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 | .... | 380 | 381 | (Page 382) | 383 | 384 | newer

    0 0

    First 4K Roku TVs Coming From Insignia and TCL

    Over the past few years, we've liked the simplicity and wide assortment of content offered by Roku TVs, but there's been one major drawback to the Roku smart TV platform: It didn't support 4K video.

    All that's changing with the arrival of the first 4K Roku TVs, from Insignia—Best Buy's house brand—and TCL, a growing Chinese TV brand. These new TVs carry comparatively low prices, but there is one potential shortcoming: None of 4K Roku TVs support high dynamic range (HDR), which has the potential to create more vivid, lifelike pictures by improving a TV's contrast, offering extra details in both the brightest and darkest scenes.

    All the 4K Roku TVs we've seen so far have many similar features, including quad-core processors, dual-band Wi-Fi, and Roku's smart TV platform, which has a customizable home screen and universal search that combs through 25 streaming services to find movies and TV shows.

    A Roku Feed feature lets you track shows and movies you want to watch and get alerts and the price, when they hit a streaming service. There's also a 4K Spotlight Channel, plus a dedicated 4K area in Roku's channel listing for those services that offer 4K content, including Amazon, Netflix, Vudu, and YouTube.

    In addition, all Roku TVs come with a Roku-style remote control; there's also a free Roku mobile app for Android and iOS. As with Roku set-top boxes, you'll have some ability to cast videos from the mobile device to the TV, mainly from Netflix and YouTube.

    All the 4K Roku TVs we've seen so far have HDMI 2.0 inputs, but not the HDMI 2.0a inputs needed for HDR. All the 4K Roku TVs have HDCP 2.2, the standard required to play 4K movies from a 4K Blu-ray player.

    Insignia and TCL 4K Roku TVs

    Insignia 4K Roku TVs (available at Best Buy)

    • 43-inch Insignia NS-43DR710NA17, $400
    • 50-inch Insignia NS-55DR710NA17, $500
    • 55-inch Insignia NS-55DR710NA17, $650

    TCL 4K Roku TVs

    • 55-inch TCL 55US5800, $600
    • 65-inch TCL 65US5800, $1,000
    • 43-inch TCL 43UP130, $500
    • 50-inch TCL 50UP130, $600
    • 55-inch TCL 55UP130, $700
    • 65-inch TCL 65UP130, $1,100

    The S-series TVs can now be preordered at Amazon.com, and they'll be more widely available in stores including Sam's Club, Costco, and Walmart next month and at Target starting in May. The P130 models come with a Roku-based remote control with built-in microphone for voice searches.

    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

    2017 Fiat 124 Spider Elaborazione Abarth Adds Performance and Attitude

    Just when you thought that a Mazda MX-5 Miata couldn’t be more fun, the automaker rolls out the Mazda MX-5 RF with a retractable targa top, and its partner cooks up its own special edition, the 2017 Fiat 124 Spider Elaborazione Abarth. This spicier version of the Fiat 124 Spider has bold, extroverted styling, aggressive handling, and performance-oriented software updates that separate it from the other spiders in the web.

    For example, the Abarth gets a Sport Mode calibration for the engine, automatic transmission, electric power steering, and stability control system, resulting, according to Fiat, in a sportier and more responsive driving experience. Fiat says the Abarth is further distinguished with a sportier suspension to improve at-the-limits handling, a specific limited-slip differential to aid traction, and available high-performance brakes.

    The hot Spider also gets various exterior and interior trim bits to distinguish it as a fierce drop-top predator. 

    See our complete New York auto show coverage.

    All models get a 160-hp, 1.4-liter turbo four-cylinder from the Fiat stable. Like the Miata, it can be paired with a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. Fiat says the Abarth will come with a more distinctive exhaust note – something we certainly noticed (and liked) when we tested the Abarth version of the Fiat 500.

    Compared to the Miata, the 124 is a hint longer and has a more-upscale interior. The suspension geometry is the same, but Fiat claims different tuning in order to deliver ride and handling that reflects the brand—something we’re eager to experience.

    The Fiat will be built at Mazda's plant in Japan and goes on sale in summer 2016.

    Read our complete Mazda MX-5 Miata 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

    Nissan Introduces the Light-Duty Titan Pickup Truck

    Nissan unveiled the half-ton Titan pickup truck at the New York auto show that will be the volume model for the redesigned pickup truck line. This summer, it will join the Titan XD, a version on sale that bridges the light-duty and heavy-duty truck segments.

    The Titan will be initially offered as a crew cab, with single cab and king cab versions arriving later. Set on a completely different chassis than the Titan XD, the half-ton is 14.7 inches shorter than the XD and has a 5.6-liter V8 gasoline engine. A V6 will be available at a later.

    The Titan XD is sold with a Cummins diesel engine, and it will also be offered in crew cab form with the 390-hp 5.6L V8, starting at $35,290 (shown). 

    See our complete New York auto show coverage.

    Variation will be the name of the Titan game. Available as a 4X2 or a 4X4, truck buyers will have a choice of three bed lengths and five trim levels.

    Between the Titan XD and full-size Titan, Nissan expects to appeal to about 85 percent of all truck buying choices. 

    Read our Nissan Titan XD first drive.

    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

    Genesis Unveils Hybrid Sport Sedan

    The Genesis New York Concept shows Hyundai is serious about making waves with its new luxury brand spinoff.

    Motive force for this concept is a hybrid drivetrain, combining a 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine with electric power for a total output of 242 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission does the shifting, versus the usual hybrid setup of a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

    But the Genesis New York Concept is more about giving people a peek at the kinds of design elements we’ll see on future Genesis products, rather than a ground-breaking drivetrain. The exterior is low-slung but with a huge grille, slit-like headlights, highly stylized 21-inch wheels, and a gorgeous quad-outlet exhaust system. Copper touches adorn the air dam, brake calipers, door sills, and exhaust area.

    See our complete New York auto show coverage.

    A 21-inch “floating” display screen for the instruments and multimedia functions highlights the four-seat cabin, although the large tachometer on the left of the screen remains analog. Besides the usual infotainment functions, the giant, curved display screen can also help owners address any mechanical problems the car encounters. For instance, if a check engine light comes on, it can tell the owner what is wrong; how severe the problem is; how soon the car needs service; where the nearest dealer is; make an appointment for you; and even advise the dealer about what work needs to be done before the car is brought in.

    A Genesis official told us this is a feature we can absolutely expect on future models.

