The Best Auto Reviews

I’ve been in the same auto-finding business working for customers rather than vehicle inventory providers now since 1990 and in that time I’ve read and evaluated thousands of vehicle reviews and compared them to my actual customer comments and comparisons.

I’ve only found one source to be truly unbiased although somewhat subjective at times due to its rating methods.

Consumer Reports consistently remains unbiased in its ratings. They do not get their income from any auto manufacturer, dealer chain, or bank source, but get 90% of their revenue from paper and online subscriptions and other sales. They are a non-profit organization. For details, their annual reports, financial statements, and tax returns are online at:

http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/aboutus/annualreport/index.htm

Their opinions and evaluations come from their own actual vehicle testing and vehicle owners themselves.

Vehicle owner input however can look skewed at times. Take for example the Honda Passport and the Isuzu Rodeo – identical vehicles with different badging. In the same years the Honda version of this vehicle (made on Isuzu assembly lines) got a much better reliability rating than the Isuzu Rodeo – probably because Honda owners are more loyal to the Honda brand name and wouldn’t downgrade Honda easily.

Other vehicle rating services have Auto Manufacturer and Dealer Sponsors and Paid Advertisers that can easily influence the rating process. Many of these vehicle rating services score how fun a vehicle is to drive and emphasize acceleration, cornering, and other such statistical information while underplaying reliability, safety, and value – what you get for the money. Consumer Reports does the opposite.

So if you value these three things – reliability, safety, and value – as I do, stick to Consumer Reports. It’s the absolute best at this. Their annual report on new models comes out every year in the April issue available on newsstands in March. The back of this issue also rates the previous six year’s models for reliability, if a used car is under consideration. I buy 4 or 5 copies each year to loan to my customers when they are trying to narrow their focus to a specific model, prior to my finding them the perfect car, truck, minivan or SUV.

Good luck on your next car search. I hope this will help. Call me if you’d like the professional touch and someone on your side.

10 COMMANDMENTS OF CAR BUYING

THE WORD
10 COMMANDMENTS OF CAR BUYING
By Kurt Schlaefer

1. THOU SHALT NOT HAVE OTHER BROKERS BESIDES ME :-). A good broker is on your side. Choose a broker you can trust and give them all the information you can about what you want and why. Don’t hold back. When I bring you a vehicle and a price for that vehicle, I always price it at the very lowest I can for that particular car. Reward your broker’s work with your business. Be available by phone or email to better facilitate the vehicle search and narrow the possible choices more quickly.

2. THOU SHALT NOT BE IN A BIG HURRY!! Patience really is a virtue. Speed and low cost are mutually exclusive. Needing a new car today will significantly increase your cost. Never fall for the “two more people waiting for this car” routine. If it was meant to be, you’ll get it.

3. THOU SHALT NOT WALK INTO A NEW CAR DEALERSHIP UNPROTECTED!! Call Kurt 1st. When you see an ad for any kind of incentive showing a payment, add $100 per month, to be realistic. Especially avoid dealerships on Saturdays in Colorado and beware the “spot delivery”. Only the high pressure folks work Saturdays and they know you can’t look on Sunday. What are they selling? – their cars. What am I selling? – your satisfaction. If you must enter a dealership, ask me first which ones to stay away from. There are very good reasons for this. Beware of “certified” used cars.

4. THOU SHALT NOT PUT MONEY DOWN ON A CAR LEASE!! Should you happen to total the car soon after you lease it, the down money will be gone forever.

5. THOU SHALT NOT FALL FOR PRESSURE TACTICS SURROUNDING THE END OF THE CURRENT FACTORY INCENTIVES! Most incentives stay the same or actually increase from month to month.

6. AT MODEL YEAR END (anytime between July and September) IT IS ALMOST ALWAYS BEST TO LEASE THE NEW MODEL BUT BUY THE OLD MODEL!

7. THOU SHALT NOT PURCHASE OR LEASE BEFORE CHECKING THE INSURANCE through a good insurance agent (an independent agent is best) rather than via an 800 number. A good agent will keep you out of trouble by recommending if and when to file claims to minimize your rates. Does your insurance company offer “gap insurance” and “diminished value coverage”?

8. THOU SHALT NOT BUY USED WITHOUT A CARFAX AND AN INDEPENDENT INSPECTION, EVEN IF THERE’S WARRANTY REMAINING!

9. THOU SHALT NOT BUY A USED EUROPEAN VEHICLE WITHOUT A GOOD EXTENDED WARRANTY unless you’re independently wealthy! Call me to check reasonable cost. Only buy extended warranties that itemize what’s not covered, rather than the other way around.

10. VERY LOW COST “DEALER-ADVERTISED” USED CARS UNDER $7000 are almost never what they seem! If they were, most would be sold before ever reaching an ad. Expect to pay over retail book value for a really nice one in this price range. The best ones are found by word of mouth thru relatives or acquaintances – remember commandment #8.

Auto Dealer Scams – Spot Deliveries

Recently a friend asked me what I thought the worst scam was in the car business.

That was like asking what car was the best car – too many choices and no focus.  I had to think for a long time.  I decided to eliminate outright fraud and choose from the many common practices in the market place.  I chose “Spot Deliveries”.

