Paying for Your New Ride: Buy or Lease?

Shopping for a new car is exciting, but figuring out how you’re going to pay for it can be downright confusing. Pay in cash? Buy or lease? It will depend on your financial situation and your lifestyle but we have some advice to help you decide.

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  1. Paying in cash Very few people actually pay cash for a new car, but if you’ve been saving and don’t want the stress of monthly payments hitting your budget, paying cash can be the best option. First, paying cash means no interest costs or financing fees, which can add up. You’ll also be able to do what you want with it, and when the time comes it will be easier to sell since you hold the title. The only downside? If paying cash is a squeeze on your savings, consider leasing or financing. Cars depreciate the moment they drive off the lot!
  2. Financing This is the most common payment option and basically means you’ll make monthly payments for a set number of months. Many customers finance through the dealership, but you have the option of using a bank or credit union. You will have to make a down payment which can be 10-20% of the car’s purchase price and of course, you’ll pay interest. Aside from the financial aspects, if you plan to drive a lot or anticipate a lot of wear and tear on the car, financing is probably the best option.
  3. Leasing If you’re a low-mileage driver like most of our Metromile customers, or you like getting a new car every few years, leasing is a great option. Basically, leasing is like renting. You pay a monthly payment for a set time period which is often lower than financing a car and can have a lower down payment. Plus, leased cars are under warranty so almost all repair costs will be covered. You will be given the option to buy at the end of lease as well! The downsides? Since you’re really just renting the car you aren’t building any equity and if you go over your mileage, it can be costly.

No matter your payment choice, be sure to negotiate and compare prices! And, don’t forget, with every new car comes the need for car insurance. If you don’t drive a lot, you could save a lot with Metromile’s pay-per-mile insurance. Get a quick quote now to see how much.

Premium or Regular Gas? How to Choose at the Pump

If you’re like many drivers, the choice you make at the gas station is simple and you buy regular, unleaded gasoline. But have you ever wondered what the difference is between each octane and why some spend more to fill up with premium? Most gas stations offer three octane levels: regular (about 87), mid-grade (about 89) and premium (91 to 93) but we’ve broken down the facts about each so you can make the right choice at the pump.

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Regular Unleaded Gas- Typically the cheapest per gallon, regular gas is the most commonly used octane. Your car owner’s manual lists the recommended gas and for those cars designed to run on regular gas, pumping up with premium will provide no additional performance, run faster or get you better gas mileage. Better quality ingredients and advances in technology make regular gas the best and most affordable option for most drivers.
Midgrade Gas- Few manufacturers suggest mid-grade gas, it’s more designed to offer a middle ground. It has slightly more additives so it could give you a small bump in fuel economy but generally the results won’t be obvious. The Federal Trade Commission says that if your engine pings, mid-grade gas could stop it.
Premium Gas- The most expensive octane, premium gas is recommended by some luxury manufacturers. Not using premium gas when it is recommended can cause engine knocking, which can eventually decrease the engine’s efficiency. Double-check whether your manufacturer requires premium or recommends premium as, according to auto experts, a recommendation means you can probably still fill up with regular, unleaded fuel much of the time. Regardless, if you know your car works best on premium stick with it.

Considering a switch to a vehicle that uses diesel instead of gasoline? Filling up at the pump with diesel instead of regular gasoline is more expensive, but premium gasoline is more expensive than diesel. Diesel does offer better miles per gallon but if you drive primarily in the city or less than 10,000 miles a year, you probably won’t save enough on fuel costs to justify a diesel purchase.

If you don’t find yourself at the gas pump very often, consider another way to save with pay-per-mile car insurance. Get a quick quote now to see how much you could save!

College Car Care 101: Get Back to School Ready

The school year is upon us and while you’re thinking about textbooks, school supplies and student loans, getting your car ready to go is probably the last thing on your mind. Parking, gas, insurance and car maintenance can be expensive, though. Don’t leave it until the moment you’re loading the trunk to think about your car, as there are certainly some things you can do ahead of time to save you money and keep you safe when you go back to school.

