Are you the publisher? Claim or contact us about this channel


Embed this content in your HTML

Search

Report adult content:

click to rate:

Account: (login)

More Channels


Showcase


Channel Catalog


Channel Description:

Consumer Reports

older | 1 | .... | 376 | 377 | (Page 378) | 379 | 380 | .... | 384 | newer

    0 0

    Spiralizers Are the Perfect Gadget for Picky Eaters

    At least three major manufacturers unveiled spiralizers at the International Home + Housewares show in Chicago this week, making the handheld gadget a surprise 2016 hit—and an early candidate for the year’s hottest holiday gift. Each device has unique features, though they all deliver the same basic function of creating fun shapes out of fresh fruits and vegetables. That should appeal to people who entertain at home a lot, and to parents of kids who turn their noses up at zucchini, cucumbers, and other healthful foods when served the traditional way.          

    Cuisinart Food Spiralizer (available now, $30)  
    This mechanical model gives the forearm a bit of a workout, though Cuisinart says the adaption of its exclusive food processor blade technology to the spiralizer makes for easy operation. You can choose from three cutting options: thin or thick julienne, and ribbon slice. The blade-locking design eliminates contact with any sharp edges and the entire unit is dishwasher safe.

    Hamilton Beach 3-in-1 Spiralizer (available in May, $40)
    This electric 3-in-1 spiralizer from Hamilton Beach lets you produce continuous ribbons or spirals of a variety of veggies, from zucchini noodles to homemade potato chips. The additional grating disk is designed for harder foods like Parmesan cheese and nuts. 

    KitchenAid Spiralizer Blade (available in April, $150)
    An attachment to any KitchenAid stand mixer, this new spiralizer is an upgrade to the brand’s original. It adds two new blades to the existing five, enabling up to 13 combinations of spiralizing, slicing, peeling, and coring. The angel hair zucchini noodle strands are pitched as a healthy alternative to flour-based pasta. Or enjoy seasonal garnishes made from paper-thin fruit spirals.

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2016 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0

    Sleep Deprivation May Cause Weight Gain

    Here’s another good reason to get more shut-eye and avoid sleep deprivation: skimping on sleep may give you the same kind of "munchies" pot smokers get—putting you at risk for weight gain. That’s because our brains naturally produce chemicals similar to those found in marijuana, called endocannabinoids.

    “These chemicals have appetite-enhancing effects. They drive eating for pleasure, and seem to cause us to select yummier foods that are higher in fat, sugar, and salt,” says University of Chicago sleep expert Erin Hanlon, Ph.D., whose study on the subject was recently published in the journal Sleep.

    “When we don’t sleep enough, there are higher concentrations of this chemical in our blood,” Hanlon says—and that could make the mid-afternoon allure of the cookie jar even harder to resist, which in turn can make you gain weight. “There is clearly a link between loss of sleep and an increase in the risk of obesity,” Hanlon says.

    To test the hypothesis that lack of sleep results in elevated endocannabinoid levels, Hanlon and her team recruited 14 volunteers and allowed them to sleep either a healthy 8.5 hours per night or just 4.5 hours per night for four consecutive nights in the University of Chicago sleep lab. (All the volunteers underwent four-day stints of both sleep patterns.) Hourly monitoring of their blood revealed that the endocannabinoid levels of the 8.5-hours-per-night group peaked around lunchtime and then quickly fell again about 2 hours later. On the other hand, endocannabinoid levels in the sleep-deprived group peaked around 2 p.m. and remained elevated throughout the afternoon and evening.

    Hanlon and her team then monitored the amount and type of food the volunteers ate. After both long sleep sessions and short sleep sessions, they consumed the same amount of calories at mealtimes. But between lunch and dinner the participants consumed around 600 calories in snacks after having a full night’s sleep, but a much higher 1,000 calories after the short sleep session.

    In addition, the short sleepers were less able to resist eating tasty foods and consumed nearly twice as much fat and protein than they did after the longer sleep sessions. “The increased snacking occurred at the same time that we observed the increase in endocannabinoid levels," Hanlon says.

    Lack of sleep didn’t just hinder the volunteers’ self-control. When questioned about how they felt, participants who were sleep-deprived reported stronger feelings of hunger than they did when they had slept 8.5 hours. The exact amount of sleep needed to avoid raising your endocannabinoid levels isn't clear, and is likely based on individual sleep needs, Hanlon says. But according to the National Sleep Foundation, adults should get between 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night.


    More on Sleep



    Researchers and dietitians have long known there is a connection between lack of sleep and weight gain, but much of the research has focused on the chemicals leptin, ghrelin, and cortisol—other key chemicals known to affect our metabolism and hunger patterns. Hanlon’s research also monitored those chemicals, but it is the first to link lack of sleep and overeating to endocannabinoids. “Our study reinforces the importance of having good sleep hygiene,” Hanlon says. “Getting enough sleep is an essential aspect of maintaining overall good health.

    But getting enough sleep isn’t always easy. According to a recent Consumer Reports survey, 68 percent of Americans—an estimated 164 million—struggle with sleep at least once a week, and 27 percent of Americans have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep most nights. If you are one of them, and feel the effects of sleep deprivation, consult our guide to falling asleep and staying asleep. It could help you avoid taking sleeping pills or using other sleep aids—and might help you shed a few pounds as well.

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2016 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0

    Everything You Need to Know About the Takata Airbag Recall - Consumer Reports News

    Vehicles made by 14 different automakers have been recalled to replace frontal airbags on the driver’s side or passenger’s side, or both in what NHTSA has called "the largest and most complex safety recall in U.S. history." The airbags, made by major parts supplier Takata, were mostly installed in cars from model year 2002 through 2015. 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.

    Recent timeline

    February 12, 2016: NHTSA expands its list of impacted models. Thus far, 7,122,510 airbags have been repaired.

    December 23, 2015: NHTSA announces an eighth U.S. fatality due to the questionable Takata airbag inflator, underscoring the need for consumer to have their cars repaired as soon as possible. Further, there have been changes to the official list of affected vehicles, which are reflected in this omnibus story.

    November 3, 2015: NHTSA imposes a record civil penalty of up to $200 million against Takata. (Of that, $70 is a cash penalty, with an additional $130 million charge if Takata fails to meet its commitments.) Plus, the government agency requires Takata to phase out the manufacturer and sale of inflators that use the risky propellant and recall all Takata ammonium nitrate inflators currently on the road—unless the company can prove they are safe or can show it has determined why its inflators are prone to rupture.

    October 9, 2015: Honda releases an update on the Takata airbag recall, stating its progress in reaching out to consumers and its recall repair completion rate.

    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.

    Putting the dangers in perspective

    Seven 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.

    For a historical perspective, AutoSafety.org has compiled a list of airbag recalls over time.  

    Takata airbag Q&A

    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
    Honda  
    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.

    BMW

    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:

    2008-2013 1 Series (128i, 135i, M)
    2000 323i / 328i
    2001-2013 M3
    2002-2003 M5
    2002-2006 325Ci
    2002-2006 330Ci
    2002-2003 325iT
    2002-2003 325XiT
    2006-2012 325XiT
    2001-2011 325i / 325Xi
    2006-2013 328i / 328Xi / 328i xDrive
    2001-2011 330i / 330Xi
    2006-2013 335i / 335Xi / 335 xDrive
    2009-2011 335d
    2007-2013 335is
    2002-2003 525i / 530i / 540i
    2013-2015 X1 sDrive 28i / xDrive28i / xDrive30i
    2003 X5 3.0i / X5 4.4i
    2007-2013 X5 xDrive30i / xDrive35i / xDrive48i / xDrive50i / M
    2009-2013 X5 xDrive35d
    2008-2014 X6 xDrive35i / xDrive50i / M

    Chrysler

    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:

    Chrysler:
    2007-2008 Chrysler Aspen
    2005-2010 Chrysler 300
    2005-2010 Chrysler 300C
    2006-2007 Chrysler Crossfire
    2005-2010 Chrysler SRT8

    Dodge:
    2008-2010 Dodge Challenger
    2006-2010 Dodge Charger
    2005-2011 Dodge Dakota
    2004-2008 Dodge Durango
    2005-2008 Dodge Magnum
    2003-2009 Dodge Ram 1500
    2003-2009 Dodge Ram 2500
    2003-2009 Dodge Ram 3500
    2008-2010 Dodge Ram 4500
    2008-2010 Dodge Ram 5500

    Ford

    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

    General Motors

    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:

    2007-2008 Chevrolet Silverado 2500/3500

    2007-2008 GMC Sierra 2500/3500

    2003-2007 Pontiac Vibe

    2005 Saab 9-2x
    2003-2011 Saab 9-3
    2010-2011 Saab 9-5

    2008-2009 Saturn Astra

    Honda

    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, 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 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:

     

    Acura:

    2003 Acura CL
    2013-2016 Acura ILX
    2013-2014 Acura ILX hybrid
    2003-2006 Acura MDX
    2007-2016 Acura RDX
    2005-2012 Acura RL
    2002-2003 Acura 3.2 TL
    2009-2014 Acura TL
    2010-2013 Acura ZDX

    Honda:

    2001-2007 Honda Accord - Driver’s side airbag
    2003-2007 Honda Accord - Passenger side airbag
    2001-2005 Honda Civic - Driver’s & passenger side airbag
    2002-2011 Honda CR-V - Driver’s side airbag
    2011-2015 Honda CR-Z
    2003-2011 Honda Element - Driver’s side airbag
    2010-2014 Honda FCX Clarity
    2009-2013 Honda Fit
    2013-2014 Honda Fit EV
    2010-2014 Honda Insight
    2002-2004 Honda Odyssey - Driver’s side airbag
    2003-2008 Honda Pilot - Driver’s side airbag
    2006-2014 Honda Ridgeline - Driver’s side airbag

    Mazda

    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:

    2004-2006 B-Series Truck - Driver and/or passenger side airbag
    2003-2008 Mazda6 - Driver and/or passenger side airbag
    2006-2007 MazdaSpeed6 - Driver and/or passenger side airbag
    2004-2005 MPV - Driver and/or passenger side airbag
    2004-2008 Mazda RX-8 - Driver and/or passenger side airbag


    Mercedes-Benz

    2005 C230 Kompressor
    2006-2007 C230
    2008-2011 C300
    2008-2011 C300 4Matic
    2005 C320
    2006-2011 C350
    2009-2011 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG
    2010-2011 E350
    2010-2011 E350 4Matic
    2011 E350 Cabriolet
    2010-2011 E550
    2010-2011 E550 4Matic
    2011 E550 Cabriolet
    2010-2011 E63 AMG
    2009-2010 GL320 BlueTec 4Matic
    2011-2012 GL350 BlueTec 4Matic
    2009-2012 GL450 4Matic
    2009-2012 GL550 4Matic
    2010-2012 GLK350
    2010-2012 GLK350 4Matic
    2009-2010 ML320 BlueTec 4Matic
    2009-2011 ML350
    2009-2011 ML350 4Matic
    2010-2011 ML450 4Matic Hybrid
    2009-2011 ML550 4Matic
    2009-2011 ML63 AMG
    2007-2008 SLK280
    2007-2008 SLK350
    2007-2008 SLK55 AMG
    2011-2014 SLS AMG
    2012 SLS AMG Cabriolet
    2013-2014 SLS AMG GT
    2009-2010 R320 CDI 4Matic
    2009-2012 R350 4Matic
    2011-2012 R350 BlueTec 4Matic

    Mitsubishi

    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
    2004-2006 Lancer Evolution
    2004 Lancer Sportback
    2006-2009 Mitsubishi Raider

    Nissan

    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:

    Infiniti:
    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  

    Nissan:
    2001-2003 Nissan Maxima - Passenger side
    2002-2004 Nissan Pathfinder - Passenger side
    2002-2006 Nissan Sentra - Passenger side  

    Subaru

    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

    2003-2008 Legacy - Passenger side

    2003-2008 Outback - Passenger side

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

    Toyota

    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.

