Looking for a car?

This can be found in Thursday’s edition of the Eastern Echo, or here on their website.

Finding the right used car can be difficult. Do you go for a GDI or TDI? Direct-injection or port-injection? Turbocharged or supercharged?

Does knowing the difference even matter? For some the differences matter greatly, but when money is hard to find, choices are limited.

What follows is a listing of five basic majors and the cars that could best fit those looking for a new ride.

Business Major

Business is a sophisticated, fast-paced, ever-changing, ever-evolving field of buying and selling and stocks and bonds. And in a sophisticated business one needs a sophisticated ride.

Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati are just a few that come to mind, but those are unruly, not sophisticated. Even those are unattainable for some of the one percent and only a dream for the aspiring college business student.
But there is something to squeeze into the tight budget of a student. The right Mercedes-Benz can mix flashy and sophisticated fit for a night out or the morning meeting.

The Benz oozing luxury is the S-class, the company’s flagship people hauler.

This model has been fitted for dignitaries and dictators, and older models from the early 2000s can be had for less than $15,000.

That sort of cash grabs you a lot of luxury for the model year, including your choice of engines, ranging from six to twelve cylinders. Like any Mercedes, it does not lack safety. Eight airbags are available with some models along with crash avoidance technology.

Comfort is bred into the Mercedes name in the form of 14-way powered seats, rear-window sunshade, auto-closing doors and a slew of technology finally making it into more mainstream vehicles today, like auto-dimming rear- and side-view mirrors.

Science Major

For the eco-friendly student, you might be biased to hypermiling in a Toyota Prius, saving the environment one recycled grocery bag at the time.

But for those who like a little difference to their lives, look toward a mid-2000s Volkswagen Jetta TDI – yes, a diesel, which can be found for under $15,000.

As stigmatized as diesel engines are – dirty, disorderly and disturbingly loud – they are very fuel-efficient in the right application, going mostly unnoticed in standard passenger cars thanks to many advancements in diesel technology.

Pick up a Jetta TDI with a manual transmission and squeezing 40-plus miles-per-gallon highway is achievable. The Environmental Protection Agency rated a 2004 Volkswagen Jetta TDI with a five-speed manual transmission at 32 mpg city and 42 highway.

A 2004 Toyota Prius is rated at 48 mpg city and 45 mpg highway, for comparison.

The Prius is significantly better than the Jetta in the fuel economy category, but lacks in categories like looks, comfort, fun and styling.

The Jetta TDI brings with it a special, almost hipster-like presence.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration awarded the early 2000 Jettas with five out of five stars for frontal impact collisions and four out of five for side impact collisions. Side-impact airbags became standard in the 2001 model year.

Health Major

Ah, the life savers – the ones working Christmas, New Years and even Canadian Boxing Day – yearn for practicality and utility. No inclement weather or apocalyptic firestorm will stop them from tending to their patients.

An SUV is too large and cumbersome to weave in and out of traffic when dashing to an emergency, but a compact SUV slithers quite peacefully between Crown Vics and Chevrolet Malibus.

The compact SUV segment includes vehicles like the Ford Escape, Toyota Rav4 and Honda CR-V. A usually forgotten competitor from this segment is the Kia Sportage, mainly due to the Korean automaker’s obscurity in the mainstream market at the time.

What makes the Sportage unique is it is right on the beginning cusp of Kia/Hyundai’s surge to stardom and high-reliability, and hence offers a solid purchase for a bargain price, usually for less than $10,000.

Models are offered with front-wheel-drive and optional 4×4. Four- and six-cylinder engine with both automatic and manual transmissions are available.

Row your own gears with a manual transmission for better fuel economy and transmission longevity.

English Major

As it stands, English majors are probably not basking in the financial glory of the one percent like Stephen King or J.K. Rowling. Money is hard to come by like a misplaced modifier. Four tires are semi-required.

Honda makes a little runner called the Civic. Buy it. One with low miles can be had for less than $7,000 and can come in either coupe or sedan, depending on whether you like it sporty or sedated. Options are sparse, but it means there are less things that could go wrong and rack up wallet-damaging repair bills.

Try to avoid Civics that have had modifications like intake and exhaust systems.

These cars are usually driven hard and poorly maintained. A well taken care of Honda holds not only value, but a strong reliability record as well. There is a reason Honda is considered one of the most reliable automakers year after year.

Art Major

Pulling art projects out of the back seat of a Mustang and expecting it to be in a presentable condition is delusional. Kids have a difficult time fitting in the back seat of coupe and art will just get twisted into a sad piece of origami.

An art major can’t buy an SUV; it is expensive and even more so on gas. A truck is the same.

The best option is a wagon, like a “Harry and The Hendersons” kind of station wagon. But there is hope, not all wagons feature fake wood paneling on the side.

