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    Are you a target for robocall scams?

    Telemarketing fraud is estimated to cost consumers $350 million a year—and it often begins with a robocall. Are you a likely target?

    As the cost of auto-dialing hundreds or thousands of numbers continues to plummet, no telephone number is safe from these unsolicited telemarketing calls or scams. But some numbers—and some consumers—are more vulnerable than others.

    It used to be that robocalls were mostly limited to people with traditional landlines. That disproportionately targeted seniors since the older the phone number, the more likely it is to get robocalls, explains Aaron Foss, inventor of Nomorobo call-blocking technology.

    Today, scammers are more likely to identify potential victims not through their phone numbers but by trolling the Internet. “It is really shocking how much detailed information about us is available for sale in the form of lists—lists of people who recently had surgery or who take medicine for high blood pressure,” says Doug Shadel, a scam-watcher for the AARP.

    For more information, read "Protect Yourself from Robocalls."

    Telemarketing fraud is estimated to cost consumers $350 million a year—and it often begins with a robocall. Are you a likely target?

    As the cost of auto-dialing hundreds or thousands of numbers continues to plummet, no telephone number is safe from these unsolicited telemarketing calls or scams. But some numbers—and some consumers—are more vulnerable than others.

    It used to be that robocalls were mostly limited to people with traditional landlines. That disproportionately targeted seniors since the older the phone number, the more likely it is to get robocalls, explains Aaron Foss, inventor of Nomorobo call-blocking technology.

    Today, scammers are more likely to identify potential victims not through their phone numbers but by trolling the Internet. “It is really shocking how much detailed information about us is available for sale in the form of lists—lists of people who recently had surgery or who take medicine for high blood pressure,” says Doug Shadel, a scam-watcher for the AARP.

    A recent AARP survey found that certain behaviors and life experiences might make a person more vulnerable to online fraud. Interestingly, some of these attributes may also signal greater likelihood to be a victim of robocall scams. These include:

    • Being more impulsive
      Previous research has found a correlation between fraud victimization and impulsivity. In the AARP survey, victims scored significantly higher on questions that predict impulsive actions such as, “I do things that are bad for me, even if they are fun,” and “I often do things without thinking through all of the alternatives.” More victims also agreed with the statement, “I don’t mind taking chances with my money, as long as I think there’s a chance it might pay off.”
    • Being negative about life events
      It seems unfair but people who have had something bad happen to them—the loss of a job, a negative change in financial status, stress associated with moving, concerns about being lonely, divorce, or a serious injury or illness—are significantly more likely to be open to scammers. “It takes cognitive energy to deal with the event, so your scam immune system is weakened,” suggests Doug Shadel, one of the authors of the AARP study. “When you’re in one of those situations, you’re vulnerable.”
    • Feeling isolated
      Victims often have a weaker social network than non-victims, reporting that they often or sometimes feel a lack of companionship, or feel left out or isolated. Fewer victims than non-victims report using Facebook to keep in touch with friends, neighbors, and colleagues.
    • Worrying about debt
      A 2013 study by the Federal Trade Commission found that individuals who were worried about debt were more likely to report being a victim of fraud. The AARP survey replicated the FTC findings. More victims reported that they have as much debt or more than they can handle, compared to non-victims.

    Though not every older person is likely to fall into a scammer’s trap, those who are vulnerable are very vulnerable indeed. When someone is feeling lonely, anxious or down in the dumps, it’s not surprising that they might reach out for human contact at the other end of a telemarketing call. Similarly, they might just be curious enough to see what happens when they press 1 to connect.

    That’s why the best advice when you receive a robocall is: Don’t engage. Don’t press 1. Don’t talk to a live person.

    Pressing 1 only verifies that there is a real person picking up the phone, and consequently you may receive more calls. Even pressing 9—to indicate you don’t want to receive the call—shows that you’re a live respondent. Scammers will put your number into a queue to target later.

    Your safest strategy: Just hang up. 

    Catherine Fredman

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2015 Consumers Union of U.S.

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    2016 Chevrolet Camaro transforms the popular, modern muscle car

    Chevrolet has unveiled its latest machine to battle in the decades-old muscle car wars—the all-new, sixth-generation Camaro. Designed with a clear nod to the original 1967-1969 coupe, the next Camaro promises to ratchet up performance and sophistication.

    For 2016, the Camaro gets slightly shorter, narrower, and lower, while riding on a more compact wheelbase. The tighter exterior package moves the Camaro closer to the Ford Mustang in scale. And that’s not the only response to its decades-old rival…

    For the first time since mullets were in vogue, the Camaro base engine is a four-cylinder. Unlike the paltry old Iron Duke pushrod mill, the new one is turbocharged and boasts 275 hp. A new 3.6-liter V6 brings an incremental power gain, up a dozen horses to 335 total—notably more than in competing six-cylinder engines. For the V8 offering, Chevrolet adapted the ferocious 6.2-liter LT1 engine from the Corvette Stingray for Camaro duty. With 455 hp on tap, this will be the most powerful SS ever offered. All three engines can be had with a choice of six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmissions. A Driver Mode Selection feature allows personality to be dialed in, with four modes (Snow/Ice, Tour, Sport, and Track) affecting eight vehicle parameters.

    Beyond performance tuning, there has been significant effort made in sculpting the sounds these powertrains make, or masking them. The four-cylinder engine is coupled with active noise cancellation. Models with the upgraded Bose audio system benefit from sound enhancement. Both the V6 and V8 are teamed with mechanical sound enhancers that direct induction noise from the engine bay into the cabin, enabling the driver to revel in the revving. Further, an available dual-mode exhaust allows the driver to tailor the tailpipe rumble as desired.

    Chevrolet has reduced weight by at least 200 lbs. over the previous model, which is certain to have fuel economy and track benefits. The SS will be available for the first time with an active suspension, allowing the car to better react to road conditions and driver demands. (A similar system was previously fitted to the Camaro ZL1.)

    Like the coupe, the convertible benefits from a stiffer, lighter platform than before. The cloth top operation is fully automatic—no manual latch release, as is found with the Ford Mustang. The top can be opened via key fob, and it can both open and close at speeds up to 30 mph. Further distinguishing it from the Mustang, the Camaro convertible tucks its top away under an automatically deployed hard tonneau, creating a clean, upscale appearance.

    The four-seat interior retains a dual-binnacle design, although the buttons and assorted brightwork appear more polished than the chintzy controls in the outgoing model. Chevrolet promises better-quality materials throughout; based on the current Camaro, that seems nearly unavoidable. There are two eight-inch color screens: one providing key driving information in the instrument cluster, while the other serves as the interface for the latest MyLink infotainment system. The manual emergency brake is replaced by a more space-efficient electronic parking brake. But the dash vents got pushed way low on the console. An LED ambient light system offers 24 different colors, reminding of personalization that Mustang has offered in recent years.

    With all the changes for 2016, a couple of exterior badges are the only carryover pieces.

    To be built in Lansing, Michigan, the new Camaro coupe goes on sale late 2015, followed by the convertible in early 2016.

    Read our Dodge Challenger and Ford Mustang road tests.

    Jeff Bartlett

      2016 Chevrolet Camaro 2015 Chevrolet Camaro 2015 Dodge Challenger 2015 Ford Mustang
    Wheelbase 110.7 112.3 116 107.1
    Length 188.3 190.6 197.7 188.3
    Width 74.7 75.5 75.5 78.2
    Height 53.1 54.2 57.1 54.4
    4-cyl. hp 275 310
    V6 hp 335 323 305 300
    V8 hp 455 426 375* 435

    *5.7L V8.

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2015 Consumers Union of U.S.

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    Certified used cars can cost way more than uncertified ones

    Most automakers and some dealerships have developed certification systems that are intended to give buyers greater peace of mind when buying a used car. Certified used cars are billed as the cream of the crop, inspected and recon­ditioned according to stringent guide­lines. But they can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars more than noncert­ified vehicles.

    Programs usually require candidates for certification be no more than five years old and have less than 60,000 or 70,000 miles. Manufacturer pro­grams also routinely exclude cars that have a suspicious title history or other seri­ous flaws.

    Typically, the dealership screens, inspects, and reconditions the vehicle. The automaker then certifies that the car is sound and gives it a manufacturer-backed warranty. The warranty terms can differ significantly from one brand to another. Some start coverage from the date the car was first sold. Others begin when you buy the certified vehicle.

    Certification programs also typi­cally throw in enhancements such as road­side assistance and trip interruption insurance. Since those items are gen­erally available through an auto-club membership, and shouldn’t be a decid­ing factor.

    The term “certified” doesn’t mean much. CPO programs vary among manufacturers, and there is no industry standard definition of what “certified" really means. Any used-car dealer can call a car certified. As a result, you’ll sometimes see a car labeled “certified” that has not undergone any reconditioning. It may carry only a service contract, the cost of which is rolled into the vehi­cle’s price.

    Some aftermarket warran­ty programs that look like a manu­facturer’s certification. These “dealer certification” programs are underwrit­ten by warranty companies, insurers that sell a program to dealers who then resell it to consumers. Because the quality and terms of such contracts vary widely, it’s especially im­portant to read the fine print care­fully. Unscrupulous dealers can mislead car shoppers about the certification status of a given car, so it’s important to be wary.

