#buy a car
Buy a new car? Are you crazy?
People shopping for new cars should stop, right now, and think about it, Consumer Reports says, though it does not say so quite as bluntly.
“Buying a new car might be a lousy financial move,” warns the widely consulted publication, which posted its comprehensive annual auto report online Tuesday and mails its April auto issue print magazine to subscribers next week. The April issue hits newsstands March 5.
You can justify replacing your old car to get the latest safety gear, Consumer Reports says, but not necessarily because of dents and dings.
You can justify replacing your old car to get the latest safety gear, Consumer Reports says, but not necessarily because of dents and dings. less
The overriding reason: You’re about to spend a lot more than you think and more than you probably need to.
Keeping what you already drive could “not only free you from a new cycle of monthly payments, but also save a bundle in insurance, taxes and other expenses — primarily depreciation.”
A car is worth about half its new value after three years, depending on the vehicle. Consumer Reports says the average value after three years is 54% of new.
CR provides a decision tree that — answered honestly — encourages many would-be new-car buyers to keep their old cars, buy newer used cars or fix a few gripes with aftermarket equipment.
Emotion, not just reason, drives car purchases, of course, so no coldly analytical approach will influence everyone. But thinking through the decision this way could suggest cheaper ways to address the true reasons why a shopper is in the market for a new car in the first place.
The decision tree starts by letting you choose among three major reasons why you might think you want a new car: to save money on gas and repairs, to get a safer vehicle or to get more features and amenities.
Under the “save money” category, you’re discouraged from buying a replacement vehicle unless you’re driving a major-league gas guzzler and/or your annual repair costs are more than a year of new-car payments would be.
And the gas-guzzler rationale is suspect even if fuel prices don’t stay as low as they have been. It takes a lot of fuel savings to equal even one month’s car payment. Longer at the nationwide average for regular of about $2.33 at midweek, according to travel organization AAA. A year ago it was about $3.43.
The easiest path to deciding to buy new is under the “concerned about safety” category. Old car doesn’t have electronic stability control? Bam, go right to “buy a new car.” Have stability control but really want the latest safety gadgets and electronics, too? Bang, right to “buy a new car.”
But keep in mind that a “new car” to you, in many cases, could mean a newer used car with the safety tech you want.
If you simply “want more features,” you might do as well upgrading your phone, instead, to get, say, navigation, rather than buying a whole new car with navi.
Or buy a stand-alone aftermarket navi and get a few other modern features in the bargain. A number of add-on navi systems in the $200 to $400 range also could add a desired Bluetooth connection and voice control, so you can use your phone in hands-free fashion.
In a Garmin navigation unit, for example, you’d say, “Voice command,” then, for instance, “Call my bookie.” The call is made by the phone, and the sound is routed through the navi speakers. No need to pick up your phone, or wear headphones. That could be very handy in states that prohibit all but hands-free use while driving.
You need to put up with the often-awkward dashboard mat or suction-cup mounting of aftermarket navi systems, but you’ll likely have spent less than a month’s payment.
Not part of the logical decision tree is another factor, however. Maybe you are just tired of you current car. Or have been disappointed. Or, as it turns out, you just plain hate it.
One of the most startling features in the CR auto report is a list of models car owners responding to its annual survey say they’ve found satisfying — or unsatisfying. Surprisingly, many of the favorites don’t correlate with the lists of cars with fewest problems or highest road test score.
Glaring example: Fiat brand winds up in the reliability dust bins of CR ‘s and other arm’s-length studies, but owners say they just love their Fiat 500s and definitely would buy them again.
CR ‘s comprehensive report card shows Fiat is the worst brand overall, combining road-test and reliability scores. And the latest J.D. Power long-term vehicle dependability survey, published Wednesday, likewise shows Fiat at the bottom. And owners love ’em.
An example in the other direction is the Acura RLX, the new-design flagship from a brand that’s typically above average in the third-party surveys — 11th of 28 brands in the CR standings, 12th of 31 in the Power dependability chart — was the least satisfying midsize luxury car, according to owners responding to the CR survey.
The ratings evoke the cliché, “Seemed like a good idea at the time.” It’s a warning that buying solely, or largely, on reliability scores might leave you in a few years with a car you don’t really like, but can’t justify dumping because the vehicle is so trouble-free.
“No joy,” as military pilots say when they don’t see the expected target.