Revealed: 4 True Untold Stories of Women and Cars

By Alex Perdikis

If you think about vehicle innovations and driving acumen, you probably picture a group of men. They may have gotten short shift, but women have also played a substantive role in designing, engineering and driving cars. Here are some of their stories.

Road Trip!

What does a wife do when she’s fed up with all the time her husband spends in the garage tinkering with his new invention? At a time when the only horseless carriages were experimental and driven in short spurts for testing, Bertha Benz decided she’d had enough with husband Karl and his vehicular experiment.

Bertha and her teenage sons stole into the garage, sneaked out with the Patent Motorwagen No. 3 and took the first recorded long-distance trip in a horseless carriage.

Bertha drove an astonishing 65 miles to Pforzheim, Germany, from Mannheim. The trip wasn’t without its annoyances. At one point the fuel line plugged. Resourceful Bertha used her hatpin to unclog the line. She also sacrificed a garter to insulate a wire. But, she and her boys made it.

The dawn-to-dusk trip made Bertha a legend. Her name now graces a roadway, the Bertha Benz Memorial Route, within the European Route of Industrial Heritage. A fitting tribute indeed.

Early Days Were Glory Days for Women

Georgine Clarsen’s book, “Eat My Dust,” published in 2008, covers much of the early history of women and their relationship with cars. According to Clarsen, women drove, owned auto-related businesses, such as taxi services and driving schools and trained as mechanics from the earliest days of the automobile. Even in those days of opportunity for women, however, there were challenges.

Clarsen’s book describes an incident where a pair of mechanically trained women in the 1920s decided to take a cross-country road trip.

“Vehicles were not known for reliability at the time and the Dodge roadster they drove was no exception. Unworried, the two were confident they could fix whatever went wrong.” — Alex Perdikis

Unfortunately, whenever the women had to make a necessary repair, they were overwhelmed with male “helpers” who took over. The women took to hiding off-road behind trees or whatever landscape they could find so they could work on the vehicle themselves. Apparently, even in the early days, women who knew their way around a car were considered rarities.  

On the Road With Alice Ramsey

In June 1909 Alice Ramsey and three cohorts embarked on a cross-country journey to prove they could do it. The Maxwell DA touring car they drove had two bench seats and removable roof. The dark green vehicle ran on four cylinders at 3-horsepower. But not many in the crowd were interested in the car as the group set off. It was Alice Ramsey the public came to see.

Alice was already an experienced driver and had made a name for herself in the driving world. Her husband bought her a car of her own years before after a frightening incident occurred one day when Alice was driving her horse and buggy. A “monster,” or car, came out of nowhere frightening the horse so badly it was a miracle no one was hurt.

Alice and driving seemed made for each other. She drove over 6,000 miles the first summer she owned a car. But it was Alice’s performance in a 200-mile endurance trip that commanded attention. A Maxwell-Briscoe Company representative was so impressed with her driving skills he came up with a plan.

It was genius, really: The company would pay for an all-expense paid cross-country trip with Alice at the wheel. Alice Ramsey would prove to the world that anyone, even a woman, could drive across the country.

Of course, the trip was not without its moments of drama. There were tire blowouts, damaged coils and at the radiator ran dry at least once. Not to worry, the resilient women used the tools on hand — small toothbrush and toiletry holders — to gather water from roadside ditches to fill the radiator. Determined women and sterling silver containers got the job done.

After traveling for 59 days and covering 3,800 miles, Alice Ramsey and her passengers made it across the transcontinental finish line and in to history.

These Inventors Weren’t Damsels in Distress

Women not only made history and spurred innovation by driving, they also made their mark with life-saving inventions and family-friendly designs.

Florence Lawrence was an actress and auto enthusiast. Florence was the first actor to be named publicly, this at a time when acting was considered a less than respectable career. She also invented the vehicle turn signal and brake light.

Here’s a bit of trivia to remember when you need it — Charlotte Bridgwood, who was the mother of Florence Lawrence, invented the windshield wiper. Unfortunately, neither woman pursued commercial production of their inventions.

Harley J. Earl, vice president of design at General Motors in the 1950s, realized something not a lot of other executives thought about. That something was the fact that the same women who joined the workforce during WWII had more confidence, buying power and training than women of previous generations.

