Freedom of the Open Road: History of the American Automobile

Ever since its debut in 1886, the automobile has been a symbol of American freedom. With the automobile, Americans were empowered to travel wherever they wanted, whenever they wanted. This Fourth of July, let’s take a look back on one of America’s most important innovations, the automobile.

Hitting the Road
The first automobile was actually not invented in America. The honor of first perfecting the horseless carriage goes to Germany. In 1901, designer Wilhelm Maybach designed what is considered the first modern automobile for Diamler Motoren Gesellschaft. His vehicle was powered by a 35 horsepower engine and was capable of reaching speeds of 53 miles per hour.

Henry Ford stands next to a Model T

Henry Ford stands next to a Model T. (Photo Credit)

The age of the American automobile truly began with Henry Ford’s utilization of the assembly line to mass-produce vehicles, allowing Ford Motor Company to provide these vehicles at an affordable price. The Model T first hit the market in October 1908. It cost $825 and came equipped with a four-cylinder, 24 horse-power engine. The Model T was designed using interchangeable parts which made repairing the vehicle very simple. As production volume picked up, the price of the Model T began to decrease. In 1912 the Model T cost $575 which was less than the average American yearly wage. The Model T stayed in production until 1927 when it was pulled from the market. The final price for a Model T was $290. When production of the Model T stopped, 15 million units had been sold. Access to mobility had been made possible for most Americans through Henry Ford’s Model T.

Utilizing Ford’s assembly line technologies, other domestic manufacturers began to come into the market. General Motors, founded by William “Billy” Durant, began in 1908. When it was first founded, General Motors had only the Buick Motor Company in its holdings. In subsequent years, GM’s holdings would expand to include companies such as Oldsmobile, Cadillac, and Pontiac. Chrysler Corporation joined the fold in 1925. Together with Ford, GM and Chrysler accounted for 80% of the automobile industry’s output in 1929.

Swings in Supply & Demand
By 1942, automotive sales had plummeted due to the Great Depression and World War II, which caused a large drop in civilian automobile production. After the war was over, Americans were ready for their next automotive purchase.

The post-war years saw great demand for automobiles. Companies offered many models and even more options to equip those models. Each year saw vehicles becoming longer, heavier, more powerful, equipped with more technology and increasingly more expensive to purchase.

The Age of the Muscle Car
The 1960s saw the emergence of the muscle car. These cars came as a response to pent up American consumerism that had been repressed in the decades prior. Detroit manufacturers saw the muscle car as a way to stave off the invasion of foreign makes such as Volkswagen, Fiat, Renault and Datsun. In addition to the muscle cars of the 1960s, domestic manufacturers began to produce lightweight cars like the Corvair, Falcon and Valiant. These models were Detroit’s answer to small, fuel efficient foreign makes.

The Pontiac GTO appealed to youthful buyers of the 1960s

The Pontiac GTO appealed to youthful buyers of the 1960s. (Photo Credit)

New government regulations and foreign disputes caused the vehicles of the 1970s and 1980s to undergo a drastic change. American consumers began to crave more fuel efficient and reliable vehicles due to the increase in the cost of fuel resulting from the Oil Crisis. Detroit manufactures failed to recognize this shift in consumer desires and continued to produce large, inefficient vehicles. As a result, domestic auto sales plummeted. Sales peaked in 1978 at 12.87 million units, and then dropped to 6.95 million units in 1982. Import makes increased their share in the market to 27.9%. Japan took the lead as the world’s leading automotive producer.

The Electronic Age
The automobile has been constantly developing and improving since its inception. Advances in electronic and computer technologies found their way into vehicles of the 1990s and 2000s. A push to develop electric cars in the early 1990s resulted in some of the first practical electric vehicles. GM, Chrysler and Ford all debuted new electric models. In 1997 Cadillac became the first American car manufacturer to offer electronic stability control in its vehicles. Vehicles continued to become more and more technologically advanced throughout the 2000s with the inclusion technologies such as satellite navigation and park assist features.

The evolution of technology continues to make its way into more and more aspects of the car. Now manufacturers are pioneering technology that will allow cars to drive themselves.

The automobile provided Americans with the freedom to go and see places that had otherwise been unattainable to them. America’s love affair with the car continues on till this day. From humble beginnings, the automobile has grown to become a fixture in the American lifestyle, and we at CARCHEX wouldn’t have it any other way.

Happy Fourth of July From CARCHEX. (Photo Credit)

Happy Fourth of July from CARCHEX. (Photo Credit)

Softening the Impact of an Accident

Liability insurance can be likened to a financial airbag, softening the impact of an accident on your wallet. Liability insurance is something that all drivers are legally required to have, but do they really understand what liability insurance does? This short video from our friends at Allstate explains what liability insurance is and what it covers.

Keep Your Car Cool in the Summer Sun

Different sources have different estimates for how hot your car can get on a hot, sunny summer day. A study by Stanford Medicine stated that a car can heat up 40 degrees in the first hour – making even a 70 degree day prime for overheating your car’s interior. We’re going to give you some tips for getting and keeping it cool when parking all summer. First, a quick reminder, never leave your child or pet alone in the car. Even with the windows open, the car cannot remain cool enough for the car to be a safe environment for a child or pet and the heat increases the most in the first half hour. Always be mindful and safe with your little and/or furry passengers.

