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


Channel Catalog


Channel Description:

Consumer Reports

older | 1 | .... | 377 | 378 | (Page 379) | 380 | 381 | .... | 384 | newer

    0 0

    How to Effectively Negotiate a New Car Price | New Car Buying Guide - Consumer Reports

    When bargaining a vehicle’s price, you’ve got two arrows in your quiver:

    • Your opening bid, based on what the dealer paid for the vehicle, and
    • Competing bids from other local dealerships or car-buying websites.

    The price you finally end up with will likely be somewhere between the two. However, before you go to the dealership, it's important to do your homework. Check the Consumer Reports car model pages to learn the latest pricing. Dig deeper by using the Consumer Reports Build & Buy Car Buying Service to get competitive prices from local dealers who are held accountable for high customer satisfaction. Build & Buy will also show what a good price is on that specific car in your area.

    Once you get to the dealership ready to make the transaction, the salesperson will probably begin the discussion about price by focusing on the vehicle’s MSRP or on your monthly payment. He or she may even try to hook you on a “special” price that’s several hundred dollars below the sticker price. But don’t fall for that ploy. Once you allow the conversation to move in that direction, you start playing the dealership’s game. Don’t bite on the question of a monthly payment, either. It’s the first step down a slippery slope of being manipulated with numbers and overpaying for your vehicle. Using the monthly payment as the focus, the salesperson can lump the whole process together, including the price for the new vehicle, the trade-in, and financing, if appropriate. This gives him or her too much latitude to give you a tempting price in one area while more than making up for it in another.

    Instead, insist on negotiating one thing at a time. Your first priority is to settle on the lowest price you can get on the new vehicle. Only after you’ve locked that in should you begin to discuss a trade-in or financing, if necessary.

    Set the Ground Rules

    Rather than get drawn into a discussion on the salesperson’s terms, politely explain the following:

    • You have carefully researched the vehicle you want and have already taken a test drive.
    • You know exactly which trim level and options you want, have researched the price for that configuration, and
      know what the dealership paid for it.
    • You have already calculated what you are prepared to pay. Reassure him or her that your offer will include a fair profit.
    • If he or she can meet your target price you’ll be ready to buy immediately; if not, you intend to visit other dealerships.

    Start by showing the salesperson your rock-bottom offering price. But don’t disclose your competitive bids, which are the upper range of what’s acceptable. Otherwise, he or she will focus on undercutting that higher figure by a token amount instead of working off the lower figure. Give the salesperson your figure and say you want the lowest markup over that amount.

    You will want to come across as friendly and confident, well-informed but not argumentative. From the outset, you want to prevent the negotiation from veering off in directions you are not ready to discuss until the price is settled. If the salesper­son asks about a trade-in, for instance, say that you have investigated various options for selling your old car and that you might be open to a trade-in—but only after you’ve agreed on the new vehicle’s price.

    When he or she asks how you’ll pay for the vehicle, explain that you are pre­-ap­proved for a loan and are prepared to pay in cash, but that you may be willing to consider financing through the dealership provided the rate is competitive and, again, you can come to terms on the purchase price of the new car. Thinking that he has a shot at profiting on the back end of the deal will pique the salesperson’s interest, but you will also be sending a clear message that you’ll have to be sold the car you want at a price you like.

    Calmly explain that you don’t want to waste his time—and yours—in lengthy haggling. And reassure him or her that if you can both agree to terms you know to be fair, he or she can look forward to making a quick sale and a modest profit. If not, you will move on to another dealership.

    Then say nothing and wait for the response. By now, it should be clear to the salesperson that you know what you’re doing. Indeed, he or she might even be instructed to turn over knowledgeable customers like you to a more senior colleague. If that happens, sim­ply repeat the same ground rules to the next salesperson or manager you meet. But no matter who ends up sitting across the desk from you, your clear explanation of what you’re looking for will help counteract the diversionary tactics that salespeople often count on to give them the all-important bargaining edge. You’re in command.

    Hold Your Ground

    A salesperson’s initial reaction might be dismissive, stating flatly that there is no way the sales manager will let him sell you the vehicle at your price. He may even try to tell you that your numbers are wrong.

    If so, simply show him that your figures for the retail price of the car match those on the window sticker—a sure indication that the underlying invoice figures will also match.

    You should mention that you have talked to other dealerships and gathered prices. But don’t disclose what they are. If you hold your cards close to the vest, you may see how low he will go. Even if he can’t find fault with your numbers, the sales manager may counter your bid with a barrage of objections, pleas, and ploys to get you to raise your offer. Stay calm and wait patiently.

    You may be asked to wait while the sales­person goes off to make your case to the sales manager. Since the manager wields the real power to approve deals, you can expect this. But make it clear that you don’t have a lot of time to sit around and wait. You also have some wiggle room. After all, the target price you calculated allowed for a dealer profit of about 4 percent over what the dealer paid for the vehicle. If necessary, you can allow your target price to inch up in small increments, but don’t go over the lowest competing bid you’ve gathered.

    If you do raise your bid, you don’t want to give the impression that you’re simply giving in to pressure. It helps to state a rationale for your flexibility on price by saying, for instance, that you value the fact that his dealership happens to be the one most conveniently located for you, or that you especially like the color of the car he has to sell.

    Remind the salesperson that you’re ready to complete the purchase on the spot if he can meet your price. Otherwise, you’ll have to “think it over.” They’ll recognize this as a sure sign that if you leave the showroom, you will be on your way to a competitor, and they are more likely to relent.

    If you see that the salesperson is try­ing to string you along without real progress, you can excuse yourself at any time and get up to leave. What happens next will give you a clue to how low he will go. Often, a salesperson will try to stop you by saying he thinks he or she can “work something out to make you happy.” If they simply let you go, then the last price offered may be close to the dealer’s limit.

    If the negotiation has stalled at a higher figure than the competitive prices you’ve gathered from dealerships or on the Internet, it may be time to disclose this. Let the salesperson know he or she is not even in the ballpark. This could motivate another visit to the sales manager for a lower price. If you are offered a price that’s in your target range, you could accept it on the spot and save yourself more legwork or get it in writing and move on to another dealership in hopes of getting an even lower figure. Keep in mind that if the price is really close to your target, it’s not likely to go that much lower somewhere else.

    Know When to Walk

    If your discussion gets stuck, remember an ancient Chinese proverb: Of all the stratagems, to know when to quit is the best. Following are occasions when your best bet may be to stage a strategic retreat:

    • Quoting a price that is still higher than what you are prepared to pay, the salesperson tells you, “This is as low as I can go.” Tell him or her that you think you have gone as far as you can in this meeting, that you will have to think about it at home, and then evaluate his or her best price in light of what other dealerships have quoted.
    • The salesperson may try to convince you that the rebate (or low-cost financing) is available only to customers who pay the sticker price. This is not true. Rebates are reimbursed directly by the manufacturer regardless of the price you agree to at the dealership. Don’t let the salesperson use rebates against you.
    • The salesperson suggests that you come back if another dealership offers you a bet­ter price, which the salesperson will them beat. Thank him or her for their time and explain that you are not interested in shuttling back and forth between dealerships. Let him or her know that you plan to com­plete the purchase soon, and that once you leave the showroom you may not be coming back.
    • If the salesperson makes what he or she tells you is a final, take-it-or-leave-it offer that is “good for today only,” you may want to accept if it satisfies two conditions:  (1) the price meets your target price; and (2) it is a special price for the only vehicle you have found that matches the model and trim level you want. Otherwise, don’t take the offer seriously. If the salesperson’s price is good today, it should be equally valid tomorrow.

