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Home » Archives » March 2012 » CarCynic Car Buying Tip -- Buy a car, not a Brand

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CarCynic Car Buying Tip -- Buy a car, not a Brand

As astute readers know, I also run When I explain Linux to people, they often ask if it will run Microsoft Word. They don't ask if it can easily create documents that their friends and co-workers can read; they specifically demand the title "Microsoft Word", even though some of them tell me they don't really like using it.

Unfortunately, people do the same thing when buying a car....
I overheard someone say that they were going shopping for a Honda -- Not shopping for a car, or a small or mid-sized sedan. Apparently, they would buy anything car-shaped that had a Honda badge on it.

I'm not specifically picking on Honda here. It's not the brand, it's the attitude. I'd say the same if some one told me they were shopping for a Lamborgini. They should say they are shopping for an exotic performance car.

Now... brand loyalty is great, and personal experience is some of the best data available, so it certainly should not be ignored. But don't fall into the closed-mindedness of excessive attachment to a name. That name may have nothing to do with the vehicle or company it was attached to last time you bought a car. Not doing your homework hurts you, the buyer the most, but it hurts all car buyers by encouraging mediocrity.

Saab is a perfect example. The ad campaign that claimed "People who drive a Saab usually buy a Saab." was true. But what percent of Accord or Camry buyers drove a Saab prior to their purchase? We can debate the merits of Saab automobiles, but we cannot debate the result: We no longer have Saab, but we still have mediocrity.

I suggest that you research and drive five cars in the class of vehicle you are considering -- three at the very least. One of these should be in a price bracket above what you intend to spend. If you intend to buy a Japanese sedan, that "one better" car should probably be a European sedan. Why waste your time, and subject yourself to a dealer of a car you have no intention of buying? Doing this will make you a fair critic of the cars you do intend to buy. This can work both ways. If you are in the market for a European sports sedan -- Perhaps a BMW 5-Series -- you should drive a Pontiac G8. It will help you properly define quality and value, and it could help you at the bargaining table.

If you tell me you are are so busy you don't have time to do this, I hope you are shopping for a Bentley, or Bugatti; If not, you may want to re-evaluate your life.