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Before You Go

Before you hit the road, there are a few things you can check or install to make your car cool more efficiently.

Car Refrigerant: Check that your air conditioning system has enough. If you’re not car savvy, have your mechanic do a quick check. If you’re a DIY-er, check your owner’s manual for the type of refrigerant your car takes. They are usually available at your local car parts store. Check out these two videos to give you an idea of the task at hand.

Window Tinting: The sun, not the outside temperature, is the main reason for the heat spike in your car. Tinting your windows will decrease how much sun can get in, and decreasing how quickly your car heats up. We’ll cover less permanent and less expensive options later.

Cloth Seats: Especially in hotter and sunnier areas, think about getting a car with cloth seats instead of leather. Leather absorbs more heat and will be very uncomfortable to sit on after being in the sun all day.

Parked Car Ventilation Systems: Some new cars offer parked car ventilation systems. This is available on higher end cars but there are portable options, as well.

Self-Cooling Seat Covers: There are many versions of aftermarket seat covers, some that circulate are, some that have cooling crystals. The prices range based on the type and caliber of the seat covers.

While Parked

When you’re leaving your car out in the sweltering heat, there are a few ways you can reduce the amount of sun that gets in.

Circulate Air: Crack your windows slightly (less than an arm’s width), to allow air to move through your car while you’re away.

Sun Shades: There are sun shades for every size car, often metallic, but also in patterns if you want and funky look.

Towels: If your kids spent some time at the pool in the morning, do double duty by covering the seats with the towels. It will allow the towels to dry out while keeping the seats cool. Make sure to crack the windows open so there isn’t a damp smell when you come back to the car. If you’re not using damp pool towels, it’s still not a bad idea to have a few in the car to cover your seats and dashboard. Be sure to cover dark plastic and metal pieces that can get hot enough to burn you and your passengers.

Park Smart: If possible, park under shade. However, if there isn’t shade available , park with your trunk facing the sun so the front seats and dashboard will be covered. If you’re parking for a long time, park so your trunk is facing where the sun will be when you’re returning.

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Returning to the Car

As you’re walking across the hot asphalt of the parking lot, you know your car will be blazing. Here are the best ways to get it cooled off and ready to drive.

Blast the AC: People often believe you should wait until the car warms up to blast the AC but it will begin to work immediately if you blast it right away. Even if it blows hot air for a minute, it will move the air around. Crack the windows a bit to allow the hot air out and close them as the car begins to cool.

Air it Out: If it is a particularly hot day, open doors blow the AC for a bit to allow the car to cool off before you and your passengers get in the car.

Wipe Down: You can use a wet towel to wipe down the wheel and gearstick. It will dry quickly and take some of the heat with it. Don’t do this too often though, as it can begin to wear down any finish or material.


Remember that the metal and plastic pieces can get hot enough in direct sun to burn your skin, so be extra careful with seat belts as you get in the car! We hope these tips help you and your car stay safe and cool this summer!

Quick Tips for Buying a New Car

Does the warmer weather have you dreaming of hitting the road in a new ride? If you’re thinking about buying a new car this spring, you don’t want to miss these key steps!


Research is the most crucial part of the process and it is multifaceted. There’s a lot of research that needs to happen before you even step onto the dealer’s lot.

Know what your budget is. Go to to see what you should pay for a car. From there, figure out your budget, think about what types of makes and models you can afford. Don’t forget to take into account the sticker price vs. what you’ll end up paying over the years in interest if you finance your new vehicle.

Know your credit score. Don’t go in wondering what the number will be. You credit score could make a world of difference in the amount of interest you’ll pay over time.


Research the kind of car you want and need. A sales person’s job is to get you to sign on the dotted line before you walk off the lot. They’re going to tell you that the car you’re looking at is the best car for you. But what you need to know is the facts about all the cars you’re interested in before you head to the dealership. This also means knowing the difference between what you want and what you need. Knowing which specs are would-likes and which are must-haves will make your position stronger during the entire experience. This will also make sure you come home with the car you want and not be victim to crafty upselling.

Make sure you’re going to a reputable dealership. Lots of dealers sell lots of cars and if you’re too focused on the lowest price, you could end up with a bad deal. Look at reviews from customers and the Better Business Bureau to make sure there isn’t a pattern of bad business practices.

Have a plan of attack with your buying partner (and don’t go alone). It helps to have a partner as you go into the car buying experience. It will make you feel more confident to have a teammate, which will help you stand your ground and negotiate a better price. While it isn’t exactly battle, it is similar to a game of chess. The better your strategy and preparation, the better negotiating you’ll do. Here is a list of things NOT to say when shopping for a car.