    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:

    Lexus:
    2002-2007 Lexus SC - Passenger side  

    Toyota:
    2003-2007 Toyota Corolla - Passenger side
    2003-2007 Toyota Matrix - Passenger side
    2004-2005 Toyota RAV4
    2002-2007 Toyota Sequoia - Passenger side
    2003-2006 Toyota Tundra - Passenger side

    Volkswagen

    Recalled cars:

    Audi:
    2005-2013 Audi A3
    2006-2009 Audi A4 Cabrio
    2010-2011 Audi A5 Cabrio
    2009-2012 Audi Q5

    Volkswagen:
    2009-2014 Volkswagen CC
    2012-2014 Volkswagen Eos
    2010-2014 Volkswagen Golf
    2010-2014 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen
    2006-2010 Volkswagen Passat
    2012-2014 Volkswagen Passat

     

     

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2016 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0

    The Best Matching Washers and Dryers - Consumer Reports

    Matching washer and dryer pairs are a popular choice although some don't make a great couple. Their coordinating style makes a statement, but you'll question how a terrific washer and a noisy dryer that's tough on clothes ended up together. Enter the matchmaker. Consumer Reports' tests found pairs that are worth a look.

    Now about the prices. The top-rated pairs are expensive. Blame it on rising manufacturing costs, larger capacities, stainless drums, and added cycles and features. Our tests have found that basic cycles can handle most laundry needs. So ask yourself if you want to pay extra for a bedding cycle or one for your jeans. 

    The washer and dryer Buying Guides highlight the advantages of each washer type and features. Use the Ratings selector to narrow choices and the Features & Specs tab to compare features. Our Brand Reliability offers helpful information and so do user reviews. If you have questions email me at kjaneway@consumer.org. 

    Full washing machine Ratings and recommendations.
    Full clothes dryer Ratings and recommendations.

    The Quietest Couples

    Consider machines that scored very good or better in our noise tests if placing near bedrooms. You'll know they're working but they shouldn't disturb you. Note that wash times are based on the normal wash cycle heavy-soil setting. You'll save about 15 minutes using the normal-soil setting.

    Many washers and dryers have a steam setting. We found it slightly improved a washer's stain removal. Steam removed more odors than dryers without steam, but left clothes wrinkled. The dryers highlighted here have moisture sensors, the most important feature. It turns off the machine when laundry is dry—that saves energy and is easier on fabrics. For more details see our Ratings of washing machines and dryers

    Kenmore set

    Kenmore Elite 41072 front-loader and Kenmore Elite 81072 electric dryer
    Price: $1,000 each
    Here's the deal: The washer is near the top of our Ratings and made our top picks. It has 14 cycles, offers excellent washing, was gentle on fabrics, and has a jumbo capacity—it fit about 25 pounds of our laundry. Claimed capacity is 5.2 cubic feet. The dryer excelled at its job and also has a jumbo capacity. Claimed capacity is 9 cubic feet. 
    Consider this: Wash time is 95 minutes. The Accela-Wash option offers comparable performance and saves 15 to 20 minutes. 
    Need to know: Each machine is 29 inches wide—2 more than usual—but can be stacked. Gas dryer is Kenmore Elite 91072, $1,100. 

    LG duos

    LG WM8500HVA front-loader and LG DLEX8500V electric dryer 
    Price: $1,450 each
    Here's the deal: The washer is near the top of our Ratings and both machines make the recommended list. They have jumbo capacities, each holding about 26 pounds of our laundry. Claimed capacity is 5.2 cubic feet for the washer, 9 for the dryer. The washer was superb at cleaning and gentle on fabrics and has 14 cycles; the dryer aced its job. 
    Consider this: It took 90 minutes to do a normal wash on the heavy soil setting, but the TurboWash option offers comparable wash performance in 15 to 20 minutes less time.
    Need to know: Each machine is 29 inches wide, two more than usual, but can be stacked. Only available in a graphite-steel finish. Gas dryer is LG DLGX8501V, $1,550. 

    LG WM4270HWA front-loader and LG DLEX4270W electric dryer
    Price: $1,000 each 
    Here's the deal: Neither made our top picks but both were impressive at their task and relatively quiet. Claimed capacity is 4.5 cubic feet for the washer, and 7.4 for the dryer. The washer fit 22 pounds of our laundry, was gentle on fabrics, and has 14 cycles. 
    Consider this: Normal wash time on heavy-soil setting is 75 minutes. The TurboWash option offers comparable cleaning and saves 15 to 20 minutes.
    Need to know:  Machines can be stacked. Each is 27 inches wide. Gas dryer is the LG DLGX4271W, $1,030. 

    Maytag mates

    Maytag Maxima MHW8100DC front-loader and Maytag Maxima MED8100DC
    Price: 
    $1,400 each
    Here's the deal: This recommended front-loader offers excellent washing and held 22 pounds of our laundry. Claimed capacity is 4.5 cubic feet. It was gentle on fabrics and there are 11 wash cycles. The dryer was superb at its task and among the quietest tested. Claimed capacity is 7.3 cubic feet. Both machines are made in America.
    Consider this: The washer took 75 minutes using the normal cycle on heavy-soil setting.
    Need to know: Gas dryer is Maytag Maxima MGD8100DC, $1,500. Appliances can be stacked. Each is 27 inches wide. The newly tested white Maytag Maxima MHW8150EW front-loader was even slightly better in our tests and costs $1,350. It can also be paired with the Maytag Maxima MED8100 dryer. Matching white dryer is the Maytag Maxima MED8100DW dryer. 

    Maytag Bravos MVWB855DW HE top-loader and Maytag Bravos MEDB855DW electric dryer
    Price: $1,000 each 
    Here's the deal: The washer made our top picks, delivers impressive cleaning, and was among the most water efficient of the HE top-loaders. It fit about 26 pounds of our laundry. Claimed capacity is 5.3 cubic feet. There are 11 wash cycles. The dryer was impressive at its job and claimed capacity is 8.8 cubic feet. These machines are made in America. 
    Consider this: Normal wash time was 80 minutes using heavy-soil setting. This washer wasn't so gentle on fabrics, but that's true for most top-loaders. 
    Need to know: Washer is 27 inches wide; dryer, 29. Gas dryer is the Maytag Bravos MGDB855DW, $1,100. 

    Samsung sets

    Samsung WF56H9110CW front-loader and Samsung DV56H9100EW electric dryer
    Price: $1,450 washer, $1,300 dryer
    Here's the deal: These recommended models are top rated, excellent at their job, relatively quiet, and have jumbo capacities. The washer held 28 pounds of our laundry and was among the gentlest on fabrics. Claimed capacity is 5.6 cubic feet for the washer and 9.5 for the dryer. There are 15 wash cycles.
    Consider this: Normal wash on heavy-soil setting is 90 minutes. The SuperSpeed option saved about 15 to 20 minutes without affecting cleaning.
    Need to know: Each machine is 30 inches wide and can be stacked. The matching electric dryer is shown in the ratings as ending in "EG" to indicate the tested model has an onyx finish; "EW" is white and listed here as it matches the tested washer. Gas dryer is shown in ratings as the Samsung DV56H9100GG, $1,400. 

    Samsung WF56H9100AG front-loader and Samsung DV56H9100EG electric dryer
    Price: $1,200 each
    Here's the deal: Both made our top picks. The washer has one of the largest capacities tested and fit about 28 pounds of our laundry. Claimed capacity is 5.6 cubic feet. It offers impressive cleaning and was gentle on fabrics. There are 15 wash cycles.The top-rated dryer was superb at drying and has a jumbo capacity. Claimed capacity is 9.5 cubic feet. 
    Consider this: Normal wash time on heavy soil setting was 85 minutes, but the SuperSpeed option cut wash time of full loads by about 15 to 20 minutes without sacrificing performance.
    Need to know: Each machine is 30 inches wide and can be stacked. Gas dryer is Samsung DV56H9100GG, $1,300.

    Samsung WA56H9000AP HE top-loader and Samsung DV56H9000EP electric dryer
    Price: $1,200 each
    Here's the deal: Both are top picks. This washer has a jumbo capacity and can hold about 28 pounds of laundry. Claimed capacity is 5.6 cubic feet. Washing was impressive and there are 15 cycles. Normal wash time on heavy soil setting was 75 minutes. The dryer aced its job and has a jumbo capacity. Claimed capacity is 9.5 cubic feet. 
    Consider this: As with most top-loaders this washer wasn't so gentle on fabrics.
    Need to know: Each machine is 30 inches wide. The waterproof cycle prevented the washer from becoming unbalanced when we washed several waterproof jackets. Gas dryer is Samsung DV56H9000GP, $1,300. 

    Whirlpool pairs

    Whirlpool Duet WFL98HEBU front-loader and Whirlpool Duet WEL98HEBU electric dryer
    Price: $1,440 each
    Here's the deal: Both have a large capacity. Claimed capacity is 4.3 cubic feet for the washer and 7.4 for the dryer. The washer offers excellent cleaning and was gentle on fabrics. There are 13 wash cycles. Normal wash time, on heavy soil setting, is 75 minutes. That's faster than most.The dryer was superb at drying and among the quietest tested.
    Consider this: These machines are Wi-Fi enabled, providing remote control via your smart device that lets you monitor your laundry's progress, start/stop the machine, and more.
    Need to know: Made in the U.S.A. Machines have a silver finish and can be stacked. Each is 27 inches wide. Dryer is not available as a gas model.

    Whirlpool Cabrio WTW8500DW HE top-loader and Whirlpool Cabrio WED8500DW electric dryer
    Price: $1,080 each
    Here's the deal: The washer was impressive and made our top picks.The dryer excelled at drying. Both are relatively quiet. This washer fit 26 pounds of our laundry and was one of the gentlest on fabrics. There are 26 wash cycles. That's right, 26. Claimed capacity is 5.3 cubic feet for the washer and 8.8 for the dryer. 
    Consider this: Normal wash time on heavy-soil setting was 80 minutes. 
    Need to know: Washer is 28 inches wide; dryer, 29. They're made in the U.S.A. Gas dryer is the Whirlpool Cabrio WGD8500DW, $1,180. 

    CR Tip

    Some HE top-loaders come with a warning not to wash waterproof items, or the manufacturer may suggest using the low-spin or no-spin mode to prevent the load from becoming unbalanced. That can cause the machine to shake too much, even damaging the machine and laundry area. Check the manual before you buy.  

    Impressive Pairs for $1,700 or Less

    All were impressive at cleaning or drying though most did not make our top picks. The dryers have moisture sensors, a must. Keep in mind that most improvements in performance and efficiency are on washers. If you're set on a matching duo pick your washer and then the dryer. For more details see our Ratings of washing machines and clothes dryers.

    Kenmore couples

    Kenmore 28132 HE top-loader and Kenmore 68132 electric dryer
    Price: $750 each
    Here's the deal: The washer is the least expensive and fastest of the top picks. It took 60 minutes using normal wash on a heavy-soil setting. There are eight wash cycles. Cleaning was impressive and the washer fit about 26 pounds of our laundry. Claimed capacity is 5.3 cubic feet. This machine is relatively quiet, as is the dryer. The tested dryer was superb at drying. The dryer highlighted here is a similar model and we expect performance to be similar to tested dryer. Claimed capacity is 8.8 cubic feet.
    Consider this: The washer wasn't so gentle on fabrics although that's true for most HE top-loaders we've tested. The dryer is Energy Star-qualified and you will save some energy but extend drying time using the eco-mode.
    Need to know: Washer is 27 inches wide, standard width, and yet capacity is jumbo. When shopping reach into the bottom of the washer to see if you can grab that last sock. Dryer is 29 inches wide.

