Josh here Fagan fans. I’ve been hearing this a lot lately from people who have had to go purchase vehicles to replace existing vehicles, or to add that much needed second vehicle for that growing family. To be honest, I totally agree, it is no fun going car shopping for me as well, but I would imagine for a completely different reason than most people. For most people car shopping is no fun because they hate dealing with pushy salesmen, they don’t like sorting through all the information to figure out which vehicle really does suit them best, or just because they see a car as a means not as an end, a tool if you will.
I don’t enjoy car shopping because I just like cars too much. I can’t spend enough time sorting through all the information on various cars, or using online configurators to build the not too hot, not too cold third cup of porridge car that will fit every need, satisfy a few wants and ultimately make the best car for me… though often times I find myself configuring cars that are way out of my price range just because I think it’s fun. In fact the other night I spent an hour configuring a Rolls-Royce Phantom on their website; you can pretty much customize everything! It’s not fun car shopping because I can’t have all of them.
Now it’s true, the pushy salesmen suck, but if you let it, dealing with them can be kind of fun. I mean, here is someone who is totally in it for you, a BFF (best friend for-now) of sorts. He listens to every word you say and pretends to care deeply about you and what you need. Yeah, so sometimes your new BFF wants to push you into leasing a car when you have no plans of doing so, or offering 1.9% financing because now is the time to buy, but what friend doesn’t bring a little unwanted baggage to the table from time to time. As a good friend (customer) you have to let them know where you stand by being direct and honest, as you would with real friends.
“No, I’m not going to lease from you or anyone because I want to actually own something after I’ve made so many payments,” and “No, I am not buying today, I am just testing this and many other vehicles and will continue to do so until I am good and ready to buy.”
Like any person, salesmen are nice and honest when you are nice and honest, unless you ask them to compare the vehicle they are selling to another one you are looking at elsewhere. That is why research is key, because in the end the salesmen isn’t a real friend, unless of course you are in fact friends with a car salesman or perhaps married to one. Then for sure he is a friend, otherwise just remember your BFF is interested in one thing, the sale.
As far as researching goes, I have spent a TON of time on a couple of key websites, and I’ve loved every minute. The first website that is key is Consumer Reports. Now, I don’t always see eye to eye with consumer reports because part of their vehicle ratings are based upon what they think a car should handle like, but they are pretty good at giving you all the other information you need about a vehicle including reliability estimates, build quality information, and really good MPG estimates – as a side note on MPG, if you didn’t already know the EPA does not test every vehicle. In fact, most of the time they will take a companies’ word for it when it comes to MPG estimates. Honda has been dealing with a lawsuit over falsified MPG claims on some of their hybrid vehicles because the vehicles didn’t actually get what Honda said they could. Let’s face it, MPG’s don’t make the vehicle, but anymore they are a huge contributing factor. Here is the straight dope from the EPA:
Fuel economy is measured under controlled conditions in a laboratory using a standardized test procedure specified by federal law. Manufacturers test their own vehicles—usually pre-production prototypes—and report the results to EPA. EPA reviews the results and confirms about 10-15 percent of them through their own tests at the National Vehicles and Fuel Emissions Laboratory.
Another couple of good websites are Edmunds, Motortrend, and even JD Power. All of these give a lot of information about various vehicles and help to give a variety of perspective concerning a potential vehicle. Edmunds offers things like real cost calculations which give a picture of exactly how much it might cost to own and maintain a particular vehicle over time. Motortrend often times will actually compare vehicles that I would consider owning by taking them out and rating their usability and other factors. JD Power does a lot of its own research but also has owner information available as well, so you can get an idea of just what it is like to own a particular vehicle, kind of like the ratings you find on Amazon or Best Buy but for cars.
Another way to get good information (sometimes) is to talk to the people who actually own the vehicles you’re interested in or even just vehicles in the same class. An important exception is if someone tells you they really liked a vehicle they rented: take it with a grain of salt. Let’s face it, in most cases the car you rent will be better than the car you own so any rental car is automatically awesome, even if it isn’t. That isn’t to say that renting a car is a bad way to try cars, but don’t be sold on a car because you liked it when you rented it because you didn’t have to live with the car. Also, we’ve had a lot of people tell us to get a mini-van, and while we understand the appeal, we’re never going to own one if we can help it. Here is why: we’ve owned a good SUV. In my opinion people own mini-vans because they have never had a good SUV, and that has never been more true than today. There are SOOOOO many options out there in the SUV-land that have relatively fuel efficient 4 and 6 cylinder engines that have just as much space (and often more) but are much more versatile in my opinion, as well as some larger 8 cylinder monsters that have gotten much better as far as MPGs are concerned.
Good small-mid sized family SUV’s for any budget or taste:
Good mid-sized family 6-cylinder SUV’s for any budget or taste:
There are probably many more, but you get the idea. Of course, when I say any budget I mean any new car buying budget. I would rather buy any of these before buying a min-van because mini-vans don’t do anything for you that these vehicles don’t, but come with the perk of not branding you a “mini-van owner” (sorry to any whom this might offend because you haven’t realized how right I am). If these simply aren’t big enough for you there are always the V8 derivations, Tahoe, Yukon, Suburban, Expedition, Sequoia, GL450, GL550, Cayenne, or the big 12 or 15 passenger vans…etc. In other words your needs can be met without once having to admit that you own a minivan (once again sorry to those who still own a minivan, don’t take it personally). That being said, we are thankful to be driving a Honda Odyssey right now that Kate’s brother is loaning us, and we were very thankful that we were able to borrow a friends Dodge Caravan.
Right now I think we have a better idea of what we want to do, but who knows, it could all change depending on a variety of factors. The one thing that is for sure, right up to the day we finally settle on a vehicle, it’s no fun car shopping, because in the end I want them all!
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