How to Buy Your Dream Car | Part 1*
You wouldn’t spend time – your most valuable asset, money and energy to attend a college or university without investigating and inquiring about accreditation, reputation, rate of success and accomplishment of its alumni in your chosen major or field of expertise, would you?
You wouldn’t buy a house without an inspection, due diligence and legal representation; for it is a hefty investment, would you?
The same holds true about buying your dream car. You would want to know about price, safety, crash test results, mechanical soundness, track record, resell value, fuel efficiency, vehicle history, etc. before you spend your hard-earned money on a car.
A car is nothing more than a motorized box or capsule on wheels, whose purpose is to take you safely from point A to point B. You want that cage to be safe and sound, so no matter which side is hit (in the event of an accident), you emerge unscathed or at least with sustained minor injuries. Let’s go through the process of buying your dream car step-by-step.
Prior to shopping for the car of your dream, it is advisable to establish a budget with financial parameters, beyond which you are not willing to go. A car ownership involves monthly payments (unless money is no object), insurance (Please read: Defensive Driving Course: Who needs it? to save a ton of money on your insurance policy and sharpen your driving skills), maintenance, fuel, unexpected and unforeseen breakdown expenditures. Simply put, you decide beforehand how much car you can afford and stick to your budgetary gun.
Should you buy a two-seater, a 4-door sport car, a sedan, a hatchback, an SUV, a station wagon, a crossover, a minivan, or a truck? The answer is a function of your needs. If you are a teen-ager, a young adult or experiencing middle-age crisis, you would be inclined to choose a two-seater or so-called 4-door sport car; if your are family-oriented, you would lean toward a 5-8 seater, minivan, station wagon, SUV or the likes.
Furthermore, size, for safety’s sake, matters. It really does. Bear in mind that the smaller the car you drive, the more likely you stand to sustain major injuries, and your car the brunt of the impact, in the event of an accident with a larger vehicle. You may want to dismiss it as fear mongering. Feel free to do so after watching this video.
As clearly indicated by the video’s content, the head-on collision, has resulted in the smaller car sustaining the brunt of the damages on impact, and, its occupants, had they been alive and real (not dummies), would have sustained severe to fatal injuries. You wish you could dismiss it as scaremongering, but in light of the above irrefutable proof and evidence (they speak for themselves), and their implications, you can’t. Can you?
So, it bears reiterating (at the risk of sounding like a broken record) that in the car shopping and buying process, size, for safety’s sake, must be taken into consideration, among other factors. We are not biased against micro or small cars; it is just that they are heavily disfavored by the laws of physics related to force, distance, weight and size.
Small vehicles, regardless of the number of airbags they are loaded with, tend to bear the brunt of the damages in accidental encounters with large vehicles; their occupants are most likely to sustain severe or life-threatening injuries.
Early on, we’ve alluded to a car as being a “cage or capsule on wheels”. You want a “cage” with a safe, sound and solid structure; for your life and that of your family and friends (occupants of your vehicle) literally depend on it in the event of an accident. Should an accident occur, you want to, at best, walk away alive, unscathed or, at worst, escape with minor sustained injuries.
A safe car sports the following features: front and side airbags, curtain side airbags, ABS, traction control, energy and impact absorbing materials, anti-roll bars, anti-sway bars, reinforced doors, etc. To check on the safety rating of the vehicle of your choice: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety:
Most consumers would fall head over heel for a car without considering the long term ownership cost in terms of fuel consumption (they end up selling the car to buy fuel- Just kidding!). Let’s do some fuel consumption comparison (MPG) among different makes and models of vehicles with similar engine size ( 4 cyl, 2.4L or 2.5L) and transmission (automatic).
|MPG Comparison Table||MPG Comparison Table||MPG Comparison Table||MPG Comparison Table||MPG Comparison Table||MPG Comparison Table|
|City MPG||Hwy MPG||Combined MPG||Estimated Annual Fuel Cost||Transmission|
|2012 Toyota Camry, 4 cyl, 2.5 L, Regular Gas||25||35||28||$1837||Automatic|
|2012 Honda Accord, 4 cyl, 2.4 L, Regular Gas||23||34||27||$1904||Automatic|
|2012 Hyundai Sonata, 4 cyl, 2.4 L, Regular Gas||24||35||28||$1837||Automatic|
|2012 Ford Focus, 4 cyl, 2.5 L, Regular Gas||23||33||26||$1981||Automatic|
|2012 Nissan Altima, 4 cyl, 2.5 L, Regular Gas||23||32||27||$1904||Automatic|
The difference in MPG between one make/model and another is about 1-2 in City MPG, 1-3 in Hwy MPG and 1-2 in Combined MPG. The difference in Estimated Annual Fuel Cost is $144.00. So, in shopping for a car, fuel consumption and fuel efficiency must be taken into account.
Let’s do some math. If you keep your car for at least five (5) years, with an annual saving of $144.00 in fuel cost, you stand to pocket $720.00, which, when paired with the benefits of and returns on a Defensive Driving Course, will amount to substantial savings. Invest the proceed however you want or wish (consult your financial adviser).
