Archive for the ‘Auto’ Category

AAA: New Cars Lose $3,000 Annually from this Single Expense

September 13th, 2018 by AAA Public Affairs

Drivers should keep resale value top of mind when buying a new vehicle

ORLANDO, Fla. (Sep. 13, 2018) – AAA’s 2018 Your Driving Costs study reveals the largest expense associated with purchasing a new car is something many drivers fail to consider – depreciation. In fact, it accounts for almost 40 percent of the cost of owning a new vehicle – more than $3,000 per year – and is influenced by a number of factors, including shifting consumer preferences. AAA urges car buyers to think about both market trends and length of ownership when shopping for their next vehicle purchase. 

“New vehicles offer the latest designs, cutting-edge technologies and warranties that offer peace of mind,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “But, car owners that like to change vehicles frequently should be thinking about the resale value – not just the purchase price – when choosing their next ride.”

Additional Resources

AAA’s annual analysis found demand for sedans has slipped as American appetite shifts to SUVs and pickup trucks. As a result, depreciation costs of these once-popular vehicles increased up to 13 percent as compared to last year. Electric and hybrid vehicles, however, have seen a gain in popularity with 20 percent of Americans saying they will likely go electric for their next vehicle purchase, up from 15 percent the previous year. This year, these vehicles also saw a dip in depreciation and offer many cost benefits such as lower repair and maintenance bills, making going green a more affordable choice than in years past.

Buyers often only give priority to purchase price and monthly payment when choosing a new car, sometimes selecting a vehicle based on the best deal available. The length of car ownership, however, is of equal importance. Consumers who plan to keep a vehicle for only a few years should be cautious of deep discounts and incentives offered by automakers and dealers. These are often designed to sell less popular models and directly influence depreciation. Low down payments and extended finance terms can also have a similar effect. Stretching a car loan over five, six or even seven years may be an effective way to lower payments, but owners may quickly find themselves owing more than the vehicle is worth.

Leasing is similarly affected since payments are based in part on the projected residual value of the car at the end of the lease, serving as a good indicator of which models experience higher or lower depreciation. Since resale value is not a factor at the end of the lease period, buyers who prefer less popular models or only want a vehicle for a short time, may consider leasing a more viable option.

“The secret to minimizing depreciation costs?” continued Nielsen. “Keep your car for a long time and keep it well-maintained or even consider buying a quality, pre-owned vehicle.”

AAA’s Your Driving Costs found the average cost to own and operate a new vehicle in 2018 is $8,849 per year. The figure is calculated based on the cost of fuel, maintenance, repairs, insurance, license/registration/taxes, depreciation and loan interest. The study examined 45 top-selling 2018 model-year vehicles across the following nine categories.

Vehicle Type Annual Cost*
Small Sedan $6,777
Hybrid $7,485
Small SUV $7,869
Electric Vehicle $8,384
Medium Sedan $8,866
Minivan $9,677
Medium SUV $9,697
Large Sedan $9,804
Pickup Truck $10,215
Average $8,849

*Based on 15,000 miles driven annually

While the latest technology, style and options make them attractive to car buyers, a new car may not be the most economical choice for some buyers. Vehicle owners looking for alternatives to new car ownership or ways to minimize their operating costs should consider the following:

  • Buy (gently) used – By driving a pre-owned vehicle in good condition, ownership costs are significantly lower. A safe, reliable vehicle can be found at an attractive price point.
  • Fuel responsibly – Avoid wasting money on premium grade gasoline unless your vehicle specifically requires it and, if you’re one of the 20 percent of Americans considering an electric car, these vehicles offer lower fuel and maintenance costs.
  • Show your car some love – It sounds counterintuitive, but spending money on routine maintenance can actually save you money in the end. To keep engines running cleaner and longer, consider switching to synthetic oil and upgrading to a higher quality fuel TOP TIER™ gasoline.
  • Slow down – When gas prices are high, small changes in the way you drive can make a big difference.

AAA’s Your Driving Costs study employs a proprietary methodology to analyze the costs of owning and operating a new vehicle in the United States, using data from a variety of sources, including Vincentric LLC. Additional information and detailed driving costs, including those for fuel, maintenance, repairs, insurance, license/registration/taxes, depreciation and finance charges can be found at NewsRoom.AAA.com or AAA.com/YourDrivingCosts.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 59 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Motorists can map a route, identify gas prices, find discounts, book a hotel and access AAA roadside assistance with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

 

AAA: Ride-Hailing Twice the Cost of Car Ownership

August 21st, 2018 by AAA Public Affairs

ORLANDO, Fla. (Aug. 21, 2018) – Ride-hailing services are a popular and convenient transportation option, but a new AAA analysis shows they are not a cost-effective replacement for vehicle ownership. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, the average driver in an urban area – the only setting in which using these services are a practical full-time transportation option – drives 10,841 miles per year. While urban drivers travel fewer miles than those living in smaller towns or rural areas, relying on ride-hailing services as a primary mode of transportation would cost $20,118 annually. This equates to more than twice the cost of owning a personal vehicle, even when factoring in the expense of fuel, insurance, parking and the vehicle itself.

