Showing posts with label Cars. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cars. Show all posts
My Model 3 Driving Itself

About 2.5 years ago, Tesla posted a video of a self-driving Model X.  It completely blew my mind!  You can see it in my old post about autonomous driving.  Elon Musk then promised an autonomous cross country trip by the end of 2017. That year came and went and then another year without any meaningful progress.  This, by the way, is called "Elon time".  However, with most things from promising to land rockets back on Earth to building hundreds of thousands of Model 3s in a year, I think autonomous driving will come to fruition soon.

There are a handful of Tesla owners in my readership and I know you guys already know all this stuff, but the large majority of people who read my blog aren't really that much of a fanatic as I am with Tesla and Elon Musk.  So, the above video is something that will give you a look into what is already available in Teslas.  I personally took that video a couple of weeks ago while I (or really, the car) was driving to the airport (for a Turo dropoff).

Tesla released what they call "Navigate on Autopilot" several months ago.  You probably know what Autopilot is.  It is essentially a glorified adaptive cruise control.  It will follow a lane and also brake according to the car in front of you.  If a car swerves into your lane, it will also be able to maneuver out of the way if it was safe to do so.  Navigate on Autopilot is a step up from there.  You set a destination on the navigation system (and this only works on highways right notw), and the car will know what lanes to take and which exits to take on the route to take you all the way to the destination highway off-ramp.  However, Tesla had disabled the auto-lane change; so, the driver must accept the lane change by pressing on the turn signal stalk, that is, until a few weeks ago.

The user can now disable lane change acknowledgement and allow the car change lanes by itself.  The car still requires you to keep your hands on the wheel and will alert you when it's trying to change a lane via a tone and/or vibration on the steering wheel.  If you watch the video, for the entire 1:17 of the drive, the car was essentially driving itself.  I started taking the video on the on-ramp to the 401.  The car then changes lanes 3 times by itself, while avoiding cars that were driving along in the lane that it was trying to get into.  I don't think I need to talk much more...just watch the video!  If a picture is a thousand words, then a video is a million words!

On April 22, Tesla will be holding an Autonomy Investor Day to show off the next steps in autonomous driving.  Elon Musk has been very vocal about autonomous driving recently and has made a number of statements about how close Tesla is to full self-driving.  Below is an interview he did with MIT research scientist, Lex Friedman, on autonomous driving and AI.  It's a long video but well worth the time.  One thing that he said, which I thought was very interesting was, "I think it will become very quickly, maybe even towards the end of this year, but I would say I'd be shocked if it's not next year, at the latest, that having a human intervene will decrease safety."  I look forward to that day!


Read Further to See How I Can Afford This Thing!

In my last post, I talked about the family and what we were up to in 2018.  Today's post is about money.  As most of you will agree, raising a family requires a lot of resources, and money is definitely one of the important ones.  So, I'm going to tell you about one of the things I did on the money front.

Owning a Tesla for Free?
Back in late 2017, I read an article on Business Insider about a couple using a car-sharing app called Turo, to pay for their two Teslas.  This got me interested as I had reserved a Model 3 back in 2016.  At that time, Tesla advertised that it was going to be a $35,000 (USD) car.  With the savings in gas on my daily commute of 100 km+, that would not be such a heavy burden.  However, as 2017 progressed, it became apparent that the $35,000 car wasn't going to be in sight for quite some time (it's still not here yet).  So, having read this article, I have renewed hope that I was somehow going to be able to make it work.

In January 2018, I decided to buy a used Honda Accord with 2 things in mind.  First, my mom's old Toyota Matrix needed to replaced at some point.  The Accord could very well be it.  I could also use this car as a pilot vehicle to try out Turo and see if I could make some money.  That is exactly what I did.  At first, I listed it at around $40 to $45/day, but wasn't getting any rentals.  After joining a Facebook group of Turo owners, I learned that pricing will need to be tweaked to find the sweet spot.  After lowering it to low to mid $30s, I got my first rental.  It went ok but was only a 1-day rental.  Then, a couple who newly immigrated here from Brazil rented the car for a month straight!  I was ecstatic, as that meant I didn't have to do any cleaning, vacuuming, or really anything when the car was away.  Since then, my poor mother did not end up driving that Accord much! 🤷


Soon after, I replaced my aging 12-year old Prius with a 6-year old Lexus CT.  Since I didn't really need the car on weekends (we went everywhere in our Odyssey), I would put that car on Turo on the weekends as well. 