    The open steering wheel design—reminiscent of ones found on airplanes—makes it easier to see the instruments. Stainless-steel mesh trim continues the exterior’s copper theme, while the climate control vents and audio system’s speakers feature a turbine look.

    Genesis had previously announced it will launch a BMW 3 Series/Mercedes-Benz C-Class competitor. This isn’t that car, and although specific dimensions of the concept weren’t given, it appears slightly oversized for that segment.

    But the New York Concept wasn’t intended to focus on a specific model. Rather, the point is to show the bias the Genesis brand’s cars will have toward design, materials, and technology.

    That mission was surely accomplished.

    Read our Genesis G90 first drive.

    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

    2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Joins the Sport Sedan Race

    Alfa Romeo will soon launch its first four-door model in America in decades, while looking to challenge the German luxury establishment.

    The Alfa Romeo Giulia will be powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine made of lightweight aluminum. Coupled with an eight-speed automatic transmission, this powertrain delivers 276 horsepower. Alfa claims that it will fire the Giulia to 60 miles per hour in under than 5.5 seconds. A six-speed manual will also be available.

    To aid handling, the Giulia has a balanced 50/50-weight distribution, according to the manufacturer. Rear-wheel drive is standard; all-wheel drive is available.

    To save weight, the Giulia also uses aluminum for the front and rear vehicle frames, front shock towers, brakes, suspension components, doors, and fenders.

    Standard equipment includes leather seats, adjustable driving modes (“Dynamic,” “Natural,” and “Advanced Efficiency”), and a very cool flat-bottom steering wheel with integrated push-button start. 

    See our complete New York auto show coverage.

    The range-topping Giulia Quadrifoglio gets a 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 engine delivering 505 horsepower and an even quicker claimed 0-60 mph time of 3.8 seconds. It also adds a “Race” option to the adjustable driving mode tuning various characteristics, from exhaust note to steering, for high-performance driving. To distinguish the top model variant, the Quadrifoglio also has different exterior and interior trim details from the standard version, and specific wheels/tires and suspension tuning.

    The base model offers forward-collision warning with autonomous braking, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, and lane-departure warning.  

    The Giulia will be offered as a base, Ti, and Quadrifoglio trim lines.

    The car is expected to begin production very soon. There is no official word on pricing, but various enthusiast outlets peg it starting around $40,000 and maxing out at around $70,000. 

    Read our Alfa Romeo 4C first drive.

    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

    Used Car Sales Tactics | Used Car Buying Guide - Consumer Reports

    1. Know the value of the vehicle. Know the true value of your candidate car, regardless of what the seller is asking. Condition, mileage, age, equipment levels, and the region all affect vehicle value. Different pricing guide services can list widely varying "book" values. Avoid the high-ball/low-ball game by asking the dealer to use one guide to determine the value of the vehicle for sale and the value of any trade-in you may have.

    2. Write down your questions. Come in with a prepared list of questions about the vehicle and check them off when they are answered to your satisfaction. Make sure all your questions are answered.

    3. Don't flash your cash. The dealership doesn't need to know anything about your finances during the negotiating process. Do not tell them how much car you can afford, or they'll try to take every penny of it.

    4. Stay on the subject. Never allow a salesperson to change the direction of the conversation to matters other than car buying. Salespeople often gloss over important questions, such as vehicle history and price, by changing the subject.

    5. Don't be rushed. Salespeople's favorite customers are those who seem to be in a hurry, since they tend to be the ones who do not inspect the car thoroughly or don't negotiate the price. Never go to a dealership acting rushed, even if you need a car immediately--they'll take advantage of it. Many salespeople say they won't pressure or rush you into buying, but they usually do it anyway. If you feel the sales process is moving too fast, tell the salesperson that you'll come back at another time. If the car you're interested in is gone, remember that there are many other cars out there.

    6. Be prepared to walk away. Once you've come up with a price you feel is fair, state your offer clearly, and say nothing more. If the seller won't budge, walk away. You shouldn't pay more than what your homework has told you is the worth of the vehicle. If you head for the door, you'll often have a deal you can live with before you reach it.

    7. Be wary of costly add-ons. Service contracts, glass etching, undercoating, and paint sealants are all unnecessary add-ons to help the dealership maximize its profits. Don't buy them.

    8. Check the vehicle's history. Instead of taking the salesperson's word about the history and condition of the vehicle, get a vehicle-history report from CarFax or Experian Automotive. They can alert you to possible odometer fraud; reveal past flood, fire, and accident damage; or tell you if a rebuilt or salvage title was ever issued for the vehicle. But a clean report is no guarantee that a vehicle doesn't have hidden problems. You can also get a free VIN check from the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

    9. Visit a mechanic. After you make an offer, but before you sign a contract of sale, take the vehicle to a qualified mechanic that routinely does automotive diagnostic work. Don't let the dealer tell you they've inspected the car for you. Deduct any needed repairs that the mechanic finds from your offer.

    10. Come with your financing secured. Go to a bank or credit union and be approved for a loan before you go to the dealership. The dealer may even try to beat their rate, which works to your advantage.

    And finally, before commiting to a car, be sure to visit its used-car model page at ConsumerReports.org, where you'll find road tests, reliability, pricing, and more.

    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 New York Auto Show Reveals a Few Surprises

    Since it's the final major date in the international car show circuit, the New York auto show traditionally plays sweep, catching the leftovers. Pickings were particularly slim this year, but there was still some major news coming from the Big Apple.

    Even though the redesigned Subaru Impreza doesn't look a whole lot different than its predecessor, beneath lurks an all-new structure that will underpin all future Subarus. We'll see if this improved Impreza can hold on to its Consumer Reports Top Pick status.

    Gasoline prices might be low right now, but Hyundai and Toyota used New York to highlight their latest green cars. With three different flavors of electrification, the Hyundai Ioniq attacks the Prius head-on, promising higher efficiency than the Toyota. Meanwhile, Toyota showed their Prius Prime, a plug-in hybrid that promises to improve on the previous Prius' short electric-only range.

    At the other end of their product range, Hyundai-Kia showed two new luxury sedans. Kia redesigns the Cadenza, updating an already good car that that's often overlooked by buyers. Showgoers definitely noticed another car from the Korean automaker: the shapely Genesis New York Concept. This striking model previews the brand's BMW 3 Series sports sedan rival. As we've repeatedly discussed on Talking Cars, this market segment lacks a clear choice that combines being rewarding to drive with strong reliability and easy-to-use controls. Hopefully the Genesis can fill this vacancy.

