America’s ‘hottest’ cars

And by ‘hot’ we mean stolen. Here’s where motorists face the highest car-theft rates and how to best protect your ride no matter where you reside.

By Jim Gorzelany
CTW Features

It seems the Golden State is indeed golden — for auto thieves. Seven out of the 10 U.S. cities suffering the most stolen cars are situated in California, according to the latest “Hot Spots” report issues by the National Insurance Crime Bureau in Des Plaines, Ill.

San Francisco leads all metro areas in the nation in per-capita car thefts, with more than 29,000 vehicles purloined during 2014. The only non-California cities on the NICB’s top-10 list were Odessa, Texas, and the Spokane and Seattle, Wash. regions (see the accompanying box for the full list).

On the plus side, the Federal Bureau of Investigation says car thefts are steadily on the decline, with a 5.7 percent reduction in motor vehicle thefts reported during 2013 and 2014; they’re down by a whopping 42.8 percent since 2003. The National Highway Safety Administration attributes the decrease to a variety of factors including the increased use of standard anti-theft devices (especially coded keys, engine immobilizers and vehicle locating systems), parts marking, increased and improved prosecution efforts by law enforcement organizations and heightened public awareness.

As before, older cars are most often valued for the sum of their parts; they’re usually driven away and quickly disassembled at so-called chop shops and sold off piecemeal to shady auto supply stores and mechanics. Meanwhile, newer and flashier stolen cars are more typically sold overseas or offered domestically with altered titles, or are simply taken for what amounts to a joyride.

The latest trend in auto theft involves models being quickly and efficiently dismantled on the spot for top-dollar components, with flashy alloy wheels being increasingly targeted by crooks. “Because it’s harder to steal an entire vehicle these days, thieves are stealing the parts,” says Terri Miller, executive director of the organization Help Eliminate Auto Thefts in Livonia, Mich. “Tires and rims are not marked (for identification) and they are very, very marketable.”

No matter where you live or what you drive, it’s important to take every precaution to protect what is one of a family’s largest expenditures. Aside from the surprisingly often ignored common sense tips like closing the windows and locking the doors, parking in a well-lit area and never leaving the keys in the ignition while the vehicle is unattended, the NICB advises motorists make their vehicles as theftproof as possible.

This includes using an antitheft device, which will often also warrant a discount on your car insurance. Having a simple ignition “kill switch” installed in a hidden location makes it more difficult for a crook to start a car or truck and drive it away.

It’s also a good idea to have your car or truck’s vehicle identification number etched on the windshield and major components to make them more difficult for chop shops to sell as replacement parts.

And especially if you’re driving a costly luxury sedan or sports car, go the extra mile and use a subscription based telematics system like General Motors’ OnStar or similar technology offered by other automakers. Such systems use GPS technology and can help police departments locate cars and trucks if they are stolen. Some cars can even notify their owners if they’re broken into or moved via a connected smartphone app.

© CTW Features


Big or small?

Sharon Peters

Q: Bigger tires or smaller tires for a new SUV I’m buying? It can go either way. I won’t be off-roading or anything like that. What’s your preference? A: Smaller. They’re better from a fuel-economy perspective, and they’re almost always quieter. They cost less, too. Q: My brakes feel a lot “less firm” than they used to. My husband says that’s normal because the car is three years old. Should I worry? A: Please check to make sure your brake fluid level is OK. If it’s low, that’s an easy fix. If that’s not the issue, get it checked for a brake line obstruction.

© CTW Features

What’s your question? Sharon Peters would like to hear about what’s on your mind when it comes to caring for, driving and repairing your vehicle. Email

Circle BMW accepting holiday food donations for FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties

Circle BMW in Eatontown, the region’s premier BMW dealership, announces they are accepting donations of nonperishable food items throughout November and December to support The FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties. This is the seventh year that Circle BMW has opened its doors to the community in support of the FoodBank.

Donations of nonperishable food items will be collected at Circle BMW and delivered to the FoodBank throughout the holiday season. Donations may be dropped off at Circle BMW between 7:30 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 7:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Friday and 8:00 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. Circle BMW is located at 500 Route 36 East, Eatontown (across from the N.J. Motor Vehicle Agency).

Circle BMW is accepting the following non-perishable items for the FoodBank: stuffing and gravy, ready-to-eat canned meals, canned sweet potatoes or yams, canned vegetables, canned fruits, canned cranberry sauce, tuna, peanut butter and jelly, instant potatoes, pasta/rice, macaroni and cheese, canned juices and sip-sized juices, canned and dry soup.