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  1. Consider leaving your car at home. College campuses offer a variety of ways to get around including campus shuttles and many public transportation options. Sometimes city transit or even your college will offer student rates or public transportation discounts. Since you’ll likely live on or near campus, biking or walking to class are always great options as well.
  2. Take it for a tune up. If leaving your car at home isn’t an option, take the time to get your car ready for the school year. Check the levels of coolant, oil, brake and power steering fluid. Check your windshield wipers, battery, tire pressure and walk around the vehicle to check all the lights including headlights, turn signals, brake signals and emergency flashing lights. Lastly, give it a good car wash and even consider detailing the inside. If you’re a Metromile customer, our smart driving app will keep you alerted to your car health.
  3. Share the road. College campuses are congested and may bring new commuting challenges with campus buses, bikes and lots of students. Colleges often have very specific parking procedures and drop-off zones so be sure you know the safest place to park your car. Never block crosswalks, stop and yield to all pedestrians and be alert at all times.
  4. Have an emergency kit. You never know when your battery might die or another problem might arise! A car emergency kit is a great way to stay prepared and will keep you from depending on costly roadside assistance for minor problems. Your emergency kit should include jumper cables, a tire gauge, a flashlight, a small tool kit, duct tape, rags and a fluorescent emergency sign. Add a first-aid kit, a bottle of water, a blanket and some granola bars in case something happens and you’re stranded for some time.
  5. Earn extra cash. If you find you don’t use your car much, consider renting it out using a peer-to-peer car rental service like Getaround. If you find students who have similar schedules or even live in a nearby hometown, consider carpooling and they’ll reimburse you for gas. You can also use your car for many on-demand jobs such as driving for Uber or Lyft, or food delivery services like Postmates.

Finally, follow these tips to further maximize your savings during the school year and consider switching to pay-per-mile car insurance. Your monthly bill will be based on the miles you drive, so if you don’t drive much, you won’t pay much. And don’t worry about the occasional road trip or long drive home during school breaks. With Metromile, you won’t pay for any miles driven over 250 a day (150 in certain states). Try getting a quote to see potential savings.

The Truth About Car Break-ins

If you live in the city, you probably are well-versed on the obvious tips of how to prevent your car from being broken into or stolen: leaving a bag visible is thief bait, and a rogue phone is even more enticing. But with break-ins on the rise (San Francisco has seen an estimated 77% increase in break-ins since 2010), it’s probably a smart idea to take extra precaution. Here’s an overview of what truly could protect you against car break-ins.

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Lock your doors. This may seem obvious, but up to a quarter of vehicle thefts are from unlocked cars. Similarly, an open window invites the same fate. Even if you are quickly running inside a gas station, that’s still enough time for a thief to make moves. Following these precautions doesn’t make you immune from theft, so as mentioned before, don’t leave anything in plain site.

Grab your keys. Again, this might seem obvious, but leaving keys in an unattended car for even a few seconds could be enough time for a thief to get in. If you are leaving for an extended time and don’t want to take your keys with you, don’t try stashing your keys anywhere in your car. While you might think you know of a good hiding spot, remember that many other people have had the same “good idea” as you. The same goes for spare keys — car thieves know where to look.

Invest in an anti-theft device. A car alarm is the first level of thief-deterrent, but there are many other preventive measures you can take. Steering wheel locks, protective steering columns and car-disabling locks are all ways to double up on security. Even where you park can make a difference — a well-lit, populated area makes it tough for a thief to stay under-the-radar.

Know that looks aren’t everything. Think that just because you aren’t driving a flashy car thieves won’t be as inclined to try to break in? Think again. Older and stereotypical “family cars” are more desirable to a thief because of the demand and resale value of the car parts. In 2015, the most common stolen cars were the 94’, 96’ and 97’ models of the Honda Accord.

Check your coverage. Do you have comprehensive coverage on your policy? This could cover you in the event that your car is damaged during a robbery. Check your policy for specific details, but if you only have liability insurance, you will not be covered.

In the unfortunate event that your car is stolen, you can follow these steps. If you are a pay-per-mile insurance customer, your Metromile Pulse device doubles as a car locator. We’ve used it to recover stolen cars in the past!

How to Get the Best Fuel Economy for Your Car

The following is a guest post from YourMechanic, which delivers mobile car repair by certified mechanics in over 700 U.S. cities. Their top-rated technicians can perform over 600 services at your home or office for up to 30% less than shops and dealers.

Every driver wants better fuel economy, and there are a range of methods to get every last mile out of a tank of gas. Here we look at different parts of your car that affect fuel economy, and share some tips that can save you dollars at the pump.

