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Category: Car Buying

What is the ‘Chicken Tax’ and why is it bad for imported trucks?


If you’re an American fan of small pickups and other utility vehicles, you may often find yourself reading about unobtanium models that are sold in what seems like every automotive market but our own. Hey, this is America. We love trucks, right? Even tiny ones like the Ford Maverick have proven wildly successful, suggesting that small trucks imported from overseas could perform similarly well. So why don’t we see them? Blame the Chicken Tax. 

What is the Chicken Tax?

You’d be forgiven for assuming the Chicken Tax has something to do with transporting barn fowl, but believe it or not, the two are almost entirely unrelated. So how is it that we live in a world where chickens are to blame for expensive imported pickup trucks? Well, the simple (and simultaneously quite complex) answer is “politics.”

Essentially, “Chicken Tax” is a complete misnomer. It refers to an import tariff imposed on (among several other things) light-duty trucks. It gets its name not from its purpose, but from its genesis: it was conceived as part of a series of retaliatory tariffs intended to punish Europe for taxing American chicken exports. So there were chickens involved at some point, you see, just not in any way that relates to cars. The story is pretty wild, and we’ll refer you to this excellent Writeup by Wired if you’d like the full version.

How much is the Chicken Tax?

This is no small penalty: The import tariff on light duty trucks was set at 25%. That’s stiff enough to deter quite a bit of overseas competition, and as some automakers have learned, difficult (and not to mention costly) to circumvent. Ford recently settled a decade-long “Chicken Tax” investigation over its importation of Transit Connect utility vans in a way that it still maintains was compliant with U.S. regulations. Needless to say, federal regulators disagreed.

What does it apply to?

Nominally, the tariff was imposed on light trucks, but given how broadly that definition is used in today’s regulatory environment, it’s really more accurate to say that the Chicken Tax applies to utility vans and pickup trucks. Passenger vans and SUVs are exempt from the Chicken Tax, but not exempt entirely from import taxes. They’re assessed at a far more reasonable 2.5%. That’s why you see plenty of imported crossovers and sport ‘utes on the road, but not nearly as many trucks or cargo vans. 

In the early days, overseas manufacturers found ways around the Tax by exporting “chassis cab” models to the U.S. At that point, a bed would be attached to the rear frame and the entire truck could be sold as a pickup. This loophole was eventually closed. The Subaru Brat (as featured in the Wired story above) famously came with two jump seats in the back to qualify as a “passenger” vehicle until the law was adjusted to account for anything with a bed, jump seats or not. Womp-womp. 

Who pays the Chicken Tax?

In theory, the Chicken Tax is a cost eaten by the manufacturer and baked into the car or truck’s sticker price. In practice, very few manufacturers are subject to the Chicken Tax in 2024 because most trucks and cargo vehicles sold in the United States are built here. The rare exceptions tend to be smaller boutique builders whose customers may not love paying extra, but are likely able to afford it. 

 



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What does ABS mean on a car? Understanding anti-lock braking system


There are a lot of opaque initialisms associated with cars that can be confusing when you see them on a spec sheet or a badge right on the vehicle. One such example is ABS, which has nothing to do with a gym rat’s six-pack. ABS stands for anti-lock brake system or anti-lock braking system. It describes an automatic feature that senses when a wheel is about to lock up and then reduces brake pressure at that wheel briefly to prevent it. You may have noticed the ABS light flashing or lighting up solid on your dashboard, which can mean a few different things.

How ABS works

Before ABS, new drivers were taught to “pump the brakes” in situations where the wheels are likely to lock up, such as when driving on a wet or icy road. A wheel will lock up when the tire mounted to it exceeds its available grip under braking. This can send the vehicle into a skid. To prevent that undesirable outcome, drivers were taught to pulse brake pressure, giving the tires a chance to regain traction before attempting to slow the vehicle again.

Anti-lock brakes made that pumping a thing of the past. Using sensors at the wheels, the control electronics can sense when a lockup is imminent and very briefly release the pressure to the system, usually only to the specific wheel in question. This manifests in a quick pulsating noise and some vibration in the brake pedal. Although these can be unsettling sensations, it’s important for drivers of an ABS-equipped vehicle to know that they should keep their foot planted on the stop pedal, allowing the system to handle the pumping. ABS can pump the brakes more quickly and precisely than any human.

