4 Checkpoints When Buying a Classic Car

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Classic car restoration can be a beast, even for DIY mechanics with plenty of experience. Depending on the needs of your classic ride, there’s bound to be at least a few areas where you’re not skilled—working out dents, re-upholstering or simply having connections to the right dealers who have original parts. For many people, owning a restored classic car is a major item on their bucket list. However, it’s easy to get stuck with a lemon.

It’s also easy to spend several thousand dollars on restoration, ultimately getting you a car that (albeit close to perfect) you’ve dumped way too much money into. When shopping for a classic car project, there are a few checkpoints to carefully consider. Simultaneously, you should also have a restoration shop in your corner who provides quality results that work with your budget.

  1. Rust=no go

jaguar-3366957_1920.jpgRust is fairly common, and when it’s minimal and just on the surface, you might be able to power wash it off. However, if the chassis has been destroyed or if you’ll need to totally replace steel panels, it’s not worth it. It’s not unusual to strip the chassis, sandblast it, remove sections and weld brand new pieces together. This isn’t just expensive, but ultimately means it’s not an original car. Only the lucky few can find replacement panels, but most need to create makeshift panels themselves. Rust buckets should be reserved for only the very skilled (or the very wealthy).

  1. Focus on value

auto-3351802_1920There are tons of old cars out there, but age alone doesn’t make a car a classic. While there will always be niche markets for pretty much every car, you deserve one that retains its value. Never let impulses control your purchase, and spend some time researching the most reliable classic cars that won’t lose their value. Bonus points if you snag a car that appreciates—and remember that upfront costs are only a small portion of what you’ll be spending.

  1. Check for replacement parts

auto-3352982_1920Assuming the worst case scenario happens and you have to replace a lot of parts, how easy are they to find? How affordable are they? Purchasing a really rare car is a thrill, but if they don’t make it anymore (or the manufacturer no longer exists), it’s going to be tough to find aftermarket parts. Pretend like you’re searching for parts well before making the purchase, and experience first-hand what might be in store.

  1. Power up

abandoned-3401168_1920At the very least, you need a car that easily starts and runs. If it overheats during the test drive, is cranky to start or the current owner promises “all it needs is a new battery,” be wary. If the battery story is true, most owners would spring for that cheap part in order to sell their car. A more likely scenario is a seized or otherwise destroyed engine that needs replacing.

Ideally, you have an expert on hand who can run diagnostics on the car before you make an offer. If the seller is on the up and up, they’ll be happy to let a pro take a look. If they resist, they’re probably hiding something and you’re better off continuing your hunt elsewhere.

Dangers of a Flood Car

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After the flood waters of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy retreated, a flood of another kind began–the flood of brand new vehicles that were totaled by insurance as a result of flood damage hitting the car auctions.

“Flood cars” flood the market (literally) following most natural disasters. Unfortunately, it can be pretty tough to spot a flood car without a trained eye. It takes not only inspection but a bit of detective work. After collecting an insurance payout, or sometimes while waiting months for insurance to do the right thing, dealerships can accept a settlement for a totaled vehicle and “buy” it back from the insurance company. The title will have a salvaged title, aka rebuilt title. Sometimes it won’t and we’ll come back to that.

Local Disasters

First, let’s address localized flood incidents. As a general rule of thumb, avoid vehicles which are being sold close to recent disaster sites and always trace the origin back to the previous owner’s address. Chances are if you buy a car that was recently registered near a massive flood, it sustained some damage that’s invisible to the naked eye.

After Big Disasters

Disasters on the scale of Katrina leave entire lots full of brand new vehicles totaled. Insurance companies are overwhelmed and slow to respond. These are cars with hardly a scratch and less than ten miles on the odometer. The temptation is to dry them out and clean them up, then sell them at auction and write off the loss. Unprincipled middlemen will snap them up and transport them to a part of the country far from the flood where they auction them again for large profit.

It’s important to note that auctions allow almost no pre-bid inspection. Most large dealerships that accidentally buy a “bad” car simply re-auction them. It keeps there name clean but creates a glut of cheap cars that go to other dealerships that don’t care about reputation.

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The Good News

The good news is that flood damage isn’t always invisible, but you might need to check some otherwise strange locations. The upholstery is going to be the first place water damage is noticeable, with rot, mold or mildew being present. You may have to lift some of the upholstery to get a peek, but remember that a good cleaning (from a shoddy dealership) can temporarily keep visible signs of water damage at bay.

Here’s how to avoid a flood car and why you should never take a gamble.

 

Only Use Honest Dealers (Trust but Verify)

 If you buy a car from an owner, they can stretch the truth as much as they like with no real repercussions. However, a car doesn’t need to be in a disaster zone in order to get flood damage. If you’re considering a car from an owner in an area you’re unfamiliar with, do a brief search of recent floods in the area to see what the odds are of ending up with a flood car. If the car has been auctioned repeatedly in a short period of time that’s a warning sign. If the asking price is too good to be true, it’s for a reason.rolls-royce-3366960_1920

Otherwise, research dealerships, check testimonials and trust your gut. If there are high-pressure sales, a sudden influx of cars or other red flags, it’s best to stay clear.

No matter what, rely on a third party such as a lemon busting company to do a full inspection. When you’re paying the inspector, their allegiance is to you. You’re mechanic is often to busy to do an inspection at the drop of a hat when you find the right car for you and they may not do the online legwork to get a good picture of the cars history.

Bottom line, don’t depend on a dealership to provide comprehensive information; they should welcome a third party unless they have something to hide.

Flood car dangers

 When talking about device failures it’s important to note three things:

  1. What’s likely to fail?
  2. How catastrophic the results of the failure?
  3. How expensive it is to fix (to prevent or repair damage)?

The full impact of flood damage might not come to light until weeks, months, or even a couple of years later. However, the internal damage can be severe and not noticeable even to a skilled mechanic.

One of the most common dangers is brakes that suddenly go out months after flood damage from rust. Obviously, a vehicle is made up largely of metal parts which are prone to rust. Brakes can fail with no sign if they were submerged in water.

Other common flood car problems are electrical issues (and resulting fire hazards) as well as black mold which hides in hard to reach spaces and can be fatal to humans.