Earl pulled together a team of women designers to design car interiors with an emphasis on comfort and appeal. But these women did so much more than choose fabrics and colors.

Dubbed “The Damsels of Design,” a title none of the women on the team liked, the team designed car interiors from the ground up doing exactly the same work as the male designers.

And they came up with safety features no one else had. The “Damsel” team came up with the first retractable seat belt. They developed the first glove compartments. They designed dashboard-controlled safety latches to protect children in the back seat.

These are just a few stories of inspiring women who invented, adventured and engineered their ways into automotive history.

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

How to Teach Your Teen to Drive Without Pulling Out All Your Hair

By Alex Perdikis

If the thought of teaching your teen to drive sends you into a tailspin, you’re not alone. Thousands of parents each year undergo the experience of supervising teen driving practice for the 40 hours or more of required by law. Few go into it without at least a slight shaking in their boots, though.

In the good old days, schools handled the teen “learning to drive” conundrum. But driver’s education fell by the wayside for most schools due to cost trimming and budget cuts. Times changed and now, as your teen’s parent, it’s up to you.

How can you prepare for the rough road ahead without losing your cool? Follow these practical tips.

You Can Do It But Should You?

Teens aged 16 to 19 commit the highest numbers of traffic violations of any age group. They’re also involved in the more wrecks than any other age group. That’s why most states require that teen drivers complete a state-approved driver’s education course. Check with your state for specific requirements and choose only an approved school.  

Driver’s education courses offer additional benefits as well.

“Many insurance companies offer a rate reduction for teens after they successfully complete an accredited course.” — Alex Perdikis

A driver’s ed course doesn’t involve risk to your own vehicle, is often a fast-track licensing path, and is a better overall educational experience than you alone can provide.

Driving course requirements aside, extra practice makes better drivers. That’s where you com in. You’re a good driver. You’ve been doing it for years. You know the laws. You’ve experienced the rough, tough and unexpected. You can do this! But, should you do it?

Great question. Everyone, including you, expects you to do it. But, did you know that may not be the best thing for you, your child and your relationship?

Here’s what you need to think about before you decide:

  • Your current relationship: Teens test boundaries. Teenagers rebel. Kids strain a parent’s patience. It’s their job at this age. Is sitting in a confined space while trying to go over the finer points of driving a good situation for either of you?
  • Your personalities: Are you a Type-A personality? Does your high-energy style mesh with your teen’s? Is your teen nervous? Does your child lack confidence? Honestly evaluate your differences and decide if you’re the best driving coach for your teen.
  • Your vehicle: Your car doesn’t have that brake on the passenger side. If your kid makes a mistake, your options to intervene are limited.

Take an objective look at yourself, your child and your circumstances. If you don’t feel comfortable sitting with your teen in practice sessions, don’t do it. Perhaps another experienced member of the family can step in.

Before You Go…

OK, you’ve thought and thought and think you can handle it. In fact, you’re looking forward to those precious bonding and teaching moments with your teen. Before you jump in that car, make sure you’re covered both legally and financially.

Check the laws in your state to see what your teen needs to do to practice driving legally. Each state is different. Look online for your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) website and make sure your teen is legal before you both hop in the car for practice.

Check your insurance policy. Give your agent a call and make sure you’re covered. If you’re not, add coverage. Sure, it’s going to cost you, but if your practicing teen cause injuries or damages, you’re going to pay even more.

It’s time for a refresher course — not for your teen, but for you!  Laws change. Memories fail. Look at your state DMV website for information or visit your local office for a current Rules of the Road. How can you teach your child driving laws if you don’t know them yourself?

Be a great example. You should have been a great example all along. If your teen has seen you “almost” stop at a stop sign or observed you going over the speed limit, what do you think they’re going to do?

Buckle Up!

Your teen’s legal, covered and ready to go. Take a deep breath, get in the car and buckle up. Then do this:

  1. Sit and review: Go over how to use the dashboard features, seat adjusters, steering wheel and mirrors, headlights, wipers, lights, emergency brake, accelerator and brakes. Learn what the warning indicator lights mean. Make sure your teen knows where the car’s registration and insurance information is kept.
  2. Head to an empty parking lot:  After arrival, switch places. Give your teen time to adjust the seat and steering wheel and let them start the car. Let your teen practice accelerating, braking, driving straight and backing up. Add additional exercises, such as making turns and parking as your child gains mastery over each skill.
  3. Begin road driving in light-traffic areas: Practice staying in lanes, stopping at stop signs, anticipating cars exiting driveways and looking out for children and animals who might dash into the road.
  4. Up the ante as your child becomes skilled: To become a great driver, your teen needs to practice driving in all types of weather and road conditions. If possible, take practice drives in the rain, fog or snow; at night; and in heavy traffic.
  5. Advance to highway driving: Practice merging, passing, following at a safe distance, maintaining proper speed and behaving courteously.
  6. Practice, practice and practice: Practice in any and all conditions.

