In our 11 essential tips to buying or leasing a new car, we recommended that you carefully research the car, truck or SUV that you are looking for. Essentially, you should determine what kind of car you want, and narrow down your search accordingly.
The kinds of questions you should answer are as follows:
1. How much can you truly afford for a car?
2. Do you want to buy or lease?
3. Do you want a new car, a used car, or a Certified Pre-Owned vehicle?
4. What kind of driving will you use the car for?
5. How often and how far will you drive your car?
6. What kind of model would best suit your driving habits?
To answer these questions, research the pros and cons of buying and leasing, and weigh the pros and cons of new and used cars. If you regularly have passengers in your vehicle, you may want a spacious vehicle. If you drive a lot, or live in an area where gas is expensive, consider a fuel-efficient model. Consider several car models from different automakers, but narrow down your options to suit your needs.
Once you have a list of models you think you would like, research each model and consider the following:
1. Consumer Complaints – If certain cars show repeated defects or pose safety concerns, consumers may post complaints about those cars to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website or to com. You can research complaints on specific models to learn what issues they are most likely to face.
2. Recalls – NHTSA also hosts information on manufacturer recalls. When a particular car model is found to have serious defects or safety issues that can put consumers in danger, the manufacturer may issue a recall. Recalls may entail either returning the vehicle to the manufacturer for an undetermined amount of time or bringing it to the dealership for repairs. If you plan to buy a used car that was previously recalled, make sure that the car underwent appropriate repairs. Read more about the latest recalls here.
3. NHTSA Investigations – Consumer complaints about safety issues in particular vehicle models may prompt NHTSA to launch an investigation, particularly if a safety issue or product defect has resulted in fatalities. When this happens, the Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) is in charge of carrying it out. First, the ODI will review complaints and other information related to the safety defects. The ODI will subsequently review any petitions calling for an investigation. Then, the ODI will investigate the safety defects and the manufacturers’ management of subsequent safety recalls. Read more about NHTSA investigations here.
4. Technical service bulletins (TSBs) and other manufacturer communications – TSBs are recommended repair procedures for common problems with specific vehicle models. Read more about TSBs here. TSBs and other communications can give you a glimpse into model-specific shortcomings and how the manufacturers address them.
5. Lawsuits – Sometimes, specific vehicles will be targeted in class action lawsuits filed against manufacturers. These lawsuits often will allege that the vehicles are defective and (sometimes) that the manufacturers knowingly shirked their legal obligations to consumers.
Another factor in choosing a car model is the price. Many people start their car search according to price, and narrow down their options from that point. Read the next post in our Auto Buying Guide series for advice on budgeting and financing for your car.