So the issue here is less about what could fail, it’s about how bad the results are when they do. There’s no point in risking the purchase of a flood car. They’re simply unsafe and unpredictable.

Used Car Buying? Take a Look at the Goods…

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(Editors Note: What other topic could we possibly cover on Friday the 13th?–that’s rite, buying a used car…)

You can get a used car salesman’s costume off eBay, which might consist of dodgy hair, dark glasses and a Hawaiian shirt. Perhaps the trousers are white Teflon. There are tales of plaid jackets, multicolor shoes and much more. In the old days, they would include a half-smoked cigar, but this might be the one thing that has changed.

As for the dealerships, they seem to crowd into the same corner of the wrong side of town. It becomes a metaphor for the whole experience. We know that we shouldn’t be going down there across the railroad track; we feel likely to get robbed, but we go anyway, and never do shake the feeling even after we buy. But what choice do we have?

This idea of a used car salesman with all the patter, who will rob you blind, seems to be an old one. Of course there’s a big difference between one used car dealership and another, but there’s a few things in common–they all know more than you do about the car business, they all use negotiation tactics in their daily lives when you probably don’t and they are all in the business of making money.

When it comes to buying used, our fowl impression may also be linked to so many things going wrong with second-hand cars. It seems some used car dealers in this country have given up. “You buy something used, it is bound not to go right” is their mantra.

They may have a point. You could try buying new if you can afford it—then at least its under warranty. Though the moment you buy it, it becomes a used car and half the value is gone. So we’re all looking for the same thing–an effective second-hand car at a good price.

Even dealerships which sell new cars make incredible profits from back-end deals, having you pay for warranties, organizing a loan and so on. This is hardly a new story though for the big money in selling cars is not taking the customer’s cash, but how to organize the deal.

road-sign-464654_1920Most people feel that they will always be sold a car in the same way, but it doesn’t have to be. There are hundreds of effective ways to sell a car and the most effective words occur in the closing argument or pitch. So no matter what type of car they are selling, or the type of customer you are, you can learn the gist of their tactics and avoid being taken.

Some good ways to avoid the hucksters include:

  • Don’t let the dealer know you are desperate for a new car. (Don’t say you need to get one for work on Monday for instance!) Keep your guard always up and plan to outlast them. They will ultimately meet your price but it might take a couple hours.
  • Don’t talk payments, talk actual total price. Talking installments means talking about the combo of price and financing. The price of the car shouldn’t depend on your credit score.
  • Don’t just buy the first car you see from the first dealership you see. Shop around. In fact, if you want to see your salesmen sweat, use your cell to look up the actual value of the car in front of you. (https://www.truecar.com/#/ )
  • Get to know what you might actually get for your buck. This may be a lengthy process, but it is ultimately worth it. Look up the type of car your looking for in advance. Know that the salesman will introduce extra factors like, undercoating, ignore this entirely.
  • Don’t let your trade-in become part of the negotiation about the price of the car you’re buying. They may offer to value your car higher than KBB said it was worth even. But this is a bargaining tool in their toolbox. After a couple hours of sticking to your price and turning down extras you say, “so we’re agreed this car is $XX,XXX.” They say yes, you say, “now you said my trade in is worth…”
  • Make sure you go for a test drive before paying for the vehicle. You may need to visit the lot a couple times. When they’ve determined that you’re wasting their time they may turn you over to a junior salesman who might give you an advantage when you’re actually ready to buy.
  • Get the history of the exact vehicle through an internet search of Carfaxx.com or similar  But the trick here is that you may not be able to interpret what you’re looking at. Was the car sold at auction? What’s that really mean?
  • Get a pre-purchase inspection at an independent inspection service. An inspector can run the reports above, along with a visual inspection and test drive to paint a picture of your vehicle’s condition. Know the car your buying better than the salesman and your negotiations will go your way.

You can find more tips about dealing with the unscrupulous car dealer: https://adequateman.deadspin.com/how-to-buy-a-new-car-without-getting-ripped-off-1682148797

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Kicker recommends that you have the car inspected by a professional (that is not just the dealer/ mechanic) before you buy the car so you have a nonbiased idea of what the car is worth. If you do a bit more digging you can prevent the common problems that most people who buy used cars run up against.

If you follow this advice, you will be better prepared against anyone trying to take advantage of you!

V8 vs. V6

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Ah, the V8 vs. V6 debate – it’s as classic as a second generation Trans Am. Which one is better? Is there really a big difference in these muscle car parts? The answer is that the “best” option is up to you, the driver. What will you be using your ride for? There are a lot of racing enthusiasts who are only happy with the V8 option because of the power and speed. However, for many “regular” drivers a V6 is (way) more than enough power. Consider what you really want from your machine to make the best-informed decision.

What’s the Difference?

Overall, V6 cars will be less expensive to purchase, insurance will likely be lower, and your pocketbook will thank you at the gas station. This can mean more cash flow for those must-have accessories. A V6 can easily handle the daily commute and the occasional road trip, packing enough punch to inject a good amount of speed and power into an open road ride. The downside? Well, it’s not a V8 and doesn’t have the power of that monster.Mehta_V6 Emblem

Yes, a V8 will likely cost more in every department. Is it worth it? That’s up to you. Are you jonesing for weekends at the track, car show hopping, or heading to that favorite stretch of open road? Then a V8 may well be worth it. Sure, it might be a little trickier (ahem, expensive) to modify and those with lead feet might be tempting fate, especially with highway photo radar systems, but you only live once.

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So, How Do I Choose?

Test driving many different V6’s and V8’s is the only way to get a real feel for the difference – and your preference. Many of the newer V6 models are extremely (and sometimes surprisingly) powerful and people realize that’s “all” they need. Others instantly fall in love with the rumble of a V8. There’s no way to predict which way you will lean until you get behind the wheel.

Some Things to Keep in Mind

Some racing pros suggest that a V6 is the right choice for someone new to the muscle car family. Others are more the “do what feels right” type. It’s important to keep practicality in mind, even though it may not be the most fun part of buying a new ride. If you’re shopping for an (extremely lucky) teen’s first car, they likely won’t need a V8 and that’s asking for trouble anyway.