    Speaking of hard to miss: the gull-winged Lincoln Navigator concept previewed a more luxurious version of the company's seminal big SUV. While the Talking Cars team agrees that the retractable hardtop Mazda MX-5 RF looks great in profile, ever-practical Jake Fisher yearns for the added cargo space of a liftback.

    As with the other "Talking Cars," this episode on popular cars is also available free through the iTunes Store. Subscribe to the video or audio. You'll also find the video on YouTube.

    Share your comments on this show below, and let us know if you need any advice for choosing a car.

    What Makes a Car Fun?” episode 89
    Straight Talk on the Best New Cars, episode 88
    Popular Cars and SUVs, episode 87
    Self-Driving Cars, episode 86
    2016 Detroit Auto Show, episode 85

    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

    2017 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Electrifies the SUV Segment

    After being available in Europe and reaching status as the best selling hybrid plug-in electric vehicle in Europe, Mitsubishi has high hopes that the 2017 Outlander PHEV will build momentum for the automaker's steady but small success in the United States.

    Mitsubishi’s race-tested all-wheel control system, backed by two electric motors, distribute full-time electric power between the front and rear wheels. In addition, a 2.0-liter gas engine supports the plug-in hybrid system, ensuring the battery pack is perpetually charged.

    The automaker announced that this system mitigates range anxiety commonly associated with purely electric vehicles. Actual mileage has yet to be announced. The electric-only range is expected to be about half of that of the Chevrolet Volt, putting it around 25 miles.

    See our complete New York auto show coverage.

    For buyers attracted to the Outlander for its passenger count, it is important to note that the third-row is absent from the PHEV version. Like it’s 2016 sibling, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard.

    The 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is expected to be in dealerships in fall 2016. Pricing is still yet to be announced.

    Read our complete Mitsubishi Outlander 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

    Is a New Redbox Streaming Service in the Works?

    Redbox, the movie and game-rental kiosk service, might be getting back into the streaming game a few years after its digital streaming service, Redbox Instant, failed. The new Redbox streaming service could be a pay-per-view option for rentals and purchases like Apple iTunes or Vudu.

    The trade publication Variety—which broke the story, citing "multiple sources" familiar with the company—said that the new service will be called Redbox Digital and that Redbox is close to launching a beta of the service.

    Redbox, however, isn't confirming the news. When contacted about a possible launch of such a service, a company spokesperson said in an email: “Redbox continually looks for ways to enhance our customer experience. For tens of millions of consumers, Redbox is their source for new release rentals without a subscription. As such, we regularly conduct tests of potential new offerings, that may or may not be brought to market, as part of our ongoing commitment to provide additional value.”

    The Redbox Instant service, which we reviewed in 2013, was a joint venture with Verizon. We reported that one of the strengths of the Redbox streaming service was the wide number of options it provided. You were able to mix unlimited streaming with four disc rentals each month for either $8 (DVD) or $9 (Blu-ray) a month. Game rentals, which are available in kiosks, weren't part of the plan. Redbox and Verizon pulled the plug on the hybrid service after just 18 months.

    Potential Benefits

    A pay-per-view service, however, is a much different business from a subscription plan, and it appears to be one better suited to both Redbox's core disc-rental business and to its customers. For Redbox, negotiating the rights to pay-per-view titles should be easier than putting the necessary contracts in place for a subscription service. And many Redbox streaming customers already use the company's website to search for and reserve titles. For these users, it would be much more convenient to immediately order a digital version.

    The one big question for consumers is whether Redbox would be able price its streaming selections any lower than its competitors do. One advantage to Redbox kiosks is the price of the rentals: $1.50 for DVDs, and $2 for Blu-ray discs. If there's no savings for users, there would be little reason to choose Redbox over a more established pay-per-view service, such as Amazon Instant, M-Go/FandangoNow, and Vudu, unless perhaps digital rentals are tied to Redbox's customer-loyalty program that lets users earn points toward future rentals.

    Potential customers will also want to see how widely Redbox Digital is supported by streaming devices, given its late entry into the market. Being able to access content on a variety of devices beyond computers is a critical feature for many users.

    This rumor comes as Redbox's parent company, Outerwall, is reportedly exploring a possible sale of the company. We'll have to wait and see if Redbox Digital actually launches, and if so, whether it's a sustained attempt to compete in the pay-per-view video market or simply an effort to boost the company's value to a potential buyer.

    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

    2017 Nissan GT-R Charges Into New York With Updates

    The Nissan GT-R, the automaker’s most legendary marque amongst auto enthusiasts, arrived at the New York Auto Show with some new tweaks for 2017, both inside and out.

    This halo supercar’s exterior updates are a combination of both function and fashion. First and foremost, they better align the GT-R’s appearance with Nissan’s current design signatures. They also simultaneously serve to assist high-performance driving and give a more race-ready appearance. Included in the exterior updates are a new grille, a more sculpted hood, and a new front spoiler lip and bumpers.

    Inside, the 2017 Nissan GT-R gets a new dashboard and instrument panel that bring a premium level of design sure to appeal to the aspiring race-car driver. Steering-wheel mounted shift paddles and simplified switches for the various suspension and drive-mode settings provide a more uncomplicated manner of managing the power from behind the wheel.

    The updated seats are lighter, but more importantly have improved side-support and comfort. As anyone who has sat in a GT-R for any amount of time knows, the seats were too race-car-focused for any long-distance journey.

    See our complete New York auto show coverage.

    The 2017 Nissan GT-R gets a 20-horsepower boost to its handbuilt 3.8-liter twin-turbocharged V8 engine, bring it to a screaming 565 hp with 467 lb.-ft. of torque. Adjustments to the ignition-timing and turbocharger boost are expected to provide increases to the already remarkable acceleration. To further improve the GT-R’s impressive handling, the body has been made more rigid and the suspension is all new.

    New colors, including the showstopping four-stage process “Blaze Metallic” orange in these photos, will be available when the 2017 Nissan GT-R arrives in showrooms this summer.

    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

    Rocket Mortgage Offers Speedier Mortgage Loans

    If you have ever applied for a mortgage you know that expecting to get a loan quickly is not realistic. After you’ve figured out which lender you will apply to the applications can be tedious and require that you search for financial information that could be buried somewhere in your filing cabinet. Your lender's underwriting department then has to verify your gross monthly income, debts, savings, and review your credit report to determine if you qualify.

    But there could be a better way. Quicken Loans Rocket Mortgage is one of a new breed of online services that are trying to streamline the mortgage application process. It wants to make applying for a mortgage as easy as buying a plane ticket online. Others offering similar services include Social Finance (known as SoFi) and Lenda.

