How to buy a car and get the best value for your money (Part 2)


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Everyone thinks it’s easy to buy a car. But if you want to buy the right car for your needs, then you have to leave impulse behind and begin your research.

The first thing to realize is that the car you think you want may not be the car you need.

For example, let’s say you have:

• Two or three kids
• Your wife
• And maybe a parent or in-law or two ride with you.

That’s a lot of company to carry. It also usually means your dreams of a sleek coupe or a great-looking four-door are not realistic. If you choose either, you will find you are going to have a tough time cramming six or more people into two or four seats, especially if your kids are young and you still have to carry all the paraphernalia of young parents (stroller, carry bags, and such), right? So the coupe or sedan are not valid choices, are they?

What should you be looking at? The short list is:

• a minivan, which makes sense if it has seating for nine;
• an SUV with seating for nine or, if you will also be carrying a lot of gear with you;
• a full-sized van may be a valid alternative for safety.

This probably is not what you thought when you set out on your car-buying trip, is it? There are a number of websites that help in your research, such as They will give you more than enough to think about as well as pricing alternatives.

So you can see that vehicle-buying is not as easy as you thought it was, unless you are single. Then it’s simply finding the model you think looks best and you can afford. You go through the usual dealership two-step, finish up the deal, and drive off.

Family-Size Matters

It pretty much goes without saying that the size of your family matters. It has to be your first consideration when buying a new vehicle as you decide exactly what your family needs are and then find the vehicle that fits them best.

Here are some suggestions:

If your family is one of today’s “downsized” families – a husband, wife and no kids, then you can get that great-looking sedan or, if you both agree, maybe that coupe. Some hybrid coupes are very nice-looking and safe, but stay away from the really little cars. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has pointed out in its yearly crash-testing that the current range of tiny coupes or sedans is not particularly safe in major crashes. Perhaps, surprisingly, they are also not as economical as you would think. EPA mileage ratings put cars like the Smart and the Fiat 500 in the 30-40 mpg range, while there are compacts out there that routinely turn in 40-plus mpg.

For either the “downsized” family or the family with one child, then a crossover is a good choice. It provides more than enough room for your child or the extra “stuff” you may carry on a weekend of antiquing or camping.

These vehicles are usually advertised as “all-wheel-drive” and based on the compact-sized chassis. They are front-drive vehicles primarily with all-wheel-drive an added – and more expensive – afterthought.

The keys to this type of vehicle are the second driveshaft that drives the rear wheels and the viscous coupling that turns the vehicle into an “all-wheel-drive” car. The vehicle’s traction is a simple split, 50-50 front-to-rear, with some control for reduced traction on one or two driving wheels. Most of the time, though, the CUV is a front-drive car that only looks like a mini-SUV.

The downsized or small family is also a candidate for one of the newer more wagon-like crossovers like the Toyota Venza. All the other thoughts apply to this type of vehicle except to say that you may only be able to purchase a front-drive version. The cargo area makes this a viable vehicle.

Larger-Sized Families

If you are into the three- or four-kid young family size and you also like to take one set of parents or another with you when you travel, then you are a candidate for a nine-passenger vehicle. Some suggestions include:

If you are into the three- or four-kid family size and you also like to take one set of parents with you when you travel, then you are a candidate for a nine-passenger vehicle. Some suggestions include:

A nine-passenger minivan: most minivans have seating provision for six to nine, depending on whether the third bench is pushed under the floor in storage. This is a configuration most people employ if they do not carry parents often, making the extra space available for items like baby carriers, strollers, toys, favorite items, and the like.

A safer alternative, albeit more expensive, is an all-wheel-drive minivan such as the Volkswagen’s mini-van (it’s actually based on a Chrysler/Dodge model).

A three-seat full SUV like the Chevy Tahoe or Suburban is a true SUV. This type of vehicle offers not only seating for up to nine and huge storage, but it’s also a real four-wheel-drive vehicle. In a real SUV, there are various automatic settings you can use to let the vehicle and its sensor array decide whether the vehicle should be rear-wheel-drive (these vehicles usually are) or four-wheel-drive. The key to this vehicle, other than the huge amount of space available that really will fit nine people, is the fact that when in an “automatic SUV” mode, sensors on the transmission, at the wheels, and in the rest of the driveline, determine how much traction is available for each wheel. If one wheel needs more traction while others need less – to prevent skids and the like – the power is automatically sent to the wheel or wheels that need it.

These are some of the issues to contend with when you are thinking about shopping for a vehicle. Yes, you are free to buy the vehicle you want to purchase, but imagine the reaction if you get a standard sedan for your nine-passenger-sized vehicle load. Something has to give when you try to load up, and who or what do you leave behind on a trip?

Easy to Buy a Vehicle

It’s true that vehicle-buying is a very easy process. In reality, it boils down to going into a dealership, talking with a salesperson or wandering the lot until you find something you like, and then getting involved with the salesperson. Next, after the test drive, is the obligatory dealership “two-step” or the back-and-forth until you reach the price, plunk down a deposit, and start filling out paperwork.

Then, there’s the inevitable talk with the sales manager and, if all is okay, the handshake.

Finally, there’s the visit to the finance department.

But wait a moment, there’s another set of considerations for you to think about that we will cover in the next part of this “how-to” – the type of driving you do also has a bearing on the vehicle.

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