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Rain, rain, go away!

May 19, 2010

In light of today’s horrible rainy, stormy weather, we thought it would be appropriate to pass along some tips for driving safely in the rain. After all, we’re all about cars here at Car Country, right?

First, if you can, stay home! (Although if it’s a workday, your boss probably won’t look kindly on you calling in ‘rain’.) Driving in the rain, especially torrential rain like we’ve been having, is incredibly dangerous. It only takes a few inches of water to wash your car right off the road. If you’re trying to drive into a puddle, go slowly. If the water is more than a few inches high, turn around and find another route. Not only is it hazardous, but water can cause major damage to your car’s electrical system. Plus, bright lightning can temporarily blind drivers, which is never a good thing.

Never drive at a high rate of speed when roads are wet and slick.  Slippery terrain makes it more difficult to stop, no matter how awesome your brakes are. Try to use brakes as little as possible, and slow down by letting off the accelerator. Hydroplaning is a very real threat when driving on slick streets, so it’s important to go slowly and be careful. Don’t follow anyone too closely, either.

Water tends to puddle in the outer lanes, so try to drive in the middle lane, if possible. When driving next to large vehicles, like big rigs or buses, keep your distance. They tend to spray a LOT, and the sheets of water splashing across your windshield will reduce your visibility to zero.

Make sure to keep your headlights on at all times! This is the only way to guarantee that other drivers can see you during times of low visibility. This is especially important if you drive a light-colored vehicle, like white or silver.

Lastly, always keep up on your car’s maintenance. Make sure you always have windshield wipers in good working order, and your brakes and tires are always in good condition. Stay safe out there! And remember, you can always call in ‘rain’!

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Stranded? Be smart!

May 11, 2010

If you’re lucky enough to have never broken down on the side of the road, I applaud you. And warn you: your luck will probably run out sooner than later. Breaking down and waiting for help on the side of the road is no fun. But if you take a few precautionary steps and are prepared, it won’t be so bad. And don’t think that you only need these things when you’re on a long road trip; people often break down near their homes. I personally had a blowout just last weekend less than 15 miles from home. Boy, was I frustrated!

Make sure the manual for your vehicle is in the glove compartment. It’s full of handy information, and maybe you can figure out what’s wrong with your car; it helps to be informed. Don’t ever leave home without your cell phone and a car charger. If you forget it, you’ll break down, it’s Murphy’s Law. The last time I locked my keys in my car, I was four blocks from home, and didn’t have my cell phone, which left me walking through a semi-scary area in the dark while wearing a ridiculous ensemble of a short skirt and Ugg boots. If you have AAA, good for you! Keep your AAA card and contact info handy; they are lifesavers. It’s also good to keep a pen and paper in your glove box with all of this stuff, too; you never know when you’ll need to write down a phone number or an address in case of an emergency.

In your trunk, there are several items that are good to have on hand. Flares or a reflective triangle are good to have. It’s scary to be stuck on the shoulder; you need to pull off the road as much as possible into the grass. If you can’t make sure you set up the flares or triangle so that passing motorists can see you and steer clear. (And just beware, nobody is going to stop and ask if you need help in this day and age, as sad as that is. So be ready for a long, boring wait.)

You will also want to keep a couple of extra blankets and coats in the trunk, in case you get stuck during the winter time. Other essential gear includes a flashlight, first aid kit, car jack, battery-operated radio (and batteries!) and an ice scraper. Make sure you have jumper cables, too. Also, keep a supply of bottled water, and some non-perishable food items, like energy bars or beef jerky.

Last but not least, have something to do! I think that being stuck with nothing to keep me occupied is the worst. So keep an extra book, or some playing cards or something with your emergency roadside kit, just in case. And if you think this sounds like too much work, you can always purchase a ready-made kit from AAA, which is available online or from a local retailer.

Be smart, be prepared!