Additional Resources

“Whether you own a vehicle or not, ride-hailing services are a convenient transportation option,” said John Nielsen, managing director, Automotive Engineering and Repair. “However, with the average American city-dweller driving nearly 11,000 miles per year, a personal vehicle is still the more cost-effective choice.”

For the study, AAA analyzed the costs of ride-hailing services (including the use of an occasional rental car) in 20 major urban areas. Based on the average number of miles traveled by city-dwellers, annual ride-hailing costs are as follows:

Atlanta $17,741 Nashville $26,397
Austin $19,821 New York $21,279
Baltimore $19,917 Philadelphia $23,201
Boston $27,545 Phoenix $17,436
Chicago $22,020 Pittsburgh $18,940
Cleveland $20,091 Salt Lake City $18,866
Dallas $16,944 San Diego $17,316
Denver $20,434 San Francisco $21,972
Los Angeles $17,951 Seattle $23,951
Miami $17,339 Washington, D.C. $21,093

According to data from AAA’s annual Your Driving Costs study, the average annual cost to own and operate a new vehicle, the costliest form of vehicle ownership, is $7,321 for 10,841 miles of travel annually. Understanding that parking costs can be a major ownership expense for those living in urban areas, AAA also analyzed the costs of flat-rate parking per year, which ranges from $706 (Phoenix) to $8,088 (New York), with an average cost of $2,728. For those with access to free parking, relying on ride-hailing services is nearly three times more expensive than vehicle ownership in these cities.

“For those who travel a very limited number of miles annually, or have mobility issues that prevent them from driving a personal vehicle, ride-hailing can be a viable and important option,” continued Nielsen. “But, for everyone else: the car is still king.”

Vehicle owners looking to minimize their operating costs should consider the following:

  • Buy (gently) used – Depreciation is the single largest expense for vehicle owners. By driving a pre-owned vehicle in good condition, ownership costs are significantly lower. A safe, reliable vehicle can be found at an attractive price point.
  • Fuel responsibly – Avoid wasting money on premium gasoline unless your vehicle specifically requires it and, if you’re one of the 20 percent of Americans considering an electric car, these vehicles offer lower fuel and maintenance costs.
  • Show your car some love – It sounds counterintuitive, but spending money on routine maintenance can actually save you money in the end. To keep engines running longer, consider switching to synthetic oil and upgrading to TOP TIER™ gasoline.
  • Slow down – When gas prices are high, small changes in the way you drive can make a big difference.

To determine the average number of miles traveled by a city-dweller, AAA’s analysis leveraged data from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s American Driving Survey. AAA’s Your Driving Costs data served as the basis for all car ownership calculations, factoring in depreciation, fuel, maintenance, repair, financing, insurance, license, registration costs and taxes. Total cost of ride-hailing is based on data from 243,838 economy-level, single rider trips in 20 U.S. urban areas and does not factor in costs associated with carpooling or multimodal transportation options. On average, those using ride-hailing services spent an average of $13.15 per trip, spending 15.11 minutes and traveling 6.66 miles. Ride-hailing costs include the occasional use of rental vehicles for longer distance travel. Full methodology can be found in the study’s fact sheet.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 59 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Motorists can map a route, identify gas prices, find discounts, book a hotel and access AAA roadside assistance with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile.

Tread Lightly: Worn Tires Put Drivers at Risk

June 7th, 2018 by AAA Public Affairs

ORLANDO, Fla. (Jun. 7, 2018) – Afternoon downpours could spell disaster for millions of road trippers this summer, thanks to an unlikely suspect – tires. New research from AAA reveals that driving on relatively worn tires at highway speeds in wet conditions can increase average stopping distances by a staggering 43 percent, or an additional 87 feet — more than the length of a semi-trailer truck — when compared to new tires. With nearly 800,000 crashes occurring on wet roads each year, AAA urges drivers to check tread depth, replace tires proactively, and increase following distances significantly during rainy conditions. 

Additional Resources

“Tires are what keep a car connected to the road,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “Even the most advanced safety systems rely on a tire’s basic ability to maintain traction, and AAA’s testing shows that wear has a significant impact on how quickly a vehicle can come to a stop in wet conditions to avoid a crash.”