    How fast is the process? One particularly flashy ad for Quicken Loans Rocket Mortgage ran during the Super Bowl last month. It promised that you could get a mortgage in just eight minutes and that you’d quickly find out if you were approved for a mortgage loan and if you could lock in a rate.

    While eight minutes may be ambitious, if you’re refinancing a loan, you may get the job done while sipping a latte at a local Starbucks, says Regis Hadiaris, the product lead for Rocket Mortgage. But if you’re starting from scratch, you'll need to get other things done like a home appraisal and a home inspection, which could take weeks.

    How to Apply

    The process works like this. When you visit Rocket Mortgage’s website, you fill in some personal information such as your income and the banks where you have accounts. Rocket Mortgage uses its network to automatically retrieve your bank history, paystubs, and bank statements. It will also get your credit reports. Hadiaris says that Quicken’s network supports almost half of all Americans so the system can import and verify income almost instantly. Quicken Loans can also import asset statements from 95 percent of the country’s financial institutions, so customers don’t have to find those statements.

    While Rocket Mortgage aims to make the mortgage application process faster, it doesn't make it easier to qualify. Quicken Loans doesn't disclose the credit scores of its customers, but the average credit score for its customers is high—around 700, according to Credit Sesame, a credit-monitoring company.

    Shopping Online for a Mortgage

    If you decide to shop online for a mortgage, keep a few points in mind.

    • Don't accept a mortgage loan on impulse. When you go shopping online, it's understandable—maybe even excusable—if you buy a shirt or a pair of socks on impulse. But before deciding on a mortgage, take the time to understand the payment terms, the length of the loan, the annual percentage rate that will be charged as well as the closing costs.
    • Don't expect to save money by going online. An online service doesn't necessarily charge the lowest closing costs or interest rates. While Quicken Loans declined to disclose these details, Erin Lantz, vice president of mortgages at the housing website, Zillow, says that you shouldn’t expect a loan from Rocket Mortgage to be a lower cost option. “You pay for the service,” she says.
    • Get several quotes before making a decision on a lender. Don’t accept a loan just because you qualified for it—from Rocket Mortgage or any other lender. Take the time to understand the terms of the offer. “No one really understands everything about the [mortgage] process,” says Kevin Stein, Associate Director at the California Reinvestment Coalition, a consumer advocacy group based in San Francisco. Good thing, perhaps, that you don't have to make a decision in eight minutes.

    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

    Offbeat Cleaning Tools That Really Work

    You’ll be happy to know that you can skip those new-fangled gadgets in the cleaning aisle of the supermarket. You already have plenty of items around the house that can serve double duty as a cleaning tool including old toothbrushes, credit cards, and socks. Here are some nifty tips from the pros behind Consumer Reports’ “How to Clean Practically Anything” as well as some how-to videos that will get you started on your spring cleaning.

    Toothbrush. Don’t toss that old toothbrush. Use it to get into hard-to-reach spots like window mullions, shower-door tracks, switch plates, and around faucets. But never use a dry brush. For deep cleaning, a moistened brush helps trap the dirt.

    Sticky lint remover. This handy tool isn’t just for clothes; it’s also good for removing pet hair from sofas and other upholstered furniture. For heavy shedders, try a lint brush.

    Umbrella. Forget the drop cloth. Hang an opened umbrella (the kind with a U-shaped handle) upside down from a chandelier to catch drips while you’re cleaning it.

    Terry-cloth towel. To remove stubborn gunk on a granite countertop, wet a terry-cloth towel with hot water, then put it over the spot for a few minutes. The heat will help loosen the hardened spill so that you can wipe it up. You can also wrap a towel around a screwdriver and use it to clean grimy shower-door tracks.

    Credit card. Use it for scraping off baked-on spills from oven and microwave interiors. The straight edge will lift the mess without scratching.

    Damp socks. Dampen a cotton sock and wear it like a glove to clean the dust from broad-leaf houseplants.

    Cloth diaper. Soft and absorbent, it makes a great dusting cloth that won’t scratch surfaces. Some experts prefer one with an 8-ply thickness in the center and 4-ply on the sides. Wash diapers four or five times before using to remove lint.

    Rain-X. Just like it does on your car’s windshield, Rain-X will repel the water on your shower door to keep it clean longer. Apply a coat to freshly cleaned shower doors.

    Plastic wrap. After cleaning the top of the refrigerator, line it with a piece of plastic wrap. You won’t be able to see it, and future cleanings will only require peeling off the plastic, tossing it, and replacing.

    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 Dangerous Drug Interactions

    You rely on your prescription medicines to help you feel better, so it may come as a surprise that mixing it with an over-the-counter painkiller or a glass of grapefruit juice, can leave you feeling worse, or even land you in the hospital. Interactions between medications and dietary supplements are increasingly prevalent among older adults—the rate of which has nearly doubled in recent years, from 8 percent in 2005 to 15 percent in 2011, according a study published this week in JAMA Internal Medicine.

    But anyone who takes even one medicine is at risk. Drug interactions happen when a drug or supplement affects how a medication works, or when something you eat or drink changes the way a drug is absorbed or broken down in the body.

    One example: Taking nitroglycerin, which treats angina (chest pain due to heart disease) with an erectile dysfunction drug such as sildenafil (Viagra and generic) can cause a dangerous drop in blood pressure. And the popular herbal supplement St. John’s wort can cause fever, heart problems, tremors, confusion, or anxiety when taken with antidepressants, including amitriptyline (Elavil), citalopram (Celexa), and escitalopram (Lexapro).

    The first way to prevent dangerous drug interactions is to "take as little medication as possible," says Marvin M. Lipman, M.D., Consumer Reports’ chief medical adviser. In addition, "knowing which drugs, supplements, or foods interact with the medications you’re taking can save you lots of misery or even be life-saving."

    The following steps can help with that: 

    Read the Labels

    "Follow the instructions" may seem like common sense, but many studies show that people often misinterpret or ignore drug labels. Thoroughly read the labels and inserts of all prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines you take, paying close attention to active ingredients and warnings.

    Many medicines come with a "Do not take with alcohol" warning. Pay attention to that because while alcohol can make you drowsy, light-headed, and less coordinated, mixing it with certain drugs can magnify those effects, and even increase your medicine’s potency or worsen its side effects. In some cases, alcohol might make a drug less effective or even toxic. For example, just a few drinks mixed with acetaminophen (Tylenol) can damage your liver. 