    Kenmore 27132 HE top-loader and Kenmore 67132 electric dryer
    Price: $650 each 
    Here's the deal: Neither made our top picks but the washer came close. It performed similarly to the Kenmore above and also has eight wash cycles and a wash time of 60 minutes (normal wash, heavy-soil setting). But capacity is slightly smaller. Claimed capacity is 4.8 cubic feet. We fit about 23 pounds of laundry. The dryer was impressive at drying. Claimed capacity is 7 cubic feet. Both machines are relatively quiet. 
    Consider this: Like most top-loaders this one wasn't gentle on fabrics.
    Need to know: Washer is 27 inches wide, dryer is 29. Gas dryer is the Kenmore 77132, $750.  

    LG duos

    LG WM3170CW front-loader and LG DLE3170W electric dryer
    Price: $720 each 
    Here's the deal: We first tested this washer in spring 2015 and found a software glitch that directed the washer to use so little water that it was unable to clean our laundry and left stains. LG said they would correct the software bug in washers in stock and in customers' homes. We bought a new LG WM3170CW washer in February 2016 and our tests found the problem has been solved, and cleaning was excellent. Claimed capacity is 4.3 cubic feet and it holds about 21 pounds of laundry. The dryer was excellent at its job and among the quietest we tested. Claimed capacity is 7.4 cubic feet. 
    Consider this: Wash time is 110 minutes using the normal wash, heavy-soil setting. Save about 15 minutes by using the normal-soil setting. The front-loader's price is half of some high-scoring washers, making it a CR Best Buy. 
    Need to know: Each machine is 27 inches wide, standard width, and can be stacked. Gas dryer is the LG DLG3171W, $820.  

    LG WM3570HVA front-loader and LG DLEX3570HV electric dryer
    Price: $800 washer, $900 dryer
    Here's the deal: They didn't make our top picks but the washer was excellent at cleaning, gentle on fabrics, and fit about 21 pounds of our laundry. Claimed capacity is 4.3 cubic feet. There are 12 wash cycles. The dryer aced its job; claimed capacity is 7.4 cubic feet. Both machines were relatively quiet. 
    Consider this: Wash time on normal wash heavy-soil setting was 95 minutes. The TurboWash option cut wash time of full loads by 15 to 20 minutes and offers comparable wash performance.
    Need to know: Each machine is 27 inches wide and stackable. They have a graphite finish. In the ratings the dryer model name ends with a "W" to indicate that the tested model was white. It costs about $100 less than the graphite finish. Gas dryer is LG DLGX3571W in white or LG DLGX3571HV in graphite. 

    Maytag mates

    Maytag Maxima MHW5100DW front-loader and Maytag Maxima MED5100DW electric dryer
    Price: $750 each
    Here's the deal: The washer is recommended and a CR Best Buy. It offers excellent cleaning and energy- and water-efficiency, and was gentle on fabrics. Claimed capacity is 4.5 cubic feet and it fits about 22 pounds of our laundry. The dryer is Energy Star qualified and superb at drying. Our results are based on using the regular mode. The energy-saving option should provide comparable performance while saving energy, but drying time is significantly longer. Claimed capacity is 7.3 cubic feet. 
    Consider this: Wash time is 75 minutes on normal wash heavy-soil setting, and this machine is relatively noisy. Consider that if placing near bedrooms or the family room. 
    Need to know: Machines are made in the U.S, 27 inches wide, and stackable. Gas dryer is the Maytag MGD5100DW, $850. 

    Maytag Bravos MVWB835DW HE top-loader and Maytag Bravos MEDB835DW electric dryer 
    Price: $680 each
    Here's the deal: They didn't make the top picks but are worth considering. The washer was impressive at cleaning and took 70 minutes using the normal wash heavy-soil setting. You'll save about 15 to 20 minutes using the normal soil setting. There are 11 wash cycles. We fit about 25 pounds of our laundry in this washer. Claimed capacity is 5.3 cubic feet. This machine is relatively quiet. You'll hear it working but it shouldn't disturb you. The tested dryer was impressive at dryer and among the quietest in our tests. The dryer highlighted here is a similar model and we expect performance to be similar to the tested dryer. Claimed capacity is 8.8 cubic feet. The washer and dryer are made in the U.S. 
    Consider this: The washer wasn't so gentle on fabrics but that's true for most HE top-loaders tested. Our tests use the normal wash heavy-soil setting. Use the normal wash normal-soil setting and it will be gentler on fabrics.
    Need to know: Washer is 27 inches wide, standard width, but capacity is jumbo. When shopping reach into the machine to see if you can grab that stray sock. Dryer is 29 inches wide. Both machines come only in white.  

    Samsung sets

    Samsung WA52J8700AP HE top-loader and Samsung DV52J8700EP electric dryer
    Price: $850 each
    Here's the deal: The washer was impressive at cleaning and made our top picks. The jumbo capacity fit 26 pounds of our laundry. Claimed capacity is 5.2 cubic feet. The dryer was excellent at its job; claimed capacity is 7.4 cubic feet. Both machines are relatively quiet. 
    Consider this: Wash time was 75 minutes using the normal wash heavy-soil setting. The SuperSpeed cuts wash time by 15 to 20 minutes and cleaning is still impressive. However, the washer wasn't so gentle on fabrics although that's true for most top-loaders. This washer has Activewash, a water jet and built-in sink with ridges that enable you to hand wash and soak stained items before they go into the machine.
    Need to know: Each machine is 27 inches, the standard width, yet capacity is very large. When shopping reach into washer to see if you can touch the bottom of the tub. The dryer is Energy Star qualified and using the eco-mode can save you some energy but extends dryer time. Gas dryer is Samsung DV52J8700GP, $950.

    Samsung WF45H6300AG front-loader and Samsung DV45H6300EG electric dryer
    Price: $800 each 
    Here's the deal: The washer was impressive overall and came close to making our top picks. It was excellent at cleaning, gentle on fabrics, and relatively quiet. There are 13 wash cycles. Claimed capacity is 4.5 cubic feet, scoring very good in our tests. The dryer aced its job but is relatively noisy. Claimed capacity is 7.5 cubic feet. 
    Consider this: Wash time is 80 minutes using normal wash on the heavy-soil setting. Save about 15 to 20 minutes using the SuperSpeed option and cleaning will still be impressive.
    Need to know: Machines are 27 inches wide. Gas dryer is the Samsung DV45H6300GW, $900. 

    How We Test Washers and Dryers

    In addition to washing performance Consumer Reports' washing machine tests look at how gentle a washing machine is on fabric as well as its energy and water efficiency. We look at noise and vibration, and note cycle times using the normal wash, heavy-soil setting. As for our capacity scores, models scoring excellent fit 25 or more pounds of laundry; a very good capacity score means the washer fit 20 to 24 pounds, and good, about 15 to 19 pounds. 

    In our clothes dryer tests we run the machines with different sized loads and a variety of fabrics. We measure noise, capacity, and convenience. Models that earned excellent or very good capacity scores in our dryer tests can hold large loads as well.

    —Kimberly Janeway

     

     

     

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2016 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0

    LG's Super UHD TVs Go All-In on HDR

    LG may have just answered one of the burning questions about the much heralded high dynamic range (HDR) technology springing up in this year's TV sets.

    As we previously noted, HDR—which is like contrast on steroids—expands a TV's ability to display the degrees of difference between the whitest whites and the blackest blacks on the screen. As a result, any scene from an HDR-formatted movie appears in greater detail. The only problem is that consumers are being presented with not one, but two different HDR options.

    The more common format, known as HDR10, has been embraced by the UHD Alliance, an industry group composed of electronics manufacturers and companies like Disney and Warner Brothers that create and distribute content. All 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs will support it.

    The second choice, Dolby Vision, requires you to own a TV with circuitry designed to decode content mastered for that format. Vizio has already introduced a Dolby Vision-capable TV. And LG, Philips, and TCL all promised to deliver Dolby Vision sets this year.

    This leaves consumers in an unwelcome position. If you want HDR, which way do you go? Well, LG has now removed the pain from that decision. Its 2016 line of 4K "Super UHD" TVs will arrive later this month with support for both formats, so you don't have to choose. The sames goes for LG's 4K OLED UHD TVs.

    Vudu is the only streaming service offering Dolby Vision content now, but Netflix says it will add some titles this spring. Expect to see Ultra HD Blu-ray discs and players with Dolby Vision later this year, too.

    One final note: When our lab technicians tested Vizio's 120-inch Dolby Vision TV last year, the set went blank when they tried to play an HDR10 movie clip. Vizio tells us a firmware update will soon resolve that issue, allowing the TVs in its Reference Series to support HDR10.

    The LG 4K Super UHD Lineup

    LG's new ultra-high-definition roster will be divided into three levels: the flagship UH9500 models, the mid-tier UH8500 sets, and the entry-level UH7700 TVs. All feature the two HDR formats, quantum dot technology for a wider range of colors, and an updated webOS smart TV platform. LG says Amazon, Netflix, and Vudu are among the services that will offer 4K video streaming with HDR directly from the webOS3.0 interface.

    All models in the UH7700 and UH8500 series, except the 75-inch UH8500 set, will be available later this month. The last model and two more from the flagship UH9500 series will arrive later this spring.

    Here's the full breakdown:

    UH9500 Series
    • 86-inch 86UH9500, $10,000
    • 65-inch 65UH9500, $4,000

    UH8500 Series
    • 75-inch 75UH8500, $5,000
    • 65-inch 65UH8500, $3,000
    • 60-inch 60UH8500, $2,300
    • 55-inch class 55UH8500, $2,000

    UH7700 Series
    • 65-inch 65UH7700, $2,800
    • 60-inch 60UH7700, $2,100
    • 55-inch 55UH7700, $1,800

    Over the past few months, we've been retooling our TV labs to prepare for the first wave of 2016 sets. We'll begin testing the new LG 4K models as soon as they're available. In the meantime, subscribers can search our full TV Ratings for 2015 standouts now at lower prices.

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2016 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0

    Consumer Reports Zeros in on Pressure Washer Safety

    When Consumer Reports recently issued a safety warning about the pinpoint spray nozzle available on most residential pressure washers, we hoped we could encourage manufacturers to replace the narrowest nozzle with one that produces a less concentrated spray. After all, pressure-washer injuries sent an estimated 6,057 people to the emergency room in 2014. But their response fell short of our expectations.

    Pressure washers are sold with either a set of interchangeable nozzles or an adjustable wand tip, both of which usually let users vary the flow of water from zero degrees, the finest, to about 40 degrees depending on the task. They’re inherently dangerous no matter which spray tip or setting you use. But Consumer Reports feels that the unnecessary risk of using a zero-degree nozzle—which concentrates the tool’s full pressure into a single, pinpoint blast—outweighs any benefits. Higher-degree nozzles get the job done; it just might take a bit longer.  

    Industry Response

    We suggested to manufacturers and the trade group that represents them, the Pressure Washer Manufacturers’ Association, that they remove the zero degree nozzle or setting from residential pressure washers. But the PWMA asserts that pressure washers are safe when operators follow instructions.

    “Manufacturers provide an operator's manual as well as on-product markings, which describe how to safely use the pressure washer,” the group said in a statement. It also said there are specific instances in which the zero-degree nozzle or setting is well suited.

    “Pressure washers are tools, not toys,” said Briggs & Stratton, the largest manufacturer of pressure washers, in response to our request. “Every pressure washer designed and manufactured by our company meets globally recognized, stringent safety standards and comes with instructions in the operator's manual and on the product itself. When used properly, our products, and more specifically any degree of spray angles, are safe and effective.” 

    AR North America, which makes electric pressure washers, initially told us that, based on our findings, the company would be “taking immediate steps to remove this nozzle tip from our electric pressure washer models, both current and future models.” However, that initial decision had not come from the top, and the company decided to maintain its current practices. “Like any power tool,” says Tom Sletten, director of customer service for AR, “there’s a certain amount of risk that the user takes, along the lines of a chain saw. If it’s not managed carefully, you can really do some damage.”