    If you must move on to a second or third dealership, follow the same script you used with dealer number one. And remember, do not tell a salesperson the price another dealer has quoted you.

    The more you keep them guessing, the more aggressively they will compete for your business.

    Know When to Say "Yes"

    Once you’ve completed the round of dealer visits, you may find one willing to sell you your ideal car at close to your target price. If so, congratulations: It’s time to shake hands with the salesperson and close the deal.

    More likely, however, the situation you face will be ambiguous. If so, you should review the offers at home in a more relaxed environment.

    At this point, you could call back certain dealerships and level with them about the competing prices you’ve got­ten from others and ask if they can meet or beat them. Make it clear that you’re willing to buy immediately if they can.

    If they don’t, you’ll have to decide whether you want to go with, say, a lower price at a dealership that’s farther away or didn’t treat you as well, or accept a higher price at a dealership that is more convenient or more pleasant to work with. Similarly, if you’ve been getting quotes on two or three different models, you may have to decide whether a lower price is worth giving up something special you want in another vehicle, or if you should pay more to get a vehicle you’ll be happier with over the long haul.

    What Is the Price of Convenience?

    When you’re feeling confident and are swept up in the negotiation game, you may be inclined to think that getting the salesperson to agree to your rock-bottom price is the only acceptable outcome. It isn’t. Sure, you want to bargain for a good price, but don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Before you chase the last penny of savings, consider your own convenience. Do you feel more comfortable working with one dealership over another? Might it be worth your while to pay a little more to end up with a car you’ll be happier driving? Provided you’re satisfied that the slightly more expensive deal is still a fair one, there’s no harm in paying a little extra if it buys you peace of mind.

    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

    How to Negotiate a New Car's Price - Consumer Reports

    The most effective way to negotiate a new car’s price is to find out what others in your market have paid for the same vehicle. You can gather information from a variety of sources and put it together yourself, starting with the dealer’s cost and bargaining up from there. To figure out the true dealer cost on your own, you have to piece together the various elements of the auto-pricing puzzle.

    Alternatively, you can use the ConsumerReports.org Build & Buy service, which does all the legwork for you. Whichever way you go, here are the terms with which you should be familiar when shopping for a car:

    Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP). This is the price that the automaker publishes for any given model and trim line. Because it’s “suggested,” dealers are free to sell a vehicle for a figure that’s higher or lower than the MSRP. The “base price,” excluding any options, destination charge, or other fee, is the initial figure you’ll find in pricing guides, most car reviews, and on pricing websites. The “total MSRP,” commonly called the “sticker price” because it’s the bottom-line figure on a car’s window sticker, is the base price plus any options, option-package discounts, and destination charge. Unless a model is in very high demand, you can generally buy a vehicle for less than the sticker price.

    Dealer-invoice price. The “invoice price” is the figure printed on the dealer’s invoice from the manufacturer. Once difficult to find, invoice prices are now commonly available online and in print, including our new car buying guides. In fact, dealer-invoice prices have become so ubiquitous that they are even listed on some automaker websites. In addition, at many dealerships, salespeople will show you the invoice for the car you’re interested in, often as a way to let you know how “little markup” there is.

    The dealer-invoice price, however, is not necessarily what the dealer really paid for the car because there are often behind-the-scenes payments, such as unadvertised dealer sales incentives and holdbacks (or manufacturer refunds) that give the dealer extra profit. What you see on the invoice is only part of the pricing puzzle. You’ll need a few more pieces to form the complete picture.

    Dealer sales incentives. These are unadvertised payments that the manufacturer offers a dealer for selling certain models. The dealer can pass along the incentive to the buyer in the form of a price reduction, or keep it as added profit. These payments are usually used to push sales of slow-selling or overstocked models. These types of incentive programs can come and go quickly depending on supply and demand, and some can be regional, depending on local market conditions.

    Holdbacks. You can think of a holdback as a refund for the dealer that he or she gets after the vehicle has been sold. Depending on the automaker, a typical holdback is about 2 or 3 percent of either the MSRP or the invoice price. For example, if a vehicle has an MSRP of about $25,000, a dealer’s holdback might be as much as $800. Holdbacks are a way of reimbursing dealers for the financing costs of keeping vehicles in inventory. Because the dealer will receive the entire holdback amount, the sooner the vehicle sells—thereby reducing the finance costs—the more hold-back that can be kept as profit.

    Dealers usually won’t bargain away their holdback, but knowing about it gives you perspective on their profit margin. So when the salesperson claims that the dealership isn’t making any money on a car, you’ll know whether it’s just a line or not. 

    Rebate. This is a direct-to-the-buyer payment from the manufacturer to encourage you to purchase a particular vehicle. Many buyers use it as part of the down payment to reduce the amount that needs to be financed. Rebates are widely promoted in advertising but they can be national or regional, and they don’t last forever. It pays to check out the details.

    Market adjustment. If there is exceptional or thousands of dollars over the manufacturer’s sticker price. You’ll typically find these on a highly anticipated model that’s been recently introduced or one that has a long waiting list of buyers. You can try to negotiate this figure but if the vehicle is selling well, the dealer won’t have much incentive to work with you. If you have to be the first on your block with a hot new model, this could be the premium you pay. But if you can be patient and wait awhile to buy—sometimes only a few months—these dealer adjustments will usually disappear.

    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

    How to Fix the Insufficient Storage Available Problem on an Android Phone

    If you download lots of apps, movies and TV shows, and music, an Android smartphone with a memory card slot is a great way to save money. Instead of paying hundreds of dollars for added built-in storage, you simply spend about $20 on a 64GB microSD card.

    But phones with an old operating system often fail to recognize that extra storage capacity. If you've ever received the dreaded "Insufficient Storage Available" message when trying to save a photo or update an app, you're familiar with this issue.

    This annoying problem has been fixed on smartphones that run Android 6.0 (Marshmallow). But for the vast majority of Android phones, data is stored in the device's internal memory by default. Here's what you need to know to fix the issue.

    Application Management

    To move some apps to a memory card, open the Settings menu by pulling down the notifications bar at the top of your screen and hitting the little cog-like icon on the upper left.

    Now tap the Application manager, which lists the apps on your phone. (Typically, the default view shows them all, but the roster might be filtered to include only those that are running or disabled, etc.)

