September 04, 2021

Popularity of pay-as-you-drive car insurance continues to grow

If you drive infrequently, you could save a bundle on car insurance by paying as you drive, rather than a flat amount for coverage every six months.

U.S. insurance companies have been offering potentially cheaper, pay-as-you-drive plans that, for billing purposes, track when, how, how much and where drivers use their vehicles instead of basing rates on statistics and past trends. The theory is that they can offer lower rates to people who seldom drive and are deemed less risky.

Progressive Insurance introduced the product seven years ago and several carriers now offer it, including at least three that launched versions late last year.

And the idea is gaining traction among consumers, it seems.

More than one-in-three drivers would consider switching from a traditional vehicle insurance plan to one based on when and how much a vehicle is driven, according to a survey conducted by Lynx Research Consulting.

Drivers could save anywhere from 5 to 30 per cent on insurance premiums depending on driving habits, according to analysts.

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August 27, 2021

New app helps drivers identify parking ticket trouble spots

Parking tickets are a necessary evil for most city dwellers. Some people park illegally on a regular basis, content to receive tickets to avoid the congestion pricing.

Trouble is, tickets are being written with increasing frequency these days as cash-strapped municipalities try to squeeze revenue from every side street.

Not only are municipalities making parking costlier and more restrictive, the proceeds – which, at one time, were reinvested in parking and transportation-related services – are now being used to support other programs.

So it's not surprising that police and bylaw officers are becoming increasingly reluctant to give drivers a break. It’s happening in cities across Canada, but Winnipeg appears to be the worst.

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June 26, 2021

Would you buy a car without taking a test drive?

Even if they ultimately bought there, just about everyone has a story about pressure tactics and broken promises after shopping at a car dealership.

Shopping for a new car is painful. You have to be on your guard at at all times, it's tough to always know what’s true and what’s an exaggeration, and there’s always a significant amount of money at play.

It's all very intimidating. So much so that some potential buyers are skipping the test drive altogether. According to a survey from Maritz Research, roughly 11.4% of consumers who purchased 2012 models didn’t bother to take the vehicle out for a spin before closing the deal.

But, in the United States at least, help is at hand.

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May 07, 2021

Are you going to bother fighting that traffic ticket?

While many drivers instinctively want to "beat the system" after being pulled over, the odds are against you.

"But, officer, I didn’t see the sign!" ranks as the the top excuse in a recent survey of explanations drivers give when stopped by police. Not that it generally gets them anywhere.

Being lost and being "unaware" of car equipment failure are also among the typical excuses drivers offer when pulled over for a potential ticket.

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April 04, 2021

Link parking rates more closely to demand: report

Parking costs are on the rise in most major North American cities as officials grapple with reduced revenue and the political challenges in raising taxes.

Rates across Canada are generally higher with Calgary in the priciest spot at $456 a month, according to a recent survey by Colliers International.

Of the 12 major Canadian cities surveyed, Montreal was deemed the second-most expensive city to park in with a cost of $330 a month, on average – a 12% year-over-year increase. Toronto ($316), Edmonton ($295) and Vancouver ($277) round out the top five most costly Canadian cities.

There's a stack of of variables that go into parking demand, including the price of gasoline and the availability of mass transit. But generally the biggest factor is downtown office vacancy rates. The more office workers looking for space, the greater the demand for parking.

That's why the City of Ottawa is considering shifting its parking rates based on how often spaces are used.

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February 28, 2022

How much does having a car really cost?

It's hard to believe that your driving costs outweight your annual grocery bill.

But according to a new report by the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) -- it's true.

In fact, the study found that the annual ownership costs for a compact vehicle are about $9.500 while the average Canadian spends about $5,400 on their yearly grocery bill. Now that's food for thought.

The study also discovered that four in five Canadians polled underestimate the cost of owning and operating a motor vehicle. And six in 10 underestimated that cost by $4,000 or more.

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February 19, 2022

Do you really need a second car in the driveway?

North America's economy would take off like a rocket if only consumers bought not just one, but two, cars.

A full recovery from the economic downturn “relies on a lot of people buying that second car,” maintains Itay Michaeli, who follows the auto industry for Citi Investment Research. “It reflects consumer confidence, not just the buying of a replacement vehicle.”

He expects younger buyers to take the lead in boosting vehicle sales. “We consistently see in surveys that 18 to 34 year olds say that when the economy gets better, their households will have multiple cars.”

Really? The fact is, today’s young people simply don’t drive like their predecessors did. At least city dwellers don't, says Jordan Weissman in the Atlantic.

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December 04, 2021

Should eating-and-driving be illegal, too?

Forget, for a second, what’s been argued about texting-and-driving laws, that they actually make the roads more dangerous because now we have to hide our texting down by our laps, rather than doing it up high where we can still see the road.

Why forget it? Because even the most ardent supporter of texting-and-driving freedom must surely concede of its perils; if at least one person on the road can’t text and drive safely, then the law must do its best to limit everyone from having the chance.

Texting, though, is one thing while driving.

What about eating? While there are few laws that address eating-and-driving in Canada, one South Dakota town has just passed an ordinance to make it illegal.

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October 02, 2021

Have you seen that spare tire lately?

Had a flat recently? If not, you may be in for a surprise. Over the past few years, several automakers have removed spare tires from the trunk, although some are still offering a spare as an option -- for 300 or 400 bucks.

Trouble is, since spare tires have been standard equipment for so long, many new car buyers don’t even realize they don’t have one until it's too late. And the jury is out as to whether replacement systems are any better.

For instance, to save weight and space, Acura has replaced the traditional spare tire, jack, and lug wrench with a tire repair kit.

The kit consists of a sealant that can temporarily plug a typical flat tire hole using a battery-operated pump. As the pressure increases inside the tire, the sealant is drawn toward the leak until it forms a plug, after which the pump will continue to fully re-inflate the tire until you can get to a garage for a more permanent repair.

At least that's the theory.

One of the worst things about these kits, says Jim Motavalli, who writes on cars for the Mother Nature Network, is that they can really mess up a tire. The kit may get you out of the emergency, but many tires are more likely junk after the fact, he maintains.

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September 10, 2021

Abandoned luxury cars a growing problem in debt-ridden Dubai

Less than one year ago, photos of this Ferrari Enzo, the limited edition supercar, began circulating the web.

Covered in sand sitting in the Dubai desert, the $1.6 million Enzo had been abandoned, left to rot in a police impound lot.

Why? Allegedly, the Enzo was owned by a British expat, who fell behind on his payments and was forced to flee the country.

You see, failing to pay your debts in the U.A.E. is a jailable offence, and it’s caused a growing problem that must be unique to Dubai: rich people, not nearly as much after the recession hit, have been forced to abandon their luxury cars en masse when they can no longer pay the bills.

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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...