Tips to get that 'new-car' feeling in your ride

LOS ANGELES A new car can be appealing, but these days many family budgets have tightened up.

"It's probably a safe assumption that people are hanging onto their cars longer, or they're buying used," said Mike Quincy, Consumer Reports auto specialist.

So how about sprucing up the old ride to put off buying new?

Start up front with the plastic headlights. Are they dull and yellow? There are several restoration kits on the market. We decided to give one from Mothers a try.

You'll need a drill. If you don't have one, you probably know someone who does. Follow the instructions, and your old headlights can look like new.

While we're outside the car, consider a professional multistep paint detail. It's not just a coat of wax, it's a rejuvenation. Expect to pay $125 to $150 for an average-size car.

One of the first things you see when you step into your car might be a worn and grimy floor mat. California Car Cover in Chatsworth has new custom-fit mats in any color.

"We can match whatever you need. You come here with any shade of brown or any shade of gray, we have it all," said Tony DeFrank, executive director, California Car Cover.

A pair starts at less than $100.

Here's something many don't think about: getting your tires re-balanced -- even if they're far from worn out -- for a smooth, new-car ride.

"All it takes is one pothole, or one curb, or something that knocks a wheel weight off," said Mike Filipek, account manager at Bridgestone America. "All of a sudden you're going to start getting a vibration."

Many people consider a new car in order to get all the latest technology, everything for convenience as well as safety. You can add a lot of new technology to the car you already own.

Add a navigation system or a rear-view camera, things found in many new cars. They can be installed in most any car on the road.

Or how about a camera system called Mobileye? It's like having a second set of eyes on the road. Some high-end new cars have it. You can put it in your not-so-high-end used car.

"If you're warned that you're drifting out of your lane, you can pull back into your lane and avoid an accident, and that's a good thing," said John Haynes, product manager, Al & Ed's Autosound.

For about the amount of two to three new car payments, your present car can get the latest technology.

So spiff up the old ride and hang onto it. You can always pop for a new car next year -- or the year after.

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