Teen Wheels Don’t Have to be Pricey to be Safe: 11 Reasons Why Not

Teen drivers have a notorious reputation for driving dangerously, but that’s not without reason – according to the LA Times, drivers ages 16 to 19 are about three times more likely than drivers age 20 and older to be in a fatal crash. These days, most new cars are equipped with high-tech safety features that save lives. But for many people, buying a sweet new back-to-school car is a cost-prohibitive luxury.

If you’re the parent of a teenage driver - or a teen shopping for your first car, good news: the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has released its first-ever report listing the safest used cars on the market, offering budget-minded shoppers a guideline on how to secure some safe wheels without going overboard on monthly payments.

The Safest Used Cars Under $20,000

  1. Saab 9-5 Sedan (model years 2010 and newer). At an average price of $17,500, the Saab 9-5 Sedan earned top ratings in the IIHS’s moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests.
  2. Toyota Prius V (model years 2012 and newer). For those interested in less car (and thus better fuel efficiency) the Prius V boasts top ratings for moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraints. Unfortunately, it earned poor ratings in small overlap front crash tests. Average cost for this vehicle is $19,100.
  3. Honda CR-V (model years 2012 and newer). Small SUV fans could do a lot worse than pick up a CR-V, which averages $18,100 and gets top ratings in moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests. A rating of marginal for small overlap front crash tests makes this a near-ideal safety rated ride.
  4. Volvo XC60 (model years 2010 and newer). The name Volvo always calls two things to mind: safety and cost. Fortunately for first-time car buyers, you can usually get behind the wheel of a 2010 XC60 midsize SUV for around $18,000 and enjoy all the benefits of top crash test ratings in all categories.
  5. Buick Enclave (model years 2011 and newer). Large SUVs typically rate high on crash safety test, but they’re not always within reach of someone with a limited spending range. At an average cost of $19,900 the Enclave barely comes in at “under $20,000” but considering it achieves the highest test crash ratings, the extra money may be worth it.
  6. Chrysler Town & Country (model years 2012 and newer). Rated one of the safest used minivans on the road today, the 2012 Town & Country normally goes for around $18,100 used. It also achieves top safety ratings in all tested categories.

The Safest Used Cars Under $10,000

  1. Acura RL (model years 2005 and newer). Costing on average $9,700 the Acura RL brings affordability and the highest level of available safety coverage into a single large-sized car. Moderate overlap front and side crash ratings are high, but roof strength and head restraint ratings are only marginal - which is one step above the lowest rating.
  2. Subaru Legacy (model year 2009). Achieving top ratings in moderate overlap front, side and head restraints, the 2009 Legacy is quite possibly the optimal choice for the young driver looking for low cost, low mileage and safety in design. Average market cost is $9,900.
  3. Nissan Rogue (model years 2008 and newer). Safety ratings for this small SUV are a bit scattered, but the good news is none is rated poor. Moderate overlap front, side and head restraint crash ratings are the highest they can be, while roof strength ranks average. Small overlap front tests were marginal, but at an average cost of $9,800 could make it a great choice for first-time car owners and teen drivers.
  4. Mazda CX-9 (model years 2007 and newer). The IIHS ranks this the safest midsize used SUV out there and estimates its Kelley Blue Book value at $9,800 - but its poor performance in small overlap front crash tests could be cause to keep looking for those seeking all-around high safety. Head restraint testing ranked marginal, with moderate overlap front and side impact tests ranking high.
  5. Volkswagen Routan (model years 2009 to 2011). Typically selling for $8,600 used, the VW Routan minivan may not be the sexiest vehicle on the road but it’s certainly the safest you can get for the lowest cost. It scored at the top for moderate overlap front and side impact tests, and marginal for head restraints and seats.

Of course a used car will occasionally need to be serviced or repaired.  The free Openbay web and mobile app is a great way to cross-shop for car repair nationwide (at home and at college!), and users may choose a mechanic based on proximity, customer ratings and reviews and price.

Are you in the market for a safe yet affordable used car? Are you terrified of the car your teen currently drives? What are some of the features that are most important to you when it comes to safety? And which do you consider the most important - safety features or affordability? Let us know what you think by sharing your thoughts in the comments box below.

Note: For more on the IIHS’s crash test ratings, including the definitions of their five main tests - moderate overlap front, small overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraints & seats - click here.

Image credit: Carissa Rogers, Flickr.com

Car #Haters: Top 7 Most Hated Cars in America

We’re sure you’re spending each morning brushing up on the local news and reading the Wall Street Journal.  

But just in case you missed it, MarketWatch (which covered Openbay earlier this year) published a fascinating article today, called "The most hated car in America is" and we couldn’t resist sharing the rankings with you.

In case you’re on the go and don’t have time to read the whole piece, here are the brands people hate most:

  1. Acura
  2. Dodge
  3. Jeep 
  4. Audi
  5. Mazda
  6. BMW 
  7. Cadillac

At Openbay, we tend to disagree with the low scores on some of the above brands.  Do you love ‘em or hate ‘em and why?