However, if it’s a second “just for fun” car that won’t be eating up gas in a long routine commute, it might be the perfect pick. Think about financing, the often unpredictable gas prices, and insurance premiums when making a selection. Choosing power is a big deal, so do your research, test drive as many machines as possible, be reasonable, and most of all, enjoy.

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Things to Look for When You Buy a Used Car

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By S. Larson

Buying a new car is both exciting and nerve-wracking. A new car has a lot of draw. However, a pre-owned vehicle is a great investment. Cost is not the only factor you should look at when buying a car. Below are 10 recommended things you should consider when shopping for your next vehicle.

Mechanical Checklist:S Larson_Things1

Mechanical issues can take a pre-owned vehicle from a valuable purchase to a horrible investment. Be sure to inspect your vehicle for the following to ensure you are purchasing a mechanically sound car.

  • Carefully inspect the interior and exterior of the car. Look for any rips, stains or smells that may indicate problems inside the car. Check the exterior for existing damages. Rust can indicate problems down the road. Vehicles that have been in minor accidents are not without value. It is important, however, that any repairs have been professionally done. Custom paint jobs can mask damages. Be wary of them.
  • Take the car for a test drive. It is best to take the car out on local roads as well as highways. A test drive is the clearest indicator of how the car drives and handles. Pay attention to any noises, odd sensations, lights or smells that occur while test-driving the vehicle.
  • Be sure to check for any leaking fluid. Black fluid can indicate an oil leak. Green fluids typically are anti-freeze leaks. Transmission fluids should be pink in color. To check for these, park in a clean area and allow the car to run for 30-seconds. Move the car and do an inspection of the area.
  • Having a mechanic inspect a vehicle may be a costly test, but it can go a long way in preventing you from buying a lemon. This is especially true when you are not buying from a reputable used-car dealer.

 

Research Checklist:

Researching a potential vehicle can help save you a lot of money and keep you informed. Be sure to follow the below to ensure you get the best value from a potential car purchase.

    • Read up on the make and model you are interested in. Consumer reports can help you understand potential problems or defects known to affect that type of car.
    • Compare prices of similar vehicles. Kelley Blue Book and dealership prices are all easily available online. While every used car is different, these sources can provide a reasonable estimate for comparison.
    • Be sure to investigate the VIN. A VIN decoder chart can help avoid scams. A VIN is like a vehicle’s fingerprint. It is unique; the title and record for a specific VIN will only apply to one car. Often, stolen cars are given VINs from legally owned cars. Do your homework and check to be sure that the VIN on your potential new car belongs to it.S Larson_Things3.jpg

 

  • After decoding the VIN, check the vehicle’s history report. This will allow you to review any title problems and previous accidents reported on that car. If buying from a dealership, the history report should be readily available. CARFAX also offers a report that can be purchased online.
  • A certified pre-owned vehicle may be for you. They often come with more quality assurance and offer extended warranties.
  • Do not rush into buying a car. Take your time and do your research. If something does not feel right or seems off, pay attention. Some salespersons will try to push you into a sale. This is your investment! Make sure it is one you are happy with in the end.

Editors notes:

While everything above will help you screen out vehicles that aren’t worth buying, in the end, the only way to know for sure that the vehicle you are buying is safe and priced right is to have it independently inspected. It can be difficult to and expensive to involve a mechanic that specializes in repairs to check out a car pre-purchase.

We strongly recommend finding a local inspection service that specializes in pre-purchase inspections as they will include things like VIN searches, CarFax, etc. and help establish accurate value. Because car buying is such an emotional decision and salesmen play to emotion to make a sale, you need to walk into a negotiation with a paper in hand that says the true value of the car or you’ll overpay.

Will You Own the Car of the Future?

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Tim Higgins wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal (June 20, 2017) entitled, “The End of Car Ownership.” If you recall our article about the coming Apple Car then you’ll recall that we’ve mentioned the theory before. While it’s hard to imagine an end to the American love affair with owning a car, Higgins makes a compelling case.

Everyone, including Higgins, is crediting self-driving cars and ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft with the coming shift. It seems more likely that both of these are symptoms of a larger change in how we do things. But since we’ve already written extensively about both ride share and automated cars we’ll include them in our quick look at the end of car ownership. But first…

Andy_End Car Owner6Before discussing a mega shift lets step back from the topic and give it a quick review. Culturally in America, owning a car was a rite of passage for young people. When you reached 15 you started learning how to drive and as soon as you could legally work you started saving for a car of your own. It was independence itself. A driver’s license is the way most Americans prove their identity and having a car meant your schedule didn’t depend on your parents anymore. Want to get a better job across town? Better have a car. Want to date your gal/guy? One of you needs a car. Want to hang with your friends? One of you better have a car. Having a car meant popularity, power, and freedom.

America has 46,876 miles of interstate, which doesn’t include State Routes and surface streets. The tenth amendment governs interstate commerce, which means essentially most of the power of the federal government is derived from the need to regulate what passes from one state to another.

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Most of those people & items don’t go by rail like they do in Europe. Whether it’s Henry Ford’s Assembly Line innovation or the Detroit powerhouse of industry and economy cars are an American thing, synonymous with growth. Nascar is an American phenomenon founded by bootleggers trying to outrun prohibition revenuers. We are a younger nation and our cultural values involve the car. How does all that just go away in one generation?

 

It doesn’t. It’s actually been changing for a while now. As populations crowd into cities, property values explode and providing customer parking becomes a bigger expense for businesses. Mass transit costs can be shared across more wage-earners per mile. More residents live in high-rise apartments and condos without room for a garage. If you have to take a taxi to a separate place you rent so your car can live there, you tend to fall out of love. Or so I’m told.

The internet has also impacted things. Less business is conducted face to face through telecommuting and video conference but the mobility of internet access has had its biggest impact on young people who gain a sense of connection through social media instead of in person. People have been “cocooning” for over two decades. Pizza delivery nearly made pizza restaurants out of business entirely and now you don’t have to grab a VHS on the way home, the internet streams it to you. Amazon is seen as the great evil by private bookstores because they let you buy books online, but now everything is sold online and all brick-and-mortar stores are suffering. Malls are sitting empty because even when people go there to look at goods, they make their purchase online where it’s cheaper. Goods now move to the customer, not the other way around.