Before you know, your child is ready to take the test. And that’s when the real worries begin!

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

Yes, These Car Gadgets Really Do Exist

If the thought of adding a cool gadget to your car leaves you breathless, you’re not alone. Millions of vehicle gadgets and add-ons are sold in the U.S. every day. And look at the choices you have.


“You can find gadgets that make your car run better, make your commute easier and give your car a boost in the looks department.” — Alex Perdikis

And then there are gadgets that are just plain silly. Here are some of the car gadgets available in categories from the sublime to the “What were they thinking?”

Coffee, Please

OK, you’re running late. You forgot to set the coffee maker timer. No time to stop at the coffee shop. What can you do?

If you planned ahead, you have a coffee maker right in your car. Plug the unit into your cigarette lighter or 12-volt port and in no time you have that much needed caffeine boost. The more expensive brands let you use your own grounds. Most require their own branded coffee pods.

Eat, Drink, Spill

Accidents happen. People spend a lot of time in their cars. Eating and drinking lead to the inevitable spill from time-to-time. Add children to the equation and spills become even more common.

Sure, you can grab napkins, tissues or whatever else happens to be lying around. Or, you can use the handy-dandy instant cloth. The compact package is full of tiny tablets that, when splashed with a few drops of water, turn into a full-sized cleaning towel.

Pretty Me Up

It’s human nature to want to put your own stamp on your car. Maybe you have vanity plates. Of course, there are add-ons to purchase that make your car distinct and display your personality.

Many of these add-ons involve items designed to pretty a car up. Take for example the headlight eyelash add-on. With a little adhesive, your headlights can grow the longest set of eyelashes imaginable. You can also add crystal eyeliner for an added dash of flash.

Then there’s the Hello Kitty exhaust tailpipe. The faceless Hello Kitty shaped add-on has the icon’s famous bow and set of whiskers. No one would ever mistake who it is you love.

Boost Performance, Or Not

Many of the add-ons sold in the U.S. purport to boost a vehicle’s performance. Unfortunately, many do just the opposite. Others are simply useless.

Take the coffee can muffler. Many car enthusiasts love the sound of a high revving engine. It means power. But adding a coffee can muffler to a four-cylinder car is not only questionable but,  when narrow exhaust pipe meets a large diameter opening, it also saps performance.

And about those big wheels — the big wheel look appeals to some but the handling trade-offs are enormous. Larger wheels increase vehicle weight and have a negative effect on the way a car handles and rides. Parking becomes a test of wills. And hit a curb or pothole — it’s goodbye tire.

Smarter and Wiser

Up to now, you’re probably thinking most car gadgets and add-ons are either silly or, at the very least, unnecessary. But, there are some gadgets that are worth it.

Every car should have jumper cables in the trunk. But, jumper cables only work if another car is available to help. That’s where a self-powered jump starter comes in. If you frequently drive in secluded areas or want the added security of not having to rely on other vehicles for a jump, this is one gadget worth buying.

A  dashcam is another worthwhile gadget. On the lighter side, you can make panoramic videos of scenic drives you’ve taken. On the serious side, dashcam footage can capture events leading up to and during an accident.

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

Little-Known Car Facts That Will Leave You Shaking Your Head

The world of cars is full of surprising twists and facts. But there are some little-known car facts you’ll have trouble believing. In fact, many of them prove the old adage that truth is stranger than fiction. Here are some of the strangest in the chronicles of vehicle history.

The Parrot in Paradise

New Zealand is the home of a magnificent alpine parrot call the kea. The 19-inch long olive-green bird with brilliantly colored orange underwings is the only alpine parrot in the world. People come from all over the globe to catch a glimpse of the unusual creature.


