Wheeling and Dealing

Consumer Report New Car Buying Guide

My first car was a hand-me-down. It was my grandfathers, then my mothers, then my sisters, and finally mine when my sister went off to college. You will never hear me complain that it was a hand-me-down because I loved that car and it was incredibly built and well equipped. That being said, the hand-me-down factor meant that I have never have to be involved with the car buying process. Now, being 23-years-old and being in great need of a car, a lot of the decision-making was up to me.

Even though I have grown up around car-enthusiasts and even with my family being in the car painting business, I found that I didn’t know much about cars besides 2-wheel-drive, all-wheel-drive, and 4-wheel-drive, and that I knew that I loved my first car. So I had a lot of research to do and that is what I would like to share with you. Some tips on how to learn about what you want in a car and how you can become educated fast.

  1. If there is anything you like or dislike about any car you have already driven, look it up. Find out what the actual name of that car trait is. This will help you make a list of things you are looking for in your new car. – I knew I liked the power of my first car and I knew that power was determined by horsepower so I looked up how much horsepower my first car had.
  2. List the things you need. You aren’t going to get a two-seater sports car if you are a mom of three, right? Make sure you know what you need out of this car. Good MPG? Seven seats? Trunk space? Great warranty?
  3. Get your research on! There are lots of sources out there to help you get the facts and figures on every car, new and used. I recommend picking up the latest issue of Consumer Reports “New Car Buying Guide.” This is a great resource because not only does it show the ratings for every aspect of the car, but it also shows those same ratings for the last 10 years. Consumer Reports also has some great articles about decoding car features and how to save money when it comes down purchasing time.  Kelley Blue Book (KBB) is also a mecca for car information. You get to enter the year, model, and style of each vehicle you want to research. They also have a great comparison tool. I also really liked starting my search with their top rated vehicles in each category. The best aspect of KBB is that they tell you what you should be paying for the car. Use this as a negotiating point when you purchase and don’t let the dealers try to pull the wool over your eyes.
    Sample of a review from Consumer Reports

    Kelley Blue Book Compare Cars
    The comparison tool on KBB
  4. Ask around! Don’t forget to ask friends and family about what they might recommend. Chances are they might have a lot to say about the cars they have driven and they are going to be the most candid with you.
  5. Get out and test drive. Once you have a couple of vehicles in mind, get out and test drive some. This part can be intimidating because car salesmen can be like ravenous piranhas and might make you feel pressured to make a purchase. Just be honest. Tell them you are only there for a test drive and get them to work for you. Tell them what cars you are comparing and ask them why you should buy their car.
  6. Compromise. Unless money is not an option, you are going to have to make some compromises. Remember tip #2 and make sure the car fits your needs first and your wants second. Having a premium sound system means nothing if you can’t afford your monthly payments.

Doing all this research not only will help you make the right decision, but will make you feel confident in that decision. From personal experience I can say it feels pretty good to know more about some cars than even the dealers did.

My perfect choice!
My perfect choice!