Latest Reader Question (January 28, 2018)

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Here are the latest reader questions, along with my replies! 

Wade asks: Is Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) tracking our license plates now?

My reply: Unfortunately, it’s not just ICE that’s doing this. Law enforcement of all types is acquiring automated plate readers; I have seen local “heroes” in my area – SW Virginia – with them. They are easy enough to spot. Look for what appears to be four radar units, mounted at each corner of a “hero’s” taxpayer-provided enforcement vehicle, or on its roof. Often, you will see such a car parked on the median of a road. It is capturing the plate info of every vehicle that passes by.

They claim, of course, that they are only using the ALPRs to find stolen cars and so on. But the fact is the ALPRs collect data on every car that passes by and this data is almost certainly stored in some government server somewhere. What they do with it is anyone’s guess. But it’s creepy that they are monitoring us in this manner.

Yet few seem to object very much.

. . .

Elias asks: I read you a lot on, and you seem to know what you’re talking about. I lost my job, and I’m thinking about driving for Uber. The problem is, I need a car that’s as economical as possible, but I don’t want a brand new one. It has to be new enough that I can finance it through my credit union, to be economical, and to meet Uber’s standards (4-door sedan, etc.). If you have any advice, I’d sure be appreciative.

My reply: A good choice would be a four cylinder Toyota Camry, maybe four or so years old. They are very durable/reliable cars and the four cylinder version’s mileage is pretty good. A hybrid version of this same car might be even better, if the majority of your driving will be “city” driving – i.e., mostly stop and go, not high-speed. If so, this is the way to go as the hybrid should average about 40 MPG in that context.

Another good choice, in my opinion, would be a Toyota Corolla. Technically, it’s a compact and a notch down in size from the mid-size Camry. But take a look at this car’s interior specifications – especially back seat legroom. It has more legroom than most mid-sized cars and some full-size cars. It also has a large trunk. These attributes make it ideal for carrying passengers. Also, the mileage is excellent – and because these cars are made in enormous numbers (ditto the Camry) finding a good one at a good price should be easy enough.

Hope this was helpful!

. .  .

Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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Author of "Automotive Atrocities" and "Road Hogs" (MBI). Currently living amongst the Edentulites in rural SW Virginia.


  1. Some friends bought a 2012 Camry Hybrid new. I thought it was a mistake given their rural living but they live on a lake with lots of low speed roads before you get to the highway. To their surprise, it has averaged 42 mpg every tank of gas since which is better than the sticker indicated. Best I can remember the only replacement parts it has needed have been courtesy of a mid-flight deer sacrificing itself to the automotive gods.

    • Morning, Eight!

      These things make for good taxis – I see them often in such service. So I think one would be a choice for an Uber car, too.

      PS: I’ve heard that it’s very hard to make any kind of decent coin this way…

  2. A local city near me has installed plate readers, at EVERY street on its borders (Hammond Indiana). You literality will be tracked if you pass through (Hammond is the only city boarding Chicago to the east, you have to pass through to get to Chicago). Of course the reason was to combat crime. There has been some pushback, but by only the folks with an axe to grind with the current mayor. So it’s seen as such by many.

    But this is the same city that made national news when one of its heroes smashed a passengers car window (for the “crime” of not wanting to ID himself), and has also been caught abusing its own K9. So its only a matter of time before it makes national news for abusing this plate reader system. I am guessing they won’t be able to resist writing traffic tickets with it, but thankfully camera enforcement is currently illegal in Indiana. We will see how long that lasts.

    Ironically the first person caught using the camera system had no plates on her car. She had just robbed a White Castle.