Society has become more litigious as well. Car insurance costs have risen, in part due to the rising cost of repair and in part the rising likelihood that you’ll be in an accident because roads are crowded and infrastructure is long neglected. The push to incorporate more safety features has created a base cost to manufacture of about $7,000. As the price climbs automakers throw in more features to increase the sense of value which makes cars more expensive, more likely to fail in non-catastrophic ways, and more difficult/expensive to fix.

While fuel costs are lower than they’ve traditionally been, our relationship with the Middle East is more tenuous than ever. Generation X was profoundly affected by the attack on 9/11. People are looking for less dependence and technology companies are seeing the writing on the wall.Andy_End Car owner2.jpg

While auto manufacturers are heavily invested in perfecting a product, tech companies understand the need to keep your finger on the pulse of trends. Cars are getting more technical and the need and desire to own a car is waning. That leads companies like Apple to invest heavily in the ability to expand into the car making business. That leads us full circle to rideshare and driving automation.

Traditionally, when you rent a car its because you’re traveling, or because your car is in the shop. Cars are the second most expensive thing a person typically buys. The first is a house and lots of people see renting a house or apartment as a long term option. They may harbor a quiet desire to own a residence, and only see renting as a matter of cost/benefit ratio, but few people thought that way about cars. But cars seldom sold for over $100,000 traditionally. Even in housing folks are turning to a more minimalist approach trying to avoid big debt during turbulent employment times. So finding ways to economize in automotive choices might get as creative as we’ve gotten with housing.

Why pay for a garage or parking space 24/7/365 when you only need the car a few hours a day? And much like someone might choose to rent an apartment when they aren’t sure how long they’ll be living in that location, or they might have to change houses as their family grows and shrinks, what we need a car for changes. A car share service could allow you to have a truck on the weekend to grab a load of bark dust for your yard, then get a mini-van for a trip to the beach, then a small sedan to commute to work. This concept is called a car subscription service and so far one start-up, called Faraday Future, is attempting to provide it.

This is why I held self-driving cars and rideshare until the end. There are several reasons often listed for their impact on car ownership but it’s more likely that car ownership is on it’s way out and these technologies are only hastening the inevitable. Availability of taxi and mass transit is an issue in cities below a certain size. Rideshare has made not owning a car a possibility in a lot smaller city because they’re cheaper than taxis their model works in places too small for mass transit. Self-driving cars drive the cost and complexity of owning a vehicle up. That’s really it.Andy_End Car Owner3

When you combine self-driving cars with ride share you get even cheaper Uber for riders, but that’s really just more of the same impact. The rideshare model is only one type of car sharing anyway. There’s also literally renting your car to another driver.

So will cars become like boats, something most people own for recreation? Well, long before that happens, it’s likely to become like home ownership. More and more people will look at it as a source of expense, responsibility, and opt for the flexibility of a shared situation. But others will see it as an investment. For decades, single-family rental homes were owned by private individuals. Corporations stuck to multifamily type residences. In 2008, the crash created opportunities for banks to go into single family homes en masse. Likewise, while corporations like Tesla and Apple are hinting at fleet ownership with individual buying the product as a service, it’s likely that private investors will see their vehicles as an investment. Once they are able to make one car pay for itself they’ll buy another, and another.

Companies like RVShare have sprung up to combine the idea of Airbnb with the subscription based car sharing of privately owned vehicles. Car sharing service, Turo, is already working with cars and has had millions of people sign up for it already. They aren’t alone.

Lexus, by Toyota, has created Getaround in an attempt to convince young buyers to subsidize their payment by helping them find renters for their vehicle. BMW is experimenting in some markets with Reachnow, a subscriptions-based service where you get a BMW for a time and then drop it wherever when you’re done for a flat monthly fee.

The Economic Vacuum Drawing People toward Car Sharing:

We’ve discussed a number of forces that push Americans toward car sharing, but from a business standpoint, there’s a significant draw. The humble, in-car stereo, could soon step aside to other forms of entertainment, and I’m not talking about Satellite radio. In June, Intel released a study estimating that up to $800 billion could be made (by 2035) on what they call the “Passenger Economy.” When most commuters aren’t driving they’ll need to have something else to do and that could explain companies Apple trying to take the car plunge.Andy_End Car Owner5

One industry sure to boost is alcohol. When driving isn’t a consideration anymore, drinking is likely to go up. So let’s toast to the coming robot taxi industry and all hope that they’re more accurate than the spell check on my cell phone.

Best Car Brands of 2017

By Ezekiel Gacee

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Best Car Brands to Look Out For In 2017

Vehicle manufacturers are coming up with great car design each passing day. There are all sorts of cars coming from Germany, USA, Japan, Britain and other manufacturing countries. Here at The Kicker, we’re agnostic when it comes to which car is superior. Every manufacturer has turned out a lemon (with the possible exception of Tesla who hasn’t been around long enough to do so.) “What’s a good car,” generally comes down to what you need it to do. In fact that one reason, we’re fans of pre-purchase inspection by companies like Tire Kickers. Because nothing out there will tell you the value of a particular car like having it inspected. You wouldn’t buy a house because other houses in the neighborhood were well built; you’d want to know the house you’re buying is solid before you buy. Getting a car inspected is more important that where you choose to buy your car from.

But we can report on what other car experts are saying based on their performance testing. Choosing among all the brands can be a daunting task. They are all advertising their brands as the best brands to consider investing in. This may help narrow it down.

But what actually makes a good car brand and what are the best car brands in the market today?

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Analysis Report

According to Consumer Reports analysis Audi is the best car brand for the year 2017. Audi has been performing well in the consumer report and it was, in fact, top of the list in 2016. In an analysis that looked at different brands consistency and their performance on different tracks and terrains, Porsche comes second while BMW, Lexus, and Subaru follow in that order. Most of these brands are consistent customer favorites for best brands for many years in a row as well.

Chrysler performed amazingly in the analysis by moving ranks and proving to be more consistent than other famous brands.  Acura, Infiniti, and Cadillac also are good cars to look out for in 2017. They performed well in ranking. Tesla is among the top performing American brands. Famous brands that have not been performing well in the list include Fiat, Jeep, Mitsubishi and Land Rover.