    Consult an Expert

    In a 2015 nationally representative Consumer Reports telephone poll, 79 percent of people said that when prescribed a new medicine, they had a discussion about the possible side effects with a doctor or nurse, and 70 percent had the talk with their pharmacist. Make it a habit to ask your doctor and pharmacist "Should I expect any side effects or interactions?" Ask your pharmacist about possible OTC drug interactions, too, especially if you’re taking multiple medicines. 

    Have a 'Brown Bag' Office Visit

    Your risk for interactions increases with each medication you take. Once or twice a year get together with your doctor to review all of the medications, vitamins, and supplements you take. Ask about side effects, interactions, and whether you might switch to safer or less costly medicines or even eliminate drugs you no longer need. 

    Go Online

    If it's Friday night, and you're worried about whether it’s safe to pop an ibuprofen while you’re taking blood thinners, there are several websites you can turn to. AARP, CVS Pharmacy, and Medscape are all easy-to-use online checkers that provide detailed information on possible drug, food, and supplement interactions, as well as the level of risk ranging from minor to severe, without requiring you to sign up or divulge personal information. If you discover, with the help of an online checker, that your medications might interact, tell your doctor or pharmacist immediately, rather than stopping therapy on your own. 

    Stick With One Pharmacy

    Our medical advisors recommend filling all of your prescriptions at one pharmacy. Keeping all of the drugs you take in one system allows your pharmacist to alert you of any allergies or potentially dangerous interactions. 

    Editor's Note: This article and related materials are made possible by a grant from the state Attorney General Consumer and Prescriber Education Grant Program, which is funded by the 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

    Mini Launches Cooper Clubman ALL4 and John Cooper Works Convertible

    The fun-yet-quirky Mini brand used the New York Auto Show to launch its two latest models. The Cooper Clubman ALL4 adds all-wheel drive capability to the largest Mini variant, while the John Cooper Works Convertible brings high performance to the new Mini convertible model.

    Adding all-wheel drive to the Clubman will make Mini’s most spacious model more appealing to buyers who live in climates with plenty of snow and rain. The ALL4’s all-wheel-drive system is shared with the BMW X1 xDrive28i. It distributes power between the front and rear wheels as needed, quickly reacting to changes in traction. For the sake of efficiency, the system defaults to front-wheel drive, but it can send up to 100 percent of the torque to the rear wheels.

    As with the front-wheel-drive version, the Mini Clubman ALL4 is available as a base Cooper with a 134-horsepower, 1.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine, and a Cooper S with a 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder rated at 189 hp. Both versions come with a six-speed manual transmission, with an eight-speed automatic optional. 

    See our complete New York auto show coverage.

    Don’t think the ALL4 system is just for lousy weather, though; it also helps the Cooper S out-accelerate its front-drive counterpart by 0.3 seconds. The six-speed manual hits 60 mph in 6.7 seconds, the eight-speed automatic at 6.6.

    The Clubman model is unique in that it’s both the biggest Mini–6.6 inches longer overall than the Countryman–and the most spacious, with 47.9 cu-ft of max cargo capacity with the rear seats folded. Then there is also the Clubman’s sideways-opening rear cargo doors. While certainly a cool novelty, the split window setup does somewhat hamper rear visibility.

    Pricing starts at $25,900 for the base Cooper Clubman ALL4, with the Cooper S at $29,450. The Clubman ALL4 goes on sale in early April.

    The John Cooper Works version of the new, larger, third-generation Mini Convertible will hit dealers around the same time as the Clubman ALL4. As with the hardtop JCW, the convertible version gets a hopped-up 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo, which, with 228 horsepower, is the most powerful engine ever in a production Mini. With the standard six-speed manual transmission, the front-wheel-drive JCW convertible hits 60 mph in 6.4 seconds; the optional six-speed automatic with paddle shifters is slightly quicker at 6.3 sec., making this the fastest Mini convertible ever.

    The JCW convertible also gets sportier suspension settings for better handling, a less restrictive exhaust system, bigger front brakes, and unique 17-inch wheels. The interior features special sport seats and some unique JCW trim bits. The fully automatic convertible top opens or closes in 18 seconds. And, for the first time, Mini is giving buyers the option to have the Union Jack flag graphic woven into the top of the convertible’s fabric material. The car also comes with a system that keeps track of the amount of time spent with the top down, as a way of guilting you into more open-air motoring.

    Pricing for the Mini John Cooper Works Convertible starts at $35,600. 

    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

    Take a Virtual Tour of Consumer Reports' Test Track

    You can now take a ride around Consumer Reports' test track—at least virtually. Just watch the video above and you'll get a sense of what it's like to climb into the passenger seat beside Auto Test Director Jake Fisher.

    You'll experience our avoidance maneuver, tire testing on a wet track, rock hill climb, and handling course.

    A 360-degree video such as our test track tour is easy to watch, and it gives you a complete view of everything happening around you.

    If you're using a desktop or laptop computer, you can navigate the video above by moving your mouse left, right, up, or down and your perspective will change. The A,W,S, and D keys will do the same thing. Using either type of computer, you can also watch the video on YouTube or Facebook (just make sure you have the latest version of your browser).

    On a mobile device? The video at the top of this page requires the YouTube app to work in 360. Then just move the device and you'll see all around the video.

    If you have an Android phone, you can use a viewer such as Google Cardboard to get an even deeper virtual experience with the YouTube app.

    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 and Worst Walk-Behind Mowers | Mower Reviews - Consumer Reports

    Every year Consumer Reports tests a new batch of mowers at its test lawn in Fort Myers, Florida. This year we bagged more than 1,500 pounds of grass clippings and found out that not every mower measures up to our cutting, mulching, and bagging tests. While even the lowest-rated tractors and riders we tested performed passably, several walk-behind mowers left ugly clumps in their wake and scored just 40 or lower. Here are the best and worst walk-behind mowers from our tests.

    Best self-propelled mowers

    Self-propelled mowers require less effort on your part, especially on graded areas of your lawn. Paying more for the Honda HRR2169VLA, $500, buys superb mulching and bagging, no-prime starting, and an electric-start feature whose battery gets charged while you mow. Among the other multispeed mowers, choose the Toro Super Recycler 20381, $500, for its bagging; Toro Recycler 20333, $400, for its blade-brake clutch; and Troy-Bilt TB-280ES 12AGA26G, $340, for its low price and electric start.

