching 5,987 in 2016, the highest number since 1990, according the Department of Transportation.

Parents and drivers can take these steps to reduce the risks.

“Halloween night is like a ‘perfect storm’ of risk because it involves darkness, a huge increase in pedestrian traffic, especially children, and all sorts of distractions,” ~  Jennifer Stockburger, director of operations – CR’s Auto Test Center.

Trick-or-Treaters Tips:
You can take these seriously…they’re from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Department of Transportation.

  1. Parents should accompany children younger than 12 years old.
  2. Children should walk—not run—from house to house.
  3. Children should stay on sidewalks instead of walking between cars or on lawns, where there could be tripping hazards.
  4. Remind children to look for cars when crossing driveways.
  5. Pedestrians shouldn’t assume they have the right of way, because motorists may not see them.
  6. Parents and children should consider choosing costumes that are a lighter color and are easier for drivers to see. Adding reflective material to the front and back makes a costume easier to pick out; it can even be part of the design.
  7. Avoid costumes that make it more difficult for the child to see, especially ones that include masks. If a mask is necessary, kids may want to remove it when moving between houses to avoid issues.
  8. Give children a flashlight to walk with in the dark so they can be more easily seen by drivers. Glow sticks can help, too.

Drivers Tips:
Children often behave unpredictably and can be difficult to see after dark…so drivers have a special duty to be alert on Halloween.

  1. Drive slowly in and around neighborhoods and on residential streets.
  2. Don’t drink and drive. Drunken-driving incidents increase on Halloween. (In the past five years, such fatalities have risen from 17 in 2011 to 55 in 2015, according to the NHTSA.)
  3. Drivers should be responsible and understand that Halloween is especially dangerous.
  4. Watch for children who may dart out into the street, and always yield to pedestrians. When drivers see one child, more are likely to be ready to cross.
  5. If you’re driving children around for trick-or-treating, make sure they’re buckled up appropriately in a child safety seat or by using a seat belt. Do this each and every time they enter the car, and check to make sure they’re secure before driving to the next stop.
  6. Pull over at safe locations to let children exit on the curb, away from traffic. Use your hazard lights to alert other drivers of your car.
  7. Try to park in a spot where you won’t need to back up. But if you must, have an adult outside to make sure no children are in the way of your vehicle.
  8. Don’t use a cell phone or other mobile device while driving. Pull over safely to check voice messages or texts if necessary.
  9. By being cautious and mindful of safety this Halloween, you can make sure the holiday is a treat for all.


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Top 4 Driving Safety Tips to Avoid Accidents

Sitting behind the steering wheel of a vehicle…with passengers or alone…makes imperative that safe driving becomes your top priority.  Contemporary distratctions are more abundant and sophisticated than ever before.  So knowing the basics of safe driving and practicing them every time you climb into that driver’s seat is crucial. Here are 4 high quality safe driving tips to guide you:

1. Focus on Driving

  • 100% of your attention MUST be on driving at all times – no multi-tasking.
  • No cell phone or any other electronic device usage while driving.
  • Slow down. Speeding gives you less time to react and increases the severity of an accident.

emergency first responder at auto accident scene

2. Drive “Defensively”

  • Defensively means being aware of what other drivers around you are doing, and expecting the unexpected.
  • Assume other motorists will do something crazy, and always be prepared to avoid it.
  • Keep a 2-second cushion between you and the car in front of you. Bad Weather = A 4-second cushion.

3. Plan Ahead

  • Schedule time to stop for food, rest breaks, phone calls or other business during the trip.
  • Adjust your seat, mirrors and temperature controls BEFORE putting the car in “Drive”.
  • Pull off the road to eat or drink.  Focusing on that alone takes only a few minutes to get back on the road.

4. Practice Safety

  • Secure cargo that may slide around while driving…you don’t need the distraction.
  • DON’T attempt to pick up items that fall to the floor.
  • Keep needed items within easy reach – such as toll fees, toll cards and garage passes.
  • ALWAYS use seat belts & drive sober and drug-free.


