Many often ask us, “What is car a good car to buy?” There is no one simple answer for that. In today’s highly competitive car market, it would be too simplistic to say that Car A is a good car and Car B is a bad car. What determines a ‘good’ car and what’s a ‘bad’ car really depends on who is buying it and what the car will be used for.
Here are some tips to help you make a better, more informed decision.
1. Make A List Of Your Requirements.
It is not good enough to say you want a car that looks youthful, offers good driving performance and sporty handling, is comfortable, affordable, reliable, comes with many safety features and has good resale value.
Such a car doesn’t exist. Out of those many attributes mentioned, you need to decide which is the most important, which is the next, and so on.
No matter what the marketers tell you, a highly sophisticated car fitted with many cutting edge technologies cannot be expected to be as durable as another that uses older, but proven technologies.
Similarly, a new car model from a strong brand with a proven reputation cannot be expected to be as cheap or come with as many features as a lesser known upstart brand eager to win-over new buyers.
The established brand is likely to have a wide and reputable after-sales network, complete with a well-stocked parts delivery centre and body-paint collision repair facilities. These brands have a higher operating cost and customers will need to pay more for these benefits.
Deciding on what your purchase priorities are depends on how you will use the car. What’s your driving distance? Do you drive more on urban or highway roads? How many people will you be carrying most of the time? Will it be a primary or secondary car in your household?
With this hierarchy of priorities sorted out, you can then proceed to narrow down your list of potential candidates.
2. Choosing the right body type
There is little point in buying a large multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) if you are only going to carry seven-people once a year, while carrying no more than two occupants for the remaining 51 weeks a year. Buying a cheaper, more fuel-efficient model and renting an MPV for the once-a-year event would make better sense.
MPVs and sports utility vehicles (SUV) offer a higher driving position which some drivers like, plus better utility. However, MPVs and SUVs are generally larger, heavier and consume more fuel than a similar class sedan or hatchback model. Tyre wear and replacement costs are also comparably higher.
Pick-up trucks are generally cheap to buy and are very durable, but urban users should be aware that they are not that practical. Try climbing onto the high deck of a pick-up truck to load and unload cargo, and you will understand why. Plus, you can only keep your groceries in the cabin.
A sedan may offer the added functionality of a boot, but has a conservative image. A hatchback may be smaller, but it is also a lot more practical in urban traffic. However, hatchbacks are less safe in a rear-end collision.
3. Safety features
Automotive safety features are split into two main categories – active safety; features to help avoid a crash, and passive safety; features that minimise injuries. As prevention is always better, active safety should be placed on a higher priority.
A car with a good mix of passive and active safety features is one that is fitted with anti-lock braking system (ABS) with electronic brake force distribution (EBD), dual front airbags and electronic stability control (ESC). This mix is better than a car fitted with more airbags but no ESC.
Studies by the FIA, Global NCAP and ADAC have shown that ESC is the single most important safety feature after seatbelts, more important than airbags. Where possible, only choose cars with ESC. The feature is no longer limited to high-end cars as even an entry-level model like the Kia Picanto comes fitted with it.
ESC is a generic term and different car companies may have different marketing names for the feature, but they all work the same. Toyota calls it VSC. Mitsubishi calls it ASC while Honda calls it VSA. Some German manufacturers refer to it as ESP or DSC.
Sales and after-sales are two different sides of the business, so it is not realistic to expect the sales person to furnish you with complete information of your car’s maintenance. Even if he/she does share this with you, a prudent buyer will still do his own homework to verify the information.
Some manufacturers publish maintenance costs of their vehicles on their websites. Maintenance information for Honda, Nissan and Perodua vehicles can be found here, here and here respectively.
For other brands, the information can be obtained by dropping into their respective authorised service centres and speaking to the service advisors there.
Many manufacturers now offer extended warranties that extend beyond the standard factory’s two- to three-year warranty to five-years. While extended warranties are attractive, it should not cloud your judgement. Remember that the best warranties are those that you don’t need to use, so evaluate the car’s reliability before evaluating its warranty.
Warranty claims are always a hassle and even if your vehicle’s repair costs are covered, you are still looking at a downtime of around one to two weeks.
Remember that items like clutches, brake pads, wipers and batteries are wear and tear items and are usually not covered by your warranty.
Most extended warranties are covered by a third-party insurer. Do check the terms and conditions as the coverage may differ between the first and second-half of the warranty period.
There are also brands that arrange their five-year extended warranties in a way that there is no distinction throughout all five-years, so they often avoid further complicating matters by highlighting that fact.