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The Big ‘D’, and I don’t mean ‘Dallas’

May 6, 2010

Want to hear something ironic? The Bible Belt is has the second-highest divorce rate in the country, following Nevada (hello, Britney Spears and drive-thru wedding chapels). Oklahoma falls within the top five states with the highest divorce rates. This is a very sad statistic. And while the failure of a once-happy union is bad enough, there are several other aspects of divorce which are just as crappy. Like bad credit.

So you said “I Do” and everything was peachy for awhile, maybe you had a couple of kids, maybe you didn’t. Something went wrong, and now you’re headed for divorce court. And your credit will go right down the tubes, unless you know what to do.

Get a copy of your credit report from each of the three credit agencies, TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. Make sure you read over it carefully, and note any mistakes that you see, because they do happen (a lot). If anything is incorrect, dispute it as quickly as possible. Notify the credit agencies of the mistake; they will mail you a form to fill out, explaining the situation. If there’s something on the report that reflects negatively on you, and you really didn’t mean to mess up, you may write a letter and tell them what happened; this shows the creditor that you really ARE a good person, and that you’re trying to fix your mistakes. (This happened to me: when I graduated college, my roommates and I canceled all of our services – phone, cable, electric, etc., and happily moved on with our grown-up lives. Or so we thought: when I got my first credit report about four years later, it showed that I had an outstanding bill owed to Southwestern Bell; somehow it didn’t get canceled. Since it was in my name, it went on my credit report as a boo-boo. No amount of begging and pleading would fix it; I ended up writing a letter to the credit agencies, and paying the $64 bill. It’s finally gone, but it haunted me for years. But I’m not bitter toward Southwestern Bell. Really.)

If you’ve got any random credit cards that you don’t need now that you’re on your way to being single, get rid of them. I had a zillion cards for different stores at the mall, since my ex-husband made good money and I liked to shop. But with him out of the picture, I still tried to shop. And then realized that I couldn’t pay all of the bills on my own. And what did that do to my credit? Dragged it way down. Know how many random store credit cards I have now? One. Which means I owe ONE store, and not eight. It’s much easier that way.

If there are extra frivolous expenses that you know you can’t afford on your own, nix them. I had a subscription to “People” magazine. That’s what, $100 per year? My feeling was that since it was such a small amount, I could put it on the back burner. My household could still run without paying the “People” people; they wouldn’t shut off my electricity and I would still have hot water. What I didn’t count on was the “People” people turning me over to a collection agency for the measly 100 bucks. And guess what? It showed up on my credit report as a delinquency. I can’t stress this enough: pay your bills on time!

If you mess up your credit, whether it’s due to divorce or something else, Car Country can still help you get into a reliable used vehicle. That’s why we’re here. It’s more ideal to keep your credit score high, and don’t goof on making your payments (they WILL come after you!). But if something goes wrong in that perfect world, Car Country is still here to help. We know you need a car, and we can make that happen!

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Woman? Car Maintenance? Yes, You Can!

May 3, 2010

So you’ve come to Car Country, and you’ve bought a reliable used car. Now, you have to take care of it! It’s vital to maintain your vehicle so that it will last you for many years to come. Although if you don’t take care of it, and you need another car, you can always come back to Car Country!  A lot of these things seem routine, especially if you’re a man. Let’s face it, women are not as adept at auto repair. (I’m a woman, so I can say this. I have routinely driven my car without oil, without an oil cap, with the emergency brake on, and with a loose belt that made a horrible noise, yet I kept driving. Please keep in mind that this is over the course of 15 years of driving, and I’ve gotten a bit better. But just a tiny bit.)

Seriously, maintenance is number one when it comes to keeping your vehicle in good shape. First, it’s important to get a tune-up once a year. It’s like going to the doctor for a yearly physical. It’s important, I promise. Take the car to a local dealership or auto repair center that you trust. Have them check the hoses, fluids, plugs, filters and battery. This is a good way to know if something may go wrong; it’s easier to stay ahead of any problems you might have.

