Before You Travel: Know the Cell Phone Rules of the Road

Because we in the Rogue Valley live so close to California news that the Golden State had banned the use of all hand-held cell phones by drivers a few years back made local headlines. Not long after, Oregon followed suit with a similar ban. But what about cell phone laws in other states? Washington and Nevada also ban the use of hand-held devices on the road. But the rules radically change the further east you go. Before traveling by car this summer, take some time to check the legalities of using your cell behind the wheel at all locations between home and your destination as some city regulations differ from those of the state. And then, even if the laws do allow you to use your phone, consider imposing a ban of your own. After all, the ultimate measure of any good road trip is that you return safely home.

Cell phone laws by state:


Warm Weather Driving Prep: Get Your Vehicle Set for Summer

Summer’s a’comin’! So, it’s time again to treat your vehicle to a little TLC. Last November, we posted a list of everything you might need to tackle winter driving conditions. Now that the studded and snow tires have (hopefully) been removed, here’s how to travel worry free into the warmer months:


1. Check tires. Remove and store your winter tires, and rotate all-season radials.

2. Check tire pressure. And check again. Because air pressure increases with temperature you’ll want to check your tire pressure more frequently during the summer months.

3. Check brakes for noise. You’re looking for grinding, squealing, screeching or chatter. Excessive amounts of any or all mean it’s time to invest in new ones.

4. Replace windshield wiper blades. They took a beating over the winter.

5. Wash it! And not just the parts you can see. Spray the underbody and undersides of both bumpers to get rid of build-up. As for the body, wash it in the shade. Then wax it. But wait until it’s completely dry before doing so.

6. Apply “sunscreen”. Hours in the sun can result in the cracking of any vinyl surface or the fading of cloth. Apply a protectant… reapply when needed.

7. Clean – and clean OUT – the interior. You don’t want your old trash blowing around when it’s finally warm enough to drive with the windows down.

8. Change the oil. Consider synthetics… they’re specifically designed for warm weather engine protection.

9. Check all fluids. That means brake, transmission, coolant, power steering and windshield washer fluid. Replace, or refill, to proper levels.

10. Test the AC.

11. Examine belts and hoses for wear or deterioration.

12. Consider assembling a car care kit, if you don’t already have one. Include a couple large bottles of water, non-perishable food items, jumper cables, a flashlight with extra batteries, road flares or an emergency beacon, basic hand tools, and a first aid kit. Maybe throw in a blanket, just in case.

Finally, be aware that heat often makes people uncomfortable and thus, irritated. Irritated drivers tend to be impatient and less apt to pay attention. Give drivers their space and stay alert.

Now all that’s left to do is plan a road trip! Happy travels!

(To read up on Winter Driving Preparations, visit:

The 2012 Suzuki Grand Vitara: Tow It!

We have something of a situation on our hands. It seems demand for quality “tow behind” cars, like Suzukis, is high while supply is, shall we say, out of sync with demand. The good news is Butler Suzuki’s coming to the rescue by offering an inventory that includes the new 2012 Suzuki Grand Vitara!

The Grand Vitara, which is available in 4-wheel drive, is popular among RVers because it can be flat-towed, that is, towed with all four wheels on the ground, without racking up odometer miles. The fact that it gets an estimated 26 mpg on the highway once unhooked from the RV doesn’t hurt, either. Suzuki calls the Vitara an “all access pass to planet Earth.” Basically, it goes everywhere your RV can’t.

So, while, the good news is we can now offer 2012 Suzuki Grand Vitaras, the bad news is we only have *two* of them. But that’s two more than yesterday. And two more RVs that’ll soon be sporting the must-have tow-behind car of the season.

Winter Driving Kit

The holiday travel season is upon us which means it’s also time to prepare for inclement weather. We on the West Coast may not see frequent snowstorms – at least in the valleys – but that doesn’t mean we’re not at risk of getting stuck out on the open road. So, in the interest of survival, let’s revisit the idea of a Winter Driving Kit. Here’s what ODOT suggests you in your vehicle at all times:

Make sure your vehicle is stocked with the following:

  • Rechargeable flashlight
  • Cell phone and charger
  • Extra food and water
  • Flares
  • Tools: jack, lug wrench, shovel
  • Road maps
  • Blanket/sleeping bag(s)
  • Extra warm clothes, boots, hat and gloves
  • First aid kit
  • Pocket knife
  • Matches or lighter
  • Battery jumper cables
  • Ice scraper and snow brush
  • Paper towels
  • Extra washer fluid
  • Chains or traction tires
  • A full fuel tank

Source (and for more on winter driving):

Drive safely!

