Car GPS Navigation Systems – A Buyers Guide

In 1973 the U.S. Department of Defence launched the Navstar GPS network. This consisted of 24 satellites orbiting the earth every 12 hours and five ground stations. This positioning system was made available for public use. With this capability, consumer location devices were produced to accurately determine location and other data such as current and average speed, directional heading, and elevation. These GPS devices need an unobstructed view of at least four satellites to provide a reliable 3D fix.

The GPS receiver overlays this location data onto map files stored on the unit, to give a current position on the map as well previous track. The receiver constantly recalculates position, giving real time position.

A typical GPS device contains:

  • 12-channel receiver – the quality of the receiver determines how long it takes the device to acquire a 3D fix.
  • Antenna to capture satellite signals – positioned to get a clear view of the sky.
  • CPU to process the data and overlay on maps
  • DVD Hard-drive – where maps on DVD’s or available online are uploaded and stored. Some cheaper units do not upload the maps, but reference them off the DVD or CD.
  • Display Screen – mostly color with handheld units using black and white
  • Voice Interface – more advanced units

How The GPS Device Gets A Fix

The first time you start your GPS device, its data store is blank so needs a to collect satellite information to determine your position. This is known as a cold start. Some units only take 30 to 45 seconds to acquire a 3D fix during a cold start, while others can take several minutes. Subsequent position updates only take 3 to 4 seconds. If you go out of range from losing line of sight, such as passing behind a large building or through a tunnel, a good receiver will instantly recover, whereas weaker units will require more time to reacquire a 3D fix.

How Different GPS Navigation Units Differ

Location of Antenna – A factory installed in-dash unit antenna is integrated into the dashboard where it has an unobstructed view of the sky. Many portable models have a suction-cup-mounting device to position the device on the windshield. Add-on antennas are also available. Regardless of the type of unit and antenna, the important thing is to keep the antenna visible to the greatest area of sky possible. Choose a unit where this can be done AT THE SAME TIME as being able to maintain a clear view of the screen.

Screens and Display – important to check how bright these are, and if they are clearly visible from the mounted position in bright day light. Onboard navigation systems are generally color screens, and portable units are black and white to save power. Larger screens and integrate better with other vehicle electronics.

Input Buttons – most enroute buttons are on the display screen. Ensure these are easy to use when driving; that is they are big enough and colored sufficiently to see without causing a driving hazard.

Map Media – Earlier models were CD-based, requiring multiple discs to cover the entire United States. Newer in-dash systems are DVD-based; only 1-2 DVD’s required for an entire country of maps.

Cost – In-dash systems are usually more expensive than portable counterparts. Aftermarket in-dash models usually require professional installation and can be just as expensive as the factory models.

Upgrading – always check how easy it is to upgrade the firmware and maps on your GPS unit. Some units detach a portion to be connected to the computer via USB, whereas others are done using a DVD. Those units which can be upgraded online, are much more convenient.

Added Features of GPS Units

Apart from giving you a current position, a number of GPS navigation devices can give you:

  • A track of where you have been – the number of tracks and waypoints stored varies from unit to unit. You may also want to save on part of a track for future use.
  • A path from your current position to your destination
  • Maintain commonly used navigation paths for reuse.
  • Points of Interest – user sets the types of points of interest, such as tourist, bank ATM, petrol stations, historical, accommodation, restaurants etc.
  • Real time traffic reporting to avoid traffic delays. This can also include road works.
  • Voice recognition to receive destination instructions, and voice guidance to give driving instructions
  • Weather updates
  • Street name navigation – instead of just turn left 200m it was say ‘Turn left into Stanley St’
  • Integrated Multimedia players – MP3 players, image viewers, and audio books.
  • Onboard or Portable GPS Navigation

The downside of onboard GPS Navigation units are susceptible to theft; and you cannot take them with you to use in other vehicles or when travelling abroad. Portable units, such as the Garmin StreetPilot 2720, can be used in multiple cars; being easily moved from car to car. Depending upon the power supply and portability, portable and handheld units can be taken when travelling or used on cycles, boats, private aircraft etc.