You MUST get your oil changed every 3000 miles. If you don’t, it spells serious trouble for your engine. It’s a good idea to check your oil every time you get gas. And if you happen to be checking the oil, or adding oil yourself, do NOT talk on your cell phone. You WILL forget to put the cap back on, and you WILL drive away. And when a man finds out, he WILL laugh at you. Yes, I’ve done this in the past two years. Twice. If you’re one of those people who like to take your dog with you for car rides (like me), don’t take the dog to get your oil changed. They don’t like the noise that the compressor thingamajig makes, and your pup will freak out, causing much laughter on the part of the service technicians. If your oil light comes on while you’re driving it, get your oil changed immediately. If you have to wait another day, buy some oil at the store and add it yourself to tide you over. (But don’t talk on the phone.)

Keep your tires at the right pressure. It makes a difference with your alignment, the life of your tires, and even your gas mileage. If you don’t know how to check your pressure, ask. First you buy a tire gauge. You can get the old-school “pencil” gauges at Walmart for less than a dollar. To check the pressure, remove the cap on the tire, place the gauge over the opening and push down. The lever will pop out of the gauge, and then just read it. It’s really easy, I just learned how myself. If that’s too overwhelming, go to an auto parts store, and act pathetic and ask. This generally works better for women than men.

While you’re checking the pressure in your tires, check your tread, using the penny test. Place a penny between the treads. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, you need new tires. Or to save money for a short time, have the front tires moved to the back, if the back tires are in better shape, which they should be, because front tires wear out faster than back tires. It’s good to have your tires rotated once a year, as well. You can go to a tire shop, like Hesselbein or Hibdon, or you can go to Walmart or Atwoods for tires.

I hope these tips are helpful to you. Trust me, if you do something silly, you aren’t the first. I guarantee you I’ve done it, and while I may have gotten laughed at, I survived, and so will you.

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Crummy credit? Let’s fix it!

April 30, 2010

Here at Car Country, we are used to people with bad credit. That’s what we do! Our job is to get you into a clean, reliable vehicle with low monthly payments, even if you’re credit history isn’t the best. So you’re purchasing a car from us, and you love us, but you want to get to work on rebuilding your credit. Let us tell you how.

The first step is to get a copy of your credit report from all three credit agencies: Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. You can get a free report from places like www.freecreditreport.com (tell your friends, tell your dad, tell your mom!). It may not seem free because you have to give them your credit card information, and they charge you a small fee (around $14.95) but if you call immediately and cancel their “service,” you will get the fee refunded in a week or so. So it really is free, it just may not seem like it right then.

Next, look over all of the report carefully. Almost everyone will have a mistake on their report, so read slowly! It is also interesting to see what’s on your report; you may have a strike against you that you don’t even know about. (This is a real deal; it happened to me.) You can send a letter to the company that is saying you didn’t pay them if you feel it’s in error, or it was an honest mistake, and explain the situation; this helps you look like a good person and they’ll be more willing to work with you to remedy the situation.

So you’ve made some mistakes, and you are now looking at a list of them in black and white. Seems overwhelming, and you’re kicking yourself now for paying bills late, or whatever you did to mess up your credit. (Note: late payments can stay on your credit report for seven years, bankruptcies for 10). Not to worry, it’s never too late. Sadly, only time can fix the situation, but that’s okay. Time is one thing that everyone has, so let’s get going on fixing your credit!

Pay your bills on time! This is the number one way to fix your credit. Improve your habits, and your credit score will slowly go up. Find a system that works for you, and stick with it. At our house, we use a dry erase board, listing each bill, the amount, and the day that it’s due. Once it’s paid, we check it off the list. We do this every month, and we can easily see what’s been paid and what hasn’t.

If you have 20 different credit cards, it’s time to quit that! There is nobody in the world that needs that many cards; the recommended number is two to four. A dangerous habit is opening multiple cards for stores. You know how you go to say, Target, and they offer you a 10% discount if you open a Target card? That’s how they suck you in. Because what they don’t tell you is that while you’ll save your 10% (big deal), you must put that purchase on your Target card. One way around this is to open the card, charge it, and then make an immediate in-store payment. But honestly, it’s never a good idea to open all those accounts. There was a time when I had J. Crew, Old Navy, Express, Target, Lowe’s…and three out of five of those were used maybe two times. In the meantime, I made a late payment here and there, and what did I have? Strikes on my credit, all for a stupid pair of Old Navy flip-flops. So next time they ask you if you would like to save 10%, just say, “No, thanks!”