    As with the PWMA and Briggs & Stratton, AR outlined several appropriate uses of a zero-degree nozzle or setting, such as cleaning second-story siding or etching concrete with a concentrated spray. Moreover, Sletten explained that most of AR’s models come with adjustable nozzles rather than replaceable nozzle tips. Were they to follow Consumer Reports’ recommendation, AR would have to re-engineer the adjustable nozzles in certain models. Subsequently, the company will continue to outfit its products, depending on the model, with either zero-degree replaceable nozzles or adjustable nozzles with a zero-degree setting—and to rely on consumers to heed the manuals’ many safety warnings. 

    What You Can Do

    If you buy a model that comes with a zero-degree nozzle (it’s red) or you already own one, Consumer Reports advises you to get rid of it to reduce the chance of damaging property or causing injury to you, your family members, or anyone else who might use the sprayer. And if your pressure washer comes with a zero-degree adjustable setting, we recommend that you refrain from using it.

    To protect yourself, wear goggles, long pants, and sturdy footwear while using any pressure washer. And if you get even a minor skin break from a pressure washer, you need to consult a doctor as soon as possible because fluid from the pressurized spray can cause tissue damage without you knowing it. In the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System injury data we analyzed, 14 percent of the 6,057 estimated ER visits in 2014 attributed to pressure washers led to additional hospitalization, but only 2 percent were due to direct injury from a pressure washer’s stream. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, “the seriousness of high-pressure injection injuries is generally underestimated,” and recommends immediate medical attention.

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2016 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0

    2016 Mini Cooper Clubman Delivers More of a Good Thing

    Redesigned and more conventional, the new Mini Cooper Clubman brings traditional doors and a sassy demeanor. Gone is the two-door wagon look with the hidden passenger-side “suicide” door. The rear van-like barn doors remain.

    The Clubman oozes the unique Mini character and charm, while packing in more room and practicality. It remains an open question as to whether that is enough of a draw in the tightly packed product line given its size and price equation. Pricing starts at $24,100 but with typical option packages our recently purchased Clubman rang in at $31,550. Most Clubmans are sold as front-drivers, but AWD is optional.

    Sizing up this wee wagon begs the question: Who needs a Clubman, given the existence of the four-door, five-passenger Mini Cooper? The answer is a combination of legacy, marketing, and incremental functionality.

    In order to expand the Mini line and make it more appealing to drivers with family and friends, the Clubman is 11 inches longer, three inches wider, 300 pounds heavier, and $3,000 more expensive than the Cooper four-door. The result is more elbow and shoulder room throughout, a more-accommodating rear seat, and improved cargo space, while preserving the cheeky personality that defines Minis.

    This Mini wagon harks back to the original classic, which was also available as a panel van and a woodie. More than a stretched Cooper, the new Clubman actually shares a platform with the BMW X1 and the next-generation Mini Countryman.  

    The engine lineup mirrors the rest of the Mini Cooper roster. The base Clubman has a 1.5-liter, three-cylinder turbo that’s good for 134 horsepower; the S version comes with a 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder rated at 189 hp. If you opt for the automatic, the former comes with a six-speed transmission, the latter gets an eight-speed box. A six-speed manual is standard.

    Our three-cylinder version delivers ample motivation. In fact, most of us wouldn’t spend the extra money for the more-powerful engine. So far, we’ve observed about 27 mpg according to the trip computer. We also noticed that the start-stop feature, which shuts off the engine at idle, is a bit rough at times.

    Legendary go-kart handling has always been a Mini Cooper highlight. To a large extent, that character carries over to the Clubman, though less overtly. This maxi Mini is still low slung and feels like it hugs the road, but cornering isn’t as sharp as the regular Mini.

    The ride is also in keeping with the Mini spirit, meaning it skews firm. That may be unobjectionable if you’re in a Mini state-of-mind and treat the car as a sporty hatch. But the ride might be perceived as too rough for a family-minded car that’s priced in the low $30,000s. Road noise is quite pronounced, as well.  

    Always a celebration of details ranging from cheerful to funky, the Mini cabin is full of surprises. Chrome-tipped toggle switches, a red start button flipper switch, and a large round center screen for the infotainment system with a rim that changes colors like a mood ring, reflecting your actions. From dynamics to cosmetics, the Mini engages the driver, with a wink.

    The controls certainly take some getting used to, but anyone familiar with BMW’s iDrive will realize that the Mini Connected system employs the same logic, only in a more jolly, graphic way.

    Comfortable and supportive seats are welcome, despite the lack of power adjustment. Those who like to sit close to the wheel might hit their knee on the console. The rear seat is relatively habitable for a Mini, although it is still is a tight place to be. Fortunately, the dual-pane sunroof makes the cab feel airy.

    One defining Clubman feature is the dual door rear gate, complete with two tiny rear wipers. Apart from the heritage, there’s no practical advantage here. On the contrary, the bisected rear view hurts visibility, the doors resist you when trying to close them, and it doubles the road grime you get on your hands.

    There is certainly a personality and premium air to the Clubman, conveyed through its recognizable, smile-inducing styling and bold character. But in terms of actual deliverables, such as ride and handling prowess, powertrain refinement, and room, a Volkswagen Golf wagon is a more accomplished—albeit somber—car.

    Ultimately, nothing else has the cool-factor of a Mini even when it comes with an XL tag.  

    See our small car buying guide and ratings.

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2016 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0

    Consumer Reports Asks EPA to Demystify Humidifier Claims

    With the weather turning balmy it’s time to think more about dehumidifiers than humidifiers. But before you stash your humidifier for the season, make sure you give it a thorough cleaning. In tests performed by Consumer Reports we found that, despite making antimicrobial claims, most humidifiers harbor bacteria in the reservoir tank and many have the potential to emit that bacteria into the air.

    In fact, we feel so strongly that antimicrobial humidifier claims can be confusing to consumers that we wrote a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency asking the administrator, Gina McCarthy, to investigate a number of antimicrobial humidifier claims as potentially misleading.

    “We are concerned that our test results suggest that consumers can’t reliably purchase a humidifier based on many of the antimicrobial claims they see,” wrote Urvashi Rangan, Ph.D., Consumer Reports’ director of safety and sustainability. “We also believe that consumers may have a difficult time determining which type of claim is being made.”

    In our analysis, we divided the antimicrobial humidifier claims into the two basic types the EPA regulates: product claims and public health claims. In the product claims, a manufacturer claims that the humidifier itself has properties such as “ionic silver technology” or “silver clean technology” that prevent bacterial or microbial growth. Public health claims, such as “germ free mist,” refer to the cleanliness of the mist emitted by the machine.

    In our report, “Is Your Humidifier Putting You at Risk?” we found that after three days most, though not all, of the humidifiers we tested had increased microbial growth compared to the original levels in tap water and that almost as many had the potential to emit bacteria into the air. These findings held true regardless of whether or not the manufacturer made antimicrobial claims. In our letter to the EPA we list our results in detail, model by model.

    What You Can Do

    When you use a humidifier, you should clean it every day whether or not the owner’s manual says to. Here’s a good routine to follow:

    • Every day. Empty, rinse, and dry the base tray or reservoir before refilling.
    • Every week. Remove water scaling with vinegar and disinfect the unit with a bleach solution following the manufacturer's instructions.
    • Before storing. Clean to remove scaling, disinfect with a bleach solution, and dry thoroughly.
    • After storing. Before using again, clean to remove scaling, disinfect with a bleach solution, and dry thoroughly. Don’t fill it before you need to.

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2016 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0

    Using a Mail Order Pharmacy Doesn't Always Save You Money

    Hoping to save a few bucks on your prescription, or just trying to avoid a trip to the drugstore? If so, maybe you’ve ordered meds from your insurance company’s mail-order service. While mail order can be a good option, it can also be a hassle, and savings aren’t guaranteed. Here’s how to make it work for you. 

    Mail order pharmacy programs operate through your insurer's pharmacy benefit manager, or PBM. The companies—CVS Caremark, Express Scripts, and others—buy medications in bulk directly from drug manufacturers, and doing so can translate to lower co-pay charges for some of your medications. That's especially true for drugs you might take on a regular basis for conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure. For example: You could get a 90-day supply of generic medication sent directly to your home with co-pays that run just a few dollars or are even free, compared to a discounted $10 co-pay for a three-month prescription at your local drugstore.

    If your insurance coverage is through your employer, it's likely they offer mail order as an option. That's because employers often pay less when their employees choose it. "Since the average brand-name drug list price is about $300, the employer pays an average of $18 less for a drug dispensed by mail rather than at a store-based pharmacy," says Adam Fein, Ph.D., president of Pembroke Consulting and CEO of Drug Channels Institute.

    At the same time, many retail pharmacies now offer 90-day prescriptions, too, with lower co-pays, says Fein, further closing the cost gap between mail order and brick-and-mortar pharmacies. And many chain and big-box stores are increasing competition with mail order pharmacies by offering deep discounts on hundreds of generics if you pay the retail price and forgo using insurance. For example, Walmart, CVS, Costco, and Walgreens pharmacies offer programs such as three-month supply of dozens of generics for $10 with free home delivery, and free standard shipping on prescriptions.

    Convenience Could Compromise Safety

    Although using mail order can be easy, it could lead to communication errors or safety problems, says Lucinda Maine, Ph.D., R.Ph., executive vice president and CEO of the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy. The problem, says Maine, is that medications may not arrive on time, which can be dangerous for people who rely on lifesaving drugs.

    The opposite problem can happen, too: Mail order pharmacies might auto-renew your prescriptions without confirming you’re still taking a drug or whether your dosage has changed. When possible, pick a service that will alert you before they ship out any medication. Luckily, Medicare Part D drug plans require mail order pharmacies to get the okay from a patient or caregiver before shipping a new prescription or refill.

    Mail order is also less personal, says Norman V. Carroll, Ph.D., professor at Virginia Commonwealth University's School of Pharmacy. He notes each time you call the plan's toll-free number, it's unlikely you'll speak with the same person. "With a retail pharmacy, there’s a good chance you’ll work with the same pharmacist or technician, and that they’ll resolve your problem face-to-face," says Carroll. 

    As with any type of delivery service, there's also the chance your package could be lost, stolen or damaged in the mail. But mail order pharmacy programs will try to prevent that. "We use protective packaging for medications," says Jennifer Luddy, a spokeswoman for Express Scripts, which operates one of the largest prescription mail order services in the U.S.. The PBM also uses a weather-based program that determines the best packaging for safe delivery of medications. "On the rare occasion a medication arrives damaged at a patient’s home, they can call the number on the back of their card to report the damage, and we will send them a new prescription without charge," adds Luddy. 

    If You Choose Mail Order

    For medications you take regularly, and just to get you started, ask your doctor for two prescriptions: You'll want one for a 30-day supply of medication to be filled right away at your pharmacy, and one for a 90-day supply with refills where appropriate. Send the 90-day prescription to your insurer with a mail service order form, found on your health plan’s website. In the meantime, fill the 30-day prescription so that you'll have enough medication while you wait for your insurer to process and ship your mail order. If it’s a new prescription, you’ll submit the form with the prescription by mail or have your doctor phone or fax it in. You can usually submit refills online, over the phone or through a mobile app. 

    Since mail programs typically ship 90-day supplies at a time, mail order may not be feasible for medicines you need immediately or that you take for a short period of time. For controlled substances, including some pain medication, insomnia drugs, or ADHD treatments, there are usually restrictions on what can be shipped to you.

    Whether you shop in store or by mail order, once you find a pharmacy that fits your needs, our medical consultants strongly recommend you fill all your prescriptions there whenever possible. That way one pharmacy has a complete record of what you’re taking and can flag any potentially dangerous interactions. That might not be feasible, say, if you get your blood pressure drug through mail order and your doctor prescribes a post-surgery pain medicine that you need right away. When that happens, let each pharmacy know all the medications you're taking and update them regularly on any changes.

