Snowmobile Buying Guide

Did you know that there are hundreds of thousands of miles of groomed snowmobile trails in North America, not to mention virtually endless raw terrain? You probably did if you’re thinking of buying a new or used snowmobile – a fun and exciting purchase to make. There are several different types of snowmobiles, and each type has its own unique features and practical uses.

Types of Snowmobiles
Mountain snowmobiles: For uphill action, nothing beats the climbing power of a mountain snowmobile. This is the right choice if you live in an area with lots of mountains, inclines, and snow. Mountain snowmobiles typically offer 120+ horsepower, electronic reverse, and hydraulic brakes.
Trail snowmobiles: High-speed acceleration and a sporty look make trail snowmobiles attractive to performance lovers. Perfect for rough trails, these usually come with 130+ horsepower, electric start, mechanical reverse, and high-pressure shock absorption.
Performance snowmobiles: Also well suited for rough trails and high speeds, performance snowmobiles are often the tempting choice for thrill seekers and snowmobile veterans.
Touring snowmobiles: Touring snowmobiles are great for long-distance rides. Heated seats and smooth suspension keep leisure riders comfortable, but high speeds are still an option with this type.
• Utility snowmobiles: The perfect combination of function and fun, utility snowmobiles are great for everything from carrying supplies to towing other sleds.

What Is Your Skill Level?
Will this be the first time you’ve ever tried snowmobiling, are you a seasoned pro, or does your skill level lie somewhere in between? To choose the right snowmobile for yourself, be honest with yourself; how and where you will ride your snowmobile the most can help you determine which one to buy. Do you like hitting big bumps? Will you go fast or slow? On or off groomed trails? On flat landscapes or steep inclines? Choosing the right snowmobile can help keep you safe and make sure you have the best possible riding experience on your sled.

What Type of Engine Should You Choose?
There are two basic types of engines found in snowmobiles: two-stroke and four-stroke. A two-stroke engine completes a full engine cycle with two strokes of the piston per crankshaft revolution. Similarly, four-stroke engines take four piston movements to complete the engine cycle.
Two-stroke engines are generally lighter, more compact, and have fewer moving parts than four-stroke engines, with they have a high power-to-weight ratio. Newer four strokes, however, are lighter than their predecessors.
Because both types of engines come in a broad range of quality levels, one type isn’t necessarily better than the other. The better choice depends on your individual needs and preferences, as well as the quality of the specific engines in question.

What about Snowmobile Track Length?
Choosing a track length can be a bit confusing, as there are many options. The track is the reinforced rubber part wrapped around the rear suspension system. In general, longer tracks will make for a smoother ride. In deeper or fresh snow, longer tracks typically offer better traction and help you to not get stuck when slowing down. They typically are not quite as good at handling trails and sharper turns as shorter tracks. Keep in mind that longer tracks add more weight, so they require stronger engines.
Short tracks, on the other hand, are great for quickness and maneuverability, so they are good when you’re on narrower trails or making sharp turns. As opposed to long track snowmobiles’ usefulness in deep and powdery snow, short tracks are a good choice if you’ll be riding on groomed trails or packed snow.

Knowing the answers to these and other questions can help you figure out where to begin in your search for a new snowmobile. There is a wide range of snowmobiles on the market, so the perfect one for you is out there, regardless of your skill level, location, or budget.

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Should You Buy Used or New? Pros and Cons of Buying New vs. Used Vehicles

Buying a new vehicle is a process that requires a lot of thought. Which model, which options, which color, and most importantly, should you buy new or used? Both new and used cars offer distinct advantages and drawbacks, so let’s examine the options.

Vehicle Depreciation

Depreciation is the amount of value that an object loses over time. For example, if you buy a new item for $5,000, and it is only worth $3,500 as a used item, it has depreciated $1,500. When you translate this into cars, the quandary over new versus used starts to lean towards buying used.