Spot Deliveries, in themselves, are not scams but how they’re used often turn into scams.  On weekends, bank lending departments (including the manufacturers’ lending arms) are not open and therefore cannot approve loans or leases.  In the interest of selling a vehicle on weekends, many dealers will do a tentative loan approval.  The new buyer is happily off driving his new vehicle.  Although, this usually happens on weekends, it can also occur on extra busy weekdays as well, if the dealership is backed up and doesn’t feel they have the time to get approvals on the spot.

If, on the next business day, the loan or lease is either disapproved or approved at a higher interest rate by the lending institution, the dealer will contact the buyers to have them return the car with rental charges or sign a corrected loan or lease at a higher payment, causing significant headache and upset to the driver.  At the time of the original delivery, if the possibility of this loan change or increase in payment (based on the credit score) is not discussed, as often happens, this results in even more weeping and gnashing of teeth.

MORAL OF THE STORY – If you’re not paying cash and your credit is less than perfect (scores over 700 to 740 depending on the lender), don’t take delivery of a vehicle on a weekend or at a very busy dealership, unless the loan or lease has been previously finalized and approved.  Better yet, get a referral to a good broker you can trust and stay out of dealerships altogether, unless accompanied by your broker.

Another reason to Lease a Car – Diminished Value

With the advent of CARFAX and other similar vehicle history websites, used cars can be checked before purchase for adverse information like salvage titles, accidents, etc which may lower the resale price of an owned vehicle.  With reported accidents or salvage titles, some banks won’t even finance a vehicle.

Thus, if you purchase a vehicle and later have an accident with an insurance claim, police report, or reported body shop collision repair, your value may be much lower than the normal book value, thereby increasing, even after repairs, the total cost of ownership during your period of use.

By contrast, if you lease the same vehicle and have the same accident and again do the same repairs, you can still return the vehicle to the lessor without extra charges.  The vehicle is still worth less, but the lower value only affects the owner/lessor (the bank, leasing company, or manufacturer).

Thus “potential” diminished value is another good reason to lease instead of buy.

PS – If you need a Carfax report either to see what your current vehicle looks like prior to sale or what your potential next used car looks like, to buy or to lease, call me.  If I do it, it’s free – If you do it, it’s $35.

Toyota record low-interest leases continue through April 2010

As of  April 6th, many Toyota new car leases (especially the RAV4) continue to have historically record-low interest rates that can lower payments by $75 or more per month.  The only difficulty is that the inventory of most Toyota models with these incentives are rapidly diminishing, reducing your color choices especially among lower cost models.  Call me soon to greatly increase your chances of getting what you want.

LEASE or BUY

There are many myths and prejudices about leasing or buying vehicles.  Whether to lease or buy a vehicle has always been a difficult question to answer.  It depends on many things.  But without knowledge about leasing itself, the answer eludes many who listen to unfounded rumors and base their decisions on them.  Having someone on your side you trust who can explain, compare, and recommend alternatives will help you choose the best alternative.

To read more about this topic, click to read article.  This article does not even address one of the biggest reasons to lease – higher deductions on your taxes,  if you use your vehicle for business more than 50% of the time.  I’ll discuss that in a later article.

RUN-FLAT TIRES – Cons can outweigh the Pros

My son recently mentioned that he wanted his next car to be a particular model of Toyota RAV4, without the very visible rear spare tire carrier.  This is the 2010 RAV4 Sport model.  He likes that cleaner look better than the other models.  There is no tire carrier because this model uses run-flat tires.  After speaking with several reliable tire suppliers, I learned the following things not explained fully by Auto Manufacturers or Tire Manufacturers about run-flats.  After learning more about these tires, I told my son that he might want to rethink his choices a bit.

THE PROS – (1) Four run-flat tires remove the need for a spare and save the car manufacturers considerable space, weight, and cost in their design.  (2) Tires that can be driven over 50 miles after a puncture without any vehicle damage eliminate a driver’s inconvenience of stopping on a highway to change the tire.

THE CONS – (1) Run-flat tires can cost over 60% more than regular tires.  Only one run-flat tire is produced for the 2010 RAV4 Sport and four tires cost about $912 installed compared to $576 for four regular tires on the other RAV4 models.  (2) Run-flat tires typically last only 1/2 as long (20k miles) as regular tires (40k miles).  (3) Run-flat tires generally have no Road Hazard Warranty available, while regular tires do.  (4) Run-flat tires, in most instances, can’t be repaired if punctured but must be replaced.  (5) Replacing one tire on an all-wheel-drive vehicle usually requires replacing all four tires to keep from damaging drive components, due to differing tire diameters on the remaining wheels.

When I relayed this to my son , he chose the less expensive (in more ways than one) base model 2010 RAV4.

MORAL OF THIS STORY –

Before you buy or lease your next new or used vehicle, check to see if it has any kind of spare tire.  To my knowledge, the only manufacturers that now or in the past have run-flats on some of their models are Acura, BMW, Honda, Lexus, Mazda, and Toyota.  Happy motoring.

2010 Used Car Prices Higher Than 2009

Your used car is probably more valuable this year than last year.  Late model low mileage vehicles are in very short supply compared to last year because not as many people are buying new cars to replace them.  So now’s a good time to look at replacing your current car, truck, SUV, or minivan.

To read more about USED CAR VALUES, click to read my article.