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Jeruba's avatar

Some advice on car buying? (Question 2)

Asked by Jeruba (46090points) August 7th, 2012

(Question 1. Question 3.)

Any comments to share on the relative merits and demerits of comparable Honda, Toyota, and Nissan models? Honda Civic or Insight, approximately. How about American-made equivalents?

I’m not locked into anything at this point. Just pondering and weighing.

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30 Answers

Tropical_Willie's avatar

If you are looking for small commuter type vehicle with good gas mileage, go with Focus, Fiesta or something that size. Hybrids and pure battery powered vehicle require a HIGH DOLLAR battery at some point in time. Some of the companies will not offer an extended warranty on hybrids, what would that imply? ?

JLeslie's avatar

I loved my Nissan Maxima and my Honda Accord both. I never had one problem with either. My Nissan had a few things that were really nice like heated stearing wheels, but since you are in California that would not be a big selling point.

I saw you might want a hybrid, so you could also try the Ford Fusion. I think it is the Fusion? I drove one a couple years ago, and it was very comfortable. Previously I was very negative about American cars. We recently bought a Ford truck, and I find it very comfortable and has some nice features, but the seats heat unevenly, which is not a big deal, but in my opinion a defect. Also, the emergency break was not working well, and we complained about that as well and it wound up a lot of people had complained and they had an updated part that fixed it. I still don’t understand how they ever put the inferior part in? I don’t get how that gets past test marketing? Those are the annoying little things about American cars in my opinion. But, the guys at ssrvice have been great, and Ford does care if they get complaints about something. I still would consider buying another Ford.

Fly's avatar

I don’t have any advice to offer, but both of your links to question three lead back to this question.

fremen_warrior's avatar

My parents have a Honda Civic and they’re very satisfied with it overall.

Jeruba's avatar

(Sorry, I didn’t do the links right. I was hurrying to get them all in during the editing window and messed half of them up. Question 3.)

jerv's avatar

Toyota is the longest-lived; most of the cars I see over 25 years old are Toyota. Honda is great while it lasts, and that is usually about a decade, but they tend to get unreliable around the 15 year mark. I have yet to see a long-lived Nissan, and American cars have changed rapidly enough that I’m still forming an opinion on them.

gailcalled's avatar

I found that sitting in various cars and driving them helped me pick out the most comfortable seating for my particular body parts. I also liked the height and field of view in the car that I ultimately chose.

I am going to my dealership for a 30,000 service so will be hanging around for several hours. I figure that I will chat up my salesman, see what’s on the lot and drive a few of the 2012 models. Then I will go home for another 30,000 miles.

Since I have been single, I have quite enjoyed this. It’s a nice new skill, like learning how to turn off the water in my toilet.

Sunny2's avatar

If you are looking at Hondas, be sure to check out the Honda Fit. It’s small but has amazing capacity (because of having a hatchback and easy to lower seat backs), good mileage, surprisingly roomy for passengers.
I loved my Civics (which have a trunk), but I’m finding the Fit meets my needs now.
The Civics are very reliable, good cars, time tested and I recommend them highly.

CWOTUS's avatar

I’ve been driving a Toyota Camry (three different vehicles) since the early 90s. I love that car. The first one (‘92) I took to just over 200,000 miles with very few problems, the second (‘96) I gave to my wife when we separated (and as far as I know she still has it, though I don’t think it’s driven much any more), and I now have 80,000 trouble-free miles on my ‘08.

marinelife's avatar

I loved both of the Nissans I had. They were stylish and reliable and fun to drive. I preferred them to Toyota or Honda, because there weren’t so many of them driving around.

Bellatrix's avatar

My previous car was a Nissan X-Trail which I loved until it developed a serious intermittent problem (it was just out of warranty). I won’t go into ‘the problem’ but will give some info about the service I received. Nissan in Australia use independently owned service centres so if one doesn’t find the problem, you have to go to another that is owned by entirely different people. We went to three different service centres – none of which could resolve the problem but each charged us for changing parts (the same parts on some occasions) repeatedly. We could not speak to Nissan at all. You have to go through their service centres. So while we were having a major problem with one of their vehicles we could never contact the manufacturer. It was exceedingly frustrating, the problem was never resolved, and my experience has resulted in my vowing never to buy another Nissan.

So, check out the service situation when deciding. It may be different in the US but I think when there is a problem service centres cannot resolve you should be able to contact the manufacturer.

You didn’t mention Mazda but I now drive a Mazda 3 and it is a joy to drive and the car is one of the top sellers in Australia. It is plenty big enough for us to get our three adult kids in if we are all going out together. The boot (trunk) is big enough to get two big bags in when we travel to the airport, plus smaller bags. I absolutely love driving this car and it is now just four years old and we are so happy with it we aren’t planning to change yet.

jerv's avatar

@Bellatrix Sounds like a typical Nissan :/

Mazda is an interesting choice. They have some great cars, but some problem ones as well. If I had known that the ‘98 626 used the Ford CD4E automatic transmission that was designed for a smaller car and provided seriously inadequate cooling for the tranny fluid and thus needed a full transmission replacement every 30–40k miles, I would not have let my wife by that car.

