Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Car Savings

If you're thinking of buying a car, don't just look at the price, mileage and cost of a loan. Some of the biggest expenses of car ownership come after you drive it off the lot, and they aren't well advertised. Here are some of the unpleasant surprises that await buyers of both new and used cars who don't carefully research their purchases.

Tires. Car manufacturers are increasingly using high performance tires to boost the driving experience of their products. The designs of high performance tires are taken from racing tires, and use softer rubber compounds to keep a grip on the road. This means the tires wear out faster and cost more to replace. Some high performance tires cost $500 each, meaning you have to spend $2,000 for 4 tires. This expense may come as soon as 20,000 miles and isn't covered by any warranty. Standard, black high wall tires, by contrast, cost around $100 to $150 each to replace, and can last 50,000 miles or more (depending on how you drive and how well you take care of the tires). You probably shouldn't replace high performance tires with standard tires, since each car's suspension is designed to be complemented by tires like the original equipment. So a car with high-performance tires can become a money pit.

Maintenance and repair costs. Many higher end cars, especially luxury nameplates like Mercedes Benz and BMW, are amazingly expensive to maintain and repair. Lexus and Volvo aren't cheap, either. Repairs on American cars that might cost hundreds can cost thousands for some high end cars. Part of the reason is that the parts are imported, and cost more because of the weak dollar. Also, the technology and design embodied in these cars can be more complex than in other cars. We also suspect that some of the cost is simply because the dealerships think they can get away with it because people expect high end cars to be expensive. Whatever the reasons, research maintenance and repair costs before buying.

Insurance. Insurance costs catch a lot of buyers by surprise. Small, inexpensive, fuel efficient cars like the Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic and so on can be more expensive to insure than a big old sedan like a Ford Crown Victoria or a mid-size SUV. A lot of the reason is smaller cars provide less protection in a collision. Also, because they are popular, they are stolen pretty often (for parts). Of course, your individual cost of insurance depends on your driving record, the state in which you live, the insurance company you use (shop around) and how large your deductibles are. But keep in mind the additional insurance expense of an "economy" model.

Depreciation. Models with established reputations for reliability and longevity depreciate more slowly than other cars. Toyotas and Hondas generally depreciate more slowly than Chryslers, Chevrolets and Fords. As American manufacturers improve quality, the depreciation rates on their models should improve. Research depreciation. It's a hidden cost that doesn't seem to matter while you own the car. But when you decide to trade it in, you'll find out that depreciation can be important.

Remember to use competition in your favor. When buying a new car, trying e-mailing the Internet departments of several dealerships for a price. You can easily get a quote lower than the showroom floor price. See http://blogger.uncleleosden.com/2007/05/buy-new-car-without-haggling-and-save.html.

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