 Road Test

In addition to reliability, safety and owner satisfaction different models by famous brands were road tested. Every model tested for Porsche, BMW, and Mazda managed to rise in ranking. In overall recommendation by auto experts Audi, Honda and Hyundai were standing at 86 percent on the test.

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Reliability and new road tests make the different brands shift positions in the ranking. Some car brands, for instance, had superior cars in past years but in the new road test, they fail to prove their consistency. Such cars include Subaru Legacy and Outback which are now being rated average. Mini also fails to make the list of best cars in 2017 because clients viewed Cooper and Clubman as unreliable and therefore a poor performer.

Consideration

For a brand to be considered best it must be consistent in reliability and meet the owner satisfaction. The overall score in terms of performance and also the road test score help to gauge each brands measure of reliability and performance. Audi performed excellently in reliability and owner satisfaction. In the road test, the brand was high with an impressive 86 percent score and an overall score of 81 percent.

In a summary the best car brands of 2017 based on their overall score on performance, reliability and road-tests are; Audi (81), Porsche (77), BMW (77), Lexus (77), Subaru (74), KIA (74), Mazda(73 ), Tesla (73), Honda (72) and Buick (72). The below the list are Land Rover, Mitsubishi, Jeep and Fiat which performed poorly on reliability.

A Car Buying Odyssey: part 5

From the editor’s desk of the Kicker

What Car buying can be like—the better way.

At the Kicker, we’re still reeling from the car shopping experience of K and her husband. They are an intelligent, likeable couple who did their best to buy a reliable car at a fair price, and reading over our own posts about their experience we can’t help but get emotional. Why was that process so difficult and stressful?

We invited K and her husband back to sit down with our staff for a follow up interview. We were amazed by their reflections on their experience and we know you’ll agree.

Editor: Obviously you’d needed car with more room for a car seat for quite some time, so what motivated you to buy a car write right now?

Hus: We took a simple trip to the beach for the weekend. We decided to drive K’s car for the fuel economy but when we loaded it with enough bags for the three of us and then installed the baby seat, there wasn’t enough room for the two of us to sit. I had to drive and I hated every mile all the way out and back. We take trips to Northern California a couple times a year and always end up barrowing a car and…it’s all just a big pain. We realized we needed to pull the trigger on a larger vehicle.

Editor: So would it be fair to say that you were emotional right out of the gate?

K: Yes, very much. That’s the first and only car I ever bought new, and we recently changed to a larger car seat. That was a factor also. But mainly that trip made it clear we needed a change.

Editor: So you’re first move was to go to your bank?

K: Pretty much. That’s where I went first and he went to a dealership to sit in cars.

Husband: I can screen out most cars just by sitting in them. I’m only tall from the waste up and I know most cars won’t fit me. Plus I hate the way car seats creep in tighter and tighter. If I have to ride in the passenger seat that’s a big deal for me.

Editor: So that’s why you didn’t start online?

K: Right, I wasn’t interested in searching online at all, even though; ironically I hate the idea of dealing with car salesmen.

Editor: Do you feel that your anxiety about interacting with dealership personal has gone up, down or about the same as a result of this experience?

K: It’s about the same. I mean I really like the woman we bought from, and none of the other salesmen really did anything I can point to, but I’d say that it was a rough, pressure filled experience. I don’t feel any better.

Husband: I’d say mine has gone up and down.

Editor: Okay? Follow up on that.

Husband: Well. I mean I’m burned from just having worked so hard to get the car we did, but I feel like now that it’s all over I kind of know what I should have done. It’s sort of a shame that we aren’t in the market for another car because I would do it way differently.

K: Are you kidding me. I’m glad it’s been more than a decade since I bought a car and I hope it’s another decade before I buy another. Unless I can buy a new 2015 Acura RDX. I’d do that if we suddenly had the money.

(Everyone laughed)

Editor: I can certainly understand that. But that’s an interesting point. Really that’s at the heart of the issue. Right? I mean I’ll wager that most people who go to buy a car are completely new to it and by the time they buy their next car they will have forgotten everything they learned.

K: Or it will have changed, I mean, when I bought my Honda they didn’t have “Internet prices” or craigslist and such.

Editor: Its interesting, K, that you should mention the 2015 RDX because the car finder service found you more than one of those.

K: Shut up! Seriously, I already wish we had paid more attention to those.

Husband: Yeah I really blew that. All of a sudden I was getting emails about cars from craigslist and I thought it was spam or something I’d set during my searches. So I deleted quite a few of them before I realized what it was. Then I thought people only posted private sales on Craigslist.

Editor: Actually most dealers have business accounts that allow them to advertise most of their inventory there.

Husband: Well I know that now. I ended up chatting with someone from the car finder and the reason they send directly from craigslist is to screen out spam and ads that almost everyone else uses. But I actually found out they’d sent me a car that was the same make and model as we ended up buying only it only with half the mileage and almost the same price. I mean, I think we did okay, but I missed a potential deal.

K: Well I hadn’t heard about that particular fact. (Looking at her husband)

Husband: Really? I feel like I must have mentioned it.

Editor: So you mentioned having learned from this experience, is that your biggest take away? “Use a car finder…”

Husband: Actually no. I mean that’s one of the big lessons, sure, but my main one would be do all your research before you go to the car lot. Figure it all out in advance. I hardly looked up anything. I mean I wish I’d googled, “how to negotiate,” I mean, SOMETHING. Anything.

K: Mine would be, “stick to the plan.” We agreed that we wouldn’t buy a used car without an independent inspection and we did. We got it in for an inspection the next day, and I think if it failed we’d have found a way out of the contract.

Editor: It’s pretty rare to get out of an as is contract, you might have had a rough time of that.

Husband: Oh, I’d have called the lender and showed them the car inspection. I bet if they refuse to pay for the car the dealership would take their car back.

Editor: Sometimes a hail marry works…

K: I can be pretty convincing when I need to be. But the reason I should have stuck to the plan is because I barely slept that whole night. I could wait to find out if we’d bought a lemon or over paid or something.

