Saturday, January 29, 2011

Avoid These 5 Used Cars (Plus 5 to Buy)

Avoid These 5 Used Cars (Plus 5 to Buy)
By Jerry Edgerton | Jul 29, 2010

Used car shopping used to be a scary maze of breakdown-prone models, but reliability has gained sharply. Auto manufacturing quality and dependability studies have shown steady gains this decade. But exceptions do exist and if you’re in the market for a used car, you want to steer clear of them.

So CBS has compiled a list of used cars to avoid in five categories, focusing on 2007 models-the year from the latest J.D. Power and Associates dependability study. Buying a three-year-old car also lets you shop after the bulk of depreciation has taken place. If you’re considering a more recent model used car, study the comparisons in Flash: New Cars Cost Less than Used Cars which take into account new car financing deals vs. one-year old certified used cars.

To make our list of used-car rejects, a model had to score the minimum two out of five in the J.D. Power “circle ratings” for dependability–a below-average ranking. It also had to be ranked below average as a used car by Consumer Reports in its annual April car issue and online car rankings.

Here are our used cars to avoid, by category, plus better used car alternatives:

Small Used Car to Avoid: Volkswagen New Beetle. Sure, it’s adorable, but the 2007 New Beetle is also trouble-prone. Owners who responded to the Consumer Reports reliability survey reported problems with the fuel and electrical systems, the suspension, brakes, power windows, and other power equipment. The convertible model sells on dealers’ lots for $17,055, according to Kelley Blue Book at

Small Used Car Alternative: Ford Focus. It may not be as stylish as the Beetle, but it’s a lot more reliable. In fact, the Focus got the J.D. Power award as most reliable compact car. Owners of the 2007 Focus who responded to Consumer Reports reported no major trouble spots. And it’s much cheaper than the Beetle. The Kelley Blue Book dealer price is $10,905.

Mid-Size Used Car to Avoid: Chrysler Sebring. The 2007 Sebring sedan not only got just two circles from J.D. Power, Consumer Reports reported a laundry list of problems: engine cooling, minor transmission problems, the drive system, suspension, brakes and more. The low $12,365 dealer price isn’t worth it.

Mid-Size Used Car Alternative: Buick LaCrosse. Winner of the J.D. Power dependability award in this category, the 2007 LaCrosse got an above-average used-car rating from Consumer Reports. It’s a good value at a dealer price for the CX version at $14,430.

Small Used SUV to Avoid: Jeep Wrangler. King of the off-road, the 2007 Wrangler can climb over almost any obstacle except a reliability test. Owners of the two-door version responding to Consumer Reports reported major transmission problems and issues with the electrical system and brakes. And it’s selling on dealer lots at a relatively expensive $19,850.

Small Used SUV Alternative: Honda CR-V. A lot less noticeable than a Wrangler, the Honda CR-V is a lot less trouble, too. It won the J.D. Power dependability award in this category and is rated by Consumer Reports as a well-above-average used car prospect. As a used-car buyer, you are on the wrong side of Honda models’ strong ability to hold their value. But at a dealer price of $20,980, the four-wheel-drive version of the CR-V is still a decent value.

Mid-Size SUV to Avoid: GMC Acadia. The 2007 Acadia is a good example of the time-honored rule to avoid buying the first year of a model. It not only got a below-average two circles from J.D. Power, it received a much-worse-than-average used car rating from Consumer Reports. CR readers who owned the 2007 reported problems with the drive system, suspension, body integrity and power equipment. In addition, the all-wheel-drive version on dealers’ lots is priced at an expensive $28,435, according to Kelly Blue Book.

Mid-Size SUV Alternative-Honda Pilot. One of a handful of mid-size SUVs to get four circles from J.D. Power, the Pilot is rated well-above-average by Consumer Reports. (Its corporate stablemate, the Accord Crosstour, actually won the J.D. Power award. But many reviewers find its modified-sedan style not big enough to provide true SUV cargo or passenger room.) The Pilot is selling for $23,395-some $5,000 less than the GMC Acadia.

