How to Get Your Car Ready for a Weekend Road Trip

How to Get Your Car Ready for a Weekend Road Trip

Feeling stir-crazy but can’t take time off from work? A weekend road trip is one of our favorite ways to break up our normal routine, escape the ordinary for a few days, and spend some quality time with our cars. And summer is the perfect time of year to hit the highway and travel somewhere nice.

Don’t get ahead of yourself, though: even if you’re ready to take off, your car may not be. There are a few things you need to do before you can deem your vehicle fit for a trip. Run through our checklist and complete each item before you go to prevent some easily-avoided roadside disasters.

 

  1.   Check the vital fluids and change them if necessary.

Your car’s various automotive fluids are its lifeblood, and they tend to need more frequent attention than anything else. The Big Five Fluids are oil, coolant, power steering fluid, brake fluid and transmission fluid.

The last three items in this list only need to be changed once or twice in the car’s lifetime, but it’s still a good idea to take a peek and make sure you aren’t running low. Likewise, you can go several years or longer without changing your engine coolant, so you probably only need to ensure your recovery tank is full.

Oil requires the most frequent changing (every 3,000 to 10,000 miles depending on your car, your driving habits and whom you ask). If it’s very old, you may want to change it before your trip. Most auto shops that perform oil changes will also check your other fluids as part of the service.

 

  1.   Inspect your windshield wipers.

You definitely don’t want to get caught in a storm while traveling and be unable to clear your windshield, so it’s important to have a good pair of windshield wipers installed. They have a typical lifespan of one year but may last longer, so you’ll need to visually inspect them. Check the rubber blades for cracks, chips or tears, and replace them if they’re past their prime. You can purchase a pair at nearly any store that carries automotive parts and install them yourself without too much trouble. And don’t forget to top off your washing fluid while you’re at it!

 

  1.   Check that your tires are fit for the road.

Your car’s tires control how well it handles, so they require frequent maintenance. First, the air pressure inside each tire should be set to the manufacturer’s specifications, because improper pressure can negatively affect wear, handling and fuel efficiency.

Second, your tires must have a minimum amount of tread remaining in order to be safe to drive on. Tread wears down normally with use, and tires are rated for a total number of miles they can be driven on before they must be changed.

Finally, all four tires need to be rotated and balanced regularly to prevent uneven wear. This should be done about as often as you change your oil.

At the very least, you should inspect your tread and check the air pressure before going on a trip. If you know you’re about due for a rotation and balance, the good news is any tire shop will address all three of these things at once.

 

  1.   Ensure your brakes are functioning properly.

Like your tires, your brakes affect your car’s ability to drive safely, so you need to be sure there’s nothing wrong with them before embarking on a weekend trip. Fortunately, brake problems are relatively rare, and you should only need to change your pads or rotors a few times in the car’s lifetime.

A visual inspection of your brakes is best, but it’s a bit difficult to do and is better left to professionals. You can easily gauge your general brake health by driving your car and paying attention to how it feels and sounds. Increased stopping distance, reduced responsiveness, and pulling to one side or vibrations while braking are all signs of wear, as are persistent squealing, clicking, growling or grinding.

Any of these signs can indicate minimal to advanced wear, and you should take your vehicle to a shop if you experience them.

 

  1.   Make sure your battery is working well.

Your battery holds an electrical charge while your car is turned off and gives it the jolt required to start the engine. If you leave for your trip with a bad battery, you may find yourself stranded when your car won’t start!

Car batteries tend to last 5-7 years—perhaps longer if the car is driven frequently, and shorter if the car sits unused for long periods of time. If your car seems more difficult to start than usual, or if you know the battery is nearing the end of its life, you should probably buy a new one. You can always have an auto shop test your battery’s strength if you’re unsure.

 

  1.   Examine all exterior lights and change burned-out bulbs.

It’s always a good idea to periodically check your headlights, taillights and other driving lights, but there’s no better time than before a road trip. If a bulb is burned out, you can purchase a new one for a reasonable price at your local auto parts store. You’ll need to consult your owner’s manual to see what kind of bulb you need and how to install it. The procedure is usually pretty simple and may only require a few basic tools to get under the car’s exterior body.