Oh, no… Snow! Everything You and Your Vehicle Need for Winter Driving

Snow levels in Southern Oregon are forecast to drop to their lowest so far this season over the next 24 hours. Whether your plans are to drive north for the UO Duck game, south to warmer climes, or just around town, you’ll want your vehicle ready to handle the cold, and potentially slick, streets. In the interest of physical safety and peace of mind, here’s a list of links to help you and your car, truck or SUV weather winter driving conditions.

Winterizing your vehicle:

Driving in snow and ice:

Studded Tires, Traction Tires and Chains
(Oregon’s studded tire season started November 1st and runs through March 31st.)

Oregon’s chain law:

Chain requirements:

Traction tires:

Tire reviews:

Up-to-the-minute local weather conditions:

Interstate 5 Siskiyou Pass roadcam:

Interstate 5 Sexton Pass roadcam:

Interstate 5 at Hilt, CA roadcam:

U.S. Highway 99 at Hayes Hill Summit roadcam:

For the Love of Trucks

It’s not really explainable, this love affair some of us have with trucks. Sure, we could describe the view, the thrill of riding up high, the rush of being literally “above it all”. We could gush about all the space we have to spread out in and store stuff. We could point to the toys we can haul, to the goodies we can carry in the bed. We could talk confidently about the power! The torque! We could even sit back, gaze adoringly at our rig, and sigh at the sheer beauty of the thing. But none of these makes a complete argument.

This is not to say that I don’t fully appreciate cars. I have enjoyed the handful Butler’s allowed me to “test”. I’ve even owned one (Just one. A loooong time ago). But driving a car feels to me like wearing someone else’s shoes; they get the job done but they don’t fit quite right.

Science would prove me wrong but, I’m convinced “truck love” is in our DNA. Not everyone is born with it and, if you don’t have it you never will. Yes, to *drive* a truck is to make a choice. To *love* a truck is simply a state of being.

Leasing or Buying: Which Works for You?

When I was a kid my father used to come home with a new car every two years. I’ve since learned that he had a great need for variety in his life and that, rather than uproot his family so as to accept new jobs in new places he channeled that need in the direction of the car lot. I don’t know how he financed all those automotive changes but I do know we drove fancy new wheels every other year.

I, on the other hand, drive the one vehicle that makes me consistently happy, a vehicle I continue to love even four years after paying it off (some might argue that paying it off made me love it even more). I’ll drive it until it doesn’t want to drive anymore.

So, my father was a perfect candidate for leasing while I’m the ideal buyer… right?

At least I used to think so.

We’ve put together a list of the pros and cons of buying and leasing, with a few extras thrown in for context. If, after reading this, you’re surprised to find you’re a buyer when you thought you were a leaser, or vice versa, drop us a line and tell us what changed your mind.

Here goes:



  • Down-payment has more impact on monthly payment
  • Sales tax based on monthly payment, not overall price
  • Allows you to drive a new vehicle every few years
  • You’ll never owe more than the vehicle is worth
  • May offer business owners certain tax advantages
  • Might offer lower
    monthly payments*
  • Assuming you pay it off, you’ll eventually own the
  • There are no mileage restrictions
  • Insurance limits may be lower
  • You’ll always have a car payment **
  • Restrictions on the number of miles you drive every year (usually between 12-20 cents per mile, depending on the lease program
    and the vehicle manufacturer)***
  • Insurance costs may be higher
  • Up-front, out-of-pocket costs may be higher (ie:
    sales tax)
  • Down-payment has less impact on monthly payment
  • The vehicle depreciates faster than you earn equity
  • Might require a
    higher monthly payment*

Okay, now some clarification:

*One of the most common misconceptions about leasing is that the monthly payment will be lower than buying the same vehicle. That’s not necessarily true, so says Butler
Acura Sales Manager Mark Zinn. Mark says the leasing concept was primarily created for business owners in order to allow them to move their fleet from the asset column to the expense column. Because, let’s face it, we all know our car or truck isn’t an asset; It loses value the second we drive it off the lot and it becomes “used”. Leasing allows
business owners, and now the rest of us, to “rent” our transportation, investing as little as possible into a depreciating product. So, say you have your eye on a $30,000
vehicle. Finance it for 60 months or lease it for 36, either way it will be worth the same amount at the 36 month mark. The only way you can guarantee a lower monthly payment through leasing is if you would have financed the vehicle for the same length of time.

**You’ll only always have a car payment if you continue to lease new cars. If however,
you reach the end of your lease but you’ve fallen head over heels for your ride, you may have some options, depending on your lease program. You can drop the keys off at the dealership and walk away (forever referring to that car or truck as “the one that got
away”), or you can finance the remainder of the vehicle’s value and turn the lease into a loan.