    When you open an app on the list, you should see a Move to SD button at the bottom of the screen. Push it. That will trigger the phone to move that app and/or the data files associated with it from internal memory to the microSD card. Once the task is completed, the button will change, allowing you to move everything back to the phone if you choose.

    As you go through the process, you’ll notice that many apps cannot be moved. That’s okay, because app files are generally small—several hundred kilobytes or maybe a few megabytes. But the data files that are linked to them, particularly multimedia files, do migrate, and those can be much larger.

    Case in point: The Vudu movie-playing app on my LG G3 takes up just 37MB of storage, but the copy of “Ant-Man” I downloaded with it gobbled up more than 800MB of storage. 

    Moving Photos, Videos, and Other Files

    With their high-megapixel image sensors, smartphone cameras might be the biggest data hogs of all. A still photo can easily exceed 5MB of storage space, while an eight-minute HD video can consume a full gigabyte or more. At that rate, one long family reunion and you're on your way to an insufficient storage available warning.

    If you insert a new memory card while you have the Camera app open, you often see an on-screen pop-up asking whether you want to save your photos to the SD card. But, barring that, you can manage your storage options with ease in the camera’s on-screen settings. However, once you've shot a photo or video, you can't move it from one location to another with that method.

    That's when you need to use Android's File Manager app (called My Files on Samsung smartphones). It works pretty much like the File Manager on a desktop computer. In fact, you can use it to move PDFs, text docs, spreadsheets, and other large documents, too.

    To find the app, type "File" in your phone's search tool. (On LG phones, it's sometimes housed in a desktop folder called Tools.)

    Open the app and tap the All Files submenu. You’ll see two folders: Internal Storage and SD card. If you're trying to move photos and videos, open Internal Storage and look for the DCIM folder.

    Inside that folder, open Camera. Presto! You should see a thumbnail list of all the photos and videos in your phone's internal storage. At the very bottom of the screen, look for a copy button, often designated by a symbol that resembles two overlapping pages.

    Once you press that button, the photo list will include check boxes. Select all the items you want to move to the SD card and press Copy at the bottom of the page. It may take several minutes, but the app will begin to move those files to the SD card.

    To hunt down your PDFs, text files, and more, you might need to search the other directories in Internal Memory. For instance, the Download folder might contain all those e-mail attachments you’ve saved over the years. And apps like Periscope sometimes have their own photo stash. Once you've located the files, follow the same procedure outlined above for photos.

    After you've shifted the apps, photos, videos, and other files to the SD card, you should find that your phone's memory problems are cured. For more information on cell phones and services, be sure to check out our buying guide.

    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

    Get Your Mower Ready | Lawn Mower Reviews - Consumer Reports

    The relatively mild winter, at least from the number of storms, means that your lawn could need mowing earlier this spring than last year. In other words, this is prime time to to get your mower or tractor ready so that it will start when you need it. Here’s how to get your gear in shape:

    Fuel comes first

    Any gas in your walk-behind mower’s fuel tank? If you added stabilizer before the winter, you should be able to start the mower right up. Similarly, if you ran the mower dry last fall, you can add stabilized gas now. Otherwise, siphon out the degraded gas before adding new. Tractors, with their larger engines, are less susceptible to fuel problems. Still, fuel up with gas to which you’ve added stabilizer.

    Check or change oil

    If you didn’t change the oil at the end of last season, do it now—a mower can overheat and fail prematurely from dirty or insufficient oil. For a mower, change the oil when the fuel tank is empty to avoid spilling. Position an auto-style drain pan beside the mower on the side of the dipstick cap. Remove the cap and tip the mower over the pan to drain the oil. Refill to the dipstick marking. A tractor needs an oil change only as specified in your manual. At the very least, check the level and add as necessary.

    Sharpen those blades

    Dull blades rip rather than slice the grass, and that makes your engine work harder than it needs to. To remove your mower’s blade, wear heavy leather gloves, remove the spark plug wire, and jam in a short 2x4 to keep the blade from turning as you loosen the bolts. (An outdoor-gear dealer will sharpen the blade for about $10.) Even tractor blades should be sharpened three times a year.

    Mind the electrical

    Your spark plug needs changing about every 100 hours of  operation; if not, it can affect engine startup and overall performance. If you don’t know when you last changed it, do it before using the mower. With the mower off, remove the spark-plug cap and use a socket wrench with a spark-plug socket to remove the old plug. Take it to an auto-parts store or outdoor-gear dealer and get a new one. For a tractor, most manuals instruct you to keep the battery indoors on a trickle charger. If you didn't, fully recharge the battery before starting the season, or you’ll reduce battery life. The engine alone can’t fully recharge the battery.

    Change or clean filters

    A dusty filter won’t prevent your mower or tractor from starting, but a clean one protects the engine. On your mower, it’s paper and can be removed in seconds. Take the old one to an outdoor power gear dealer if you’re not sure which one to get. For a tractor, replace your carburetor’s air filter if it’s paper. If it’s foam, wash it in soap and water. Rinse and squeeze it dry. Some manuals suggest you also oil a foam filter with engine oil. If so, squeeze the filter dry again before you reinstall it. Tractors have a fuel filter, too. Check your manual for the proper maintenance schedule and procedure.

    Need a new mower or tractor?

    We’ve completed our tests of 40 new walk-behind mowers, lawn tractors, and zero-turn-radius riders and have added their results to our lawn mower Ratings for a total of more than 175 models. Before you go shopping, check out our lawn mower buying guide for mowers, tractors, and riders.

    —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

    Two GE French-Door Refrigerators Filled With Features

    As French-door refrigerators have become more popular, their price range has also widened. You can now spend less than $1,500 for a three-door French-door refrigerator with basic features and limited capacity, or more than $5,000 for a luxury four-door version that’s huge on storage and innovation.

    Those are two ends of the extreme. But even among mid-range French-door refrigerators, you might find two similar models with a price differential of $1,000 or more—nothing to sneeze at, especially if you’re redoing the kitchen on a tight budget. So is it worth spending more? A pair of GE French-door refrigerators newly tested by Consumer Reports offers some insights.

    The GE GFE26GSHSS, $1,900, and the GE Profile PFH28PSHSS, $2,900, both make our recommended list, so it’s clear that you can find top performance in a less expensive French-door refrigerator. In fact, the $1,900 model scores a couple points higher in its overall score, thanks to slightly better temperature control. That helped it earn a CR Best Buy distinction.

    How They Compare

    Both French-door models offer excellent energy efficiency and quietness. In terms of storage capacity, the pricier GE Profile PFH28PSHSS has a slight edge, offering 19.8 cubic feet of usable capacity, compared with its brandmate’s 17.1 cubic feet. 

    Now let’s look at the features. While both French-door refrigerators have an external ice and water dispenser, the GE Profile comes with an LCD display and hands-free precise autofill, which lets you walk away while the machine automatically fills any container. The GE Profile is also unique in that it has a temperature-controlled drawer with settings for meat, deli, and beverages. And it features a drop-down shelf in the fresh-food compartment that helps with the storage of two-liter bottles and other tall containers.