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Distracted Teen Driving – 4 Tips

Becoming a new driver as a teenager creates an exhilarating sense of fun and freedom…as well as a boatload of new challenges and dangers.  It can also be a little scary, to say the least.  While genuine guided practice and patience can offset many of those negatives…distracted driving poses an ongoing threat that everyone faces…especially new teenage drivers.  What can they do to avoid distractions?

backseat view of 2 teens driving down country road

  1. No Cell Phones in Hand or Within Reach Temptation – While undeniably useful and convenient, cell phone pose an incredible distraction for any driver.  If it’s out of sight while driving, everyone’s safer.  Driving should be like going to the movies…there’s very little it has to say that can’t wait.  Pull over if you absolutely must check messages or make a call.
  2. Embrace Technology If/When Engaging Devices is Absolutely Necessary – Yes, technology can actually reduce the  intensity of distraction in little ways…like controls for cell phones and music being available right on the steering wheel.  If it helps keep your eyes on the road and hands on the wheel…try it.
  3. Keep Things Quiet – Advocating total silence while driving is probably unrealistic…nevertheless…it’s a good idea to avoid any kind of major distraction.  If you know there’s a good chance you’ll get caught up in a “Sweet Caroline” moment like the Hyundai commercial…just don’t play the song you know you’ll get lost in.  Heated discussions, verbal romantic interludes and passionate Jerry Maguire moments are best left for driveways and parking lots.
  4. No Makeup in the Car – and no electric razors…for faces OR legs.  Personal grooming is a  documented primary cause of distracted driving for teenagers.  Just don’t do it!  It not only requires you to take your eyes off the road…it takes your hands off the wheel too!

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Bollinger B1 Electric Truck to Beat Tesla?

So far, electric vehicles (EVs) have tended toward high-tech, high speed electronic capsules that almost substitute for your office or a day at the spa.  But what about the needs of people outside of urban areas or downright rural areas that have more utilitarian needs…something along the lines of a low-maintenance workhorse that doesn’t need a saddle or a hay and water trough.

Bollinger Motors recently announced “the world’s first fully electric sport utility truck”…the Bollinger B1…a highly practical pickup truck that traverses the roughest terrain…with zero carbon footprint.  A totally USA centric vehicle that’s designed, engineered and, one day soon, built right here in the United States.

Built on a…

… aluminum chassis that weighs just 295 pounds and incorporates the complete powertrain system as well as off-road suspension. It sports a wheelbase of 105 inches, front and rear tracks of 68 inches, an approach angle of 56 degrees, departure angle of 53 degrees, and break over angle of 33 degrees.

Want more specs?

The bad news:

  1. You can’t get one till “early 2018” says Bollinger
  2. Pricing is “to be determined” …and only then will..
  3. $1,000 deposits accepted in early 2018
  4. Once a production site is nailed down, deliveries could commence in 19 months.

The good news:

  1. 0-60 mph time is about 4.5 seconds and
  2. Top speed is 127 mph
  3. The B1 qualifies as a Class 3 commercial truck which considerably reduces regulatory requirements compared to vehicles intended purely for passenger use.
  4. Bollinger hopes to beat Tesla to market with an EV sport utility vehicle


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Tire Safety for Summer

Summer here…the season for family trips and all sorts of travel ideas.  Don’t forget how important your tires are for getting you there!  Here a few simple tire-maintenance tips to keep your travel plans from going off course.

Heat Factor – Proper tire inflation is your #1 concern to keep you rolling…and Heat is the primary enemy. Tires can overheat from being underinflated, overloaded, or pushed at higher speeds. Sizzling hot summer road temperatures can actually cause tire blow outs.  Only about 19 percent of consumers properly inflate their tires, according to government estimates. A simple inspection can improve your safety:

  1. Check pressure when the tires are at same temperature as their surroundings, typically after they’ve been parked for more than 3 hours.
  2. Set the pressure to the prescribed level, which can be found on a placard on the driver’s doorjamb in most cars. Don’t use the pressure that’s noted on the tire’s sidewall; that’s the maximum pressure allowed for the tire.