    The Toro Recycler 20339, $380, tops our single-speed picks and offers unique stand-up storage. Also consider the all-wheel-drive Toro Recycler 20353, $400, for steep slopes—as well as the quiet Craftsman 37545, $340, which just missed making our picks—if you mostly mulch and would rather not wear ear protection.

    Best push mowers

    Among push gas mowers, choose Cub Cadet SC100, $250, for its impressive mowing in all three modes, easy handling, and premium engine. The Craftsman 37432, $220 offers fine performance overall for an especially affordable price and the Yard Machines 11A-B9A9, $240, is the  only push mower with superlative evenness in side-discharge mode and was also impressive at mulching and bagging. The Husqvarna LC121P, $250, mulched impressively, producing fine clippings without leaving clumps.

    For battery mowers, pick the EGO LM2101, $500, which handled superbly and was very good in all three mowing modes. For $100 less, consider its brandmate, the EGO LM2000, whose phenomenal ergonomic design makes for effortless handling and easy operation. Also $400 is the Black+DeckerCM 2040, which left behind a few clumps but is still worth a look.

    Worst walk-behind mowers

    Earthwise 60318, $300. Most self-propelled cordless mowers cost more, and for good reason. This one clogged and left clippings when bagging, and we found it hard to maneuver.

    Murray M22500, $170. This gas push mower wasn’t designed to bag, was mediocre in the side-discharge mode, and left visible clippings when mulching. Many push mowers adjust cutting height with one lever per wheel, but for this one you’ll need to remove and reattach each wheel.

    Earthwise 50120, $160. It’s the least expensive of the plug-in mowers we tested, but it’s no bargain. Mulching and bagging were subpar, and—with many leftover clippings—side-discharging was so-so.

    —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

    Consumer Reports Finds it’s Too Difficult For Patients To Learn About Physicians’ Disciplinary Records

    Thousands of doctors still practice while being disciplined for sexual misconduct, substance abuse, and making careless, sometimes deadly, mistakes 

    CR survey finds that 82 percent of Americans are in favor of requiring doctors to tell their patients if they are on probation and why

    May 2016 CoverYONKERS, NY—Thousands of doctors are currently practicing medicine while being on probation for issues ranging from sexual misconduct and drug addiction to unprofessional and dangerous treatment of patients. But it’s difficult and time-consuming for consumers to find out if their doctor is one of them, according to Consumer Reports.

    A survey by Consumer Reports finds that 82 percent of Americans are in favor of requiring doctors to tell their patients if they are on probation and why. And 66 percent lean toward barring doctors from seeing patients until their probationary period ends. But state medical boards and the American Medical Association have opposed efforts to create greater transparency around physicians’ disciplinary actions.

    “The onus shouldn’t be on patients to investigate their physicians,” said Lisa McGiffert, director of Consumer Reports’ Safe Patient Project. “Doctors on probation should be required to tell their patients about their status, and explain the reasons behind it.”

    The new report, which appears in the May issue of Consumer Reports and online at ConsumerReports.org, details cases like that of an obstetrician-gynecologist in Southern California. The doctor continues to practice medicine despite a report from the state medical board alleging that his errors of medical knowledge, judgment, protocol and attentiveness contributed to the death of two young mothers who had recently given birth to healthy babies.

    Consumer Reports’ investigation found that people looking for a new doctor online would have a tough time figuring out whether their doctor was being disciplined.

    “What You Don’t Know About Your Doctor Could Hurt You,” available at ConsumerReports.org, is part of Consumer Reports’ ongoing efforts to make it easier for patients to access information about their doctors. The organization is pushing for policy reforms that would make the system more transparent, including requiring doctors to tell patients when and why they are on probation, providing information from state medical board records in a clear and consistent way, and making information from the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) open to the public. The NPDB collects data on physicians’ malpractice payouts and disciplinary records.

    “You can find out more about the safety record of your toaster and whether or not it’s going to catch on fire than you can  find  about  your  physicians,”  said  patient-safety  advocate  Robert E. Oshel, the  former associate director for research and disputes at the NPDB.

    An analysis of NPDB data done for Consumer Reports by Oshel found that less than two percent of the nation’s doctors have been responsible for half of the total malpractice payouts since the government began collecting malpractice information. In total, some $85 billion has been paid out in malpractice cases during that period. While malpractice is considered an inexact indication of substandard care, Oshel says that multiple large settlements against a doctor “can be a warning sign ... suggesting that if licensing boards and hospital peer reviewers were willing to either get these doctors to stop practicing or get retraining, we’d all be better off.”

    Currently, only hospitals, doctors, law enforcement, insurance companies, and a few other select groups have access to NPDB data. Consumers must rely on their state medical board, many of which have complicated websites and require time-consuming processes to get answers about specific doctors’ records. As part of its report, Consumer Reports investigated the state medical board websites in all 50 states and rated them from best to worst. California, New York and Massachusetts websites ranked the highest, with Hawaii’s, Indiana’s and Mississippi’s faring the worst. For complete rankings of all the medical boards, go to ConsumersUnion.org/safepatientproject.

    “The system of disciplining physicians needs to be more transparent, reliable and accessible for patients,” said McGiffert. “Consumers need quick and easy access to this information to make educated choices about the physicians they see and the health of themselves and their families.”

    What Government, State Boards Should Do

    Consumer Reports’ Safe Patient Project is working with consumers across the country to make it easier for patients to learn about their doctors’ disciplinary history. Those efforts are focusing on five areas:

    • Doctors on probation should be required to tell patients that they are being disciplined and explain why.

    • The state medical boards, where consumers must go to file complaints about doctors or investigate their records, should present information in a clear, consistent way, including plain-language summaries of why doctors are on probation.

    • State medical boards should include more consumer representatives. They are now dominated by physicians.

    • State boards should be more aggressive in pulling the licenses of doctors who are clearly a danger to patients.

    • The National Practitioner Data Bank, a federal repository that includes disciplinary actions taken by state boards, hospitals, and other healthcare agencies as well as malpractice payments, should be open to the public.

    • If a patient does suspect he or she has been harmed by a doctor, the person should:

    • Recognize a cause for action. This obviously includes any kind of physical or sexual abuse suffered at the hands of a doctor, or if the doctor is suspected of practicing medicine under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Poor medical care is less clear-cut. The kind of medical harm that warrants a complaint includes when a doctor overprescribes a drug or prescribes the wrong one, is dishonest, or fails to give the results of a worrisome biopsy or diagnosis of a serious medical problem in a timely way.