In partnership with the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center, AAA conducted testing to understand performance differences at highway speeds between new all-season tires and those worn to a tread depth of 4/32” on wet pavement. AAA research found that:

  • Compared to new tires, tires worn to a tread depth of just 4/32” exhibit:
    • An average increased stopping distance of 87 feet for a passenger car and 86 feet for a light truck.
    • A 33 percent reduction in handling ability, for a passenger car and 28 percent for the light truck on average.

“AAA’s testing demonstrates the impact that tire tread has on safety,” said Megan McKernan, manager of the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center. “If tested side-by-side at 60 mph, vehicles with worn tires would still be traveling at an alarming 40 mph when reaching the same distance it takes for vehicles with new tires to make a complete stop.”

While AAA’s research found that tire performance does vary by brand, price is not necessarily an indicator of quality. In fact, worn tire performance deteriorated significantly for all tires tested, including those at a higher price point. AAA advises shoppers to research options carefully before selecting a replacement tire for their vehicle, and never choose one based on price alone.

“With newer cars going longer intervals between routine maintenance at automotive service facilities, drivers may not become alerted to the fact their tires are too worn until it’s too late,” warned Nielsen. “Slip an upside-down quarter between your tire grooves and look at Washington’s head – if you can see all of it, it’s time to start shopping for new tires.”

Unfortunately, current industry guidelines and state laws and regulations frequently recommend that drivers wait until tread depth reaches 2/32” to replace tires. Not only does this recommendation jeopardize a driver’s safety, it minimizes manufacturer warranty costs and is often paired with environmental concerns. By prioritizing safety, AAA maintains that tires should be replaced once the tread depth reaches 4/32”, when stopping distances have already begun to deteriorate significantly. AAA’s comprehensive evaluation of tire tread laws and regulations across U.S. states found a state requirements  range from inadequate to non-existent.

In wet conditions, tires can completely lose contact with the road and skid, also known as hydroplaning. The depth of a tire’s tread plays a significant role: the lower the tread depth, the more likely a car will hydroplane. AAA recommends the following precautions for drivers navigating rain soaked roads:

  • Avoid the use of cruise control in order to respond quickly if the car loses traction with the road.
  • Reduce speed and avoid hard braking and making sharp turns.
  • Increase following distance to allow for ample space if a sudden stop occurs.
  • If the vehicle begins to hydroplane, gently ease off the accelerator and steer in the direction the vehicle should go until traction is regained. Do not brake forcefully as this can cause the vehicle to skid.

The full report, fact sheet and other information regarding this study can be found on the AAA NewsRoom.

 

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 58 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Motorists can map a route, identify gas prices, find discounts, book a hotel and access AAA roadside assistance with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile.

AAA: American Trust in Autonomous Vehicles Slips

May 22nd, 2018 by AAA Public Affairs

ORLANDO, Fla. (May 22, 2018) – Following high-profile incidents involving autonomous vehicle technologies, a new report from AAA’s multi-year tracking study indicates that consumer trust in these vehicles has quickly eroded. Today, three-quarters (73 percent) of American drivers report they would be too afraid to ride in a fully self-driving vehicle, up significantly from 63 percent in late 2017. Additionally, two-thirds (63 percent) of U.S. adults report they would actually feel less safe sharing the road with a self-driving vehicle while walking or riding a bicycle.

“Despite their potential to make our roads safer in the long run, consumers have high expectations for safety,” said Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of Automotive Engineering and Industry Relations. “Our results show that any incident involving an autonomous vehicle is likely to shake consumer trust, which is a critical component to the widespread acceptance of autonomous vehicles.”

Additional Resources

Surprisingly, AAA’s latest survey found that Millennials – the group that has been the quickest to embrace automated vehicle technologies — were the most impacted by these incidents. The percentage of Millennial drivers too afraid to ride in a fully self-driving vehicle has jumped from 49 percent to 64 percent since late 2017, representing the largest increase of any generation surveyed.

“While autonomous vehicles are being tested, there’s always a chance that they will fail or encounter a situation that challenges even the most advanced system,” said Megan Foster, AAA’s director of Federal Affairs. “To ease fears, there must be safeguards in place to protect vehicle occupants and the motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians with whom they share the road.”

AAA supports thorough testing of automated vehicle technologies as they continue to evolve, including testing under progressively complicated driving scenarios and under varying conditions, but not at the expense of safety. Additionally, to help prevent the accidental misuse of the systems, AAA advocates for a common sense, common nomenclature and classification system, and similar performance characteristics of future autonomous vehicle technologies.