How do AWD (All Wheel Drive) vehicles fare vs their FWD (Front Wheel Drive) or RWD (Rear Wheel Drive) counterparts fuel economy-wise? See Table below.
|MPG AWD Comparison Table||MPG AWD Comparison Table||MPG AWD Comparison Table||MPG AWD Comparison Table||MPG AWD Comparison Table||MPG AWD Comparison Table|
|City MPG||Hwy MPG||Combined MPG||Estimated Annual Fuel Cost||Transmission|
|2012 Audi A4 Quattro, 4 cyl, 2.0 L, Premium Gas||21||29||24||$2314||Automatic|
|2012 Subaru Legacy, 4 cyl, 2.0 L, Regular Gas||23||31||26||$1981||Automatic|
|2012 Suzuki Kizashi, 4 cyl, 2.0 L, Regular Gas||22||29||25||$2058||Automatic|
AWD cars seem to always sip a little bit more fuel than their FWD or RWD counterparts because of the extra weight associated with AWD parts. For instance, the 2012 Subaru Legacy and the 2012 Honda Accord sport 23 MPG City; they respectively part company in Hwy MPG (31 vs 34) and Combined MPG (26 vs 27). Should you buy an AWD car?
In the larger scheme of things, the few extra cents/gallon spent (even though in your view it’s worth its weight in gold in the long run, it’s your money after all) on fuel amount to nothing, in light of an AWD vehicle’s ability to plough through sleet, snow, rain and keep you from getting stuck in the first place.
When other motorists with FWD or RWD vehicles are stranded in inclement weather, you (your AWD vehicle really!) will be the hero or heroine and save the day. If you can afford it, do not hesitate one second to buy an AWD car. Trust us, it’s money well spent, and you won’t regret it.
When it comes to fuel efficiency, we think that no stone should be left unturned. That is why a MPG Hybrid Comparison Table, for your convenience, is included in the panoply of fuel- efficient vehicles comparison tables.
|MPG Hybrid Comparison Table||MPG Hybrid Comparison Table||MPG Hybrid Comparison Table||MPG Hybrid Comparison Table||MPG Hybrid Comparison Table||MPG Hybrid Comparison Table|
|City MPG||Hwy MPG||Combined MPG||Estimated Annual Fuel Cost||Transmission|
|2011 Toyota Camry, 4 cyl, 2.4 L, Regular Gas||31||35||33||$1559||Automatic|
|2011 Hyundai Sonata, 4 cyl, 2.4 L, Regular Gas||35||40||37||$1389||Automatic|
|2011 Ford Fusion, 4 cyl, 2.5 L, Regular Gas||41||36||39||$1317||Automatic|
Diesel vehicles have come a long way. Gone are the days of noisy clattering engines, spewing polluted smogs in the atmosphere, they (engines) are replaced with “clean diesel” technology, and “Nox (Nitrous Oxide) is reduced to harmless nitrogen and water vapor”, according to Mercedes Benz (thanks to urea-injected diesel engines).
Your choice of diesel vehicles is only limited by your budget and accommodation needs. To ease or take the pain out of making a tough choice, here a list of diesel cars, station wagons, and SUVs (Sport-Utility Vehicles):
|Audi||Audi A3, Audi A6, and Audi Q7|
|BMW||BMW 335D, BMW X5, and xDrive 35d|
|Mercedes Benz||Mercedes Benz E350 Bluetec, Mercedes Benz S350 Bluetec 4matic, Mercedes Benz ML350 Bluetec 4matic, Mercedes Benz R350 Bluetec 4matic, and Mercedes Benz GL350 Bluetec 4matic|
|Volkswagen||Volkswagen Golf, Volkswagen Jetta, Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen, Volkswagen Passat, and Volkswagen Touareg|
Speaking of Diesel, It’s worth mentioning that most Diesel Vehicles can run or be modified to run on Biodiesel. Read owner’s manual to find out which Biodiesel blend (B5, B20-B100) your vehicle can run on, and about engine warranty from manufacturers before taking the Biodiesel leap of faith. For further information on Biodiesel: The National Biodiesel Board:
|MPG Diesel Comparison Table||MPG Diesel Comparison Table||MPG Diesel Comparison Table||MPG Diesel Comparison Table||MPG Diesel Comparison Table||MPG Diesel Comparison Table|
|2012 Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen, 4 cyl, 2.0 L Diesel||29||39||33||$1704||Automatic|
|2012Audi A3 Wagon, 4 cyl, 2.0 L Diesel||30||42||34||$1650||Automatic|
|2012 Mercedes Benz S350 Bluetec 4matic, 6 cyl, 3.0 L Diesel||21||31||25||$2250||Automatic|
Although ilovemyride.com is not in the business of telling you which car to buy; we think, however, that the 2012 Mercedes Benz S350 Bluetec 4matic offers great values in terms of fuel economy, AWD (4matic) for inclement weather, roominess, class, style, and safety.