Used Minivan to Avoid: Nissan Quest. Never a strong contender in this category, the Quest gets a below-average used car rating from Consumer Reports and two circles from Power. Owners of the 2007 reported problems with the fuel and climate system, brakes and body integrity. The Quest is selling at $17,395.

Used Minivan alternative: Toyota Sienna. This van gets four J.D. Power circles and an above-average CR used car rating. Not part of the Toyota sudden-acceleration recall, the Sienna is selling at a dealers’ price of $20,280 for the CE trim level.

Traffic Pain: 10 Cities with the Worst Commutes

Traffic Pain: 10 Cities with the Worst Commutes.

by CBS, on Mon Jan 24, 2011 1:44pm PST364 CommentsPost a CommentRead More from This Author »Report Abuse..Share
by Kathy Kristof for CBS

What does sitting in traffic cost you? About $808 on average, according to the latest Urban Mobility Report, conducted by the Texas Transportation Institute. But the cost is dramatically higher if you live in Chicago, where the cost per commuter hit a whopping $1,738.

In fact, commuters in large urban areas spend roughly 40% more on average, wasting some $1,166 per year twiddling their thumbs in traffic.

Where do these cost estimates come from? TTI calculates the cost of traffic by analyzing vast data sets to determine how many hours the average commuter spends sitting in traffic jams and then breaks the data down based on how many of these commuters are driving cars versus trucks. They then add up the cost of wasted gasoline and time. But the cost of time is considerably higher for truckers — $106 per hour — than for drivers — $16.

-- 10 Cities with the Most Drunk Driving
-- Save on Gas: 9 Ways To Drive Smarter
-- 6 Things Never to Post on Facebook
-- What NOT to Buy at Costco
-- Warning: 5 Used Cars Not to Buy

That’s the reason that Chicago beat out Washington, D.C. as the most costly city for commuters. Commuters in the District waste an equal number of hours — 70 per year — and even more gasoline — 57 gallons versus 52 gallons in Chicago. But fewer of the commuters in D.C. are driving trucks.

It’s also worth mentioning that New York doesn’t even make the top 10. Why? The study isn’t looking at just the core business districts — like Manhattan or downtown Los Angeles, said Tim Lomax, the study’s research engineer, in a telephone interview. It’s measuring traffic in much wider geographic areas.

“Manhattan would be off the charts,” he adds. ”But when you spread it out over the much larger urban area that we’re tracking, the average goes way down.”

Where does traffic cost the most, according to the study?

•1. Chicago: $1,738 (70 hours/52 gallons)
•2. Washington, D.C. : $1,555 (70 hours/57 gallons)
•3. Los Angeles/Long Beach: $1,464 (63 hours/50 gallons)
•4. Houston: $1,322 (58 hours/52 gallons)
•5. Baltimore: $1,218 (50 hours/43 gallons)
•6. San Francisco: $1,112 (49 hours/39 gallons)
•7. Boston: $1,112 (48 hours/36 gallons
•8. Dallas/Ft. Worth: $1,077 (48 hours/38 gallons)
•9. Denver: $1,057 (47 hours/38 gallons)
•10. Seattle: $1,056 (44 hours/35 gallons)
The study looked at 101 cities. Want to see the data about your city, including whether it’s getting more or less congested? You can go to TTI map and click on your area.

More on MoneyWatch:

•10 Cities with the Most Drunk Driving
•Save on Gas: 9 Ways To Drive Smarter
•6 Things Never to Post on Facebook
•What NOT to Buy at Costco
•Warning: 5 Used Cars Not to Buy

8 people u trust with your credit card, but shouldn't

8 people you trust with your credit card, but shouldn't

Erica Sandberg,

Wednesday January 26, 2011, 1:00 am EST

It's amazing how often we blindly hand over our credit cards and numbers to so many people and businesses. Why? We trust them! The problem is, however, that sometimes we'd be better off holding back and taking a more discretionary approach. Certain individuals and companies should be off limits. To keep safeguard your credit, avoid giving the following folks unlimited access to your account.