    • Consider contacting the police and a lawyer. To file criminal charges—for, say, sexual or physical abuse—first contact the police. For a malpractice lawsuit, a lawyer will likely need to be convinced of a strong case with the potential of a payout.

    • Contact the state board. That’s the agency that licenses and disciplines physicians. (To find your state’s board, go to ConsumersUnion.org/safepatientproject.) Some states make it easy to file a complaint against physicians online. If you have trouble navigating the website, call the board for help.

    • Gather your records. It’s a good idea to send a hard copy of your complaint, along with copies of your medical records and other supporting documents, to the board. Once the board receives your complaint it will assign it to an analyst, who may request additional documents or information. Then be patient: The state board must first determine whether your complaint warrants further investigation. And it can take several months or even longer before the board makes a final ruling.

    What Makes a Great Doctor

    What does a good medical practice look like? The Peterson Center on Healthcare and researchers at Stanford University’s Clinical Excellence Research Center worked together to answer that question. First, they collected data from 15,000 U.S. primary care practices. To winnow the list down to the most successful ones, they used 41 accepted quality-of-care measures along with data on healthcare spending. They then sent a team of investigators to a sample of the highest-performing practices to figure out what set them apart. The most successful ones shared these characteristics, which all consumers can look out for:

    • Extended Hours – Flexible schedules help patients avoid trips to the emergency room

    • Careful About Overtreating – Doctors emphasize spending time with patients before rushing to tests

    • Open to Complaints – Patient complaints are treated as valuably as compliments

    • One-Stop Shopping – Top practices perform some relatively minor procedures that other practices often refer out

    • Like-Minded Specialists, and Only as Needed – Patients are only sent to specialists who share the practice’s philosophies

    • Two-Way Communication – Medical offices actively follow up through phone calls, repeat visits, or emails

    • A Team Approach – Teams include an array of healthcare providers, including nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nutrition counselors, and social workers

    • A Fair Workplace – Physicians aren’t compensated solely on the number of patients they see

    • Spend Wisely – Practices tend to avoid expensive, high-tech devices in favor of devices that encourage efficiency

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

    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

    Take the Pain Out of Window Cleaning

    Washing windows is a rite of spring and one where the effort pays off immediately. Finally, you can look past winter’s grunge and see the flowers blooming in the garden. That is if you learn how to clean the windows without leaving unsightly streaks and smudges behind. Here’s some tips on window cleaning from the experts at Consumer Reports who contributed to, “How to Clean Practically Everything.”

    Start with the window frames. Clean very dirty frames before you start your window cleaning. Vacuum the runners of aluminum window frames and doors, then polish the frames with silicone car polish, which can also be used in channels to help windows slide smoothly. Or lightly oil the channels. Wash painted or vinyl frames with a sponge dipped in warm water and detergent. Rinse with warm, clean water, and towel dry, if necessary.

    Then the panes. How often the outsides of windows need cleaning depends on where you live, but the insides usually need cleaning two times a year. Wash windows on a cloudy day or when the windows are in shade, because direct sun will cause streaking. If your home has many windows, divide the window cleaning job into segments rather than attempting all in one day.

    Your supplies. You’ll need two buckets; a sponge; a good-quality rubber squeegee; a clean, lint-free cloth; a chamois cloth; and a commercial cleaning solution or your own. Take down your curtains—it’s a good time to clean them—or loop them over a hanger, out of the way. Clean windows from the top down. Use a slightly dampened sponge to apply the window cleaning solution. Wipe across the window with dampened squeegee blade, then wipe the blade. Follow with a rinse of clean water applied with chamois. Polish off any remaining moisture with the dry cloth.

    If you’re painting. Remove new paint spatters with a cloth dipped in water or glass cleaner (for water-based paint) or turpentine (for oil-based paint). Use a single-edged razor to scrape old paint, holding it at an angle to avoid scratching the glass. Leave 1⁄16 inch of paint on the edge of the glass to protect the frame from condensation inside and rain outside. Note that glass cleaner can soften water-based paint. If you spray it onto a painted surface, blot, don’t rub; the paint will harden once dry. Wipe away putty marks with ammonia.

    Special windows. Clean small windows or stained-glass windows with a damp sponge first, then wipe with a clean, damp chamois. Polish with a clean cloth. Treat delicate stained glass with care. Painted glass should be gently cleaned with a damp chamois. Most new double-hung windows have tilting sashes, a handy feature that lets you pivot them inward for easier cleaning. With most, you simply flip a lever to tilt the sash in. But with some, you must pull the sash out of the track.

    Skylights. Some high windows and skylights can be cleaned with special extension tools, but it may be practical to hire a professional window cleaner, if only for the out-of-reach windows.

    Window-Cleaning Warning

    In Consumer Reports' window tests, one surprising discovery was that it’s easy to stain some models if you use the wrong cleaner. Ammonia-based formulas, including some Windex products, can cause streaks or film on windows. So before you grab your squeegee, check the manufacturer’s website for instructions. And whichever cleaner you use, pick a cloudy day for window cleaning—sunlight can make a cleaning solution evaporate before you finish—and clean from the top down to prevent drips.

    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

    Central Air Conditioning Reliability | Heat Pumps - Consumer Reports

    Installing or replacing a central air conditioning system is one of a homeowner’s biggest expenses so you’ll want to get it right the first time. It’s not practical for Consumer Reports to test central air conditioning systems because there are so many variables, including a home's size and design, how the system is installed, and construction of the ductwork. Instead, we estimate the reliability of major brands on the market by asking our readers about their experiences with the systems they bought and installed. Choosing a brand with a lower failure rate will help boost your chances of getting an air conditioning system that will last for years.

    In our most recent survey, 16,247 of our subscribers told us about the central air conditioning system they purchased between 2008 and 2015. Because systems with heat pumps are used for cooling for more months of the year than conventional systems—7 months vs. 5 months—we analyzed the data for each type separately. This year we also asked our subscribers how satisfied they are with the central air system they purchased, the cost of their most expensive repair, and which parts broke. Here’s what we found.

    Conventional Air Conditioning Systems

    Conventional central air conditioning systems are more common in regions with greater temperature swings such as the northeast and are used a median of five months a year. In our survey, American Standard was more reliable than half of the eight other brands we analyzed, while Amana was more repair-prone than half the other brands.

    Satisfaction. In general, we expect most owners of a central air system to be highly satisfied with the reliability of their system by the fifth year of ownership, regardless of the brand. Still, owners of American Standard systems are also the most likely to be highly satisfied with the reliability of their A/C system by the fifth year of ownership, while owners of Goodman systems are at the bottom of that list.