    These convenience features are nice, as is the extra capacity inside the GE Profile PFH28PSHSS. The upgrades might even be worth the splurge. But it’s good to know that if you don't have an extra $1,000 in the budget, you can still get a superb French-door refrigerator that will look good in the kitchen while keeping your food fresh.

    See our refrigerator Ratings for the complete list of recommended French-door refrigerators, including other CR Best Buys from LG and Samsung.

    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

    Virtually All New Cars to Have Standard Automatic Emergency Braking by 2022

    Nearly every passenger vehicle sold in the U.S. will come with standard forward crash-prevention systems in 2022, according to an announcement to be made tomorrow.

    Forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking are available today as an option on some cars—mostly luxury vehicles. But a voluntary agreement between the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and major automakers means the technology will be standard on every trim level of most light vehicles starting in 2022. Some heavy-duty pickups and SUVs will have a slightly longer timeframe, as will passenger cars with manual transmissions.

    This key advancement in automotive forward-collision safety will be unveiled tomorrow at a press conference, where the Department of Transportation will be joined by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and Consumer Reports.

    Forward-collision warning and automatic braking are advanced safety systems that use cameras, lasers, and/or radar to detect an imminent crash. In a car with one of these systems, the driver is warned of an obstacle and the brakes are engaged automatically.

    Although six years may seem like a long time for the agreement to come to fruition, it is necessary because technology like this often cannot be retrofitted on cars already in production. Most vehicles have a lifecycle of five to seven years between redesigns. This voluntary agreement should allow every vehicle currently on the market to be redesigned with the forward-crash technology incorporated into the new model. And many automakers have pledged to accelerate the rollout of this technology to vehicles that are redesigned before the 2022 timeframe. This was the case with electronic stability control, where many manufactures had already added the feature to their vehicles before the 2012 NHTSA-mandated deadline.

    With more than 1.7 million rear-end crashes a year, these technologies are expected to prevent thousands of crashes, injuries, and save lives.  

    According to IIHS, vehicles equipped with forward-collision warning and automatic braking see incidents of rear-end collisions reduced by 40 percent, with bodily injury claims cut by 30 percent.

    Not yet included in this voluntary directive are some exotic specialty cars and commercial trucks. But 99 percent of all cars fall will under this new agreement. High-performance sports cars, or trucks that weigh more than 8,500 pounds, won’t fall under this new instruction but will follow later, according to a source close to the matter.

    Consumer Reports worked diligently to advocate for these potentially life-saving features, as did NHTSA and IIHS. In September 2015, NHTSA and IIHS challenged automakers to make these collision avoidance technologies standard. This agreement is an outgrowth of those talks.

    Consumer Reports has been actively testing automatic emergency braking systems for more than a decade and has recognized it as a significant feature capable of saving lives, reducing injuries, and protecting property. It is a feature that we feel is so important that we award bonus points as part of our Overall Score to car models that have forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking as standard across a vehicle’s model line.

    “We have been calling on automakers to make automatic emergency braking standard in all new vehicles, and today is an important step toward reaching that goal,” says Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports director of automotive testing. “This proven technology is the among the most promising safety advances we’ve seen since electronic stability control almost two decades ago. We look forward to working with NHTSA and IIHS to help put this plan into action and hold automakers accountable for their commitments.”

    "The announcement lays the groundwork for these life-saving systems to be standard on all new vehicles," said William Wallace, policy analyst for Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports. "Consumers deserve the protection that these technologies provide, and they should have them in their cars as soon as possible. We urge manufacturers to swiftly roll out these systems across all models and trim levels earlier than 2022, and we support NHTSA's intention to set mandatory rules if automakers drag their feet."

    Forward-collision warning and automatic braking features are standard on a few vehicles, and available on many cars as optional features. To see which cars already have these systems, see our guide to models with advanced safety features.

    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

    Senate GMO Bill Failure Makes it Clear that Mandatory Labeling is the Answer

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports, praised Senators for standing against anti-consumer GMO labeling legislation that would prohibit state labeling laws.  The consumer group urged lawmakers to move towards mandatory, national labeling.

    Jean Halloran, director of food policy initiatives for Consumers Union, said, “Today’s vote, in which the Senate rejected an industry-backed effort to advance a​ bill that would block GMO labeling, was an important victory for consumers.  ​Senators from both sides of the aisle balked at shutting down state efforts to address what consumers want--which is to know if their food is genetically engineered." 

    "Consumers have a right to know what they are eating. ​As the vote makes clear, meaningful, mandatory labeling that provides consumers with the information they want about whether their food is genetically engineered​ is the only answer. And consumers​ want it on the package, not via​ a code that has to be scanned with a​ smartphone, or by searching​ a website, or by ​calling​ a 1-800 number, ​before putting every item in their cart.”

    Consumers Union supports The Biotechnology Food Labeling Uniformity Act, sponsored by Senator Merkley,  which would create a national standard for GMO labeling and require food manufacturers to label products with GMO ingredients via one of several options on the ingredients list section of the Nutrition Facts Panel.  Another option would give FDA the authority to develop a symbol which would disclose the presence of GM ingredients on packaging.

    "We support a uniform mandatory GMO labeling requirement on food packaging.  But until that is achieved, states must have the right to listen to their citizens and pass GMO labeling bills," said Halloran.

    Media Contacts:
    David Butler, Consumers Union, 202.462.6262 or dbutler@consumer.org
    Kara Kelber, Consumers Union, 202.462.6262 or kkelber@consumer.org

    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 the Heck Is Form 1095-C?

    IRS Form 1095-C, "Employer-Provided Health Insurance Offer and Coverage Insurance," is a new document that your employer may send you this tax season. This is the first tax season that this form is being sent to taxpayers. 

    The first thing to know: The Form 1095-C details your 2015 health insurance coverage. It is a reference document. You are not required to fill it out and you don't need to amend your returns if you've already filed.

    You refer to this form when deciding whether to check the "Health care: individual responsibility" box on your tax return, indicating full-year health coverage. That box is on Line 61 on IRS Form 1040; Line 11 on IRS Form 1040EZ, and Line 38 on IRS Form 1040A. If you use tax software, the guided program will do this for you.

    Form 1095-C complements two other health insurance disclosures that taxpayers already have seen: Form 1095-A, provided by your state healthcare marketplace; and 1095-B, supplied by the health insurer your employer used in 2015. You may not receive all three forms.

    The IRS has given employers until March 31 to send Forms 1095-B and 1095-C to employees. But there is no need to worry if you get them after you've filed.

    What to Do

    • If you filed your taxes already and then got Form 1095-C or 1095-B, you don't have to file an amended return or send the form to the IRS. In fact, you don't need to do anything with the documents except keep them with your records for tax-year 2015. 

    • Don't wait to file your tax return because you're waiting for forms 1095-B or 1095-C. While health coverage information on those forms could help you prepare your taxes, you can get the information you need from other sources including your employer or your health insurer. For instance, your family's health insurance cards will show when their coverage was effective. 

