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Our first two new vehicles.

Don't be like this.

Buying a new car is just a matter of having enough cash or credit to make the purchase. It's not that difficult to buy a new vehicle. My wife and I learned that on our first new car. What we learned on our second new car was how to review our new car choices and options.

Our first new car buying experience was so exciting while we shopped and took far too many test drives. After the purchase we had wished we taken time to give a more proper review.

Our first was a minivan with a low price and easy financing. It was roomy and seemed a good vehicle at the time. We planed to go camping and having fun with it and on the lot and a short test-drive it seemed perfect.

We later learned that this minivan was a good town vehicle but on the mountain roads where we lived and liked to "play" we found out this "perfect" little van lacked durability. Within a few short months we had to have warranty work done on it and there was some things were not covered under the warranty.

What we had now was a minivan with seats I had to tighten down every few hundred miles, trim items that fall down on a bigger bump, a mirror that wont hold its position and one sun visor that refused to stay up. All this before it was 9 months old. Had we read a few reviews from consumer review sites we would of known this and also that the 4-cylinder motor was not well suited to hilly terrain.

At first we thought we had a good price on a decent minivan but then we found out that we had a cheap vehicle. The advantage is that it was easy to pay off quick. We also managed to strip out most of the "breakables" and make it uniquely our own. The van did run for a long time after we paid it off so it was not such a bad deal.

Second time was a better experience.

Our second new car buying experience came after a really good buy on a 3 year old truck. About 2 years after paying off the "cheap van" we needed a more reliable new car with a good warranty. I had to be durable, more comfortable than our other vehicles, have good safety features and it needed to have outstanding warranty and service.

Our first task was to "fire up the Internet" and find out what there was. At first we were overwhelmed with sites from search results that lead to irrelevant information. We quickly learned to use the web more efficiently and started to form a plan.

Our next task was to review all the manufacturers we were interested in and see what they said about themselves. We check out websites for Kia, Jeep, Acura, Chevy and many others. Some we eliminated because they did not offer the services or warranties we wanted. Some had no dealership or authorized garages to do warranty work that was close enough for us.

Now we had a list of 6 carmakers with services and warranty options we liked and shops close enough to take advantage of them. Our next goal was to pick out the best features we needed and prioritize them.

We had to have a stronger motor so a V-6 was a must have. Also must haves were air bags, 4 wheel drive and 4-wheel anti-lock brakes. A decent sound system was important as were bucket seats and the whole vehicle had to be solid and comfortable.

From our list of auto manufacturers we were able to pick out 5 models that we liked and had every thing on our list. Each of these cars was a 90% or better match for us and we were ready to take the next step.

We wanted to be sure these vehicles where all that they claimed to be. We kept printouts of information on each of the 5 models we had picked. With room on our printouts for notes and web browser warmed up we started to surf for the "low-down", the real story from consumers and non-biased consumer protection/review organizations.

It was a new skill to learn, extract meaningful information from these sites. We started to get good at it in a couple hours and in two sessions had all we needed. One of the things we did was visit some online forums we found that were active. We could knew when we read an honest review or complaint and people who just spouted off nonsense and outlandish complaints were easy to spot.

On these forums we could search for variations of the make and model names to find post from other people who were shopping for or had just purchased a vehicle. We responded to a couple of post and were notified by email in about 3 days of a response to our question.

With all the consumer review notes, forum post and other information we were able to select the best buy. It came down to two different sports utility vehicles from two different makers and the deciding factor was consistent information from review sites and forum post about the excellent service we would get from the carmaker we purchased from.

The moral of the story.

When I sit and compare the two experiences I am glad that we are quick learners. Nothing we did was difficult and our better new car buying experience took us all of five days. We got a great deal on an SUV that is now paid for and 5 years old.

Our first new car purchase was partially disappointing. If we had shopped better we would have gotten a better vehicle for about the same price. That shopping time involved in buying the "cheap van" was two days long.

With all the online research we learned a number of things that helped us make a better buy. From negotiating tips to how to play the finance game (something we did mostly online also) we were very well prepared to make our second car purchase.

We are simple folk who like to grow our own food and make things with our hands. We do well with our simple life but that does not stop us from using resources like the Internet. Any one can master shopping skills that pay off and on a major purchase like a new vehicle it's a good time to start.


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