And soon after that, Tesla told me that I was then able to place the order for the Model 3.  There was really no choice in trim level or options at that point; only the long range battery with RWD and premium package was available.  The car with destination fees and taxes would be more than $80,000!  Up to that point in time, I had never spent more than $25,000 on a car.  That was a great departure from my usual frugal (...more like stingy...) self.  Seeing that the Liberal government had a fairly good chance of losing the election, I bit the bullet and ordered the Model 3, in hopes that it would arrive in time for me to take advantage of the $14,000 rebate.  In the end, I was able to submit my rebate application before Doug Ford ended it.  It still feels somewhat unreal that I now drive such an expensive car!


Thus far, the Model 3 has been able to pay for its monthly car payments.  So, Turo is kind of the real deal.  You can say it's the AirBnb for cars.  Some of you are wondering how I could even let someone else drive the Tesla without worrying to death...to which I respond that I would rather own a Tesla and let someone else drive it once in a while than not owning one at all.

Some Details
I think some of you may be intrigued at this point and would like to know more.  So, I will give you some details.  With the Accord and CT, I have been able to net $300-400 per month.  This would be after all costs including insurance, depreciation, interests, maintenance, repairs, etc. etc.  The daily rate ranges from $28 to $40 (higher in summer months) and utilization is probably around 25 days a month, +/- a couple of days.  There are also extras like delivery, cleaning charges, late fees, etc. that boost my revenue.  Turo takes 25% of that, but provides full insurance coverage when the car is rented out.  So, if a guest crashes the car, it would not hit my personal insurance policy, and there is no deductible for me.  I get paid fully on the damages or value of the car if it is totaled.  This is also fully legit with my insurance company, The Personal.  Turo, in fact, partners with a bunch of insurance companies, including Belair Direct, Intact, Desjardins, etc.

As with any venture, there is no free lunch.  I do have to put in some work.  Most of it is cleaning the car after each rental, and occasionally, delivering and picking up from the airport.  It is, however, much better than driving Uber, in terms of time investment.  I would say I spend about 4 to 8 hours a week managing 4 cars right now.


Some have asked me if I were spending money paying for cars, why not buy a house and rent it out.  Renting out cars and renting out real property are two different business models.  Renting out a house is usually a cash flow negative business (i.e. the rent you receive will not be able to pay for all your expenses + mortgage), but you are hoping for the asset to appreciate.  That's where you would make your money.  Renting out a car has to be a cash flow positive business, because your asset is a depreciating asset.  If you're not cash flow positive, then forget about it.  As I mentioned at the start, I need money to raise a family (i.e. cash flow), which is why Turo is my kind of business.

As a host, I can certainly see how Turo is indeed the AirBnb for cars.  Like AirBnb, it provides such a good experience for both the host and the guest.  Like many people, I've rented cars from Avis, Budget, Enterprise, etc. and the experience pretty much is always sub-par.  First, you book a class of the car you want, but never know what car you will actually get.  Then, you are greeted by an expressionless customer service rep at the counter.  The paperwork usually takes 15 minutes, most of which consists of hard selling extras like insurance, prepaid gas, damage waivers and the like, before you finally get assigned a bland car that excites exactly no one.  Contrast that with Turo, there is literally no paperwork required and you can pick the exact car you want.  The review system gives you peace of mind that the host you're dealing with will likely provide you an excellent experience.  Lastly, Turo hosts will often deliver to curbside at the airport, just like how your friend would pick you up, except they leave you with their beautiful car.  When I was in Florida, I used Turo and preferred it over the traditional car rental places.

Shameless Self-Promotion
So, the next time you need to rent a car, take a look at Turo and see if it meets your needs. In fact, let me shamelessly provide you my referral link!  https://turo.com/c/felixw41  If you sign up using this link and rent a car, both you and I get $25 USD in Turo credit!  Also, check out my fleet; if you have guests coming into town, I'd be glad to help if they needed a car!
Hope You Had a Merry Christmas!


It seems like I've settled on writing once every few months, and sometimes in bursts. Life, as a father of five, as you can imagine, is busy, but that's no excuse for not getting things done. As the saying goes, "if you want to get something done, ask a busy person." (It is with great pride to say that people often ask me to do things for them.)  Prioritizing and extreme focus are keys to achieving goals in a busy environment. However, I sometimes lack either or both. So, while it has been an eventful year, I wish I had been more successful in doing the two things above.

