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A Car Question...

Hi folks!  Lots has been going on here - including a brief trip to Atlanta for Anachrocon to sing with Play It With Moxie (w00t! Note our fantastic new logo - Thanks Brian!) and participate in a voice over UNconference :) called Faffcon (Faffcon3 is already being advertised - and I'm really looking forward to going to it. I was at Faffcon2).  I had a blast at both and spent time with folks I get WAY too little time to spend time with (darned geography).  

But I'm actually posting because I wanted to ask you all a question.  It's a car-related question.  Since my lease is coming up in June, I'm trying to decide what kind of car I'd like to finance.  And this time, it will be a finance.  Car companies don't seem to be offering as many leasing options as they used to, they don't seem to like leases, and interest rates are generally low enough that over 72 months, a finance rate is pretty decent.  

I'm looking at a mid-sized car - so a Mazda 3, Volkswagen Jetta, Hyundai Elentra, Kia Forte Koup (they're pretty cute cars), or a Chevy Cruze (which I've heard very good things about).   My current car is a Mazda 3 - and it's ok ... but ... not great.  I'm certainly not loving it enough to purchase it at the end of the lease - mostly due to slightly cheap feeling interior stuff.  But maybe if I upgrade to a newer model?  Don't know.

So my questions are this:

1) Which car of these would you recommend?  Or do you have another recommendation?  And why?
2) What "luxury" features in a car do you find the most useful/fun?  

I'd love to hear your opinions.  Thanks so much!


( 23 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 8th, 2011 10:30 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Judith! Very good things to keep in mind - and I agree with you on the necessities. :) I've been looking at the Chevy Cruze... and have even gotten a decent quote, but it requires money down and uses something they call "Smart Financing" (it's basically a lease dressed up to look like financing because you really DO own the car ... but you still have a lump payment at the end to buy the thing. That's after 60 months - but you can give the car back at 48 if you want. An interesting idea...). Not sure if I want to go in that direction, but you never know.
Mar. 8th, 2011 01:20 am (UTC)
Since I don't drive, and try to stay out of cars when I can, my #1 feature is predictably odd: I'd like enough sound isolation that I don't have to turn the stereo to distortion levels to hear it over the road noise...even on Toronto-area roads. :)
Mar. 8th, 2011 10:30 pm (UTC)
A good point, Phil. :) A good sound system is a definite plus!
Mar. 8th, 2011 02:17 am (UTC)
I utterly, absolutely adore my Subaru Outback. Handles anything I throw at her, and has kept me safe several times - stops on a dime and is built very sturdily. I got smashed by two giant colliding trucks when I was sitting at a red light in November - $11,000 of damage to my car and not a scratch or so much as whiplash to me.

Given my bad back and the weather here, the heated seats are a luxury I don't think I could live without now. I love the aux input in the console - handy place to have an MP3 player, and they were smart enough to put a little cigarette-lighter charger outlet right there, too. Oh! and heated windsheild wiper rests! So the wipers don't freeze down! Very clever. Though your weather may not warrant such a car, I probably won't own anything other than a Subaru, ever.
Mar. 8th, 2011 11:56 pm (UTC)
Oh believe me, Ellen - the weather I experience here in Newmarket Ontario definitely warrants heated EVERYthing. ;) My only hesitation is that I don't think an SUV sized vehicle will fit in our small garage. ;) But the information is still useful to have. Thank you!
Mar. 8th, 2011 03:28 am (UTC)
I've been really happy with the Hondas I've owned.
Mar. 8th, 2011 10:31 pm (UTC)
We have too! My husband currently has a very nice black Honda Civic Coup - but we don't want two. ;)
Mar. 8th, 2011 03:32 am (UTC)
My mother had a Volkswagen Jetta. It was a great car. A week after she got it, some guy ran a red light and hit the driver's side, just outside the windshield, at really high speeds. It took the entire front off the car, front wheels and all. My mother walked away with a light ankle bruise. The safety of that car is amazing.