“There are sometimes dozens of different marketing names for today’s safety systems,” continued Brannon. “Learning how to operate a vehicle equipped with semi-autonomous technology is challenging enough without having to decipher the equipment list and corresponding level of autonomy.”

To help educate consumers on the effectiveness of emerging vehicle technologies, AAA is committed to the ongoing, unbiased testing of automated vehicle technologies. Previous testing of automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, self-parking technology and lane keeping systems has shown both great promise and great variation. Future AAA testing will look at how well systems work together to achieve higher levels of automation.

AAA provides more than 58 million members with automotive, travel, insurance and financial services through its federation of 36 motor clubs and nearly 1,100 branch offices across North America. Since 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for safe mobility. Drivers can request roadside assistance, identify nearby gas prices, locate discounts, book a hotel or map a route via the AAA Mobile app. To join, visit AAA.com.

AAA: 1-in-5 U.S. Drivers Want an Electric Vehicle

May 8th, 2018 by AAA Public Affairs

ORLANDO, Fla. (May 8, 2018) – American appetite for electric vehicles is heating up. A new AAA survey shows that 20 percent or 50 million Americans will likely go electric for their next vehicle purchase, up from 15 percent in 2017. With lower-than-average ownership costs, increased driving ranges and the latest advanced safety features, AAA sees a strong future for electric vehicles. To help “green” car shoppers make an informed choice, AAA conducts independent, rigorous test-track evaluations of plug-in hybrids, hybrid and fuel-efficient, gas-powered vehicles.

“Today, electric vehicles have mainstream appeal,” said Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of Automotive Engineering. “While concern for the environment is still a major motivator, AAA found U.S. drivers are also attracted to the lower long-term costs and advanced technology features that many of these vehicles offer.”

Additional Resources

Perhaps fueling American’s desire for electric vehicles, AAA’s survey found that “range anxiety” is beginning to ease. Among those unsure or unwilling to choose an electric vehicle for their next car, 63 percent (down 9 percent from 2017) cited not enough places to charge as a detractor while 58 percent (down 15 percent from 2017) expressed concern over running out of charge while driving. Not surprisingly, range anxiety is less of a concern for millennials (48 percent) than Generation X or Baby Boomers (64 percent and 66 percent, respectively).

While range is important to most (87 percent) electric and hybrid vehicle shoppers, it is not the only consideration. Reliability is king with nine-in-ten (92 percent) of those likely to by an electric or hybrid vehicle stating it is important when evaluating which car to buy. Electric and hybrid car shoppers are also prioritizing crash ratings (77 percent), cost (71 percent), acceleration and handling (69 percent) and advanced safety technology such as automatic emergency braking and lane keeping assistance (60 percent). Fewer drivers are concerned with style, color, or design of the vehicle (34 percent) or brand of the vehicle (33 percent).

To help drivers looking to making the switch or find their next green vehicle, Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center conducts extensive and thorough testing of high fuel efficiency, hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles each year, and assigns ratings based on criteria important to buyers such as ride quality, safety and performance.

“A first-time buyer may feel overwhelmed or confused by the differences between gas-powered, hybrid, plug-in hybrid or electric,” said Megan McKernan, manager of Automotive Research Center. “Our evaluations are designed to help drivers select a safe, comfortable and reliable vehicle – not just the most efficient one.”  

In 2018, the following vehicles earned AAA’s Top Green Vehicle award:

Category Vehicle
Overall Tesla Model X 75D
Subcompact Car Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier
Compact Car Nissan Leaf SL
Midsize Car BMW 530e i-Performance
Large Car Tesla Model S 75
Pickup Ford F-150 4X4 XLT Sport
SUV/Minivan Tesla Model X 75D
Best Under $30K Kia Niro LX
Best $30K – $50K Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier
Best Over $50K Tesla Model X 75D

Winners, detailed evaluation criteria, vehicle reviews and an in-depth analysis of the green vehicle industry can be found at AAA.com/greencar.

Although Americans may be more eager to buy an electric vehicle, having the right infrastructure will be critical to its widespread adoption. In 2018, the availability of charging stations had grown to more than 16,000 in the United States and, although anxiety over range has reduced, AAA’s survey found consumer expectation for charging time while on the road may not align with reality. Seven-in-ten (68 percent) Americans feel that while out driving, a charging time of no more than 30 minutes is a reasonable amount of time to wait.

“Today’s drivers are accustomed to a quick fill up at the corner gas station, but electric vehicle charging can sometimes take several hours,” said Brannon. “With a little planning, electric vehicle owners can avoid a roadside inconvenience and, as technology improves, charging times will too.”

Drivers can access charging station locations through AAA’s Mobile app or TripTik Planner. Additional survey data, study methodology, graphics, photos and video can be found at NewsRoom.AAA.com.

AAA provides more than 58 million members with automotive, travel, insurance and financial services through its federation of 36 motor clubs and nearly 1,100 branch offices across North America. Since 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for safe mobility. Drivers can request roadside assistance, identify nearby gas prices, locate discounts, book a hotel or map a route via the AAA Mobile app. To join, visit AAA.com.

 

Double Digits Means Double Trouble for Vehicle Breakdowns

April 17th, 2018 by AAA Public Affairs

ORLANDO, Fla. (April 17, 2018) – As 64 percent of family travelers gear up for a road trip this summer, AAA warns that the majority of U.S. vehicles are at a higher-than-average risk for a breakdown. A new analysis of AAA roadside data shows that vehicles 10 years and older are twice as likely to end up stranded on the side of the road compared to newer vehicles and on top of that, the odds of needing a tow quadruples. With more than half of cars on the road aged 10 years or older, AAA urges drivers to minimize the chance of a breakdown by getting their vehicle road-trip ready to keep their summer travel on track.

Additional Resources

“It’s no surprise that older vehicles are more likely to encounter a serious breakdown, but it is surprising just how many people are at risk,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “All vehicles – even the newest ones – are prone to typical roadside headaches like dead batteries, flat tires and misplaced keys, but vehicles 10 years and older are four times more likely to encounter a problem serious enough to require a tow to a repair facility.”

Fortunately, most roadside trouble is avoidable. For vehicles of any age, old and new, AAA advises drivers make a good B-E-T to stay on the road by having a vehicle’s Battery, Engine and Tires checked before embarking on a summer excursion. Long trips coupled with hot weather places additional strain on vehicles and in some cases may accelerate a dormant issue. When these key systems are in good working order, AAA data shows the odds of encountering a serious breakdown are greatly reduced. The top three types of vehicle issues that could derail a road trip are:

  • Battery-related issues, including faulty starters or alternators. A battery on the brink of dying rarely warns a driver before it fails, but having a simple battery test will. Through its mobile battery program, AAA offers its members free testing of a vehicle’s battery and electrical system.
  • Engine cooling system failures, such as the radiator, thermostat or water pump or engine parts such as the timing belt, most prominently in vehicles age 10 years and older. Much like a battery, the components of the engine cooling system may fail without warning. Drivers should look for fluids such as coolant pooling underneath the vehicle when it is parked as an indication of an impending problem.
  • Tire damage severe enough to require repair or replacement. Drivers can minimize this risk by checking tread depth, tire pressure and whether their vehicle is equipped with a spare tire.

A professional and thorough vehicle inspection can help reduce the chance of a serious breakdown. If a car does end up at a repair shop, not only will a road trip be interrupted, drivers can expect to spend anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars to get back on the road. Unfortunately, many drivers may hesitate to schedule an inspection. Not only are the majority of U.S. drivers leery of repair shops, one-in-three cannot afford an unexpected vehicle repair.

“Drivers may skip taking their car in for an inspection, hoping to avoid an expensive repair bill,” Nielsen said. “But, when you factor in the cost of an interrupted trip, having a vehicle inspected and proactively repaired will cost much less in the long run.”

AAA helps take the guesswork out of finding a trusted repair facility with its Approved Auto Repair (AAR) facilities. These shops must adhere to a stringent set of standards for certifications, technical training, cleanliness, insurance requirements, and customer service set forth by AAA. Shops with the AAR designation signal to drivers a vetted facility, inspected annually, that will offer fair pricing and quality service. To locate one, drivers can visit AAA.com/AutoRepair. Additionally, AAA also offers a free repair cost calculator, also found at AAA.com/AutoRepair, that provides drivers the ability to estimate the cost of a repair or to verify a quote received for their vehicle.

AAA provides more than 58 million members with automotive, travel, insurance and financial services through its federation of 36 motor clubs and nearly 1,100 branch offices across North America. Since 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for safe mobility. Drivers can request roadside assistance, identify nearby gas prices, locate discounts, book a hotel or map a route via the AAA Mobile app. To join, visit AAA.com.

More Americans Willing to Ride in Fully Self-Driving Cars

January 24th, 2018 by AAA Public Affairs

ORLANDO, Fla. (January 24, 2018) – American drivers are beginning to embrace self-driving vehicles, according to a new study from AAA. The annual survey reveals that 63 percent of U.S. drivers report feeling afraid to ride in a fully self-driving vehicle, a significant decrease from 78 percent in early 2017. Millennial and male drivers are the most trusting of autonomous technologies, with only half reporting they would be afraid to ride in a self-driving car. To ensure that American drivers continue to be informed, prepared and comfortable with this shift in mobility, AAA urges automakers to prioritize consumer education.

