Monthly Archives: June 2017

Alex Perdikis Asks: Is a Green Car in Your Future?

By Alex Perdikis

You’ve heard a lot about electric and hybrid vehicles, but though you like the idea of driving an environmentally friendly car, you haven’t take the plunge. You’re not alone. Green car sales in the U.S. fell off last year. But hybrid sales picked up by the end of the year and 2017 is poised to continue the upward trend. Could a green car be in your future?

Hybrids and Plug-Ins – A Not So New Idea

Believe it or not, the first gas/electric hybrid was produced in 1899. Ferdinand Porsche designed and produced the Lohner-Porsche Mixte Hybrid from 1900-1905. The horseless carriage was a convertible and available in a 2-seat or 4-seat model. The motor had two motors fueled by an electric battery as well as gas. Obviously, the idea of a hybrid vehicle has been around for some time.

Electric cars have a long history as well. In fact, electric cars, the Jeantaud Duc and La Jamais Contente, held the land speed record until 1902 when steam vehicle Gardner-Serpollet took the prize. Electric cars fell out of favor with the driving public due to lack of speed, short battery range and competition from the much faster internal combustible engine. However, electric powered trains and other vehicles are still in use.

Modern Day Green Car Development

The motive behind developing hybrid and electric cars is different now than it was for those early developers. Ferdinand Porsche, and other inventors like him, were busy developing ways to push the public forward, away from horses and into a world of motorized vehicle travel.

“Now, concern for the environment and federal mandates geared toward fuel efficiency and cleaner consumption are the driving factors.” – Alex Perdikis

Reducing greenhouse gasses, less dependency on fossil fuels and reducing reliance on foreign fuel suppliers all drive the market and challenge manufacturers to create more fuel-efficient and cleaner options. Those early pioneers laid the groundwork for today’s green cars.

Honda introduced the Insight, the first hybrid available in the U.S., in 1999. It had a limited distribution. The big splash came in 2000 when Toyota unveiled its Prius gas/electric hybrid. Other major manufacturers, including Ford and Chevrolet, quickly followed suit. Now green car buyers have a host of options to choose from.

The innovations keep on coming. Automakers are experimenting with technologies and innovative ideas that may or may not reach production stage, some of which are highly entertaining. For example, Mercedes is working on an electric concept that, in addition to the usual fuel-efficient options, has what the company calls “multi-voltaic” paint. According to company officials, the paint doubles as a solar and wind power source to gather electricity.

Another clever idea developers are working on is changing the structure of the battery. Batteries can be cumbersome, are often heavy and worst of all, have a low-energy density. How can innovators turn the battery problem around? How about turning the entire car body into a super capacitor?

Developers are working on car panels that are not only attractive, but carbon capacitors as well. The polymer carbon fiber blend charges and stores more energy quicker than conventional batteries. When hood, roof and trunk panels were replaced with carbon capacitor panels, one experimental model dropped 15 percent of battery weight and extended its range 80 miles. These and other exciting possibilities are the future. But, what if you’re ready to buy now?

How to Buy Green

Do you know the difference between a conventional hybrid and a plug-in hybrid? If you’re ready to buy now or in the near future, there are a few things you need to know. Here are some tips and points to think about:

  • Conventional versus plug-in: The conventional hybrid uses electricity as a supplemental energy source. Electricity is not meant to power the car alone except for short distances. The plug-in uses a rechargeable electronic battery pack. Plug-ins can run solely on electricity until the battery runs out of electricity. Distance varies from model to model. Current distances range from 25 to 50 miles per charged battery. After the battery runs down, the gasoline engine automatically takes over.
  • You’ll pay a higher price:  At least for the time being, expect to pay a higher price than you would for a non-hybrid. You might be eligible for a government subsidy when you purchase a green car, however. Check with your dealer.
  • Look at used hybrids: You might be able to find a used hybrid that’s more affordable. Most manufacturers warranty components for a long time. If the used hybrid you’re looking at is still under warranty and the warranty transfers, you could save thousands.
  • Test drive a lot of different models: Hybrids are not only manufactured differently, they drive differently. The driving experience varies. Test drive as many different models as you can before you buy.