Look at a late 1990s or early 2000s Volvo V90 also known as a Volvo 960, in wagon-form. It is practical, reliable and Volvo practically invented what automotive safety is today.

Even though many have high miles – usually over 100,000 – they are tanks of reliability and can be found for less than $5,000. Its unusual boxy design offers maximum cargo capacity for the most unique art projects.

Keeping Vehicle Costs Down

This can be read here, on the Eastern Echo’s website, or picked up in tomorrow’s print edition.

We have all had a $30 oil change balloon into a $3,000 smorgasbord of tie-rod ends, valves, springs and other oddly named parts that many have no clue what their function is.

There are many things you can do to ensure you are not charged for insanely high fixes like transmission repairs or engine rebuilds.

An honest mechanic is not as rare of a find as people speculate. There are mechanical wizards out there who can do an honest job for an honest price.

The first thing to do is find a respectable mechanic either through friends, word-of-mouth, the Internet, your own trial and errors and shop around.

Respect their costs. Even though a $600 repair bill might seem outrageous for a part that costs $7, you have to understand the time, effort and knowledge that goes into fixing a vehicle.

That 7-dollar part repair might entail disassembling and reassembling the engine or transmission – an eight-hour job or more.

Probably one of the easiest ways to keep repair costs low is to simply maintain the car.

Check up on your fluids regularly and note any changes in fluid level, color and even odor. If there is something major wrong with the vehicle it will first show up in the fluids – engine oil, transmission, brake, power steering and radiator fluid.

Fluids are the blood of the car.

Engine oil is especially important due to its high importance within keeping the engine lubricated and cooled, but over time it gets dirty and needs replacing. As cars do not have mechanical kidneys, we must change to oil on a regular basis.

The old adage used to say change your oil every 3,000 miles, but most modern cars can go 5,000 or even 10,000 miles between changes. Check the owner’s manual for your cars specifications.

Changing the oil at regular intervals is crucial to maintaining your car.

Read and understand the owner’s manual to know when maintenance needs to be done. Engineers figured out when your car needs maintenance, and there is a reason why they make the money they do; follow the manual for the best performance.

There is usually a maintenance chart that outlines what needs done when and at what mileage.

Stores like AutoZone and Advanced Auto have monthly ads where you can buy oil supplies, wiper blades and fluid and other routine supplies for cheap. If it’s not on sale one week, it might be another week. Advance Auto usually offers an oil and oil filter combo monthly for around $30.

Shopping around and comparing prices is the surest way to make sure repair costs are kept to a minimum.

Also check your local quick-lube facility. They might offer specials or coupons on select services, but make sure you read
their fine print to make sure you meet the guidelines to receive the largest discount.

If you keep up on the basics, the car — like the human body — will keep trucking. You don’t need a heart transplant when a simple blood transfusion will work just fine.

For the mechanically inept, you can always seek parental help when maintaining your vehicle.

“My parents usually help and take care of it,” said Mike Fisher, an Eastern Michigan University student.

Parents might know where to take the vehicle and will probably help make sure you find an honest mechanic, and if you are lucky, maybe even some of the cost.

To keep maintenance costs down, follow the recommended schedule, maintain the basics and always, always, shop around for better prices. Some locations might even price match a competitor.

Don’t Be A Donner Party; How to Winterize Your Car

This can be read here on the Easter Echo.

Winter weather can quickly turn nasty in Michigan with snow, ice and freak events like freezing fog hindering any commute to class.

Even with such wicked weather, a Donner Party-esque occurrence is unlikely, but ending up in a ditch on the side of the road with snow quickly accumulating is still a possibility.

With winter coldly breathing down Michigan’s seasonal neck, there are simple things you can do to ensure you make it to class safely, on time and not a modern example of the Donner Party.

In case of accident, there are things you can pack in your trunk to make the unpleasant experience, well, less unpleasant.

“Blankets are good,” said Brandon Guscinski, an Eastern Michigan University sophomore.

Things like blankets, non-perishable foods and bottled water are a good start. If help is hours away, these things can save your life. When temperature drop below freezing, the conditions inside the car can become life-threatening quickly, and a few blankets and snacks could help you stay that much warmer until you are rescued.

A little-known winter savior is non-clumping kitty litter. If you are not feline-friendly, a bag of sand does the same thing.

Putting a bag in your trunk will help if your drive tires get stuck in the snow. Tossing the kitty litter or sand under the stuck drive tires will help them gain traction and pull the car out.

If the non-drive tires are stuck, a collapsible shovel can be used to dig out the snow from around the tire and help it gain traction.

With ice storms, keeping an ice scraper or an extra set of wiper blades can be beneficial. Winter slush can clog wiper blades and make them useless, smearing instead of wiping away any mess.

Speaking of winter messes, keeping an extra bottle of wiper fluid next to your blankets and food can come in handy for particularly slushy conditions. Relying on the fluid can clear away most of the smearing, but once the fluid has run out, visibility decreases quickly.

