Friday, December 30, 2011

Shopping for a New Car Step #2: Test Driving Cars

First, I did extensive online research to decide what cars suited our needs most on paper.  After determining those car candidates, it was time to get behind the wheel of those cars.  I test drove 4 cars in the same small SUV/crossover category so that I could compare them apples to apples, as best as possible.

The one key take away I have learned can be related to our friendships in life:  What is on the inside matters much more than what's on the outside.

I will admit, I like cars.  I think some are pretty, and some are definitely not.  And I will also admit to my own superficiality that I would rather be seen in a pretty car than a not-so-pretty car.

But when it comes right down to it, my practical needs for a car far outweigh my superficial need "to look cool."  And lets face it, are any crossover cars really "cool?"  I finally realized, "Yeah, not as much as my pre-Mommyhood cars."

And as my sister-in-law reminded me, "You spend all of your time inside the car, not outside admiring it, so you better like what it has on the inside."

I had just a few requests on each car I test drove: rear entertainment system (DVD player), power lift gate, and reversing sensors and/or camera.

Here are the 4 cars I test-drove and my thoughts on each:

2012 Ford Explorer: it is redesigned and looks awesome on the road!  It now has a third row (unlike the 2010 and later models) and has great interior features like Sync radio and a DVD entertainment system in the back of the front seat headrests.  (I really liked that feature!)  Even though the Explorer doesn't look very big from the outside, it felt really long when driving it and it's rear and side visibility wasn't stellar.  (Pricing in comparison to other cars test driven with identical equipment: more expensive)

2012 Honda Pilot: this car felt the roomiest of all the cars I test drove and had the greatest visibility.  It also is the only one that seats up to 8 passengers.  I was especially impressed with the visibility out the back window when the DVD player was open from the ceiling of the car.  Unlike another car I will get to in a minute, the DVD player did not impact my rear view mirror vision whatsoever.  When all three rows are being used, the Pilot had the most cargo room as well.  Oh, and they have these great little hooks on the back row that you can hang grocery bags and coats from.  Silly and little, I know.  But sometimes the little things really do add up.  The only downfall of this car for me: its aesthetics.  (Pricing in comparison to other cars test driven with identical equipment: moderate)

2012 Toyota Highlander:  Prettiest car I test drove.  They have really mastered the look of the Highlander, in my opinion, and it looks fantastic on the road.  But for me, looks and Toyota reliability is all the Highlander has going for it, in comparison to other cars in the class.  When driving the Highlander while the kids were watching the DVD player, I could barely see the car driving behind me.  Talk about poor visibility!  I was shocked and a little frightened while driving the car.  The third row of the Highlander only seats 2 and the cargo space when the third row is being used is non-existent.  To me, this vehicle also felt pretty long to drive. (Pricing in comparison to other cars test driven with identical equipment: more expensive)

Mazda CX-9:  This car surprised me the most.  First of all, I didn't even realize it had a third row, it looks so compact on the road.  The visibility out the back window of the CX-9 was very good while the DVD player was in use.  This car did not feel very long or difficult to drive like some of the other vehicles and had a very smooth and comfortable ride.  (Pricing in comparison to other cars test driven with identical equipment: moderate)

STAY TUNED: Important tips regarding getting the best price on your next auto purchase and the car we chose are next! 

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