    Don’t assume that a certified car is worth the pre­mi­um price. You should expect a late-model, low-mileage car, you should expect it to be in good condition, anyway. Negotiate the price as you would any other used car.

    When considering any certified car, ask the dealer specific questions:

    • Is the vehicle covered by a manufacturer-certified program or by a third-party plan sold by the dealer? Non-manufacturer plans are wild cards because they can vary greatly in quality.
    • What does the warranty cover, and for how long? Ask to see a copy of the warranty contract, not just a glossy brochure. Read the fine print.
    • Is there a deductible? If there is a charge for service, find out how much it is and whether you must pay it for each item serviced or for each service call. Ask about other fees, such as a “diagnostic” fee that’s added to the deductible.
    • Who provides the service? Ask whether you have to bring the car back to the orig­inal dealership for warranty work, or whether any same-brand dealership is fine. Ask what you’re required to do in an emergency.

    If you are buying a well-maintained car with a good record of reliability, you aren’t taking much of a risk if you skip the certification route. But the real key for your peace of mind when buying a used vehicle is to have it thoroughly inspected by an independent mechanic.

    Used car buying guide

    Learn more about choosing a used car, avoiding a lemon, buying and selling a used car, pricing and financing, and more in our used car buying guide.

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2015 Consumers Union of U.S.

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    Surprising credit card fringe benefits

    After Federico Presutti flew from Pittsburgh to Pisa, Italy, to join his family for vacation, he was distressed to find that his bags hadn’t made it there with him. “I figured it would mean losing at least a day of our vacation,” says his father, Francesco Presutti.

    After initially panicking, Francesco remembered that he had bought the family’s tickets with the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card. He went online and discovered that doing so came with a big fringe benefit: baggage-delay insurance. Turns out the card will cover purchases of up to $100 per day for five days for things such as toiletries and clothing. The family headed to their beach destination, and in a few hours Federico was outfitted with new clothes and sandals at no expense to any of them.

    Many consumers apply for credit cards based on the kind of rewards or cash-back deals they offer, but few dig into the fine print to see what additional fringe benefits there might be. Ignoring these fringe benefits could mean incurring unnecessary expenses.

    At the same time, you need to be careful. Fringe benefits shouldn’t sway your decision when it comes to choosing a credit card. The best way to save money, after all, is to get a card with a low interest rate and no or low fees, and to pay your balances in full every month.

    Looking for a new rewards card? Check our rewards card buying guide.

    Missed-connection insurance

    If you have traveled by air and missed a connecting flight, you know the fear. What do you do if there are no other suitable flights? One uncomfortable option is to camp out on the airport floor until something becomes available. If you’re lucky, maybe the airline will wheel in cots. Or you can try to get it to pay for a hotel room, although it might not be willing or able.

    But if you bought your ticket with any of a number of credit cards, including the Chase Sapphire or the Hyatt Visa, you could book a room on your own knowing that your credit-card issuer will pick up the tab. Cards with missed-connection insurance let you take a taxi to a hotel, check in, order meals, and even buy toiletries. There might be restrictions: Your travel might need to be delayed by more than 12 hours, for example, or require an overnight stay. But if you meet them, you’re covered for expenses of up to $500 per ticket.

    Price-drop protection

    It’s frustrating to make a purchase only to see the item go on sale later. The price-protection benefit relieves the sting by refunding some or all of the difference. Barclaycard, Chase, Citi, Discover, and MasterCard offer some version of that deal. The amount of protection varies and doesn’t apply to all products. Jewelry, for example, is excluded. If you used a Discover card, the difference in price can’t exceed $500, and the refund limit is $2,500 per year. Other cards, such as MasterCard, only refund a price drop of up to $250 for a single item, and refunds are capped at $1,000.

    Cell-phone replacement insurance

    Many consumers have no idea that credit cards can help cover the cost of a new cell phone if one is damaged or stolen. For that insurance, though, you need to pay your monthly cell-phone bill with a qualifying credit card. A Wells Fargo credit card, for instance, will give you up to $600 worth of protection. In case of theft, you’ll have to file a police report or other paperwork to prove that your phone is gone. And loss isn’t included, so if you left your phone in a taxi, you’re out of luck.

    More time to return items

    What happens if you want to return an item but the retailer will no longer accept it? American Express and Discover provide a return extension benefit. In the case of American Express, that usually lengthens the return period to 90 days from the date of purchase for items worth up to $300. You can return up to a maximum of $1,000 worth of goods per cardholder account each year. You’ll have to keep your receipts, and you’ll find that the extended return policy doesn’t apply to some kinds of products, such as computer software.

    Extended warranties

    We don’t think you should pay for an extended warranty (most consumers never use the benefits), but we’re happy if you can get one free. You’re covered if you make a purchase using a credit card from any of the major companies (although Visa doesn’t offer the perk to all cardholders), provided the product comes with a manufacturer’s warranty. There can also be differences in coverage, such as the length of the extended warranty—usually up to one year—and whether refurbished items and wear and tear are covered.

    Getting cash

    If you’re caught short, you don’t have to head to an ATM. Discover’s Cash-Over program lets you add a dollar amount—up to $120 per 24 hours—to your purchase and pocket the difference. There are no fees because the withdrawal isn’t considered a cash advance. The service is available only in certain stores. And if you don’t pay your bill in full, your cash withdrawal will be subject to the interest rates you’re paying on your balance.

    This article also appeared in the August 2015 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2015 Consumers Union of U.S.

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  • 06/24/15--09:59: 2WD vs AWD vs 4WD
  • 2WD vs AWD vs 4WD

    Front-wheel drive

    Most vehicles use two-wheel drive (2WD), where engine power is sent to only one pair of wheels. Many of today's cars, minvans, and even some car-based crossover SUVs use front-wheel drive (FWD) because of its cost-effective, space-efficient design, thereby eliminating the need for an intrusive driveline hump that can dominate the foot space in the back seat. In slippery conditions, the FWD configuration benefits from weight balanced over the front wheels—used for both traction and steering.

    Rear-wheel drive

    Rear-wheel drive (RWD) is commonly found on pickups and truck-based SUVs, as well as sports cars and high-performance sedans. For trucks, RWD allows the use of bulky, heavy-duty components, and it provides better traction with a heavy load. On a performance car, rear-wheel-drive improves handling by spreading the weight more evenly over the two axles and by reducing demand on the front wheels, allowing them to be used primarily for steering but RWD provides less traction on slippery roads.

    All cars and light duty trucks sold in the U.S. starting with the 2012 model year have electronic stability control, which along with traction control significantly improves winter driving, especially for RWD vehicles. Even so, we've found that all- and four-wheel-drive systems provide superior traction in slippery conditions.

    All-wheel drive

    Like the name implies, all-wheel drive (AWD) feeds power to each corner. It provides maximum forward traction during acceleration; it is especially helpful in wintry conditions and when driving over moderate off-road terrain. Most AWD systems deliver power primarily to one set of wheels, front or rear; when slippage is detected, power is shifted to the wheels that have the most traction. AWD systems are especially helpful in rapidly changing conditions or when driving on a road with intermittent snow and ice. It is commonly used for most car-based SUVs, as well as many cars and minivans. (See our list of best AWD vehicles.)

    Four-wheel drive

    Although four-wheel drive (4WD) and AWD are designations that are often used interchangeably in advertising and sales literature, there is a difference. Generally, 4WD is optimized for severe off-road driving situations such as climbing over boulders, fording deep water, and tackling steep hills with loose, low-traction surfaces. Most 4WD systems have high and a low gear range, the latter used to increase low-speed climbing power. Some have differentials (which allow left and right wheels and front and rear axles to turn at different speeds) to be locked for maximum traction.

    Modern 4WD systems are either full-time, which means they stay engaged; automatic, where the vehicle automatically switches between two- and four-wheel-drive mode; and part-time, which require the driver to manually shift between two- and four-wheel drive. Vehicles with a part-time system shouldn’t be driven on dry pavement when in 4WD mode, which could risk damage to the vehicle's drivetrain.

    Aside from serious off-road enthusiasts, most drivers never come close to needing the capability that 4WD systems provide over and above AWD systems.

    For rain and very light snow, 2WD will likely work fine, and for most vehicles, front-wheel drive is the preferred setup. (For performance cars, RWD is preferred, but AWD can increase traction and improve dry-weather handling.) AWD provides an added margin of road-holding ability when acceleration, especially in inclement weather. It's fine for most normal snow conditions or for light-duty, off-pavement excursions. If you'll be driving in severe snow or true off-road situations, or if you're interested in pursuing off-roading as a hobby, you should opt for a vehicle with 4WD and lots of ground clearance. Keep in mind that both AWD and 4WD systems add considerable weight to a vehicle, compromising fuel economy.

    One of the reasons many people buy a traditional sport-utility vehicle is for the extra security and traction of four-wheel drive. Many drivers don't realize the limitations of AWD and 4WD. Though having power delivered to all four wheels increases straight-line traction, it does nothing to improve braking over a 2WD systems, as all have four-wheel brakes. Drivers often make the mistake of using less caution when driving in slippery conditions with an AWD or 4WD vehicle, and they can pay the consequences by sliding off the road and even rolling over. Because the added traction of 4WD can allow a vehicle to accelerate more quickly in slippery conditions, drivers need to be more vigilant, not less. Slippery conditions demand extra caution, no matter what you drive.