If it’s a full 100% Mazda then it’s decent (I would love an RX-7!), but their partnership with Ford makes me wary enough that I would do some investigating before I bought another one. Ford may have improved lately since the days of the two that I blew up, but until the “new and improved” Fords get a few more years under their belt to see how they really hold up, I remain skeptical of any Mazda that Ford had any part of making, and the Mazda3 is based on the same C1 platform as the old Ford Focus (at least the international version; the US Focus used a different chassis.). I’ve heard good things abouthe Mazda3 despite that, but it takes a while to (re)gain my trust.

@marinelife How long did those Nissans last?

Bellatrix's avatar

@jerv I know Ford own Mazda but what influence they have over the quality of the manufacturing I couldn’t say or whether a Ford chassis is used or not. I do recall, and this might be useful @Jeruba, when we bought our car one of the key positives stressed was that this car was built in Japan and not Korea and the VIN number substantiates that claim. So, perhaps where different models/makes of cars are built is something to consider @Jeruba. Apparently, Mazda 3s built in Korea are not of the same quality as those produced in Japan. Have to say I really wouldn’t know how much of a difference such things make and could just be adding another layer of confusion to an already complex purchase decision.

I do love my Mazda 3 though and it has been exceedingly reliable (I am now touching all wood close to me).

jerv's avatar

@Bellatrix VW had similar issues with US-built vs Mexico-built, so it stands to reason.

Jeruba's avatar

My son and I visited four car dealerships this afternoon, just as a preliminary foray, a research and exploration trip. No test drives. It was very helpful as a starting point, and now I can begin to home in on some preferences. These responses to my three questions are really useful for filling in some of my areas of ignorance. Thanks, everyone.

I have to say that color is important to me. I could never love a car that’s gray or beige. Even silver is just so neutral. Black, white, blah. Why is there so very little color on the road now, apart from some few oversaturated excesses in the primary colors?

gailcalled's avatar

^^^ There are issues around color other than aesthetics. Black cars get very hot in the summer; white cars are hard to see in bad snow storms. Around here with our serious weather, we think about this.

JLeslie's avatar

@Jeruba Driving the cars is very important in my opinion. When you finally do the driving, you will probably easily eliminate one or two more.

I think people more and more go for colors that have easier resale, and since a lot of cars are leased. The dealerships probably like to lease cars that will easily resell also. Car manufacturers I guess streamlined the colors they offer to the most popular sellers to minimize production costs is my guess. Dealerships even ordering more specifically best selling colors to keep on the lot. Again, I am assuming based on my retail knowledge, but I don’t have automotive experience. Part of it must also have to do with the target market the cars you are looking at sell to.

jerv's avatar

@Jeruba I bet you won’t find a paint job like this at the dealer!

hearkat's avatar

We love our VWs. I had one of the last built in Pennsylvania in the 1980s, as well as ones built in Mexico and Germany. Our newest is a 2011 Jetta TDI – the new clean diesel model, and we’ve been very pleased. It has 46,000+ miles on it in less than 18 months, and averages over 40 MPG. The 2012 Passat has a TDI option if you wanted the vehicle to be a little bigger (I know you said 4-door sedan). The 2013 Jetta Hybrid will be released soon, too – if you’d prefer Hybrid to clean diesel.

gailcalled's avatar

Here is a complicated (and somewhat garbled) answer to the question of how to choose, rationally, a car color.

hearkat's avatar

I want to add that one thing that people don’t always scrutinize is how easy the interior controls are to find and manipulate. I spend a lot of time in my car, and I love how the switches and dials and knobs are laid-out in my 2006 more than the layout of the 2011, which has a navigation and touch screen. I realized that I prefer the analog control, because I can reach out and find them without having to take my eyes of the road.

So before you go out on the test drives, start observing your daily driving activities… do you use the cruise control a lot? How often are you changing radio station or track/song on your cd/mp3? Where is the wiper control, and is it set up in a way that feels intuitive for you, or that you think you’ll adapt too fairly well? How often do you adjust the interior temperature and vents?

Also, when you’re ready to go test drive, go to local dealers where you are familiar with the roads in the area. I usually take a different route than the stupid test-drive loops the sales people like to use. I choose a road where I will have to merge onto a highway to check the acceleration and torque, and then take twisty back-roads back to test the handling.

Once you’ve decided on which model you want, then you can negotiate between different dealerships; but remember that if they offer you service incentives, it does help to buy from a location close to home or work.

JLeslie's avatar

@gailcalled Interesting. I do flinch when I see a white car in my rear view worried it might be an undercover cop. A friend of mine who is in accidents all the time, her car is a middle grey, much like silver, and I told her maybe she should buy a car that does not dissappear in bad weather like downpours and fog. Daytime running lights help with that now I think. Some people seem to still think that lights on the car are only for the driver to be able to see, and fail to realize it is so other drivers also can see you. So, daytime running lights were invented. I have no idea if my accident prone friend knows to put her lights on in bad weather.