    • If you enrolled in a marketplace health plan, you must wait for Form 1095-A to file. In that case, information in Part II of Form 1095-C could help determine if you’re eligible for the premium tax credit. And Part III can help you determine if you qualify for an exemption from the requirement to have coverage. (Tax software will ask you for the codes printed in those sections and figure it out for you.) If you don't qualify, you must make what the IRS calls an individual shared responsibility payment, otherwise known as a tax penalty.

    Additional Information

    • The Form 1095-C is sent to those who worked full-time in 2015 for what the IRS calls "an applicable larger employer." That means an employer with 50 or more full-time employees. You could get the form even if you weren't a full-timer. You also could get more than one 1095-C, from different employers.

    • Parts I and II of 1095-C always will be filled in. Line 14 describes—in code—what coverage, if any, your employer offered you in 2015. The code on Line 15 indicates whether the coverage was considered by Obamacare to be affordable. Line 16 says why you were or were not offered coverage. You can click here for a key to the codes. 

    • Part III only will be filled in if your employer offered a "self-insured" plan. That means the employer shouldered the financial responsibility for your coverage, even if an insurer was the administrator. Part III details who was covered by that plan, and for how many months in 2015 they were covered. 

    • If your Form 1095-C only had Parts I and II filled out, you also may receive Form 1095-B, the proof of coverage from the insurance company your employer used. 

    • The IRS doesn't issue Form 1095-C, employers do. So if you think you should have received it already but haven't, you can talk to your employer. But proceed with your tax preparation as planned.

    Here's more information from the IRS on all three Form 1095s.

    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

    Shoppers Should Be Skeptical of Online Reviews

    We’re all aware of the power of positive endorsements, whether it’s in the form of a Facebook “like,” or a simple thumbs up. That's especially true on the Internet, which is often the first place many of us turn to when searching for research on products and services. But should you trust user reviews and other online reviews?

    Often, a review on sites such as Amazon.com or TripAdvisor can sway a shopper who isn't sure whether to make a purchase. According to a survey published in 2015 by market research firm Mintel, 70 percent of respondents 18 years of age and older said they seek out opinions from user reviews before making a purchase online. And a majority of them said they would pay more for a product or service that has positive online reviews.  

    But online reviews aren't always as innocent as they seem and savvy shoppers should be skeptical of what they are reading. The reason? Some of those endorsements aren't actually written by other consumers.  

    The department-store and e-commerce chain Lord & Taylor, for example, reached a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission this month over charges that last year it deceived consumers by paying for publicity in the guise of objective editorial content. That included a company advertisement masked as journalism in Nylon, an online pop culture and fashion publication.

    Lord & Taylor, the FTC said, also paid so-called influencers to wear, tout, and write about the products it sells without revealing to the public that they were compensated for the testimonials as required by the FTC. These influencers posted Instagram pictures of themselves wearing the same paisley dress from the Design Lab collection, but failed to divulge that they had each been given the dress as well as $1,000 to $4,000 dollars in exchange for the endorsement.

    Though illegal, the campaign proved highly effective: The dress sold out quickly. 

    Fake endorsements—whether ads posing as articles or user reviews posted on websites—have long undermined consumers and created big headaches for e-commerce websites. Last year, for example, Amazon filed a lawsuit against more than 1,100 people accused of posting fake product reviews on the site.  In 2013, Edmunds.com, a site consumers turn to for car research, sued a marketing company that placed fake online reviews about car dealerships on sites such as Yelp and Google+. At TripAdvisor, fake reviews about topics such as hotels and restaurants became such a problem that the company employed a large staff dedicated to eradicating them.

    Tips to Detect Fake Reviews

    The lesson for shoppers online: When a “friend” extols the virtues of stylist, the tiramisu at an Italian restaurant, or the white-glove service at a particular hotel, be aware that the gushing might be payback for freebies. Here's some advice to help you to avoid being duped:

    • Be skeptical. It’s often impossible to know whether the strangers who write the reviews have actually used the product or if they are simply shills. A useful review by a user might be able to tell you that the towels you’re considering buying aren’t the shade of white advertised. But a glowing review of those towels should raise your suspicions.
    • Check the reviewers. Root around sites with user reviews to find out exactly how the publishers manipulate, filter, and use them. Look for signs that they have systems in place to publish and monitor the reviews. OpenTable, a site that allows people to book tables at restaurants, says that its Dining Feedback program is "designed to limit participation to only those who actually dined at the restaurant, as indicated by the status of their OpenTable reservation."
    • Seek wisdom in numbers. Don’t rely on any one review. Read multiple reviews and opinions from sources that have proved credible in the past and look for patterns. 
    • Don't play Sherlock Holmes. Consumers are often advised that they should be truth detectives and scrutinize reviews for signs of fakery. But becoming an expert isn't easy. A few years ago, when Cornell researchers asked undergraduates to determine which of the 800 user reviews for 20 Chicago hotels were phony and which were real, the students showed no ability to do so.

    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

    How to Avoid Used-Car Disasters - Consumer Reports

    It’s every used-car buyer’s nightmare: Getting a rebuilt wreck despite doing extensive research.

    That’s because they’re difficult to spot. Even buying a model known for reliability is no guarantee that it won’t have problems. That’s what Deborah Boulet of Canterbury, Conn., found when she bought a used 2011 Mazda3 and discovered water leaking into its trunk on the day she took delivery. Upon further investigation, her attorney found that the car had been hit by a snowplow and shoddily repaired. Boulet used towels to soak up the water as she fought a legal battle to get the dealership to buy back her car. “I don’t trust this car at all anymore, and I drive it as little as possible,” she said. “It’s been a nightmare.”

    According to CarFax, a service that provides vehicle history reports, about 20 percent of cars on the road have some sort of accident damage.

    Consumer Reports has found that reports from CarFax and its main competitor, AutoCheck, can’t catch everything. Differing state laws governing salvage titles allow for loopholes big enough to drive a rebuilt wreck through. Often, even when a car’s title is conspicuously labeled as salvaged, consumers such as Boulet never see it. Ask to see the title before you buy a used car, and be especially wary of any car with a “lost” title.

    See our list of the best and worst used cars.

    Though there is no substitute for hiring your own mechanic to inspect any car you’re serious about buying, look for these telltale signs first to thin the herd:

    • The close-up: Inspect each body panel for scratches, dents, or rust. Masking-tape marks ­under windowsills or fender edges indicate paintwork.
    • Straight and narrow: Uneven panel gaps around the fenders, doors, hood, and trunk can indicate shoddy repair.
    • Blend well: Be sure the paint color and finish are uniform, and check inside doorjambs for dull-looking overspray.
    • Attractive personality: Run a magnet along doors and fenders. If it doesn’t pull toward the car, there may be body filler under the paint, indicating body repairs.
    • Crystal clear: Check for moisture fogging in the lights.
    • Tread lightly: Make sure the tires have even tread wear. New tires may hide problems.
    • Rust bucket: A coating of rust on bolts or hinges inside the doorjamb is a clue that the car may have been submerged.
    • Sniff test: A musty, moldy smell in the interior or trunk could indicate water damage.
    • Check the tailpipe: Black, greasy residue inside means the engine is burning oil.

