The automotive world is filled with contradictions, but none more so than the idea that you can get what you pay for. There are cars on the market today that cost in excess of $100,000 that you’ll find are incredibly difficult to keep on the road for as often as they break down. By the same token, there are also a good number of cars on the road today that cost less than $30,000 that will tach up over 300,000 miles before you begin having significant problems with them.
This seems to fly in the face of the traditional “get what you pay for” mentality, especially when considering that many of those supposed “high quality” cars simply aren’t constructed very well. In a society that values efficiency and monetary gain above quality, it can be difficult to judge what cars tend to be worth what you pay for them, and which ones aren’t. It isn’t impossible, though. There are a handful of sources from which you can draw information that will allow you to make a good purchase decision, regardless of what price level you’re shopping at.
Everyone seems to have a tip or hint that is supposed to give you a leg up in finding a car that won’t require brand- new parts every time you pull out of the driveway. Some tell you to go with journalist recommendations or the ratings given by magazines. Some tell you to buy a car that you’ve had some positive experience with, and then stick with what makes you happy. Both of these are valid recommendations, but they say that opinions are like noses. Everyone’s got one, and some are more attractive than others. Fortunately, there are a few ways that you can discern, at least in a minimal way, whether or not a car will be reliable or not, and it all starts at the dealership.
These days, the CarFax report counts for a lot, and dealerships have been good about supplying the report when a consumer asks for it. The report basically lets you know what the history of the car was. Was it ever in an accident? Flooded out? Used as a stage prop at an Alice Cooper concert? Well, the history report won’t tell you everything, but it will tell you enough to make an informed decision. What you specifically want to look for is whether the vehicle fell into any of the above categories or was used as part of a fleet. Fleet vehicles, nine times out of ten, are no-no’s for consumers. Sure, they look like great deals on paper, and you might be under the impression that a fleet would be well cared for, immaculately cared for, in fact, but the truth is that fleet vehicles often get only cursory maintenance, and then with the cheapest parts that can be purchased. In many cases, fleets are all about the bottom line, not whether the car is in good running order when they decide to sell it.
The vehicle history report looks deeper into a car’s individual history, allowing you to determine whether it will be a good investment for the years that you plan to own it. While magazine recommendations are good sources of information, don’t overlook the individual vehicle history as a means to get a great deal. After all, even if your car received glowing reviews from every magazine on the news stand, it will still be subject to the poor maintenance of the previous owner. In order to get what you pay for in your next car, you’ll have to carefully weigh all these factors, rather than just taking the salesman’s word for it that it was only driven to church on Sunday by that little old lady.