Editor: Not to mention that you can use the report to justify a lower price. If you feel the condition doesn’t warrant the full price you’d have documentation to back it up.

K: On that topic, you’re a car person, uh, the reason we bought that car without a prior inspection is because they told us the price wasn’t good unless we did the deal that night. They made it seem like it was their financing or something. Was that just a ploy to make us buy right then, or is possibly true?

Editor: Hmm. Well it’s possible. However, I’d be more inclined to believe they were motivated like that if it was the end of the month, especially the last quarter of the year. That’s when there’s a big push to move inventory and earn out their dealer cash.

Husband: So you figure it was a tactic?

Editor: We talk to a lot of dealerships and I’ll tell you what we’ve found. Many are more honest than you’d think they are, but the system leans in their favor and they know it. They could be a part of the solution, but a lot of people make a lot of money running like it is. Just think of the experience level difference in this case. The average American buys a car every five years, they move multiple cars a day. Nine out of ten people who leave a car lot aren’t coming back. There is 90% chance if they don’t sell you something right then you’ll buy from someone else. They know that and they train specifically to overcome your objections. There’s going to be a lot of pressure to get you in a car—period.

Husband: So that’s why they all advertise that they have acres and acres of cars. So it seems likely that your dream car is there someplace.

K: But in the end they will fit you in a car whether it’s right for you or not.

Editor: Well some will, some won’t. That parts not some great conspiracy. Psychologically if they get close to right car for you, you’ll defend your decision to buy to avoid feelings of failure.

Husband: Ouch!

Editor: I’m not trying to say that’s what happened here. It’s very possible that the process of searching for a car refined and changed what you were looking for. However, you did start out looking for a cross-over and buy a sedan.

K: In shopping though we didn’t find a cross-over with fuel economy that was easy to get in and out of. Well, we found one. I’m not 100% sure why we didn’t just wait until one of those came along used for the right price.

Editor: Or you could have tried a dealership in Portland.

Husband: Well that was a function of our limited time to look. I don’t want to waste time fighting rush hour traffic just to find out the car they had online sold that morning or something.

Editor: So then why not send an inspector? I noticed you always brought the cars to your inspector, but the service you use will travel to any car in 75 miles.

K: I think we went about the search wrong from the beginning.

Husband: It’s starting to look like it.

Editor: Well that’s why we at the Kicker were sort of disappointed in your experience. We had in mind that we could chronical a car shopping experience that went so well, it would encourage others to shop with confidence. We hear a lot of horror stories which we’ve discounted as probably the exception. We followed your experience, which wasn’t horrible, I mean you folks found and bought a great car for a fair price in less than ten days. It’s certainly not aweful.

K: No.

Husband: I just feel like it could have been easier. Walk into any other retail place and say, “My bank says I can spend $20,000 with you today,” and they’re going to treat you like a king. That’s not how I’d describe any of the car lots we visited.

Editor: (chuckling) Right. I hear you. The experience should be entirely different. So what is the take away here?

Husband: Let’s brainstorm how someone should go about buying a car.

K: It doesn’t exist. You’d have to change the entire industry. You’d need a dealer with an enormous selection that you could look though online…

Editor: There is one of those. Advertises a lot. I won’t mention the name but it rhymes with Starmax…

K: They don’t allow prepurchase inspections.

Editor: Really?

Husband: No that’s one thing I’ll say about the local dealerships. Some hadn’t heard of it, but none of them said, no.

Editor: Yeah, in our experience when someone is willing to shell out the money for inspection they are pretty serious about buying. Inspectors we’ve spoken with have told us that an inspection nearly always leads to a sale.

Husband: That’s surprising.

Editor: It really just reduces the grey area about the value of the car. Dealers are ready to haggle a little over price, so if a buyer says, “give it a break job and new tires and I’ll buy it,” that’s pretty easy concession.

K: Back to the idea of what could someone do differently, I’d like to say that we did do somethings right. I think we were right to start at the bank. Otherwise I’d have had to take their word on what loan I’d qualify for. I mean in our negotiation the car price moved less than the interest rate.

Husband: Yeah I think I was so focused on choosing the right type of car that I went to the dealership too early in the process. Knowing now, how hard it is to get away from a lot, I wish there was a way to go there at the end of the process.

K: But we learned a lot by doing it.

Editor: One of the things I’d like to see is more competition between dealerships and private party sales. I’m really disappointed that your bank limited you to a dealership car. With third party inspection, a lender should feel comfortable making a loan on any car.

K: Well and they told me the reason was that they need that inspection packet from the dealership that shows that the car is worth buying.

Husband: That’s ridiculous. The reason we insisted on our own inspectors was because they (the dealership) do that inspection for themselves. They have to screen out the cars they take in to see if they can make money on the vehicle, but then they turn around and act like they’ve done me this favor. Look at all the cars we didn’t try to sell you. Big whoop. I don’t care about those cars I care about this one. The tires passed your inspection. Okay, can you tell me the criteria by which you determined that? No, you can’t.

Editor: That’s true. Well, we’ve taken up enough of your time. I think we can safely say that there’s a lot that goes into having the optimum car shopping experience. I don’t know that anyone does it “right,” so I certainly don’t want you two to feel like you messed up. Just, in talking it over with our writers we thought, there’s got to be a better way.

K: I still say that the ideal way doesn’t exist. I mean, really. Let’s talk about it. I want to be able to go to one place one the internet and do it all. I’d put in my financials and while the lenders are competing for who’s going to give me the best terms I enter my current car in and they start determining if I should trade it in or sell it private party. Then I schedule an inspection and if my “trade in” passes then the site helps me sell it, while I figure out what I want to replace it with. I should be able to scan the inventory of every dealer and private sale in a 50 mile radius or something. Then I could have it inspected. I mean I shouldn’t have to set foot on the lot until I’m going to buy the car.

Husband: I still think I’s need to go sit in cars in order to narrow down what I want.

K: Well you are better at telling them, “I’m not going to buy, I’m leaving.”

Husband: Well I thought so, but they got me. All they had to do was say, we’ll give you what you want if you buy tonight and they next thing you know we’re buying a car without even an inspection. I’m just glad it turned out okay. It could have gone very wrong.