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Used Car Selling Tips on the Internet

The internet has become a great place to buy and sell new and used automobiles. In a matter of minutes, you can advertise your vehicle for sale by posting your ad on various paid and free classified ad systems. Compared to traditional newspaper advertising, selling your car on the Internet can be easy, fast and can save you money as well.

The following are a few simple tips for selling your car on the Internet:

Research your selling price

Part of a successful sale involves a reasonable price which buyers will be interested in submitting an offer on. If your sale price is too high, buyers may not be interested in contacting you at all. Initially start by researching your local newspaper for prices for your used vehicle, you may be surprised to find a wide range in price for the particular make and model of your vehicle.

Create an email selling account

At times you may receive junk emails, you may want to separate your sales inquiries from your personal or business email account. Visit Google Mail, Yahoo Mail or Hotmail for a free email account where you can receiving inquiries and emails about the items you are selling.

Photo ads sell

People online want to see what they are buying. People look for color, condition and any additional accessories that your vehicle may have. Although you may not need to post all your car or truck photos, take as many pictures of your car in case a buyer wants to see more photos of your sales item.

Mention that it is a private sale or for sale by owner in your ad

Some people like to deal with people direct and may be apprehensive if they know they will be dealing with a dealership. Not to say anything about automotive dealerships, but it is simply a matter of personal choice.

Selling a car privetly also ensures that you will get the best possible price and the buyer will get the best possible deal.

Get your car ready

Thoroughly clean your car or truck inside and out. Buyers love a clean vehicle and it makes a great impression. Consider spending some money on having it professionally detailed.

Provide lot’s of information in your ad

Buyers want to know everything about your car: when was it built, are you the original owner, how many miles or kilometers on the vehicle, has the engine been rebuilt and more. Listing lot’s of information in your ad shows that you pay attention to detail and that you have nothing to hide when selling your car.

If you have photos of the vehicle posted on a website somewhere, provide a link to that site. Indicate to the potential buyer how to contact you; by email or by phone. Optional is to list where the car is located so that people can come and view it at their leisure. Some auto sellers even indicate what their viewing times are: mornings, evenings, weekends.

Don’t be affraid to put “OBO” (or best offer) in your ad. This tells car buyers that you are willing to negotiate the price of the vehicle and that you are ready to sell your car.

Advertise your car on internet car classified systems

There are many paid and free car classified ad system on the Internet where you can post your used car ad to. Some will accept photos while others simply offer a text ad. Initially start out by searching for local ads within your city or state. National ad systems will provide you with a larger coverage, but may also charge your for your listing.

Selling A Car Made Easy

Are you upgrading to a newer car and wish to get rid of your old vehicle? However, what if you do not have the time or energy to find the right buyer? Well, you do not have to look too far. You can now sell your car easily without really going out of your way.

With technology becoming an integral part of people’s daily lives, life has become fairly simple. Tasks, which normally would require a lot of time and physical sweat, can now be done easily sitting back at home. The internet medium has especially revolutionized marketing.

Traditional Methods to Sell Used Cars

Earlier, the most common way used for selling a car was advertising the same in local dailies and newspapers. The seller then had to wait to receive replies to the advertisement. After scrutinizing the responses, the seller also had to ensure that he was available at all times to attend to all buyers who came to inspect the car.

In such cases, the vehicle has to be maintained in a good condition to ensure that there are no problems when the buyer comes in for inspection or trial run. This can result in unnecessary maintenance costs to attract the buyer. This also does not necessarily fetch the right price for the seller.

Another way for selling a car is trading it in with the dealer for a new car. However, it has been largely observed that the exchange price offered for a used car is considerably less than what it is actually worth.

Online Selling

People sell their cars for different reasons. It could be due to upgradation to a newer model/variant or due to relocation to another city or just due to financial needs. Whatever may be the reason to sell, the seller would like to procure the best price for his used car.

Selling a car is no longer an arduous task. Finding buyers has become easy through the presence of online dealers. The seller does not have to put in too many efforts to sell his vehicle. The traditional methods of selling used cars have been overtaken by modern selling ways.