    See our list of the best off-road vehicles.


    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2015 Consumers Union of U.S.

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    Everything you need to know about the Takata airbag recall

    More than 30 million vehicles in the United States, made by 10 different automakers, have been recalled to replace frontal airbags on the driver’s side or passenger’s side, or both. The airbags, made by major parts supplier Takata, were mostly installed in cars from model year 2002 through 2008, although it has been expanded through 2014 in some cases. Some of those airbags could deploy explosively, injuring or even killing car occupants. (Look for details below on waits for replacement airbags.)

    At the heart of the problem is the airbag’s inflator, a metal cartridge loaded with propellant wafers, which in some cases has ignited with explosive force. If the inflator housing ruptures in a crash, metal shards from the airbag can be sprayed throughout the passenger cabin—a potentially disastrous outcome from a supposedly life-saving device.

    Nailing down the root cause and determining which of Takata’s several inflator designs is implicated has been tough for Takata, the automakers, and independent investigators to establish. It now appears there are multiple causes, as well as several contributing factors, including poor quality control in manufacture, several years of exposure in high heat and humidity regions, and even the design of the car itself. If the propellant wafers break down, due to high humidity or another cause, the result is that the propellant burns too rapidly, creating excessive pressure in the inflator body.

    Visit our guide to car safety.

    June 19, 2015: NHTSA and Honda confirm that an 8th fatality was attributable to a Takata airbag rupture, which took place in Los Angeles in September of 2014. The car was identified as a rented 2001 Honda Civic. Honda said the car had been under recall since 2009 but that various owners, including the small rental company in Los Angeles, had failed to have the repairs made.  

    June 17, 2015: NHTSA VIN look-up tool is updated to include all affected models. Often, there can be a slight delay between announcements and when data is available. 

    June 16, 2015: Toyota expands years for recall on previously announced models, adding 1,365,000 additional vehicles.

    June 15, 2015: Honda expands national recall on Honda Accord.

    June 15, 2015: NHTSA and Honda confirm that Takata airbag rupture was implicated in a seventh death. The driver of a 2005 Honda Civic was fatally injured following a crash on April 5, in Louisiana.

    June 4, 2015: Reuters reports that at least 400,000 replaced airbag inflators will need to be recalled and replaced again. 

    May 29, 2015: Chrysler, Mitsubishi, Subaru, and General Motors added the vehicle identification numbers (VIN) of the impacted vehicles to their recall websites.

    May 28, 2015: NHTSA and vehicle manufacturers revealed the additional models included in previous recall announcements.

    May 19, 2015: DOT released a statement saying that Takata acknowledges airbag inflators it produced for certain vehicles were faulty. It expanded certain regional recalls to national ones, and included inflators fitted in certain Daimler Trucks in the recalled vehicles. In all, the recall was expanded to a staggering 33.8 million vehicles. That number includes the roughtly 17 million vehicles previously recalled by affected automakers.

    February 20, 2015: NHTSA fined Takata $14,000 per day for not cooperating fully with the agency's investigation into the airbag problems.

    January 18, 2015: The driver of a 2002 Honda Accord became the fifth person in the United States thought to have been killed by an exploding airbag inflator.

    December 18, 2014: Ford issued a statement adding an additional 447,310 vehicles to the recall.

    December 9, 2014: Honda issued a statement saying it will comply with NHTSA and expand its recall to a national level. This brings the number of affected Honda/Acura vehicles to 5.4 million.

    November 18, 2014: NHTSA called for the recalls to be expanded to a national level.

    November 7, 2014: New York Times published a report claiming Takata was aware of dangerous defects with its airbags years before the company filed paperwork with federal regulators.

    Eight fatalities and more than 100 injuries have been linked to the Takata airbags, and in some cases the incidents were horrific, with metal shards penetrating a driver’s face and neck. As awful as they are, such incidents are very rare. In June of 2015, Takata stated that it was aware of 88 ruptures in total: 67 on the driver’s side and 21 on the passenger’s side out of what it calculated was just over 1.2 million airbag deployments spread over 15 years. Despite these figures, airbags in general are not a danger. The Department of Transportation estimates that between 1987 and 2012, frontal airbags have saved 37,000 lives.

    Based on information provided by Takata and acting under a special campaign by NHTSA, the involved automakers are responding to this safety risk by recalling all vehicles that have these specific airbags. While the automakers are prioritizing resources by focusing on high-humidity areas, they shouldn’t stop there. We encourage a national approach to the risks, as vehicles tend to travel across state borders, especially in the used-car market.

    How do I know whether my car is affected by the recall?

    There are several ways to check whether your specific car is affected. You’ll need your vehicle identification number, VIN, found in the lower driver-side corner of the windshield (observable from outside the vehicle), as well as on your registration and insurance documents. Punch that number into NHTSA’s online VIN-lookup tool. If your vehicle is affected, the site will tell you so. NHTSA also has a list of vehicles available for a quick review, and the manufacturers have ownership sections on their websites for such information. Or you can call any franchised dealer for your car brand.

    Acura Lexus
    BMW Mazda
    Chrysler Mitsubishi (Registration req'd)
    Dodge Nissan
    Ford Subaru
    General Motors (includes Pontiac, Saab) Toyota
    Infiniti NHTSA VIN lookup tool

    What is taking so long for my airbag to arrive?

    Many affected owners are learning that it may take weeks or months for their replacement airbags to arrive. Takata has ramped up and added to its assembly lines, and expects to be cranking out a million replacement kits per month by September, 2015. But with the recalled airbags now numbering more than 34 million, replacing them all could take years, even as other suppliers race to support this initiative.

    Can other suppliers step in to fill the gaps?

    As recently as the fall of 2014 it looked unlikely that other airbag suppliers could pick up the slack. There was little spare assembly capacity anywhere, and rival systems used different designs. That picture is changing, and other major suppliers are now involved, including AutoLiv, TRW, and Daicel. Takata has said that it is now using competitors’ products in half the inflator-replacement kits it is churning out, and expects that number to reach more than 70 percent. Those rival suppliers also use a propellant that hasn’t been implicated in the problems Takata has experienced.

    How important is that I respond to the recall?

    All recalls, by definition, are concerned with safety and should be treated seriously. As with all recalls, we recommend having the work performed as soon as parts are available and the service can be scheduled. Since age has been established as a key factor in most of the Takata airbag ruptures to date, it’s especially important for owners of older recalled cars to get this work done.

    Does it matter where I live?

    According to NHTSA, yes. The Takata inflators seem to be vulnerable to persistent high humidity and high temperature conditions, such as in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, the Gulf Coast states, Hawaii, and island territories. However, since a number of confirmed deaths have occured in places outside the priority recall area, this recall should not be ignored.

    How are repairs being prioritized?

    Automakers are getting the replacement parts as fast as they can, and most are sending them to the high-humidity areas first. Northern and less-humid areas might need to wait longer for parts availability, depending on the brand. Contact your dealership to learn how soon the work can be performed.

    What if I spend only a certain part of the year in a humid climate?  

    People who travel to the higher-risk areas in times of low humidity (such as snowbirds) are not at the same level of risk as those who live in those areas year-round, according to NHTSA.

    Are the airbags in my car definitely defective?

    No. Since 2002 only a very small number of some 30 million cars have been involved in these incidents. Between November, 2014 and May, 2015, Takata reported to NHTSA that the company had conducted more than 30,000 ballistic tests on airbag inflators returned pursuant to the recalls. In those tests, 265 ruptured. That is an unacceptably high number, and, at 0.8 percent, a far higher frequency than what has been seen so far in vehicles on the road. According to defect reports filed with the government, Takata said that as of May 2015 it was aware of 84 ruptures that had occurred in the field since 2002.  

    I’m worried about driving, what should I do until the fix is made?

    If the recall on your car involves only the front passenger-side airbag, then don’t let anyone sit in that seat. But if you use the VIN-lookup tool and it says that the problem involves the driver’s side, you should do what you can to minimize your risk. If possible, consider:

    • Minimizing your driving.
    • Carpooling with someone whose vehicle is not affected by the recall.
    • Utilizing public transportation.
    • Renting a car.

    Renting a car until yours is repaired can prove expensive and ultimately might not be the ideal solution. Asking your dealer whether they will provide one, or a loaner vehicle might be worth a try if it accomplishes nothing else than putting some pressure on the manufacturer. If you do get a rental car, as with any new vehicle or rental, take some time to familiarize yourself with its operation before driving.

    What about shutting off airbags until the replacement parts arrive?

    Right now only Toyota is recommending this course of action. Consumer Reports has concerns about the recommendation from a safety standpoint.

    Should I expect to pay any money to get the recall fix?

    Repairs conducted under the recall are free, but unrelated problems discovered during the service may not be.

    Affected owners in Florida, Hawaii, or Puerto Rico have been prioritized in this recall and will receive parts first. If you live in these regions, make sure to contact your local BMW dealer immediately to schedule an appointment to have your front driver and/or passenger airbag replaced. BMW recommends that no one sit in the front passenger seat until that airbag is replaced.