And if the road conditions are hazardous, reaching out to clear a spot on the windshield when both hands should be on the wheel can be deadly.

One way to avoid a winter catastrophe is to purchase a four-wheel-drive vehicle, though for many this is out of the financial question.

“No, I have a four-wheel-drive truck,” said Zach Green, a University of Michigan student, when asked if he took any precautions with his vehicle for the winter weather.

Four-wheel-drive is beneficial, but if it is not in working order come the winter months it will be useless in an emergency or when experiencing icing conditions, as ice has no preferences between two- or four-wheel-drive.

Keeping a set of flares can help you flag down passing drivers for help, or warn them of where you are and your situation. Plus, flares always look fun to use, even in non-emergencies.

Other small wintertime essentials amount to things like a flashlight, paper towels for when ol’ man winter decides to takes a snow-dump on your once perfectly clean windshield, gloves and boots, a small tool kit and knowledge on how to work said tool kit – all for when you have to MacGyver your way to safety.

These items probably will sit in your trunk, forgotten, over the winter, but it is best to have the supplies handy if needed instead.

Zombie Awareness Week Kicks off Monday

The story can be read here on the Eastern Echo website, or in the Thursday, October 20th, 2011 issue.

If you hear the tired moans for brains across campus next week, do not be alarmed.  The shuffling of the recently reanimated dead is part of Zombie Awareness Week, a week long event put on by Outbreak: Eastern.
                 
The week long awareness event offers games, haunted houses and an obstacle course; all with the zombie touch.
                 
Monday starts off with “The Dead Walk!”  It starts at 3 p.m. at the Ann Street parking lot with make-up prep beginning at 2 p.m. for those that need to look a little more George A. Romero-esque.  The walk crosses campus to the Tower Inn Café for the enjoyment of “The Walking Dead” Season 1 TV series.  The event is free. 
                
Monday’s zombies will also be handing out flyers to raise awareness to the upcoming week’s events.
               
The Zombie Squad of Southeastern Michigan is helping with the walk to keep the event organized and keep the zombies on the correct path through campus.
                 
Tuesday offers “Undead Game Night” in collaboration with Coupe de Gras, a student gaming organization, turning up video and table-top games of the zombie flavor.  The event will be held in the Student Government breakout room located on the third floor of the Student Center building.
               
Bring you games for this free event, which lasts from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.  
                 
The cost of each event is on the cheap side of things, staying under $4 for the entire week.
               
“The week starts out for everyone and the people who want to keep doing it, it’s just a couple more dollars each day,” said Dustin Miller, an Eastern Michigan University senior and President of Outbreak: Eastern.
                 
Wednesday is the “Zombstacle Course.”  It is an obstacle course for the dead. Instead of racing against an opponent over obstacles, you will be chased by zombies instead.  The Bowen Filed House will be turned into the Zombstacle Course, opening at 7 p.m.  The event ends at 10 p.m.
               
“The Zombstacle course should be the best event, personally,” said Garry Mundy, an Eastern Michigan University Senior and board member of Outbreak: Eastern.
                 
The cost of entrance is $2 or one non-perishable food item.  Food and money donations are going to the Food Gathers of Ann Arbor, though Outbreak: Eastern and Food Gathers of Ann Arbor are not performing a direct collaboration for the event.   
                 
Thursday night is set for “Southern Discomfort,” a haunted house on the first floor of the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity house at 411 Ballard St.  Tau Kappa Epsilon approached Outbreak: Eastern about doing a haunted house this year.
                 
“We are basically filling it with actors and blood-gory awesomeness,” said Miller.  It should be a combination of House of a 1,000 Corpses, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Deliverance.  Doors open at 7 p.m. and the cost is $3. 
                 
Friday night is “Dead Gallery,” which has been a haunted house in the past, but this year will be a haunted show in the Sponberg Theatre, starting at 7 p.m.  There will be crowd participation as the Players at EMU put on the freak show.  
                 
$4 gets you in the doors.  They will not be accepting $20 or $50 at Dead gallery because of its low cost as they may not be able to make change for people.
                 
“Somebody showed up last year with a $100 bill and we actually had to turn them away,” said Miller.
                 
Saturday is the kill shot for the week long Zombie Awareness event.  This is the first time that “Outbreak” is being advertised to the public.  All five floors of the Rec/IM building are being taken over by zombies.  And where there are zombies there is always those trying to survive them.
                
Participation is open to whoever shows up.  Those that do attend need to dress up as either a zombie or a survivor.  Zombies can come as is, while survivors need to pack a Nerf gun.  Both need to bring eye protection.   The event is free with the briefing starting at 7 p.m. and the hunting at 8 p.m.
                 