 

  1.   Bring along entertainment, snacks and emergency items.

Part of preparing your car for a road trip should include stocking it with items to keep you entertained, fueled-up and safe. You should bring along bottled water and snacks in case you get hungry or thirsty on the highway. You’ll also want to have your favorite music on hand to keep you from getting bored (check out our Summer Drive Playlist for suggestions), and cards or games can be nice if other people are traveling with you. Lastly, you should pack up some emergency items like maps, blankets, flashlights, tools and a first aid kit in case anything should go wrong. Read our full post on that topic for a more extensive list.

 

  1.   Fill up the gas tank before leaving.

Last but not least, you ought to fill up on gasoline before leaving town. We know some people may like to drive around with less fuel and only add some when they need it, but the highway is a bad place to run out of gas, especially if you’re not very familiar with the territory. What’s more, traffic jams can be difficult to predict, and you don’t want to get caught up for an extra hour when you’re running on fumes. Do yourself a favor and fill up your tank so you don’t have to worry about it, and keep it above ¼ full throughout your trip.

That does it for our pre-trip checklist. If you make a habit of keeping your car well maintained, then it shouldn’t take you much time or money to run through these items before hitting the road. On the other hand, if your maintenance record is a little spotty, then heeding our advice might help you detect an unseen problem and prevent a much bigger, more dangerous and more expensive situation.

And if you want to take a trip but aren’t sure where to go, we have a few suggestions. You could take one of our day trips from Rochester that will be fun for the whole family. For something a little longer, consider our East Coast road trip plan. And if you really want to go all-out, you might want to look at our list of the top 12 US road trips to take in your lifetime.

How to Get Your Car Ready for a Weekend Road Trip
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7 Car Seat Safety Tips Every Parent Should Know

7 car seat safety tips every parent should know

Car crashes are one of the biggest causes of unintentional deaths to children in the United States.

Children’s car seats have saved countless lives over the years. However, in order for your child to be as safe as possible, there are a few very important things every parent should know and understand. We’ve put together 7 of the most important tips in this article, please read these tips very carefully and most importantly, make any corrections before you next put your child in the car.

WARNING: If you are unsure about any of the safety advice offered in this article, you should seek professional help to ensure that your child seat is correctly adjusted and to also make sure that it is the appropriate model and size for your child.

 

1.   Install the car-seat correctly.

Believe it or not, many people do not fully understand how to fit a child’s seat into their car correctly. Fortunately, this is also one of the easiest things to rectify and can be done in as little as 15 minutes.

 

2.   Every car seat has an expiry date – regardless of the manufacturer.

Yes, this mean – Every. Single. One. And yes, that means you can’t safely use the same car seat you’ve used for the last 10 years for all of your children. The plastic in a child’s car seat can degrade over time. This can cause the seatbelts to rip and cause horrific injury in the case of a collision. Every car seat comes with a manual, check that manual to see how often you should change the seat.

Sometimes, the expiration date is stamped on the back of the seat or there will be a sticker showing the manufacture date and model number somewhere on the seat itself.

Most commonly, a car seat will expire SIX years after its date of manufacture.

 

3.   Never use a seatbelt in conjunction with the seat harness.

Many parents think that using a seatbelt in conjunction with a safety seat harness will give the child ‘Double protection’ in the case of a crash. In fact, the truth is that this actually puts too much stress on the seat in a collision, which can cause the harness to rip out of the seat shell.

 

4.   Keep your child rear-facing for as long as possible

Yes, unfortunately a lot of parents turn their children to face forward in the vehicle before it is truly safe to do so. In the case of a collision, huge forces are exerted onto the child’s body. This can cause permanent injury to the child or could, in a worst case scenario, lead to the death of the child.

If a child is rear-facing, the force of any collision will be spread across a greater area of the body. This means that less pressure will be exerted on the child’s head, neck, shoulders and inner organs, potentially saving the child’s life.

In fact, keeping your child rear facing can reduce the risk of serious injury or death by MORE than 90%.

 

5.   Make sure the harness shoulder straps are properly adjusted.

When your child is rear-facing, the harness straps should be AT or BELOW their shoulder level. This will prevent the child from ‘ramping-up’ in the seat in a collision.

When your child is forward-facing, the harness shoulder straps should be AT or ABOVE their shoulder level (but also not too high).

When forward facing, if the harness is adjusted to below your child’s shoulder level, then this could cause the spine to compress in the case of an accident and could cause permanent injuries such as paralysis, or could even lead to the death of your child.