“Not satisfied with its highly unique status, the kea has at least one other claim to fame. It likes to eat cars.” — Alex Perdikis

Well, maybe not entire cars, but it’s infamous for landing on vehicles and pulling off antennas or anything else it can get its beak around and devouring the apparently tasty morsel.

A Gamers’ Delight

Anyone who plays video games knows the term “Easter egg.” An Easter egg in a game refers to hidden surprises that pop out if you happen to steer, click or otherwise act in a specific manner. Easter eggs have no purpose in a game other than to amuse the gamer. They’re fun to find but have no impact on the game whatsoever.

But, did you know that the Vauxhall/Opel has some Easter egg fun as well? For years the auto manufacturer has hidden small shark depictions in its models in various locations. A car might have as many as three sharks hidden within all waiting to be found.

Whatever Happened To…

The way people listen to music has changed radically. Music play went from LPs to 8-tracks to cassettes and on to CDs and MP3s. Who knows what the future holds? And, of course, music systems in new cars had to keep up.

Tape decks in cars were slow to retire. In fact the Ford Crown Vic still had an optional cassette tape player in 2011. And the Lexus SC430 included a tape deck as standard in 2010. Both models were designed with older drivers in mind who probably had huge collections of mixed tapes. Sadly for them, cassette players are no longer available as an option in any vehicle.

Welcome to the Table

Leave it to Honda to come up with ways to combine fun and economy. Honda’s compact SUV, the CRV, is a case in point. The first generation model not only included a picnic table that folded up neatly in the rear, but offered a shower kit option as well. Second generation models ditched the shower but kept the picnic table.

Porsche or Studebaker?

Silly question or what? Who would’ve guessed that Porsche and Studebaker had a clandestine meeting in the past? Porsche’s first sedan wasn’t the Panamera or its 1990s four-door sedan prototype. It was a Studebaker. Called Type 542, the 1952 design never went into production. No surprise there.

What’s That Smell?

The idea of using horse-drawn carriages seems like a charming bit of nostalgia now. But think about it. Horses leave a mess behind. And when the only way to get around has four-legs, eats and does what all living creatures do, you can imagine how smelly and dirty the roads were.

Early 20th-century car manufacturers had their work cut out for them if they wanted people to stop using horses to get around and buy cars instead. So they came up with a great selling point. They began advertising cars as a “green” alternative to horses. And, the rest is history.

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

Shop Smart: Tips for Buying Your First Car

If you’re getting ready to buy your first car, you’re probably feeling a lot of emotions. It’s an exciting time in your life but is also fraught with uncertainty. You’ve never done this before! What do you do? What do you need? How can you make sure you’ll find the best car for your budget?

Even if it’s not your first car, you may feel some of the same trepidation if it’s been a while. Either way, follow these tips for buying the best car for you and your budget.

1. Your Money — How Much Do You Have?

In a dream world, you find a fantastic car, plunk down the cash and drive into the sunset. Unfortunately, for most, it’s just not possible. Most people have to finance their car purchases and make monthly payments. Before you look at anything, figure out how much you have and how much you can afford to spend.

If you’ve done your homework up to now, you’ve managed to save money for a down payment and maintained a good credit rating. The larger your down payment, the lower your monthly payments will be. And, the better your credit rating, the lower your loan interest charge will be. Both save tremendous amounts of money in the long run.

Figure out how much you can spend on monthly payments. Typically, the highest amount you can spend on a car payment each month is 20 percent of your take-home pay. If you have other loans, a large mortgage payment or other monthly expenses, you’ll want to pay far less than 20 percent of your pay. Run the numbers. Once you have an amount, stick with it.

Check with your credit union or bank about finance options available as well. Many financial institutions offer car loan preapproval and, in most cases, interest rates will be better or at least comparable with those offered at the dealer.

2. But I’ve Always Wanted a Sports Car…

Now that your money situation is clear, determine what type of vehicle you need to get where you have to go. Will the car be your transportation on a long daily commute? Will you drive to school every day? Do your pets travel with you? Are you starting a family?

Sure, you’ve always wanted a sports car. Or maybe a pickup truck. But if your dream car doesn’t fit your current lifestyle save it for later.

3. Research and Compare

Car buying research has gotten much easier. Kelly Blue Book is now online where you can compare brands, models, reviews and prices. Price comparison tools give you an idea of how much a particular model should cost.

