Sunday, August 15, 2010

Used Car Buying Questions

I live in a small city which means when I shop for a used car I have to drive a ways to go look at car I am interested in. After making a few hour long trips only to discover the car had a purchase stopping issue I could have discovered by phone if I had asked the right questions, I've slowly compiled a list of questions to ask about used cars.

- Is the car still available?
- Review of details and features:
- Make, Model, Year
- Mileage
- Color
- Extras that are important to you
- How many owners has the car had?
- How long has the car been on the market?
- What is the reason for sale?
- Has it been in any accidents?
- Is everything in working order? (AC, Power Doors / Windows)
- What is the condition of the upholstery and floor boards?
- What is the condition of the tires?
- Has it had any aftermarket additions?
- What mechanical work would expect the van will need in the first couple of years aside from oil service?
- Do you have service records?
- Was the work done at a dealer?
- If there are known issues this particular make / model tends to have ask about them. i.e. Has the car had any work done on its transmission?
- Has the car been owned by smokers?
- Does it have the original manuals?
- How much life is left on the tires?
- What is the condition of the upholstery and floor mats?
- Does it have a trailer hitch? (Can be a plus or minus. Cars with trailer hitches tend to have placed more wear on the transmission).
- What is the VIN?
- Are there are other parties interested in the van?
- How firm is your price? Are you willing to negotiate some?
- What is your test drive policy?

Used Car Dealer Specific Questions
- How did you acquire the car?
- What kind of work do you do to prepare cars you buy for sale?

So... its a fairly long list. I don't normally fit it all into one phone call. I first make an initial call with four or five basic questions. I call back later once I've processed the first conversation and maybe pulled a Carfax on the vehicle. If I let the seller know I am travelling a long distance to see the car, they tend to be helpful in answering the more detailed questions.

What questions do you ask before buying a used car? Please post in a comment. Thanks!

Monitoring Electricity Consumption - Individual appliance and whole house monitors

I spent several hours today looking at options for monitoring electricity consumption with an eye to reduce usage and save money. Here is the best information I found:

Whole house monitors:
TED 5000 (TED stands for "The energy detective)
This is the model that is compatible with Google PowerMeter. Starts at $200.

This device is sold in the US by Power Save. US version with two CT clamps and bundled with the web bridge sells for $169. This is also compatible with Google PowerMeter.

I found this TED-5000 vs. Current Cost Envi comparison review to be quite helpful.

I am currently leaning toward purchasing the Envi as it is easier to install and costs less.

I briefly looked at the Black and Decker Power Monitor but crossed it off the list since it was not compatible with Google Power Meter and also according to some reviews doesn't measure small watt increases.

Single Appliance Monitor
There are a number of products on the market that a measure the electricity usage of a single appliance. The Kill-A-Watt EZ by P3 International is the front runner. (Note: The EZ model is an improvement upon the Kill-A-Watt. Reviewers strongly recommend getting this newer version). had the best price on the unit. I ordered it for $30 with free shipping.

Another link worth mentioning is Mr. Electricity's page with his four part answer to the question "How do I measure the amount of electricity something uses?" At the end he gives a detailed explanation of how to measure electric usage using your existing meter instead of using on of this consumer products.

Friday, August 13, 2010

MissingSourceFile Error

I launched the webrick server to work on a Rails project today and kept getting the following error when trying to access the site via http://localhost:3000:
MissingSourceFile (no such file to load -- ./../config/../config/routes.rb)
Turns out it matters were you launch the webrick server from. I had run: ruby ./server from the script folder instead of running: ruby script/server from the rails application root folder.