    Editor's Note: These materials were made possible by a grant from the state Attorney General Consumer and Prescriber Education Grant Program, which is funded by a multistate settlement of consumer fraud claims regarding the marketing of the prescription drug Neurontin (gabapentin).

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2016 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0

    The Most Comfortable Headphones

    Bose SoundTrue Ultra in-ear

    In-ear headphones are designed to plug the ear canal, locking in every magnificent musical note while sealing out car horns, lunchroom chatter, and other unwanted noise pollution. But, for people sensitive to in-ear pressure, the headphones can be torturous. With this hybrid design from Bose, you get a shorter insert stabilized by a bowl-like earpiece and over-the-ear clip.

    Although pricey, the headphones come with three pairs of earpieces to help you achieve the right fit and they remain securely in place, even during vigorous movement. Good news for headbangers!

    For more recommendations, check out our headphone Ratings and buying guide.

    Grado Prestige SR80e

    Few things in life are more confining than a pair of home-style headphones. After a few tracks of Springsteen, you often find yourself wishing for a cool breeze to soothe your clammy ears. But, thanks to an open-air design, this inexpensive model from Grado allows for more ventilation than its closed counterparts. It also has a generous (though weighty) 80-inch cord that frees you up to dance around the room.

    The plush foam pads are comfortable on the ears, but they won't block out all external noise. They'll let some sound escape, too, which means you may want to be careful when listening to Men at Work on the airplane. No need to let everyone know you have eclectic tastes.

    Phiaton BT 100 NC

    If you frequently find yourself getting tangled up in wires or ripping ear buds from your ears with an inadvertent snag, you may want to look into a pair of headphones such as these. The “collar” conceals a battery, antennae, and Bluetooth technology that lets you pair the unit wirelessly with a mobile device. This model also comes with earpieces in four different sizes to help you select the right fit.

    While some music fans shy away from the collar's tech-nerd look, others love the way the design frees them from being tethered to their smartphones. Extra attributes: noise-canceling tech, convenient earbud storage in the collar, and a nice price compared to other models in this class.

    Scosche SportClip 3

    When you're bounding around the track or bending down to grab a barbell, the last thing you want is an earbud that keeps slipping from its perch. After all, it's hard to keep your heartrate up when you have to stop every few strides to fix your headphones.

    This pair comes with bendable clips that secure the buds on your ears. It takes a little time to adjust them to the right fit, but once you do, you're off and running—with no excuse to stop. Splashproof and dustproof, Scosche's Sportclip also offers very good sound at a very nice price.

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2016 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0

    10 Best Cars to Get to 200,000 Miles and Beyond

    Almost any car can make it to 200,000 miles and beyond if you’re willing to throw enough money at it. But that doesn’t mean that keeping your trusty steed is a good idea. A less expensive and more hassle-free way to go is to simply buy a safe, reliable model in the first place, and properly maintain it for the long haul. Just follow the maintenance schedule in your owner’s manual, take care of minor problems as they arise, keep it clean, and you should be good to go.

    The models listed below are all safe bets to get to 200,000 miles and beyond. Of the 740,000 vehicles represented in our annual subscriber survey, these are the 10 cars, SUVs, minivans, and pickup trucks respondents most often reported as having more than 200,000 miles. They are listed in order based on the total number of responses on vehicles that had 200,000 or more miles.

    As a bonus, all happen to be models that were Consumer Reports-recommended cars when new. That means they’re not only reliable, but they also scored well in our road tests.

    Honda Accord

    The 2016 Accord is the most-likely vehicle to get to 200,000 miles, according to our Reliability survey. It is well equipped, competitively priced, and performs well, making it one of our top-rated family sedans. It handles responsively, though the ride can be choppy. It has a roomy and well-finished interior, and gets 30 mpg overall with its mostly unobtrusive continuously variable transmission. The 3.5-liter V6 is lively and refined, and gets a very good 26 mpg overall. EX, EX-L, and Touring trims have an unintuitive-to-use infotainment system. The Hybrid model returned 40 mpg overall but is on a hiatus for 2016; Honda has promised to bring it back with an updated powertrain in 2017. Reliability has been above average.

    Read the complete Honda Accord road test.

    Toyota Camry

    If you’re looking for smooth, dependable transportation that skews toward comfort and convenience, the Camry delivers what you need. Interior appointments have been upgraded and center dashboard controls simplified. Suspension changes made the already comfortable ride steadier, and further isolated noise. Handling is sound and secure. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder delivers ample, unobtrusive power and returned a competitive 28 mpg overall in our tests. The available 3.5-liter V6 is punchy yet still got a very good 26 mpg overall, while the Hybrid gets an amazing 38 mpg overall. The long history of solid reliability and owner satisfaction scores is another asset.

    Read the complete Toyota Camry road test.

    Honda Odyssey

    This versatile and capable hauler combines clever and generous packaging with responsive handling and a supple ride—surprising for a minivan. Its vigorous 3.5-liter V6 and smooth six-speed automatic returned 21 mpg overall in our tests. The Odyssey can seat eight in relative comfort, with varying configurations for cargo and passenger needs. Easy access, excellent child-seat accommodations, and abundant cabin storage add to the family-friendly quotient. Among our few gripes is the tediously complicated dual touch-screen infotainment system. In addition, fit and finish and some material selection are not what one would expect at this price, and all-wheel drive isn’t available. 

    Read the complete Honda Odyssey road test.

    Honda Civic

    Redesigned for 2016, the Civic has been significantly improved, and is now a more substantial, refined, and capable car than the previous model. The base engine is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder; a 1.5-liter turbo four-cylinder comes on EX-T and Touring versions. The continuously variable transmission works well with the turbo. The ride is more comfortable, handling is precise, and the quieter interior has a lot more storage space. However, the car’s low stance means difficulty getting in and out. In addition, the front seats lack adjustable lumbar, which could cause discomfort on a long drive. Advanced safety features are available, but a full blind-spot monitoring system is not offered. EX trims and above have a complicated radio.

    Read the complete Honda Civic road test.

    Toyota Prius

    The new Prius is longer, lower, and wider than the previous version. It relies on a new platform with an independent rear suspension that contributes to more responsive handling and a steadier ride. Toyota claims that with its upgraded engine, lighter hybrid system components, and battery cells with a higher energy density, the new Prius will have 10 percent better mileage. Colorful digital gauges dominate the dashboard and make it easier to access the infotainment features. The sensible Prius has always been about efficiency and low running costs. Toyota hopes to inject an emotional component, with more aggressive styling and a more involving driving experience. The lower stance may hurt ease of access.

    Read the complete Toyota Prius road test.

    Toyota Sienna

    As minivans go the Sienna is a sensible choice, but it isn’t very engaging to drive. Interior fit and finish and controls were improved in 2015, and the cabin was made quieter. The Sienna rides very comfortably, but handling is lackluster. The 3.5-liter V6 is lively and returns a respectable 20 mpg overall. The all-wheel-drive version—the only such minivan on the market—sacrifices just 1 mpg. An eighth seat cleverly stores in the back when it isn’t installed in place. That update also brought a standard backup camera, an additional LATCH attachment, and a front-passenger seat-cushion airbag. Reliability has been above average. That and the availability of all-wheel drive are the Sienna’s biggest advantages over the Honda Odyssey. 

    Read the complete Toyota Sienna road test.

    Honda CR-V

    The CR-V is one of the roomiest, most functional small SUVs. The 185-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder and CVT returned 24 mpg overall in our tests. All but the base LX version use a distracting, difficult-to-use, and frustrating infotainment system. Handling is responsive and secure, but the ride is stiff, with bumps coming through in a pronounced way. The interior is somewhat quieter than before, but overall the CR-V is still loud inside. The rear seats are roomy, and folding them is a breeze. Small rear windows hurt the view out back, but the standard rear-view camera helps. Reliability has been average of late. Active safety features such as forward-collision warning are only available on the top Touring trim.

    Read the complete Honda CR-V road test.

    Toyota Corolla

    The Corolla delivers a relatively comfortable ride for a small car and has a quiet, spacious interior. Handling is lackluster but very secure. A sportier S version has a more taut, responsive suspension. The continuously variable transmission is adequate in delivering power to the wheels. Fuel economy is excellent at 32 mpg overall, and returns 43 mpg on the highway. Interior upgrades include standard Bluetooth connectivity, automatic climate control, and a touch-screen radio with simple controls. Inside, padded and stitched surfaces contrast with a number of drab, hard-plastic bits. The rear seat is one of the roomiest in the category.

    Read the complete Toyota Corolla road test.

    Toyota 4Runner

    Tough and ready to tackle off-roading adventures, the truck-based 4Runner falls short of most modern SUVs. Its rough-sounding 4.0-liter V6 is powerful and reasonably fuel-efficient. But the ride is unsettled, and handling is clumsy. The body leans while cornering, and the bobbing and bouncing ride chips away at driver confidence. Limited versions have a tighter suspension with somewhat better control, but at the expense of a stiffer ride. A high step-in and low ceiling compromise access and driving position. The SR5’s 4WD system is part-time only. A third-row seat is optional, and the power-retractable rear window is handy. Reliability is well above average, but it scores too low to be recommended.

    Read the complete Toyota 4Runner road test.

    Ford F-150

    Ford’s big-selling pickup truck uses an all-aluminum body, which saves about 700 pounds over steel. Powertrain choices include a 3.5-liter V6, 2.7- or 3.5-liter turbo V6s, and a 5.0-liter V8, each paired with a six-speed automatic. We tested the 2.7- and 3.5-liter turbo engines, and each delivered abundant power. In our tests the 2.7 got 17 mpg overall, 1 mpg better than the turbo 3.5. The 2.7 is also surprisingly quicker from 0 to 60 mph. The cabin is very quiet, but the ride is jittery and handling is rather ponderous. New safety offerings include lane-departure warning and blind-spot detection. Other notable features include a 360-degree-view camera and integrated loading ramps. Reliability of the redesign has been above average.

    Read the complete Ford F-150 road test.

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2016 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0

    Best Mattresses For Couples - Consumer Reports

    You may have the best mattress money can buy, but if you’re being kept awake at night when your partner is tossing and turning, you might want to reconsider. Some mattresses are better than others at muting vibrations from one side of the bed to the other when one person in the bed changes position or gets up during the night. That’s why Consumer Reports conducts a stabilization test on every mattress it tests. Here are the six best mattresses for couples—they make it easier for both partners to get a good night’s sleep.

    No more bouncing

    All of the best mattresses in our tests meet or exceed the threshold that earns our judgment of bounce resistance. These mattresses are less likely to relay vibrations when someone shifts positions. Still, some innersprings we recommend do better than others in this test. Among those, the $1,100 Charles P. Rogers St. Regis Pillowtop was among the best in our tests and delivered impressive back support. (All prices listed are without the foundation.) The $1,275 Sealy Posturepedic Hybrid Trust Cushion, a bit better for side sleepers, did about as well at muting vibration.

    Moving with ease

    The foam beds we recommend are fine at muting vibration, and all these models are also notably good at making it easy to change positions. Keep in mind that lower scores on the stabilization test indicate mattresses on which changing positions is more likely to wake up your partner, particularly a light sleeper. Of the foam mattresses in our tests, the Ikea Morgongava, $1,000, was among the best at allowing easy movement. The Spring Air Back Supporter Natalie, $1,100, from Costco did about the same.

    Firmness options

    Some foam mattresses come in  either firm or soft—and a select few, though currently none in our Ratings, let you get it in a combination of the two, split down the middle. For adjustable-air beds, this typically is a simpler matter. Both the Sleep Number i8 Bed, $3,000, and the less pricey Sleep Number c2 Bed, $800, have separately inflatable air bladders beneath their foam layers. That way you can adjust each half to the respective sleep partner’s preference. Both Sleep Number beds are especially good at resisting bounciness and easing movement.