“Research the safety ratings and recall information for models you’re interested in as well. You’ll also want to research fuel efficiency.” — Alex Perdikis

Some cars cost more to maintain than others. Use one of the many online search and compare sites to compare specific models and get a clear picture.

Narrow your acceptable list down to three or four models.

4. Go Local

It’s your first car and with that comes a little hand-holding from the dealer. Local dealers who’ve been in business for a while stake their reputations on happy customers. Buying from a local dealer also makes it easier to deal with problems if they occur. Visit several dealerships if possible.

5. Don’t Forget to Drive

All the research in the world won’t help give you one thing you need to know before buying and that’s how a car drives. How does the car steer? Is it comfortable? Can you adjust it to fit your body size? Take a test drive and try out all the features. A car may look good on paper but if it doesn’t feel good when you’re in it, it’s not the car for you.

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

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.

Don’t Neglect Your Car – Take Care of it Inside and Out

By Alex Perdikis

Does the inside of your car look like the city dump? How about the outside? Can you write “Wash Me” in the dust? Busy lives mean that some things get pushed to the back burner. If one of your back burner chores is keeping your car clean, you have some work to do. It’s not as hard as you think. In fact, you just might enjoy it. Even better, you’ll be proud of yourself when you’re done and you look at the clean, shiny “looks like new” car sitting in your driveway.

“Wash Me Please”

When you think about warm summer days in America, one of the pictures that comes to mind is of Dad and the kids washing the car in the driveway. Whether you’re a dad, Mom or anything else, taking care of your car begins with a wash. Before you head outside with a bucket full of dishwashing soap and a sponge, read the instructions below for the best way to wash your car.

Tip: “Say no to dishwashing liquid. It’s not meant for a car’s finish. It’ll leave streaks and residue you’ll never get rid of.” – Alex Perdikis

Buy car wash cleaner and read the instructions. Most car wash cleaner is concentrated so follow the instructions to get the formula right. You can use a regular sponge as long as it’s clean. Washing mitts work great, too. You’ll also need a terry towel or chamois, buckets, garden hose and soft bristled brush. A tar and bug remover is also handy.

Fill one bucket with the properly apportioned cleaner and another with clean water. Begin by using the garden hose to soak down the entire car. Using your cleaning mitt or sponge soaked with cleaning solution, clean the roof. Rinse the soap off with a low pressure stream from the garden hose. Then move to the next section and repeat the pattern. Wash higher parts of the car first and work your way down, rinsing each section as you go. Use the brush to dislodge and remove stubborn debris.

Purchase a tire and rim cleaner for the tires. Clean one tire at a time and rinse before going on to the next.

Dry the car using a clean, damp terry cloth or chamois. Begin at the top and move downward, removing excess water as you go.

Need a Wax?

Now that the car’s clean, give it a wax to restore its shine. Make sure the car is dry and, if it’s been sitting in the sun, moved to a shady spot to allow it to cool down. You’ll need a can of car wax, an applicator, a clean terry cloth and a polishing cloth. Work on one panel at a time, frame out an area with wax first and then fill in the center. After the wax dries to a dull haze, use the terry cloth to rub the surface in one direction. After the haze is removed, use the polishing cloth and rub in the opposite direction until the surface shines. Repeat over the entire vehicle, working  one small section at a time.

The Inside Clean Up

People spend a lot of time in their cars and it doesn’t take long for “stuff” to accumulate. Fast food wrappers, coffee cups, napkins and other garbage along with the kids’ sports gear and toys, receipts and whatever else lurking about certainly gives your car that “lived in” look. You know this can’t go on. It’s time to grab a garbage bag and clean it up.

First, clear out all debris. You may discover some forgotten treasures as you go through the mess. Hang on to the garbage bag – you’ll need it throughout the cleaning process.

You can purchase interior car cleaners or use household cleaners you may already have on hand. Gather the following supplies:

  • Household cleaner
  • Window cleaner
  • Several clean terry towels or rags. You can also purchase car cleaning wipes.
  • Microfiber towel
  • Cotton swabs
  • Water source

Begin with the console. Use a cleaner moistened cloth and wipe down the console, from cleanest areas to dirtiest. Use a damp cotton swab to clean grooves in the steering wheel and other areas. To clean around buttons, wrap a cloth around a butter knife tip and run it in the grooves along the buttons to remove accumulated dust.