 

6.   Make sure the harness chest strap is properly adjusted.

The top of the chest clip should be level with your child’s armpits. If the chest strap is adjusted to low on the body, i.e. at the belly button level, this could cause severe abdominal injuries in the event of a collision.

REMEMBER: The chest clip is not designed to keep your child in the seat in the event of an accident, it is designed to keep the harness in the correct position. You should ALWAYS fasten the chest clip and crotch buckles. Always!

 

7.   The seat harness should always be “as snug as a hug”

In order for the car seat to be as safe as possible, the harness straps should always be as snug to the child’s body as possible.

If you can pinch any slack anywhere on the harness straps, then the straps are too loose and will need to be adjusted so that you can no longer pinch the slack.

 

Hopefully this will help you to understand some of the most common car seat safety tips and will allow you to make any necessary changes to your own safety setup. Again, please remember that if you are struggling with anything in this article, you should seek professional help with fitting your child’s car seat.

7 Car Seat Safety Tips Every Parent Should Know

The Worst Advice We’ve Ever Heard About Buying a Car

The Worst Advice We've Ever Heard About Buying a Car

You’re in the market to buy a car. You may be a strong-willed individual who doesn’t like taking other people’s advice, or maybe you’re the type of person who always wants a second opinion. Either way, we’ve got you covered. Allow me to introduce you to your new friend Dwayne:

calling-151869_1280Dwayne has some strong opinions, most of which are easily disproved by logic and science. For instance, he still maintains that the Earth is flat. So here’s what we’re gonna do: we’re gonna give you Dwayne’s terrible advice for buying a car and immediately following that we’ll give you the better solution. Take it away Dwayne.

 

Dressing poorly will help negotiate a car price

Dwayne says: Step 1 of buying a new car: arrive to the dealership in a beat-up old vehicle dressed in your finest combo of bedhead, stained t-shirt and flip-flops. Looking desperate will get you a big discount from the salesman and save you some major coin.

We say: Silly Dwayne, where’d ya hear that one? Typically the way you dress when shopping for a new car doesn’t have much effect on your discount. In fact, sometimes trying to dress up/dress down might have the opposite effect.

According to one salesperson “It’s the guy wandering around the lot in shorts and a T-shirt at two in the afternoon on a Tuesday who has money. The guy who comes in a suit at noon and has to be back in his office by one? He’s working for somebody.” All of that aside, they’re going to run a credit check on any potential buyer.

 

Thinking in Monthly payments instead of price

Dwayne says: I can’t afford to buy a house, so I pay rent month-to-month. If I can make my car payments every month, what’s the difference? Sounds fool-proof to me.

We say: Wrong again Dwayne-o. Just because you can afford a monthly payment on the car doesn’t mean you can or should buy that particular car. Salespeople typically break down the cost of a car to monthly payments over a 5-6 year loan period. The problems here are that the value of your vehicle is likely to drop over that period of time, not to mention any additional interest you may have to pay. Before you agree to a loan think about the depreciation of the vehicle over time and whether or not you’d be trading it in somewhere down the line.

 

Buy a brand new car, live in the present!

Dwayne says: Its 2016, why would I buy an obsolete model? I’d rather have a car roll right off of the factory line. Besides, there’s no denying the beautiful scent of that brand new car smell.

We say: No Dwayne, just no. Your new car can lose $3,000 – $5,000 the minute you drive away. Buying a new car is more expensive in almost every way. If you are financing the car with an auto loan, your loan is automatically more than your car is worth. Another huge problem with buying a brand new car is that it’s untested – you as the driver are going to test out all of the bugs of the model. Your best bet is to go with an earlier model that is slightly used and can still come with the same warranties as the brand new car.

 

Act Now – take the first deal you get and run with it

Dwayne says: Look, there are so many dealerships in town, the thought of having to visit all of them is already giving me a headache. Besides, the first one I visited has a grand opening sale and the salesman said that this deal is only good for today.

We say: Oh Dwayne – sweet, simple Dwayne. As much as you want to be out on the open road in your new car ASAP, it does pay to shop around. It’s best to visit at least three different dealerships before committing to buy. Not only will you be able to see what other dealers have to offer, but letting the dealer know you’re shopping around might enable them to top competitor’s discounts.

As for the “today only” deal, that is a typical tactic to nail down the sale immediately. Don’t feel pressured into doing this, as it’s probably a bluff. If not, well that’s why you’re shopping around!