1. Your darling child. Whether you have a PC, smart phone or iPad, chances are high that your kid has become quite the gaming pro. She begs for your password and soon your bill swells. It happens, and the damage can be extreme. In January 2011, a 7-year old in British Columbia was on an iPod and found an app called Touch Pets - Dogs 2. An hour's worth of play ran up $852, which was charged to the credit card her parents had on file with iTunes. "Trust can't come without education and maturity," says Jan Ruskin, spokeswoman for Creative Wealth International, a financial literacy product company. And clearly a child can't be expected to read and understand fine print.

2. Callers investigating a credit card scam. The man on the phone sounds both professional and deadly serious. He's with the police or credit card company, and he says that your account has been compromised . To confirm your identity, he needs you to read off your card's numbers. The catch: He's the thief. "No responsible agency will work this way," says Los Angeles-based security expert Chris McGoey. It's easy to fall for this scam because very often the caller knows a few facts about you. "They'll get a hold of people from a list -- religious, political, etc. The story sounds plausible," says McGoey. To ensure all is well, though, hang up and call the number on the back of your card.

3. Loved ones. You'd think you could rely on your best bud to never do you wrong, right? Well, not necessarily. Sometimes it's those closest to us who abscond with our credit information. A 2010 Identity Fraud Survey Report found at least 13 percent of all identity theft is perpetrated by friends, neighbors and other close acquaintances. Lend a pal your card or leave statements in plain view and you could be exposing yourself to trouble.

4. The hired help. It may save you time to hand over your Home Depot card to a contractor, or give your Visa to the nanny so they can buy supplies, but that's giving strangers way too much access. They might be the most upstanding people in the world, but you should still order your own stuff. The only people who should ever charge on your card besides you are other co-signers and authorized users.

5. Virus protection heroes. Get online and see a warning message that your computer has a virus needing immediate attention? Use extreme caution when purchasing new protection software. "Don't trust anyone who tries to scare you into downloading software to fix your PC that's supposed to have a virus," warns Robert Siciliano McAfee, a consultant and identity theft expert. "This is scareware, and it will mess up your operating system, and your card will be charged more than once."

6. The disappearing waiter. Anytime your plastic is swept away by another person, you have reason for pause. Unfortunately, some restaurant staff may be especially dangerous. "Many skimming networks operate using wait staff," warns Steve Rhode of "They will pay $50 or more for credit card information that can be swiped off your card using a small electronic device that reads the magnetic strip on the card. Skimming only takes two seconds." While you can't always control where they take the card, it's important to check your receipts and statements immediately.

7. The "helpful" debt collector. If you owe money to a collection agency, you might be asked to enter into a payment plan or settlement agreement using your credit card. Don't do it, says Sonya Smith Valentine, attorney and author of "How to Have a Love Affair with Your Credit Report." "If you are working out a deal on past due debt with a debt collector, send a money order," she suggests. "Some debt collectors will charge your card for the whole amount that you owe, not just the amount they agreed to settle the debt for."

8. You. According to Carrie Coghill, director of consumer education for , the person you might want to be most wary of may be reflected in the mirror. "Even the smartest people do the dumbest things," Coghill says. She cites examples of those who consolidate debts on low interest rate cards, but don't pay attention to the special rate time frame and get hit with super high APRs, and millionaires who overextend themselves because they must have the latest things. So look inward, cardholder: If you can't trust yourself to stay out of debt, purge your wallet of plastic.

While casting suspicious glares at everyone is unnecessary, being careful can prevent common credit problems. Monitor your financial affairs too. "The bottom line is the best deterrent against credit card fraud and abuse is for you to monitor your monthly statements and check your consolidated credit report twice a year," says Rhode.