Editor: So you’d actually recommend starting with getting your current car inspected to establish the value?

K: Yes.

Husband: Absolutely. Then the bank, and to be fair we did a lot of shopping for the car but we didn’t personally look around for the best interest rate. We just went through our usual bank.

Editor So step two is the bank. Then what?

K: Then you need to narrow it down to what car is really going to work for you, and then shop around online for the right deal. We were more willing to compromise on what car we wanted than on our total price.

Husband: Actually, step 0.5, before any of that is to go shopping when you aren’t desperate for a car and the dealers are motivated to sell. Like you said, the end of the month when you’re not desperate.

K: Definitely send the inspector around to whatever car is a serious contender. And another thing we did well was negotiate a bulk rate with our inspection service. We ultimately got a discount on all the inspections after the first one. That really helped.

Editor: Well, I think that’s some pretty good advice. I just hope people take it seriously.

A Car Buying Odyssey: part 4

Recap:

K and her husband needed to buy a new car that fit their young family. After 6 long days, 5 dealerships, 7 car lots and two close calls they finally bought a car from a dealership. The negotiations look long into the night and couple felt they one every major point they wanted. The car had higher mileage than desired and no navigation or backup camera, but met all the other criteria they were looking for. They got the interest rate they wanted, the price they wanted, the trade in for their vehicle they wanted, and the monthly payment they needed. However, they felt that they’d compromised by agreeing to buy under the pressure of time constraint and because they didn’t have time to get it inspected.

Because they were taking a big gamble they couple is now awaiting the result of their inspection.

Part 1 link

Part 2 link

Part 3 link

Part 4 link

The fallout:

The next morning, K’s husband flexed his schedule to allow him to take the car for inspection. He enjoyed the drive over, but sat nervously in the inspector’s office while they went through the car from top to bottom.

The inspector noted evidence that the car had been a fender bender of some kind. The repairs made it difficult to spot which made it not a real concern. There was condensation in the mirror lights indicating the seals had dried out. There wasn’t any way to know how if that was an easy fix or not, but that wasn’t a really big deal to the couple. The engine, interior, and performance testing came back with very good scores.

The vehicle history made no mention of an accident, but the inspector indicated that accidents go unreported often. The only prior owner of the car had been a rental company which is why the car had such high mileage. The inspector echoed what K and her husband had been told by several people in the auto industry, that rental agencies maintain their fleets well and that shouldn’t really detract from the overall value of the car.

The inspector did find a one inch cut in the sidewall of a tire, which may or may not be a safety concern. Because the depth of the gouge was uncertain that impacted the value estimate by the cost of one tire. However, the car checked out great and received a “Very Good” rating.

Final analysis:

When K received the news via text from her husband she was visibly relieved. They value range on the car was somewhere between $17,600 and $18,300. Since the couple had negotiated the price to $17,999 and gotten the trade-in value and financing they wanted, they felt like they’d received a fair deal.

Taken as a whole they rated their experience as an A for results, and an F for experience. In short, they were exhausted and stressed. Getting a Sedan was a second choice since it didn’t have the amount of cargo space and baby seat room they hoped for, but it did have great fuel economy. All and all the couple felt they’d learned a lot about what to do next time, but they still wanted a better way to car shop.

From the staff here at the Kicker, we agree. We took on following this couple’s car shopping experience with the stated goal of taking the mystery and worry out of car shopping. Instead we found validation for the typical car shopper’s anxiety. Especially if you compare car shopping to house shopping.

If you’re thinking about buying a car soon, here’s some tips (inspired by ABCnews.go.com) to help you succeed.

  1. Never, ever, buy a used car without an inspection. Most private party sellers don’t really know if there’s something going mechanically wrong with their car and car dealerships inspect cars upon intake to determine if they want to sell the car at their lot or wholesale it at an auction. The vehicle history is often out of date. You need the current condition verified by someone who works for you.
  2. Calculate what you can afford to spend on a car including payment, insurance, gas and maintenance. It should be less than 20% of your total monthly spending.
  3. The age old debate between buying new and used is harder to call than in the past. After cash for clunkers, used cars have been running high and auto makers have reduced cost to compete for the increased need. Used cars still give more bang for your buck, but new cars have better warranty and can have lower interest.
  4. Don’t start at the dealership, research the cars you might want online. Pay attention to reviews, as well as features, and use MSRP as the price until you’ve settled on the car you want.
  5. Take the monthly amount you can spend and subtract 5%, then multiply by 60 or 72 to figure out what you can afford. When you’ve narrowed down the list use a site like Edmonds.com to establish the maintenance cost of that type of vehicle, and factor that in. You can also get more accurate numbers by figuring miles you already drive a week and calling your insurance agent for a quote.
  6. com offers calculators to help you figure interest. Shop around for the best interest rate so that you have something to compare a dealership off against. A dealership will consider your trade-in value or down payment, the interest rate on their financing and the final price of the car fluidly, so you can reduce the number of variables you’re dealing with at the time of purchase by arranging for your own financing in advance. Credit unions most often beat banks when financing cars.
  7. Use an interest rate vs rebate calculator to help you decide which option is best in your situation. A Trick to be on guard for is a dealership that offers a great interest rate (if approved) only to come back with a higher interest rate claiming you didn’t qualify for the lower rate.
  8. The prices to have in hand when shopping are Invoice price and MSRP on new cars, and wholesale price and dealer’s asking price on used vehicles. Begin negotiation by establishing the price for the vehicle you want before any discounts or rebates are applied. The dealer needs to make money, but both parties should be able to agree on the fair price for that car in that condition.
  9. Ask the dealer if you are eligible for military, student, or credit union membership discounts. KBB.com or Edmonds may have information about Dealer incentives manufacturers are offering dealers on the new car you’ve selected you can ask the dealer to split that incentive with you. Another place dealerships make money is selling you a service contract. The minimum markup on a service contract is $1,000 dollars and some dealerships don’t know that they can force that number lower. Refuse to pay the full price for a service contract. You don’t need to pay interest on $1,500 of pure profit for the dealer.
  10. Be very wary of “Internet” prices when researching. These are loss leader prices that dealerships use to get you onto the lot. The price in the window will be a couple thousand dollars more. If you found the car advertised for less—that’s the price of the car.
  11. Car dealerships will start talking about your trade in right away, especially if you drive it into the lot. After establishing the price of the new car, and all rebates, you can talk about your trade in. Do your research in advance and know what your car is worth. Don’t settle for a wholesale price on your trade in, KBB and Edmonds will help you establish your trade-ins value. You should also consider having your current car inspected to verify the current condition. It may be better to private sale your car and use cash for a down payment.
  12. Say no to any extras your dealership offers. You can research them online, apart from the pressure of car buying, and then go back later. Most dealerships are happy to let you buy things afterward.
  13. Plan on keeping your car for at least 5 years. K and her husband lugged their baby seat with them to all six days of shopping because it needed to fit into the back seat of any car they considered. They also installed it several times, as some cars are difficult to install.