    Full Ratings and recommendations

    Only by trying out a mattress for at least 15 minutes in each of your favorite sleep positions can you truly know how comfortable a bed feels. In addition to our stabilization tests, we also measure back and side support. For those sleeping preferences, see our Ratings of almost 60 mattresses, along with our survey-based Ratings of mattress brands and stores. And be sure to read our mattress buying guide before shopping.

    —Ed Perratore (@EdPerratore on Twitter)

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2016 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0

    What's Our Health Data Worth?

    When Barack Obama came to Austin, TX, to speak at SXSW, the yearly festival of ideas in music, technology, and movies, the President was wearing a Fitbit on his wrist. Fitbit's wildly popular fitness trackers can capture health data such as heart-rate, sleep patterns, and location. Apparently, Obama has people to tweak his technology, limiting how much of his personal information pours into the ocean of data for sale about consumers. But the rest of us have few protections against such information being collected and monetized, according to a SXSW panel organized by Consumer Reports and let by Teresa Carr, a senior editor who reports on health and medical topics for the organization.

    “It’s a 21st century gold rush, where our health data is looked at as a natural resource,” Carr said at the session, held on Monday at Austin’s JW Marriott. Medical records shared among doctors and hospitals are covered by HIPAA, the medical privacy law, but data shared among app developers, financial firms, and others is unregulated. As Obama has pointed out, the use of such data can enhance research and promote public health. But there are also risks. Lucia Savage, the chief privacy officer for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), was one of three panelists speaking alongside Carr. She pointed out that nearly any consumer information can reveal clues to health. “It includes how clean or dirty the air is where you live, and how many bags of potato chips you bought last week.” You may have purchased 20 bags of snacks for a soccer team practice, but to someone accessing your buying habit details, it can look as though you’re immersed in a junk food binge.
     

    The Trouble with Data

    Americans are worried about how health data of all kinds is shared, according to Consumer Reports research conducted in 2015. Nearly everyone surveyed—91 percent—agreed that their consent should be required whenever health information is shared. And 45 percent of respondents in the survey, a nationally representative group of more than 2,000, found it “creepy” when an ad targeting their medical conditions popped up in a web browser. How do those ads show up? If you see an oncologist, the resulting medical records can’t be sold to a data broker, but when you visit websites that provide information on cancer treatments, that information is captured and shared just like web searches on vacation spots or dress shoes. 

    The panelists, who spoke in front of close to 200 SXSW-goers, tried to define both the risks and benefits of sharing health data widely. 

    The risks to individuals were sketched out by Lygeia Ricciardi, a health-industry IT consultant who helped pioneer digital health programs at HHS. One risk arises from stolen health data: She cited research showing that medical fraud costs victims an average of $13,500, and 200 hours of work to rectify. Such fraud can occur when criminals submit health claims under a victim's name. And, while it’s possible to be reimbursed for fraudulent credit card charges, there’s no way to pull back sensitive medical information that has been widely shared. (Consumers can take steps to protect themselves.)

    However, legal uses of health data can also have adverse affects on consumers. The Affordable Care Act resolved the problem consumers faced when they were denied health insurance because of preexisting conditions. However, other problems remain. Speaking after the session, panelists said they were unaware of any clear federal standards preventing private companies from using information about health conditions to make hiring or promotion decisions, and they worried about discrimination based on these conditions.

    As data become far easier to acquire, abuses like that could become more widespread, panelists agreed.

    Apps Lack Privacy Policies

    But that’s just one side of the story. There’s not a lot of societal benefit from marketers trading data on what TV shows we all watch, but things are different when it comes to medical information. Sally Okun, vice president of policy and safety at Patients Like Me, was a panelist who spoke in favor of increased data-sharing combined with strong consumer empowerment. Her company is a health-data sharing platform founded in 2004 to make it easier for people with relatively unusual illnesses to get information, and supply data to researchers. And she cited a consumer phenomenon that turns a concern about medical devices on its head. Researchers have warned that pacemakers and other equipment could be compromised by hackers, but Okun said that some highly tech-savvy patients are talking about hacking into implanted devices because they want fuller access to data on their own health.

    Ultimately, the desire for privacy depends a lot on context, panelists said. Ricciardo recounted an art project in New York City, in which passersby at a Brooklyn festival were asked to trade personal data for a cookie—not a web cookie, but the literal kind. Hundreds of people agreed, giving up their mothers’ maiden names, driver’s license numbers, and in some cases the final four digits of their Social Security numbers for the confections. Would they have provided a list of their current medications? It's hard to know. 

    Users of Patients Like Me share a lot of data because they are confident they are in control of the information, Okun said. However, that’s not the rule for many other health websites and apps. She pointed to research recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that found that of 211 diabetes-management apps in the Google Play store, only 19 percent had privacy policies—and many of those polices stated that consumer data was being collected and shared. In these cases, consumers may not be aware of that data can be shared with marketers.

    Looking ahead, the panelists agreed that government regulation would lag innovation, as it usually does—but they didn't call for new controls. “You don’t want laws rewritten every two weeks because some software was updated,” Ricciardi said. However, responsible developers can adopt HIPPA as a guideline, even if when it’s not legally required, and HSS has started a portal for developers of health and medical apps to get guidance on best practices. “There’s nothing stopping developers from doing the right thing,” Savage said.

     

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2016 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0

    PlayStation Vue Streaming TV Goes National at $30 a month

    People looking for alternatives to cable TV have a new option: Sony's PlayStation Vue streaming TV service, which will now be offered nationwide. For the moment, though, most cities will not receive timely broadcasts from the four big networks.

    To date, PlayStation Vue was available in only seven major markets. But it will soon expand to 200-plus locations at a subscription rate starting at $30 a month.

    When we reviewed Sony's streaming TV service in June 2015, it had a lot of content to offer, not to mention a cloud-based DVR that let you record shows—a feature services such as Sling TV lacked. But the $50- to $70-a-month pricetag didn't promise consumers big savings when compared to many cable plans.

    Two weeks ago, though, Sony cut those prices by $10. And now it's added about $10 more in savings for those markets without the live network programming. To access primetime content from ABC, Fox, and NBC, subscribers in those areas will have to rely on on-demand offerings, which usually provide replays within 24 hours of the original broadcast. Sony says it expects to also add programming from CBS—which has its own pay streaming service, CBS All Access—in “select TV markets” at a later date.

    Negotiating the rights to live broadcasts from local affiliates can be a contentious and time-consuming process; this may explain why PlayStation Vue has so far been limited to Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. It may also explain why Sony has decided to launch the streaming TV service nationally without securing such agreements. According to the company, updates on its content offerings will be posted on the PlayStation Vue website.

    Three Skinny Service Tiers

    The new plans all include the cloud-based DVR and the ability to stream content to multiple TVs or mobile devices at once. By contrast, Sling TV, the skinny streaming TV service most like PlayStation Vue, limits its subscribers to a single device for $20 a month.

    In the press release announcing the new services, Sony says Vue requires no additional set-top box fees and no long-term contract. Here's a breakdown of the plans:

    • The Access Slim ($30 per month) offers more than 55 channels featuring live cable TV, movies, and sports.
    • The Core Slim ($35) has more than 70 channels. That includes all those from the Access Slim package and more from live national and regional sports networks.
    • The Elite Slim ($45) has more than 100 channels: everything in the Core Slim plan, plus extra movie and entertainment channels.

    Earlier this month, Sony addressed a service shortcoming by adding ABC, ESPN, and Disney to its streaming TV packages, which had already provided content from AMC, Discovery Communications, Scripps Networks Interactive, Turner Broadcasting, and Viacom. Premium channels such as Showtime and Fox Sports can be added as a la carte options.

    In addition to using PlayStation 3 and 4 game consoles, you can access the PlayStation Vue service via the Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick media players and iPads and iPhones loaded with the PlayStation Vue mobile app. Chromecast is also an option when used with a compatible iOS device.

    This announcement from Sony comes at a time when TV viewing options are rapidly expanding. AT&T recently said it will launch a streaming DirecTV service that doesn't require a satellite dish later this year and cable companies such as Comcast have been experimenting with online TV packages.

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2016 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0

    Why That Long-Term Car Loan Could Be Costly

    There were 17.4 million car sales last year, the most sales since the financial crisis, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Alas, also on the rise is a financially questionable way to pay for the big-ticket purchase.

    More than seven in 10 new cars purchased with a loan last year had a term of more than 60 months, according to Experian Automotive. While five-year loans have long been the most common, car loans lasting six to seven years have grown from 11 percent of the loan market in 2008 to 29 percent last year. The average car loan is now 67 months long. That's a far cry from how your grandfather financed his Buick; in the early 1970s, car loans averaged less than 36 months.

    But long-term car loans aren't necessarily better. “If you are considering a new car loan beyond five years, it's a signal you are buying a car that is too expensive,” says Greg McBride, senior financial analyst at Bankrate. “People make the mistake of shopping based on what the monthly cost will be, rather than focusing on the total they will pay.”

    Today, car loans for new cars average around $30,000. A 60-month loan that charges 3 percent interest works out to a monthly tab of $539, and total interest charges over the five years will come to $2,344. That same loan extended to 72 months—at the same 3 percent rate—results in a more palatable monthly cost of $456, but total interest costs rise to $2,818.

    However, many lenders typically charge a higher interest rate on long-term car loans. For example, Chase bank recently advertised new car loans that charge a 2.6 percent rate for a 60-month loan, but 3.4 percent for a 72-month loan. On a $30,000 loan that increases your total interest payments from $2,025 to $3,206.

    At Connexus Credit Union, which has customers nationwide, a 60-month car loan recently charged a 4 percent interest rate and an 84-month loan charged 6 percent. That higher rate, long-term car loan would cost a borrower $3,660 more over the life of a $30,000 loan. Unless you are the rare borrower who qualifies for a zero-rate deal (only one in 10 buyers typically does) a long-term car loan works against your long-term financial security.

    The Case for Shorter-Term Loans

    The next time you find yourself shopping for a car, focusing on these financing tips will help you to get the best car loan, and probably encourage you to avoid long-term car loans.

    • Appreciate depreciation. The typical new car loses about 20 percent of its value the moment you leave the dealer’s lot, and it’s all downhill from there says Carroll Lachnit, consumer advice editor at Edmunds.com. The financial reality that you will never be able to sell your car for near what you paid should help motivate you to keep your total costs as low as possible, with a shorter-term loan being part of your strategy.
    • Avoid negative equity.  Nearly one-third of new car buyers in January traded in a car at a price that was less than what they still owed on the loan for that trade-in, according to Edmunds. While the size of your down payment impacts your equity, so too does the length of the loan: The longer your loan term, the longer it takes to build equity. Even if you don’t anticipate trading in the car within a few years, if your car is stolen or totaled in an accident, the insurance payout will be based on its depreciated market value. If you are still in the early stages of a long-term loan (with a low down payment) you could be painfully “upside down” in car loan lingo.
    • Focus on the bigger picture. Ignore shiny ads (and car salesmen) luring you with “affordable” monthly payments that invariably are based on long-term car loans. “Before you start shopping, give yourself a reality check by looking at the total all-in cost of your car based on different loan terms,” advises Lachnit. Noodling around with an online calculator will help you find your budget sweet spot. Then you can shop for the best deals at your price point.

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2016 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0

    Why That Long-Term Car Loan Could Be Costly

    There were 17.4 million car sales last year, the most sales since the financial crisis, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Alas, also on the rise is a financially questionable way to pay for the big-ticket purchase.

    More than seven in 10 new cars purchased with a loan last year had a term of more than 60 months, according to Experian Automotive. While five-year loans have long been the most common, car loans lasting six to seven years have grown from 11 percent of the loan market in 2008 to 29 percent last year. The average car loan is now 67 months long. That's a far cry from how your grandfather financed his Buick; in the early 1970s, car loans averaged less than 36 months.