This post has been greatly inspired by our friend, Stella, who has been very religious in sending us an annual update of their family during the Christmas season. I love reading them and thought it'd be a good idea to do something of my own here.  I hope you will enjoy this long one!

Let's start with the kids, shall we?

Amelia Was Born


Merry Christmas Everyone!

Of course, the biggest event of 2018 was the birth of Amelia in January!  She has been a wonderfully easy baby. Either that or we've gotten into the groove by now... Or probably both! :)  Her older siblings adore her and are so helpful in keeping an occasional eye on her while we cook, clean, etc.

Amelia is a happy baby. Anytime anyone speaks to her, a glowing smile would appear on her face and she would get so excited. She has been saying "mama" and "baba" for quite some time now. Also being very mobile, she's crawling and cruising everywhere and putting anything that's in her path into her mouth! Yikes!


Cutie Pie Anne

Look at Those Big Round Eyes! <3

Anne just turned 3 in January and has developed quite a vocabulary. She's pretty much fully bilingual now, but is still a bit more proficient in Cantonese. Our favourite phrase that she would say, when she can't find a book she's looking for, is "Perhaps Daddy donated it (可能爸爸捐咗)."  We couldn't stop laughing.  She said this because I'm constantly asking the kids to pick out some of the 2000 books they own to donate.  It's so cute to hear her speak in very coherent sentences.  When we went to take pictures with Santa, Santa asked her, "and what would you like for Christmas?"  As she shyly looked at him with her big round eyes, I wondered if she knew what he was asking. To my surprise, she answered with a short and sweet, "Princess!" I chuckled softly at that.


Audrey the Mischievous Girly Girl


In Front of Cinderella's Castle

Audrey is in SK this year. She's now able to read simple Seussian sentences like, "The hat is on the cat."  She started school as a very quiet student but now has warmed up in class. Being the middle child, she's very dramatic at times. She's a girly girl and wants to wear dresses all the time. She's also gotten the artistic genes from mommy and likes to draw.  Just last weekend, she received 2nd place in a colouring contest at Chinese Martyrs.  I feel like she'll grow up to be the girl that everyone wants to hang out with, because of her fun loving nature.


Athan the Maturing Young Man


His Tastes are Definitely Grown Up!

Athan has matured quite a bit. When he was 3 and was going to Montessori, the teacher once sent home a letter complaining how he would not listen in class and can't seem to keep his hands to himself. We were very worried and continued to worry about him until his SK year.  It has been a gradual but very visible turn for the better. He even got the All Round Performance award in his class last year! This year, he started piano and is enjoying it so far.  The most impressive thing is that he's often the first to wake up by himself on a school day, gets dressed and finishes breakfast before mommy is even out of bed (although the motivation is to play video games before leaving for school '-_- ).  We're really happy with his progress!


Adele the Big Sister


Little Young Lady

Without a doubt, Adele is the big sister.  She is super responsible and is always helpful.  "Adele, can you get your sister buckled?...Adele, can you look after Amelia for a minute?...Adele, can you brush Anne's teeth?"  These are often our requests and she would have no problem helping us.  We're so thankful for her help.

This winter, she got interested in Harry Potter and have been reading the set of books.  She has now far exceeded our reading speed, plowing through the 800-page novel in a day...how is that even possible??  Many parents want to encourage their kids to read more, but we're faced with the problem of Adele reading too much!  She would even walk up the stairs very slowly while reading a novel!  I recall when I was still doing my Master of Theological Studies at U of T that I struggled with all of the reading assignments.  Each week, we would be assigned hundreds of pages of readings and on top of that, write pages of reflections.  I'm sure she will be more like my fellow students, who had no issue with the readings, than me, who struggled to read half of the assigned readings!


Trip to Orlando

In September, just a week after school started, we took a week off to go to Orlando.  Why in the middle of September after school started?  Well, earlier I met up with my old boss, Michael, from ATS, and he told me about how he brought his wife and 7 kids (!!) to Orlando the week after school started and it was awesome.  If that man can recommend going the week after the start of school, who am I to question his wisdom!?!