See related: 9 hot credit card scams to watch out for , New phone phishing scam on the rise , Card thieves 'skimming' pay-at-the-pump customers

•6 expenses you should never put on a credit card
•How to change your credit card bill's due date
•How different cultures handle credit cards

5 Things Not to Buy in a Supermarket.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

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5 Things Not to Buy in a Supermarket.

by Reader's Digest Magazine, on Mon Jan 24, 2011 10:21am PST408 CommentsPost a CommentRead More from This Author »Report Abuse..Share
EmailPrint. We love grocery stores. Their stock and trade is food — fresh, frozen, canned or prepared — and kitchen staples like paper towels and laundry detergent. But there are a whole host of other items that cost a premium in grocery stores because of the “convenience” factor. You can get them cheaper at a discount department or hardware store, dollar store, or drug store so leave the following items off your shopping list:
1. Cookware and Kitchen Utensils

It may be convenient to pick up a frying pan while you’re buying your bacon, but you’ll be paying much more than you ought to for it.

2. Cosmetics, toiletries, and personal care items

It might save time to buy your lip-gloss, moisturizer, toothpaste, razor blades, and deodorant at the same time and place you’re getting your food, but you’ll be paying a premium price.

Plus: 15 Foods You Should Never Buy Again

3. Small appliances

Why buy a toaster for $40 when you can buy the same toaster for $20 dollars at a discount house? The same theory applies to coffee makers, electric tea kettles, and hot plates.

4. Party supplies

Buy your balloons, funny hats, place cards, candles, and name tags in bulk at a party supply store and you'll pay a whole lot less.

5. Batteries, light bulbs, extension cords

Again, these are pricey specialty items at the grocery store, but cheap impulse buys at a discount hardware, department, or dollar store!

From Discounts, Deals & Steals

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Low-Tax States Attract Budget-Conscious Americans

Low-Tax States Attract Budget-Conscious Americans
Linda Stern
Saturday, January 29, 2011Share

Bob VanSickle was a lifelong NJ resident, but when he left after 52 years for what he calls "kinder, gentler" New Hampshire, he never looked back.

It wasn't the warm fuzzies that won him over; it was the lower taxes on income, property and purchases.

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"This is great," he said, seven years later. "I'm still paying less now than I was when I left NJ."

VanSickle estimates that he and his wife Anna save as much as $15,000 annually on taxes alone because they live in New Hampshire. "That's a year's tuition for my kid —a lot of disposable income," he said.

"After I tell my old friends in NJ, they are all planning on moving out of the state," he said.

Of course, changing your life just to save on taxes is extreme. But it could happen more and more in the future, as some states aim to fix their budgets with dramatic tax increases, as Illinois did earlier this month.

Many of the states with large population gains in the 2010 Census are well-known low-tax havens, such as Florida, Texas and Nevada.

[See Tax Breaks That Anyone Can Claim]

The tax-motivated move is a common strategy for retirees who abandon high-tax states for low- and no- tax places. Retirees who can stash money into a tax-deferred retirement account during their working years, and then withdraw the money to spend on their new life in a low-tax state, can especially profit.

Big Incomes, Big Numbers

"There can be pretty big dollars involved," said Lisa Osofsky, a CPA and financial adviser who helps clients from NJ, NY and Connecticut figure out their pre- and post- move finances. "A wealthy individual who could be earning several million dollars could save $50,000 or $100,000" by living in a lower-tax state, she said.

A family of four with $150,000 in income would save $13,368 in state and local income taxes if they traded in NY for Florida, according to calculations prepared by Bob Meighan of TurboTax. That doesn't even count additional savings in property taxes, estate taxes, or the cost of winter coats and boots. (Though some of those savings would be shaved when the state taxes were deducted from their federal taxable income.)

[See the Most Overlooked Tax Deductions]

A couple with $85,000 in retirement income and Social Security benefits could squeeze out an extra $112 a month in income tax savings if they moved from California to Michigan, Meighan said. And get a lower cost of living, too.

Sometimes, even in-state moves from one town or county to another can result in sizable savings for homeowners who can face very different property tax levels. Furthermore, wealthy clients will sometimes move to position themselves for more favorable estate tax.

Anyone considering an inter-state move should consider their before and after tax picture, said financial adviser Mark Berg of Timothy Financial Counsel in Wheaton, Illinois. Some organizations post comprehensive state tax information on their web sites so consumers can guesstimate their situation.

