Most of my friends and family know that I am a freelance automotive writer, and that I spend a large chunk of my time researching, riding in and writing about cars of all stripes. In many ways, this has transformed me from the “computer guy” role I played in my youth where everyone I knew was asking me to fix their PC problems into the “car guy” role where everyone is now asking me for advice on which car they should consider buying.
Don’t get me wrong – I am flattered that people think enough of my opinion to ask what I would do if I were in their shoes. The truth of the matter is, however, that buying a car is a really personal decision that involves a lot of factors specifically related to the needs of the buyer. The lifestyle of the person looking to buy something new is going to dictate the number of seats, doors, amount of interior space, vehicle size and personality of the car or truck – or SUV or minivan – in question.
Some brands certainly have a better reputation in certain areas than they do in others, and there is definitely a place for the automotive media to help inform and educate car buyers about the options that are out there waiting for them. After all, if there wasn’t, then my career wouldn’t exist. I do however try to remind those who ask my opinion that buying a car is largely a personal decision based on individual needs. I also attempt to make it clear to them that despite the anxiety they might feel (not uncommonly associated with any major purchase), it’s really hard to buy a bad new car these days, especially in the entry-level segment.
Modern automobiles are so amazingly competent compared to even 15 years ago that its rare to see a vehicle manufactured by a major brand that fails to hit the mark. First time car buyers especially are presented with a raft of good to great options, with high quality hatchbacks, sedans and even a few coupes all fighting for their thrifty dollars. Interiors might not be Taj Mahal-esque but they are certainly light years ahead of where the segment was in the 1990’s. Horsepower has also increased hand in hand with fuel economy, whereas the two were previously strange bedfellows. It’s honestly a great time to be in the market for a new car, no matter what your price range – at least from a design perspective, if not an economic one.
My recommendation to those who ask my opinion about a car is this: instead of turning to others to find out what they like in a vehicle, why not spend some time behind the wheel of cars or trucks in your price range to find out what it is that you actually like. The opinions of others are great to get you pointed in the right direction, but until you’ve sat in the driver’s seat and put some miles between you and the dealership, it’s going to be hard for you to make a confident car-buying decision.