Use a microfiber towel and window cleaner to clean windows. Avoid ammonia-based window cleaner.

Remove the floor mates. If the mats are plastic, shake them out and hose them off. If they’re made of carpet, vacuum and spot clean outside of the car.

Vacuum the interior from top to bottom, beginning with the ceiling. Don’t forget to move the seats and vacuum the hard to reach areas.

If you have leather seats, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for caring for them.

Spot clean fabric seats and plastic pieces with only manufacturer approved products. Avoid using window cleaner on upholstery.

Air the car out after you’re finished. Add an air freshener, if you like. Put the mats back in the car and get ready to enjoy a much nicer ride.


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

Car Expenses Too High? Here’s How to Save

By Alex Perdikis

Everyone knows  the cost of owning a car or several cars doesn’t stop when you buy. Cars require fuel, maintenance and insurance to run efficiently and legally, none of which is cheap. Did you know you can save and still have an insured, well-maintained vehicle? Here’s how.

Maintain Your Way to Savings

It’s easy to get caught up in life and forget that in order to run well your car needs attention. Not only does a well-maintained car run more efficiently, it runs more economically as well. In fact, keeping up with routine maintenance can save you hundreds of dollars every year.

Follow these rules for optimal car maintenance:

  1. Keep your car tuned up. A tuned up car uses approximately 25 percent less gas than a poorly tuned vehicle. Poorly tuned cars are also more likely to require costly repairs down the road. Paying for a tuneup saves big time in the long run.
  2. Change your oil, but check your manual first. The old recommended standard was a 3,000 mile oil change, but newer vehicles are often built to go longer. Follow the instructions in your owner’s manual.
  3. Check the oil filter every month. Clean or replace the filter to optimize gas mileage.
  4. Only use premium gas only if your car requires it. If your car requires premium, by all means use it. Again, check the owner’s manual for your car’s specific needs.
  5. Check fluid levels when you change the oil, including automatic transmission, power steering and brake fluid levels. Maintaining required fluid levels is an inexpensive way to avoid a costly repair later on.
  6. Make sure your tires are inflated to the proper pressure. Properly inflated tires are safer, improve gas mileage and last longer. And, speaking of tires, have them rotated and balanced once a year. They’ll last longer.

How to Save Big on Gas

Gas prices are lower now than they were a few years ago. That’s a welcome relief, but who knows how long lower prices will last? Even with lower prices, you can’t say that gas is cheap. How can you cut down on your gas and save? Here are a few suggestions.

  • Drive less. You’re probably wondering how you can possibly drive less. You have to go to work, get groceries, transport the kids around and run errands, right? Yes, you do. But, have you considered running all of your errands in one trip instead of two or three? How about running your errands on your way home from work one evening? Is it possible for you to carpool with co-workers? Don’t forget public transportation. If your city has a good system, perhaps you could use it a day or two a week to save. If you have kids who have to be taken to sporting or educational events, can you work with other parents and divide transportation duties? Driving less is not only great for the pocket book, it’s also good for the environment.
  • Don’t warm your car up in the mornings longer than a minute. Today’s cars don’t need long warm up times. You waste fuel if you idle your car longer.
  • Buy your gas early or late in the day and early in the week. Believe it or not, you get more gas in the early morning or evening than you do midday because higher temps reduce gas density. Gas prices tend to moderate early in the week and rise midweek, so buy gas Monday or Tuesday and save.
  • Keep your car adequately maintained. Routine maintenance keeps the engine running efficiently.

How to Save on Car Insurance

Car insurance is a necessity, but there are ways to lower costs. Your first step is to speak with your agent. If you’re a good driver, consider raising your deductible. Sure, you’ll be responsible for a larger amount if an accident occurs, but could come out ahead if your record stays clean.

Go over your policy with your agent. Does your car have safety features that your agent isn’t aware of? Ask about additional discounts for which you may be eligible. Some insurers offer discounts for non-smokers and non-drinkers and people with multiple accounts, such as a homeowner’s policy.

Tip: “If your car is older and paid for, drop collision and comprehensive coverage for additional savings. Keep liability, however. It’s a legal requirement.” – Alex Perdikis

Drive safely and maintain your good driving record to keep your rates to a minimum.

