If it has been years since you bought a new car, take heart. A January 2012 “Auto Trends Magazine” article noted that the average car on America’s road is 10.8 years old. That means the average consumer is driving a model that goes back to about 2001.
The automotive market has changed dramatically in the past 10 years, therefore there are some things you should keep in mind when shopping for a new car. These include new technologies which are found in even the most basic cars, welcome additions in most cases, but also explaining why you may be suffering from sticker shock.
Pricing — The average price of a new car is about $30,000. But, that price includes all new cars including your neighbor’s Mercedes-Benz S-Class costing just north of $100K as well as your friends’ Smart ForTwo that cost him less than $13,000. Prices are all over the place, so be prepared to negotiate!
Fuel mileage — Across the board improvements in fuel economy are now being seen. Even that big SUV your uncle bought should be much more fuel efficient than a 2007 or earlier model. Better engines, more forward transmission gears and cleaner designs help. A 2013 Nissan Altima, for example, gets a segment-leading 38 mpg on the highway — even better fuel economy than some small cars.
Safety — Airbags have been around for years, but now all cars are coming equipped with traction control and most also have side airbags. Other safety features that may be new to you include blind spot warning, rollover warning, automatic crash alert and active head restraints. Some equipment is standard while other equipment may be part of a safety package or other equipment upgrade.
Navigation systems — Are you tired of your Garmin or TomTom GPS unit? Virtually all cars now offer navigation systems; some make it standard. Your nav system may come with a subscription for improved turn by turn instructions or assistance on helping you find a restaurant, the lowest-priced gas stations and other features. If you have a navigation system, know that it usually doubles as a rear back up camera. Put your car in reverse and the navigation system magically transforms into a camera screen.
Audio and more — Your current ride probably is equipped with at least an AM/FM radio with a CD changer and perhaps four or six speakers. Many of today’s cars now include an MP3 player, SiriusXM satellite radio, HD radio and Bluetooth connectivity. Eight to 12 speakers, a subwoofer, customized audio packages and entertainment systems are found in many of today’s new models.
Amenities — Heated and cooled seats. Leatherette surfaces. Eco-friendly interiors. There a number of terms being used today that weren’t around a few years ago. Some are substantial while others are mere marketing tools to explain in fresh words what you’re getting. Color-keyed side mirrors may not matter to you, but if they are heated, automatically retract and include turn signal indicators, then they could make a difference for you.
Today’s car shoppers will discover other changes too. For example, some cars are equipped with as many as 10 airbags — the Chevrolet Sonic fits the bill here. HID headlamps are more widespread, LED treatments can be found on many cars and today’s models include more hatchbacks and wagons than in recent years. In all, you’ll want to carefully explore the new car landscape to ensure that the vehicle you want meets your requirements. Be prepared to negotiate too, getting at least three offers from different dealers before making your purchase decision.