For more information about The FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, call 732-918-2600 or visit

Preferred Home Health Care aides receive awards

Home health aides from Preferred Home Health Care & Nursing Services (PHHC), Eatontown, a company that provides home care for individuals in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, recently received awards at the 2015 Home Health Aide Recognition Day, spon- sored by the Home Care & Hospice Association of N.J., at Gibbs Hall, Suneagles Golf Course, Eatontown, New Jersey.

The Home Health Aide of the Year is awarded to certified home health aides (CHHAs) who have demonstrated excellence, leadership and compassion throughout their careers at their individual branch office locations. The CHHAs of the Year from Preferred are Gertrude Armstrong, Brick, 10+ years of service; Brenda Dundas, South Orange; Onee Ellis, Eatontown; Marie Foster, North Brunswick, 15+ years; Dexter Holmes, Galloway Township; Denise Langston, Mount Laurel, 15+ years; and Aurora Palmer, Mount Laurel, 12+ years. Rookie of the Year awards are given to individuals who have been certified home health aides for less than two years but have already exhibited excellence and growth in the role. PHHC’s Rookie of the Year awards went to Rey Gomez, Galloway; Robin Jackson, Mount Laurel; Joan Mann, North Brunswick; Francisca Pizarro-Espinoza, North Brunswick; Charmone Johnson, South Orange; Marlene Portillo, Brick; Charo Torres, South Orange; and Joyce Winn, Eatontown.

Jonathan Herman, chief operating officer of PHHC, said, “We are all very proud to recognize our hard-working and caring home health aides, who represent Preferred so well in the community. They provide quality care to many clients and families in need.”

Each honoree received an award and a keepsake book with tributes about the contributions home health aides make to the care and safety of their clients.

Home health aides provide support and personal services, such as helping clients with bathing, dressing, and eating. They adhere to professional standards and maintain a safe, secure, and healthy client environment by following federal, state, and local requirements.

For more information about Preferred Home Health Care & Nursing Services, contact Lisa Gallicchio, director of community relations, at 732-840-5566.

Business Briefs

More than 225 supporters recently joined The Unterberg Children’s Hospital Leadership Council and Monmouth Medical Center Foundation to celebrate the second annual “A Toast to Children’s Health” wine-tasting event, benefiting nearly 22,000 pediatric patients from the community who are treated at The Unterberg Children’s Hospital at Monmouth Medical Center.

The event, held at the Rumson Country Club Riverhouse, supports The Unterberg Children’s Hospital Leadership Council’s mission by raising funds to ensure the hospital’s continual success in delivering care that changes children’s lives, restores hope and fosters dreams for tomorrow.

The night also included speakers and patient testimonials, showcased artwork from the Child Life Program and featured the debut of “Paintings for Hope,” a compilation of photographs and artwork by pediatric patients who have been treated at The Unterberg Children’s Hospital at Monmouth Medical Center, including Mya Lin Terry, a 10-year-old Ocean Township girl who passed away in 2013 after battling cancer for more than five years. Donors had the opportunity to sponsor a patient, allowing the patient to be featured in the book, and receive a copy of the completed piece.

“Having spent half of Mya’s life in the hospital, it is our hope that we help ensure that all children like Maya are able to enjoy their childhood, despite health battles they may be facing,” said Kelly L. Terry, Mya’s mom and president of The Mya Lin Terry Foundation, a charitable, non-profit organization created to honor the memory of Mya Lin.

The Leadership Council, led by a group of individuals who serve as ambassadors for the hospital through education and local events, supports Monmouth Medical Center’s commitment to pediatric excellence. Their mission is to educate the community about services available at the hospital, develop philanthropic relationships, and promote the health and wellness of children in the community.

Carriage Gate at Little Silver now offering premium wooded homesites

Carriage Gate at Little Silver, a new community of elegant townhomes located just minutes from Red Bank, is now more than 60 percent sold. Following the successful sell-out of its first two buildings, Carriage Gate is now offering some of the best homesites in the community. Located in the final two buildings, these premium homesites are privately set among trees in the back of the neighborhood. Many buyers are purchasing homes in this phase for spring occupancy, with one quick-delivery home still available.

Carriage Gate at Little Silver has attracted a lot of attention since opening just a year ago. Located in one of Monmouth County’s most desirable settings, it’s the first community to offer newly constructed luxury townhomes in Little Silver in over two decades. This fall, esteemed builder, Kalian Companies, updated and improved upon the already-well-received floorplans at Carriage Gate, for the remaining homes in the community. These newly redesigned floorplans are more open and offer gourmet kitchens that are now standard, with more features such as stainless steel cooktops and wall ovens. Master suites have been expanded, with impressive foyers and entry areas and raised ceilings providing a dramatic effect. To showcase these new floorplans, Carriage Gate recently opened two brand-new models, which are now available to tour.