Alex Perdikis, Koons of Silver Spring general manager and owner, lives in Chevy Chase with his wife and daughters.

Alex Perdikis Tips: Used Car Buying Best Practices

By Alex Perdikis

A brand-new car isn’t in your budget, so you’re looking at used cars. Approximately 40 million preowned cars are sold, both by dealers and private parties, in the U.S. every year. With so many used cars available, how do you go about finding the vehicle that’s right for you? And how can you protect yourself from falling victim to an unscrupulous seller? Follow these tips to find the right car and stay safe when you’re looking for a used car.

How Much Money is Too Much?

If you have the cash to pay for a car upfront, that’s great. But most people have to take out a loan. Your first job is to figure out how much you can lay out. Don’t kick any tires before you know how much you can afford to pay.

The general rule of thumb is your car payment should not exceed 20 percent of your monthly take-home pay. After you factor in maintenance and upkeep, you may want to look at a lower payment than 20 percent.

How Much Car Do You Need?

Consider why you’re buying a car. Is it because you need a new car to get to work and you want better gas mileage? Have the kids grown and you need to find something smaller than the bus you’ve been driving around? Perhaps your family is growing and you need a bigger car. Figure out what size vehicle you need and narrow down your choices.

List Your Possibles

Now that you know your budgetary and lifestyle requirements, it’s time to do a little research. Perhaps higher-rated used cars are out of your price range, but there are plenty of good quality options.

“Compare brands that fit your budget and your needs. Do your research locally because prices vary from region-to-region.” – Alex Perdikis

You can search prices and compare models for your area using smartphone apps or website price comparison tools.

Which Type of Seller?

You’re going to find the lowest prices by far from private sellers. New car dealers typically sell used cars as well and you’ll find used cars on independent lots as well as retailers. Dealer prices will always be higher because of higher overhead. The highest prices typically are typically certified preowned (CPO) car purchased through a dealer. CPO cars, unlike most used cars, have a warranty. Cars have been inspected and must fit the manufacturer’s criteria to become certified. The positive of purchasing a CPO is that you’re buying a used car that has a warranty and feels “new.” That peace of mind comes at a cost, thus the higher price.

Nearly all other used car purchases are “as-is.” There are no warranties. Whatever happens after you leave the lot, driveway or parking lot is on you. That doesn’t mean you can’t buy a used car from your neighbor, but it does mean you have to be extra cautious.

Found One! Now What?

Before you run out and look at the car, contact the seller. If the seller is a dealer, find out as much as you can about the vehicle before you look at it. The dealer may provide information that rules the car out for you or sparks your interest even more. Speaking with the dealer also builds rapport to build on if you go look at the car.

If you’re dealing with a private party, you have to be more diligent. Ask the following:

  • Why they are selling?
  • Does the seller have mechanical and maintenance records?
  • Is the seller OK with you taking the car to a mechanic BEFORE you buy?
  • If inspections are required in your area, ask if the inspection is current. If not, ask if they are willing to have it inspected and/or emissions certified before you buy.
  • Ask about the general condition of the car and find out if the seller bought it used or new.

If the answers seem reasonable, set up a time and place to look at and test drive the car. Take someone with you if possible and make sure others know where you are. Meet with the seller during the day to more easily see  the car’s overall condition. If you must go alone, ask the seller to meet you at a busy parking lot or other public area so you’re not alone when you check out the car.

Love It? Don’t Buy Just Yet

Don’t fall completely in love just yet. Step back and take a few more steps before you agree to buy. Get a vehicle history report to check out the car’s history. You’ll need the vehicle identification number (VIN) to perform the search.

If you’re buying a car without a warranty, have the car checked out by a trusted mechanic before you buy. Yes, it costs money. But so does a faulty transmission, the cost of which will come out of your pocket after you buy the car. As-is means buyer beware. Protect yourself.

If everything checks out, negotiate your price and complete the paperwork. Then get out and enjoy your “new” used car.


Alex Perdikis, Koons of Silver Spring general manager and owner, lives in Chevy Chase with his wife and daughters.