You can cut down on insurance costs even if you have teenage drivers in the house. Many insurers offer discounts for kids who get good grades or who have taken safe driving courses. Also notify your insurer if your child goes to college and doesn’t have the car. Premiums typically go down but the child is still covered during breaks at home.

Shop around and find the best auto insurance value for your money.


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

Stay Safe in the Days of Road Rage and Fake Accidents

By Alex Perdikis

No one likes dealing with a fender bender, but as a driver, you’re lucky if that’s the worst you ever have to deal with. Drivers today have to be ready to deal with all types of difficult situations, from the minor fender bender to fake accidents.

How can you stay safe? Here are tips to follow if you find yourself in a dangerous situation while driving.

I’m Not Mad, You Are!

Temper, temper. Everyone faces moments of irritation while driving. Why did that guy cut Alex Perdikisme off? Did that woman really speed up so I couldn’t pass? It happens every day. But let’s face it. No one is perfect. You’ve made mistakes, too. Other drivers probably wondered what you thought you were doing when and swerved in front of them because you almost missed your exit. But, what happens when anger gets out of control?

It’s always better to avoid road rage in the first place if you can. Leave your ego at the door and drive courteously. Don’t cut people off. Do not tailgate. Don’t point, glare, make gestures, use revenge tactics or show any sign of anger.

“Let faster moving cars get by you, even if they’re speeding. It’s not your job to enforce the law. You can report speeders if you can safely do so, but let law enforcement handle lawbreakers.” – Alex Perdikis

If you make a mistake, smile and apologize to the other driver if you make eye contact. Keep your cool and you may be able to diffuse the situation before it starts.

What if you do all of that and still find yourself the target of an aggressive and angry motorist?

Follow these tips to stay safe:

  • Don’t make eye contact or acknowledge the other driver in any way.
  • Keep your windows rolled up.
  • If the driver seems intent on interacting, drive to a public area, such as a busy store parking lot or a police station. Never drive to your home if someone is following you. Honk your horn to attract attention.
  • Do not give in to the urge to stop your car, get out and talk to, or more likely yell at, the other driver.
  • Get the car’s plate number.
  • Call 911 if none of the above works to deter the other driver.
  • If the incident was particularly egregious, file a police report.

What to Do When an Accident Isn’t Really an Accident

A car accident is possible every time you get in your car and drive down the road. That’s why you have insurance. An increasingly common scam has erupted lately where scammers fake an accident to make bogus insurance claims. And, unfortunately, those scams always involve innocent drivers like you. Here’s an overview of some of the most common staged accidents and how to protect yourself.

The Not-So-Friendly Wave

Imagine you’re trying to switch lanes. The driver in the lane you want to move to slows down and waves you ahead. What a nice guy, you think. He’s nice until you try to switch over. That’s when he speeds up and collides with your car. The driver tells police he didn’t wave you over and places the blame on you.

When a T-Bone Doesn’t Taste So Good

The t-bone scam occurs as you drive through an intersection. Another driver, waiting for the right opportunity, hits the gas and t-bones your car. This type of fake accident usually includes “witnesses” who are ready to testify that you were at fault.

Swooping, Slamming and Running the Lane Accidents

Slamming on the brakes right in front of you is one of the more simple, yet effective accident scams. It should be noted, however that if you are far enough behind the vehicle in front of you, you should be able to stop anyway.

The swoop and stop scam is where a car suddenly pulls in front of you and stops as another vehicles pulls alongside to keep you from swerving to avoid a collision.

The dual turn sideswipe occurs as your vehicle and the scammer’s attempt to make same direction turns. The fraudster swipes the side of your car and accuses you of leaving your lane.

Many of these scenarios involve not only the driver, but additional helpers who corroborate the driver’s story.

If you think you’re the victim of a staged accident, follow these guidelines:

  1. Record as many of the details as you can, including the other driver’s license number, vehicle registration, insurance information, contact details and general driver description as well as physical descriptions of witnesses and passengers.
  2. Do not move the cars until you get pictures, unless it’s absolutely necessary. Take multiple pictures of the accident damage and vehicle positions from every angle. Take pictures of the other car’s plates as well as photos of any people involved.
  3. Call the police and make sure they know you believe the accident was staged.
  4. Inform your insurance company and tell them you believe the accident was a setup. Make sure insurers receive copies of your photos and detailed notes. The insurance company will take it from there.



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