Immediately close all of the accounts that you don’t use. Cutting up a card is a good start, but that doesn’t mean you’ve closed the account. Make sure you contact the company and close it (your credit report will then read “Closed by Consumer,” which is what you want it to say.) If you have a large number of cards, close them out slowly over the period of several months, not all at once. Start making your payments (ON TIME!). Your goal is to pay off the card with the highest amount of interest first. Put any extra cash that you can toward that bill, and pay the minimum on the others. Once you pay that off, use the money you were using toward that bill and pay it toward the next highest-interest card, and so on. Eventually you’ll pay them off, and your credit will start to repair itself. One last thing is to open a savings account at your bank. This shows creditors that you’re serious about saving and that you have money to pay your debts, if necessary.

Hang in there, and you will eventually get your credit back in good standing. But in the meantime, if you need a car, come see us at any of our three Car Country locations, and we will be happy to help you out!

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Buy Here Pay Here? How?

April 28, 2010

You’ve got bad credit. So what? Maybe you’ve been divorced, maybe you’ve made one too many late payments. Either way, it doesn’t make you a bad person; we all make mistakes. It can hurt your chances of getting a car or a loan or a house….but not always. Buy Here Pay Here (BHPH) car dealerships, like Car Country, can you help you get in a car today.

The difference with a BHPH dealership is that we skip the third party, like the bank. All of our financing is done on-site, through the dealership. You simply arrange the loans and make the payment through us. Sounds easy, right? Sure is. Some traditional dealerships are beginning to offer BHPH options, but they don’t usually advertise it. At a traditional dealership, you will go through all of the hooplah, test-driving, so on and so forth, and THEN talk about financing. At a BHPH dealership like ours, we get all of that money and credit talk out of the way first. Then we’ll show you which cars will work for you in your particular situation. Makes sense to us!

There are also a few benefits to going to a BHPH dealer. Mainly, it gives folks with poor credit a chance to get a car! It’s hard to pay bills without a job, and it’s hard to get a job without a car. And it’s hard to get a car with bad credit. We’ll help you. Another bonus is the chance to rebuild your credit. Most times, if you make your payments in a timely manner, the BHPH dealer will report that to the credit agencies, and you can re-establish yourself. Lastly, BHPH dealers are more forgiving in the trade-ins they take. They understand that not everyone can afford to buy a new car every couple of years, and they are more willing to take older models in trade.

If you have more questions about your BHPH options, please call us at Car Country and speak with Roger Gibbs, our Credit Cruncher. We will be happy to help you in any way we can.

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Hello from Car Country

April 27, 2010

Hello out there, Car Country fans! We’re pleased to announce the launch of our social networking campaign, so that we may reach all of you who like to play on your computers while pretending to work. (It’s okay, we won’t tell on you!) You’ve obviously found our blog, so we’d like to welcome you! Please feel free to leave comments; whether you like what you’ve read, or if you have a problem, we’d love to hear about it.

Car Country now has a Facebook fan page, too, so please find us and learn all about what we’re doing at your favorite Buy Here Pay Here dealership. You can find our Facebook page here:  http://tinyurl.com/2489pfy

You can also follow us on Twitter @carcountry. And of course, you can always visit our website and check out our online inventory and fill out private credit applications at http://www.carcountrycars.com

Car Country has three locations to better serve you. We have dealerships in Bixby, Broken Arrow, and Sapulpa. Our salespeople are always ready to help you find the vehicle you need, and Rog, the Credit Cruncher, can help you with your credit problems. As we like to say, Car Country is “Financing your future, not your past.” Come visit us and help us get into your new car today!