When you buy a car, what is most important to you: purchase price, cost of ownership (regular maintenance, repairs, insurance, MPG, depreciation), utility, performance (how fast and how well it handles), safety, image or the green factor?  Maybe you consider them all, but some prioritize the list differently. Strangely, many people do little research and wander into a dealership and are talked into a car by a salesperson.

For those people very concerned about cost of ownership, miles per gallon makes up most of the annual costs. Kiplinger recently published its list of the most fuel efficient cars for 2012. Fuel efficiency is very important for many people’s budget’s since gasoline can cost them several thousand dollars per year, so this article is worth checking out. However, in my opinion Kiplinger’s list isn’t all that helpful, since it just rates them by class, but it serves as a useful reminder when making considerations in different car categories.

Kiplinger’s highest MPG rated cars for:

  • Cars under $20,000 the Scion IQ: 36 city, highway 37. This is a tiny car, and there are other ones bigger and close to the same MPG rating
  • Cars $25,000 – $20,000 the Toyota Prius 2. city 51, highway 48
  • Cars $25,000 – $30,000 the Mitsubishi iMEV ES, city 126, highway 99 all electric limited range
  • Cars $30,000 – $40,000 the Nissan Leaf, city 106, highway 92, all electric limited range
  • Cars $40,000 – $50,000 Audi 2.0T Premium, city 25, highway 33
  • Cars $50,000 and up Infinity M35h, city 27, highway 32
  • Sport cars $50,000 BMW Z4 sDrive28i, city 22, highway 34
  • Small cross overs, $31,000 Ford Escape Hybrid, city 34, highway 31
  • Midsize and large Crossovers, $46,000 Lexus RX 450h, city 28, highway 32
  • Truck Based SUVs, Cadillac Escalade, Hybrid (TE), $75,000, city 20, highway 23,
  • They rated the Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid and the GMC Yukon the same as the Escalade, since they are are similar to it but they cost $20,000+ less
  • Mini Vans, Honda Odyssey LX, $29,000, city 18, highway 27
  • Wagons, Toyota Prius V Two, $27,000, city 44, highway 40

When I have purchased new cars I rely on comparisons published by various automobile magazines, like Road & Track and Motor-Trend. These two regularly compare models and you can see side-by-side price, utility (e.g., trunk size), performance, image and green factors. My local library has back issues, and I can easily find the comparisons by first a quick Internet search.

What do you do if you want to compare safety beyond braking ability, anti-lock brakes and number of airbags. Then you have to go the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or IIHS. You can also look at cars reviewed by U.S. Department of Transportation at SaferCar.org. Some rely on acceleration for accident avoidance, and some magazines publish lane change and cornering ability- good to check out for clues about how easy it might rollover or loose control when you have to react quickly.

What about the other factors of cost of ownership besides miles per gallon, and regular maintenance costs? Consumer Reports magazine is the only place I know to check those costs out, for that you will need to subscribe to their magazine, or online, and get online access to their records, but it might be worth the cost. Also, be sure to call your insurance agent to get an estimate for the car you are considering.

Those are the logical reasons, however humans are not very logical Spock like creatures. We are very emotional and image driven, so a lot of people are attracted by the brand image that shows they are frugal, well-off or classy. Many men buy a car for the sporty image, or tough look of masculinity.  Sometimes we bi-pass looking at these things, and we buy a particular brand we like, one that we feel offers the things we want, or a brand that has been good to us in the past- brand loyalty has always been important to car manufacturers. Avoid emotional decisions, as they can be costly sometimes. I’ve written about used cars to avoid in prior articles. To get the best deal, do your research first.

What do you think are the most important things to consider when purchasing a car, motorcycle, truck or SUV?

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