What type of car should I buy? What is the best brand of car? These are both tough questions. Having bought an insane number of cars over the years I have faced this issue many times. A lot of factors determine what car could be right for you. Do you have kids? Do you need a good commuter car? Are you looking for all-around practicality and reliability? Are you looking for the perfect rig to get you up to the mountains to hike or ski? Or do you just want a ground-pounding sports car? A lot of things need to be considered before you make your final choice in buying a new (or used) car. The last thing you want to do is just stop by some random dealership and fall for the hard-sell routine. If you do, I can almost guarantee you will have a case of buyer’s remorse. Don’t do it.
The first thing you need to do is think hard about what you want out of your next vehicle. Once you have narrowed down the type of car you need, it is time to do some solid research. You can go online to several places for information. Some good sites to look at for new car reviews and information are Road & Track, Motor Trend, Car and Driver, AutoTrader, Edmunds, Consumer Reports and AutoWeek. These publications do extensive testing on the cars they review. They often take a car on a long-term test – up to a year. They record things like real-world gas mileage, maintenance costs, drivers’ impressions and more. You can begin to get a real feel for a car by doing this back ground research. Car reviews can be very useful in your search.
Choosing the Right Family Car
For me, the most important consideration in choosing a great family car is safety. There are quite a few features to consider when choosing your new car. Look for safety data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. They give star ratings on survivability in a crash. They test cars in front-end collisions, side impacts and rollovers. Also, I like to look at cars with strong safety technology – multiple front and side airbags, traction and stability control, automatic seatbelt tensioners, antilock brakes, lane departure warning, forward collision alerts and more.
Today’s cars are leaps and bounds ahead in safety than cars built even five years ago. Technology just keeps improving. I am extremely impressed at how some of the newer technologies even aid us in avoiding accidents. Things like blind-spot detection and adaptive cruise control really help. I am even in love with back-up cameras. In my book safety is the top priority when you are driving the family around. Some of you wouldn’t be caught dead driving a minivan – but there are a lot of great alternatives for family cars these days.
I have a handful of favorites in the family car category. I really do see the practicality of some of those dreaded minivans! The Volkswagen Vanagon comes to mind, which is a car I once owned. In particular, I like the new Dodge vans. They have a ton of room and some high-end features to keep everyone comfortable. The new full-size Jeeps are also worth a look. Also, no search would be complete without considering something like the Honda Odyssey.
If you aren’t hauling around a whole soccer team, then some of the smaller vehicles will work well. I like some of the wagons available today – the Volkswagen Jetta wagon, Volvos, Subaru Outback and Forrester are all solid choices. And to make Subarus even more appealing and useful, they are all-wheel drive, which is great in bad weather. Another of my favorites in this category are the Audi wagons. Here you get quite a bit more luxury and style – but you pay for it. There are others I like as well. The Mazda 3 and 6 models and the Ford Focus five doors are good choices in my humble opinion.
Choosing a Great Daily Commuter
Picking the best daily driver can be tough. I’ve faced this decision many times – and I still struggle between brands and models. This is arguably one of the widest categories of automobiles to choose from. Be sure to do your online research to help guide you toward the best car for your needs. You need to be conscious of things like reliability, fuel economy and safety. A few of my favorites are the Honda Civic (splurge for the si version for a little more entertainment), the Toyota Camry, the Volkswagen Jetta and the Ford Escort. I also like the Kia and Hyundai lineup as well. A lot of this depends on your budget, so choose carefully.
Picking a Practical New Car
Some of us just need a practical, economical and reliable car. Things to consider are low maintenance costs, a strong history of reliability over the long term, good gas mileage and comfort. Cars in this category can trade some style for usability – but today those features are blending together. Some of the cars I like in this category are the Ford Escape, Chevrolet Malibu, Dodge Dart, Volkswagen Rabbit, Kia models and the entry-level Volvos. There are a huge number of similarly practical autos – do your research and find the best fit for you. The car might be practical, but it can be cool too.
The Lifestyle Vehicle
OK, this is for all of you active folks. This category covers some options for hikers, skiers and everything in between. There are some excellent SUVs and smaller crossover vehicles to choose from. A few of my favorites are the BMW X3 and X5 – depending on how big of a rig you need. I also like the GMC Terrain. The Subaru cars can really be a good choice here too. On the higher end, some of the ultimate choices are the Porsche Cayanne and Range Rovers. Granted, not many of the folks that buy these masterpieces ever take them off road – but they are extremely capable and powerful in all driving situations. Don’t be afraid to get your pretty car dirty – you can always wash it.
The Sports Car
How do I even begin to suggest these high performance cars? You can choose from some of the newer domestic powerhouses like Mustangs or Camaros. There are also some wild rides from Japan (you have to check out the Nissan GTR) and Europe (can you say Ferrari, Porsche or Maserati?). Then there are the true legends. These are the sleek horsepower crazy coupes you see splashed all over the movies and magazines. Marques like Bugatti, Rolls Royce, Maclaren and Aston Martin to name but a few. These sports cars are often referred to as “super cars.” When you boil it down, choosing a sports car depends on your sense of style and your budget.
Today’s high performance machines are all extremely capable. They can launch you so hard off the line that your head is pinned to the backrest. Many of these street beasts can go from zero to 60 in less than four seconds. Four seconds! They can carve through corners like nothing and will stop on a dime. There are literally dozens of advanced technological features onboard. These can aid the driver to push the car safely toward its upper limits – just watch that speed limit. In addition, most of these high performance cars are so well-built they can even be used as an everyday ride. How many of you have radar/laser detectors and even jammers? Don’t worry, I won’t tell.
In a nutshell, there are a lot of choices in every category of automobiles. You need to sit down and make a list of the features that are most important to you. Combine that with some solid online research (especially safety and price). You will get some great cars to choose from. Once you are well-armed with information, it is time to go out and do some test drives. Remember, don’t fall for a sales pitch. Stick to your guns. Picking a car is an expensive commitment. I just like to make sure mine is red, low and fast.