    Recalled cars:

    Driver's side airbag

    2002-2005 BMW 3 Series sedan and wagon

    2002-2006 BMW 3 Series coupe and convertible

    2002-2003 BMW 5 Series sedan and wagon (including M5)

    2003-2004 BMW X5


    Driver's side only in humid states (Florida, Puerto Rico and Hawaii)

    2004-2006 BMW 325Ci

    2004-2006 BMW 325i

    2004-2005 BMW 325Xi

    2004-2006 BMW 330Ci

    2004-2006 BMW 330i

    2004-2005 BMW 330Xi

    2004-2006 BMW M3


    Passenger side front airbag, plus driver's airbag on models with the Sports Package steering wheel shown in photo.

    2000-2005 3 Series Sedan

    2000-2006 3 Series Coupe

    2000-2005 3 Series Sports Wagon

    2000-2006 3 Series Convertible

    2001-2006 M3 Coupe

    2001-2006 M3 Convertible


    Chrysler is going to replace the airbag in cars based in Florida, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It is currently working on accumulating a supply of replacement parts, and is contacting customers as they become available.

    Chrysler stresses that its vehicles are equipped with inflators that differ from other vehicles. The American automaker is saying that these inflators are not faulty.

    Recalled cars:


    2005-2010 Chrysler 300 - Driver’s side airbag

    2007-2008 Chrysler Aspen - Driver’s side airbag



    2005-2010 Dodge Charger - Driver’s side airbag

    2005-2011 Dodge Dakota - Driver’s side airbag

    2004-2008 Dodge Durango - Driver’s side airbag

    2005-2008 Dodge Magnum - Driver’s side airbag

    2004-2008 Dodge Ram 1500 - Driver’s side airbag

    2005-2009 Dodge Ram 2500 - Driver’s side airbag

    2006-2009 Dodge Ram 3500 - Driver’s side airbag

    2005 Dodge Dakota - Passenger side airbag

    2005 Dodge Magnum - Passenger side airbag

    2003-2005 Ram Pickup (1500/2500/3500) - Passenger side airbag

    Contact your local Ford dealer to schedule an appointment to have the airbag replaced in affected vehicles. Ford states that it has not seen any issues in its vehicles, but under advisement from NHTSA, and with information from Takata, the company is recalling specific vehicles, including the 2004 Ford Ranger and 2005-2014 Mustang.

    Recalled cars:

    2004-2006 Ranger - Driver’s and/or passenger side airbag

    2005-2006 GT - Driver’s and/or passenger side airbag

    2005-2014 Mustang - Driver’s side airbag

    Double check that your vehicle is actually involved. It was first announced that many Buicks, Cadillacs and Oldsmobiles were affected by the recall. It turns out that was an error in reporting by NHTSA. Most of those vehicles were part of an unrelated recall years ago.

    Interestingly, the two remaining vehicles were actually produced by other automakers and rebranded under former GM makes: the 2003-2005 Pontiac Vibe (built alongside the Toyota Matrix) and the 2005 Saab 9-2x (a Subaru-built vehicle rebranded as a Saab). Both vehicles should be taken to a current GM dealership for repairs.

    Recalled cars:

    2003-2005 Pontiac Vibe - Passenger side

    2005 Saab 9-2x - Passenger side

    2007-2008 Chevrolet Silverado 2500/3500 - Passenger side

    2007-2008 GMC Sierra 2500/3500 - Passenger side

    Honda has the most affected vehicles, with more than five million cars being recalled. If you haven’t already, go to Honda’s recall site and enter your VIN. If your vehicle is included in this recall, the site will provide a description of the problem and instructions on how to proceed.

    If you have a vehicle that was first sold in, or is registered in Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands—take immediate action. If you haven’t already received notice in the mail, print out the results of your VIN search and contact your nearest Honda dealer. They have allocated the replacement parts to these high humidity areas and will replace the part once you’ve made an appointment. Honda will be sending notices to other areas on a rolling basis as the parts become available.

    Honda will comply with NHTSA and expand its recall to a national level. This brings the number of affected Honda/Acura vehicles to 5.75 million.

    On January 18, the driver of a 2002 Honda Accord became the fifth person in the United States thought to have been killed by an exploding airbag inflator in a minor two-car collision in Spring, Texas. Although that Accord had been recalled to replace its driver-side airbag inflator in 2011, the recall work was never done, Honda has acknowledged. The driver who was killed had bought the car used less than a year ago and may never have received the recall notice. Consumer Reports urges all car owners to respond right away to safety-defect recalls.

    Recalled cars:



    2003-2006 Acura MDX - Driver’s side airbag

    2002-2003 Acura TL - Driver’s side airbag

    2003 Acura CL - Driver’s side airbag

    2005 Acura RL - Passenger side


    2001-2007 Honda Accord - Driver’s side airbag

    2003-2007 Honda Accord - Passenger side airbag

    2001-2005 Honda Civic - Driver’s & passenger side airbag

    2002-2006 Honda CR-V - Driver’s side airbag

    2003-2011 Honda Element - Driver’s side airbag

    2002-2004 Honda Odyssey - Driver’s side airbag

    2003-2008 Honda Pilot - Driver’s side airbag

    2006 Honda Ridgeline - Driver’s side airbag

    Mazda has focused its recall on vehicles sold or registered in Florida, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. The automaker will replace the front and/or passenger airbag inflators.

    Recalled cars:

    2003-2008 Mazda6 - Driver and/or passenger side airbag

    2006-2007 MazdaSpeed6 - Driver and/or passenger side airbag

    2004-2008 Mazda RX-8 - Driver and/or passenger side airbag

    2004-2005 MPV - Driver and/or passenger side airbag

    2004-2006 B-Series Truck - Driver and/or passenger side airbag

    If you see that your car as part of this recall, Mitsubishi advises owners to act immediately in scheduling an appointment to replace it. If the dealer does not have the part yet, they will provide instructions on how best to proceed until the part is available.

    Recalled cars:

    2004-2006 Lancer (including Evolution and Sportback) - Passenger side

    2006-2010 Raider - Driver's side

    Nissan has notified owners of affected vehicles to bring their vehicle in for inspection and potential parts replacement. Extra attention is being paid to “some areas” of Florida, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands. Nissan says they have a sufficient supply of airbags to keep up with demand.

    Recalled cars:


    2003-2005 Infiniti FX - Passenger side

    2006 Infiniti M35/M45 - Passenger side 

    2001-2004 Infiniti I30/I35 - Passenger side  

    2002-2003 Infiniti QX4 - Passenger side  


    2001-2003 Nissan Maxima - Passenger side 

    2001-2004 Nissan Pathfinder - Passenger side 

    2002-2006 Nissan Sentra - Passenger side  

    Call your local Subaru dealer and schedule an appointment to have the airbag replaced. There is no wait for parts to arrive and no special emphasis on localized climates or regions. Because second owners may not know where the previous owner of their vehicle lived/drove, Subaru does not want to focus on any particular region.

    Recalled cars:

    2003-2005 Baja - Passenger side

    2003-2005 Legacy - Passenger side

    2003-2005 Outback - Passenger side

    2004-2005 Impreza (include WRX/STi) - Passenger side


    Immediate action is recommended if your vehicle registered in the coastal areas around the Gulf of Mexico, including Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. Or if the car is in Florida, Puerto Rico, Guam, Saipan, American Samoa, Virgin Islands and Hawaii.

    Toyota will replace the front passenger airbag. If the part is not available, the dealership can disable the front passenger airbag until a replacement part is available, and then recommends that the front passenger seat not be occupied.

    Toyota also says that if you do not follow the instructions in the owner letter to have the work performed, then you should not drive your vehicle.

    If you must use the seat after airbag deactivation, we advise that extra care should be taken to ensure passengers wear a seatbelt.

    Owners outside those areas can likewise contact your Toyota dealer to have them disable the front passenger airbag.

    When the parts become available, owners will be notified by mail to bring their vehicle in for the proper fix.

    Finally, if you are uncomfortable driving your vehicle to the dealership to have the work performed, contact your local Toyota dealer, and they will arrange to have the vehicle picked up.


    Recalled cars:


    2002-2005 Lexus SC - Passenger side  


    2002-2007 Toyota Corolla - Passenger side

    2003-2007 Toyota Matrix - Passenger side

    2002-2007 Toyota Sequoia - Passenger side

    2003-2006 Toyota Tundra - Passenger side


    Car safety

    • Check for recalls on your car

    • The truth about recalls

    Guide to car safety

    Guide to models offering advanced safety features


    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2015 Consumers Union of U.S.

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    New Samsung washer has a built-in sink

    The washboard is back. Open the lid of some new Samsung high-efficiency top-loaders and you’ll see a water jet and a built-in sink with ridges—a modern take on the washboard—that enable you to handwash and soak stained clothes before they go into the washer. Consumer Reports tested two Samsung top-loaders with this Activewash feature and here’s what we found.

    Soaking a shirt or blouse helps to remove stains, and so do the ridges on the Samsung’s built-in sink since they provide the necessary agitation. “Use the sink to work detergent or a pre-treat into grubby spots or stains. It’s a jump start at removing the stain,” says Pat Slaven, Consumer Reports’ textile expert. “You don’t have to be too aggressive because the item will go into the washer, and be careful with delicates, including loosely woven lace items.” Samsung’s manual warns that only clothes can be prewashed in the built-in sink and goes on to say, “Other items such as shoes, food, or animals can not be used for prewash.” Good to know.  

