Consumer Reports American Top Picks 2010 #used #car #sites

#best cars 2010

Consumer Reports American Top Picks 2010

Every year we look at our Top Pick list from an alternative point of view, highlighting the best of the domestic industry. While we support buying the best car for your needs, regardless of where it’s made, our mailbag and e-mail inbox shows us that many buyers prefer to buy from an American brand. This is especially evident as Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors fight their way back from recent market challenges. (Read: Who makes the best cars? )

The good news is that preferring a domestic car doesn’t condemn you to a bad product. Indeed, two of the vehicles on this list, the Chevrolet Traverse and Silverado, are on our our official Top Picks list, as well. In addition, Ford has done notably well in reliability. For example, the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan have proven to be more reliable than a Honda Accord or Toyota Camry. While these high-scoring cars come in a notch below some Japanese competitors in the marketplace as a whole, the Fusion/Milan/Lincoln MKZ sedans show up a lot when looking at domestic-branded Top Picks, as does Ford in general.

Given those parameters, we present the domestic-branded Top Picks for 2010. We have also included the top-scoring domestic-branded vehicles in each category and below provide additional insights into the list.

Consumer Reports American Top Picks 2010

Certified Used Car – Consumer Reports #free #car #history #report

#certified used cars

These help give buyers peace of mind

Most automakers and some dealerships have developed certification systems that are intended to give buyers greater peace of mind when buying a used car. Certified used cars are billed as the cream of the crop, inspected and recon­ditioned according to stringent guide­lines. But they can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars more than noncert­ified vehicles.

Programs usually require candidates for certification be no more than five years old and have less than 60,000 or 70,000 miles. Manufacturer pro­grams also routinely exclude cars that have a suspicious title history or other seri­ous flaws.

Typically, the dealership screens, inspects, and reconditions the vehicle. The automaker then certifies that the car is sound and gives it a manufacturer-backed warranty. The warranty terms can differ significantly from one brand to another. Some start coverage from the date the car was first sold. Others begin when you buy the certified vehicle.

Certification programs also typi­cally throw in enhancements such as road­side assistance and trip interruption insurance. Since those items are gen­erally available through an auto-club membership, and shouldn’t be a decid­ing factor.

The term “certified” doesn’t mean much. CPO programs vary among manufacturers, and there is no industry standard definition of what “certified really means. Any used-car dealer can call a car certified. As a result, you’ll sometimes see a car labeled “certified” that has not undergone any reconditioning. It may carry only a service contract, the cost of which is rolled into the vehi­cle’s price.

Some aftermarket warran­ty programs that look like a manu­facturer’s certification. These “dealer certification” programs are underwrit­ten by warranty companies, insurers that sell a program to dealers who then resell it to consumers. Because the quality and terms of such contracts vary widely, it’s especially im­portant to read the fine print care­fully. Unscrupulous dealers can mislead car shoppers about the certification status of a given car, so it’s important to be wary.

Don’t assume that a certified car is worth the pre­mi­um price. You should expect a late-model, low-mileage car, you should expect it to be in good condition, anyway. Negotiate the price as you would any other used car.

When considering any certified car, ask the dealer specific questions:

  • Is the vehicle covered by a manufacturer-certified program or by a third-party plan sold by the dealer? Non-manufacturer plans are wild cards because they can vary greatly in quality.
  • What does the warranty cover, and for how long? Ask to see a copy of the warranty contract, not just a glossy brochure. Read the fine print.
  • Is there a deductible? If there is a charge for service, find out how much it is and whether you must pay it for each item serviced or for each service call. Ask about other fees, such as a “diagnostic” fee that’s added to the deductible.
  • Who provides the service? Ask whether you have to bring the car back to the orig­inal dealership for warranty work, or whether any same-brand dealership is fine. Ask what you’re required to do in an emergency.

If you are buying a well-maintained car with a good record of reliability, you aren’t taking much of a risk if you skip the certification route. But the real key for your peace of mind when buying a used vehicle is to have it thoroughly inspected by an independent mechanic.