On the other hand, I rented a Kia once. I felt like I was driving a toy. It was awful - I've never been so glad to return a rental car. I will go without a car for a while before driving one ever again.
Mar. 8th, 2011 10:32 pm (UTC)
I've been looking very seriously at the Jetta too. Hoping to get a quote shortly. I know of someone who owns a white Kia Forte Koup and loves it ... but even he admits that some of the interior is a bit cheap (and considering the price of the car, that's not too surprising). Thanks for your thoughts!
Mar. 8th, 2011 03:49 am (UTC)
Hi Jodie, it's Roman - here are my 2 cents:

1. I own 2008 Mazda 6 (v6 3.0, 6-speed automatic) and I love it. Truly a driver's car. Two of my friends love their Mazda 3. I would not recommend Kia or Hyundai after owning Mazda - they are not bad, but they feel cheaper and they ar not much less expensive. Chevy might be too, although I'm not familiar with that model - it's either a rebrinded korean (decent, but not up to japanese standards) or truly an american small car (which they don't know how to make properly). Jetta is very good but overpriced like all german cars here.

2. ABS and Traction Control are a must safety-wise. Winter Tires (although not a model feature) are a must-have. Electric seats really make it easier on a long trips, and so is criose control. But most cars have it nowadays... Oh, and a good stereo is very important. I at least always replace all speakers, and if I can, a deck too (although with modern cars it's often integrated with other studd so it's difficult and expensive to replace). Replacing speakers yourself is usually cheaper than getting "premium sound" option and the result is much better. Navigation systems are usually bad and won't allow you to do anything while you are moving, so better just get a good external GPS unit.

- It's better to buy cars in autumn, because the auto year changes and there are big discounts for new "last-year model" cars. I got my 2008 Mazda 6 in October 2008 with more than $10,000 discount (with some bargaining). It cost me on the road, all taxes and fees in, $23,250 (for a v6 model!), which is chaper than a new Mazda 3 or Civic (a class below). But that was the year that body changed and new Mazda 6 was out. But anyway, you can easily get 3-4K less.

- You might want to check market value of your car: sometimes it's so much more than the lease residual value is, it's worth it to buy it out and sell it yourself. You can also hang on to is until fall and follow advice above :-)

- Use bargaining. Always bargain for a total cash price, all taxes and fees in (dealers always try to force you discussing monthly price to confuse you). I don't really bargain well, but the easy tactics is to take a written quote from one dealer and go to another one, asking him to beat it (rinse, repeat).

- Compare their financing with something you can get in your bank or other means. In some cases you can get better financing elsewhere.

- Be sure to drive-test thoroughly, with sudden acceleration, hard braking and highway speeds. Juse make sure it's not disappointing after your mazda...

- Google AAA consumer survey report etc. to look for reliability ratings, average yearly maintenance/repair costs etc. for your model.
Mar. 8th, 2011 11:19 pm (UTC)
Awesome advice, Roman! I appreciate the thoroughness! Lots of things to consider. I've now talked with someone about a new VW Jetta Highline model ... and it's proving to be about the same cost as the Chevy Cruze I looked at, believe it or not ... They do tell me though that I'll need to order the car 8 weeks before I can pick it up because they have a shortage after the new 2011 model was introduced. Ouch. In my experience, the Mazdas have been the most expensive out there - including VW. And they haven't been all that willing to do any bargaining.

But are you suggesting that I bargain for the cash price and then introduce financing afterwards? Will they do that?
Mar. 9th, 2011 12:47 am (UTC)
Yes, exactly. Financing or lease is a separate process from everything else, so it's not connected to final price. They earn on your financing, so there should be no problem to talk about it separately, when the cash price is set.

They just use financing to trick you because with downpayment and other variables you're not immediately know what you're getting. Just tell them "let's talk about final all-inclusive cash price, we can talk about financing later, if I like the price" or something like that. I can also compare your own financing options when you have that price.
Mar. 9th, 2011 03:09 am (UTC)
A good point, Roman. And I'll definitely take your advice! Thanks!
Mar. 8th, 2011 06:20 am (UTC)
I don't know if it's available in Canada, but the Consumer Reports car issue just came out down here. This is always a good place to start looking. Want me to bring a copy for you to FKO?