    Our test results

    We tested the Samsung WA52J8700AP, $1,000, and the Samsung WA48J7700AW, $810. These are high-efficiency (HE) top-loaders so they don’t have an agitator and can hold more laundry than most conventional top-loaders. And they use less water and extract more of it so dryer time is shortened. Both washers were very good overall, delivering impressive cleaning and energy efficiency and superb water efficiency. These washers are relatively quiet but weren’t so gentle on fabrics, although that’s true of most HE top-loaders we’ve tested.

    Wash time, using the normal wash on heavy-soil setting, was 75 minutes. You can shave off 15 minutes by using the normal-soil setting, and use the Super Speed option on the Samsung WA52J8700AP to save about 15 to 20 minutes. We tried it in past tests and it didn’t affect cleaning.This washer scored higher than its mate and is a top pick. It has a jumbo capacity and held about 26 pounds of our laundry, another way to save time by doing more laundry at once.

    Shopping for a washer?

    See our washing machine Ratings of front-loaders, HE top-loaders, and agitator washers. But first take a look at the washing machine buying guide to learn the advantages of each type. The brand reliability shows brands that are the least repair prone, and you can narrow your choices with the product selector. Any questions? E-mail me at

    Kimberly Janeway

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2015 Consumers Union of U.S.

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    What the huge AT&T fine could mean for consumers

    It can be annoying when you are using your smartphone or some other device to access the Web and suddenly the data speed slows to a crawl. It’s especially irritating if you’ve signed on for an unlimited data plan where you expect to get quick access to the Web at all times. 

    But that’s what Matt Spaccarelli, a truck driver who was living in Simi Valley, California, says happened to him several years ago. Spaccarelli had subscribed to AT&T’s unlimited data plan but was surprised when every month, around the third week of his billing cycle, his Internet access speed would slow so much he could barely use it. At first, he thought something was wrong with his smartphone. Then he called AT&T and was told he had reached his "data threshold limit" so his service had been slowed down. “My email timed out, the GPS maps wouldn’t load and Netflix wouldn’t stream,” he says. “And I thought I had unlimited data service.” 

    In 2012, Spaccarelli took AT&T to small claims court and was awarded $850. The judge, he says, believed that AT&T had no right to charge him for unlimited service and then place restrictions on it.

    For more information read, "AT&T and the Truth About 'Unlimited' Data Plans."

    Thinking ahead

    There may be more Spacarellis in the future. On June 17, the Federal Communications Commission announced a proposed fine against AT&T of $100 million for intentionally slowing down the data speeds of users paying for unlimited data plans. The slowdown, according to the FCC’s complaint, made it difficult to use a smartphone to run mapping applications to get from one place to the next, for example, or play a video.

    While some wireless service providers will slow your data speeds in order to better manage traffic on their networks, the FCC’s complaint says that in many cases, AT&T's reduction in service had nothing to do with data congestion—the slowdown happened even in rural areas. A bigger problem, according to the complaint, was that the wireless giant failed to “disclose the degree to which the customers’ data speed would be reduced, and the impact that the reduced speed would have on customers’ ability to use their device.” 

    So what does this mean for customers who had AT&T’s “unlimited” data plan? “We agree with [FCC] Chairman Wheeler that consumers should get what they pay for," says Delara Derakhshani, policy counsel for Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports. "We applaud the Commission for taking action to hold AT&T accountable and hope to see their customers compensated accordingly.”

    There is still plenty that has to be worked out. AT&T has 30 days to appeal the FCC's fine, so it isn't clear if any portion of the fine will be paid and dispersed to customers. Norman Silber, professor of law at Hofstra University and formerly a board member at Consumers Union, says that it would be reasonable for AT&T to present a plan to its customers, many of whom have heard about the FCC’s decision and wonder what kind of recourse they may have.

    While there are no guarantees, Silber suggests that AT&T customers preserve their options while the regulatory process moves forward by completing AT&T's Notice of Dispute form and returning it to service provider. That way, he says, your complaint will be on record though it's unclear if AT&T will address consumer complaints any time soon. Silber suggests that when you complete the form it would be reasonable to request:

    • a refund of all sums previously paid under the agreement
    • a truly unlimited data plan going forward, at the previously established rate and
    • a promise that AT&T or its agents will not attempt to switch you to a plan that is truly not unlimited. 

    He also recommends that you include in the notice a statement that you retain your right to pursue the dispute either in small claims court or in arbitration if you are not satisfied with AT&T’s response. (AT&T's user agreement contains a comprehensive mandatory arbitration clause, which removes your right to start or join a class action.)

    Individual arbitration, while a lengthy process, may have some benefits, according to Christopher Dore, a partner with the Chicago-based law firm Edelson PC. That’s because there is a clause in AT&T’s user agreement that entitles customers who feel they have been wronged to a potential award of $10,000 on a wide variety of complaints. To qualify, though, you had to have previously received a written settlement offer from AT&T and then later won a greater claim against the company.

    Nikhil Hutheesing (@Nikhil212 on Twitter)

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2015 Consumers Union of U.S.

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    What are broadband data caps, and should you be concerned about them?

    Are you among the growing number of people who are streaming more and more content each month? Then you should probably be aware that some Internet service providers (ISPs)—including AT&T, CenturyLink, Cox, and Comcast (in some markets)—impose “data caps” on their broadband service, which are monthly limits on the amount of data you can use over your Internet connection.

    Data caps are already common in the mobile world. But with the shift to the new net neutrality rules, many are concerned that more ISPs will impose broadband data caps on fixed Internet connections, or even move to "usage-based" pricing plans that bill you for what you use rather than the speed you get. That would result in higher prices for consumers. Because there's often little choice in broadband providers, consumer groups warn, there's the potential for ISPs to abuse data caps as a way to boost broadband profits as their pay TV revenues decline. The new net neutrality rules don't ban broadband data caps outright, but do require ISPs to clearly disclose if they have them, and clearly explain what happens should a customer exceed them.

    Broadband data caps will likely become more of a concern as you increase bandwidth-intensive activities, such as streaming TV shows and movies. Most of the data caps we’ve seen range from about 150GB to 300GB per month. If you exceed that, your provider might slow down your speed—“throttle,” in broadband parlance—or charge you extra. About $10 for each extra 50GB block you use seems common. You could wind up paying less by moving to a higher-speed service, which might have a higher cap. Some providers will cut off your service if you exceed the cap, though that’s becoming less common.

    Cable companies claim that broadband data caps currently affect only the 2 to 5 percent of users who gobble up the most data, but a General Accounting Office report last year cautioned that more of us will approach those caps in the near future.

    Unhappy with your ISP? Check our buying guide and Ratings for telecom services. And find your new streaming media player.

    Citing data from Sandvine, a broadband networking company, the GAO writes that the top 15 percent of streaming video users—cord cutters who stream video—use an average of 212GB a month. That’s more than seven times the average broadband user, who uses 29GB in a month.

    It’s easy to see how this could affect you. Netflix says that streaming a high-def movie can eat up nearly 4GB or 5GB per hour. Do you have a new UHD TV? Streaming 4K movies, at 7GB or 8GB per hour, will gobble up even more of your monthly allotment. So as UHD TVs and programming become more common, binge-watching the entire 11 hours of the previous two seasons of "House of Cards" in one month could consume 88GB of your monthly allotment. You can only hope you don’t also become a fan of "Orange Is the New Black," or it's conceivable you could use up your monthly data allotment in one long, blurry-eyed weekend.

    Consumer Reports and its policy and advocacy arm, Consumers Union, are opposed to broadband data caps, which we believe discourage the use of the Internet for a variety of worthwhile activities, including education and small business innovation, as well as entertainment. Last year, Charter decided to drop its seldom-enforced broadband data caps; we hope that other ISPs will follow suit.

    —James K. Willcox

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2015 Consumers Union of U.S.

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    Why your mower starts then stalls

    The most common symptom of an ailing lawn mower is that it won't start at all or roars to life, runs for a few seconds, and then stops dead. If you ran your mower dry of gas at the end of the season, as recommended, there are a few other things you can check before giving up and taking the mower to a repair shop. Here are things to try that cost little or nothing:

    A spritz of carb cleaner

    Mower carburetors have a bowl at the bottom that holds fuel prior to burning. At the bottom is a bolt you can remove to drain the last drops of fuel after running the mower dry at the end of the season. (Unfortunately, the design of some newer mowers inhibits easy access to the bowl.) With certain mowers the bolt has tiny fuel-metering holes at the point or along the threading that must be kept clear—or the mower will repeatedly stall after starting.

    To access the bolt with fuel in the tank, use a clamp to choke off the flow. Once the bolt is off, remove the bowl (some fuel will spill out even with clamping) and clean it. You can use a small wire to clear the bolt’s holes, but a few good sprays of carburetor cleaner should suffice. Replace the bowl, retighten the bolt and, of course, remove the clamp before restarting.

    Other possible causes

    If the bowl of your mower is inaccessible, check the spark plug. An old or improperly gapped spark plug can make for difficult starting. So can a heavily clogged air filter. But if you’ve recently replaced both, the carburetor cleaner can be put to another use. Remove the air filter, and find the intake port—through which filtered air enters the carburetor. Spray carb cleaner into the intake. With the filter still off, try to start the mower. You might need to repeat the spray-and-start a few times. Once the mower starts and stays on, you can replace the air filter and housing. If the mower stalls once you’ve reinstalled the filter, examine the filter more closely for any soaked-in oil. When in doubt, replace it.