It’s a good idea for new drivers to experience this feedback in a safe environment; an empty, rain-soaked parking lot is a good option. Just get up to speed and then press firmly on the brake pedal until the car comes to a full stop. Hopefully when the system comes on in a real emergency the driver will trust it to do its job instead of backing off of the pedal.

What does it mean when the ABS light appears on my dashboard?

When ABS is active, the indicator light on your dashboard will flash quickly to let you know it’s working. If you see the ABS light constantly illuminated, however, it’s a signal that something’s wrong. Depending on the problem and the vehicle, this could mean that ABS is not working or is working at reduced capacity. Potential causes include problems with the wheel sensors, an issue with the electro-hydraulic ABS pump, or something amiss within the ABS control module.

If you see this light on your dash, it’s time to pull out your owner’s manual to see what to do. In most cases, you’ll want to drive the vehicle as if ABS isn’t functioning – which means leaving extra space between your car and the one ahead to account for longer stoping distances and manually pumping the brakes any time you sense a lockup – and get the car to a mechanic to address and rectify the problem.

ABS used to be a novelty

Automotive anti-lock brakes were first offered on the 1966 Jensen FF, followed closely by systems offered by Ford (Sure-Track in 1969) and General Motors (Track Master in 1971). All of those early systems acted only on the rear wheels; the first car to offer four-wheel ABS was the 1971 Chrysler Imperial with the Sure Brake system. Although it’s often credited with pioneering anti-lock braking systems, Mercedes-Benz didn’t roll out its version until the 1978 S-Class. The Mercedes system was the first to use digital control, however.

When anti-lock braking systems first showed up on the market, manufacturers often put a small badge on the car (usually on a front fender or somewhere on the rear) to tell folks that it was equipped with this new safety system. As the technology became more prevalent, such telltales went away.

The feature began proliferating throughout the market in the 1980s, and by the ’90s it was at least available on most models. The U.S. government mandated the inclusion of ABS along with electronic stability control in 2012 as part of FMVSS 126. Any vehicle produced to be sold in the U.S. from September of that year required the system be included as standard equipment.

Today, anti-lock brakes are becoming commonplace on motorcycles, and many safety advocates are pushing for the system to be mandated on two-wheelers. Automatic emergency braking, a safety system that relies one ABS to slow a vehicle in the event of an impending collision, will be required on vehicles produced for U.S. sale from September 2029.



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Best used trucks to buy in 2024


American car buyers have an almost unbelievable affinity for pickup trucks of all shapes and sizes. For just about as long as pretty much anyone reading this can likely remember, the best-selling vehicles overall in the United States have been trucks, led for 42 years by the Ford F-Series (it’s been the best-selling truck for 47 consecutive years), closely followed by competitors like the Chevrolet Silverado, Ram and GMC Sierra lineups. This being the case, it certainly won’t come as a surprise to see that the best-selling used vehicles in America are also trucks. But which used trucks are the best used trucks to buy in 2024?

iSeeCars, an online resource that bills itself as “a data-driven car search and research company” analyzed over 9.2 million used car sales from the past five model years (that would start in 2018 and end in 2022). After compiling all the numbers, the researchers calculated each vehicle model’s share of used car sales. You can see the list of the best-selling used pickup trucks down below, but before we get to that, let’s highlight some of the used truck buys in America.

Best used trucks to buy in 2024

 

Best used truck under $10,000: 2005-2011 Dodge and Ram Dakota

Dodge Dakota for sale

The Dodge Dakota, which in its final few years was known as the Ram Dakota, with its standard 3.7-liter V6 won’t win any drag races — the optional V8s offered more power, naturally — but a decent Dakota offers the ability to haul and tow for just about the lowest price point in America.

Best full-size truck under $10,000: 2008-2012 Nissan Titan

Nissan Titan for sale

If you need a larger truck than the Dodge Dakota or need to tow heavy loads, your best bet may be an older Nissan Titan with its 5.6-liter V8 engine.

