Monday, July 18, 2011

Car Hunters

Is there a show called Car Hunters?  If not, there should be.  Finding the right new car for your family can be very challenging.  I also find it a rip-roarin' good time!  I like shopping.  I like new things.  I am a good candidate for retail shock therapy.  When I started college, there were tons of credit card companies who set up shop on campus during the first week of school, seeking out fresh meat to attack and turn into consumer zombies.  I was one of them.  I thought it was so awesome that I could have my own credit card and buy stuff I didn't have to pay for... yet.  The "yet" part didn't really matter that much to me then.  If I had a bad day at work, I'd go buy a new outfit or pair of shoes, then just pay the minimums on my credit card.  Well, after a few years, that didn't turn out so well for me and the "yet" now matters, quite a bit!  I'm just glad I made those mistakes when I was young and now I am so much more careful about what I buy and I've turned retail therapy into something that works for me and my bank account.  It's all about the research!

I had so much fun researching cars!  I started with the basics of what Andrew and I wanted: the smallest SUV we can find with a comfortable 3rd row, some fun toys (electronics), leather seats (dog hair), a sun roof, decent fuel efficiency, fun to drive (fast) and all at a reasonable price.  I found the potential in several vehicles: 

The Chevy Traverse

 The Mazda CX-9

The Buick Enclave

The Ford Explorer

The Toyota Highlander

At just the first glance, my favorite cars are the CX-9 and the Traverse (the first 2).  I like sleek, simple and a little curvy.  For Andrew, the CX-9 was his favorite on looks alone.  The looks of the Enclave drove me to that, even though the Traverse and Enclave (and GMC Acadia too but it's more boxy ) are virtually the same cars on the inside with some little features here and there that drive up the price.  We test drove each of these cars.  Here's a little summary of each experience:

The Chevy Traverse is nice, comfortable and pretty darn roomy!  You can actually seat adults comfortably in the 3rd row.  Big plus!  It also offers 2nd row captains chairs so getting into the 3rd row is easy (it's just like a minivan on the inside with this setup).  It drives nicely, is smooth and quiet, has a decent get-up-and-go when you put the pedal to the metal and the sticker price is very pleasing!  The sun roofs are awesome.  There is 1 in back and 1 in front. The car has USB ports for our iPhones and an AC power adapter to plug in our laptops on road trips.  We love that!

The photo doesn't really do it justice but it IS roomy in there.  And what's really nice is that the 2nd row seats recline and they shift forward and backward in case you've got adults in the 3rd row, you can make more room for them. This car has the option for navigation and DVD player and power seats, etc.  We do not like that when you close the sun roofs, the cover is this net fabric and the sun still shines through the net.  Kind of annoying! But one cool feature is the back-up camera.  It shows up in a square on the left side of your rear view mirror, then disappears again when you're done reversing.  Love that!  It's not an option, though, if you buy the navigation.  Then it's just in the dash on the regular screen.  Boring! 

The Mazda CX-9 is a little different from the Traverse in good ways and in bad ways.  First, it has all of these really cool features.  It has a blind spot detector - there's a little amber light that glows when there is a car in your blind spot and there is a beeping noise if there's a car in your blind spot while you have your blinker on.  Cool factor and safety factor!

The console was beautiful and modern with lots of digital stuff and best of all, this SUV is fast and maneuvers like a car.  We were thrilled about that.  Zoom zoom, indeed!  The big problem with this Mazda, though, is that the 3rd row seats 2, not 3 and is built only for children.  Which is fine and dandy if you will only haul children.  But we want the capability to put anyone back there.  We want to keep this new car for 10 years or so.  We've got to have the option to seat more adults.  The price of this car, was surprisingly low, though.  Even for a fully-loaded one!

The look of the Buick Enclave really grew on me as I was looking at cars.  It's just really pretty - the shape of it, that front grill, the chrome trim.  A lovely car.  And we already knew it had the same roominess as the Traverse.  But we wanted to drive the car, sit in the seats and see the dash and extra features.  The inside is very comfortable, maybe more so than the Traverse.  It drives a little more sluggishly, though, just because it's a bigger car, I'm sure, but that doesn't make us happy.  

The dash and console are nice but it's geared towards the luxury car lover with a lot of wood trim.  Honestly, too much wood trim for us.  We feel about 20 years older just siting in the car.  The wood would have been nice just on the dash but you can see in the picture that it's on the steering wheel and the gear shift and cup holders, etc.  We don't love that.  The car did drive more quietly than the other cars, though, which makes our road trips a lot nicer!  But that comes at a price.

The 2011 Ford Explorer is a brand new model.  It is definitely more truck-like and more boxy than the other cars we've looked at so far.  I don't love that in general.  However, there's a modernness to the car that makes the overall look pretty pleasing.  It drives really nicely.  It's probably not more quiet than the other cars but it seems to be a bit smoother ride compared to the other cars.  I hate an SUV that rocks you all over the place on every dip and pothole.  This didn't do that at all!

The inside is decently roomy.  Technically, there is just as much leg room as the Traverse and Enclave but unfortunately the 2nd row seats don't slide forwards and backwards to give more leg room in the 3rd row when needed.  It's not hard for adults to sit back there, though it's only built to seat 2 people.  This car does have some pretty awesome gadgets on it: USB and AC power, everything is digital aside from the speedometer and our phones can integrate to load all contacts and play music that you can control from the touch screen.  Andrew spent a good amount of time playing with the electronics with a big grin on his face.

The Toyota Highlander had the best fuel efficiency and they make a hybrid while the other cars we drove do not.  With the long-term investment we're making on a car, spending money on a hybrid would be worth it.  It drives nicely, doesn't stand out or fall behind the pack in speed or maneuverability but it does seem like a bumpier ride.  I like the console, the way the buttons were set up and what was really cool was that the center seat in the 2nd row can be removed and replaced with a center console.

The 3rd row, however, seats 2 and is small.  It's hard to get into as well.  The 2nd row seats fold in half, then scoot forward, but don't fold forward a second time to give you a clear path to get to the back.  You end up kind of having to step over the 2nd row seat.  Not awesome.  Lastly, the storage space in the back wasn't great.  I didn't mention it with the other cars because it was equally good in each of them.  This one left something to be desired.

So, this is our hunt and these are our choices.  It was exhausting driving all the cars and researching everything, but for me it was really fun too!  It feels so great to gather all of this information in order to make an informed decision.  In some cases I knew more about the car than the salesman did like towing capacity and where the USB was located and whether or not sun roofs were available for front and back... it helps that I have a good memory but trust me, I did my research.  I will say the only problem is when you have a lot of information, it makes it more difficult to come to one conclusion sometimes.  What are the sayings?  "Ignorance is bliss" and "Analysis Paralysis."  Oh, they can be very true!  But I would rather err on the side of too much information than not enough.  What feels REALLY good is that at the end of all this, we purchased a new car and we feel very confident in our decision.  Any guesses on what our final decision was?

1 comment:

  1. I'll guess the Traverse!
    You really did do your research, now I wanna go test drive these!! :)