@Jeruba If you care about the color you might have to pay a little more and order exactly what you want, but just know the price is still negotiable even then. Mostly my husband and I have owned black cars, but they look dirty fast. He would wash the car almost every week anyway, so it doesn’t really matter. Black interiors can be very hot.

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marinelife's avatar

@jerv Thirteen plus years for the first one. I knew it was still on the road that much later anyway. The second one I have no idea. I got rid of the car five years after I bought it used.

geeky_mama's avatar

@Jeruba – here is the sum total of what I know when it comes to buying new cars..

1. My hubby is a “car guy” – he gets every magazine related to cars and Consumer Reports and cruises internet car forums where owners vent about problems their cars have, etc. You can be a bit like him and prevent yourself from buying a car with a “known” issue by visiting the forums a bit of any car you’re pretty sure you want to buy. (And yes, even new cars can have issues. We like to buy new and take VERY good care of our cars. We sometimes buy used cars..but when you buy new at least you’re not buying someone else’s problems and you’ve typically got a warranty in case anything major goes wrong.)

2. Drive ‘em. It’s free to go for a test drive – make a list of your top 3 or 4 cars that you think you want and go drive them. Just promise yourself you are not there to buy now – just to test drive. Heck, test drive them more than once at more than one dealership if you can!
I was fairly far along in considering getting a Subaru Forrester and then I drove it an didn’t like it nearly as much as I thought I would. I liked the Outback better.. but I liked driving the Kia Sportage and the Mazda CX-7 even more. When I travel for work I almost always drive a Rav4 – I like those, too…but I liked the interior trimmings (fancy bits) on the Mazda7 & Kia Sportage better. The fit & finish on those was nicer.

3. When you go to drive the cars you’re also sort of test driving the dealerships. If you don’t like the “vibe” or the attitude – make a note of the name and consider not working with those folks. Google dealerships to see what other people online say about ‘em.

When you get narrowed down to the make & model car you want try contacting the dealerships via their Internet Sales person. Most dealerships pick one guy (or gal) who handles providing sales quotes by internet. There are typically discounts available via their “internet” sales—sometimes it’s better than what you’d get on the lot in person. Negotiations are by email and upfront—- and typically include a discount. Be sure to tell them whatever you can about your trade in, if you have one. If you want to proceed they can have everything ready for you in advance (they know the car you want, they know your trade in—gets you in & out at the dealership in 1.5 or 2 hours instead of 3 or 4 hours of paper work..)

4. It can be worth it to finance if they offer a really good deal. So, hear ‘em out. Just be prepared with your OWN financing in case. When we were ready to buy we went to our Credit Union and asked for rates & terms – and were pre-approved. We knew we already had financing in place at a good low interest rate.
However, the dealer offered us 0% for 60 months. We pay NO interest on our new car. We put a lot less down than we planned – and we’ll wait to pay off the car after we pay some other higher-interest loans off first—because, no interest!

5. Know yourself – and give yourself permission to be picky. You don’t have to settle – no matter your budget.
I now know, really well, what makes me happy with a car. For some people the color of the car IS really important. If that’s you – don’t feel bad about it—when you’re spending this much money make sure you really, really love it.
You’re going to drive it every day for the next X number of years..make sure you don’t regret any aspect that you don’t feel was worth the trade off in money saved, etc.

It may sound silly to other people—but I had a perfectly nice Mazda5 that was all but paid off and fit most of my criteria (manual transmission, good stereo, fit me + the kids, sat up a little higher than a typical sedan, looked sporty) ...but it lacked the sun roof I’d really wanted…and I’d settled for a color I didn’t care for when we bought it. It wasn’t ugly by any stretch…I just didn’t love it.

We looked into adding a sun roof after-market..but in the end, hubby researched replacement cars for me. We ended up getting offered far more than we expected (about $2K over blue book!) for our trade-in—so we traded in the 5 and I got a Mazda7.. which had one less seat in the back (which is ok, because now our kids are old enough we can put one in the front seat if we need to) ..but had the magical sun roof AND something that makes me irrationally happy: the Mazda bluetooth radio can detect my iphone when I get in the car and just starts playing music from my preferred play list. It also does handsfree phone calls—I just say “Call Home” and it dials and connects me. It makes me feel like an episode of the Jetsons!

I love my car. It’s a little over a year old and I love it as much as the day I bought it. It makes me smile every time I climb in to drive it. If I won the lottery tomorrow I wouldn’t trade it in and get a different car. I wish the same for you, too. :)

Happy Shopping—good luck!

jerv's avatar

@marinelife I am impressed, and mildly surprised.

wildpotato's avatar

@gailcalled Glad I stumbled on your advice on this thread – we are finally moving up to your neck of the woods (yay!) and need to get a 4WD vehicle posthaste. We’re looking at either a Subaru Outback or a Volvo wagon, but color is something I hadn’t thought about yet. No black or white, got it – any other tips?

gailcalled's avatar

Let’s take this to PM.

jerv's avatar

@wildpotato Just remember that 4WD/AWD cars handle quite differently under any circumstances where drivetrain makes any difference at all. They’re heavier, balanced differently, and if you do get into a skid, AWD requires different techniques to recover while old-school 4WD just has to ride it out since there really is no recovering.

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