Those pre-move calculations can help in the reverse direction, too. Berg was recently able to help a client maximize his tax benefits before an intra-state move. The client was leaving Illinois, a state that does not tax pension distributions, for Montana, which would have added a 7 percent tax to money coming out of the client's individual retirement account. Berg helped the client convert his account to an after-tax Roth IRA before he packed up his bags and headed to Big Sky Country.

[See the States That Tax Retirees the Most]

Best Car for the Money Awards 2011

Best Car for the Money Awards 2011 By Jamie Page Deaton

Carmakers are finally starting to get it: Shoppers want value, which means giving buyers more bang for their buck. But, bang-for-your-buck doesn’t just mean offering more bells and whistles at a lower price than the competition. Now that people are hanging on to their cars longer, new cars should add value to their owner’s lives from the day they’re driven off the dealer’s lot to the day they’re traded in.

More from U.S. News & World Report

» In Pictures: The Best Cars for the Money Winners

» The Best Deals on the Best Cars for the Money

That’s what the 2011 U.S. News Best Car for the Money award winners do. The awards combine the U.S. News Automotive rankings as well as five-year total cost of ownership data from the analysts at The results highlight cars that not only delight car reviewers, but also provide lower than average ownership costs. That combination means that the winners are both great values and great cars.

The Winners

Scroll through the list of winners and you’ll find some surprises. While no single company has cornered the market on great cars with great long-term value, upstart brands like Kia, Hyundai and Mitsubishi are challenging more well-known companies like Honda and Toyota. At the same time, carmakers with a tried-and-true reputation for quality in one segment have found success in new areas.

Take Ford, for example. In years past, Ford took home Best Car for the Money awards, but mainly for large cars, trucks and SUVs. This year, the Ford Fiesta is the Best Subcompact Car for the Money. The same trend applies to General Motors. In addition to winning awards for the Best Full Size Truck and Best Full Size SUV for the Money, the Chevrolet won the Best Midsize Car for the Money with the Chevrolet Malibu. And, in something of an upset, the Buick Regal won Best Upscale Sedan for the Money, beating out favorites from BMW and Lexus with its combination of performance and value.

As you might expect, the Honda Civic and the Honda Fit took home awards for the Best Compact Car for the Money and Best Hatchback for the Money. But brands that are less popular in the U.S., like Mitsubishi and Suzuki, also won awards. The Mitsubishi Outlander Sport beat out the Honda CR-V for Best Compact Crossover for the Money, and the Suzuki Equator won Best Compact Pickup for the Money. Hyundai and Kia weren’t left out of the awards either: The Kia Sedona won Best Minivan for the Money and the Hyundai Elantra Touring won Best Wagon for the Money.

Across the industry, automakers are adding value to their models, which is great for consumers. But, over time, that value equation can erode, leaving you stuck with high fuel, insurance, maintenance and depreciation costs. The Best Car for the Money awards highlight cars that may not be the flashiest ones on the market, but they’ve proven themselves to be great long-term values. And that beats a flash in the pan any day.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

God is like...

A fifth grade teacher in a Christian school asked her class to watch TV commercials and see if they could use them in some way to communicate ideas about God.

Here are some of the results: scroll down.

God is like.. BAYER ASPIRIN: He works miracles.

God is like...a FORD: He's got a better idea.

God is like...COKE: He's the real thing. (This is great!)

God is like... HALLMARK CARDS: He cares enough to send His very best.

God is like...TIDE: He gets the stains out that others leave behind.

God is like...GENERAL ELECTRIC: He brings good things to life.

God is like...SEARS: He has everything.

God is like...ALKA-SELTZER: Try him, you'll like Him

God is like...SCOTCH TAPE: You can't see him, but you know He's there.

God is like...DELTA: He's ready when you are.

God is like...ALLSTATE: You're in good hands with Him.

God is like...VO-5 Hair Spray: He holds through all kinds of weather.

God is like...DIAL SOAP: Aren't u glad u have Him? Don't u wish everybody did?

God is like....the U.S. POST OFFICE: Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet nor ice will keep Him from His appointed destination.

Forward this to 10 people so that they can know what God is like......

