5 Tips on choosing your next SUV

Posted on 29. Jan, 2015 by .

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Many people are buying SUV’s now more than ever. In the past, you had two choices when it came to a bigger vehicle: a pickup for hauling gear and a van for hauling people. There was also a third choice in the station wagon, which could conceivably do both and was a favorite of soccer moms and huge families with dogs.

Today, the landscape has changed. SUV’s rule the roost, with a combination of truck-like power for hauling gear and enough space to seat 5 – 7 people. Bigger, taller and heavier than cars, SUV’s are also a lot safer because of the taller ride height, higher ground clearance and more crumple zones. Larger and wider tires coupled with AWD or FWD also allows it to grip the road better, making the ride safer especially in snow and rain.

If you’re in the market for an SUV, here are a few tips you can use to come out on top and choose the best one to suit your needs.

  1. Choose the Right Size

When it comes to SUV’s, there are many sizes to choose from. Larger SUV’s can tow the most gear (up to 8,500 lbs) and have the most cargo space, but will hurt your wallet at the pump. Mid-size SUV’s are probably the best combination of size, power and fuel economy, while small and compact SUV’s get better mileage but have cramped interiors and smaller cargo space. When choosing an SUV, asses your needs first.

  1. Safety First

This is one of the reasons you should consider when buying an SUV. It’s why you’re getting one in the first place, right? The overall safety of any vehicle is very important, so check its safety rating first. Five Stars is the best and the highest. Also, look for SUV’s that have loads of safety features like dual air bags, side air bags, ample crumple zones, higher ground clearance, all wheel drive, hillstart assist, electronic brake force distribution, stability and traction control and a rearview camera among others.

  1. Space, and lots of it

Another reason to get an SUV is the loads of space you’ll get. Cargo space isn’t created equal, I’m afraid. Just like people, some SUV’s have bigger and more generous rear cargo space than the others. Check the specs online or visit a local dealer first and compare each and every model. If the cargo space is car-like, then scratch it off your list and just get a hatchback.

  1. Seating Capacity

If you’ve got a big family and seating is important to you, there are SUV models that have a flexible third row that has folding seats for extra passengers. Fold it back and you got space for gear. I personally like this option because it gives you the flexibility to add more people on trips where vehicles are limited. Although, when the seats are in use, you’ll be sacrificing your cargo space. Thank god for roof racks!

  1. Time to D-V8

Most SUV’s come with a 6-cylinder engine, which is powerful enough for most tasks, but still guzzles gas. Some mid-size and large SUV’s come with V8 engines, which are smooth and powerful, meant for towing heavy gear, but also suffer from poor gas mileage. Your best bet would be a four cylinder SUV equipped with a turbo. A perfect example would be the Land Rover LR2, which has 2.0L L4 Turbo DOHC 16-valve engine that churns out 240 horses and 250 lbs of torque. Compare that to the naturally aspirated Ford Explorer 3.5 V6, which pumps out 290 horses and 255 lbs or torque. The LR2 also gets better mileage than a standard V6.

Final Thoughts

When choosing an SUV, always factor in maintenance costs, insurance and real cost of ownership. Remember that you’re buying a bigger automobile, and it naturally comes with a bigger price tag and higher insurance premiums. What you’ll be getting in return is a better and more versatile ride that can do anything a car can do and can go anywhere a car can’t.

 

 

 

 

 

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Catch a Jaguar by the tail: Two cars under 30k that can beat the Jaguar XF

Posted on 26. Jan, 2015 by .

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In the realm of high-end automobiles, one name is synonymous to style, luxury and performance: Jaguar. Jaguar Cars was founded in 1922 as the Swallow Sidecar Company, originally making motorcycle sidecars before moving on the build passenger cars.

Jaguar made its name by producing iconic sports cars like the Jaguar XK120, XK140, XK150 and the Jaguar E-Type that were all successful in international motorsport competitions. The tradition of building fast and beautiful cars continue to this day with the latest crop of Jaguar cars, namely the Jaguar XK Series Coupe XKR-S and the Jaguar F-Type Coupe R.