 

Don’t mention your trade-in until you’ve negotiated your new car price

Dwayne says: When I finally settle on a car I figure I’m gonna schmooze it up with the dealer and get the nicest possible deal I can. Then, and only then will I pull out my ace-in-the-hole: I’m trading in my old car. BAM! That’s another pretty penny saved.

We say: You’re a national treasure, Dwayne. Neglecting to mention your trade-in like this is called “parachuting.” We cannot stress this enough: DO NOT DO THIS. First off, by keeping your trade-in secret until the last minute proves that you were lying to the dealer. Secondly, the dealer will have to go back and rework everything to include your trade-in car; wasting their time and yours. Being upfront about your trade-in is the best route. It’s in the dealer’s best interest to give you the best price possible. That said, you should look up the Kelley Blue Book value of your car yourself.

Buying a new car is a process that is not to be taken lightly. Take your time, weigh your options and plan ahead for your own personal finances and the inevitable depreciation of the vehicle. Most importantly, don’t listen to Dwayne.

 

Further Reading:

The Worst Advice We've Ever Heard About Buying a Car

11 Gifts for the Car Lover in Your Life

11 GIFTS FOR THE CAR LOVER IN YOUR LIFE

Do you know someone who is a genuine car nut? Maybe they love watching professional racing, maybe they love to tinker under the hood, or maybe they simply love to keep their vehicle looking its very best.

Some readers may think of their fathers, but it could be anyone in your life–parent, sibling, child or friend. Car lovers can be any age or gender, and come from all walks of life. When it comes time to buy this person a gift–for their birthday, a holiday, or any occasion–there are all sorts of unique, automotive-inspired options to choose from.

We’ve compiled a list of 11 gift ideas that should please anyone who loves cars. From apparel to home decor and office supplies, there’s something here for everyone. At the very least, let this list be inspiration to help you find the perfect gift for your gearhead.

 1.  Car Seat Buckle Belt

Car Seat Buckle Belt

Image courtesy of Hot Topic

This belt holds up your clothing but is designed to look like the kind that secures you safely in your vehicle. It’s great for making a fashion statement as well as displaying your automotive love. A quick Google search brings up a variety of styles from multiple vendors. If you want the buckle to feature a specific vehicle’s emblem, take a look at this belt on ebay.

 

2.  Speedometer Cufflinks/Jewelry

Speedometer Cufflinks/Jewelry

Image courtesy of Etsy

These cufflinks allow a car afficionado to show their appreciation even while dressed in their formal attire. You can find a wide variety online, and you may want to begin your search here. Jewelry options for female car nuts are a little harder to find, but here are a few examples that apply the speedometer theme to earrings and a pendant

 

3.  Encyclopedia of Classic Cars

Encyclopedia of Classic Cars

Image courtesy of Amazon

An encyclopedia is the perfect gift for anyone who can’t get enough information and statistics. The pictured encyclopedia covers classic cars from 1945-2000 and contains 1,800 photos, but it is on the expensive side. This older book by different authors provides similar coverage at a cheaper price. For the best bargain, consider this slimmer tome that covers vehicles from 1945-1985.

 

4.  Speedometer Wall Clock

Speedometer Wall Clock

Image courtesy of Chronos Clocks

Here’s another speedometer-themed item that can be displayed in your recipient’s home or office. The clock shown is sold by a British company that creates clocks modeled off the speedometers and dashboard gauges of classic automobiles; this one is based on the 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO. For options that are a little cheaper and less elaborate, take a look at the custom designs you can find on Zazzle and CafePress.

 

5.  Car-Themed Throw Pillows

Car-Themed Throw Pillows

Image courtesy of Etsy

These stylish decorative pillows would be perfect for displaying in the living room, den, or even inside a vehicle. They are made and sold by an Etsy user who will customize the embroidery with the vehicle type, model year, and the owner’s name if desired. You can find more classic car-inspired pillows on websites like Redbubble.

 

6.  Automotive Cleaning/Detailing

Automotive Cleaning/Detailing Kit

Image courtesy of Walmart

Any true car lover probably takes great pride in their car’s appearance, so a care kit is a no-brainer. Meguiar’s is a good brand for the price, and Walmart carries an exclusive 8-piece bucket kit that includes most of the basic necessities. You could also upgrade to the 12-piece Complete Care Kit if you’re willing to pay a little more.