Monday, January 10, 2011

What Your Facebook Profile May Be Telling ID Thieves

What Your Facebook Profile May Be Telling ID Thieves
by Jennifer Waters
Monday, January 10, 2011

Seemingly harmless information can help ID thieves unlock key to your identity.

Your pet's name is a fraudster's best friend.

You may think you're revealing precious little when you tell your Facebook friends that you're dressing your pooch, Puddles, in your favorite color, red, for brunch at Grandma's on Sunday. But you've actually just opened a Pandora's box of risks.

[See Things to Stop Doing Now on Facebook]

The information consumers willingly, and often unwittingly, post on social-media websites can be a gold mine for fraudsters looking to steal everything from your flat-screen TV to your identity.

What's more, tidbits like your birth date, birthplace and the last school you attended are typically the challenge questions posed by bank websites and online retailers to verify your identity.

"Despite all the awareness that people have about identity fraud and privacy on social networks, there is a disconnect between [that and what they are] disclosing in online space and social environments," said Thomas Oscherwitz, chief privacy officer for ID Analytics, a San Diego-based consumer risk management firm.

More than 24 million Americans 18 years old and older are still leaving their social-network profiles mostly public, meaning they aren't activating privacy controls that limit who can see their information online, according to a Harris Interactive survey conducted in October for ID Analytics.

The survey also found that nearly 70 million U.S. adults on social-networking sites include their birthplace — one of the most common security questions asked by financial institutions — on their profiles.

"The information people are disclosing is not the entire piece of the puzzle but it's certainly helpful," Oscherwitz said. Thieves steal identities in pieces, he said, and layer them on each other for a clearer picture.

[See Stolen: True Tales of Identity Theft]

Say you post on a social-media site that you're at a tanning salon ahead of your week-long trip to the Bahamas the day after your birthday. You're telling potential burglars that not only are you away from home for an hour or so, but beginning Tuesday, your home likely will be empty for seven days.

"Even listing daily activities can let strangers know your routine and put you at risk," said Gail Cunningham, spokeswoman for the National Foundation of Credit Counseling.

Too much information can hurt you in other ways. John Sileo, a Denver-based identify-theft expert, said your online chatter could equip an ex-spouse with ammunition for a court challenge. Future or current employers could have a problem with information about your personal life that they deem inappropriate for a member of their staff, he said.

You also could be furnishing a would-be stalker with information about your whereabouts. "We are giving people the little pieces of our trust or access to our trust that allows them to get bigger things out of us," said Sileo, founder of the newsletter.

[See 6 Things You Should Never Reveal on Facebook]

Tips to Stay Safe

Here's some advice from Sileo, who wrote the "Facebook Safety Survival Guide," about protecting online privacy on all social-networking sites:

• Never post your exact date and place of birth. It's invaluable information to identity thieves, particularly when the two are bundled together.

• Never post your address, phone number or email address. This is plum information to scammers and marketers who are looking for nuggets of your identity.

• Control who can see your personal information. Many social-networking sites have privacy features, but they change often. Know what they are, stay on top of them and restrict your page to your real friends, not friends of friends or someone you met in a bar.

• Limit information about your activities. If you must brag about a trip or a fabulous party, do it after the fact.

• Remember that what you post is public and permanent. Don't put up embarrassing photos that you wouldn't show your grandmother. Don't complain about your job or your boss. Don't say something to or about someone that you wouldn't say to his face. Don't threaten others.

• Know the four types of Facebook users: friends, outsiders, businesses and enemies.

• You should know exactly who wants to be your friend or is asking you to link into their network. Some people will befriend your friends to get to you or your company.

• Be wary of seemingly harmless quizzes. When someone invites you to take a survey, say, "10 Things Others Don't Know About You" or "My Favorite Things," it may be designed to harvest your data. The name of the street you grew up on or your favorite vacation spot could be clues to your passwords.

• Before you share any information anywhere online about yourself or your workplace, ask this question: What would the consequences be if this information fell into the hands of my boss, competitor or people who don't like me?

Jennifer Waters is a MarketWatch reporter, based in Chicago.