There are a number of online dealers who offer free car valuations for second hand cars. The prices offered by them are generally competitive. In addition to this, they also offer many complementary services, such as free pick up of the used vehicle. Moreover, they buy the car on a ‘as is where is’ basis, thus saving the seller from incurring unnecessary refurbishing costs just to lure a buyer.

Choosing the right dealer for second hand cars is of utmost importance. The online dealer should have a reputation of honesty and integrity, wherein the seller is not shortchanged.

The Lemon Principle and Market Failure In The Used Car Industry

Imagine if you are shopping for a used car, and suddenly, someone came up to you on the street and assert a bold claim, “The used car market has only low quality cars for sale!” Would you have agreed with this statement?

Well, there are reasons to believe that this statement has got a ring of truth after all!

According to the seminar paper titled The Market For Lemons: Quality Uncertainty and The Market Mechanism written in 1970 by George Akerlof, Professor for Economics at the University of California at Berkeley, the market failure in the used car industry and hence, the assertion that only ‘bad’ cars can exist in the used car industry, can actually be mathematically proven. This paper even won him the Nobel Prize in 2001!

In this paper, George used the term Lemons to denote used cars of poor quality (Lemon is actually an American slang used to represent a bad car), and the term Peaches to denote used cards of good quality. Sellers who sold used cars to the used car market knows full well the quality of the car he is selling; sellers know whether he is selling a Lemon or a Peach to the used car market because he has driven his car before.

Unfortunately, buyers of these used cars are unable to ascertain the exactly quality of the cars; their knowledge of the quality of these used cars are not as complete as that of the sellers. In other words, there exist an asymmetric information between the buyers and the sellers; the sellers know more about the quality of their car than the buyers.

This difference in knowledge and information with regards to the quality of the cars has huge implications with regards to the pricing of the cars and what kind of cars get transacted. Sellers who know full well that their car is a Peach will want to sell their cars at higher prices, while sellers who know full well that their car is a Lemon will be willing to accept a lower price to sell off their low-quality used car.

But because the buyer is unable to ascertain the quality of the car, he will thus be unwilling to pay the full price commanded by the seller who is selling the Peach, and will end up paying somewhere lower than the reasonable price than the Peach commands.

Let me illustrate this buyer-seller dynamic using a short example.

Imagine if you are a buyer of a used car. You met Patrick who wants to sell you his Peach. Because Patrick knows that he is selling a Peach, he will demand a high price (let’s say $20,000) to sell off his car. But because you, the buyer, is unable to ascertain whether this car is a Peach, you are thus not willing to take the risk of paying him the high price of $20,000 to buy the car. You will tell Patrick that since there is a chance you might end up buying a Lemon, you are only willing to pay a lower fee of $15,000 for the car.

As a result, Patrick will not be willing to accept your $15,000 offer for the Peach he has, and the transaction is unlikely to go through.

But if Patrick knows that he is selling a Lemon, he will be willing to part with his car for $10,000. In this case because you offer $15,000, Patrick will gladly sell you his car and the deal gets concluded.

Note that I have simplified this example to show only the gist of the buyer-seller dynamic. $15,000 is the average price buyers in the used car market will end up paying, and is calculated based on the expected value of a pool of cars, assuming that 50% of the cars sold are Peaches and 50% of the cars sold are Lemons, and that after aggregating all the prices of the Peaches and Lemons, the mean price of the Peaches is $20,000, and the mean price of the Lemons is $10,000. This simplified example can be mathematically proven.

Thus, the used car industry has failed because no owners of Peaches will want to sell their high quality cars if they know that on average, they will receive a fee that is lower than what their Peaches justify. But owners of Lemons will gladly sell their cars because on average, they will receive a higher fee than what their low quality cars can command. The Lemons have effectively crowded out the Peaches, the average quality of cars sold has declined to that of Lemons, and that market failure has occurred in the used car market.

Back to the statement presented to you in the introduction of this article, “The used car market has only low quality cars for sale!” On average, and in general, this statement holds true, at least based on the paper written by George Akerlof. George Akerlof termed this dynamic The Lemon Principle.