This Mercedes Benz’s fuel efficiency- MPG (21 City, 31 Hwy, 25 Combined) is better than that of a 2009 compact AWD Subaru Outback (20 City, 26 Hwy, 22 Combined). The 2012 Mercedes Benz S350 is so fuel-efficient, it even outmiles its hybrid sibling: the 2012 Mercedes Benz S400 Hybrid (19 City, 25 Hwy, 21 Combined).
Premium vs Regular Fuel
Let’s examine the fuel economy issue further by comparing Premium Fuel (91+ octane) to Regular Fuel (85+ octane) or Mid-Grade (88+octane). Most luxury and performance cars are made to run on premium fuel, whereas economy models sip only regular fuel. Also, there seems to be a direct correlation between fuel consumption and number of cylinders. The more cylinders (4 vs 6 vs 8), the least fuel-efficient is the vehicle.
If you are unsure as to what type of fuel grade your vehicle uses, find the label or tag inside the gas tank door (premium or regular) or read the owner’s manual. Since premium costs more than regular fuel, a car that sips regular fuel stands to save its owner a boatload of money in the long run.
Factors to consider: number of cylinders, fuel grade, and MPG. You can still have your cake (luxury and performance) and eat it too (fuel economy) in the 2012 Mercedes Benz S350 Bluetec 4matic without sacrificing luxury and safety on the altar of fuel efficiency.
Ranting and raving about fuel economy would be pointless if you were not told where to get cheap fuel in your neighborhood:
- gasprices.mapquest.com or
Autocheck vs Carfax
If you are on the market for a pre-owned car (formerly known as used car!), it would be foolish to spend your hard-earned money on a vehicle without knowing the vehicle’s history. Are you dealing with a lemon? Has the car been flooded, involved in any accident?
The only way to find out is to get a Vehicle History Report. That’s where Autocheck vs Carfax comes in.
Usually, to assuage your fear of being taken for a ride (pun intended!), the dealer offers a free Vehicle History Report to lure you in, to sweeten and eventually close the deal. But you, as a savvy consumer, should not fall for this trick and rely exclusively on the dealer’s free vehicle history report to make a purchasing decision. Instead, do your own due diligence and buy your own vehicle history report.
Here is the strategy: if the dealer’s free vehicle history report is issued by Carfax, buy an Autocheck vehicle history report, and vice versa. Compare and contrast your report vs the dealer’s to detect any glaring or subtle discrepancies. Chances are if Autocheck’s report has missed something, Carfax’s competing vehicle history report may have picked it up, and vice versa.
This nugget of information alone may save you from the potential pitfall of a regrettable, yet avoidable (provided that you’ve read How to Buy Your Dream Car | Part 1 beforehand), financial mistake to the tune of thousands of dollars.
The price of a Vehicle History Report ranges from $29.99 (single report) to $59.99 (unlimited reports) for 30 days. It’s a worthwhile investment, albeit modest, in light of the potential risk, headaches and nightmares associated with buying a lemon without the benefit of a vehicle history report beforehand.
Caveat emptor.- Remember: certain fender benders are settled amicably without generating a police accident report or insurance claims (no official database). Such occurrences, therefore, will not be reflected on the vehicle history report.
If you are buying from a private seller, ask point blank: To your knowledge, has the car ever been involved in any minor or major accident(s)? Why are you selling? Ask for the vehicle’s title and compare the title’s VIN number to the VIN number on the corner of vehicle’s windshield. The purpose of this exercise is to look for discrepancies. You’d be surprised as to how much information in terms of vehicle history can be gleaned from those simple questions. Buyer beware!
Was the vehicle you are contemplating buying severely damaged or totaled? Want to avoid a lemon? Start with the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System:
Stay tuned for How To Buy Your Dream Car | Part 2. Will be covered in part 2:
- Where to scoop the bargains
- Test drive
- Financing (consult your financial advisor)
- And …much, much more.
Has “How to Buy Your Dream Car | Part 1” been enlightening to you? If so, the time spent reading it has been worthwhile. Enjoy!
Government-Issued Recalls from six agencies (including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration):
Vehicle Safety Research, Recalls, Defects and Complaints: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:
Vehicle Safety Rating: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety:
For a premier source of Vehicle Safety Information: Safercar:
Results of Recently Tested Vehicles: Consumer Reports:
Further information on Biodiesel: The National Biodiesel Board:
Vehicle Features and Specifications Comparison (MSRP, Invoice, True Market Value, Local Dealer Price, Financing, True Cost To Own, Warranty, etc.): Edmunds:
New cars, used cars, car reviews, car values and Blue Book Prices: Kelly Blue Book:
Vehicle History Report: Autocheck:
Vehicle History Report: Carfax:
To locate an ASE Certified Technician (Mechanic) or a Blue Seal Shop: The National Institute for Automotive Excellence:
Stop Drunk and Drugged Driving: Mothers Against Drunk Driving: