Friday, March 6, 2009

BrightCar 2.0 Released

BrightCar is proud to announce Release 2.0 of BrightCar Software.

What's New in BrightCar 2.0

New and Improved Charts
Fuel EfficiencyOdometer (New!)Fuel Price (New!)
New MPG GraphNew MPG GraphNew Fuel Price Graph

Backup your data file
Easy Backup

  • Backup is now a simple menu selection away!


Easy Sharing Between Machines

  • Do you want to use BrightCar on two different machines and use the same data? Now you can!

  • Give your data files any name you want and open or save them in any location, even a shared drive.


Open other data files
Support for Multiple Data Files

  • Easily keep your data separate. Use one file for personal vehicles and another one for your work cars.


Easier and More-Powerful Data Entry

  • Receipts out of order? That’s OK, BrightCar can still figure out distance and odometer values, no matter what order you enter your data.

  • Can't read some values on old receipts? BrightCar will let you leave those values blank and it may even suggest odometer values.


Even More Maintenance Plans

  • BrightCar now has plans for nearly 15,000 different North American vehicles.

  • Can't find the one you want? Use one of our suggested plans and tailor it to suit your needs.


Download Now!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Simple Steps to $1000

Saving money by saving gas is a hot topic these days. It seems like every other story on automotive news sites is about hybrid, electric or fuel-cell vehicles. And the rest are about ways to save gas with the car you have. But how much can you really save? Yahoo Finance tried to find out.

They looked at typical car numbers - 22 mpg and 15,000 miles per year - and applied a series of hypermiling and other recommended techniques to figure out how much you can save. Amazingly, if you do everything on their list (and honestly, a few things are just silly), you might be able to knock $1,000 off of your yearly gas bill. That's a lot of dough!

Now, as I said, a few of the items don't make much sense. Yeah, I'm sure it would help if you lost 100 pounds, but if you need to lose that much weight, I think saving money on gas is pretty low on your reasons to do so. They also recommend getting an oil change every 3,000 miles to save $27, or about the cost of one oil change. Well, with most cars and oils, you can easily go 5,000 miles (or more if you use synthetics). At 5,000 miles instead of 3,000, you'll need two fewer oil changes per year, saving you even more money.

But back to the good ideas - the top two are key for me. I've been known to keep that Check Engine light on way longer than I should. I never really thought about how a failed sensor might affect my gas mileage. The air pressure item is amazing. Granted, I don't know what their baseline is (and that's actually a problem with all of these numbers), but if keeping your tires at the correct pressure can save over $500 a year, I need to be better about that. I have a few tires that seem perpetually low, so I bet I can really help my fuel efficiency by being more prompt in filling those up.

Lastly, it should be noted that if you really want to improve your gas mileage, you need to start tracking your gas mileage. Otherwise, how will you know if it's working? And how should you track your gas mileage? BrightCar, of course! ;-)

Friday, June 13, 2008

RepairPal Can Be Your Buddy

Have you ever had the feeling that you were being screwed by your mechanic? That he was charging you way too much for service? Of course you have. We've all felt that way - lots of times. The problem is that consumers have a huge information deficit. We don't know how much repairs should cost so we have to take the word of the guy who is giving you the estimate. Sure, you could get a competing offer, but in most cases that's not practical. Who has time to go driving all over town getting quotes? And what if your car isn't drivable?

Enter RepairPal. The folks at RepairPal collected a ton of historical repair data, sliced it and diced it with the help of a couple of dozen mechanics and can now give you an estimate for your repair. You tell them what make/model/year vehicle you have, your zip code and what service you need and they'll give you a range that you should expect to pay. It really is impressive and could conceivably save you hundreds of dollars.

What might be cool is to take your service history (you use BrightCar to track that, right?) and see if you've been getting fair prices. I'm definitely going to do that and see if I need to change repair shops!

You can find two nice reviews of RepairPal (which just launched this week) at TechCrunch and Wired.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Hypermiling

As gas approaches a national average of $4 per gallon, everyone is looking for ways to reduce fuel costs. The most obvious solution is to purchase a more efficient car, possibly a hybrid. But if you have to buy a new car to achieve greater fuel economy, are you really saving any money? Probably not. Hybrids ain't cheap and trading in one car for another is almost always a big money loser (and often counter-productive).

So what to do? How about fixing the way you drive right now and saving just as much gas as you would by switching to a hybrid? You need to try hypermiling. Hypermiling is pretty simple actually. The gist of the concept is that you should change the way you drive to be more efficient. Accelerate more slowly. Use your brakes less. Try to avoid red lights. And most importantly, track your fuel economy so you can see how you're doing! According to CNN, if you follow the basic steps outlined at hypermiling.com, you can increase your gas mileage by 35 percent. If you get really serious, you can be like this guy and get 70 mpg out of your Honda Civic (OK, that requires a bit of body work as well)!

One really cool side benefit of hypermiling, is that some of the techniques can actually reduce traffic congestion, helping everyone on the road, not just you. If that sounds preposterous, check out this paper on reducing "traffic waves" by maintaining a generous gap with the cars in front of you. If you keep at least a two-second gap, you can greatly reduce the number of times you have to quickly brake. Each time you brake in traffic, you force the car behind you to brake as well, and the car behind them, etc. Every time that happens, it compresses traffic at that spot, making a small, compressed "wave" in the flow of cars. If you instead cruise along with a buffer in front of you, you can ignore some of the annoying little stops that you normally encounter in heavy traffic. If you don't have to brake, then neither do the cars behind you - suddenly that "wave" of slowed (or stopped) cars goes away. Just one car can make a huge difference. Read the article to get a clearer picture, because it can be a bit difficult to describe.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

$2.99 Gas for 3 Years

How would you like to pay $3 per gallon for gas for the next three years? Steven Levitt's Freakonomics blog introduces this as new deal for Chrysler customers. Basically, this is just one of a handful of "financing" deals Chrysler customers could choose. So, if they want the deal on gas, they'll have to pass up the normal cash back or lower loan rates they might have otherwise taken.

I agree with Levitt that this appears to be a brilliant marketing ploy by Chrysler. I find it hard to believe that it'll cost Chrysler any more than its other incentives. (In fact, I'd bet it ends up costing them less per customer.) And the price of gas is constantly in the news, perhaps inflating its importance in drivers' eyes. So, maybe this promotion gets some incremental car buyers in Chrysler showrooms.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Nissan's Carlos Ghosn Bullish on EVs

TWSJ reported yesterday that Nissan plans to introduce electric vehicles (EVs) to the U.S. and Japanese markets by 2010, and globally by 2012.

The article cites some interesting comments by Nissan's CEO, Carlos Ghosn, as well. Specifically, Ghosn is preparing Nissan for what he believes will be a "mass market" for EVs in 2012. His belief stems from expectations for continued high oil prices, increased environmental awareness by consumers, and breakthroughs in battery technologies.

Interestingly, he also sizes the initial EV market around 10 million vehicles, the number of vehicles used for shorter commutes in big cities around the world.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

This could have been soooo much better

In A Crushing Issue, Joel Millman tells us the story of 4,703 Mazdas that were aboard the Cougar Ace, a freighter ship that capsized (but didn't sink) on its way across the Pacific Ocean. The story itself is very interesting and worth a read. He's also got a video, presumably to add further detail to the specifics of the story. But this video could have been soooooo much better. I wanted to see cars getting crushed. I wanted to see cars getting eaten by shredders. I wanted to hear the "pop, pop, pop" of the airbags inflating. But I didn't get any of that.

Well, at least we still have video on SSI's shredders (which we covered previously in a Friday Diversion).