***Mileage restrictions. As we mentioned in the Pros and Cons, the penalty for driving more than the allotted number of miles per year can be pretty steep at 12 to 20 cents per mile. But let’s put it in perspective. Mark Zinn says, “There’s no such thing as a person driving too many miles to lease.” Here’s why: When you lease a vehicle you are guaranteed a residual value, or the predetermined value of the car at the end of the lease
period. That value is figured by taking into consideration the amount of wear and tear the vehicle will go through in your care. Your sales consultant will ask you how many miles a year you think you’ll drive before arriving at a residual value. So, say you think you’ll drive the $30,000 car that’s calling your name 10,000 miles a year and your sales consultant guarantees you residual value of $15,000. But then you drive the vehicle 12,000 miles a year. When you turn it back in it’s less valuable than it would have been if you’d stuck to your original estimate. So, in order to guarantee you the $15,000
equity residual value, the dealer has to charge you the difference between what was promised and what the vehicle’s now worth.

On the other hand, if you bring your leased vehicle in at the end of the contract with fewer miles on it, and that leads to an appraisal higher than the residual value, the dealer owes you money! The bottom line is the wear and tear you put on your vehicle will result in lowered value. As an owner, you may make money when you decide to sell it but, you
could also lose money. With a lease, you’ll either make money or break-even but you’ll never lose money.

Which brings me back to my family’s automotive history. Remember my father, the perfect lease customer? Well, he’s surprised us all and stuck with the same car for at least the past 5 years. And as for me… I’m still in love with my little rig and wouldn’t trade it for anything. But, should I ever need a second car, you can bet I’ll consider a lease.

Road Trip: The Agony and the Ecstasy

‘Tis the season for that most American of summertime activities: the end-of-the-season, last-fling-before-school-starts road trip! (Why we love them so much: Who among us doesn’t have a story about the perils of hitting the road with the people we profess to love the most – whether relatives or friends? My memories are of the 13-year old me narrowly avoiding being left on the side of the road. It sounds harsh but the reality is that after nearly 2000 miles of reading every card in the Trivial Pursuit Game (the Genus
Edition… in case you were wondering) *out loud* on a family drive to South Dakota, I’m lucky to have been allowed in the car for the return trip home. Or, on that same route a few years later, the certainty with which I knew we were all going to die when our car overheated and stalled in the Nevada desert. It was hours before we could flag down another driver for help. Heck, it was hours before another driver even happened by. The midafternoon sun was brutal as vultures circled menacingly overhead. At least that’s how I remember it.

In the end, though, my family bonded over the long hours cooped up in a small space together. We learned to rely on each other, we learned tolerance… we even learned how to create our own fun, imminent disaster or no.

We’d love to hear *your* stories… about the automotive meltdowns, accidental side trips, and the characters you almost certainly met along the way. In the meantime, here’s a
link to a collection of road trip comics to keep you entertained: Happy travels!

Butler Supports “Red Shirt Fridays”

In the same way that people sometimes start to look like their pets, have you ever noticed how co-workers often dress in similar ways? It used to happen all the time when I worked in television news … some days all our anchors and reporters would wear the same colors. It wasn’t like we planned it… we just ended up on the same wavelength and started making similar choices.

So, that’s kinda what I thought was going on around the Ford and Acura dealerships when every so often I’d notice everyone matched. What didn’t occur to me was that the pattern was consistent: every Friday most of the sales and service staff would wear red. That fact floated around in the recesses of my brain, something to ask about if and when the question made its way into my consciousness and out my mouth.

But I didn’t have to ask (apparently, we DO mind read around here!) Out of the blue, Ford Service Manager Gary Neal sent me an email. The subject line read, “FYI” and the message was brief: “Shannon, Just in case you were wondering why most of the guys wear red shirts on Fridays.” He’d included the web address Now I know Red Shirt Fridays are all about showing support for American troops overseas. The idea is that troops who feel supported have higher morale. Higher morale translates into better performance. Better performance increases the odds of survival. The more we do on this side of the ocean to show our appreciation for our men and women in uniform, the more they have an advantage in the fight.

To be honest, I was a little surprised when Gary’s email came through. I’ve been with Butler for half a year now and nobody’s said a word about Red Shirt Fridays. But, as you know, actions speak louder than words… and I really dig what Gary and the other guys’ actions have been saying. I wonder if it’s a coincidence that his email came in the week before Memorial Day… but I know it won’t be when, this Friday, I start looking a little more like my co-workers in red.