Additional Resoures

“Americans are starting to feel more comfortable with the idea of self-driving vehicles,” AAA Automotive Engineering and Industry Relations Director Greg Brannon said. “Compared to just a year ago, AAA found that 20 million more U.S. drivers would trust a self-driving vehicle to take them for a ride.”

While riding in a fully self-driving vehicle is a futuristic concept for most, testing of these vehicles in the United States means that sharing the road with an automated vehicle is an increasing near-term possibility. In this situation, drivers remain leery of self-driving vehicles. In AAA’s survey, only 13 percent of U.S. drivers report that they would feel safer sharing the road with a self-driving vehicle while nearly half (46 percent) would actually feel less safe. Others say they are indifferent (37 percent) or unsure (4 percent).

Additional survey results include:

  • Women (73 percent) are more likely than men (52 percent) to be afraid to ride in a self-driving vehicle, and more likely to feel less safe sharing the road with a self-driving car (55 percent versus 36 percent).
  • Millennials are the most trusting of self-driving vehicles, with only 49 percent (down from 73 percent) reporting that they would be afraid to ride in a self-driving car. While the majority of baby boomers (68 percent) still report being afraid to ride in a self-driving car, this generation is significantly more comfortable with the idea than they were a year ago, when 85 percent reported being afraid.
  • Baby boomers (54 percent) and Generation X (47 percent) drivers are more likely than millennial drivers (34 percent) to feel less safe sharing the road with a self-driving car.

Although fears of self-driving vehicles appear to be easing, U.S. drivers report high confidence in their own driving abilities. Despite the fact that more than 90 percent of crashes are the result of human error, three-quarters (73 percent) of U.S. drivers consider themselves better-than-average drivers. Men, in particular, are confident in their driving skills with 8 in 10 considering their driving skills better than average.

“AAA found that American drivers are very confident in their driving abilities, which may explain some hesitation to give up full control to a self-driving vehicle,” Brannon said. “Education, exposure and experience will likely help ease consumer fears as we steer toward a more automated future.”
To help educate consumers on the effectiveness of emerging vehicle technologies, AAA is committed to the ongoing, unbiased testing of automated vehicle technologies. Previous testing of automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, self-parking technology and lane keeping systems has shown both great promise and great variation. Future AAA testing will look at how well systems work together to achieve higher levels of automation.

AAA provides more than 58 million members with automotive, travel, insurance and financial services through its federation of 36 motor clubs and nearly 1,100 branch offices across North America. Since 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for safe mobility. Drivers can request roadside assistance, identify nearby gas prices, locate discounts, book a hotel or map a route via the AAA Mobile app. To join, visit AAA.com.

AAA tests show premium fuel benefits some vehicles, but comes at a high cost

ORLANDO, Fla. (Dec. 12, 2017) – According to new research from AAA, premium gasoline offers some benefit to select vehicles, but is becoming increasingly expensive for drivers. In recent years, the price gap between premium and regular-grade gasoline has risen from a historically steady 10 percent to 25 percent or more per gallon. While past AAA research has shown no benefit in using premium gasoline in a vehicle designed to operate on regular fuel, new testing indicates that some vehicles – those that recommend, but do not require premium gasoline – may see increased fuel economy and performance under certain driving conditions when using the higher-octane gasoline. Unfortunately, the high cost of premium gasoline may outweigh that advantage for many drivers. As a result, AAA recommends drivers weigh the potential benefits against the cost of using premium gasoline, if their vehicle does not require it.

Additional Resources

“AAA’s testing reveals that drivers could see modest gains in fuel economy and performance when opting for premium gasoline in vehicles that recommend, but do not require, the higher-octane fuel,” said Megan McKernan, manager of the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center. “Those seeking the maximum capabilities of their performance-focused or utility vehicle may see some benefit from using premium gasoline, particularly over the long haul.”

In partnership with the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center, AAA tested a variety of vehicles that recommend, but do not require, the use of premium (91 octane or higher) gasoline. Although drivers of these vehicles are unlikely to see any benefit from using premium gasoline during typical city or highway driving, a combination of laboratory and on-road tests were performed to simulate extreme driving scenarios such as towing, hauling cargo and aggressive acceleration. When using premium fuel in these vehicles under these conditions, AAA tests found that:

  • Fuel economy for test vehicles averaged a 2.7 percent improvement. Individual vehicle test result averages ranged from a decrease of 1 percent (2016 Audi A3) to an improvement of 7.1 percent (2016 Cadillac Escalade).
  • Horsepower for test vehicles averaged an increase of 1.4 percent. Individual vehicle test result averages ranged from a decrease of 0.3 percent (2016 Jeep Renegade) to an improvement of 3.2 percent (2017 Ford Mustang).
  • According to national averages, the price difference between regular and premium gasoline is approximately 20 to 25 percent, or 50 cents per gallon.
    • The modest fuel economy improvements found in AAA tests do not offset the higher cost of premium gasoline.