Indeed, we had an awesome time.  Since September was still Hurricane season and school had just started, the crowds were so much smaller than at other times.  The longest line that we waited in was an hour at Space Mountain.  All other lines were under 45 minutes and sometimes, none at all, when using Fast Passes.  And in terms of weather - perfect!  The days were hot, but surely not as hot as in July and August, and it only rained for about 30 minutes the entire time we were there.  We did get a bit anxious seeing Hurricane Florence just miss Florida and made landing in the Carolinas instead.  But speaking with locals, they say that Orlando is actually very well situated; most hurricanes land either north or south of the area, which may be why Disney World and other attractions were built here.

Anyway, we won't go into too much detail about Disney or Universal here...but I did want to talk about how we got there.  I had been watching airfares for a better part of the year and was recently made aware of Frontier Airlines, which is a budget airline that flies mainly in the US.  There were some fairly good deals throughout the year, but for this trip, I found one that was simply unbeatable.  My first choice was to fly out of Buffalo for obvious reasons, but the flights were still not as cheap as I'd like them to be.  I then increased my search radius and that gave me 3 more airports to search from: Detroit, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh, all of which were about 4-6 hours drive away.  Then I found it, the impossible fare!  I found a direct flight from Pittsburgh to Orlando for $40 USD round trip!  With luggage, we ended up paying $350 USD for the entire family - 7 human beings!  To top that off, my travel credit card gave me a rebate of $100 CAD for luggage fees.  In the end, we paid about $60 CAD per person.  So, go ahead and visit Frontier Airlines and send me a cheque for all the money you're going to save!

Lastly, here's a super funny video of "Meet the Raptor" attraction at Islands of Adventure.  It was so well done!

Meet the Raptor at Universal's Islands of Adventure

Surf's Up!




Battling Darth Vader at Hollywood Studios

Seuss Landing at Islands of Adventure

Fireworks Were Worth Staying Late For!

My Favourite Attraction: Meeting Princesses!

Swimming at Resort

In Pittsburgh Just Before Flying Out


Stay Tuned!
There's much more to 2018!  Stay tuned!
Goodbye, Prius!

It's been a good run! As you may have remembered, my 2006 Prius recently crossed the 1/3rd millionth kilometre. I decided that I will let another lucky guy enjoy its great fuel economy and awesome reliability.  The real reason for selling it was that I felt the car was about to require some major repair. For example, the engine has been burning oil and the ride has become very harsh. If anything broke, I wasn't going to sink anymore money into it. If it were to break down, it'd probably go directly to the junkyard, and I'd get maybe $500 if not less for it. So, I thought I'd try my luck selling it and see if I can get a decent sum for it, especially since it has a newish (2.5 year) hybrid battery.

So, last month, I finally cleaned the car after something like 5 years!  See the pics below. I thought I did a fairly decent job! Finally, after some hours of negotiation with a potential buyer, I was able to strike a deal for $1900. Initially, I was hoping for $2000,but after the deal was done, I reflected on it and realized that I got a pretty darn good deal.... $1900 for a 12-year old car with 345K km on it!



I know there are some who are still skeptical about the economics of hybrids, nevermind EVs. So, here, I will compare the total cost of ownership between my 2006 Prius and a hypothetical 2006 Matrix, bought in 2010 and sold in 2018.

The calculations as as below and are fairly straightforward.  Let me explain a few things.

  1. When I bought the car back in 2010, Ontario had a PST rebate for hybrid cars and at that time, when you bought a used car through a private sale, you only had to pay the PST, and not the GST.  With my purchase, I got the 8% PST back in the form of a rebate.
  2. Maintenance, repair, and parts costs racked up to $9780, with almost half of it being a rebuild of the hybrid battery at $1130 and then a replacement of the battery at $3400.  In hindsight, I should have just replaced the battery the first time it failed...could have saved $1130.
  3. I assumed the maintenance and repair costs of the Matrix to be the same as my Prius minus the hybrid battery repairs.
  4. As you can see, gas savings for my kind of driving came in at around $7900 over the 8 years I had the car.  This is no small feat!  I saved the environment 15130 kg of carbon dioxide in the process.  Fuel savings, $7900...clear conscience, priceless! :)

In the end, the total savings weren't astronomical.  I saved around $2323.  If I had not had the battery rebuilt, the savings would have been $3453.  That would have been a 7% savings in the total cost of ownership.  Not great, but still better than $0 savings!  And again, helping the environment is a definite benefit, that has not been factored into this purely monetary analysis.