These monsters of British engineering are super fast, with both of them sharing the same 550-horsepower, 502 lb. ft torque  5.0L V8 Supercharged DOHC engine (32-valve for XKR-S and 24-valve for the F-Type Coupe R) that can blow the doors off my Prius. Both of them are priced as big as their engines however, which makes them a lofty dream for most people.

Enter the XF

If you’re really in love with the big cat, but cant pony up $140,000 to own the top tier Jaguars, there is a model out there for you: the Jaguar XF. The XF is a beautiful car in its own right, with sleek curves, a low profile and the iconic Jaguar front fascia. This car is a looker as well as a keeper. It comes in five trims, the XF 2.0T, XF 2.0T Luxury, XF 3.0 AWD, XF 3.0 AWD Luxury and the uber top of the line XF 3.0 AWD Sport. For the sake of brevity, I’ll leave out the last three trims because of the price difference.

The base model XF’s, the XF 2.0T and the XF 2.0T Luxury share the same 2.0L L4 Turbo DOHC 16-valve engine that pumps out 240-horsepower and 251-lb. ft torque. The engine and overall performance is pretty adequate due to the turbo they slapped on the engine. If it weren’t for the turbo though, the story would’ve been really different.

Being a Jaguar, expect even the base models to be well appointed with accessories and leather trim. Alloy wheels, good safety features, heated seats and an optional navigation system await new XF owners. If you’re planning on getting one of the 2.0L XF’s though, you have to be ready to face these two cars that are way below the base XF’s price tag, but can match and even surpass the XF horses to horses, and then some.

Ford Focus ST

A personal favorite of many enthusiasts on the track and off, the Ford Focus ST is one beast of a hot hatch. Powered by a Turbocharged direct-Injection 2.0L EcoBoost Engine that produces 252-horsepower and 270 lb. ft tourque, the Focus ST also has race tuned suspension, track-proven front/rear disk brakes and precise handling, making this car one of the best high-performance cars under $30K. Don’t be surprised to see a Focus ST nipping at your heels and threatening to pass you on the freeway.

 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 R-Spec

A true blue Korean sports car, the rear-wheel drive Genesis 3.8 R-Spec has a 3.8L 24-valve V6 DOHC GDI with D-CVVT that pumps out 348-horsepower and 295-lb. ft torque. Hell, the Genesis could even give the 3.0L versions of the XF a run for their money. Now, this car can definitely catch (and pass) the 2.0L XF on the freeway. Aside from having a bigger engine, the Genesis R-Spec is also a little bit lighter than the XF with a curb weight of around 3,515lbs. This actually is a bit of a shocker because I thought the Genesis would weigh less, being a coupe and all that.

Final Thoughts

For the most part, owning a fine piece of British engineering like the Jaguar is more of a privilege, and if you want that privilege, you have to pay top dollar for it. Practical? Not really. Makes economic sense? Not by a long shot. But if you have the money to burn, then by all means get one, but be sure to get the top of the line 3.0L AWD Sport. When it comes to luxury, either go big or go home.

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6 Ways to save even more Money this Year  

Posted on 22. Jan, 2015 by .

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One of my new year’s resolutions this year was to save even more money. How I was going to do it sparked a never ending debate among those close to me. There were millions of suggestions on how to do it, but also a lot of negativity because they thought I would turn into a hermit and live like a miser. Some actually felt sorry for me, because I wasn’t going to be able to “live the good life”, whatever that means.

The thing is, living the good life is open to interpretation. It may be popping champagne bottles and having a table full of models for some, while for others, it can be a quiet picnic with the family or even a solitary trip to the beach with nothing but a towel, a drink and a good book. Whatever floats your boat, mate.

Anyway, I figured that if I could do just a few things to save more money, everything will add up eventually (it always does). The trick here is that you should be saving money without you knowing it. I know, it’s a little tricky, but with some practice and a little creativity you’ll be laughing all the way to your piggy bank.

  1. Resurrect your Piggy Bank

Dig up your old piggy bank or make a new one from a used plastic bottle. Place it next to the place where you dump your wallet, keys and loose change. Every time you come home, check your pocket for loose change and drop it in the piggy bank. Scour your house and car for loose change and drop it in as well. Check under the sofa, in drawers, in your other pants. Every cent should go in. Don’t open it and use the contents until it’s full. You’ll be surprised at how quickly loose change adds up.