    For more information, read "How to Avoid a Lemon Car."

    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

    Beware the Flood of Flood Cars | Used Car Buying - Consumer Reports

    Hurricane and tornado seasons routinely damage a large number of cars. Unfortunately, many water-damaged cars can make it to the used-car market, camouflaged as ordinary used cars. That's a problem because water damage can be hard to spot.

    Immersing a car in water can ruin electronics, lubricants, and mechanical systems. The impact may not be immediately obvious, for it can take months or years for the incipient corrosion to find its way to the car's vital electronics such as airbag controllers. Key protections depend on accurate reporting to insurance companies, and they to national registries, and careful pre-purchase inspections.

    Too often, when an insurance company decides a flood-damaged car is totaled, the information isn't clear to any future buyer. Once a car is totaled, it’s supposed to get a new title, called a salvage title. Those titles are usually either plainly marked (“branded” is the term used) with the word “salvage” or “flood.” In some states the warning is an obscure coded letter or number. Totaled cars are typically sold at a salvage auction to junkyards and vehicle rebuilders. Reselling is legal, as long as the flood damage is disclosed to buyers on the title, say experts at CarFax, a website that tracks vehicle histories and sells reports to consumers online.

    But as Consumer Reports found in an investigation of "rebuilt wrecks," some flood-damaged vehicles magically reappear with clean titles. Be especially wary of any used car with a "lost" title.

    One useful online tool is the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS), which helps consumers run background checks. This system aims to crack down on the practice of “title washing,” where cars that have been totaled (or stolen) can get clean new titles in states with lax regulations. The NMVTIS website lists several information providers, with varying prices and services.

    Arguably the best-known vehicle history report company is CarFax, which charges $39.99 to check out one car and $54.99 for unlimited reports. CarFax says it gathers information from fire departments, police agencies, collision repair facilities, and rental agencies, among other public record sources. Often, used-car dealerships will provide a free CarFax report, and the company itself offers free reports for car listings on its website.

    For a basic check, the National Insurance Crime Bureau offers a free VIN-check service, although it doesn't use as many data sources as some of the paid providers.

    Of course, vehicle-history reports are not all-inclusive and are no guarantee that a vehicle is problem-free. But they are a valued aid in screening potential cars. Ultimately, a detailed inspection is the best protection. 

    How to Spot a Flood-Damaged Car

    Water damage can be hard to detect, but there are some telltale signs you should be aware of:

    • Inspect the carpets to see if they show signs of having been waterlogged, such as smelling musty or having caked-on mud.
    • Check the seat-mounting screws to see if there is any evidence that they have been removed. To dry the carpets, the seats must be removed, not generally a part of normal maintenance.
    • Inspect the lights. Headlights and taillights are expensive to replace, and a visible water line may still show on the lens or the reflector.
    • Inspect the difficult-to-clean places, such as gaps between panels in the trunk and under the hood. Waterborne mud and debris may still appear in these places.
    • Look for mud or debris on the bottom edges of brackets or panels, where it wouldn’t settle naturally.
    • Look at the heads of any unpainted, exposed screws under the dashboard.
      Unpainted metal in flood cars will show signs of rust.
    • Check if the rubber drain plugs under the car and on the bottom of doors look as
      if they have been removed recently. It may have been done to drain floodwater.

    If you’re from an area affected by a flood and have a car that wasn’t damaged, be aware that buyers might suspect it was. Consider having a mechanic inspect your car before you put it up for sale so that you can present potential buyers with a clean bill of health.

    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 Earned Income Tax Credit May Help You Get the Biggest Refund

    You may have not have heard of the Earned Income Tax Credit, but it may help you get a tax refund of thousands of dollars from the Internal Revenue Service. 

    This tax credit generally applies to lower and moderate income workers. When you complete the form while doing your taxes, it can help you to recoup some or all of the money you've already paid to the IRS. It might even give you a tax refund that is more than you've paid in taxes.

    How much you receive depends on your income, marital status, and how many children (dependents) you have. A single person without children making almost $15,000 a year could get back more than $500.  A married couple with three children making almost $50,000 could get more than $6,000. The average earned income tax credit for 2014 was $2,400, according to the IRS.

    While millions of working Americans qualify, one in five households eligible for the earned income tax credit claim it, according to the IRS. Those who don't file federal tax returns because they made less in 2015 than the filing minimum, for instance, might be eligible for this tax refund. (For single people under age 65, that's $10,300; for couples filing jointly under age 65, it's $20,600.) It could be worth filing anyway, just to get the tax refund.

    To find out whether you can benefit from the earned income tax credit, you can visit a tax preparer, use tax preparation software or turn to the EITC Assistant, which is provided by the IRS. Lower and middle-income families and seniors can use free tax-prep services through various government and volunteer programs. The AARP Foundation Tax-Aide service, for instance, will pair you with trained volunteers. You can also prepare and file yourself for free using IRS FreeFile or the free versions of commercial tax software.

    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

    When It Pays to Spend a Little More

    Who doesn’t like a bargain? But sometimes it pays to spend a little more. The pros at Consumer Reports searched the labs and Ratings to find products for the home that are worth the extra money. Here's a look at five everyday products. The good news is you don’t have to spend that much more to get something better.

    Skillets

    Drop $30 on the Rachel Ray 10-inch Open Skillet and you’ll get an aluminum nonstick pan that released food quickly, was easy to clean, with a handle that was comfortable without getting too hot. But the handle wasn’t too sturdy, cooking evenness was only good, and the nonstick surface had scratches at the end of our durability test.

    Pay a little more: The $40 Calphalon Simply Nonstick 10-inch aluminum pan is a CR Best Buy and was excellent at evenly heating and releasing food. The handle stayed cool to the touch and the nonstick surface withstood our durability test in which steel wool is rubbed over a pan for up to 2,000 strokes. A 10-year warranty is part of the deal. For more choices see our cookware Ratings

    Steam Irons

    For $15 the Continental CE23111 steam iron will get the job done, but will take longer since it doesn’t provide a lot of steam. Worse, it doesn’t have an auto shutoff feature. This turns off the iron when it’s motionless after a bit, sensing that you’ve forgotten the iron is on. Auto shutoff isn’t a required safety feature, but it’s well worth every cent.

    Pay a little more: Spend an extra $5 on Walmart's Black & Decker Xpress Steam IR08X and you get auto shutoff and plenty more steam. We've tested dozens of irons and our iron Ratings tell the full story.

    Lightbulbs

    Walmart's Great Value 14W Soft White CFL is $1.25 and casts a bright, warm yellow light. That’s as bright as a 60-watt incandescent while using just 14 watts. This CFL is supposed to last about 9 years when used 3 hours a day. But like all CFLs, it takes time to fully brighten—about 26 seconds—and you can’t dim it.