 

7.  Car Wash Coupon/Gift Card

Car Wash Coupon/Gift Card

Image courtesy of Buckmans Car Wash

What if your gift recipient loves to have a clean car but isn’t the type who loves to wash it themselves? Gifts cards, coupons or memberships to local car washes are just the solution. If you need suggestions on where to buy, read our blog post on the best car washes in Rochester to learn what businesses are in your area and what services they offer.

 

8.  Gearshift Paperweight 

Gearshift Paperweight

Image courtesy of Racechairs

Sitting at a desk can be tough when all you want to do is go out for a drive. Luckily, you can appeal to a car lover’s need for speed with this paperweight shaped like the gearshift of a 6-speed manual transmission. With this item, some part of their mind can feel like they’re at the wheel even though they’re stuck at work.

 

9. Disc Brake Coaster Set

Disc Brake Coaster Set

Image courtesy of Summit Racing

Here’s an inventive way to show your automotive enthusiasm and at the same time protect your tables from rings left by glasses. The coasters in this set are made to look just like automobile disc brakes, and as an added bonus, the storage rack looks like the brake caliper! This set is nice for the price, but here is an even nicer one if you’re willing to pay more.

10.  Car-Themed Cell Phone Case

Car-Themed Cell Phone Case

Image courtesy of Autocase

Since we’re all so attached to our smartphones these days, a cell phone cover would make a nice gift for anyone who wants to show their love to the world. Autocase sells a number of iPhone cases in multiples styles and featuring the logos of many classic sports cars. Alternatively, check out the work by this Redbubble user, which you can have printed on a variety of smartphone, iPad and laptop covers.

 

11.  Scale Model Car 

Scale Model Car

Image courtesy of RepliCarz

Finally, why not gift your car fanatic a smaller version of their favorite vehicle to admire? Take for example this 1:18 scale 2014 Corvette Stingray convertible from RepliCarz. Unfortunately, highly-detailed models can be very expensive, so you’ll have to work within your budget. Start by searching for the particular vehicle you want and narrow your options from there.

 

We decided to focus on car-themed items in this list rather than accessories for use in the car because we already covered that topic in another post. Having said that, these gadgets could also serve as easy, useful gifts, so look at our list of must-have car accessories if you want to go that route and need some inspiration.

In any case, stay tuned to our blog this summer for more tips, advice, and suggestions for fun roads trips to take with or without your family. Also, don’t forget to visit our main page for all your car buying and maintenance needs.

11 Gifts for the Car Lover in Your Life

The Perfect East Coast Road Trip

The Perfect East Coast Road Tri

Ah, summer road trips–a classic American pastime. Warm weather, sunshine, and the wind in your hair as you cruise down the highway. Just thinking about it makes us itch to get out on the road.

Last summer, we put together a list of our top US road trips to take in your lifetime, including routes on the East Coast, West Coast and everywhere in between. These are our dream road trips, but what about a route you could realistically travel this summer–one that won’t require a plane ticket and a rental car? Preferably one that starts and ends right here in Rochester?

Well, we’ve come up with a Northeast Coast road trip that meets all those requirements. We picked out four well-known, scenic routes in the area and connected them into a loop that will take you from upstate New York through parts of eight other states and back home again. The trip is a total of 1,800 miles and will take around 32 hours to complete without stopping, which means you could comfortably finish it in one week.

Of course, you may want to allot yourself more time so you can stop and explore all the cities and towns along the way!

 

Kancamagus Scenic Byway in New Hampshire

The first leg of the trip will take you to this difficult-to-pronounce section of Route 112 in New Hampshire. The byway is 34.5 miles long and runs between the towns of Lincoln and Conway, through the White Mountain National Forest. There are no houses or buildings along this stretch, which means you’ll be alone with the forest and the rivers that run alongside the road. The scenery is especially beautiful in the fall as the leaves change color, but it will be no less breathtaking during the summer months.

To get there, take I-90 east out of Rochester and make your way to Lincoln, NH. It will take you a better part of the day to get there, so you may want to spend the night in town and set off on the byway in the morning.

 

Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Next up is Cape Cod, where you’ll find several historic fishing towns dating back to the colonial era. This would be a perfect place to get some fresh seafood, or simply enjoy the scenery and the ocean breeze. You’ll probably pass through Boston and Plymouth, MA on your way there, so you may want to make a side excursion to visit one or both.