  1. DIY

You can save a lot of money by adopting a do-it-yourself attitude. For small appliance repair, do some basic troubleshooting before calling in the repairman. Everything’s online anyway, just Google the make and model of your appliance and see if you’re up to the task. I repair my own computers and mobile phones at home using the internet and stuff I can get cheap online, which saves me a ton of money. If I can handle basic repairs, so can you.

  1. Shop Online

You can save a ton of money shopping online. Some of the merchants aren’t required to pay and slap on taxes, especially if they’re in a tax exempt locale. Some merchants have direct deals with suppliers and have no overhead, so they can pass on items cheap. I do 90% of my Christmas shopping online, with eBay as my primary shopping spot. Save money on gasoline, time and the hassle of long checkout lines. Just be sure to set aside the exact amount of your purchase and keep it in an envelope for the next billing cycle.

  1. The 10% Rule

Set aside 10% of your monthly income. Talk to your employer if they can arrange this for you, or if you’re self-employed, talk to your banker if they can arrange a separate savings account for you that automatically sets aside 10% from of your income and deposits it into your savings account. Set, forget and watch it grow.

  1. Go Green

Switch to compact LED lighting. Unplug appliances that are not in use. Invest in eco-friendly appliances that don’t require much power to operate. Replace old and obsolete electronics. Re-purpose your old stuff. Collect rainwater and use it in the garden. If you have the resources, invest in renewable energy to power your lights at night. There’s a whole lot more we can do for the planet and for ourselves. It’s never too late to green.

  1. Sell your stuff

If you use eBay for shopping, use it to sell your stuff. I’ve personally sold a lot of my old stuff on eBay. From old iPods, cell phones, shoes, PS3 Games and even used clothes. Just make sure that what you’re selling still has value and still works. You can sell a broken item for parts, for sure. You just have to let the buyers know this. Follow eBay’s rules on selling because they can be pretty strict. If selling online doesn’t appeal to you, you can always have a yard sale.

I hope these tips allow you to save more this year, so you can reward yourself with a good investment or a much needed vacation. There are countless other ways to save. All you need to do is be a little creative with your savings and your spending habits. Good luck!

 

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Bilinguals have more fun: The Advantages of learning another language

Posted on 22. Jan, 2015 by .

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Being able to speak two or more languages fluently has always been on the top of my to-do list. The problem with to-do lists is that the top usually gets bypassed by the easier tasks at the bottom. Come on! I know I’m not the only one so don’t judge me.

Anyway, learning another language has a lot of benefits and advantages. There’s also some truth to the statement above that bilinguals do have more fun.

The World is Your Oyster

Imagine speaking Spanish and going on a tour of Latin America. You’d be better equipped to handle any situation because you can leisurely walk up to the locals and talk to them. Get the real lowdown on the best shops, restaurants and bars that no guide book could ever show you. Confidently take directions.  You would know everything that’s happening around you because you can understand everyone. You can confidently explore everything the country has to offer, because the language barrier has been smashed and you’re free to roam. You can haggle better, too.

Experience and Enjoy new Cultures

The world is more connected now than it has ever been. The real sad part is that not many people get to enjoy other cultures because we have a hard time understanding one another. If you’re bilingual, the doors are wide open for you to explore other countries and the many cultures that make us all unique. Imagine attending a cinema festival in Korea, or watching a play in France…

Improved Brain Health and Memory

The brain is often called a muscle and just like any muscle, it needs exercise to stay in shape. Learning a second language helps in that regard because the brain undergoes yet another bout with etymology, structure, meaning and distinct rules. As the brain gets better at the new language, reading aptitude increases, as well as negotiating skills and problem solving. Bilinguals often switch between two languages, always translating between the two, which keeps the brain sharp.

Studies have shown that people who speak two or more languages have a better chance to stave off the effects of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Bilinguals showed early signs of Alzheimer’s at age 75, while monolinguals began to suffer effects at 71.