    Pay a little more: At $7, the top-rated Feit Electric 60 Watt Replacement LED instantly delivers warm light, uses even less energy, is claimed to last 23 years, and dimmable. Our lightbulb Ratings offer more details.

    Interior Paint

    Buy the cheap stuff and you may wind up applying more coats since they often don’t hide old paint well, making them less of a bargain. At $17 a gallon, Walmart’s Color Place Interior Paint is the least expensive in our interior paint Ratings and the worst. And unlike most tested paints, Color Place isn’t self-priming.

    Pay a little more: For $32 a gallon you can buy a self-priming paint that was impressive at hiding old paint, such as Ace Hardware’s Clark+Kensington Enamel. If Ace isn't your go-to paint place, then see our interior paint Ratings for other good choices. 

    Laundry Detergents

    All Stainlifter liquid detergent is just 10 cents a load but was just good at cleaning—it left ring-around-the collar stains.

    Pay a little more: For a penny more a load, Kirkland Signature Free & Clear liquid detergent from Costco was better at cleaning. Not a Costco member? Then check out Wisk Deep Clean. It’s 14 cents a load. You can use these detergents in any type of washer, and the laundry detergent Ratings rate dozens of products. Note the user reviews too. Some people have strong opinions about strong detergent scents.

    Any questions? Email me at kjaneway@consumer.org.

    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

    How Safe Is Your Drinking Water?

    Q. After having heard about lead in the water in Flint, Mich., I became worried about the drinking water at my home. Should I buy a filter?

    A. Reports of unsafe drinking water pouring from taps in Flint and other cities can be alarming. But before you panic, you should check your municipal water report and also have your drinking water tested, says Chris Hendel, Consumer Reports’ medical researcher. The Environmental Protection Agency posts municipal water-quality reports every July; find yours at epa.gov/safewater. But if your home was built before lead-free pipes were mandated in 1986 or if you use well water, a test is the best way to assess the quality of the drinking water at your home.

    Your state or local health department might offer free test kits. The EPA’s website lists local labs; you can also call its Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791.

    If tests find lead in your drinking water and the level is below 150 parts per billion (ppb), a filter can make your water safer to drink. (Some water samples collected in Flint were well over that.) Water filters are certified for lead reduction only up to 150 ppb. If lead levels are higher or if tests reveal other concerns, such as arsenic, bacteria, or parasites, contact your local health department for advice. You can also contact the EPA for further guidance.

    In our most recent tests of water filters, the top picks were the Clear2O carafe, $30, and the faucet-mounted Culligan FM-15A, $20. Both were top-rated for removing lead and other contaminants, and both are NSF-certified, which means that they were independently verified under standards from NSF International to reduce lead to 10 ppb or less. That’s the standard many toxicologists recommend, although there’s no universally accepted safe level for lead or many other contaminants.

    We also recommend the faucet-mounted Pur FM-3700B, $30, which is one of three water filters distributed by officials in Flint, according to Michigan.gov/flintwater.

    For related health information, check our water filter buying guide.

    Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the May 2016 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

    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

    5 Great Big-Screen HDTV Deals

    LG 60LF6100

    Talk about price fluctuations on HDTV deals—this 60-inch LG 60LF6100 set, now selling for about $850 at a number of stores, was only $680 at Walmart last week, but it's now out of stock at that retailer. The set is a 1080p LED LCD TV that offers very good high-definition picture quality, though it lacks the wider-than-average viewing angle we see on most LG sets. Although it doesn't come with LG's cool gesture-based Magic Remote, you can buy the remote control as an option and use it with set.

    Vizio E65-C3

    Over the past few years, Vizio has almost become synonymous with TV bargains. The 60-inch Vizio E60-C3, a 1080p LED LCD TV, is another winner offered at a great price for a set this size. Although it's selling for about $1,000 at Amazon, you can get it for $700 at a number of retailers, including Best Buy, Target, and Walmart. The TV boasts excellent high-definition picture quality and a lot of features but its sound was only fair, so consider spending some of the money you're saving on a decent sound bar. If you're looking for a slightly larger set, its 65-inch sibling—the Vizio E65-C3—can be had for about $100 more.

    Samsung UN60J6200

    While many outlets are selling this 60-inch 1080p LED LCD TV for about $1,000, it's only $800 at P.C. Richard. The  Samsung UN60J6200, a model in the series just below the J6300 sets, delivers very good high-definition picture quality, and it does a great job reducing motion blur. It has fewer features than the JS6300-series sets, including only two HDMI inputs, fewer than most sets this size.

    Samsung UN60JU6500

    Looking for a 60-inch 4K UHD TV? We had a tough choice picking between the Samsung UN60JU6500 model and the LG 60UF7700, which are both selling for about $1,300. The Samsung gets the nod thanks to slightly better HD picture quality and UHD performance, which were both excellent, though the LG had a wider viewing angle. The set is in Samsung's mainstream UHD series for 2015, and in many ways it's like the JU6700-series sets, except with a flat, rather than curved, screen.

    Sony Bravia XBR-65X930C

    Yes, few people would call a $2,500 TV a bargain, but you might if you knew this set—one of our top-rated TVs in 2015—was selling for $1,000 more just two months ago. The 65-inch Sony Bravia XBR-65X930C set delivers excellent high-definition picture quality and excellent UHD performance, and unlike many leftover 2015 4K TVs, this will support HDR content. And as you might imagine from the big honking speaker arrays flanking the screen, the TV has great sound, so you won't need a sound bar. (You can even add an external subwoofer if you need more sonic oomph.) Like other Internet-enabled Sony TVs from last year, it uses Google's Android TV smart TV platform.

    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

    Pick the Best Lawn Tractor for Your Property - Consumer Reports

    Riding mowers are the way to mow for lawns of a certain size, typically one-half acre or more. If your property is even more princely, you may want to consider a tractor with a wider cutting deck. And if you need to cut around trees and other landscaping features, consider a zero-turn-radius rider, which has a fun factor not usually found in mowers. Consumer Reports tested more than 60 tractors and riders, and here are the best from our tests.

    Top tractors

    Lower-priced on average than zero-turn-radius riders for properties larger than a half-acre, tractors are the better bet for bagging clippings—and they’re easier on turf and more stable on hills. Top scores and high-quality features make the John Deere X350, $3,200, well worth its price. For $1,000 less, the Craftsman 20442, $2,200, a CR Best Buy, has a larger deck, mulched more thoroughly, and can turn more tightly. You might also like its 6½-mph ground speed. John Deere, however, is more reliable than most other lawn-tractor brands. Another Deere, the John Deere S240 Sport, $2,500, comes with an extra-wide, flat chute that, for side-discharging, shows some improvement in dispersal of clippings over older Deere tractors; it’s also priced more competitively.