Best used truck under $15,000: Any Toyota Tacoma (but check for rust)

Toyota Tacoma for sale

The Toyota Tacoma is known for reliability and durability. High resale value is another, as well as a cramped interior and below-average comfort, even for a truck. Still, Toyota’s compact Tacoma is likely to offer more years of trouble-free service than anything else in this price range. Expect to see a lot of Tacomas with comparatively high mileage.

Best used full-size truck under $15,000: 2013 or newer Ram 1500

Ram 1500 for sale

Look for a 2013 or newer Ram, and consider choosing the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 and 8-speed automatic combo over the V8 and six-speed auto. The 5.7-liter Hemi V8 is generally a reliable engine, but it’s thirsty and this budget doesn’t allow for a truck new enough to snag the desirable V8/8-speed automatic combination.

Best used pickup truck under $20,000: 2014-2018 Chevrolet Silverado

Chevrolet Silverado for sale

The Chevy Silverado is slightly more affordable than its competitor from Ford, which went to a lightweight aluminum body for the 2015 model year. GM’s V8 engine options are all very solid and have well-earned reputations for durability. The Toyota Tundra is also a solid choice, but it’s not easy to find nice options in this price range.

Best used pickup truck under $25,000: 2015-2019 Ford F-150

Ford F-150 for sale

Look for a 2015 or later Ford F-150 to take advantage of the lighter weight and great capability offered by the aluminum-intensive construction Ford switched to starting that year. Budget buyers should look for an XLT model, and Ford’s base V6 and optional 5.0-liter V8 engines are both solid choices. In fact, the F-150 with the V8 engine offers impressive payload and towing capabilities that match what heavy duty buyers were looking for just a decade or so previously.

Best used compact pickup truck under $25,000: 2016-2019 Toyota Tacoma

Toyota Tacoma for sale

A redesign of the Toyota Tacoma for the 2016 model year brought about welcome changes to the best-selling compact truck, but it’s still less refined and less comfortable than most of its competition.

Best car-like used pickup truck under $25,000: 2017-2019 Honda Ridgeline

Honda Ridgeline for sale

The Honda Ridgeline’s car-like ride and handling come courtesy of a car-like unibody design. It can’t tow like a proper full-size pickup truck, but it’s more efficient and more comfortable for daily use.

 

Best-selling used trucks over the past five years

  1. Ford F-150: 21.9% of all used truck sales
  2. Chevrolet Silverado: 17.7% of all used truck sales
  3. Ram 1500: 14.0% of all used truck sales
  4. Toyota Tacoma: 9.1% of all used truck sales
  5. GMC Sierra: 8.1% of all used truck sales

No real surprises there. The Ford F-Series is the best-selling new nameplate, and the light-duty Ford F-150 is the best-selling used vehicle overall. Ford’s popular truck takes top honors as the best-selling used vehicle in 34 out of the 50 states in America. In second spot is the Chevy Silverado (below left), which, for what it’s worth, is the best-seller in the state of Iowa.

It is interesting to note that the Ram 1500 (below right) actually fell behind the Chevrolet Equinox crossover on the overall chart that includes all vehicle types. Chevy’s compact crossover barely edged out the fullsize Ram truck for third-place when all vehicle styles were included, but the numbers were so close between the ‘ute and the pickup that they both claimed roughly 2.1% of the overall market.

“Trucks have been so dominant in the U.S. market for so long that it’s strange to see the Ram lose its top-three ranking, even to an SUV as popular as the Chevrolet Equinox,” said Karl Brauer, iSeeCars Executive Analyst, who goes on to offer a reasonable explanation. “This shift reflects the jump in gas prices during 2023, which led many consumers to move away from large trucks and SUVs and into smaller, more fuel-efficient models.”

The Toyota Tacoma is the best-selling midsize pickup truck in America, easily outselling its larger sibling, the Toyota Tundra (a truck that doesn’t even crack the top 20 overall). As well as the Tacoma sells, however, it is outsold on the used market by well-known nameplates like the Toyota Camry, RAV4 and Corolla, Honda Civic and CR-V, Ford Explorer and Escape, and the Nissan Rogue and Jeep Grand Cherokee.