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Change Your Air Filters

The air filter is what your engine breathes through, so it can be the case that a dirty air filter will reduce your fuel economy. This is mainly true if your car has a carbureted engine (common before 1980), as modern fuel-injected engines have onboard computers that adjust the air-fuel mixture on the fly. Still, it’s important to replace the air filter when it gets dirty. We recommend every oil change or two, especially if you live in a dusty or dirty environment.

Maintain Correct Tire Pressure

Maintaining correct tire pressure is one of the easiest ways to improve your fuel economy. Think your tires are fine? It’s worth checking: the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that one-third of cars have underinflated tires. Underinflated tires have more friction and resistance on the road, leading to increased fuel consumption (plus premature tire wear and a higher risk of blowouts). You can use the air compressor many gas stations have to check and fill your tires once a month.

Be Mindful With Cruise Control

Keeping a steady speed using cruise control is a great way to conserve fuel. On a flat and level road, your engine can maintain efficiency. However, chances are the road you’re on has changes in elevation. When your cruise control senses an incline, it opens the throttle to maintain your speed. That rate of acceleration could be more rapid than how you would accelerate on your own. Turn off cruise control when you approach hills, accelerate gently, then turn it back on when the road levels out.

Drive an Automatic

To optimize your fuel economy, it’s best to drive a car with an automatic transmission. New automatics are becoming ultra-efficient through increasing gear counts – it’s not uncommon to see eight-speed automatics these days. Continuously Variable Transmissions (CVTs) have “infinite” gears and can hold engine speed at an optimal point for fuel efficiency, even as you accelerate. Still, for enthusiasts, a few less MPG’s could be a worthwhile tradeoff for the increased fun of driving a car with a manual transmission.

Use the Correct Grade of Fuel

Your engine is tuned to run on a specific octane of gas. If you’re using premium in an engine that’s meant to run on regular, you’re pouring money down the drain – it simply won’t give you any benefit in power, performance, or efficiency. However, the opposite it not true: if your engine is rated for premium and you fill it with regular, you could see a reduction in performance between six to 10 percent. If you’re unsure, your car’s octane requirement should be under the fuel filler door.

Keep a Regular Maintenance Schedule

The fact is, the more you drive, the worse your car’s fuel economy is going to get. Normal driving will wear down your car’s components and reduce the tight manufacturing tolerances it had when it was brand new. Fortunately, this is a very gradual process that happens over tens of thousands of miles. Eventual degradation is unavoidable, but keeping a regular maintenance schedule helps maintain fuel efficiency. We can come to your home or workplace to tune up your car and make sure it’s getting the best mileage it can.

Adopt Efficient Technology

In the past, large cars and SUVs burned up a lot more gas than their smaller counterparts. However, technology is leveling the field: hybrid drivetrains, clean diesel engines and low rolling resistance tires are a few ways that automakers are improving efficiency. These advancements mean new cars have better fuel economy than ever before, regardless of size. If you’re buying a new or used car, look for these features to help maximize your mileage.

The Future of Fuel Efficiency

Governmental standards and consumer demand has led to a reaction from the auto industry: the cars of today are more fuel efficient than ever before. Additionally, with hybrid and all-electric drivetrains on the rise, there are increasing options for cars that don’t use a drop of gasoline. It’s likely that in the next decade we’ll all be driving cars that get 50 miles per gallon or hundreds of miles to the charge. Who wouldn’t want to use less fuel?

How to Check Your Oil

The following is a guest post from YourMechanic, which delivers mobile car repair by certified mechanics in over 700 U.S. cities. Their top-rated technicians can perform over 600 services at your home or office for up to 30% less than shops and dealers.

Oil is necessary in keeping an engine running smoothly and efficiently. It keeps the many moving components in an engine lubricated, reduces wear and tear and helps dissipate the heat created during combustion. Without oil, with too little of it or with oil that hasn’t been changed in a long time, an engine can be severely damaged. This guide covers the basics of engine oil, as well as how to check it to ensure it’s in good shape to keep your engine running.

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Engine Oil Basics

There are several types of oil on the market. Oil is available in different “weights,” or viscosities, which is indicated on the oil container. There are also conventional and synthetic oils, which differ based on a particular engine’s use and performance. Generally speaking, for normal around-town and commuting driving, conventional oil is best, while for more demanding driving, such as hauling loads or high-performance driving, a synthetic blend is required. Check your owner’s manual to determine what type of oil your engine needs.

