Checklist When Buying Car- an article helping buyers to be as through as possible when buying a car
Buying a car is a major decision for most of us, but with today′s wealth of information available mainly through the Internet, any would be buyer can arrive at a decision so much so that when he or she gets to the dealer′s showroom, the buyer knows the exact car to buy and how much to pay for it.
Your needs for the car will determine the body type. Be as objective
as possible about your needs and don′st let emotions sway the
more practical aspects of your decision.
- Sedan - usually a 4-dr, suitable for office & executive types and
people who want their cargo separate from the passenger area
- Station wagon - gives significantly more cargo room than a sedan; preferable to an SUV if you′sre looking for car-like handling
- SUV - today′s most popular body type due to visibility and all-terrain capability, it suffers from poor fuel economy and high likelihood of rollovers
- Minivan - has replaced the station as a family car, gives terrific versatility in passenger seating and cargo handling; best compromise between car-like handling and SUV size
- Hatchback - a more versatile derivative of the sedan, the rear cargo door allows large and odd-shaped objects into the car
- Coupe or convertible - 2 doors are impractical yet popular due to its sporty shape and lifestyle connotation
- Crossovers - can best be described as a small SUV; alternative to a sedan
Now that you have selected your body type, the next major decision in purchasing a car is your choice of engine, transmission and drivetrain. For the majority of car buyers, the choices you will make here will largely determine your operating costs down the road.
- Engine type - gasoline engines provide the best performance at the cost of least fuel efficiency, hybrids are best for the environment at the expense of range; diesels are fuel efficient, are excellent workhorse engines with low maintenance costs but are noisier and dirtier than other engine types
- Engine displacement - given a choice, smaller engines give better fuel efficiency while larger engines give better power and torque
- Transmissions - manuals can be more fuel efficient and are generally sturdier, automatics provide unparalleled ease of operation
- Front-wheel drive - provides the most compact packaging and least drivetrain loss, which promotes fuel economy
- Rear-wheel drive - is the choice for sporty performance and high horsepower engines, including vehicles used to transport heavy loads
- All-wheel drive - provides the best traction and handling for high performance and mixed-terrain applications at the expense of fuel economy, more vehicle weight and higher maintenance
- 4-wheel drive - the choice for rugged terrain; top speeds are limited but low-range transfer cases allow one to crawl out of almost all situations other vehicles would get stuck in
Check the ANCAP rating for the cars your are choosing from. Ideally, the car you are selecting will have a 5-star rating. Getting a car with a 4-star rating is not necessarily bad, it might mean that it just lacks a feature (such as ESP) that prevented it from getting the highest rating.
This list of safety features cars offer nowadays is long, but the more important are:
- Seatbelts - standard on all cars nowadays but the newer seat belts have pretensioners that tighten automatically when its sensors detect a crash
- Airbags - dash airbags are now the default, look for cars with side curtain air bags
- Anti-lock brakes - allow you to steer away from a crash while giving maximum braking power at the same time
- Headrests - while seemingly a common feature, advanced hear restraint systems move forward in a crash to support the back of the head and prevent whiplash
- stability control (ESC) - combines with traction control to sense when vehicle is about to skid and applies corrective measures to the driven wheels to stop the skid
Note that ESC has become a feature required by law in several countries, including Australia. It is believed that this technology will have the same impact as seatbelts did to car safety.
Unseen but vital to crash safety are the crumple zones built into modern cars. The effectivity of these structures are reflected in the ANCAP ratings cars receive. Apart from the most important features enumerated above, other safety features offered by car manufacturers include accident avoidance capabilities, rollover resistance, rear-impact protection, blind zones and child-oriented controls, such as push vs. lever type power window switches.
Fuel and maintenance costs are the major areas of the cost of operating a vehicle, but you also have to factor in depreciation, interest on financing, taxes and fees, insurance premiums and unscheduled repairs.