Let’s say you’re looking at a 2015 Ford Escape SE 4×4 with a sticker price of $34,000. The benefit of buying a new one is that you can outfit it with any colours and options you want and get the full factory warranty. It will have no kilometres on the clock. It’s a brand new truck that no one outside the factory/dealership has driven before. So you gleefully drive your personalized truck for the next two years and cover 50,000 kilometres. At the 50,000 km mark it now is worth just $22,000, which means you lost $12,000 in depreciation over those last two years. Would it be better for your situation to buy a used Escape with just a few miles on it and save some cash?

For the price of a new vehicle, you get to choose the exact car you want, and it’s covered by a full factory warranty in case something goes wrong. Or you could wait a couple of years and get a partially-used version of the same car for a whole lot less.

Factory Warranties

When you buy a brand new car, you get the financial protection of a factory warranty. If the gearbox stops working, the engine goes kaput, or the satnav (satellite navigation system) stops working, you can pop down to the local dealer and they’ll fix it for you free of charge. If you buy a used car, the cost of those repairs could come out of your own pocket.

Of course, you can buy a certified pre-owned car, which has been inspected by a dealer and given an extended warranty. Or you could fork over some cash and buy an extended warranty to cover a used car. In any of these cases you’re going to be spending a little bit extra if you want that extra cushion of protection.

Purchase Options

When you acquire a new car in Canada, you’ll have the option to buy or lease. Buying obviously means that you’ll own the car outright at the end of your finance term. On the other hand, leasing costs significantly less because you’re financing the aforementioned depreciation over the term of the lease. And, when your lease is up, you can either buy the car from the leasing company, or swap it for a brand new model.

By contrast, used cars can’t be leased. Once you buy it, it’s yours. You upfront cost may be more, or you might have car loan payments, but at least when you are ready to buy your next car you have an asset you own to offset the purchase cost of the new vehicle.

Hits of the 2015 Montreal Auto Show

Hits of the 2015 Montreal Auto Show

If you didn’t get the chance to visit the 2015 Montreal Auto Show this year, here’s the skinny on the revelations. Here are a few vehicles that wowed me enough to warrant a second date. With the relevance of these showroom-type auto shows dwindling every year thanks to social media, an accurate one-line summary would be: Jaguar is the sex, Audi is the king, Mazda is the local hero, and Volvo is the absentee. Volvo’s absence comes at a bit of a shock given their brand remodelling and desperately needing to get people into showrooms, but that’s another rant for another day. Here are some of the standouts:

Audi S8


Okay, the S8 may be a six-figure vehicle, but there were a lot of six-figure vehicles that fail to impress like this monster does. The model on display at the show had carbon fibre bits on an interior that can only most undoubtedly be German. The Jaguars might have been the sex appeal side of the floor, but nothing is built with such precision and thought as this example of excellence. Get in the driver’s seat and you are welcomed with some of the best ergonomics in the biz and some of the highest tech too. Every button and knob feels like it’s in a natural position, everything is beautiful, and everything is built like a rock. A 520 hp turbo V8 up front helps to, you know, tie it all in.

Subaru WRX STI


I’ll admit to not being a huge STI fan, even a Subaru fan at that. But this new STI raises eyebrows. The model on display was obviously their dolled-up Sport-Tech package version of the car (which MSRPs just under $50,000), but even the “regular” model gives you a lot of go-fast kit. The driving position is great, the seats are great, and the car wasn’t running but the shifter and clutch feel very very smooth and sporting. A lot can be said about this car that can’t about the 2015 Mustang (which we will get to). If this car feels this good sitting there doing nothing on a showroom floor, I can’t wait to see what it does on a track. And don’t forget, the regular WRX is 90% of this car for 70% the money. Nice line-up, Subaru.

Jaguar XF-RS


No one does sex appeal like Jaguar. While the F-Types at the head of the Jag display this year are stealing the show for the most part, the flamboyantly blue XF-RS in the back makes the pores elevate in a way that only jalapenos mixed with a blazing inferno can. The interior is the right place to be. Fantastic seats, wonderful materials, and that special rotary gear selector. Only Jaguar can make a car like this. And we didn’t even get to hear that supercharged V8.

