My regular readers know that I highly recommend Consumer Reports Organization as the number one source of information on buying, leasing, or servicing your car.
What makes it superior to all others is their objectivity derived from being a not-for-profit corporation. They accept no advertising and all of their revenue derives from subscriptions and donations.
When Motor Trend or Car and Driver announce their "Car of the Year" award, the manufacturer inevitably has spent large sums of money advertising their cars in that magazine.
The corporation will not even allow a manufacturer to give them a car to test; they buy the car from the manufacturer at retail! Furthermore, if it gives a particular car a high rating, they will not even allow the manufacturer to use their name or good report in any advertising.
There is absolutely no conflict of interest when you read the organization's opinion on a car. You should always consult them when choosing which make and model to buy and when determining what a fair price is.
The May issue of the corporation's magazine has ten great tips that can help you make decisions about your present car and in buying your next car.
If you're a regular reader, you may have already heard me mention most of these tips so I have added my take and enhanced advice:
Try before you buy. Never buy a car without trying it out for a reasonable period of time. More than 25 percent of people who buy cars never even take a demonstration drive in the car they buy.
You should either rent a car of the same make and model for a few days or ask the dealer to loan you a car so that you can drive it in all conditions.
Don't lose radio presets when changing your battery. Just plug in a jump-start battery into your cigarette lighter during the battery-change process. This protects other electronic modules from losing data too.
Car dealers' direct mail sales are almost always bogus. These sales are contracted with outside companies that often supply trained hucksters to sell you a car. The premise of the sale is usually a lie. Also, direct mail advertising flies under the radar of the regulators. They are far more likely to see TV, radio, and newspaper ads but the direct mail is directed specifically individuals car dealers choose.
Don't bother using nitrogen in your tires. It's hard to believe that car dealers are still tricking customers into paying money to put nitrogen in their tires. Consumer Reports tested the effectiveness of nitrogen on tire gas mileage and tire longevity and found it to be worthless.
Don't be timid about filing a complaint on your car dealer. Too many people are either too embarrassed or too shy to notify the manufacturer, county office of consumer affairs, Better Business Bureau, the Department of Moto Vehicles or the state Attorney General after they've been ripped off by a car dealer. When you remain silent you allow and encourage that dealer to continue doing the same thing he did to you to others.
Leather seats are a good investment. There are lots of worthless accessories and options you should avoid like nitrogen and pain sealant. Not only does leather look, feel, and smell luxurious in your car it actually enhances the resale value. Another bonus is that it's actually easier to clean than cloth interiors. Try to always opt for factory leather. If you buy the dealer installed leather, look carefully at exactly what you're buying and see how it differs from the factory installed.
Be wary of being among the first to buy that new model. It's always safer to wait a year before buying a brand new model with a major redesign. The manufacturers often rush a new model to market without getting out all of the bugs.
Synthetic oil is now recommended by most manufacturers. This is one of the recommendations that I don't endorse 100 percent. When synthetic oil first came out it was about twice the cost of regular oil. But the price is coming down as the sales volume grows. Also, the recommended interval to change oil with synthetic is twice as long. It is also consistent with today's very tight tolerance engine designs and it does improve your gas mileage slightly. Also, if you choose, you may still use regular oil instead of synthetic, but you must change your oil twice as often.
Consider leasing, not buying, that electric, hybrid or plug-in hybrid. Battery technology is improving so quickly that you could end up with a hybrid or plug-in with an obsolete battery. Your resale value would plummet. Tesla just announced a leasing program for their electric vehicle out of desperation because buyers are afraid they will end up with an obsolete car. If you want to buy a Tesla (which I don't recommend), by all means lease, don't buy one.
Pass up factory built-in navigation. These factory navigation systems are way overpriced by $1,500 to $2,500, and many of them aren't as accurate or don't have as many features as the Garmin you can buy at Costco for $250. You can mount a Garmin or Tom Tom GPS on your dash and have everything the factory navigation does and more. Smart phones today also have great navigation capability.
Earl Stewart is the owner and general manager of Earl Stewart Toyota in North Palm Beach. The dealership is located at 1215 N. Federal Highway in Lake Park. Contact him at www.earlstewarttoyota.com, call (561) 358-1474, fax (561) 658-0746 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen to him on Seaview AM 960, FM 95.9 and FM 106.9, which can be streamed at www.SeaviewRadio.com every Saturday morning between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m.