I too have driven a Kia rental -- & second the "avoid" recommendation. On a high bridge in a strong wind, it felt downright unstable. Plus, they are known for falling apart right around 100,000 miles.

OTOH, I have also driven a Ford Fusion rental while my car was in the shop for bodywork. (Our neighbor ran into us on her way home from the bar. :( ) I drove it both locally & on a moderately long (375 miles) trip & liked it very much. The fuel economy & handling were both exceptional for a midsize model. It was also quite comfortable. If I had to buy a car tomorrow, it would be the one I'd look at first.

It's hard to go wrong with a Toyota Camry or Honda Accord. They're not the most exciting, but they're reliable & seem to run forever.

Subarus are indeed sturdy & reliable, but have quite poor fuel economy by modern car standards.

As for features, I bought my current 2003 Mazda Protege sport model in large part because the 4-way disc brakes (an upgrade from the usual discs in front & drum brakes in back) & fog lights came standard. (Neither option was available on the non-sport model.) Both features have been *very* useful.

The thing I dislike most about my current car is the location of the cupholders. If my passenger & I are drinking anything but a small beverage, we can't both use the cupholders without interfering with gearshift movement. So check out where they're placed.
Mar. 8th, 2011 11:22 pm (UTC)
I hear ya on the cup holders. I'm pretty sure that CAA offers a kind of consumer report on the best cars in their class so I will likely take a look at that (thanks for the offer though!). Ford Fusion... You know, you're about the third person to mention that to me. I've been avoiding Ford mostly because of perceived lower resale value ... but I'm wanting to buy a car here that I'll adore for 10 years so... who knows? Maybe it's something to seriously consider. Thanks for your input! :)
Mar. 8th, 2011 10:52 am (UTC)
Avoid remote start, or make sure that it can be disabled. There have been reports that remote start systems are very easily broken into.
Mar. 8th, 2011 11:23 pm (UTC)
Ah. Thanks for the warning!
Mar. 8th, 2011 02:46 pm (UTC)
We have been very happy with our Ford Escape and it is very quiet and gets excellent fuel economy and has lots of room for 4 people and luggage and stuff. It is a Hybrid which are very costly but Sue's daughter Liz bought the non Hybrid one and loves it as well and they get good fuel economy and are a lot cheaper. The options we got are moon roof and all wheel drive which isn't a must but we love the moon roof. The back seats fold down which is nice as well. I love the fact it beeps when it detects objects behind you. Excellent view of the road and instruments and handles nicely. Heated seats are nice as well. I also like the Ford Fusion.

Edited at 2011-03-08 02:46 pm (UTC)
Mar. 8th, 2011 11:24 pm (UTC)
Ah. Heated seats. :) I am trying not to go the route of the SUV though, Tom - as wonderful as that car sounds. Bottom line is that I don't think it'll fit in our small garage!
Mar. 8th, 2011 03:47 pm (UTC)
I am extraordinarily happy with the 2007 Toyota Prius I bought last year. Great gas mileage and with the back seats down I can carry an impressively large amount of stuff for the overall size of the car.
Mar. 8th, 2011 11:25 pm (UTC)
Mary has one of those too and loves it. Something to consider ... Thanks for your opinion!
Mar. 9th, 2011 01:40 am (UTC)
The Prius, being a well-made hybrid, is much quieter when it moves than most cars are. If you get a Prius, you should make sure to get all the sound alerts you can get, so it beeps loudly outside the car when you do certain things, like going in reverse. Otherwise, it can be extremely dangerous to people around you who are even slightly hearing- or vision-impaired.
Mar. 9th, 2011 03:10 am (UTC)
A very good point - and one I'll keep in mind. Thanks!
( 23 comments — Leave a comment )

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