Give your Career the Edge it needs

In companies, especially ones with offices abroad, bilinguals are paid more than double compared to the regular desk jockeys. Why double? Well, it’s like paying for two employees, but only one health benefit. It’s a win-win for both parties if you ask me. So get a leg up on your competition and learn a new language. Your company won’t need the services of a website translator anymore because you can do it in-house. Your career prospects will be better and you’ll be in demand more.

 Be Awesome at Multitasking

Multitasking is awesome. Imagine being able to juggle 2-3 things at once! But not all of us are cut out to do this Jedi mind trick. I have a monolingual friend who can’t talk while texting because his brain can’t’ handle the extracurricular activity of talking while he formulates words into text. He’s smart as a whip, mind you, but his brain is wired to take in one thing at a time. My French speaking girlfriend on the other hand, can talk and text with no problems whatsoever.

Improved first Language

As you study a new language, you get to do a lot of introspection on your own native tongue. Sentence structure and grammar are more likely to improve because you will juggle between the two languages to check and see how the sentences are going to sound. Think of it as an auto-correct feature when you type.

Final Word

Learning a new language takes skill, patience and practice. But when you do master another language, it’s a skill you can use to your advantage anywhere you choose to go. It’s a life skill, because it will improve your life in more ways than one. You’ll be healthier, make friends across the globe and have a better understanding of the world and all the events that unfold around you better.

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Health is Wealth: Why staying fit will save you money

Posted on 21. Jan, 2015 by .

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Gandhi and Emerson were right.

Being healthy and staying fit can save you a fortune on medical bills and expenses. The money spent on medicine and doctor’s appointments can easily be saved if only our bodies would stay perfect and disease free forever. But reality does bite, and bites your bum hard. Really hard! Ask anyone who’s gone through a serious illness and you’ll understand why. It drains you emotionally, physically, mentally and financially.

The answer? Keep yourself fit! It’s actually easier than you think if you follow the few simple steps to being fit and leading a healthy lifestyle. Let’s break it down.

An Apple a day…

The first step to staying fit and being healthy is your diet. You see, a vast majority of us are eating our way six feet under. Fast food and junk food rule the day for many unfortunate souls too busy to cook a healthy meal, let alone shop for healthy ingredients. But having a healthy diet has many proven benefits, and one of them is making you adept at dodging illness. This is why diet is so important to being healthy: it all starts in the gut!

Invest in healthy food choices like fish, turkey, chicken, fruits and veggies. Instead of a donut, eat an apple. Instead of pork ribs, eat turkey breast. Instead of soda, load up on fresh fruit juice or drink coffee. Think of this as an investment, where you get your return instantly. You’ll feel better, get sick less, look younger, have more energy and live a longer life. You’ll save on medical bills and trips to the doctor and as your body adjusts to clean eating, you may stumble upon the secret to living longer.

Strong Body, Toned Spirit

Schwarzenegger said that exercise conditions the body while training tones the spirit and gives us an outlet for suppressed energy brought about by stress. Makes sense, if you really think about it. When you exercise, you have to be in the moment, focused on every movement, training your body to achieve perfect form each and every time. When you just go through the motions when you workout, not really being in the moment, your progress will suffer and you won’t get anything from your workout but soreness and sweat.

When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins, our bodies natural pain reliever, mood enhancer and sedative. This feel good chemical can help with depression and uplifts your mood. This is where the term “runner’s high” comes from, because exercise just feels so damn good after you do it. You’ll feel like you can take on the world.

I’m not saying you go all out and try to emulate the Governator’s training routine, but you should at least have some form of activity that gets your heart rate up and about. 30 minutes a day will do wonders for your health. You can walk, jog, run or jump rope. You can visit the weight room 3 – 4 times a week, or use your own bodyweight. Everything you need is already provided for and most of it is free. Running in the park is free, and using your own bodyweight is also free.

The Bottom Line

Doing a 180 when it comes to health and fitness isn’t that hard. If you still need to wear body shapers, you may want to consider eating right and working out regularly to trim down your waistline and shed the extra weight. Your health is the best investment you can make, and you can never go wrong investing in yourself. So, what are you waiting for? Get off the couch and move your bottom!

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