Like any awareness week, Outbreak: Eastern will be selling Zombie Awareness Week ribbons for a suggested $.75 donation. 
               
“If people wear them, its advertisement,” said Miller. 
                
 Visit Outbreakeasetern.org for the latest on the event.

EMU United Way Kick-Off Campaign

This is in today’s (Monday, October 3, 2011) Eastern Echo and can be read here.

Eastern Michigan University and United Way are holding the EMU United Way Kick-Off Campaign scheduled for 8:15 a.m. Tuesday in the Student Center Ballroom and runs until Nov. 18.

“Eastern Michigan University has a great tradition of supporting this community and United Way is a part of that tradition” Kevin Kucera said, Associate Vice President of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, and this year’s Eastern Michigan University United Way Kick-Off chairperson.

The kick-off is to gather Eastern Michigan faculty who volunteer to help the United Way collect pledges and facilitate information for the campaign.  The event also allows Eastern Michigan University faculty an opportunity to learn about the campaign, and hear about the people that have been helped.

The money is raised for nonprofit health and human service organizations throughout Washtenaw County.  There are six focus areas the campaign helps; early childhood care and education, school-aged youth, hunger relief, homelessness and housing, senior assistance, and safety net health.

“United Way has partnered with other funders to support 40 nonprofit organizations that help people,” Kucera said.

Eastern Michigan University’s goal is $105,000, up from $100,000 last year. The county goal for this year is $5,750,000

United Way is advertising through Heritage Papers, annarbor.com, and on Cumulus Radio Stations to raise awareness for the campaign.

The theme for this year’s kick-off event is superheros; to help recognize how someone can be a hero in someone else’s life.

A latte a day keeps financial gain away

The published version can be read here on The Eastern Echo’s website or Monday’s issue can be picked up on campus.

Are you the type of caffeinated machine that thinks a Red Bull is an alternative to Ambien?  Have you ever attempted to attach a baby bottle nipple to a can of Monster for easy bedtime accessibility?  Or are you a milder latte-a-day kind of person?

A latte is a coffee drink made with espresso and steamed milk; an inexpensive pick-me-up for those who have a complicated relationship with mornings.

For those that live on the mild side, let’s say the average latte runs around the $4 mark; tax, title, and licensing fees included, along with whatever else you toss in…one shot, two, shot, three shot, four –  of espresso. 

This kind of latte dedication (addiction?) does add up.

One latte a day at the predetermined $4 price for 365 days equates to $1,460.  Is this figure realistic? No, no one gets a latte every single day of the year, but there is somebody currently sifting through receipts trying to add up how close they come to the high-end watermark – don’t forget to carry that seven.

A more realistic number would be a latte five days a week, right?

A latte a day sans the weekends should be what a normal person needs to shake the morning cobwebs off by noon, ringing up at a milder $1,040 a year in spending.

$1,040 a year, you’re thinking, but it’s just a latte?

Yeah, well, lattes are Italian, and Italian things are fancy, and fancy things are expensive, like a Ferrari or a Fiat.

So, what else can $1,000 and some change net you over the course of a year?

Actually, a decent amount.

$1,000 can buy a year’s worth of Sprint’s Everything Data plan with 450 anytime minutes, which retails for $69.99 (plus tax and fees), and you would have money left over.

$1,000 can buy a Sharp Quattron 40-inch 1080p 120 hertz LED-LCD HDTV for $649.98 new on Amazon with some change left over for the cable sports package and some brewskies if you want. 

You can never forget the brewskies.

For the more adventurous type, a vacation on the cheap can be had if you stay in the states, but you may need to bring an exterminator, too.

But where does this fit in for a college student who needs a double shot of espresso intravenously to wake up from a study-induced coma before a 1pm class and their idea of spring break is working?

For the espresso fiend it means having enough money to pay for a three credit hour class in cash, if you are a paying tuition as a Michigan resident, which runs $246.95 according to Eastern Michigan’s website.  This includes the usual technology, $11.55, student union, $3.45, and general fees, $24.40, with enough left over for the class’s books – usually.

“I’d probably pay for tuition or put it in a savings account,” Ricky Hurston, a freshman at Eastern Michigan University said.

If you are a non-Michigan resident student you will have to give up more than lattes to cover a three credits class.  This would put you back $727.35 a credit hour plus fees.

Cutting $1,000 out of your financial need for college will help you avoid those nasty student loans that rack up like, well, your latte spending.            

With the cost college being anything but latte-esque in price, a smart move would be to spend it on tuition or books.

“I’d save some of it for school because I have to start paying myself next year,” Taurie Davis, an Eastern Michigan University sophomore said.

Yes, giving up a latte a day sounds wonderful and easy, but can a caffeine addicted Starbuk-aholic really give in?               

“I’d probably not give it up,” Darnell Bostic, a freshman at Eastern Michigan University, said , even with the proposition of an extra $1,000.