In fifth spot on the used trucks list and 17th overall, the GMC Sierra is almost identical to the Chevrolet Silverado underneath its skin, with similar powertrains and interior technology. Combining the sales of the Silverado and Sierra would put General Motors in the top light-duty used truck position by manufacturer, ahead of Ford.

Trucks that don’t appear on the list include fullsize models like the aforementioned Toyota Tundra and the Nissan Titan, as well as mid-size nameplates like the Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon, Ford Ranger, Honda Ridgeline, Jeep Gladiator and Nissan Frontier. The resurgence of the compact truck market, which currently consists of the Ford Maverick and Hyundai Santa Cruz, means we could see some smaller trucks crack their way onto the list in the coming years.



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What is the most expensive car in the world?


Highlighting one single vehicle as the most expensive car in the world isn’t as straightforward as you might think. To get a solid answer, we’re going to have to break the question into a couple of parts. First, we’ll discuss the most expensive new car in the world, and second, the most expensive collector car in the world. And by the end of the article, you’ll be armed with the information you’re looking for: What is the most expensive car in the world?

Before we get into the stratospheric numbers, let’s take a step back and put things in perspective. For the last year or so, the average transaction price for a new car has hovered right around $48,000. That’s almost 10 grand more than new cars cost in 2019, before the pandemic. What will that buy you today? Well, you can get a midrange Ford F-150, a Kia Telluride, or a Ford Mustang GT with a few options. Not bad when you consider that these choices are among the best in their respective classes.

At the very bottom of the spectrum is the Nissan Versa, which is available brand new for well under $20,000. Sure, there are a few anomalies such as the Changli Nemica (it’s kinda a car, though not exactly street legal here in America) that can be ordered from Alibaba for about $1,000 to start, but there are a bunch of hidden costs, including shipping.

Most expensive car in 2024: Rolls-Royce Droptail

Price: $30 million

Outside of the classic car market, the most expensive new vehicle in the world is the Rolls-Royce Droptail. So far, three Droptail models have been built, one called the Arcadia Droptail, one in ruby tones called La Rose Noire Droptail and one called the Amethyst Droptail. The latest example, the Arcadia, is painted in a white shade that is infused with aluminum and glass particles for a pearl-like effect that adds depth. Past that, the overall design of all three Droptails remains largely unchanged with an upright grille, thin rear lights, and a rounded back end.

Like other extremely luxurious and expensive nautical-themed cars from Rolls-Royce — see the 2017 Sweptail and the 2021 Boat Tail — the Droptail is a very rare machine. There’s a solid chance the lone remaining version will cost even more than the $30 million-plus cost of the La Rose Noire.

For those keeping track, the Rolls-Royce Boat Tail, which was previously the most expensive car in the world at $28 million, was the first model to emerge from the company’s Coachbuild department that caters to the profanely wealthy. Case in point, the first Boat Tail commission is for a pearl magnate. To put the price in perspective, The Boat Tail’s asking price was equivalent to 1,797 Nissan Sentras.

Other notable cars that cost more than a million dollars in 2024:

  1. McLaren Elva: $1.7 million
  2. Hennessey Venom GT: $1.8 million
  3. Bentley Bacalar: $1.9 million
  4. SSC Tuatara: $2.0 million
  5. Pininfarina Battista: $2.2 Million
  6. Lotus Evija: $2.3 million
  7. Rimac Nevera: $2.4 Million
  8. Lamborghini Sian: $3.7 million
  9. Bugatti Bolide: $4.3 million
  10. Pagani Codalunga: $7.4 million

The most expensive car sold at auction: 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300

Price: $142 million

Let’s start at the top, with the most expensive car ever sold at auction. The 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe Prototype sold for $142 million in 2022. RM Sotheby’s sold it on behalf of Mercedes-Benz at a private auction held at the carmaker’s museum in Stuttgart, Germany. It’s one of two prototypes made, with the other remaining in Mercedes’ keeping. The new owner remains unnamed for the moment, but we do know what Mercedes did with some of the money. Some funds went to establish a scholarship for students in the environmental science and decarbonization fields.

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