When you arrive at the Cape, you’ll want to get on Route 6A near the town of Sandwich and follow it 32 miles to Orleans. From there you can either turn back or continue on US Route 6 another 24 miles to Provincetown at the very tip of the Cape. On your way back to the mainland, consider taking Route 28 for 64 miles to soak up the sights on the southern side of the Cape.

 

If you follow the major interstates to your next destination, you’ll drive through Providence, RI, travel along the Atlantic coast for 100 miles, cut through New York City, and pass near Trenton, NJ and Philadelphia, PA. Any of these spots would be a good place to linger if you are so inclined.

Brandywine Valley is a 12-mile stretch of road where members of the late 20th-century American aristocracy lived and built their estates, many of which have been preserved by the local populace. Heading west on US Route 1, turn south onto Route 100 at Chadds Ford, PA. After about 7 miles, you’ll reach Montchanin, DE. From here you can continue on to visit Wilmington, the largest city in Delaware, or turn west onto Kirk Road to finish your trip through the valley. The next intersection will be with Route 52, which you should take north back up to US 1.

There are many mansions, gardens and museums to see both on the route and nearby, so spend some time here and take a look at whatever interests you.

 

The Historic National Road in Maryland

Next, make your way to downtown Baltimore, where you’ll begin your journey along the nation’s first federal road building project. Construction began on the Historic National Road in 1811 to aid settlers headed west, and Maryland contains 170 miles of it. You’ll travel through beautiful forests, cross original stone arch bridges, and see many small towns and historic hotspots as you head west.

Start at the Inner Harbor in Baltimore and take Lombard Street west until you merge onto Route 144. You’ll stay on Route 144 and US 40 for much of the trip, but be sure to follow marker signs so you don’t stray from the trail. You may also want to consult a guide like this one for in-depth directions and historical information.

 

The Shore of Lake Erie

Once you reach Grantsville, MD, it’s finally time to head back toward Rochester. You could cut through central Pennsylvania, but we recommend heading for Erie, PA on the shore of Lake Erie. You’ll probably pass close to Pittsburgh on the way, so make a stop there if you’re so inclined.

At Erie, get on Route 5 and follow it east for 80 miles, enjoying the view as you drive very close to the lake shore. When you reach Buffalo, either stop for a visit or continue on to Rochester.

There you have it: by the end of this trip, you’ll have toured some renowned scenic roads in the Northeast and have seen a number of its major cities, to boot. Before you embark on your trip, be sure to have your vehicle inspected and get a tune-up if needed. In addition, get your oil changed and tires rotated if you’re almost due for it. You don’t want to have car problems while you’re on the road. Finally, take a look at our article on road trip do’s and don’ts for more tips that will help you have the best possible experience.

Drive safely, and have fun!

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The 10 Most Unique Parking Garages in the World

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The parking lot: the unsung manmade innovation that piggybacks on the ingenuity of modern engineering and the sensibilities of capitalism. We’ve all had to endure the painstaking process of weaving through the lanes, winding around the sharp corners and squeezing into the tight spaces as we search for the perfect parking spot. And while you may have thought that you landed the most amazing parking spot of all time the other day when you got your groceries, you’d be wrong. Allow me to present you with something truly amazing in the realm of parking: the 10 most unique parking garages in the world.

 

MARINA CITY - CHICAGO, IL

Photo Credit: PropertyProf

If you’ve ever visited Chicago then you’ve seen the two “corn cob” towers that comprise Marina City. Completed in 1964, Marina City was originally designed by Bertrand Goldberg to be a small town square in the heart of the city. The upper half of Marina City is home to 450 different apartments and offices while the lower half is dedicated to parking, with 896 parking spaces per building. The towers of Marina City were made famous in the 1979 Steve McQueen film The Hunter, in which a 1980 Pontiac ends a dramatic car chase by launching off of one of the towers into the Chicago River below.

 

UMIHOTARU- TOKYO, JAPAN

Photo Credit: My Golden Bengal

Umihotaru was prophesized by Joni Mitchell when she said “they paved paradise, put up a parking lot”; ok, not really. What Umihotaru actually is, is a manmade island in the middle of the Tokyo Bay Aqualine – a bridge/tunnel combination that connects the city of Kawasaki with the city of Kisarazu across the Tokyo Bay. Basically Umihotaru is a high-scale rest-stop that was designed in the shape of a cruise liner. Because of its many shops, restaurants and art displays it is a destination unto itself – more than just a pit stop.

