Oct 27, 2009

car shopping

Today, while discussing argumentation structure and strategies with a group of rookie debaters, I used a sample claim: The Ford Focus is a reliable car. "What kind of evidence might you use to support that claim?" I asked.

"None," one shot back. "There isn't any."

"As debaters, we can always do better," I said, then gave my own (admittedly very fake) example of repair statistics. What if, for example, 86% of Ford Focuses (Foci?) are trouble-free after five years? And what if this compared favorably to the latest imports? And what's the best measure of reliability, anyway?

The discussion was cut short by the end of practice, but it continued in my mind throughout the rest of the evening, as I sat in the living room, watching college football on mute and surfing Edmunds.com and the NHSTA's recall / defect investigation database. The wife and I are about ready to replace my poor ol' Chevy Malibu, and we'd like something that's going to run for a long, long time--hopefully with fewer mishaps and brake jobs.

Some of the cars on my radar include the Honda Accord, the Ford Fusion / Mercury Milan, the Hyundai Sonata, the Hyundai Elantra Touring, and the Mazda5. (If you have strong feelings about any of 'em, feel free to share in the comments.) I've read every review and road test and recommendation, and driven all of them, so it doesn't surprise me that today, KOMO would offer the highlights of Consumer Reports' upcoming reliability ratings, and the makes and models I'm seriously considering are the makes and models that owners recommend.

I've had bad experiences with Chrysler and GM products, so I was curious to see if they've recently turned things around. Nope:
Chrysler had only one model that Consumer Reports recommended based on reliability and its staff test, and the Chrysler brand finished last out of 33 brands sold in the U.S. One third of Chrysler's models were much worse than average in reliability.

Six models from GM were recommended by the magazine, but it's still inconsistent. Only 21 of 48 models the magazine studied scored average or better in reliability.
Even fewer surprises if you compare it with CR's overall assessment published in April.

I'm finding that the surfeit of available information doesn't make our choice any easier. But at least we have five good choices. And none of them is a Malibu.


Matthew Anderson said...

We like our Accord. It runs well, is a good size, etc. I highly recommend it.

I'd also recommend the Outback's, especially those from the early 2000s. They may be a way of finding a quality used car rather than buying new. They hold up extremely well, and as a result their resale value is quite good. If you go used, you should definitely add them to the list.

Jim Anderson said...

I knew I was forgetting something. Yeah, the Subaru Outback is on the list as well. Nice ride, all wheel drive, amenities. Slap a Thule cargo carrier on top, and you're the quintessential Northwesterner.

Out of the lot, the Accord is the sweetest driving experience. Responsive yet smooth, peppy but quiet. I'm looking at a couple '07s.

Gently used: the joy of the depreciation curve.

Matthew Anderson said...

We've got the 08 Accord. You really can't go wrong with them. Ours has over 100K now, and while it has a lot of new parts and doesn't quite feel as good as it did originally, we still love it. I'd buy another (gently used, as you put it) in a heartbeat.

Except hopefully next year we're going to be a one-car family for a while, so I won't need to.

Stidmama said...

We replaced my old two-door Sentra (19 years it ran) with a 2-door Hyundai Accent. Reasons:

It fits a 6' teen and his tuba (and a driver) with room to spare;

It has reasonable gas mileage (mid 30s);

It was in our price range;

It has a 10 year warranty, like all newHyundais.

That last was important because our other vehicle is 14 years old and we need at least one reliable car.

It has been three months, and it runs beautifully, though I wish it were easier to reach the seatbelt from the front seat, that's a minor issue.

Anonymous said...

The Hyundai Sonata or the Elantra Touring would be an excellent choice. Great standard safety features (six airbags, electronic stability and traction control, active headrests, and seatbelt pretensioners) and the fuel efficiency combine to produce high value vehicles.

I don't like the exterior look of the Elantra Touring, but the interior on the SE and Limited models is incredible.