Oil circulates through your engine through a closed-loop system. It’s stored in the oil pan, which holds between four and six quarts depending on the car. When the engine is started, the oil pump sucks oil from the pan through the pickup tube, then through the oil filter, which cleans it on its way to the engine. It then flows through channels in the engine block, lubricating the necessary components before heading back to the oil pan to begin the cycle again.

It’s a good idea to make a habit of regularly checking your engine oil to make sure it’s topped off and that it isn’t contaminated. We suggest checking your oil level every time you fill up the gas tank, but don’t check it less than once a month.

Checking Your Oil

Checking and adding oil is a simple process that can be done quickly and without tools.

Step 1: Make sure the engine is cool. Never check the oil while the engine is hot. It’s best to check the oil after the engine hasn’t run in a few hours, as this allows the oil to settle back to the oil pan. If this isn’t an option, let the car cool down for at least 10 minutes. Check the oil when the car is parked on a flat surface so the oil is evenly distributed in the pan.

Step 2: Open the hood and prop it up so you can easily access the engine. (more…)

How to Prepare Your Car for Summer

The following is a guest blog by Brian Shreckengast, a writer at SelfStorage.com.

Now that summer is here, you might think that you no longer have to worry so much about weather proofing your car. And while it’s true that warmer weather is generally easier on your motor vehicle, you’ll still want to take certain precautions to keep your car in tip-top shape – otherwise, you could end up with peeling paint or a blown radiator. There are really three big dangers to your car during the summer: heat, sunlight, and humidity. The following steps will help keep your car protected against these elements.

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Problem: overheating. Solution: radiator checkup
One of the biggest causes of breakdowns during the summer is overheating engines. The risk of overheating is worse if your car is older and if you live in an area with high temperatures. The intense summer heat can put a lot of strain on your cooling system. Give your radiator a check-up, making sure that there are no damages to the radiator or hoses. It’s important for your radiator to receive good air flow, so clean up any dirt or debris that may be blocking it, and make sure the cap isn’t damaged.

Problem: overheating. Solution: refill coolant
After checking up on your radiator’s condition, make sure that you’re using the proper amount of coolant. Radiator coolant should be flushed and changed every two years. Ensure that you keep a 50/50 mix between distilled water and coolant.

Problem: battery damage. Solution: refill fluids
Battery fluid can evaporate in the summer heat and internal parts can be damaged. Check that the water level in each of the battery’s cells comes up to just below the cell’s inspection hole. If levels are low, carefully add more distilled water. Clean off the battery, as dirt can be a conductor and drain power. Pay attention to the terminals, as dirt or corrosion can weaken the power feeding into your car. (more…)

Stolen Car Check List

Your car is missing, now what? To help you tackle this tough situation, familiarize yourself with these important tips to recovering your car.

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Think through all of the possibilities. Did you accidentally park in a fire zone? Did you park on the street last night instead of in your normal garage spot? Could your car have been towed for any reason?

Call the police. If your car is missing, you’ll need to file a police report. Make sure to have a description of your car on hand, including make/model/color, VIN, license plate number and any distinctive marks or dents that may help identify the car.

Notify your insurance company. This will help protect you should there be any damage to the car that occurred during the theft. If your car is leased, be sure to notify the lender from whom you purchased the vehicle.

If your car is recovered, notify your insurance company immediately to avoid any delays in resolving the claim.

If you are a pay-per-mile car insurance customer, the Metromile Pulse device can track your car’s location and you can view it on the Metromile app. The Pulse has been used to recover stolen cars in the past! If your car has been stolen, be sure to still follow the steps above and give that tracking information to the police – don’t go tracking your car down on your own. For information on preventing theft, read our tips here.

If you are interested in the location tracking the Metromile Pulse has, you’ll love the other features it offers, such as street sweeping alerts and check engine light diagnostics! For more information and to get a free quote, visit metromile.com/insurance.

Maintenance Monday: Get Your Car Ready for Summer

Summer is quickly approaching, and while the sunshine is much anticipated, it’s important to get your car ready for the warmer weather. The heat, stop and go traffic and dusty roads all can take a toll on the reliability and performance of your vehicle. Here are a few simple tips to get your vehicle ready for the summer.