 

THE COMMUNITY BOOKSHELF, KANSAS CITY, MO

Photo Credit: Random Buzz

I don’t think that any writer throughout history has written a book with the expressed intent of their work prominently on display as part of a parking facility; The Community Bookshelf is pretty cool nonetheless. The Community Bookshelf was completed in 2004 and adorns the exterior of the Central branch of the Kansas City Library downtown. On display are the spines of 22 different titles including Catch-22, To Kill a Mockingbird and The Lord of the Rings.

 

CIVIC CENTER - SANTA MONICA, CA

Photo Credit: Moore Ruble Yudell

Not only does the parking garage of the Santa Monica Civic Center have the appeal of a brightly-decorated Christmas tree, but it’s also mostly powered by clean energy. Due to a combined use of solar energy, water use reduction and encouragement of using alternative forms of transportation, it is the first building of its kind to be LEED-certified. Along with the 900 parking spots available for conventional vehicles, the Civic Center’s garage also has additional parking and storage for electric cars and bicycles.

 

AUTOSTADT- WOLFSBURG, GERMANY

Photo Credit: Handelsblatt

Autostadt is German for “Automobile City,” which is a perfect name for this “parking garage” affixed to the Volkswagen factory in Wolfsburg, Germany. Similar to Marina City, the Autostadt features two 20-story car silos. The car silos aren’t just for show either – you can actually select one of the models on display and watch as the robotic platform delivers it from the shelf right to you. Welcome to the future.   

 

PARKHAUS ENGELENSCHANZE - MÜNSTER, GERMANY

Photo Credit: Proctor Cars

Along with the Autostadt, Parkhaus Engelnschanze is another phenomenal German parking structure. Parkhaus Engelenschanze was designed to make its visitors feel comfortable and at ease – as many parking garages. With this in mind, the garage has an all-glass exterior that lets in as much natural light as possible. The peaceful aesthetic is heightened by an inner courtyard complete with a waterfall and a creek.

 

1111 LINCOLN ROAD - MIAMI BEACH, FL

Photo Credit: Pop Sugar

1111 N Lincoln Road has been a staple of Miami tourism ever since its completion in 2010. Designed by Herzog & de Meuron to look like a house of cards, the parking garage has a modernity in its style and can accommodate up to 300 vehicles. 1111 N Lincoln Road has several retail shops at street level and houses a restaurant where you can get a spectacular ocean view.

 

EUREKA CAR PARK - SOUTHBANK, AUSTRALIA

Photo Credit: Mint

The Eureka tower is the tallest building in Melbourne, Australia and is home to one of the truly unique parking garages. Eureka Car Park was designed by graphic designer Alex Peemoeller, who employed a 3-D chalk drawing technique to transform regular directions into visual puzzles. While you may think that these visual puzzles might make for a confusing parking experience, they are all based on colors: Red = out, Green = in, blue = up and yellow = down. Hopefully you can also read too.

 

VERANDA CAR PARK - ROTTERDAM, NETHERLANDS

Photo Credit: M!

Paul de Reiter designed the Veranda Car Park to change the image of large commercial buildings of its kind. Instead of the traditional “block shape” that many buildings and parking structures have, Veranda Car Park has smooth, rounded edges made of aluminum and glass that give it a futuristic look. Veranda Car Park is another parking structure that was designed to ensure that its inhabitants felt safe – the central open area is 16×22 meters, allowing plenty of natural light and fresh air in.

 

The last parking garage on our list is the Herma Parking Building in South Korea. Herma is another parking structure whose sleek design makes it look like something from the future. JOHO architecture designed Herma with over 600 polycarbonate and 900 stainless steel panels to form its luminescent exterior. Herma’s design structure features precision openings spread out across the building. In this way Herma is an innovation in architecture and a reminder about the importance of energy/material consumption.

 

Further Reading

Top 8 Tips for First-Time Car Buyers

Top 8 Tips for First-Time Car Buyers

Buying your first car is a big milestone in life, and if you’re like most people, it will also be the first major investment you make. This means the experience can be both exciting and intimidating. There are a lot of decisions to make, a lot of information you need to know, and a lot of hurdles to jump through on your journey toward car ownership.