“There’s no question that higher-octane premium fuel has the potential to boost a vehicle’s fuel economy and performance, however, engines have to be calibrated to require that fuel to see the full benefit,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “Based on AAA’s testing, vehicles that only recommend premium gasoline can’t take full advantage of higher octane fuel and, as a result, the benefit that comes from upgrading to premium gasoline may not offset its high cost.”

Last year, nearly 1.5 million new vehicles sold in the United States recommend, but do not require, premium gasoline. The trend toward recommending or requiring higher-octane fuel continues to rise as manufacturers work toward meeting stringent CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards. However, a vehicle that requires the more expensive premium gasoline may dissuade a car buyer, leaving automakers to balance higher performance with what consumers desire. Rising prices for premium gasoline, coupled with great variation in prices across the country, compounds this issue. AAA urges drivers who use premium gasoline to shop around for the best price, as it could vary dramatically between gas stations in any given city. The AAA Mobile app, available for iPhone, iPad and Android, can help drivers identify the least expensive premium gasoline near them.

“The gap between premium and regular gas has been steadily rising since 2009, with the most dramatic increase occurring in the last two years,” said Jeanette Casselano, AAA gas price expert. “Fewer than five years ago, only a 10 percent gap existed between premium and regular. Today, that spread has doubled with premium gasoline costing almost 50 cents more per gallon and is still climbing despite the fact that consumer demand for premium isn’t necessarily increasing. ”

For those vehicles that do not recommend or require premium gasoline, AAA suggests drivers opt for the lower priced, regular fuel. In a study released last year, AAA found that consumers wasted nearly $2.1 billion dollars fueling these vehicles with higher-octane gasoline. However, drivers of vehicles that require premium gasoline should always use it. Additionally, any vehicle that makes a “pinging” or “knocking” sound while using regular gasoline should be evaluated by a repair facility and likely switched to a higher-octane fuel.  Drivers seeking a higher quality fuel for their vehicle should consider using one that meets Top Tier standards, as previous AAA research found it to keep engines up to 19 times cleaner.

The full report, fact sheet and other information regarding this study can be found on the AAA NewsRoom.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 58 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Motorists can map a route, identify gas prices, find discounts, book a hotel and access AAA roadside assistance with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

Millions of drivers facing expensive damage and fines from improperly secured trees

ORLANDO, Fla. (November 24, 2017) – According to a new AAA survey, an estimated 20 million Americans who purchased a real Christmas tree in the last three years did not properly secure it to their vehicle, risking serious vehicle damage and dangerous road debris. Vehicle damage that results from an improperly secured Christmas tree, such as scratched paint, torn door seals and distorted window frames, could cost up to $1,500 to repair. In addition to vehicle damage, Christmas trees that are not properly secured are a safety hazard for other drivers. AAA urges all drivers to transport their Christmas trees safely this holiday season.

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“Twine that is wrapped around trees and looped through door jambs or open windows can cause serious damage to door seals and window frames,” said Greg Brannon, director of Automotive Engineering and Industry Relations. “Drivers should never secure a Christmas tree to the top of a vehicle without a roof rack.”

And according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, road debris – which could include objects like improperly secured Christmas trees that fly off cars, landing on the road or on other cars – was responsible for more than 200,000 crashes that resulted in 39,000 injuries and 500 deaths over the past four years. And, about two-thirds of debris-related crashes are the result of improperly secured items falling from a vehicle.