    Need a new mower?

    Sometimes a mower is beyond repair even by a pro—at least at a price you’re willing to pay compared to the cost of a newer one. If that describes your situation, check Consumer Reports' lawn mower buying guide, which compares features and capabilities of today’s walk-behind mowers, lawn tractors, zero-turn-radius riders, and rear-engine riders. Then view our lawn mower Ratings of more than 180 models. Top-scoring self-propelled mowers, best for most lawn, include the $500 Honda HRR2169VLA, $520 Toro Super Recycler 20381, and $330 Troy-Bilt TB-320 12AVC35U.

    —Ed Perratore (@EdPerratore on Twitter)

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2015 Consumers Union of U.S.

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    2016 Mini Clubman grows up, gains doors

    Like your fun-loving kid brother, the Mini Clubman has grown up. Motoring on to adulthood, the redesigned model bowing for 2016 is not so mini anymore.

    Two feet longer and almost a foot wider than the old Clubman, it’s almost exactly the size of the latest Volkswagen Golf—which is relatively big for a Mini. In all but height, it’s bigger than the current Mini Countryman, and it rides on a longer, 105-inch wheelbase. From anyplace other than behind, it looks a lot like the new four-door Mini Hardtop, but bigger.

    The Clubman retains its distinctive rear “barn doors,”which are power operated this time, with big horizontal taillights attached. And it gains two conventional doors into the backseat, instead of the single rear-opening door on the right side before. The split rear doors now have a narrower pillar for better visibility, and they can be opened automatically by kicking your foot under the rear bumper.

    The Clubman has grown inside, too, with an additional center rear seat. And grown-ups will appreciate the power-adjustable front seats with a memory function on the driver’s seat, available for the first time on a Mini.

    Mini says the new Clubman is designed for long trips—not a former strong suit. Bottle holders in the doors will hold 1-liter bottles, and the rear seat folds in 40/20/40 sections so your bro can fit his dorm fridge along with an extra moving buddy together in the back. Replacing the strut rear suspension design with a multi-link setup helps maximize cargo space.

    The Clubman will be available with Mini’s usual two turbocharged engines: a 1.5-liter, three-cylinder rated at 134-hp or a 2.0-liter four-cylinder good for 189-hp in the Mini Clubman S. In classic Mini fashion, both powerplants come standard with a six-speed manual transmission. A six-speed automatic is optional on the base Clubman, and a new eight-speed automatic is available on the S. An eight-speed with manual shift mode and quicker shifts is another upgrade. Automatic versions show a shift-point display and take terrain data from the navigation system into account when selecting shift profiles. Like other recent Minis, all Clubmen now feature an automatic start-stop system that shuts the engine off at stops as well as automatic brake regeneration.

    The promise of “The highest level of ride comfort … ever on a Mini” should keep clubbers content, yet Mini also says the Clubman will retain the brand’s go-kart responsiveness. We didn’t think that claim held quite true on the latest Mini Hatchback models, but they do ride more comfortably and are still fun to drive.

    To emphasize its luxury intent, the new Clubman is available with a head-up display, automatic high beams, parking assistant, and a backup camera—a welcomed feature to compensate for the visual obstruction from the split rear window. Road sign detection displays speed limits and other warnings in the center screen, and camera-guided active cruise control features forward collision and pedestrian warning that will initiate braking when it detects an obstacle.

    A big Mini may sound a little like an oxymoron, but we look forward to testing how well it has grown up, after it goes on sale next January.

    Read our complete Mini Cooper road test.

    Eric Evarts

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2015 Consumers Union of U.S.

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    Whole Foods under fire for overcharging customers

    For the second time in a yearWhole Foods Market has been slammed for ripping off shoppers by selling products with the weight incorrectly labeled. The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) on Wednesday released the results of its ongoing investigation that contends the high-end grocer routinely overcharged customers by overstating the contents of prepackaged foods. The discrepancies resulted in overcharges of 80 cents to nearly $15 per package, according to officials.

    In addition, the DCA said that 89 percent of the packages it re-weighed failed to meet the federal standard for the maximum amount that a package can deviate from the actual weight. DCA tested 80 different types of pre-packaged products including meat, dairy, and baked goods.

    Take a look at the results of our latest survey to see which supermarkets have the best and worst prices.  Also, read about "The real cost of impulse shopping at the supermarket."

    The department characterized the overcharges as the byproduct of a “systematic problem with how products packaged for sale at Whole Foods are weighed and labeled,” according to a DCA statement. “The findings suggest that individual packages are routinely not weighed or are inaccurately weighed, resulting in overcharges for consumers.” The overcharges were especially prevalent in packages that had been labeled with exactly the same weight when it would be practically impossible for all of the packages to weigh the same amount, the report said. The products included nuts, berries, vegetables, and seafood. 

    In response to the charges, Michael Sinatra, public relations and public affairs manager for Whole Foods Northeast region, said, “We disagree with the DCA’s overreaching allegations and we are vigorously defending ourselves. We cooperated fully with the DCA from the beginning until we disagreed with their grossly excessive monetary demands. Despite our requests to the DCA, they have not provided evidence to back up their demands nor have they requested any additional information from us, but instead have taken this to the media to coerce us. Our customers are our number one stakeholder and we highly value their trust in us.”

    DCA Commissioner Julie Menin pulled no punches in describing the severity of the allegations: “Our inspectors tell me this is the worst case of mislabeling they have seen in their careers,” she said.

    Regular inspections

    In New York City, the Department of Consumer Affairs regularly inspects supermarkets for scanner, scale, and pricing accuracy. Inspectors first noticed labeling problems at Whole Foods stores last fall, which persisted when they revisited several of the locations during the winter.  To date, the probe has involved the chain’s eight stores that were in operation at the time of the inspections. Since then, a ninth has opened.

    The fine for falsely labeling a package is as much as $950 for the first violation and up to $1,700 for a subsequent violation. The potential number of violations that Whole Foods faces for all pre-packaged goods in the NYC stores is in the thousands, the DCA said.

    Last June, we reported on a settlement between Whole Foods and City Attorneys in the California cities of Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and San Diego over widespread pricing violations that included: Failure to deduct the “tare” weight of containers when ringing up charges for self-serve foods at the salad bar and hot bar; giving less weight than the amount stated on the label for packaged items sold by the pound; and selling items such as kebabs and other prepared deli foods by the piece, instead of by the pound as required by law. The chain agreed to pay close to $800,000 in penalties and implement a strict in-house pricing-accuracy program. 

    What you can do

    Our subscribers have long been less than satisfied with pricing at Whole Foods. In our latest supermarket survey, respondents criticized Whole Foods for having some of the highest prices of any grocery store in the country. Whole Foods isn't the only supermarket chain that's got in hot water for pricing irregularities in recent years. Safeway and Ralphs have been penalized, too. If you suspect an item isn't the correct weight, take a few packages and compare them on the consumer scale set aside at most grocery stores for that specific purpose.

    —Tod Marks

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2015 Consumers Union of U.S.

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    Consumer Reports: Antibiotic-Resistant Superbugs the Health Crisis of This Generation

    New report investigates the rise of the superbug and offers advice on immediate actions to thwart the spread; CR survey reveals 41 percent of Americans unaware of antibiotic resistance

    CR August 2015 CoverYONKERS, NY—Decades of inaction to curb the overuse of life-saving antibiotics by physicians, dentists, patients, and farmers has created hard-to-treat “superbugs” that are spreading and growing stronger, with dire consequences, according to Consumer Reports, the world’s largest and most trusted nonprofit consumer organization. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that the unrestrained use of antibiotics sickens at least 2.25 million Americans each year and kills another 37,000 people.

    “The Rise of Superbugs” is featured on and in the August issue of Consumer Reportsmagazine and is the first report in a three-part investigative series focused on America’s antibiotic crisis.  This introductory piece explains how the overuse and misuse of antibiotics is leading to the strengthening and spread of dangerous infections that are becoming resistant to these drugs.  For example, resistant bacteria like MRSA were once confined to hospitals, but have now spread to otherwise healthy people in the community.

    The remaining installments will examine the presence of superbugs in America’s hospitals and the role antibiotics play in the U.S. meat supply.

    “The emergence of antibiotic-resistant superbugs is a major threat to the health and well-being of millions of Americans,” said Lisa Gill, prescription drugs editor, Consumer Reports. “The problem is fixable, but we must act quickly and work together to change our behaviors to preserve the effectiveness of these life-saving drugs.”

    A new nationally representative survey from Consumer Reports shows poor awareness among Americans about antibiotic resistance and widespread misinformation about its causes, with 41 percent of adults saying they are unaware of antibiotic resistance.

    In addition, the overuse of antibiotics can kill “good” bacteria, leaving people susceptible to other difficult-to-treat bacterial infections, like C. difficile.

    Officials from the CDC, World Health Organization, and European Union have all sounded the alarm, calling the rise of resistant bacteria one of the world’s most serious health crises.