A car that is cheaper to buy may be more expensive to own down the road. Even if two cars have the same purchase price, depreciation and/or insurance rates could vary. A fully accessorized car will be more costly to maintain. Reliability is more important than having all the bells and whistles. The point of owning a vehicle is to be able to get from point A to B and itís useless to have a navigation or 10-speaker entertainment system if youíre at the side of the road cooling your heels. Bear in mind that manufacturer and EPA fuel consumption estimates are typically higher than what you'll be likely to get in normal driving.
New or used?
The experience of buying and driving around with that new-car smell cannot in any way be achieved by acquiring a used car, even a certified pre-owned car. However, when deciding to buy a new car instead of a used one, you should consider the purchase price, the rate of depreciation (which varies a lot between cars and manufacturers), operating costs (used cars will need more maintenance and may be less fuel efficient) and financing costs. Interest costs for new vehicles are generally lower than for used cars. And unless you buy a certified pre-owned car (CPO), a vehicle warranty is not a given.
When looking at the used car market, it′s a good idea to look at a CPO vehicle. CPO cars have warranties and are given a thorough inspection before resale. In case you stumble across a car brand with no CPO program, at the very least get a pre-purchase inspection from a dealer. Such an inspection will reveal the exact condition of the used car you are considering and it will help you haggle the price down or walk away from a potential disaster. More importantly, check a used vehicle′s Used Car Safety Rating (UCSR) to see how it fares in life-threatening crashes.
The major areas of inspection when looking at a used car are:
- Exterior - body, tires, suspension, chassis, glass condition
- Interior - upholstery, corrosion under carpets, operation of accessories, switches, gauges, flood damage
- Engine and drivetrain - general condition, leaks, abnormal smells
- Performance - starting, idling, acceleration braking, shifting, turning
This covers the general areas that one should look into when buying a used car. More comprehensive 140-175 point checklists are available online for those who want to go into that level of detail.
The lease or purchase conundrum
Whether to lease or to buy a car depends, again, on the circumstances of the buyer.The following table enumerates the pros and cons of buying vs. leasing.
Note: Online automobile buy-versus-lease calculators will help you visualize the cost implications.
|Monthly payments are for vehicle depreciation, not the purchase price.
||Monthly payments go toward the purchase of the vehicle.
|Monthly payments are significantly lower than car loan payments.
||Monthly payments include financing charges.
|Downpayment isn′t usually required.
|Another vehicle needs to be leased after the lease period is over.
||When the car loan is paid, you own the car.
|Pre-terminating the lease usually requires a large cash payout.
||You can modify your car anytime, in any way.
|Mileage is predetermined. Penalties exist for going over the mileage.
||No mileage restrictions but high mileage cars have less trade-in value.
|Manufacturer′s warranty covers the vehicle for the duration of your lease.
||Car loans may extend past the warranty period, so you′ll pay for repairs.
|You have to pay for any excess wear and tear.
||Maintenance and upkeep depends on your inclination and budget.
Buying a car costs less in annual payments on average, especially if interest rates are low. If you are looking to drive your dream car and have no intention of selling it a few years down the road, then purchasing it is the only way to go.
Although there are a lot of factors to take into account when purchasing a car nowadays, buyers have in their favor the great information tool that is the Internet. Even if you have your heart set on a particular type of car, you should take a look at similar models, do research, read reviews and visit model-specific forums. Discussion boards are a great source of information since issues that manufacturers prefer to keep hidden are thoroughly discussed there. You may actually find an issue with a car you want that will put you off from buying it altogether. A potential buyer can arm him or herself with a lode of information that a salesman will find hard to refute. Armed with that knowledge, the buyer will be more than halfway to making a sound decision on which vehicle will fit the needs of the owner/driver.
Finally, as you narrow your selection, don′t neglect the test drive. It will reveal a lot of intangibles that affect ownership and the driving/riding experience. The test-drive should replicate the conditions the car will be used in after you buy it.