Here are our cars - with their history - we are very proud of them!
Volkswagen Jetta 1985
This is my first car in the US. And the photo below shows exactly that model with one small deviation from the original (color! mine was white... but this was the closest I could find... I will keep trying!). Unfortunately, that car had numerous electrical problems and choked in heavy New York traffic after 20-30 minutes of standing in bumper-to-bumper jams which were alas unavoidable... also it only had I believe about 78 hp in its engine.
Audio system: it had some really funky amplifier installed which if left running would drain the battery in a matter of hours. Other than that - just factory stereo with cassette player
Nissan Maxima SE 1989
So I have gotten rid of it and switched to a much bigger and much more powerful Nissan Maxima which had 160 hp, 6 cyl engine and a bunch or other bells and whistles. I loved it! Then after just 2 months its transmission croaked in the middle of my trip from NYC to Boston and I had to spend almost $2000 on renting a replacement and fixing the transmission. But I could only tolerate it for another 10 mos as it had developed major complications after that surgery so I decided that it was time to buy a brand new auto.
Audio system: factory AM/FM/cassette
Honda Accord LX 1998
And here it is - my trusty old Accord '98! It served me almost 8 years without a hitch (once one of the exhaust sensors had to be replaced and that was it until... you guessed it? yes, the transmission started to have some minor problems and I wasn't going to spend 3-4K for the fix and two major maintenance services which were about to happen: timing belt and all four tires). I was happy with Accord and I didn't really have time to be choosy so I simply went and traded it for a new Accord.
Audio system: factory AF/FM/cassette + aftermarket CHA-620 Alpine 6-CD changer
Mitsubishi Galant LX 1990
This is my wife's first car - exact replica! We had it for 2 years and she used it rather frequently... also when the transmission died just 5 mos after we bought we had to had it fixed rather than buying another car yet again so we kinda felt we owed it to ourselves to get the most we could from it. In the end after its failure to pass the exhaust test we donated it and finally bought her a new Nissan Sentra 2000!
Audio system: factory AF/FM/cassette
Nissan Sentra 2000
This was my spouse's first new auto - and in the beginning she respected that and loved it dearly. But after three years the car had its share of scrapes and bruises and we had another baby so we felt the need for something bigger and meaner, with more horses under the hood.
Audio system: factory AM/FM/CD
Toyota Highlander 2004 V6/FWD
This is what we bought to carry all four of us (sometimes even five if you count an occasional guest or a relative) and our stuff - not only in Pennsylvania where my wife temporarily moved but also between Massachusetts and that new place. This is a mighty fine SUV - not too shabby, not too gas-hungry and it met almost all of our needs... it certainly helped us when we had to buy lots of new furniture at IKEA and bring it to the townhouse we rented in Reading, PA. However, I should note here that a couple of minor problems developed during even the first year: some computer chip went crazy and reported that the car was in permanent skid, therefore locking the wheel and transmission; some spring in the hood's latch got broken after the hood was opened and closed approximately six times.
Audio system: factory AM/FM/CD
Honda Accord LX 2005
And this is my second Accord. It drives even better than the previous one but I should say that designers from Honda definitely somewhat messed up the ergonomics of controls and dashboard. Bright red arrows (all previous Honda owners know that if anything on your panel is red it means trouble)? control panel which is always lit (very annoying and inconvenient for millions of people who are used to the fact that when it's dark you always get reminded your lights aren't on by the fact that you cannot see anything on your control panel)? horn that sounds every time you inadvertently stick your hand anywhere in the center of the wheel? what's up with that? not to mention a stereo system which is virtually impossible to expand... I still like it. We'll see what's going happen to this one...
Audio system: factory stereo AM/FM/CD + aftermarket Sony CDX-T70MX mp3-capable 6-CD changer (finally something I could play my mp3 discs on!)
Toyota Highlander 2007 V6/AWD/Hybrid
Once we were all back home from Pennsylvania it was time to switch to a 4-wheel drive; also my wife requested a hybrid with 3rd row. Each one of three dealerships I called had only one of those so there was not a lot of choice. Also we didn't have a lot of time - Toyota rebate was expiring, and if we kept our previous Highlander we needed to immediately change all 4 tires and to have some minor paintjob done. So we moved fast, traded-in and bought this beauty - 270 hp, all-wheel drive, hybrid, sunroof and bunch of other unneccessary features...
Audio system: factory AM/FM/Cassette with JBL 6-CD Changer
And here we list a few links to various auto resources on the Web - some of them are very good. We tried to order them accordingly starting with my personal favorite - Edmund's Guide!
Since the experience of buying a new car is quite fresh in my memory here are just a few words of advice:
1. You can find almost everything on the Web - specs for your future automobile, dealership locations, reviews of this and previous years makes/models. You can save yourself a lot of time and money by doing a little Internet research. The only thing you cannot do (perhaps someday...) is to test-drive a car.
2. Try not to buy the car RIGHT NOW! You can always go to another dealership and ask them whether they can beat the price you got from the last dealer. Or call them... or email them! In any case sleep on it before giving away your money.
3. What I recommend most is to decide what kind of car you need before you start going to the dealerships: really saves you a lot of hassle. Try to narrow down your choice to 1-2 models; using Web resources for that is absolute must. Also ask your friends about their experience. For one, I became extremely reluctant about buying Toyota after I listened to the story of my friend's troubles with a few local Toyota dealerships (new Camry is a very nice car which I probably would be happy to own but Toyota is ranked one of the worst in customer service quality in the US and this shows).
Then find out about the following:
-- current rebates/incentives for the models on your list
-- current sales campaigns in your region
-- which dealerships are the largest in your region (they usually have the best prices though it is not an indisputable law of nature)
-- invoice prices
-- dealer's holdback
-- options you want to get and invoice prices for them
Now you can calculate the absolute minumum price for the car with options installed (it is an approximation but still...). Add 1-2% of this figure (say, $200) and this is the price you tell the salesman. Don't forget to bring Web pages printouts so you can show them you are not some sucker who thinks that getting anything lower than MSRP is God's personal gift to him. It is amazing how many people still buy new cars starting negotiations from the sticker price!
4. You can read about how to deal with pushy salesmen (and a lot more about buying/selling a car) right here. This topic requires long epic poem so we'll skip it. The only thing that really matters is that they cannot leave the building but you can.
5. Some taking-delivery-of-your-new-car things to do. Regardless of how nice the salesmen are you must make sure the car they give you is absolutely (that is, 110%) okay. That includes such minor stuff as car manual, extra set of keys, registration and all the warranties. Remember to carefully check both exterior and interior of the car. Odometer reading is something not to neglect; if it says 134 miles tell them to drop dead. The proper new car sold at the legitimate dealership should have no more than 10-30 miles on it. Well, maybe 50 but that's a stretch.
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