    Consumer Reports says the crisis is compounded because the pipeline for new antibiotics has slowed to a trickle, with many broad-spectrum antibiotics introduced some 30 years ago. “We absolutely need new antibiotics,” said Lisa McGiffert, director of Consumer Reports’ Safe Patient Project.  “But we have to make sure that we don’t lower the bar on standards for drug approval and that all new antibiotics have met pre-market assessments for safety and efficacy.”

    Consumer  Reports  recommends specific  steps for reducing  the  use  of  antibiotics  and  curbing  the development of drug-resistant bacteria, including:

    • Patients should think twice about the need for antibiotics and should not ask doctors to prescribe them. Consumer Reports’ survey found that one out of every five people who had received a prescription for an antibiotic in the last year said they had asked their health practitioner to write it.  

    • Doctors and dentists must stop over-prescribing antibiotics when they aren’t absolutely necessary. The CDC estimates that up to half of all antibiotic prescriptions are written for inappropriate uses, or for things they don’t work against, such as for colds and the flu.

    • Patients should request targeted drugs. When possible, your doctor should order cultures to identify the bacteria that caused your infection and prescribe a drug that targets that bug.

    • Doctors should reserve so-called “broad-spectrum” antibiotics, such as ciprofloxacin, ceftriaxone, and levofloxacin for hard-to-treat infections. These drugs attack multiple bacteria types at once and are more likely to breed resistant bacteria and wipe out protective bacteria in the body.

    • Consumers should use antibiotic creams sparingly. Even antibiotics applied to the skin can lead to resistant bacteria.  Use over-the-counter ointments containing bacitracin and neomycin only if dirt remains after cleaning with soap and water.

    • Everyone should avoid infections in the first place. That means staying up to date on vaccinations. And it means washing hands thoroughly and regularly, especially before preparing or eating food, before and after treating a cut or wound, and after using the bathroom, sneezing, coughing, and handling garbage. Plain soap and water is best. Avoid antibacterial hand soaps and cleaners, which may promote resistance.

    Consumer Reports is committed to help wipe out the antibiotic-resistant bacteria or “superbugs” through coordinating among all of the organization’s broad resources and channels.

    As part of this initiative, Consumer Reports will participate in this week’s Spotlight Health, a segment of the Aspen Ideas Festival; Board Chair Diane Archer will moderate a panel on how to curb antibiotic overuse in the U.S. and around the world. And, earlier this month Consumer Reports’ President and CEO Marta Tellado was invited to participate in the White House Forum on Antibiotic Stewardship.

    In addition, Consumer Reports, through its participation in the Choosing Wisely initiative,  is collaborating with seven U.S. healthcare organizations to focus on reducing the inappropriate use of antibiotics for viral infections by at least 20 percent within three years.

    Consumers Reports has created a special page at featuring a wide range of information on superbugs and antibiotic resistance including videos, news articles, and social conversation. Consumers can follow the conversation on Twitter at #SlamSuperbugs.

    About Consumer Reports
    Consumer Reports is the world’s largest and most trusted nonprofit, consumer organization working to improve the lives of consumers by driving marketplace change. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has achieved substantial gains for consumers on health reform, food and product safety, financial reform, and other issues. The organization has advanced important policies to cut hospital-acquired infections, prohibit predatory lending practices and combat dangerous toxins in food. Consumer Reports tests and rates thousands of products and services in its 50-plus labs, state-of-the-art auto test center and consumer research center. Consumers Union, a division of Consumer Reports, works for pro-consumer laws and regulations in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace. With more than eight million subscribers to its flagship magazine, website and other publications, Consumer Reports accepts no advertising, payment or other support from the companies whose products it evaluates.

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    Consumer Reports Hails Supreme Court Ruling Upholding Health Insurance Subsidie

    WASHINGTON, DC – The Supreme Court today released its ruling in King v. Burwell, finding that tax credit subsidies designed to help make health insurance more affordable can be offered in all states, including those that use the federal exchange.

    Marta Tellado, President and CEO of Consumer Reports, lauded the decision, saying, “This is a huge victory for consumers across the country. Millions of Americans who were finally able to access and afford health insurance now have some peace of mind. They know the coverage they depend on to get the care they need and deserve is secure – regardless of where they live.”

    Tellado continued, “The time has come to forge ahead to make the nation’s health system even stronger by focusing efforts on issues like improving affordability, transparency and value. These are the issues that are most important to consumers, and they are the issues that Consumer Reports will continue to address.”


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    High-performance Alfa Romeo Guilia races to broaden brand portfolio

    Alfa Romeo is following up the 4C sports car with another serving of spicy Italian, the high-performance Guilia sedan. Sized to compete with the BMW 3 Series, the Quadrifoglio version unveiled this week looks to be a fitting sparring partner for the M3.

    Instantly recognizable as an Alfa Romeo, the Guilia proudly wears the distinct trefoil nose, which grants this new sedan the visage of an angry Koala bear. Further distinguishing this special model is a Quadrifoglio (aka four-leaf clover) fender badge.

    Beneath the hood is a turbocharged 510-horsepower six-cylinder engine inspired by corporate cousin Ferrari. The automaker claims 0-60 mph sprints in just 3.8 seconds—putting the weight-conscious Guilia on par with the Porsche 911 in a straight line. The company also talks tough regarding handling.

    The Guilia is based on a rear-drive platform, and it will be offered with all-wheel drive. Great care was taken to achieve a 50/50 front-to-rear weight distribution, a combination long heralded as essential for balanced handling. Numerous technical tidbits, such as an active air splitter and driver-selected performance modes, promise thrilling, adjustable driving dynamics.

    The Guilia is coming the U.S. market next year, with specifics to be announced closer to the on-sale date.

    Jeff Bartlett

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2015 Consumers Union of U.S.

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    How to fix your troubled T-Mobile iPhone

    T-Mobile customers are reporting issues with iPhones that restart without warning, sometimes preceded by a momentary all-blue "screen of death." What’s more, this annoyance—which seems to be confined to the 5s, 6 or 6 Plus—tends to repeat itself every thirty minutes. In fact, one user with multiple devices claimed that several of his iPhone 6s were restarting at the same time.

    T-Mobile is still investigating the problem. The company promised to provide us with answers to consumers' questions as soon as possible. Right now, the culprit may be an over-the-air update related to Wi-Fi calling, according to some accounts. I haven’t yet experienced any trouble with an iPhone 6 Plus Consumer Reports owns, which has an up-to-date OS (iOS 8.3) and is fully loaded with apps and services (Apple Pay, Amazon Echo, Apple Watch, Vudu, Pandora, etc.) But here are potential solutions offered up on social media. Keep in mind, we've had no way to test them.

    1. Disable and re-enable the WiFi Calling feature. You’ll find it by going into Settings and tapping Phone.
    2. Delete your old text messages and perform a factory reset. Before you go this route, though, be aware that it deletes ALL of your personal data (photos, accounts, downloaded apps, etc.). To get it back you have to sign into your iCloud account.

    Stay tuned for more details and advice.

    If your T-Mobile iPhone is having a similar problem, sound off about the issue in the comment section below.

    Mike Gikas




    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2015 Consumers Union of U.S.

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    Redesigned 2016 Chevrolet Cruze promises more space, improved safety

    Chevrolet hopes to Cruze to more sales with a roomier, more luxurious redesign of its popular compact sedan. In an early look, the new Cruze strikes us as a big step forward. One of the biggest updates comes in the rear seat, where passengers no longer need Japanese subway pushers to cram them inside. It’s one of the roomiest back seats in the class, with  plenty of leg and foot room even for six footers. In fact, the rear seats look like they have more legroom than Chevy’s next larger sedan, the Malibu. (The Malibu is growing larger with its own 2016 redesign.) Some versions even pamper rear-seat occupants with their own seat heaters—a rare treat in a small car.

    Of course, Chevrolet didn’t skimp up front, either. The cabin feels more upscale, with interior materials and the control layout being a notable a step up from the old car. The front seats felt plenty supportive and comfortable, and some Cruzes even offer a heated steering wheel, which drivers will doubtless appreciate in frigid winter months.

    Drivers can also reach a new infotainment system featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which mirror your cell-phone screen on the dashboard. That puts Apple or Google maps at your fingertips while driving and makes it easy to use natural voice commands via Siri or Google Now from your phone. We’ve found these systems bring their own challenges, however.

    The standard engine in the new Cruze is an updated 1.4-liter, four-cylinder turbo that gets direct fuel injection and a start-stop feature to reduce fuel use during idling. It’s rated at 153 hp—up 15 hp from the old engine.

    Despite a three-inch stretch in overall length, some versions of the new Cruze are 250 pounds lighter than the old version, which should also help save fuel. Both six-speed manual and automatic transmissions are available. In 2017 the Cruze will get a new 1.6-liter turbodiesel engine. Like the current diesel, it will be certified to run B20 biodiesel. Unimpressive fuel economy for the class was a sore point in the old Cruze; EPA numbers for the new engines haven't been announced, so we have to reserve judgment there.

    A new top-level Premier trim line replaces the LTZ and will feature a more sophisticated multi-link rear suspension in place of the twist-beam axle that is used on lower trim levels. New LED headlights also distinguish Premier versions from the rest of the Cruze line. MacPherson struts are used for all Cruzes up front.