Carriage Gate offers a rare level of luxury and convenience that is appealing to a variety of buyers, according to Mazin Kalian, president of Kalian Companies. “These homes here are ideal for movedown buyers who are ready for something new, luxurious, and maintenance free,” Kalian said, “but they are equally appealing to young couples who are ready for more space, for a more suburban lifestyle, and to finally stop renting and purchase their own home. And with a location that’s so close to Red Bank, the shore, and just across from a NJ Transit train station, you couldn’t ask for a more convenient setting.”

Designed in a charming Shore Colonial architectural style, with stone and shake siding, the two-story homes at Carriage Gate range in size from 2,378 to 2,960 square feet of living space, plus full basements and two-car garages. Homes feature three bedrooms, including expansive master suites and master baths, two-and-a-half bathrooms, gourmet granite kitchens, wood flooring, private outdoor living spaces, and paver courtyard driveways. The community itself is distinguished by beautiful landscaping with Belgian block curbing, sidewalks and decorative lighting, with paver courtyards to welcome homeowners and visitors. Homeowners will enjoy the ease of townhome living, with its low-maintenance lifestyle. Pricing begins in the low-$600s, surprisingly reasonable for this kind of luxury in Little Silver.

Carriage Gate is located directly across from the Little Silver train station, which allows for an easy commute into Manhattan or anywhere in New Jersey. The area is known for its beautiful, large homes and proximity to so many recreational, cultural, shopping and entertainment destinations, including downtown Red Bank, with its appealing mix of fine dining, cafes, boutiques, stores, shops and entertainment venues. The community is very close to Rumson and some of New Jersey’s finest beaches and popular Monmouth County parks are less than five miles away. The Grove at Shrewsbury, a popular upscale shopping center, is less than three miles from the community.

Visit Carriage Gate at Little Silver any day between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. to tour the new models and to see the new floorplans. Ask about opportunities that are available in the community’s final two buildings for spring delivery — and the one remaining home available for quick delivery. For directions or more information, call 732- 268-8910. Learn more online, at

Weichert, Realtors and the N.Y. Jets join forces to spread holiday joy this season

The Weichert Family of Companies recently announced the start of the 37th Annual Weichert Toy Drive. Members of the community are invited to drop off new, unwrapped toys at Weichert sales offices through Dec. 11. The toys will be delivered throughout the holidays to local charities that assist financially and physically disadvantaged children.

Additionally, employees working at both the Weichert corporate headquarters in Morris Plains and the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center in Florham Park, will participate. The toys collected by employees of both organizations will be donated to the United Way of Northern New Jersey and distributed through their Gifts of the Season program.

“As we get into the holiday spirit, it’s important to remember those children who are less fortunate, and to do our part to help brighten their holiday season,” said Jim Weichert, president and founder of Weichert, Realtors. “We are delighted to have the opportunity to work hand in hand with the New York Jets for this year’s toy drive, as together we give back to our local communities.”

To date, the annual toy drive has yielded hundreds of thousands of items for underprivileged children in the communities Weichert serves. Last year more than 13,000 toys were distributed to charitable and service organizations.

To make a donation, visit any Weichert, Realtors sales office. To find your local office, go to

Real Estate Briefs

Carlo Siracusa, regional vice president of Weichert, Realtors, announced that sales associate Karen Maurer of the Rumson office was recognized for her exceptional industry success during the month of October. Maurer led the region, which consists of parts of Ocean and Monmouth counties, for new home dollar volume. Maurer can be reached in Weichert’s Rumson office at 30 Ridge Road, or call 732-747-8282 for more information.

Fuelish behavior

Many motorists think their cars’ MPG ratings are inaccurate, but they may only have themselves to blame

By Jim Gorzelany
CTW Features

Most every new-car ad that notes a vehicle’s estimated fuel economy bears a variation of the phrase, “your mileage may vary,” which has become a modern-day catchall expression for verbal waffling. Indeed, according to a recent survey conducted by AAA in Orlando, Fla., one-third of all Americans believe their vehicles’ fuel economy ratings are inaccurate as far as “real world” driving is concerned.

But who’s to blame for the discrepancies? Are the automakers at fault for over-expressing their models’ mileage (as has been the case in recent years with some Hyundai/Kia and Ford vehicles), or does the problem lie with the motorists themselves?