Second, third, and fourth date: Mazda Mazda2


I love the Ford Fiesta. I prefer it to the Focus. I prefer it to the old Mazda2 that it shares platforms with. I prefer it to pretty much everything in the class. And now I finally have something that I can say that I want more. This new Mazda2 is the latest to get Mazda’s new kick-in-the-pants makeover with an almost German interior and funky Japanese good looks to go with. Montreal was the first to see the new Mazda, so we weren’t able to grab any seat time (probably what I get for missing the press day), but the interior looks to be much the same makeover that the Mazda3 has seen, and if you’ve been in a redesigned Mazda lately, you will know what I’m talking about: very solid build quality, great materials, and an impressive list of standard kit. The old Mazda2 was the quintessence of a poverty-spec model, but at least in Mazda form. This new car is a Fiesta with style and that fun Japanese flavour. Yes, please.


Buying Green: The Ecological Impact of Buying a Used Car vs. a New Car

In a continuing effort to take better care of our planet, many people are considering the ecological impact of the items they purchase. Trees take in carbon dioxide (CO2) and expel oxygen (O2), which is useful to pretty much every living species on the planet, even those living in the water. Cars do the exact opposite – consuming O2 and expelling CO2 (among other toxins) – and it takes approximately 110 trees to counteract the carbon dioxide emitted by just one vehicle over its lifetime. To put that into perspective, there are 7.4 million vehicles registered in Ontario alone, so it would require 814 million trees to offset the 28 billion kilos of CO2 that those vehicles will produce over their 12-year (average) lifespan.

Buying Green: New Vs Used

Earth has a finite amount of resources, and it’s up to us to ensure that the planet will be able to sustain life for future generations. To that end, each of us can make more environmentally conscious decisions. One of them would be changing the type of vehicle that we choose to drive. But which would have a lower “carbon footprint”, a new car or a used car?

● Burning 1 litre of gasoline produces 2.3 kg of CO2
● A vehicle with an average fuel economy of 9.4L/100km produces 2,163 kg of CO2 every 10,000 km

The Ecological Impact of Buying New Cars

“Nothing ages your car as much as the sight of your neighbor’s new one.”
– Evan Esar

Burning fossil fuel releases energy used to propel a vehicle down the road, but it’s also used to manufacture the auto in the first place. Creating this energy releases carbon dioxide and other toxins into the atmosphere. These environmental affects create a vehicle’s “carbon footprint”, which is a measure of its impact on the planet. According to a study conducted in 2004 by Toyota, 28% of the carbon dioxide emissions emitted over a vehicle’s lifetime are produced when it’s manufactured. A separate MIT study found that producing the raw materials needed to make an average-sized car (steel, rubber, plastic, etc.) releases 1,580 kg of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Another 810 kg of CO2 are released when processing recycled materials. That doesn’t even take into account the amount of additional greenhouse gases produced by the car company’s assembly plants, or the freighter ships and 18-wheel car transporters needed to deliver a new car to the dealership. So Toyota’s numbers seem to be spot-on.

Automotive Recycling

In the early 2000’s, over 14 million vehicles a year were being recycled in the U.S. & Canada. At the time, 75% of a vehicle’s weight was being repurposed as raw material to be used in other products. But instead of just melting everything down, automotive recyclers (aka salvage yards) remove reusable components (alternators, seats, airbags, etc.) from a junk vehicle, then they rebuild the part before re-entering it back into the supply chain. This auto part reuse keeps approximately 99.7 million kilos of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere, because a brand new version of that part doesn‘t have to be made. The recyclability of new cars is expected to exceed 85% by 2015.

The other 15-25% of a junk vehicle’s weight is sent to landfills, resulting in nearly 5 million tonnes of unprocessable materials (foam, certain plastics, electronic components) being buried in the earth in North America. Given the skyrocketing popularity of features like big touchscreens and hybrid batteries, an increasing percentage of that waste increasingly includes heavy metals and toxic chemicals needed to manufacture such features. In the time since those figures were tabulated, automakers have begun to take steps to reduce the amount of toxins used to make a car. Hybrid battery recycling programs are also being “fast tracked”.

The Ecological Impact of Buying Used Cars

So before a new car even hits the road, its very existence has released thousands of kilos of CO2 into the atmosphere. Then after chugging through countless barrels of fuel throughout its life, that new car then turns into a junk car and pollutes the earth one last time in the landfill. But another option is the ultimate recycling program that rose to popularity long before ‘buying green’ was even fashionable – buying a used car.