    Chevrolet will offer a variety of advanced active safety features on the Cruze, including forward-collision warning, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and lane-keeping assistance. Unfortunately, those systems are only available on high-trim models. We believe Chevrolet—and all manufacturers—should make key active safety features standard, or at least available, on all trim levels.

    The new Cruze goes on sale early next year, giving us a chance to try the new seat and steering wheel heaters during the chilly winter. In the meantime, we can only hope Chevrolet has addressed the biggest fault in the old Cruze: its below-par reliability.

    With better fuel economy and reliability, and a more comfortable back seat, the new Cruze could be more than competitive; it could be a real small-car contender.

    —Eric Evarts

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2015 Consumers Union of U.S.

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    Gripes of wrath: CFPB's Consumer Complaint Database now lets you read complaints as consumers post them

    The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau today published more than 7,700 consumer narratives on their negative experiences with specific banks, credit-card companies, credit bureaus, payday lenders, and other financial-service entities. This new, ongoing feature of the CFPB's Consumer Complaint Database could be a boon if you want to read comments about a particular company's practices. And it could potentially encourage more people to seek redress from the CFPB. 

    For the first time, you can now search the CFPB's Consumer Complaint Database to find complaints on specific lenders and topics, and see how the bureau handled those complaints. Previously, the CFPB, which regulates much of consumer lending in the U.S., published information on the types of complaints, their dates, and their origin by state, as well as whether the consumer got redress. Now, you can read specifics and potentially identify complaints similar to their own circumstances. 

    The verbatims cover companies as diverse as debt-collection agencies, credit unions, reverse-mortgage companies, banks, payday lenders, and credit-reporting agencies. Consumers' names and sensitive information such as account numbers and balances are hidden, though company names are on display.

    The verbatim complaints have been collected since March 2015. The CFPB has tallied 627,000 consumer complaints since it began collecting them in June 2012.

    Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, has long been pushing for such transparency. “This is a great, long fought victory for consumers," said Pamela Banks, senior policy counsel in Consumers Union's Washington, D.C., office. "Giving consumers the option to share their personal narratives in this public database not only helps to hold companies more accountable, but it also better informs other consumers’ decisions when they’re shopping for important financial products and services.”

    —Tobie Stanger (@TobieStanger on Twitter)

    Get advice and tips on the best bank services and loans with our banking and credit guide.

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2015 Consumers Union of U.S.

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    A room-by-room guide to the best paints

    Choosing a color is where many of us start a paint job. But you should really begin with the paint brand. If you get that wrong, the room might not look great no matter what shade you use. Paint in a sunny kitchen, for example, can fade, and bathroom walls can end up covered in mildew. Consumer Reports tests are designed to find brands that stand up to sun, moisture, and other wear and tear.

    We also check for gloss change over time—if the sheen dulls, it’s as bad as having a stain. Keep in mind that a paint’s sheen (how shiny or flat it is) should match the job. As a rule, darker rooms with fewer windows and little light need a shinier finish, such as satin, to brighten them up, and naturally bright rooms tend to look best in a light-absorbing matte finish.

    To make shopping easier, we’ve grouped our top-performing paints into the best finishes for our room-by-room picks. And to make doing it yourself even easier, all of the listed paints are self-priming, so you can skip that step. Plus they’re eco-friendly, with low or no volatile organic compounds—the noxious chemicals that can make paint smell bad and give you a headache.

    For high-traffic areas and dark rooms

    Why we like them. The easy-clean satin finish is ideal for any active space. Think entryways and kids’ rooms. The sheen also reflects light to brighten dark spaces. Both paints were great at hiding old paint and resisting stains. Valspar’s sheen didn’t change with scrubbing; Behr’s changed only slightly, but it left a smoother finish.

    For kitchens and dining rooms

    Why we like them. Satin finishes are a good match for walls that attract splatters. Our No. 1 paint, Behr Marquee, was especially great at resisting oil- and water-based stains, as well as standing up to aggressive cleaning. The budget friendlier Valspar Satin also earned high marks in both of those categories.

    For bathrooms and trim

    Why we like them. The super-shiny semi-gloss finish—the easiest to clean—can hold up to sticky fingers and bathroom moisture buildup, and it’s great for highlighting woodwork. All three picks were very good at resisting mildew and stains.

    For living rooms, bedrooms, sunny rooms, and ceilings

    Why we like them. A light-absorbing, subdued flat finish can be soothing in a bedroom or living room and can help tone down too-bright spaces. It’s also the finish you want for ceilings. All three covered dark colors well and are durable, but Clark+Kensington left the smoothest surface and was better at resisting stains.

    —Adapted from ShopSmart

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2015 Consumers Union of U.S.

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    Life expectancy and retirement planning

    The clue many of us use to forecast our life expectancy is family history. If you’re still healthy and your parents got past 85, it seems reasonable to expect that you’ll reach that milestone too—barring an encounter with a moving bus. About half of Americans consider family history first when estimating their own life expectancy, says a survey by the Society of Actuaries.

    Yet research shows that heredity plays a smaller role in how long you live than most people think. Determining a life span is a complex and inexact science. Understanding what contributes to your life expectancy could help you plan for what lies ahead.

    But it may be only part of the equation in addressing your future financial needs.

    Financial planners say that they talk with their clients about family history when plotting a retirement time horizon. Yet research hasn’t shown a huge correlation between genes and life span before age 60. A 2006 Scandinavian study of twins found that most identical pairs died a decade or more apart, in spite of their shared genes. This and similar studies asserted that as little as about a quarter of one’s longevity is connected to inherited traits. (On the other hand, notes Jay Olshansky, a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Illinois School of Public Health, “for those carrying lethal genes, it’s 100 percent genetic.”)

    A 2013 study in the journal Experimental Gerontology did show that when one parent lives to 100, his or her offspring show less risk of developing certain age-related ailments compared with children of shorter-lived parents. They’re also less likely to need drugs to treat medical problems than other people. The paper confirmed that the genetic influence on aging was more evident at advanced ages. But those without very old ancestors may not be able to extrapolate from this about their own longevity.

    What’s more, when some relatives live long and others don’t, “it’s hard for people to draw conclusions,” says Cindy Levering, an associate at the Society of Actuaries in Washington, D.C. Actuaries in the business of forecasting how long individuals will live don’t place as much emphasis on heredity.

    Consumer Reports Retirement Planning Guide offers unbiased, expert advice on planning for your next chapter in life.

    Your life expectancy, it turns out, has a lot to do with lifestyle. A family history of heart disease correlates with a higher risk of early mortality, but new medications can lessen its likelihood. High blood pressure can be inherited, but it can also be addressed with medications. Exercise and a healthy diet are also associated with longer lives. Smoking—well, you can fill in the rest.

    “Long life begins with genetics, but it can be modulated through lifestyle,” Olshansky says. “The only control we have over our duration of time is to shorten it, and we exercise that control all the time.”

    Thanks to the mathematics-based rules of probability, we do know that couples are likely to live longer than those who live alone.

    If you insist on a definitive age on which to hang your plans, you could check out Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company's Lifespan Calculator, which attempts to show how factors including lifestyle choices can affect your expected age of death. But don't view the results as gospel. The calculator asks about family cardiovascular history, for instance, but notes that it may not provide accurate results for individuals who have a chronic illness. 

    Still, if you want to focus on a number from a life expectancy calculator, add five to 10 years to any result you find, Levering says. “People expect they’re going to live a shorter period than they really do,” she says. 

    Rather than focusing on how long you’re going to live, consider financial solutions that work regardless of life span. Webb, the economist, says he’s partial to annuities because they provide a steady stream of income for life. Traditional pensions are annuities; so is Social Security. Variable annuities have earned a bad reputation for their high up-front costs and questionable returns. But immediate annuities—which pay out right away on an up-front investment— and deferred annuities, particularly new “longevity annuities,” might be appropriate for folks concerned about outliving their funds. (No wonder Northwestern Mutual, which sells such products, got into offering longevity predictions.)

    Harold Evensky, a certified financial planner and principal of the Coral Gables, Fla., financial-planning company Evensky and Katz, has had a change of heart about immediate annuities, which have become less costly: “The critical question is, ‘Is the company going to be around to pay me?’ ” Evensky says that early retirees in their late 50s and early 60s should focus on getting the best total return from their taxable and tax-deferred accounts. As they get older they might consider a longevity annuity, and near 70, they can begin to consider an immediate annuity. “People need to think of these as risk-management tools, not investments,” he says. “You’re insuring against living longer than you expect.”

    There’s one element on which experts agree: Delaying Social Security claims is a great hedge against outliving your money. Each year past your full retirement age that you delay taking benefits you’ll increase your eventual monthly benefit by a handsome 8 percent, with inflation adjustments. that kind of guaranteed, risk-free rate of return isn’t currently available with other investments. And those payments continue for your lifetime.

    Evensky and Webb both discount the argument some people raise that waiting to claim Social Security only pays off  if you are able to reach the break-even age of 82. The focus, they say, should be on using Social Security as it was originally intended, as insurance. “People have a home and fire insurance, but they don’t get upset when the house doesn’t burn down,” Evensky says. “You may die and not collect, but if you live it’ll be pretty important income.”

    —Tobie Stanger (@TobieStanger on Twitter)

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2015 Consumers Union of U.S.

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