“For years, we’ve heard that drivers question whether the fuel economy rating for their vehicle is accurate,” says John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director for automotive engineering and repair. “In the interest of our members, AAA aimed to address this issue with a multi-phase testing series designed to uncover the real reasons behind fuel economy variations.”

To that end, the AAA conducted an analysis of 37,000 vehicle records collected on the EPA’s FuelEconomy. gov website, including models that were often reported as failing to achieve the stated mileage ratings. Among them, AAA selected three models, a 2014 full-size pickup truck, a 2014 large sedan and a 2012 medium sedan — for further testing. Perhaps surprisingly, the research found that all three models’ measured fuel economy was dead-on with the EPA’s estimates, and that drivers’ behaviors and environmental conditions, rather than any inherent vehicle shortcomings, were likely responsible for the reported variances.

“If you drive aggressively, with heavy acceleration, hard braking and driving at higher speeds, your fuel economy is going to suffer,” Nielsen says. “Driving just 5 miles per hour above 50 is like paying an additional 19 cents per gallon for gasoline.”

The bottom line, then, is the same as it ever was — drive prudently in order to maximize the mileage your car or truck was engineered to obtain. Sudden stops, jackrabbit starts and driving at excessive speeds can drain your car’s fuel tank at an excessive rate.

According to a report issued by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute, aggressive driving combined with improper auto maintenance and poor route selection can reduce a car’s fuel economy by as much as 45 percent. By that measure, a compact sedan that’s EPA-rated at 30 mpg could wind up getting a full-size SUV-like 17 mpg.

Thus, be sure to keep your vehicle in tune and in good working order, with the proper air pressure in each tire to help maximize your car’s mileage. And try to consolidate multiple errands into one trip; several short trips taken on different days, each from a cold start, can use twice as much fuel as a longer multipurpose trip covering the same distance when the engine is already warmed up.

Otherwise, engage the cruise control on the highway to maintain a constant speed and, in turn, help save gas. Switch off your car’s engine while waiting at a curb or sitting at a train crossing; this can conserve more than half a gallon of fuel for every hour that would have been spent idling, when a vehicle effectively gets zero mpg.

Removing a car or truck’s roof rack will improve its aerodynamics and, in turn, its fuel economy by about five percent. At highway speeds, more than half of the engine power goes to overcoming drag, so keep a vehicle’s windows closed to maintain optimal aerodynamics and prevent a 10 percent loss in fuel economy; open the vents to bring in outside air, but use the air conditioning sparingly as it consumes more gas. And don’t treat a car as a rolling storage locker; carrying an additional 100 pounds of weight increases a vehicle’s energy consumption by one to two percent.

© CTW Features

Weichert National Convention uncovers real estate magic in Orlando

Nearly 600 Weichert real estate professionals recently met in Orlando for a three-day national convention, themed “The Magic is YOU!” Weichert Real Estate Affiliates, Inc. (WREA) franchise owners, brokers, managers and sales associates from more than 240 offices across 36 states gathered at the Caribe Royale Orlando Hotel and Convention Center for a packed schedule of dynamic guest speakers and informative breakout sessions.

WREA President Martin J. Rueter kicked off the convention with a welcome address that recapped this year’s accomplishments and continued plans for growth, as well as spelled out how the Weichert brand’s unique programs, tools, training and the use of technology all work to empower its affiliates for professional success. Additional speakers provided insights and best practices to help attendees grow their businesses, as well as information on market trends, advice for real estate success and inspiration for professional growth. The keynote speakers included Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Olympic medal winner and world champion runner; David Knox, a real estate negotiation and sales trainer; author and industry trends expert Stefan Swanepoel; Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors; speaker and philosopher Matt Ferrara; Hal Elrod, best-selling author and success coach; and Giovanni Livera, entertainer and motivational speaker.

Some of the other highlights of the Weichert National Convention include:

 A marketing panel, which discussed trends in such areas as social media, traditional marketing, and agent ratings and rankings.

 Breakout sessions, during which participants dove deep into new tools and programs, as well as popular real estate topics.

 Recognition of the Weichert network’s top agents, offices and companies.

Convention attendees brought home both positive news about the future of real estate and a reminder of the tools and services Weichert offers to help them grow their business and empower them to provide clients the best services in real estate.

Weichert Real Estate Affiliates, Inc., home to a growing roster of independently owned and operated offices across the country, is headquartered in Morris Plains. In January 2015, the company was ranked the No. 2 traditional real estate franchise by Entrepreneur magazine in the “Entrepreneur 2015 Franchise 500” list, an annual ranking of America’s top franchise opportunities.

For more information about Weichert, visit