Can You Lease a Used Car? Consumer Reports #car #auctions

#leasing cars

Learn about the risks before signing the lease

Used-car leasing is a small segment of the used-car market, but with modest payments and the ability to lease “certified” used cars, some people find leasing a used car appealing.

All the benefits of leasing, such as comparatively low payments and a hassle-free return at the end of the contract, apply to a used-car lease as they do to a new-car lease. And since most of a leased car’s monthly payment goes to anticipated depreciation, which is less severe as a car ages, monthly payments could be lower. The financial risk with a used-car lease, though, can be substantially greater.

Leasing risks. Foremost is the chance of service problems. Consumer Reports’ reliability data suggest that on average, a three-year-old car has more than twice as many problems as a one-year-old car does. Bear in mind that any repairs you must make that are not covered by a warranty come out of your pocket, even though you do not own the car. For that reason, it may be a good idea to purchase a comprehensive, bumper-to-bumper warranty for the full lease term.

Another risk with used-car leasing is that it’s difficult to predict what that car will be worth when it’s, say, five years old. There is a great deal of variation in the five-year-old market. But that knowledge is necessary because your monthly payments hinge on its supposed retained value. If the dealer sets it too low, your payments will be higher than they need to be. If he or she sets it too high, it gives him or her latitude to push up the car’s initial price while offering what seem to be acceptable monthly payments.

The best vehicles to lease, therefore, are those that hold their value very well. Those tend to be luxury cars, sports cars, and some SUVs. As a result, used-car leasing has become largely the province of luxury makes such as Audi, Lexus, and Mercedes-Benz.

Assuming a lease. It’s not only car dealers who handle leases. When a private party wants to get out of a lease early, he or she might look for someone willing to take over the lease payments. You can find lists of offerings on the Internet, where sites found at and act as brokerages where people looking for a lease assumption can see what’s on offer. The original lessee will sometimes offer a cash rebate, which effectively lowers the monthly payment on the vehicle.

The benefit of assuming a lease is that you save the up-front fees, such as a down payment and other “due at inception” fees. Bear in mind, though, that when you assume someone else’s lease you also assume their responsibilities. For instance, you’ll have to pay for any existing damage, “excess wear and tear,” or over-the-limit mileage charges at lease-end.

Tips for used-car leasing

  • If you are working with a dealer, bargain the price down as if you were buying the car.
  • Check that any warranty is comprehensive and lasts the duration of the lease.
  • Make sure you can live with the mileage limits spelled out in the lease contract. Over-limit miles can cost you as much as 25 cents each.
  • Check the vehicle’s history, which might reveal that it was in a major acci-dent, wrecked and salvaged, or had its odometer rolled back. Vehicle-history reports are available for about $20 (or unlimited reports for $25) from two companies, CarFax and Experian AutoCheck. Keep in mind, however, that a clean report doesn’t guarantee that a vehicle doesn’t have hidden problems.
  • Before signing the lease, have the vehicle inspected by a qualified mechanic, who can put it on a lift for a full diagnostic check.

Buying a Used Car – Consumer Reports #used #car #search #engines

#buying a used car

Learn how to drive a fair deal and get a great pre-owned vehicle

Buying a used car is fraught with risk. Unlike a new car that is factory fresh and backed by an extensive warranty, used cars have typically been driven for thousands of miles over several years. Their usage and service histories can be a mystery, and there is always the concern that the car was traded in due to an emerging problem. But, by following a few key steps, you can survive the harrowing used-car buying adventures, while getting a great deal.


Where to shop for a used car

Who’s selling a used car can make as much of a difference to its quality as the make and model.

New-car dealers tend to sell late-model used cars (two- or three-years old) that often carry the remainder of the original factory warranty. Generally, dealer cars are higher quality due to age and their ability to readily make repairs.

Auto superstores have huge lots and scores of cars to sell. CarMax, auto malls, and rental-car sales lots sell numerous brands under the same roof and have their own large-scale reconditioning operations. They also put age, condition, and mileage limits on the cars they’ll sell.

Independent used-car dealerships are apt to handle any car make, and the vehicles can run the gamut from almost-new to junker-in-waiting. Favor the dealerships that have been around for a long time and have a good reputation locally.

