What To Buy? When To Buy?
By: Mike Connell
Let's pretend that I know next to nothing about buying
a car, new or used. Actually, while we're at it we might as well drop
the "pretend" and just face up to the fact that I really do not know
much about buying cars, fixing cars and looking after cars. I need help.
Where do I get it?
In my own fun-filled adventures in used-car buying
I've found that there are common elements, experiences and angst I share
with Joe and Jolene Carbuyer, in the car-buying experience. Structured
to emulate something akin to a cautionary tale, many exploits and endeavours
in car buying begin with a seemingly simple question – just what kind
of car do I want, and why? Simple my butt (forgive the literary lingo).
Here sets in automotive angst in the attempts to figure out the best
drive for your dollar, without getting stung in the deal.
I wend and weave through many factors in such decisions.
There's the excited optimistic stage, where one sees the new BOXSTER cruising down the avenue and thinks, "y'know, I bet I could handle those
payments . . . a couple of jobs on the side, Mr. Noodle 3 times a day,
dump the girlfriend, move in with Mom and Dad, and presto!" Then there
is excited yet practical – maybe not a Porsche, but perhaps a vintage
vehicle that will add that uncertain eccentricity to a seemingly more
uncertain personality. You know, something like a run down, ancient
Volkswagen, or one which looks like a Triumph, but couldn't possibly
be with that rubberband engine noticeably implanted. Slowly but surely
we make our way to conservatively practical, settling on something that
is hopefully not too much more than two years old, doesn't require much
maintenance, and is easy and affordable if it does, and is good on gas.
These are all fairly simple and obvious considerations. Blatant signs
pointing the way to the cost for conveyance. Be that as it may, we've
all gotten lost before, thinking we knew a better way, only later finding
we should have made that left at Albuquerque. So, it is nice to know
that there are tools that can help us navigate. Sites such as AutobyInternet
are good places to start in your journey. Not necessarily pointing north
or south, AutobyInternet provides reasonable choices, as well as hinting
at some dangers and how to avoid them.
Even the mass commercialism of companies like Saturn
provide direction and opportunity for the average car-buyer. Despite
the over-bearing and seemingly oppressive dedication Saturn promotes
– " A Different Kind of Company . . . A Different Kind of Car" – what
one has to admit amidst shouts of "I say, you say, we say . . . SATURN"
(they actually do crowd around and shout this as you purchase your car)
is that here is a company that provides a suite of information, support,
and service to potential saturnites.
"In fact, every qualified used car [Saturn] sells undergoes
an inspection process involving at least 100 and often 150 specific
points. That's a lot of stuff to inspect. Engines are fine-tuned, electrical
systems are tested - everything from the exterior finish to the dome
lights gets a once-over. Sometimes even a twice-over. We also take each
car out to prove it under various driving conditions. Not a bad idea,
since that's exactly what you'll be doing with it after you buy it from
That's one route to go. Take the high road. The problem with this direction
is that we've left all of the research and analysis to someone else,
hoping that they have our best interests in mind, when in the back of
our minds we know that while they represent dedication to customer service,
they also have to deal with their considerable overhead.
I won't discourage going to the heavy hitters of the
automotive industry, because they can host good deals. That doesn't
mean, though, that we still can't go out on our own and do some research
– perhaps coming up with some better options, or at the very least
a better understanding of the deal you may or may not be getting.
AutobyInternet, like the Autoguide, directs potential
carbuyers to standards and information hosted and provided by sites
such as "Intellichoice" –
effectively letting us know that in our use of the information and direction
supplied, we will be that much closer to making that all important goal
of the "intelligent choice". Some of their statistics culminate into
the 1994-1996 Best Overall Pre-Owned Winners – Selected Ownership Costs.
Detailing the standard choices in car size and style, these best overall
winners cover those that have the lowest repair costs, the lowest maintenance
costs, and the lowest depreciation rate ('96 Honda Civic, '96 Chrysler
Cirrus, '95 Honda Civic, respectively).
Forums such as the AutoTrader
provide a good sense of availability to anyone out there looking . .
. but looking for what, when, and why? These sorts of questions are
easily addressed, if not answered. Why does it have to be complicated?
Really, it is just a car. A means to get you from "A" to "B". Research,
like anything else, is a willingness and need to learn – to look before
you leap. Not hard, but not always so easy to know where to start. The
Auto Trader Online can help in many ways, one leading to reference material
. . . you know, those things we used to read – books. Listing titles
in areas such as reference, maintenance, history, vintage, racing, buying
guides, engines, and parts, the Auto Trader Online is a layer to add
to your automotive reference desk.
One can search on the Internet and find everything
you ever wanted to know about many different subjects, car buying included.
Tools like the Autoguide provide an organizing and informative structure.
Your one-stop-shop for automotive interests. Pointing to another of
their useful links, one can look at the "Used
Car Buyer's Checklist". Not fancy. Very basic, but direct in its
approach and goal – informing those interested that there are elements
that should be, have to be considered before buying a used car. At the
very least it can let you know whether or not you actually know as much
about this process as you think you do, and at the very most it can
help you avoid buying that heap sagging in the corner of the lot, one
step away from demolition, but because you're such a good guy, the dealer
will part with it for twenty times what it's worth.
Look, in my opinion, Citroën or Cadillac – it doesn't
really matter for the most part. People buy what they want, sometimes
whether they can afford it or not. How deep a hole we will dig for ourselves
can be gauged and subsequently minimized by learning to make use of
the tools out there.
The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the AutoGuide.net, and I have nothing against Citroëns, they're good reliant automobiles . . . . really.