Don’t worry, because we’re here to help you formulate a plan of action. Just consult our 8-step guide for buying your first car, which will advise you on financial considerations, choosing the vehicle you want, visiting the dealership, and making the purchase. So take a few deep breaths and get started below.

1.  Determine your budget.

The very first thing you need to do is decide how much money you can spend. Don’t make the mistake of buying a car that is too expensive for your budget, or you will regret it when you are plagued by debt you can’t seem to pay off. In a best-case scenario, you should be able to put down 20% of the total cost at time of purchase and pay off the remainder within two years. As you estimate your budget, don’t forget to account for all additional expenses that will come along with the car, including auto insurance, regular maintenance, gas and unexpected repairs.

 

2.  Learn about your options for loans and financing.

You will most likely have to take out a loan from your bank or get financing from the dealership unless you’re planning to buy a cheap used vehicle. Shop around to find the best option for your needs. You should know your credit score going in, as this will affect the terms of your loan or financing. Also pay attention to the interest rate–you want this to be as low as possible so you don’t end up paying back much more than the original amount you borrowed. If you’d like to finance your vehicle with us, then visit our financing page to fill out an application and get all the information you need.

 

3.  Decide what type of vehicle and what brand you want.

Next, you need to figure out what kind of car you want to buy. Start by ruling out entire vehicle categories that don’t interest you. Do you want a sedan, coupe, hatchback, truck or SUV? Is there a particular brand you would like, such as Toyota or Chevrolet? You also need to consider your transportation needs and what vehicle specifications are most important to you, like seating, storage space, fuel efficiency, towing capacity, off-road capabilities and more. You should try to narrow your options down to two or three vehicles you might like to purchase. Having as short a list as possible will make everything simpler going forward.

 

4.  Thoroughly research the vehicles on your shortlist.

Now that you’ve narrowed your list, you need to conduct further research on your choice picks. You can easily find detailed reviews and specifications for each car online, so familiarize yourself with their pros and cons, and modify your most-wanted list as you see fit based on the new information. You should especially research the fair market price for each vehicle, because knowing this amount will help you be sure to get a good deal when you buy. If you’re planning to get a used car, you should request a full history report and choose one that has been dealer certified if possible. Read our article on how to inspect a used car for more tips on buying used, and check out our used car page to see what’s available at our dealership.

 

5.  Visit the dealership on a weekday.

When you’re ready to take a trip to the dealership, do so on a weekday. It will be a lot less crowded than it is on Saturday and Sunday, so the salespeople will be able to give you more attention and provide better service. At the dealership, it’s important to stay focused on the vehicles you vetted beforehand. Don’t get distracted by other makes and models, as this will only prolong the process and make it more difficult for you to make a final decision.

 

6.  Test drive only a few vehicles and bring friends.

It’s always a good idea to test drive a car before you commit to buying it. Refer to our test drive article for suggestions on how to prepare and what you should pay attention to during the drive. In addition to these tips, we advise you to avoid testing too many vehicles, because this will make it harder to differentiate between them when it comes time to choose. This is yet another reason why it will benefit you to keep short your list of cars up for consideration. Finally, bring along friends or family on your test drives so you can get second and third opinions on each car’s performance.

 

7.  Negotiate the price.

The sticker price on the car is one thing–the sale price is another. Negotiating the price is a big part of buying a car, and the salesperson with whom you speak will anticipate this. Be confident and persistent. Don’t be afraid to ask multiple times if they can offer a discount or, alternatively, a free upgrade or some add-ons. Remember that you are ultimately in control of the transaction because you always have the option to walk away. Most salespeople will negotiate if it means the difference between a sale and no sale.

 

8.  Above all, don’t rush into a decision.

This may be the most important item on our list. As we said at the beginning of the article, a car is a huge investment. Under no circumstances should you hurry through the process or allow yourself to be pushed by anyone–salespeople, friends, family, coworkers, whoever. Begin the process knowing it will be slow, consider all your options, and shop around for the best deal. You shouldn’t make a final decision unless you feel comfortable with it.

We hope this guide helps you make your first car buying experience a good one. Ideally, it should be more fun than scary. You should do alright if you’re prepared and know what to expect. If you’re looking to buy from us (and we hope you are), you can begin your search for new or used vehicles right here on our website.

Top 8 Tips for First-Time Car Buyers