An Unusual Car Buying Checklist

April 28, 2010

All the important decisions about your car purchase are nailed down: the powerplant, what amenities you’re insisting upon, the color and how you want the interior appointed have all been found in one car. But are you sure that when the adrenalin subsides and the sales pressure is off you’re still going to love this car?

This is counter intuitive, you say? But wait, haven’t you bought a pair of shoes you really liked, only to find that they never really fit properly even after the break in period. The same thing can happen when you purchase a car, only in this case the price is a lot higher and the source of the dissatisfaction is likely to nag you as you make each monthly payment.

So what features can turn a dream car into a ride from hell? These are shortcomings that you might not even consider when buying a car, but after the fact they bug you to death because of their ever presence.

Check out the ease of applying the seat belt and note where it crosses your chest. Some belts require you to have double jointed elbows and shoulders and restrain your neck instead of your torso. Imagine attaching the belt for the six years you’re likely to own the car.

Try to back into a parking spot. Look over your right shoulder to the rear of the vehicle, if you have to consult the side view mirror you have an obstructed view. Check the front door pillars, especially on the driver’s side which can sometimes be too wide for your own good. I knew a man who drove into a pole in a parking lot because of the sight limitation the pillar created.

Make sure the front doors don’t hit you in the head. I think I hear you laughing, but you won’t if you require first aid. This has been noted mostly on vans. Stand as though you’re in cramped quarters, simulating being close to a wall or another parked car and try to enter the vehicle, but please don’t hurt yourself in the process.

If you’re going to be using a car seat, it might be a good idea to try it. Check for not only the ease of installation but also how difficult it is to access the child and remove him or her safely.

Finally, road test the car and check for road noise and a laboring engine. These two conditions will only get worse with age. If the motor seems loud and you hear and feel each shift of the transmission, you have to decide if it’s something you’re willing to live with. Then again, if you’re lucky, eventually the noise might get so loud you won’t be able to hear the engine.

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