Cheap Car Or Ugly Car: Which Would You Pick?

April 12, 2013

Car models are refreshed about every seven years, and just before the "new and improved" versions debut, many dealerships offer discounts on outgoing models.

Which raises an interesting question: would you rather get a good deal on a new car that's built on a seven-year-old design, or would you prefer to wait for the sparkly, contemporary version, which should age a bit slower?

That's essentially the question that AutoTrader asked its website visitors, and the answer shouldn't come as much of a surprise: 57% of respondents said they're not concerned about having a car with the latest design.

Even less surprising, given America's recent economic hardships and today's culture of instant gratification: 79% of those surveyed said they'd rather get a good deal on a current vehicle than wait around for the newer version.

Now, it's not as if looks don't matter. They do, indeed (cf. the Pontiac Aztek and the Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet). In fact, a recent J.D. Power survey revealed that 33% of car shoppers had avoided a particular model specifically because they didn't like its exterior styling, and another 19% turned up their noses at a vehicle's interior. What the AutoTrader study shows, however, is that most drivers don't rank "trendy looks" as their #1 purchase criteria.

That makes good shopping sense. Aside from price and availability, there are other reasons to pass up new models in favor of their outgoing predecessors -- namely, new models often suffer from flaws in their design and/or technology.

Consider the completely revamped 2013 Ford Fusion and 2013 Ford Escape. Both have been the subject of multiple recalls, stemming from problems associated with their engines, headlamps, brake lines, and most recently, child safety locks. We love both vehicles, but waiting for the 2.0 versions might've been the wiser choice, giving technicians the chance to work out some kinks.

And even for folks who fixate on style, there's no guarantee that a redesigned model will look any better than the one it replaces. Remember the criticism leveled at the unattractive 2012 Honda Civic after its debut? Shoppers who grabbed discounted 2011 models were probably patting themselves on the backs.

Are you looking for a new vehicle? Is the refresh/redesign cycle of your preferred ride a factor in your shopping plan? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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