Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Car Shopping

I'm not car-shopping at the moment, but wanted to compile a helpful document for someone whose research I admire, and has made my work more understandable and meaningful.

I often create a list or spreadsheet to help me make my bigger decisions. I’ve started a spreadsheet that can be weighted by prioritization during your search. For example, there’s a column for a unique quality that a particular model may possess that is very important to you, and this would be weighted heavily. Additionally, if a sunroof is a deal-breaker to you, it too could have a very high rating. I’ve included some of the aforementioned models, and left out those that my research wouldn’t allow me to recommend, or that I concluded would not be “relatively cheap.”

There are important decisions we make as consumers. As well, we become what we consume. These are times when the impact of our decisions on our planet, is on our minds more than ever. Should we go with an alternative energy source (hybrid is one example), or not?

Used vs. New? I recommend purchasing a used vehicle, and would consider a used one up to about 70,000 miles. I don’t know if buying a new car adds to the number of used cars that never get sold and end up as waste, but this recommendation is mainly for financial reasons.

Own vs. lease? I do not recommend leasing for most situations. If you were a traveling salesperson, I’ve read it can make sense for someone in that line of work to lease, but from what I’ve learned, leasing is never-to-rarely a good business decision.

I have a friend who tells me that she considers every dollar she spends to be a vote. One caveat, she’s a multi-millionaire and can afford to pay cash for her cars, and several more times over for organic food than non-organic. I also have friends who boycott the Walmart’s and Starbucks of the world for some of the same reasons, and some different. And there are others still, who favor the “Made In America” tag.

Should we purchase from Toyota after one might conclude they encouraged sexual harassment in the workplace (one might argue that by not taking their female employee complaints seriously, they were more than enabling the behavior, in fact encouraging it). They did finally take action, and I personally think that Honda and Toyota do deliver the best vehicle for the money.

Highway vs. City. The saying goes that “highway miles” are more desirable than city driving. I believe the thinking behind this is that the highway is often open road, whereas the city often has you starting and stopping, and especially if you have a manual transmission, can place more wear and tear on your vehicle (e.g., clutch, brakes, tires). A manual tranny will tend to yield a higher MPG if you don’t slam it!

Some of the Consumer Reports site is free, and I agree that it is of great value to subscribe. CSR writes to avoid the New Beetle 4-cylinder model, but I am not sure why or which exact year they mean by “New.”

I have some knowledge of the mechanics behind cars as I have done my own repairs for years on both cars and motorcycles, learning from my brother how to reseat valves, bore-out pistons, and pimp a carburetor. I’ll never forget walking into a Yamaha dealer holding part of my carburetor and asking if they could order it for me, I didn’t know the name, but knew I needed that part. The look on the clerk’s face was priceless. There was also the time I walked into a Harley dealership and asked if they could raise my foot-pegs because I like to lay the bike over on turns, but the pegs can throw you (and the bike!) if they hit the road hard enough and at the right angle. “Lady,” I was told, “You just need to slow the hell down!” But I digress.

Finally, it may simply come down to what one can afford, and finances may simply be the baseline that impacts all other choices. I would suggest finding your baseline, and moving from there. My research is far from exhaustive so feel free to alter the spreadsheet to your findings.

I’m hoping that this spreadsheet will aid you in getting to that place. I didn’t set any calculations into it, as I don’t have your priorities to weight it, and I’m not an Excel guru. Perhaps someone reading this might be able to tweak it for you.

I leave you with some helpful links that will guide you through the process-things like checking underneath for rust, and around the flooring and side-boards. Also, looking for puddles of fluid under the car that might suggest leaking. All of these and many more can be found at these links below. Let us know how you fare:

1) Mouse-over on all the major dealer sites for a quick look at suggested price (this can usually be haggled)

2) Used Car Checklists:





3) Car Buying Guides:




4) Car Pricing Guide:


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