    But long-term car loans aren't necessarily better. “If you are considering a new car loan beyond five years, it's a signal you are buying a car that is too expensive,” says Greg McBride, senior financial analyst at Bankrate. “People make the mistake of shopping based on what the monthly cost will be, rather than focusing on the total they will pay.”

    Today, car loans for new cars average around $30,000. A 60-month loan that charges 3 percent interest works out to a monthly tab of $539, and total interest charges over the five years will come to $2,344. That same loan extended to 72 months—at the same 3 percent rate—results in a more palatable monthly cost of $456, but total interest costs rise to $2,818.

    However, many lenders typically charge a higher interest rate on long-term car loans. For example, Chase bank recently advertised new car loans that charge a 2.6 percent rate for a 60-month loan, but 3.4 percent for a 72-month loan. On a $30,000 loan that increases your total interest payments from $2,025 to $3,206.

    At Connexus Credit Union, which has customers nationwide, a 60-month car loan recently charged a 4 percent interest rate and an 84-month loan charged 6 percent. That higher rate, long-term car loan would cost a borrower $3,660 more over the life of a $30,000 loan. Unless you are the rare borrower who qualifies for a zero-rate deal (only one in 10 buyers typically does) a long-term car loan works against your long-term financial security.

    The Case for Shorter-Term Loans

    The next time you find yourself shopping for a car, focusing on these financing tips will help you to get the best car loan, and probably encourage you to avoid long-term car loans.

    • Appreciate depreciation. The typical new car loses about 20 percent of its value the moment you leave the dealer’s lot, and it’s all downhill from there says Carroll Lachnit, consumer advice editor at Edmunds.com. The financial reality that you will never be able to sell your car for near what you paid should help motivate you to keep your total costs as low as possible, with a shorter-term loan being part of your strategy.
    • Avoid negative equity.  Nearly one-third of new car buyers in January traded in a car at a price that was less than what they still owed on the loan for that trade-in, according to Edmunds. While the size of your down payment impacts your equity, so too does the length of the loan: The longer your loan term, the longer it takes to build equity. Even if you don’t anticipate trading in the car within a few years, if your car is stolen or totaled in an accident, the insurance payout will be based on its depreciated market value. If you are still in the early stages of a long-term loan (with a low down payment) you could be painfully “upside down” in car loan lingo.
    • Focus on the bigger picture. Ignore shiny ads (and car salesmen) luring you with “affordable” monthly payments that invariably are based on long-term car loans. “Before you start shopping, give yourself a reality check by looking at the total all-in cost of your car based on different loan terms,” advises Lachnit. Noodling around with an online calculator will help you find your budget sweet spot. Then you can shop for the best deals at your price point.

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2016 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0

    The Lowest-Rated Cars in 10 Categories

    When shopping for a new car, the choices can be overwhelming, with each model looking much more appealing than the clunker you’re eager to trade in. But new cars are most definitely not created equal, as our tests and surveys routinely show.

    To steer you in the right direction, we present the 10 Bottom Picks for 2016—highlighting those models that have the lowest Overall Score in their respective categories. In other words, every other model in those categories is a better choice.

    The Overall Score offers a complete perspective on each model, combining road-test score, reliability, owner satisfaction, and safety, including government and insurance industry crash-test results.

    Several of these vehicles are due for replacement this year, and are likely to be carrying significant incentives, or at least have some generous negotiating room. As the maxim goes, great deals are rarely found on great cars. In these cases, falling for a smooth sales pitch and a swell cash-back offer could lead you to suffering years of buyer’s remorse. 

    To avoid one of the worst cars of 2016 and other subpar vehicles, check all of our tested vehicles. Better yet, skip right to our 10 Top Picks of 2016 to see the truly exemplary models.

    Reliability is presented on a scale from better () to worse (). Learn more about car ratings.

    Lowest-Rated Subcompact: Mitsubishi Mirage

    Its rock-bottom sticker price and thrifty fuel economy of 37 mpg overall conjures an inviting image of an economical runabout. But that mirage quickly dissipates when you drive this tiny, tinny car. Minor updates for 2017 promise a hint more power, Android Auto, upgraded brakes, and improved handling. Yet those enhancements won’t mask the weak, vibrating three-cylinder engine that delivers sluggish acceleration and a raspy chorus of lament. Plus, the cabin is depressing, feeling drab, cheap, and insubstantial. A further demerit is its Poor score in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) small-overlap crash test.

    Read our complete Mitsubishi Mirage road test. 

    Lowest-Rated Compact: Fiat 500L

    First things first: The 500L has the worst reliability of any new car in our latest survey of more than 740,000 vehicles. This Italian confection feels undercooked and has several significant flaws. It earned a dismal road test score, thanks in part to a stiff ride, flat seats, and an odd driving position. Don’t just take our word for it. Even owner satisfaction is below average—meaning a strong percentage of owners wish they hadn’t bought this hatchback. If that still isn’t enough to dissuade you, it scored a Poor in the IIHS small-overlap frontal test.

    Read our complete Fiat 500L road test.

    Lowest-Rated Midsized Sedan: Chrysler 200

    A mediocre car in a category overflowing with competent, and even excellent, alternatives, the 200 drives like it's from a previous era. Handling is clumsy, the ride is rough and unsettled, and the four-cylinder engine is underwhelming. Sitting in the tight rear seat feels claustrophobic. Not only is the transmission uncooperative, but it has proven to be a reliability albatross. A relatively quiet cabin is the only consolation. The 200 has the dubious distinction of carrying the lowest overall road test score in the class, as well as the lowest predicted reliability rating.

    Read our complete Chrysler 200 road test.

    Lowest-Rated Compact Luxury Car: Mercedes-Benz CLA250

    Most mainstream sedans deliver a better driving experience than the CLA, let alone a typical Mercedes. The engine and transmission lack refinement. At times the powertrain feels unresponsive, and while the car is agile, the ride is punishingly stiff. Cabin access is difficult, and once you are inside, the interior is noisy and cramped. The heavily promoted base price is something of a tease; buyers need to spend a lot on options to get the luxury features expected on a premium model. Add to that, reliability and owner satisfaction are well below average.

    Read our complete Mercedes-Benz CLA250 road test.

    Lowest-Rated Midsized Luxury Car: Lincoln MKS

    The aging Lincoln MKS feels out of step with the automaker’s more impressive, recent models. This large, Ford Taurus-based sedan is outdated and outclassed. For its size, the cabin feels decidedly cave-like, exaggerated by the limited outward visibility. The ride—something a luxury car should be good at—is neither isolating enough nor adequately composed. And the base 3.7-liter V6 engine lacks refinement. Despite the trunk’s size, a small opening limits its usefulness.

    Read our complete Lincoln MKS road test.

    Lowest-Rated Family SUV: Dodge Journey

    On paper, the Journey may sound compelling, but in our tests, we found that the three-row SUV has a confining interior, lacks agility, and the V6 delivers the worst fuel economy in its class. Add to that, it suffers from well-below average reliability and poor performance in IIHS small-overlap frontal crash test. The Journey is late in its model run, with discounts commonplace. But don’t be tempted. This crossover is a poor value anywhere outside of an airport rental lot.

    Read our complete Dodge Journey road test.

    Lowest-Rated Luxury Compact SUV: Land Rover Discovery Sport

    From the storied Land Rover brand, one would expect a more regal entry into this hot market segment. Instead, the Discovery Sport struggles in comparisons against even mass-market small SUVs. Power delivery from the turbo four-cylinder is spiky, with either too little or too much acceleration, and the transmission is neither smooth nor responsive. The ride is stiff-legged and handling is far from sporty. The austere cabin is rather plain for a model from a boutique luxury brand. Based on Land Rover’s history, we predict reliability for this pricey, underachieving crossover will be well below average.

    Read our complete Land Rover Discovery Sport road test.

    Lowest-Rated Large Luxury SUV: Cadillac Escalade

    The Escalade falls down on the fundamentals as a luxury SUV; It rides too stiffly and can't stop or handle with the grace of its peers. The Escalade simply floundered in our tests. Despite casting a massive shadow, the hulking Cadillac is not even that roomy inside. The second-row seats aren't very comfortable, and the third row is cramped. The Cue infotainment system is confounding. Reliability of the redesign has been well below average, ranking worst in class. All this for an as-tested price of $87,360.

    Read our complete Cadillac Escalade road test.
     

    Lowest-Rated Minivan: Chrysler Town & Country

    While the Town & Country has a few good points, both it and the Dodge Grand Caravan sibling fall short of the best minivans—with notable shortcomings in areas that are key to a family road-trip machine. For instance, the second-row seats are thin, low, and uncomfortable. Fuel economy is lousy at just 17 mpg overall—the worst among all minivans. And the van scored a Poor in the IIHS small-overlap frontal crash test. This year the Chrysler is being replaced by the new Pacifica van, and the Dodge is being discontinued. Don't be swayed by the massive incentives that will likely be available on these two minivans.

    Read our complete Chrysler Town & Country road test.

    Lowest-Rated Green Car: Mitsubishi i-MiEV

    One stint behind the wheel demonstrates why the i-MiEV is one of the cheapest all-electric cars available. This half-step up from a golf cart is slow, clumsy, and stiff riding. With a barebones cabin, the i-MiEV is an elbow-rubbing transportation pod, subjecting snuggled occupants to constant noise. The as-tested 56-mile range brings new definition to range anxiety. But at least that mediocre range limits the time spent in this subpar automobile. The i-MiEV hurts the electric car movement even more than $2-a-gallon gasoline.

    Read our complete Mitsubishi i-MiEV road test.

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2016 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0

    Freeze Your Child's Credit to Prevent Identity Theft

    There’s no more tempting target for identity thieves than your child’s financial identity. For one thing, it’s a clean slate. For another, it can be a long time before your child tries to get credit which means years during which thieves can create havoc in your child’s name without anyone noticing.

    No one is too young to become a victim of identity theft. If you’re old enough to have a Social Security Number, you’re old enough for identity thieves to assume your identity. The youngest reported case: a one-month-old.

    Identity theft impacts a child in a variety of ways, particularly once he or she becomes a teenager. A college-bound victim, for example, could be denied scholarships and financial aid. A potential employer could end up denying a candidate if the routine background credit check reveals unpaid bills and a loan default. A stolen identity could lead to a motor vehicle record being tied to a criminal’s name and could prevent a young adult from being able to rent an apartment or open a utility account. It could even lead to medical records that are muddled with incorrect information.

    The only way you would know if your child is a victim is after the fact: You receive collection calls or bills for products or services you didn’t receive; you get a notice from the IRS saying that your child didn’t pay income taxes; or you’re turned down for government benefits because the benefits are being paid to another account using your child’s Social Security Number. Or you might check your child’s credit report and discover activity when, in fact, the file should be blank.

    Prevention Equals Protection

    The most effective way to protect your child and prevent identity theft is to freeze his or her credit file, says Chi Chi Wu, staff attorney at the National Consumer Law Center. Once someone’s credit is frozen, no one can open a new account in that person's name until that individual—or a parent or guardian—applies to have the file “thawed.” “It’s the single most effective step you can take to prevent identity theft,” Wu says.  

    For now, there's no federal law regarding credit freezes for minors. The Protect Children from Identity Theft Act, introduced in the House of Representatives in March 2015, would give parents and guardians the ability to create a protected, frozen credit file for their children. However, GovTrack gives it a two percent chance of being enacted by the current Congress. “If parents live in a state that doesn’t provide for this, they might want to contact their Congressional representative," Wu suggests.

    Instead, each state has its own policy to prevent identity theft. There are currently 23 states that allow parents and guardians to place a security freeze on a minor’s credit report. Those states include: Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Many of these states will only allow parents or guardians to request a freeze if the child is 16 years old or younger; Connecticut and Illinois allow if the minor is 18 years old or younger.