Test Drive

Test drive the car more than once. The excitement of driving a new car will last through the first test drive, but you will own this car for years and it needs to be more than just exciting. If you’re going to be mostly commuting to work alone, then that’s how you should test drive it. But if you have children, commute in a group or go on trips with friends a lot, you’ll need to bring the whole crew to make sure they comfortably fit in the vehicle. They will notice things that you might not have seen from the driver’s seat. You also need to know you can drive the car as safely with no passengers as with a full group.

Have a list of things you want. And when you’re looking over the cars and test driving them, double check the car against your list. Some people have a tendency to plan well beforehand then get caught up in the emotion and excitement of the car buying process. However, with list in-hand, you’ll make sure you cherish your investment for years to come because you’ll get everything you know you wanted.



Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate. Now that you’ve done the research, driven the car a couple of times, have compared it to your other cars, you’re ready to sit down and talk about price. Like it says in the list of things not to say, don’t tell them you want to keep your payments low. Be firm about a reasonable price. If you have the time, go to a couple of dealers and see who has the lowest price. Remind them you have a lot of options and be ready to walk out if you feel you’re not getting a fair price.

Ask them how much the dealership paid. Pros say the dealer must provide the dealer’s price vs. the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) upon request. Start your negotiations at $500 above that price. They don’t need to sell it to you for that, but it’s a good place to start.



Road Trips: What to Know Before You Go

Memorial Day is right around the corner, summer is about to be in full swing, and that means the open road is calling. Road trips are a great way to see your state, region or country, and to visit family and friends that live far away. But these trips take different planning and precaution than other types of travel; be sure you’re prepared with our list of tips!

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The Vehicle

Get your car checked out by your trusted mechanic. Nothing will derail your awesome, well-planned road trip like breaking down, walking for miles to the nearest town then being stuck for days waiting for parts. So, make things easy and get your car checked. Tell them how far you’re going and where you’re going. The way a mechanic checks and preps your car for the Arizona sun might be different than for some rainy Appalachian mountains along the east coast.

Clean your car before and during the trip. In your day to day, you might not mind the extra wrappers and papers at your feet and under your seat. But hours in a car every day and even the messiest of people will be happy they got the vacuum out and freshened the seat fabric. Take some time to trick out your car with your favorite things. Not a new body kit, but make sure you’ll be comfortable in your new home on wheels, since you’re going to be spending a lot of time there. Have some movies downloaded to your tablet or laptop, good tunes for the stereo and headphones when the driver wants something different than the passenger.

Get your documents in order – you don’t want outdated insurance or that months-old speeding ticket causing you a headache in another state. It’s best to double check that anyone who will be driving has a valid license, insurance and is otherwise in good standing.

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The Planning

Have a plan, but a loose one. You want to enjoy the drive, not speed through 10 hours of driving just to get into your hotel room and crash. Road trips are all about the journey. So be sure to know your Point A and Point B, with which sights you can see in the different states you’ll be in. Do research about the funky museums and kitschy destinations off the beaten path. They’ll probably be less crowded and cheaper. Take time to learn about the unique culture and cuisine of each state you’ll pass through. A great resource for planning is The site will help you plan your route and give you tips about places to go and things to see. will also give great tips for specific types of adventures such as a couples trips, or family-friendly trips.

Book your lodging in advance. You don’t want to end up in a less than ideal hotel because you thought you could wing it. Before you head out on the trip, call ahead and confirm your reservation. Then bring hard copies of confirmation numbers and documentation. This way the hotel is responsible for the reservation. If for some reason they don’t have spare rooms (which they usually do), they will usually start calling around to get you a room nearby.

Be prepared for changes, delays, detours and pit stops. Be it holiday traffic, sheepherders or a bit of carsickness, you can bet that there will be some delays along the way. Research your route; be sure to try and get through major cities and bad bottlenecks well before or well after rush hour.

Divide and conquer tasks before and during the trip. Know who has what strengths and what is important to each road tripper. One person may want to try out the local cuisine, another may care more about the scenic route, one may just want to get to the final destination- discuss each person’s opinion and divide the planning. One person could research and plan the lodging, another will find some neat restaurants, and a third can be in charge of the quirky pit stops you’ll make. You don’t want tension in the small confines of a car when you’re a couple hundred miles away from home.

Have a map and someone who knows how to read them. Cell phones run out of power and lose signal. On your map, have your route highlighted so you can more easily find your location if you end up lost without a usable cell phone or GPS.

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The Trip

Take back roads, but always know where the interstates are nearby. Map your scenic side roads. These are magnificent and will be welcomed change from interstates. But after a few hours of winding roads, similar scenic overlooks and delays from sheeps or cows crossing, you’ll long for that interstate again. Be sure to have that escape route ready to go.

Follow these gas-saving tips.

Have a check list of everything you want in the car when you leave, check it once when you are packing your suitcases, as you pack the car and when you’re about to pull out of the driveway. This will keep things from happening, like being 300 miles away with an empty tank and your wallet left on your kitchen counter. Remember as you’re packing that you will be in a small car for days. Pack accordingly to give yourself extra room for comfort or souvenirs.

Take lots of pictures and enjoy the freedom of the open road! Did we mention to get your car checked before you go?

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