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Cooling System
The most common cause of summer breakdowns is overheating. Cars have small but efficient radiators and cooling systems and only work properly if they are completely full of coolant. If there are small leaks that go undetected, you can bet that the cooling system will fail when it’s hot outside. Have the system checked thoroughly and change the fluid as per the manufacturer’s recommended service table. You should also keep your eye out for any leaks, and if you notice something is off, have your car checked out. If you decide to check the coolant level yourself, be careful and do not open the system when it is hot. Let it cool down overnight before you open the cap. If it’s low, make sure that you top it off with the correct fluid. There are several different types of coolant these days and some of them are not compatible with each other and can ruin your entire cooling system. In a pinch, clean water is always safe. It is never a bad idea to keep a gallon of fresh water in your trunk just in case you or your car gets thirsty.

Tires
Tires are one of the most overlooked service items. An under-inflated, over-inflated, worn down or misaligned tire can be extremely dangerous, particularly in hot summer weather. An under-inflated tire bulges outward and puts pressure on the sidewalls of the tire. With enough heat and pressure, that tire eventually can blow. An over-inflated tire, on the other hand, makes less contact with the road and can lead to hydroplaning in wet conditions.

Tire pressure changes with the rising temperatures — approximately one to two PSI (pounds per square inch) for every 10-degree increase in outside air temperature. Keep a tire pressure gauge in your car to ensure they are set to the correct pressure (usually, there is a sticker on the driver’s door jamb that specifies the level). Make sure you check the spare as well! Lastly, ensure that your tires have adequate tread. It helps to turn the steering wheel all the way to one side and look at the tread depth. There are wear indicators built into every tire, which are small rubber lines that run across the tread section and are located between the tread blocks. When the tread is at the same depth as the wear indicators, the tires will need to be replaced.

Air Conditioning
Just like anything else in your car, the A/C system requires routine service and a marginally operating system will fail in hot weather. The condition and level of the refrigerant are the leading factors in determining your A/C’s ability to cool. As the A/C refrigerant deteriorates, or leaks out, the system is less efficient.

One trick in determining if your A/C system is low on refrigerant is to start your vehicle, put the A/C on “High” and listen for the compressor clutch to come on. The compressor clutch will make one loud click sound as it engages, and stay on steadily. If the compressor clutch is cycling or clicking every few seconds, then your system is low on charge and should be serviced. Most automotive repair shops have the ability to recharge the system — the service will usually cost less than $200 and can save you thousands of dollars in the long run. When you bring your car in, make sure the repair shop puts a tracer dye in the system when they perform the re-charge. This will ensure an accurate diagnostic of any potential leak if the system begins to deteriorate. The typical interval for most vehicles to have the A/C serviced is every 4 to 5 years, and if you keep it serviced, your A/C system will provide you with consistently cool performance.

These are just a few simple things you can do to get your vehicle ready for the summer.

Biking 101: The Commute

May is National Bike Month, and what better time to try your hand at a new commute? More than half of Americans live within five miles of their office, which is about a 30 minute bike ride. Biking to work offers many benefits: it saves time and money and is good for the environment. Plus, you’ll getting a workout in!

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If you’re thinking about biking to work, but don’t know what you need or where to get started, we’ve gathered some best practices and good habits for your bike commute:

Bike to Work 101

Get your gear: You don’t need to have a full bicycle kit to ride to work. However, we do recommend wearing a sturdy helmet and finding a reliable bike lock. Many urban offices have a bike room you can store your bike in during the day, so be sure to utilize that if it’s an option.

Test ride: Google Maps offers routes for an optimized bike commute on streets with bike paths. Test your ride in off-commute hours or on a non-work day to get a hang of your route.

Follow the rules of the road: Always bike in the same direction of traffic, and keep a pulse on the cars, bikes and pedestrians around you. Read more bicycle safety tips here.

Good Habits

Keep the phone out of sight: You’ll want to keep your eyes on the road and your ears out for honking, approaching cars and ambulances.

Use clear hand signals: Using your left hand to signal while biking helps communicate your route clearly with the drivers around you.

Dress for the ride: Make sure the drivers around you are aware you are there, and on two wheels. Wear bright colors during the day and reflective gear at night.

National Bike to Work Week is May 16-20, 2016. Bike to Work Day is May 20, 2016.

Don’t have a bike? Many urban areas have bike share programs, which allow riders an allotted time for transportation for a small annual fee. If you find yourself on two wheels more often than four, pay-per-mile car insurance could be a great option for you. Find out more here.