Rear-view cameras, nighttime pedestrian detectors, built-in child booster seats – there's a whack of new features in automobiles these days, and they're not the only things to consider before heading out to the dealership. Here are five things to think about before laying out the cash – that probably weren't an option when you bought your last vehicle.
Increased bargaining power
"Carmakers have been overproducing for 10 years, but once the recession hit, they found themselves with a lot of inventory and a scarcity of buyers," says George Iny, director of Automobile Protection Services in Montreal. The result? A spike in zero per cent financing deals and generous cash rebates. When it comes to haggling over price, check out carcostcanada.com; it's $40 to join, but it lists the retail and wholesale prices for all new cars.
Toyota's recall of more than eight million vehicles to fix sticky pedals and misshapen floor mats that were linked to sudden unintended acceleration has renewed carmakers' focus on reliability, says Jim Davidson, president of CarSmart, a Toronto-based car brokerage firm. Auto experts agree that the most objective source for reliability ratings is Consumer Reports (consumerreports.org). An online subscription is $26 per year.
These include a sensor system that detects when your car is too close to an object – or person – when backing up. Blind-spot sensors and "drowsy driver" alerts beep if there's a car hidden from view in the next lane or if you veer into another lane without signalling. And electronic stability control, which helps you keep control on slippery roads, will be mandatory in all 2011 vehicles.
Reduced emissions and fuel economy are common buzzwords, but despite the hype over hybrids, they represent only a small portion of the market, says Greg Wilson, editor-in-chief of CanadianDriver.com. "Plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles coming out in the next few years will expand the market, but a lot depends on how fast municipalities install the infrastructure, such as charging stations, for electric vehicles." British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Prince Edward Island offer tax rebates or credits of $1,000 to $3,000 for fuel-efficient vehicles and hybrids.
We're talking telescoping steering wheels, adjustable pedals, iPod connectors, and auxiliary jacks and 12-volt outlets for entertainment accessories. Seat heaters have been around for a while, but some higher-end cars now have ventilated seats to keep you cool while cruising.
Watch out for maintenance costs
Sticker price isn't the only cost factor to consider when buying a new car. Ongoing maintenance expenses will include insurance, gas and repairs. For a compact car, you'll typically pay about $1,500 in insurance, $1,500 for gas and $1,000 for repairs each year, says George Iny, director of Automobile Protection Services in Montreal. Expect to pay about $1,000 more for gas and $500 more for insurance if you purchase a higher-end model.
Anne Bokma, who writes frequently about saving money, found her last car, a 2007 Chevy Uplander, for $7,500 on Kijiji.
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