    Top wider-deck tractors

    Wider-deck lawn tractors haven’t traditionally fared as well at cutting evenness as their smaller siblings have, but this trio has changed the rules with exceptional cutting. The Craftsman 20445, $3,500, has the largest deck, at 54 inches, and offers tight turning around trees and other obstacles. A bargain for 50-inch cutting, the Troy-Bilt Super Bronco 50, $1,900, a CR Best Buy, matched the Crafstman for cutting and offers the same electric power takeoff, automatic drive system, and other features. The John Deere D155, $2,200, is slightly smaller, with a 48-inch deck, but offers impressive cutting in all modes.

    Top zero-turn-radius riders

    Zero-turn-radius riders offer the greatest ground speed—though you should be mowing at about 4 mph—and easy turning around obstacles on fairly flat lawns. We’ve called the 42-inch deck of the Troy-Bilt Mustang 17WFCACS, $2,300, a CR Best Buy, the ultimate in cutting performance, and the 42-inch Cub Cadet RZT L42, $2,500, another CR Best Buy, follows that tradition—making both the highest-scoring riding machines overall. For more stability on hills, the Troy-Bilt Mustang Pivot 17ARCBDT and Toro SW4200 74784, both $2,900, have a steering wheel and steerable front wheels instead of the usual control levers and caster-style front wheels, an innovation we first saw in the Cub Cadet RZT-S42, $4,000,  the Cub Cadet RZT-S 17WF2BDT, $3,000, and other MTD-made models.

    —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

    How to Clean All the Fans in Your House

    You can't see it when they're whirring around but fans tend to collect a lot of dirt, especially if they're in or near a kitchen where steam and airborne grease can be a magnet for dust. Now is a good time to tackle this project before the weather gets too hot and your fans are in constant rotation. Here are some simple steps from Consumer Reports' book, "How to Clean Practically Anything."

    Clean fan housings with a damp cloth and an all-purpose cleaner, or a cloth dampened with a solution of water and mild detergent. Don’t let liquid get into the motor. Dirty fan blades don’t move air efficiently. When cleaning the blades, be careful not to bend them; bent blades may vibrate when the fan is operating.

    Floor, table and window fans. Dust regularly on both sides of the grille using a vacuum-cleaner brush attachment, or a lambswool duster. Make sure the fan is unplugged and clean the blades and inner workings with a hair dryer or a can of compressed air. If the grilles can be removed, hose them down or put them under the shower two or three times a year; scrub with a brush to remove dirt. Clean blades and other plastic parts with a cloth sprayed with or dipped in an all-purpose cleaner.

    Attic (whole-house) fans. Brush and vacuum the louvers and screening at least once a season for maximum airflow. Some fans are thermostatically controlled, so be sure that the fan is turned off.

    Ceiling fans. Clean these difficult-to-reach fans at least once a season. A special tool—a long-handled, U-shaped brush—is available from hardware stores and home centers. The blade fits in the inner part of the U, so both sides can be cleaned at the same time. Two or three times a year, wipe the blades and housing with a damp cloth and an all-purpose cleaner. Dry thoroughly because damp blades attract dust.

    Exhaust fans. Dust these with a vacuum-cleaner brush or a damp cloth. If the fan covers can be removed, twice a year wipe down the blades and other nonelectric parts with a cloth sprayed with or dipped in an all-purpose cleaner and clean or replace the filter.

    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

    Fandango Says, 'Good-Bye M-Go, Hello FandangoNow'

    Later this month, you'll start to see a new streaming service with a familiar name popping up on Roku streaming players, mobile devices, and smart TVs from LG, Samsung, and Vizio. That's because Fandango, the online ticket seller that bought the M-Go video-on-demand service in January, is rebranding M-Go as FandangoNow.

    Like M-Go, FandangoNow will let you rent or buy digital versions of recent movie releases and TV shows. The deal also brings the possibility that you could one day buy an enhanced movie ticket that includes a digital rental or a download as part of the purchase price, so you can watch the movie again at home.

    According to Broadcasting & Cable, the industry trade publication that broke the FandangoNow news, another option might include a ticket to a sequel plus a digital version of the previous film so you can see them back-to-back. A third option could be a movie ticket that includes a pre-order of the digital release. Other possible perks: bonus content, collectible memorabilia, or special fan experiences.

    If you're looking to kick the tires on the new FandangoNow service, it launches March 30, just days before "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" arrives on digital platforms. In fact, you can get a digital version of the blockbuster movie four days before it's released on Blu-ray and DVD.

    Since its acquisition of M-Go in January, Fandango, which is owned by NBCUniversal (Comcast), has been looking for opportunities to expand its portfolio of movie-related content. Just last month, it bought Flixster—a social site for discovering and sharing info about movies—and Rotten Tomatoes, the online movie-ratings website. All or parts of those services will likely be rolled into FandangoNow later this year.

    If you use M-Go to rent or buy movies, let us know what you think of the service. We'll be watching to see if Fandango has even bigger plans for it. And if you're a subscriber interested in buying a streaming media player, check out the full evaluations of the 17 models in our 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

    Top Products From the 2016 Architectural Digest Design Show

    The Architectural Digest Design Show, which kicked off yesterday in New York City, is where trends go to thrive. The 300 or so exhibitors on hand include premium appliance brands, like Jenn-Air and Thermador, as well as boutique purveyors of luxury goods, from bath faucets to outdoor furnishings. The show is definitely not the place to go bargain hunting—five-figure light fixtures are common, as are refrigerators costing north of $10,000. But to see where the home design industry is headed, this is the place to be. Here are the coolest products we spotted. If you’ll be in New York between now and Sunday, when the event wraps up, do some trendspotting of your own. At $40, at least the tickets are reasonable.     

    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

    Should You Still Be Buying Toshiba Laptops?

    According to reports out of Tokyo, Toshiba has reached a deal to sell a controlling stake in its consumer electronics unit to Chinese appliance maker Midea. Although the details have yet to be announced, the move raises questions about what will become of Toshiba's laptops and tablets business.

    News of the sale comes after a $1.9 billion accounting scandal rocked the Japanese company, leading to the dismissal of dozens of executives and the elimination of nearly 7,000 jobs. To raise money, the cash-strapped firm also plans to sell its medical division to camera manufacturer Canon.

    When asked about the fate of Toshiba's electronics products, a company spokesperson had no additional information to share. But the company's U.S. website has posted the following announcement: “As of March 1st, 2016 Toshiba is no longer taking orders directly on this website... To place an online order for Laptops or PC Accessories for your home, please visit CDW, our trusted partner, using the links below."

    At the moment, the news does not appear to have affected pricing on the three Toshiba computers recommended in our Ratings. CDW offers the Chromebook 2 for $442, though you must call to confirm its availability. The 15.6-inch, 2-in-1 Toshiba Satellite Radius still sells for $1,000 on BestBuy.com. The same goes for the 12.5-inch Radius, also available on Adorama.com.  

    But it's hard to sink money into a Toshiba laptop when the future of the company's warranty and repair services remains unclear. As more details on Toshiba's deal with Midea are revealed, we'll share them with you. In the meantime, subscribers can check out our laptop Ratings for recommended models from other manufacturers.

    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 | .... | 377 | 378 | (Page 379) | 380 | 381 | .... | 384 | newer