In contrast to new cars, used cars have already expelled the largest part of their carbon footprint. In a sense, keeping a used car from entering the junk car phase prolongs its final landfill impact. Naturally, a used vehicle’s carbon footprint does depend on the emissions from its engine and its overall condition. But other than that, the additional carbon footprint of a used car is essentially limited to the emissions created by the vehicles driven to and from the place where the used car is purchased.

The Future

In an effort to reduce the car’s environmental impact, automakers are starting to use more recycled and biodegradable materials. They’re also spending fortunes on component recycling technology that will significantly reduce the amount of hazardous and non-biodegradable materials polluting landfills. In the meantime, you can make a difference by driving responsibly (i.e., conserving fuel), and picking the most efficient vehicle based on your intended use, and considering if a used car will fit your wants and needs just as well as a new one.


Your Guide to Navigating North American Auto Shows

At the time of this writing, I’ve just gotten back from Montreal’s Salon de L’auto. This auto show is just as important for new car buyers as it is for those looking to buy a used car. The auto show is an excuse for many people to sample the looks and feels of new cars in person without the normal pressure of a dealership salesman. From there, they can move on to a test drive and, in many cases, manufactures will offer promotions at the event to test drive or on the vehicle itself. Whether you’re at the auto show for fun or to look for your new car, here is how to successfully navigate and get the most out of your auto show experience.IMG_2290

There are four major types of people that visit the auto show:

  1. Journalists.
  2. People that go in specifically to compare multiple brands for new car purchase.
  3. Enthusiasts that want to check out all the latest and greatest.
  4. And people who go in to get pictures of themselves taken in Audi R8s and Jaguar F-Types.

Journalists will for the most part be out of your way since the press periods are done before the public even get access. New car shoppers may be a little long to get out of that car you’ve been wanting to sample. Enthusiasts will either take an excessive amount of time in a car or be upset when you ruin their photo-shoots. The last group may have some false facts and armchair criticisms, so take what you overhear at an auto show with a grain of salt.

The first step to truly getting the most out of an auto show is to go in the off-hours if at all possible. In the middle of the day during the week, or at least in the mornings on weekends if possible. Most of the biggest upsets about going to an auto show involve having far too many people in a small space.

Next is to ensure that you are properly dressed for the occasion. The Montreal auto show takes place in late January, making coats an issue. They do offer a $2 coat check, but some are squeamish about that, so it pays to wear layers to shed and go with friends or family so you can all share carrying while one is trying a car. Next is shoes. Even if you speed run through it, the auto show can easily take 2-3 hours of standing and walking, and sitting, and getting up, and sitting again. Wear the comfiest shoes available.

Now, getting into the cars that you want can be tricky, especially for the more lavish or popular. Most of the crowded cars will have a line formed, but if there isn’t, be aggressive and keep yourself close. The entitlement is strong with some people, and they will jump forward at any chance. However, maintain politeness as no one wants to be “that guy” (or girl) at an event like this. Some people will take very long in the car and, while there is nothing more you can do than politely remind them that other people are there, you will have to wait. Once you are in the car, don’t linger and close your eyes but maximize your time. Get a feel for all the controls, primary and secondary. Adjust the seat (if possible) to your liking and see how the car makes you feel when you’re sitting in it. Are the radio controls comfortable to reach? Is the car easy to see out of? Take your time checking off boxes, but do it swiftly.

A lot of booths at the auto shows these days offer contests and such, which can lengthen your auto show experience extensively. Most of the contests are for free gas and miniscule discounts on new vehicles and are usually not worth the time. VW often has fun games and Ford usually has a driving simulator setup.

The number one tip I can provide, though, is to not let anyone ruin your experience. Try to avoid going with a pushy family member or getting caught up in a conversation with a representative. And, most importantly, most desperately, and most intelligently, walk past the giant room of merchandisers. If you’re an enthusiast, you’ll end up buying everything and having to lug it around for the rest of the show, so just say no (especially at the start of your visit).

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