Things to Consider Before You Buy a New Car
Never buy a
car on looks alone.
A sexy shell
may hide a rough ride or seats that make your back ache after
15 minutes of driving.
Just as youd
(hopefully) take a wider view about the person you might want to
marry, take the time to consider the whole package before deciding
whether to buy that four-wheeled-honey. If not, the morning after
could be a rude awakening!
Here are a
few things to put on your pre-buy checklist:
buy a vehicle before youve spent some time behind the wheel
and in the seat. Chairs that seem comfortable and supportive
in the showroom may feel like oak boards after a couple of hours.
Or they may be too soft another problem. Either way, the
key is to find out what theyre like in real life, day-in,
day-out. And the only way to do that is to insist on a test drive.
A real one, not just a 10 minute toodle around the block. Most dealers
will accommodate this reasonable request provided youre a
serious buyer. If not, walk away. It is better to continue shopping
than to buy a car youre not sure fits you from a dealer
who has made it pretty clear he isnt concerned about your
Like the seats,
its hard to know whether a given cars ride quality is
too soft, too firm, or just right without a test drive that lasts
at least an hour and takes place on a wide variety of roads,
including not-so-great roads with potholes and uneven pavement.
If you havent
gone new car shopping recently, one thing youll discover is
that sporty (read: firmer often unpleasantly
so) ride quality is now the trendy thing. Aggressive, performance-type
tires (short, stiff sidewalls and tread patterns designed to provide
maximum grip and response to steering inputs) are being fitted to
(ostensibly) family-minded and even luxury cars which are
now marketed as luxury-sport cars. High-speed handling maybe excellent,
but the day-to-day ride quality may be harsher than you want to
live with every day
Also be sure
to try the vehicle out on bumpy secondary roads as well as smooth
highways. You want to se how it feels going over less-than-perfect
pavement. If the vehicle offers different suspension levels
a standard version and a sport upgrade try both
out. Never buy the sport suspension package just because the (usually
larger) wheels that come with it look better than the ones fitted
to the standard suspension model. Larger/wider wheels and
tires with shorter/stiffer sidewalls will almost always give
you a firmer even harsher ride.
How easy is
it to change the radio station, adjust the climate control system
and operate other vehicle controls? In their quest to be different,
automakers sometimes graft over-complex, hard-to-use controls onto
their cars that leave the owner with never-ending small hassles.
For example, the use of scrolling menus and LCD displays to toggle
through vs. a simple knob or button to adjust fan speed. Some of
these interfaces can be very aggravating even after you figure
out how they work. Sometimes, simpler is better. Make sure you can
work all the features of your next vehicle without having to take
your eyes off the road or fumble with complicated controls. If the
car stresses you out,its not the car for you.
assume the fuel economy figures listed on the window sticker represent
the actual mileage you will get. Especially if you are looking at
the sticker on a hybrid vehicle.
tests new cars and trucks to get an average city/highway
fuel economy figure but the governments test loop may
not reflect the type of driving you do. If, for example, you drive
faster than the testers did your actual fuel economy is likely to
be significantly lower than the governments rating. You may
also frequently carry passengers or pull a heavy load. These
variables will affect fuel efficiency.
that the advertised 18-mpg rating (as an example) is what you will
get. Read the fine print. Your mileage not only may vary
it almost certainly will vary. If you are budgeting a certain
amount for gas bills each month based on the advertised fuel
efficiency, you could find yourself paying more than you expected.
Once again, the test drive offers salvation. Be sure the tank is
full before you head out, and top it off just before you bring the
vehicle back to the dealership. After your afternoons drive
youll be able to figure out how much fuel the thing is likely
to use given the type of driving that you not government testers
forget: Hybrids get their highest mileage in low-speed, city-type
driving, the reverse of standard cars which do best on the
highway. If you do a lot of highway/distance driving, a hybrids
real-world mileage may be very disappointing.
car (or truck) is just for you, its wise to see how the members
of your family like it especially those who will be driving
it regularly. A common mistake people sometimes make is to buy a
vehicle that their wife or husband either dislikes immensely or
is not comfortable driving. Maybe its too big,
or too cramped, hard to get into or has
terrible blind spots ultimately it doesnt matter.
What does matter is that someone else who needs to use the car doesnt
like the car you bought. Years of listening to complaining could
be your penance.
especially with SUVs and sporty cars, which can be awkward
or uncomfortable for some people to drive that anyone who
will be using the vehicle regularly likes the thing. Or at least,
that they dont despise the thing.
with permission from EricPetersAutos.com.
[send him mail] is an
automotive columnist and author of Automotive
Atrocities and Road Hogs (2011). Visit his
© 2011 Eric Peters
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