And remember, whether you love or hate your own wheels, you’ve got to maintain and fix ‘em periodically.  When that’s the case, remember #TheresAnAppForThat — Openbay! We’ll help you to cross-shop for and book your automotive repair.

image credit: Nicolas Raymond, Flickr

About the image: Instead of a regular Speed Limit, this sign is meant to discourage hate and promote love in its place. 

A Conscientious Driver’s Pedestrian Rulebook - 6 Important Tips

Of all the hazards you face on a daily basis when you’re behind the wheel of your car, pedestrians represent the greatest danger, though not necessarily to you. Not physically, anyway. Let’s face it – a pedestrian is no match against a moving car. But the damage that you’re capable of inflicting upon another human being by failing to look out for and yield to pedestrians could land you in serious emotional, legal and financial trouble.

Here are a few helpful tips and things to keep in mind to make sure you’ve got an eye out for everyone on or near the road.

  • Bad weather can make pedestrians practically invisible. It also sometimes invites them to dash across streets in search of shelter. If you’re cruising around in inclement weather, keep an eye out - especially on city streets and in neighborhoods - for people wanting to cross the street, and yield to them.
  • Always watch for crosswalks in the road. Whenever you’re driving through a crosswalk, even if there are no pedestrians in sight, slow down and prepare yourself to stop suddenly. You never know when someone might emerge into your path.
  • When stopping at a crosswalk, stop far enough back so that other drivers can see the pedestrian and also yield. If the car ahead of you has stopped to let a pedestrian across, never pass.
  • Beware of pedestrians even where there aren’t supposed to be any. Just because you’re out driving a deserted country road doesn’t mean there won’t be a person on foot up ahead walking along the side of the road, or crossing it.
  • When waiting your turn to enter a road, look out for pedestrians, who may come from either side of the street, and yield to them.
  • Slow down anytime you’re driving past a school or through a neighborhood with kids at play. Even if posted speed limits don’t reflect a slower speed, that extra bit of caution could save a life.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2011, 4,432 pedestrians were killed, and 69,000 were injured by cars. To do your part in ensuring those numbers don’t rise - and to prevent from being the one to cause injury or death to another person - take steps today to change the way you drive. All it takes to save lives is a little more caution and attention.

Have you ever injured a pedestrian, been injured by a vehicle while on foot, or had any serious close calls? Share your tips with us below in the comments section on how you’ve done your part to improve pedestrian safety.

And to keep your car safe, have it inspected by a trustworthy mechanic. You can find one through Openbay. 

Image credit: Mats Lindh, Flickr.com


Got 10 Friends? Invite them to Openbay. You Get $100 to Use Toward Auto Repair


Have 10 friends that need services performed on their car? You can earn over $100 or more toward your next repair (10 invites = $100.00*). 

*In your Openbay dashboard or mobile app, you have a unique link to invite friends, giving each $10 off their first auto repair service. Don’t worry, Openbay will deposit the $10 in their account. You’ll earn $10 as soon as they complete a service using Openbay.

It’s a win-win for everyone. Don’t have 10 friends :-( sorry to hear. You can invite any number. 

Openbay is a web and mobile app to comparison shop for automotive repair and maintenance services; 

  • Compare offers for auto service, 
  • Book an appointment, 
  • Read ratings and reviews from other vehicle owners
  • Earn Rewards toward free service

Not a member of Openbay, join now

You are a member, great, Sign into your Openbay Account

Start sharing today. 

Big hugs from Openbay

"One-stop laptop chop shop" - The Economist Covers Openbay


STEAMING engines and loose brakes are a worry for any driver; almost equally worrisome is finding a reliable mechanic who won’t take a sharp intake of breath and utter the age-old dictum: “This will cost you”. The caricature of the shady car mechanic is a common one the world over. But fed up drivers are using the power of the internet to fend off the cowboy car-fixers. Rob Infantino came close to being ripped off when a routine wheel alignment for his BMW, which should have cost no more than $120, was estimated by one greasemonkey at $4,000.


5 Cool Tips for Keeping Your AC Working all Summer Long

Summer’s here and the time is right… for blasting your AC. But just because it’s hotter than heck outside doesn’t mean you should use your car’s air conditioner willy-nilly. There are actually a handful of best practices that you can employ to get the most out of your AC, ensuring longevity of life and peak performance. Here are five tips you should add to your daily summer cruising repertoire.


  • Turn your AC off before you kill the engine. There are a couple of practical reasons why this is a good idea. For one, it helps acclimate your body to the external temperature so you don’t get hit with an overwhelming heatwave as you step outside of your car. But on an entirely different level, leaving your AC engaged could greatly reduce the life of your battery because of the added current that’s drawn when you go to restart your car.

  • Keep your windows cracked when parked on extremely hot days. Having an AC is a great luxury in the heat of summer, but extending its life depends on taking steps to ensure it doesn’t have to overwork itself to do its job. Leaving your car windows open - even if just a half-inch - can cut back dramatically on the heat buildup inside your car, thus ensuring your air conditioner’s rapid effectiveness.

  • Give your car a few minutes to air out before you get in. Not everyone is comfortable with the idea of cracking their windows open, especially if they have to leave their car parked in public for extended periods of time. We don’t blame you. As an alternative, consider throwing open your car doors and rolling down all windows for a few minutes to let the hot air out before you get inside. Dropping the internal temperature, even if by just a few degrees, can also lessen the strain on your AC.

  • Run your AC for at least ten minutes, once a week, regardless of the weather. Keeping your car’s AC system at peak performance requires routine exercise that acts as a preventative against moisture and mildew buildup. To ensure it will be in tip-top shape when you really need it, perform this year-round.

  • Kill your AC and roll down your windows when stopped at red lights and when driving in stop-and-go traffic. Running your air conditioning puts a serious strain on your engine and can take a huge bite out of your car’s fuel efficiency, especially in city driving. Taking this step can not only extend the life of your AC but can also save you quite a few dollars at the gas pump. But when you’re traveling at highway speeds, your car is more susceptible to wind drag. Under these circumstances it becomes more fuel efficient to roll your windows up and crank the cool air.

As a rule of thumb, you should have your car’s air conditioner recharged every two to three years to ensure optimum performance. Not sure if your AC is working properly? Check out this post, which could clue you in on potential problems - and solutions - you may not even be aware of. If you’re overdue for service, visit Openbay today to find the nearest mechanic who can take care of that for you.

photo credit - high-tech dad -  Flickr.com


How To Know When You Need Brakes

We all know that the brakes will need to be replaced at some point, but because the life of brakes varies so greatly with the type of driving, we never know when is when. Here is a short primer for all drivers to understand the signs that brakes need replacement.

What to look (or listen) for…

If you need brakes, over time, your brake pedal may be lower than it used to be, or the pedal will need to be pressed slightly harder than before. Most drivers may not realize this – the process is so gradual that we adapt unconsciously.

Instead of trying to remember how things used to be, let’s put several of our five senses to work.

Listen for the common noises of worn brakes:

  • A high-pitched squeal when not braking is usually the pad-wear indicator or “squealer” hitting the rotor. This is a small tab of metal that is meant to scrape the rotor when the brake pad is ready for replacement.

  • A squeaking sound, which happens when you apply the brakes. This squeak is usually an indication that the brake pads have not been installed properly, causing them to move around and make noise.

  • A grinding sound when applying the brakes means your brake pad is completely worn out and the pad mounting surface is grinding into the rotor. At this point, the brakes need immediate attention.

Look for indications of worn brakes.

  • Many newer cars have a dash light that comes on when the brake pads need to be replaced. 

  • Taking a look on the outside, you may notice a heavy buildup of brake dust that will darken the wheels and hubcaps, which could be an indication of worn brakes.

  • In addition, on some cars you can look through the wheels and see the amount of pad remaining.

Feel anything different? Look for these signs, which may point to what needs to be replaced:

  • If the brakes pulsate when applied, meaning that the pedal bounces up and down, that’s a sure sign of bad brakes.

  • If the car pulls to the right or left when the brakes are applied, then brakes are not working correctly and need to be repaired.

  • If the brakes are “dragging” or not letting go when the pedal is released, that’s yet another reason why the brakes will need to be examined.

  • Most importantly, if the pedal feels soft or spongy, or if it hits the floor with minimal resistance, then a trip to the garage needs to be planned immediately.

So What Do I Really need?

Much of what you will need to repair the brakes depends on how worn the components have become and the overall age of the car.

  • Brake Pads: usually brake pad replacement is needed when the pad has approximately 1 to 2 millimeters of friction material remaining.
  • Rotors will need to be replaced if there is any indication of overheating, dramatic rusting, or any uneven surface that may cause the brakes to pulsate. A clean rotor surface – either by installing a new rotor or machining the old one – gives a nice mating surface for the new pad, and will guarantee full braking efficiency. Many times a new rotor is more cost effective than turning the old rotor, although the quality of this new rotor should always be equivalent to the original equipment installed at the factory. In some cases, these new, cheaper rotors are made with lower quality materials and will not dissipate heat as well leading to less effective braking and less life from the brake pads.

  • The hydraulics in the braking system, namely the calipers and cylinders, are changed under two circumstances. First, and most commonly, any failure in these components need to be addressed, which means if the caliper or cylinder is leaking, or if any part does not move as designed and cannot be freed up and lubricated, then replacement is required. Replacement in pairs, where the caliper or cylinder on the opposite side, especially as the car ages, is a good idea. This will provide more balanced braking. Second, can be replaced when they reach between 80,000 and 100,000 miles. Though the upfront costs may be expensive, this will prevent any problems from arising at the wrong time, and could prevent a tow and a more expensive bill in the future.

Keeping on top of it all

The more you know about the condition of your brakes, the more you can plan for the replacement of the right parts. If you are unsure of what to look for, or just don’t want the responsibility, have the brakes looked at when you head to the shop for regular maintenance, such as an oil change or tire rotation. Most shops will look at the brakes for free, and give you an idea of how much time or mileage may be left. The sooner you address brakes that are worn, usually the less money you will spend, and the less likely the chance the car ends up on the side of the road.

Image credit: Nick Ares, Flickr.com