However, the Kicker would like to challenge the automotive industry, which hasn’t really revolutionized car shopping since Henry Ford used the assembly line to make car affordable. We challenge you to come up with a better experience for your customers. We’re not talking about friendlier sales people, or letting customers take cars home for a day. We’re talking about something radical, like paperwork that can be finished in 15 minutes or complete customization even on used cars. Who knows what you could come up with if you really thought about customer experience instead of pushing sales. That’s our challenge to the automotive industry. We can do better.

A Car Buying Odyssey: part 4

Recap of the search so far:

K and her husband need to replace her small car with one that fits a car seat. For more information on their criteria please visit previous articles in this series (link). Having visited 4 car lots on 4 separate occasions (some of them multiple times) the couple decided to widen their search to mid-sized sedans and do more online searches. However, they learn that their pre-qualified bank loan won’t allow private sales.

Day 6:

Thus, Monday began Day 5 of shopping. K spent her first break checking the net for cars, and text her husband links. Her husband took the day off work, and dutifully chased down leads. He even checked on cars by auto makers that he had owned before and decided never to own again.

That day, he added two more dealerships they hadn’t been to before and test drove three more cars. What he didn’t do was check private party sellers found for him by the car finding service. Many of those deals were, at face value, better than what the dealerships were offering.

The evening of day 6, the couple sat down over dinner to talk over their options. K’s husband had found one car that interested him, but the dealership only had new models which weren’t in the budget. The couple decided to revisit the dealership they felt most comfortable with and locate a used sedan that met the highest number of their criteria. They simply couldn’t afford the time to keep looking.

Since they didn’t have childcare at the moment, they looked online for the car they wanted to check out and then went to test drive it one at a time after the baby went to bed. The found a car that had nearly everything they wanted accept navigation on the dealerships website and texted their favorite sales lady to verify that it was still in inventory. When their daughter went to bed, K’s husband drove his car over to test drive the vehicle.

The plan was to test drive to their home, a few blocks away, and then switch so that K could drive back and then return in her husband’s car. If they both liked the car then her husband would arrange to have it inspected the next morning. Of course, battle plans never survive first contact…and neither do car shopping plans.

When things went sideways…again:

The sales lady was ready with “the numbers” when K’s husband arrived. They were willing to offer 3.99% interest through their financing and give $4,500 trade in for K’s car, but the amount was higher than listed on the internet. Furthermore, the dealership could only offer this deal tonight.

By the time K’s husband got to the dealership it was 7:30 pm. The dealership closed at 8 pm and that’s when the couple liked to go to bed. K’s husband pointed out that the price was different and that they were serious about using their own financing. The sales manager agreed to lower the price to match the internet, but when they quoted the payment the numbers didn’t seem right. So he agreed to drive the car home and let K test drive it before they rejected it. The sales lady, the sales manager, and the finance manager agreed to stay open late.

When K’s husband presented the deal to her she felt like they were putting a gun to her head. She pointed out that they’d agreed not to buy a used car without an inspection. She didn’t like being told that she only got the price advertised online if she agreed to use their financing at a higher rate and if they agreed to the deal tonight.

The couple decided that K’s husband would return the car and explain that they resented being pressured by the time constraint and not being allowed to use their own financing. When he returned the car, he added that the car was definitely worth the online price of $18,000 but not the full price the dealership wanted. The sales lady tried to explain that they had agreed to lower the price but K’s husband said that was conditional on using dealership financing and the only way they would agree to buy the car was if they got the internet price and were able to use their own financing.

The sales lady and the finance manager both insisted that the couple’s bank couldn’t give them the fixed rate 3% on 72 month loan (2.25% on a 60 month loan) that the couple had prequalified for. The dealership’s position was that banks only offered such rates for the first two years and then raised the rate to 8% or 9%. Tired and upset, K’s husband stormed out.

Round three:

While K’s husband drove home, the sales lady texted K to apologize for upsetting them. She stated that she and her coworkers had felt that they had finally succeeded in meeting all the criteria the couple established. They’d beat the 3% financing number, agreed to the trade-in value, and lowered the price to match the advertised price.

When K’d husband returned home the couple talked it over. K’s husband felt like the monthly payment quoted to him didn’t match all those concessions. When K pushed back about the monthly payment the sales lady said they’d decided to lower the price which would lower the payment but hadn’t had a chance to tell her husband that before he stormed out.

The couple talked and prayed about it. They were exhausted and didn’t want to make any snap decisions, but they were now sensing that the dealership wanted to sell them this car even more than they wanted to buy it. They decided to negotiate hard over text before making any final decision, but that they would be willing to buy that night if their demands were met.

By 9:15 pm, the dealership agreed to 1.99% financing, internet price, and gave the couple the amount they asked for their trade-in. K got dressed again and went out to sign paperwork. The couple had mixed emotions despite having achieved their demands. They weren’t comfortable with having made a rushed, pressured decision, especially since they hadn’t been able to get the car inspected. They’d pushed, and at one point had the sales manager agree to fix anything their inspector found wrong with the car—in writing—but when K showed up to sign paperwork they back peddled and restricted their liability to motor and transmission.

By 11 pm a weary K returned, exhausted and unsure, but with a new vehicle. The couple went to bed knowing that the following day they’d take the car for inspection and find out if they’d just made an $18,000 mistake. Stay tuned for part 5 and the exciting conclusion to “the car buying odyssey.”