Fortunately, Christmas trees can be safely transported by taking the following steps:

  • Use the right vehicle. It’s best to transport a Christmas tree on top of a vehicle equipped with a roof rack. However, if you do not have a roof rack, use the bed of a pickup truck, or an SUV, van or minivan that can fit the tree inside with all doors closed.
  • Use quality tie downs. Bring strong rope or nylon ratchet straps to secure the tree to your vehicle’s roof rack. Avoid the lightweight twine offered by many tree lots.
  • Protect the tree. Have the tree wrapped in netting before loading it. If netting is unavailable, secure loose branches with rope or twine.
  • Protect your vehicle. Use an old blanket to prevent paint scratches and protect the vehicle finish.
  • Point the trunk towards the front. Always place the tree on a roof rack or in a pickup bed with the bottom of the trunk facing the front of the vehicle.
  • Tie it down. Secure the tree at its bottom, center and top. At the bottom, use fixed vehicle tie-down points and loop around the trunk above a lower branch, to prevent any side-to-side or front-to-rear movement. The center and top tie downs should be installed in a similar manner.
  • Give it the tug test. Before you leave the lot, give the tree several strong tugs from various directions to make sure it is secured in place and will not blow away.
  • Drive slowly and easily. Take the back roads, if possible. Higher speeds create significant airflow that can damage your Christmas tree and challenge even the best tie-down methods.

Drivers can face hefty fines and penalties as well as jail time if an unsecured tree falls off their vehicle. Currently every state has laws that make it illegal for items to fall from a vehicle while on the road. Most states’ penalties result in fines ranging from $10 and $5,000, with at least 16 states listing jail as a possible punishment for offenders. Drivers can prevent injuries and avoid penalties by properly securing their loads to prevent items from falling off the vehicle.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 58 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Motorists can map a route, identify gas prices, find discounts, book a hotel and access AAA roadside assistance with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

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Automakers continue to eliminate spares to meet fuel economy standards

ORLANDO, Fla. (October 18, 2017) – In an effort to reduce weight and improve fuel economy, automakers continue to eliminate spare tires from new vehicles. According to new research from AAA, nearly one‐third (28 percent) of 2017 model year vehicles do not come with a spare tire as standard equipment, creating an unnecessary hassle and expense for drivers. Last year alone, AAA came to the rescue to more than 450,000 members faced with a flat tire whose cars did not have a spare tire. To avoid a roadside surprise, AAA urges drivers to check their trunk for a spare tire before trouble strikes.  

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“Having a flat tire can be a nuisance for drivers, but not having a spare could put them in an even more aggravating situation,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “This can turn the relatively routine process of changing a tire at the roadside into an inconvenient and costly situation that requires a tow to a repair facility.”

While new vehicles are equipped with tire pressure monitoring systems that alert drivers to low tire pressure, AAA’s roadside assistance data shows that tire-related problems continue to be one of the top reasons why members call for assistance. Even if drivers do have a spare tire, they are often reaching for their cell phones to call for roadside assistance rather than changing the tire themselves. According to a previous AAA survey, nearly 20 percent (39 million) of U.S. drivers do not know how to change a flat tire.

As a replacement for a spare tire, some automakers are including tire-inflator kits that can temporarily repair small punctures in flat tires. However, a 2015 AAA study found that tire-inflator kits have limited functionality and cannot provide even a temporary fix for many tire-related problems, including sidewall damage or blowouts. Not only are tire-inflator kits not a good substitute for a spare tire, they can cost up to 10 times more than a tire repair and have a shelf life of only four to eight years.

“With low-profile tires and the elimination of a spare tire, many newer vehicles are especially vulnerable to roadside tire trouble,” Nielsen said. “AAA urges drivers to make it a priority to check their vehicle’s equipment and know what to do if faced with a flat tire.”

To prevent drivers from being stranded in the event of a flat tire, AAA offers these precautionary tips:

  • Do not assume there’s a spare. When purchasing a new vehicle, always ask for a detailed list of equipment and whether a spare tire can be purchased.
  • Inspect all five tires. Check tire pressures monthly and have all tires inspected as part of routine maintenance. If your vehicle has a spare tire, be sure that it’s properly inflated.
  • Read ahead. If your vehicle is equipped with a tire-inflator kit, read the owner’s manual and understand how it works and its limitations.
  • Check expiration dates. If your vehicle is equipped with a tire-inflator kit, check its expiration date. Most need to be replaced every four to eight years.
  • Consider roadside assistance coverage. Roadside assistance coverage can offer peace of mind when faced with roadside trouble, including a flat tire. To become a AAA member, visit AAA.com/join.

In addition, drivers should identify a repair shop they trust to help keep their vehicle tires in good shape. AAA’s Approved Auto Repair network consists of nearly 7,000 facilities that have met AAA’s high standards, including technician certifications, ongoing training, financial stability, facility cleanliness, insurance requirements, rigorous inspections and customer satisfaction. AAA members have saved a total of more than $3 million dollars by visiting AAR facilities in the last year. Visit AAA.com/AutoRepair to find a nearby facility.

Before hitting the road, download the free AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad, Android and Apple Watch. Travelers can use the app to request AAA roadside assistance, route a trip, find the lowest gas prices, access exclusive member discounts, book a hotel and more. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 58 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers.

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