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Five Common Car Myths Debunked

Darrek Olson
car myths

Volkswagen’s hilarious video series, “Old Wives’ Tales,” debunks myths about diesel vehicles, and that got us thinking about the many car myths that still need debunking. Cars are always changing and can be quite complex. Let’s take a look at some common car myths, and debunk them once and for all.

Red Cars Cost More to Insure

© General Motors

© General Motors

Red cars carry the stigma of reckless driving and road rage, but there isn’t significant data to back this up. Therefore, insurance companies don’t consider vehicle color when determining your rate. Hundreds of factors like age, make, model, driving history, credit history and geographic area can affect rates, but thankfully, color doesn’t make the list.

Where did this car myth originate? One possible explanation is the prevalence of red sports cars. A fast car will naturally cost more to insure, and red is one of the most common colors in this segment, leading to the conclusion that red cars cost more to insure. Don’t worry, choosing a red Smart Car shouldn’t hurt your insurance premiums.

Bigger Cars Are Safer

Yes, this can be true, but it is by no means a guarantee. Larger vehicles, like SUVs, have a higher center of gravity which increases the risk of a rollover. Smaller vehicles equipped with the latest safety technology are now safer than ever. With curtain air bags, antilock brakes, stability control and even accident avoidance technologies, size of the vehicle is becoming less of a factor.

When purchasing your next vehicle, research crash test ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety before ruling out a small or subcompact car. Some of the top safety rated small and subcompact cars are the 2015 Honda Fit, 2015 Chevrolet Spark, 2015 Subaru Impreza, 2015 Toyota Prius, 2015 Mazda MAZDA3 and the 2015 Lexus CT 200h.

Change Oil Every 3000 Miles

Image courtesy of khunaspix at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of khunaspix at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This myth originates from a couple decades ago. In older engines, 3000 mile oil changes were a necessity. Today, higher quality oil and engines have led to many manufacturer recommendations of 7500 miles or more between oil changes. You won’t hurt your engine by changing your oil too often, but the days of changes every 3000 miles are behind us.

To determine the oil change frequency for your vehicle, consider the following:

1. Refer to your owner’s manual. It should have the manufacturers recommended change frequency for your specific make and model.
2. The oil life gauge provides an easy oil life estimate, but don’t rely completely on this tool.
3. Check your driving style. Stop and go city traffic will dirty engine oil much more quickly than steady highway driving.

Manual Transmission = Fuel Efficiency

Some vehicles achieve better fuel efficiency with an automatic transmission while others will achieve better fuel economy with a manual transmission. Generally there is little or no difference between the two. Driving a stick may be a lot more fun, but it doesn’t always mean giant savings at the pump.

This car myth lives strong because it was true only a few years ago. In older vehicles, a manual transmission was slightly more fuel efficient because automatic transmissions were not as advanced as they are today. If you’re debating between a stick and an automatic, don’t let difference in fuel efficiency change your mind.

Overdrive Makes the Car Go Faster

5 car myths debunkedOverdrive is all about efficiency, not intensity. It’s a gear in your vehicle with a high gear ratio, designed to reduce RPMs and fuel consumption at highway speeds. The result of overdrive is a relaxed and efficient cruise on the highway. So when you get home from work today, put up the leg rest on your chair, sip some tea and relax into overdrive.

From Power Rangers Operation Overdrive to Maximum Overdrive the movie, this car myth is everywhere. When your favorite action hero yells, “Let’s kick it into overdrive!” everything in the scene intensifies, right? As usual, Hollywood is not mirroring reality.

Bottom line, you can’t believe everything you hear about vehicles. Many of these car myths are spread with good intentions, but just don’t hold true with in the modern automotive landscape. There are still hundreds of car myths that need debunked. Which myths are you tired of hearing?


Darrek Olson
Darrek Olson

Darrek is an enthusiast driver who values the journey more than the destination. A self-proclaimed Miata fanboy, his obscure knowledge of cars sometimes prevents him from remembering what he had for breakfast.

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  1. Avatar
    Adam Baber January 30, 2016

    So od off will make your car a little faster?

    1. Avatar
      Darrek Olson September 22, 2016

      Overdrive just means that the wheels are rotating faster than the engine. Many vehicles use overdrive gears to achieve better fuel efficiency when cruising at high speeds. When you floor the accelerator, an automatic transmission will shift out of overdrive gear, and into a lower gear to achieve better acceleration. It is generally only suggested to turn off overdrive when pulling trailers so the engine is not “lugged”.

      So, to answer your question, turning off OD will not make your car accelerate faster, nor will it increase the top speed.

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