Read this be­fore hit­ting new-car mar­ket

The Casket - - Wheels - JUSTIN PRITCHARD WATCH­ABLE RE­VIEWS pritch@justin­pritchard.ca

In re­cent months, I’ve been chat­ting with many friends and fam­ily mem­bers who have pur­chased new ve­hi­cles. Their ex­pe­ri­ences are gen­er­ally pos­i­tive, though some have ex­pressed frus­tra­tion and stress at cer­tain parts of the process. Typ­i­cally, this stems from un­ex­pected con­sump­tion of their time and dif­fi­culty de­cid­ing on which ve­hi­cle, op­tions and add-ons are most worth their con­sid­er­a­tion.

Keep the fol­low­ing in mind to help re­duce stress, wasted time and con­fu­sion as you shop for a new ride.

Know what you want:

Hit­ting dealer lots with a clear idea of what sort of ve­hi­cle you want is ideal to save time and en­ergy. Ar­rive with a clear pic­ture of the ve­hi­cle, traits and fea­tures you want, ide­ally writ­ten down or printed on a list. This list is im­por­tant: Bring it with you and in­sist on see­ing a model that de­liv­ers on all listed items.

A lit­tle re­search ahead of time, per­haps on­line, via man­u­fac­turer web­sites, or by vis­it­ing dealer lots after hours for a look around may also be use­ful to guide you to­wards the right model to test­drive. Ar­riv­ing at the deal­er­ship with a clear idea of what you’re after is a great way to save time and avoid frus­tra­tion.

If you’ll be de­vot­ing part of your day to check­ing out and test-driv­ing ve­hi­cles, con­sider call­ing the dealer ahead of time to book an ap­point­ment. Phone or email a sales rep­re­sen­ta­tive, ex­plain which model(s) you’re most in­ter­ested in and have them con­firm that they can ready a test drive of a spe­cific unit that best meets your needs, based on your list from the last step. In many cases, you’ll be in and out of the deal­er­ship faster if you set your test drive up ahead of time.

Visit a dealer for a test drive when you’ve got time to spend an hour or more driv­ing and as­sess­ing the ve­hi­cle you’re con­sid­er­ing. A good test drive should take half an hour or more

Call first:

Don’t hurry:

and, if you’re strongly con­sid­er­ing the model in ques­tion, you may want to test-drive it more than once. Al­low your­self enough time to prop­erly shop and test drive for the best results. Re­mem­ber: this is one of the big­gest in­vest­ments you’ll ever make.

Check ev­ery­thing:

When test-driv­ing, a 10-minute spin in the driver’s seat down the street isn’t good enough. Think of your life­style, the things and peo­ple that you’ll bring for a ride, and how you need the ve­hi­cle to work for the most fre­quent tasks. This may mean bring­ing that dog ken­nel or bi­cy­cle along to make sure it fits in the cargo area, bring­ing the fam­ily along to con­firm that ev­ery­one fits com­fort­ably, or bring­ing your favourite CD to make sure the stereo is up to snuff. Of­ten, ex­tra sets of eyes can re­veal some­thing, pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive, that you might miss dur­ing the test drive, so bring a friend, spouse, or fam­ily mem­ber along if pos­si­ble. Be sure to try the rear seats, fully in­spect the cargo area, and to spend a few min­utes on the rough­est avail­able road to assess ride qual­ity, as a bare min­i­mum.

Cars are com­pet­i­tive:

Au­tomak­ers are well aware of their com­pe­ti­tion and their cus­tomers and this means that, by and large, all ve­hi­cles in a given com­pet­i­tive set are very close to one an­other in terms of qual­ity, fea­ture con­tent, safety equip­ment, and more. Ob­vi­ously, there are out­liers but, in gen­eral, in the main­stream mar­ket, no sin­gle ve­hi­cle in a given genre stands head and shoul­ders above (or be­low) its com­peti­tors. There’s no se­cret “cor­rect an­swer” on which ve­hi­cle is “best” in a given seg­ment, and ar­guably, no “best” car in a given cat­e­gory, only cars that do a bet­ter (or worse) job of meeting your spe­cific needs. Worry less about mak­ing the “right” or “wrong” choice, and more about find­ing the ve­hi­cle that best meets your ex­act needs.

Keys stay in your pocket:

If you drive to the dealer, keep your keys in your pocket. I’ve been hear­ing, more and more fre­quently, from shop­pers (in­clud­ing my own mother) about sales reps who hold onto the cus­tomer’s cur­rent car keys, which of­ten wind up in their pocket, or desk drawer. This is a pres­sure tac­tic de­signed to make shop­pers feel cap­tive, and it up­sets shop­pers. There’s no rea­son to hand your car keys over to a sales rep­re­sen­ta­tive, so don’t.

Ex­tended war­ranties:

Should you buy the $1,500 ex­tended war­ranty cov­er­age? Maybe, but you could also stick that $1,500 in the bank to­ward fu­ture re­pairs if they’re re­quired, so that you still have it, whether you need ex­tended-war­ranty re­lated re­pairs, or not. Con­sider th­ese two op­tions after con­sid­er­ing what the ex­tended war­ranty cov­ers (and doesn’t).

Also, note that no ex­tra-cost treat­ments, ser­vices or pro­ce­dures (rust mod­ules, paint coat­ings, fab­ric pro­tec­tors, add-on ac­ces­sories) are re­quired to main­tain any part of the ve­hi­cle’s war­ranty as out­lined on the man­u­fac­turer web­site, or owner’s man­ual.

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