(ARA) – Which do you dread the most: buying a new car or visiting the dentist? For the average person, they may be equally painful. Buying a car can be very stressful and challenging; there is a lot to consider and a lot of money on the line.
“Most people say it’s like having a tooth extracted,” says John Davis, host and executive producer of MotorWeek, the critically acclaimed PBS weekly automotive magazine. “Nobody enjoys it.”
Davis and his staff want to change that. “We look at how people actually buy cars,” says Davis, whose team test drives more than 150 vehicles a year and evaluates them on handling, maneuverability, power, style and value. The result is the annual Drivers’ Choice Awards, which are presented to the best vehicles in 13 categories including minivan, pickup truck, family SUV, convertible and eco-friendly. You can see a list of the 2004 winners at www.pbs.org/motorweek.
The Drivers’ Choice Award evaluations provide consumers with a starting point for gathering the information they need to make a good decision about a new car. Here are some tips from Davis for anyone who is venturing into the showrooms this season in search of a new vehicle:
* Do your research. “Before you go out to look, make two lists: one with everything you want in a vehicle, and one with everything that you absolutely need,” urges Davis. He recommends getting new car magazines and brochures and checking Internet car information sites for the results of road tests. Visiting an auto show is a great opportunity for side-by-side comparisons of hundreds of vehicles at one time. Once you’ve gathered the facts about different models and prices you’ll be ready to narrow down your search.
“Make sure you are well-armed with information before you go out to look at cars,” says Davis. “A new car showroom is an enormously emotional place with a lot of pressure. You can make stupid mistakes if you aren’t prepared.”
* Spend time with a sales consultant. “Try to visit a dealer on a Tuesday or Wednesday during the day,” says Davis. “Most people go on the weekend, and sales consultants don’t have time to help everyone. This is a big decision, set aside time when you can get the help you need.” Davis advises consumers to have the sales consultant do a thorough walk-around of the vehicle. “Gauge their attentiveness, patience and knowledge,” he adds.
* Do a thorough test drive of the exact vehicle you are thinking of buying. “This is not just a drive around the block, this should be a 30- to 40-minute process,” cautions Davis, who says a proper test includes driving on all the types of roads on which you normally drive, parking and pulling in and out of parking lots. Take note of how easy it is to get in and out of the vehicle, how you fit in the car, whether the controls are intuitive, and evaluate the visibility, power and maneuverability. “This is a huge decision, don’t rush it,” adds Davis.
* Negotiate the pure price of the car first. Find out about rebates and other deals that are there to help lower the price before you start to talk about dollars and cents. “The biggest mistake that people make is stating what they want to spend per month before settling on a vehicle price. Worry about the overall price, not the monthly payment,” urges Davis. Negotiate what the car costs irrespective of everything else such as trade-in, rebates and other variables that can confuse the issue. “Don’t believe any deal that is only good for one day,” he adds.
* Pay attention to the warranty. “Warranties are a big part of whether you consider a vehicle to be a good buy,” explains Davis. “There are some cars that would be considered average, but they have long warranties that make them a better deal.” Davis says that anything above a three-year, 36,000-mile warranty should be considered a plus.
Davis’ final advice for car buyers: “Just do a thorough evaluation, have patience and keep your emotions in your pockets. If you put in the effort it requires, buying a car can be a very rewarding experience.”
You can start your research by checking out MotorWeek’s picks for the 2004 Drivers’ Choice Awards. The winners include the Volkswagen Touareg as the “Best of the Year,” the Toyota Prius as the best eco-friendly vehicle, the Honda Element as the best small SUV and the Ford F-150 as the best pickup truck. For more details and a complete list of 2004 Drivers’ Choice Award winners, visit www.pbs.org/motorweek.
Airing on PBS and the Speed Channel, MotorWeek covers all aspects of the automotive industry and offers consumers unbiased, cutting-edge news and features covering new vehicle trends, current safety information, and the results of practical road tests.
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