    Similarly, policies and the price to freeze a child’s credit differ among the major credit reporting agencies. Equifax offers a free service that allows parents to create a credit report for a minor and freeze it regardless of the state requirement. Other credit bureaus won’t create a file for a minor unless mandated by state law, and may charge a fee ranging from $3 to $10 to implement a minor’s freeze.  

    Don’t wait until your child’s credit is compromised to implement a protective freeze and prevent identity theft. “Do it when your child gets a Social Security number,” Wu advises. 

     

     

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2016 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0
  • 03/16/16--05:00: Best Deals on New SUVs
  • Best Deals on New SUVs

    Car shoppers are always on the hunt for great deals, but often the smart choice is a good deal on a good car. Typically, the models with the greatest discounts are marked down for a clear reason: too much inventory. This can be caused by numerous factors, such as the model being undesirable due to being on the market longer than its key competitors, lackluster reliability, disappointing fuel economy, or another ding against its perception.

    Instead of such turkeys, we favor good all-around vehicles with strong safety marks, sweetened by some discounts—like those featured here.

    The Consumer Reports analysts have scrutinized the available offers, comparing them to our test and reliability findings to identify the models that provide true savings, while being good vehicles worthy of recommendation. To earn such a distinction, a car has to perform well in Consumer Reports’ road tests, have average or better predicted reliability, and perform at least adequately, if included, in government or insurance-industry safety tests.

    The SUVs highlighted here are all 2016 models with nationwide incentives that extend to at least March 31, 2016. Almost all look to shave $1,500 off sticker price, or more. Many of these models have been regulars on our recent best deals lists, including the GM three-row crossovers that are due for imminent replacement.
    The examples below are similar to the versions we tested, although discounts are available on other trim variations. Being informed is the best strategy to getting a good deal on a new car, rather than being drawn to models due to heavily-marketed discounts.

    For the full picture, be sure to visit our model pages, where you will find road tests, reliability, owner satisfaction, pricing, and much more.  

    Buick Enclave

    Even after six years on the market, the large Enclave remains a competitive three-row SUV. We liked its firm, comfortable ride and secure handling. The cabin is quiet, the interior is nicely finished, and the seats are comfortable. But the Enclave is beginning to show its age through some of the outdated controls and limited feature content. The 3.6-liter V6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission are smooth and unobtrusive, but the engine feels taxed and at times the powertrain has to work hard to move this large SUV. We got a paltry 15 mpg overall in our tests. Adults can fit in the roomy third row, a plus. Forward-collision and lane-departure warning systems are available.

    Buick Enclave Leather AWD
    MSRP:
    $46,585
    Invoice: $45,215
    Total Savings Available: $2,120

    See our complete Buick Enclave road test, along with full pricing.
     

    Chevrolet Traverse

    Although it dates back to 2008, the large Traverse is still a competitive three-row SUV. We liked its firm, comfortable, and quiet ride and its relatively agile, secure handling. But like its corporate cousins, the Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia, it's beginning to show its age. The 3.6-liter V6 and six-speed automatic powertrain is smooth and powerful enough, but it works hard in this large SUV, and its 16 mpg overall is uncompetitive. A big plus is the ability to fit adults in the roomy third row. Fit and finish has been improved, and forward-collision and lane-departure warning systems are available. Changes for 2016 include a standard built-in Wi-Fi hotspot. Reliability has been above average.

    2016 Chevrolet Traverse AWD 1LT
    MSRP:
    $36,900
    Invoice: $35,820
    Total Savings Available: $3,080

    See our complete Chevrolet Traverse road test, along with full pricing.  

    Dodge Durango

    Spacious, quiet, and comfortable, the Durango impressively blends workhorse utility with ample creature comforts. It shares its platform with the Jeep Grand Cherokee but is longer and adds a third-row seat. Handling is responsive. The ride is composed and comfortable, making the Durango feel sophisticated and substantial. The slick eight-speed automatic improved performance and fuel economy with both the V6 and V8 engines. The optional Uconnect 8.4-inch infotainment system is one of the best, with intuitive operation. Cargo room is generous, and the Durango can tow 1,000 to 2,000 pounds more than competitors. Limited visibility is a downside, but a rearview camera is standard on all but the lowest trim lines.

    Dodge Durango AWD Limited
    MSRP:
    $40,590
    Invoice: $39,234
    Total Savings Available: $1,938

    See our complete Dodge Durango road test, along with full pricing.
     

    Ford Flex

    The boxy Flex combines SUV-like versatility with near-carlike driving dynamics. The interior is versatile, with room for up to seven passengers in three rows. And its shipping-container shape works well for cargo. Rear visibility is hampered by big head restraints, and the MyFord Touch interface is complicated and distracting. Handling is not particularly nimble, but the ride is comfortable and the cabin remains quiet. The base 3.5-liter V6 has been updated and gets 18 mpg overall. Choosing the turbo V6 gives you quicker acceleration at a cost of just 1 mpg overall. For the 2016 model year, Sync 3 replaces the much-maligned MyFord Touch infotainment system.

    Ford Flex SEL AWD
    MSRP:
    $35,145
    Invoice: $33,815
    Total Savings Available: $1,528

    See our complete Ford Flex road test, along with full pricing.  

    GMC Acadia

    Though it's starting to feel a little dated, the Acadia is still competitive among three-row SUVs. Like its twins, the Chevrolet Traverse and Buick Enclave, it has a spacious and quiet interior, with a third-row seat that's roomy enough for adults. Seating for eight is available. Handling is relatively agile and secure, with responsive steering, and the ride is comfortable and steady. Its 3.6-liter V6 is smooth and refined, but it has to work hard and it gets mediocre gas mileage. Upgraded touch-screen infotainment systems bring more capability. Rear visibility isn't great. Denali versions have more features but no better functionality or performance. Reliability has been average. A redesigned 2017 model arrives this spring.

    GMC Acadia AWD SLT1
    MSRP: $43,945
    Invoice: $42,654
    Total Savings Available: $2,291

    See our complete GMC Acadia road test, along with full pricing.  

    Hyundai Santa Fe Sport

    Hyundai's five-passenger midsized SUV is roomy and comfortable, with a good ride and quiet interior. Power comes from a responsive 190-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder mated to a smooth and responsive six-speed automatic. We got a very good 23 mpg overall with this drivetrain. A 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is also available. Handling is sound and secure, but not exceptional, and the vague steering doesn't help. The well-finished cabin is packed with a lot of standard features. Thankfully, the price of the optional backup camera has come down, because rear visibility leaves a lot to be desired.

    Hyundai Santa Fe Sport AWD 2.0T
    MSRP:
    $33,895
    Invoice: $32,501
    Total Savings Available: $1,740

    See our complete Hyundai Santa Fe Sport road test, along with full pricing.  

    Kia Sorento

    A 2016 Top Pick, this midsized SUV is functional and refined, and its wide price range makes it an alternative to small and midsized SUVs. Three engines are available: the base 185-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder; a 240-hp, 2.0-liter turbo four; and the smooth and quiet 290-hp, 3.3-liter V6. All use a six-speed automatic. The cabin is quiet, and the ride is comfortable and composed. Handling is responsive and secure. Supportive seats and simple controls help make the Sorento easy to live with. Available safety gear includes adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, blind-spot detection, and rear cross-traffic alert, as well as a surround-view monitor. Good crash-test results are a plus. Reliability of the redesign has been well above average.

    Kia Sorento EX V6 AWD
    MSRP:
    $34,795
    Invoice: $33,381
    Total Savings Available: $2,517

    See our complete Kia Sorento road test, along with full pricing.  

    Nissan Murano

    Nissan's midsized SUV uses a punchy, refined 3.5-liter six-cylinder paired with a continuously variable transmission. The cabin is quiet and well-finished, and has an upscale feel to it. Handling is not very sporty, with overly light steering that reduces driver confidence. The ride is steady and absorbent on the standard 18-inch tires but less so on the Platinum trim's 20-inchers. Optional safety features include blind-spot and cross-traffic warnings, as well as forward-collision warning with emergency autobrake. An available 8-inch color display houses the NissanConnect infotainment system. Good crash-test results are a plus.

    Nissan Murano AWD SL
    MSRP:
    $39,550
    Invoice: $37,679
    Total Savings Available: $1,088

    See our complete Nissan Murano road test, along with full pricing.  

    Nissan Rogue

    The easy-to-drive Rogue is one of the better small SUVs. It rides better than most competitors and is fairly quiet and refined. Handling is sound, with prompt steering response and restrained body lean in corners. Power comes from a 2.5-liter four-cylinder mated to an updated continuously variable transmission that is not overly intrusive. Our AWD Rogue delivered 24 mpg overall. The interior is spacious for the class and nicely finished. The second-row seat is very roomy, and the small, optional third-row seat allows seating for seven in a pinch. A rear camera is standard, and available safety gear includes rear cross-traffic alert and forward-collision, lane-departure, and blind-spot warnings.  

    Nissan Rogue AWD SV
    MSRP:
    $26,990
    Invoice: $26,097
    Total Savings Available: $1,491

    See our complete Nissan Rogue road test, along with full pricing.  

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2016 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

    0 0

    Your Doctor Could Help You Cut Healthcare Costs

    A growing body of research has found that as people pay more out of pocket for their healthcare, they’re likely to put off treatment instead of seeking a lower cost option. One in five Americans with health insurance report having trouble paying medical bills, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation/New York Times survey.

    Patients typically don't think to discuss cost with their doctors or they may be embarrassed disclosing money issues. But maybe they should.

    “A doctor can often help you but only if the doctor is aware of the financial burden you are under,” says Peter Ubel, a physician and professor of Business, Public Policy and Medicine at Duke Fuqua School of Management. "A doctor also knows whether a particular strategy is medically safe for you."

    Research led by Ubel shows that conversations about cost occurred in 30 percent of visits, with doctors as likely as patients to bring up the topic. In a study published last month in the healthcare journal Medical Decision Making, researchers analyzed recorded conversations of 1,755 outpatient doctor visits from 2010 to 2014. The visits included patients with breast cancer talking to their oncologists, people with depression meeting with psychiatrists, and those with arthritis visiting rheumatologists. In all these meetings, the patients were faced with potentially high out-of-pocket costs.

    While the study didn't explain how much consumers were able to save, patients have reported feeling most squeezed by copays to see doctors and specialists, prescription medications, and expensive tests and procedures.

    Simple advice about where to buy your medication, for instance, can lead to big savings. Consumer Reports last year showed that prices on prescription drugs varied widely from store to store. We found, for example, that if a patient needed the medication, Metformin—used to treat type 2 diabetes—it would cost just $4 for a month’s supply, or $10 for a three-month supply, at stores such as Target and Walmart, while a co-pay for a month’s worth averages about $11. The retailer you choose can end up costing up to 10 times more than if you had gone to another pharmacy. In another case, in Raleigh, N.C., the cost for a month’s worth of the generic Cymbalta ranged from $249 at a Walgreens to $43 at Costco.

    Money Saving Strategies

    While that kind of advice can be helpful, the study showed that meaningful savings can be found in other ways too because the strategies to cut costs are often simple, says Ubel. Here are some strategies to keep in mind to help lower your costs:

    • Switch pharmacies or schedule tests when deductibles have been met 
    • Change to a lower-cost therapy or test 
    • Use co-pay assistance or drug coupons 
    • Switch from a brand name drug to a generic equivalent 
    • Use free samples of new medication
    • Change your insurance plans

    Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2016 Consumers Union of U.S.

    Subscribe now!
    Subscribe to ConsumerReports.org for expert Ratings, buying advice and reliability on hundreds of products.
    Update your feed preferences

                    submit to reddit    

older | 1 | .... | 376 | 377 | (Page 378) | 379 | 380 | .... | 384 | newer