I'm sure if the comparison was done against a Yaris, the Prius would probably have been more expensive to own/operate, but that would not be an apples-to-oranges comparison.


TCO Comparison
Compare Total Cost of Ownership Between Prius and Matrix
Parameters
Distance driven (km)253000
Years owned8
Average gas price per L$1.20
2006 Prius2006 Matrix
Purchase Price$14,650.00$12,000.00
Taxes (PST)0$960.00
Insurance cost per year12001200
Fuel economy (L/100 km)5.58.1
Selling Price$1,900$1,250
Total Maintenance/Repair/Parts$9,780.00$5,250.00
Car Cost$12,750.00$11,710.00
Insurance Cost$9,600.00$9,600.00
Gas Cost$16,698.00$24,591.60
Maintenance/Repair/Parts Cost$9,780.00$5,250.00
Total Cost of Ownership$48,828.00$51,151.60
Difference$2,323.60


Goodbye, Prius...Welcome CT!

You might be wondering what I'm driving now...here she is!  2012 Lexus CT200h.  It's pretty much a Prius with a Lexus flavour.  Bought it for $11700 + tax...it's definitely not a new car with 145K km on it, but it's in decent condition.  After owning it for a few weeks, it's really growing on me.  The interior is 5 times better than the Prius, and it's just a cooler car.  Only down side is it's a smaller car, but since it's my commuter, I'm usually not subjecting anyone to the smaller interior.  It's still a very comfortable car, just not as roomy and practical as the Prius.

The previous owner was a smoker...so it still has some smoke smell.  Airing it under the sun for a few hours has definitely helped, but the smell still lingers.  Any suggestions?







We made it!  1/3 million kilometers!  This is my beloved 2006 Toyota Prius.  I bought it in 2010 when it was 4 years old with 90,000 km on it.  Since then, I've put more than 240,0000 km on it.  Many people wonder if it costs more to maintain a hybrid, and the simple answer is yes.  However, let me get into the details.

In the almost 8 years that I've had the car, there were a total of 4 repairs that I had to make.  First, the front wheel bearings had to be replaced at 163,000 km.  Then, the hybrid battery started failing at 232,0000 km, and I opted to have it rebuilt for $1000.  This was a mistake, because after a bit more than a year, it started failing again.  This time, I decided to have it replaced for $3000.  Around the same time, the front bearings went again.  So, in total, I spent around $5200 + tax in repairs.  Then, there were other regular maintenance stuff like brakes, 12V battery, etc.  So, the real difference between a non-hybrid car and my Prius would be the battery repairs of $4000.  If I had been smarter about replacing the battery, my hybrid repairs would have costed only $3000 (the battery is still going strong now).

That's the cost side.  Now, to the savings.  I had a Matrix before I bought the Prius.  So, if I had kept that car, let's see what the savings would be like.  On the Matrix, I believe I averaged about 8.5 L/100 km.  On the Prius, I averaged about 5.2 L/100 km.  So, after 240,000 km, assuming the average gas price is $1.20/L, I've saved a total of $9504.  This is compared to ~$4520 in hybrid related repairs.  The net is $4984 savings, plus whatever environmental benefits by burning 7920 L less gasoline or producing roughly 42000 lbs less CO2!  I'd say that's pretty good!

However, the cost of a hybrid is more than a similar non-hybrid car.  Luckily, I bought the car used and it cost me < $15000 (no tax paid due to a government rebate at the time).  I believe a Matrix of the same age would have cost around $12500 but I would have had to pay taxes on it, which would bring it to within $1000 of the cost of the Prius.  So, in the end, I've come out on top both financially and ethically!  I think this was a pretty good decision.

So, the natural next step for me would be to go full electric.  As some of you know, I have a reservation for a Tesla Model 3.  Tesla recently updated the delivery timeline and they are now forecasting mid-2018 for delivery.  It's been just some idea for the past 1.5 years but now it's becoming very real.  It's a bit surreal, in fact.  It will be the first new car that I will have bought (because I hate the depreciation of cars in their first 3 years).  However, the $14000 Ontario rebate is pretty darn good to pass up.  The fact that it happens to be quicker than a Ferrari Testarossa in 0-60 mph time is also pretty awesome!  Lastly, as well, I just want to fall asleep at the wheel! ;)
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