Wednesday, May 14, 2008

My priorities for car shopping

Since I have some inkling my vehicle is not going to last as long as I would like, it behooves me to start looking sooner rather than later. My goal is to keep using my car until the repairs are cost prohibitive or I am concerned about its reliability. Currently, reliability is not an issue nor are repairs pressing. However, I cannot predict the future so I have decided to do my research now to be better prepared if my situation changes quickly.

What important features am I looking for?
My primary consideration is low gasoline consumption so I am looking for vehicles that rank in the top 10 of its model year for fuel efficiency. Since I use cruise control to help me maintain a steady speed, I require this in any new vehicle I purchase. While I might like the additional hauling capacity of a van or SUV, a car suits me better because the possibility of me hauling large pieces of furniture or drywall is low. I would prefer to purchase a two- to three-year-old used vehicle with low miles (50,000 or less) under warranty if possible. This way, I do not have the sharp depreciation of a new car, but still have many good years left in the vehicle.

What features add value to a vehicle purchase for me?
Both of the cars I have owned (and the car my parents let me borrow in college) had power windows and locks. I find these features convenient and useful since it is easy to raise and lower a window at the touch of a button even while driving. The Autostick ability (as Chrysler calls it) allows me to up- and downshift without a clutch, but my primary driving mode is automatic. The shifting is nice in winter or to lower my momentum down a hill as I head to a stop sign. As a shorter-than-average woman, power-adjustable seats work in my favor and can be changed at a touch of a button while driving if I need to move forward or back a bit. I lived without an inside trunk release with my previous car and did not like it so I would like my next car to have this feature.

What might I like to have if the option is available?
I would love to have a moon- or sunroof on my next car. Even a year ago, I was considering the power and sleekness of a Dodge Charger, but the gas mileage stinks on the modernized muscle car. A sunroof would be a bit of sportiness in an otherwise staid sedan. If possible, I would like to drive a green or blue car. My previous car was white and my current car is red, but I have wanted a blue- or green-colored vehicle for years. Purchasing a used vehicle means the car color depends on the previous owner so my options are more limited. A few more nice features: a place to put my iPod that does not take up a cup holder, leather interior and some nice tire rims.

Considering my lifestyle, my needs and my desires, I have come up with the above list of features for my next car. With fuel efficiency as the number one consideration, the Toyota Corolla and Volkswagon Jetta come up as top picks. Despite the items on my list, I still have to like how my car looks, hence the two models mentioned. I would prefer domestic cars, but Toyota, Honda and Volkswagon rank in the top five for fuel efficiency per I still need to research total cost of ownership (I was told VWs tend to cost more to fix as parts are more expensive), but with these basic features, I am ready to move on to the next step--driving the likely choices.

A Toyota Corolla may hit all my important features and even some of my desired ones, but if it makes me feel squished or I do not like the road noise, this is not a model I will consider for purchase. I realize compromises will need to be made when I buy my next car. Test driving some of the likely candidates will give me real-world experience and help solidify my decision or introduce me to new possibilities.

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