    Parts that break. By the fifth year of ownership, evaporator coils and controls are the parts most likely to require repair. On a brand level, York’s evaporator coils are among the least reliable and Goodman’s blowers are somewhat more repair-prone than most other brands.

    Repair costs. When we asked subscribers to tell us the cost of their most expensive repair we found a wide range. Rheem units had a median repair cost of $207 and Goodman wasn’t too far behind at $183. The least expensive brand to repair was Amana, at $133, closely followed by Lennox at $135 and Bryant at $137. We didn’t have enough repair cost data on conventional A/C systems from American Standard or York to comment on them.

    Air Conditioning Systems With Heat Pumps

    Heat pump A/Cs are common in regions with moderate heating and cooling needs. During the cooling season, heat pumps move warm air from your cool house outside. During the heating season, they do they opposite. Systems with heat pumps are typically in use for cooling for a median of seven months a year. In our survey, American Standard and Bryant were among the more reliable brands and York and Goodman were more prone to breakage, with about half of their units experiencing a serious problem by the fifth year of ownership.

    Satisfaction. Reports of satisfaction lined up with reliability, with owners of American Standard and Bryant being the most likely to be satisfied with their system after owning it for five years. Owners of systems by Goodman and York are the least likely to be satisfied. In general, we expect most owners of a central air system to be highly satisfied with the reliability of their system by the fifth year of ownership, regardless of the brand.

    Parts that break. After five years of use, evaporator coils, controls, and compressors are the most likely parts to break. On a brand level, Bryant’s evaporator coils are the most reliable of any heat pump brand. As for evaporator coils, those from systems made by American Standard, Trane, Carrier, and Lennox are more reliable than those from Goodman, York, Ruud, Amana, and Rheem. York’s heat pump blowers are less reliable than those of other brands.

    Repair costs. The range of the most expensive repair costs paid for A/C systems with heat pumps is greater than the repair costs for conventional systems. Ruud is the most expensive system to repair with a median repair cost of $231. That is more than $30 above the next most expensive brands, York and Rheem, at $198 each. The least expensive brand to repair is Bryant with a median cost of $127.

    Keep Your A/C System Humming

    Even if you buy the most reliable air conditioning system, it can let you down if you don’t keep it up.

    Keep it clean. Be sure hedges and plants are at least 2 feet away from the outside unit. Clean grills and filters monthly. Clear debris and dirt from condenser coils and check for blockages in the drain pipe.

    Seal and insulate ducts. Up to 30 to 40 percent of energy can escape through leaks or when ducts aren't insulated.  Sealing them will keep you cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.

    Seasonal checks. Once a year have a licensed professional change all filters, clean and flush the coils, drain the pan and drainage system, and vacuum the blower compartments. The contractor should also check that the system is properly charged with refrigerant, that there are no leaks, and that all mechanical components are working properly.

    More Details

    Overall, the median brand failure rate is 24 percent for conventional A/C systems and 40 percent for A/C systems with heat pumps. To see the reliability rates for all 10 brands— Amana, American Standard, Bryant, Carrier, Goodman, Lennox, Rheem, Ruud, Trane, and York—log-in or subscribe.

    Not interested in central air? Then check our full Ratings and recommendations of window and portable air conditioners.

    —Mary H.J. Farrell

    The full article is available to ConsumerReports.org subscribers. Sign in or subscribe to read this article.

    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

    FTC Charges Volkswagen With False Advertising

    The Federal Trade Commission has filed suit in California federal court against Volkswagen Group of America, seeking compensation for consumers who were deceived by the automaker’s “Clean Diesel” advertising as it cheated on government emissions tests.

    The cheating occurred on VW and Audi diesel vehicles consumers purchased from late 2008 through late 2015. The automaker has admitted that it deliberately equipped the cars with a “defeat device” that would enable them to pass emissions tests even as they spewed nitrogen oxides at up to 40 times the legal limit (pdf).

    VW marketed the 550,000 diesel vehicles sold in the U.S. as environmentally friendly and placed a premium price on them.

    The campaign slogans included claims that the VW Jetta diesel “reduces nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions by up to 90 percent,” and that the Audi TDI engines emit "fewer NOx emissions than comparable gasoline engines," and “meet the strictest EPA standards in the U.S.” The campaign also said that such clean vehicles would have strong resale values.

    According to the FTC complaint, Volkswagen promoted its supposedly “clean” cars through a high-profile marketing campaign that included Super Bowl ads, online social media campaigns, and print advertising, often targeting “environmentally conscious” consumers.

    The crux of the suit states that, because of the emissions-defeat device, VW claims about low emissions, nitrogen oxides reductions, emissions compliance, eco-consciousness, and comparative resale value were false or deceptive. As a result, consumers didn't get the benefit of the environmentally friendly car they thought they were purchasing, and resale values likely will fall. (Nitrogen oxide contributes to smog, acid rain, water quality deterioration, childhood asthma, respiratory ailments, and premature death, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.)

    Read: Consumer Reports Tests VW Diesel Fuel Economy, Performance in 'Cheat' Mode

    The company said in a statement, “Volkswagen has received the complaint and continues to cooperate with all relevant U.S. regulators, including the Federal Trade Commission. Our most important priority is to find a solution to the diesel emissions matter and earn back the trust of our customers and dealers as we build a better company.”

    VW has yet to gain approval for a proposed fix to the affected vehicles.

    In October, Consumer Reports pointed out that VW was happy to brag in its publicity efforts about real-world fuel-economy benefits that appear to be a result of the defeat device. We felt that using these claims in advertising was a concern and shared this information with the FTC.

    William Wallace, policy analyst with Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, said “We’re pleased to see the FTC take action as part of the government’s effort to hold Volkswagen accountable.”

    "VW cheated consumers by aggressively promoting 'clean diesel' cars that actually polluted at a rate of up to 40 times the legal limit, and consumers deserve to be compensated,” Wallace added. “We urge government agencies and the court to reach a strong resolution that brings the cars into compliance with emissions standards, offsets environmental damage, and makes consumers whole."

    The suit—filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Francisco Division—also seeks an injunction to prevent Volkswagen from engaging in this type of conduct again. It follows actions by the EPA and Department of Justice against VW for violations of the Clean Air Act.

    The affected vehicles include 2009 through 2015 Volkswagen TDI diesel models of Jettas, Passats, and Touareg SUVs, as well as Audi TDI models.

    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 | .... | 380 | 381 | (Page 382) | 383 | 384 | newer