Don’t Overload – Often miscaculated!  Here, the tire information placard IS your guide. It provides the allowable weight of all occupants and cargo combined.  Beware! Many vehicles hit maximum load capacity with just a few adults…and absolutely nothing in the trunk.

Spare Tire Check Monthly – Repeat…Monthly!  This is so overlooked …it’s not funny.  Check your spare tire every time you do  your regular monthly tire inflation check …AND before long-distance trips.

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Also Read: Changing a Tire in 8 Easy Steps from last month…practice makes perfect!

Changing a Tire in 8 Easy Steps

Been a little reluctant to try changing a tire on your own?  Go ahead!…the weather’s beautiful…and it beats trial by fire along side a highway when you’re late for a meeting.

Here they are 3 steps…easy peasy, lemon squeezy:

  1. Loosen the Lugs – Once the car is on flat ground and the brake is set, break the lugs loose by turning them counterclockwise.
  2. Jack up the Car – Raise the car with the jack until the flat tire is completely raised off the ground.
  3. Off With the Flat – Once the car is off the ground, fully remove the wheel lugs and take off the flat tire.


Here’s the slightly longer version:

  1. Get to a safe spot
  2. Find your spare tire, jack and tire iron
  3. Loosen the wheel lugs
  4. Jack up the car
  5. Remove the flat tire
  6. Install the spare
  7. Lower the car and tighten the wheel lugs completely
  8. Important details about compact spare tires


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Legendary 1971 Plymouth Barracuda – 58,000% Increase

Been looking for that hot investment opportunity? Classic muscle cars might be worth looking at.  A unique combination of valuation factors can come into play…paying out leveraged dividends like you never thought possible…into the Thousands (1000’s) of percent increase over their original purchase price.  This 1971 Plymouth Barracuda, for example, has enjoyed a 58,000% increase in value.  But unrestored “mint condition” is a top quality that’s hard to come by.

Sfoskett~commonswiki assumed (based on copyright claims). Own work assumed (based on copyright claims)., CC BY-SA 3.0,

Another classic car example is the 1967 Shelby Cobra…increasing 17,000% to $1.3 million. Other models are also yanking in big bucks at auctions around the US (shown below) includes the Cadillac Eldorado, Chevy Corvette, Pontiac Bonneville, Ford Thunderbird, and Ford Mustang GT.

chart showing 12 top performing value increases of classic cars

The percentage increase in value is influenced by a unique algorithm with intangibles…the three Ps: popularity, pop culture and production volume.

“Many people think today’s uber-expensive vehicles always came with a hefty price tag, but these vehicles show that’s clearly not the case,” Eric Lawrence ~ Black Book

Every year since 2013 has brought record prices for classic cars—but the market is stabilizing. The prices paid for cars increased 25% in 2014 and rose by nearly 18% in both 2015 and 2016, according to the HAGI Top Index, a measure of prices paid for cars that cost more than £100,000 ($122,670). Most of the cars were sold in auctions around the world.


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Honda’s New Safe Driving Technology: Safe Swarm

Ever watch a documentary on sea life that showed schools of smaller fish swimming in unison?  Honda has…and they’ve invented a new safe driving technology based on that “bio-mimicry” concept that may one day affect the way vehicles communicate and interact on the highway.  Unveiled at the 2017 CES show…it’s called Safe Swarm and uses vehicle-to-vehicle communication to help human drivers.

The Safe Swarm concept basically takes information received by one vehicle equipped with the technology…and passes it on to others close by (also equipped)…allowing vehicle reactions way before a human driver would be able to react on his own.  So, for example, the same bit of information can actually be propagated in almost real-time to following cars…miles behind, potentially…so drivers have ample reaction time to avoid problems and collisions.

To be fair…similar technology is being developed by other car companies.  And though this tech will probably not manifest in vehicles produced within the next year or two…it highlights how big of a concept connectivity between vehicles as a safety feature…will be in the near future.

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