Independent mechanics and body shops often have a sideline business selling a few used cars. They may not have a large selection, but it costs them little to fix cars up. That means their prices can be better than those you’ll find at a dealership.

Private owners may sell their cars for less, but there are limits. Businesses that sell cars required to offer some kind of warranty by law and have the expertise to spot problems. Private sellers can’t provide the same security. All the private transactions are assumed to be ‘as-is.’

Best new-car values biggest bang for your buck – Consumer Reports #auto #sales

#value car

Our scores reveal which cars deliver the biggest bang for your buck

Some cars might be inexpensive but leave you feeling unsatisfied. They might not be good values, leaving you feeling as if you have overloaded on junk food. To help you steer clear of those empty calories, we compiled Consumer Reports’ best-value scores. They make it easy to identify which cars provide the most for your money and which ones could leave you feeling ripped off down the road.

To calculate our value Ratings, we analyzed more than 200 recently tested vehicles, focusing on road-test scores, predicted reliability, and five-year owner-cost estimates. The better a car performs in our tests and reliability Ratings, and the less it costs to own over time, the better its value. The best car represents about twice the value as the average car.

Hybrids generally did well in our analysis, especially the Toyota and Lexus hybrids and the Lincoln MKZ. None of them are a bargain, but they’re good values because they delight you with luxury or convenience at every turn, don’t require frequent trips to the dealer, and won’t soak your bank account every month.

This year’s best value is the Toyota Camry Hybrid. Smooth and capable—but not exciting—our model’s $29,000 as-tested price is affordable for the roominess, comfort, and all-around functionality it delivers. Its 38 mpg overall is impressive for a midsized sedan. And it’s stone-cold reliable. Which means that your dollar goes about twice as far with a Camry Hybrid as with the average-value car, according to our analysis.

Sure, you could buy the comparable Hyundai Sonata Hybrid for about $2,300 less than the Camry Hybrid XLE. But the Sonata’s jerky transitions from gas to electric irritated our testers. Its predicted reliability is less stellar than that of the Camry Hybrid. And its 33-mpg overall barely surpasses the best nonhybrid sedans, which cost less. In the end, the Sonata Hybrid represents merely an average value.

The bottom of the pack has a mix of expensive, unreliable German luxury sedans, big SUVs with voracious fuel appetites, and outdated and noncompetitive small Jeeps. But not all SUVs are poor values.

The complete story (available to online subscribers) digs deep into the data, and it is followed by more than a dozen charts detailing the findings, including projected cost per mile.

Free Car History Reports – Are they really free? #compare #car #rentals

#free car history report

Free Car History Reports

If you aren’t prepared to shell out the $39 you’ll need for a CARFAX report. there are some options available.

CARFAX themselves offer many free services. Their Lemon Check service runs a full report in the background – you won’t get to see the report itself, but it will tell you the total number of history records available for that VIN, as well as if any of those were Manufacturer Buyback or Lemon records. The drawback to this method is that you won’t be able to see any accidents or similar problems with the vehicle, which could lead to costly repairs down the line.

CARFAX also offers, completely free, a PROBLEM CAR CHECK. Simply enter a vehicle, and they will generate a short list of cars for sale in the area that have red flags attached to the VIN. This can be a great way to narrow your initial search, weeding out problem cars from the get-go, and may be especially useful if you’re considering any private sales.

Many times, used car dealerships have accounts with CARFAX already, and can access unlimited reports for no additional fee. If you’re shopping at a dealership, don’t be afraid to ask for the vehicle history report. Even if you’re buying from a private seller, don’t be afraid to ask the owner to purchase the report! If they have nothing to hide, they should easily be able to absorb that cost, if it can help them seal the deal.

A bare-bones report is also available from the National Insurance Crime Bureau. With a VIN, you can search for any evidence of fraud in the vehicle’s history, including theft and major accidents.

However, the best way to access a free CARFAX report is to simply start your shopping on CARFAX. Their website features a search function for all catalogued vehicles for sale from dealerships that have subscribed to CARFAX. Enter your zip code, and search by make, model, or type (sedan, SUV, etc.), and filter by different issues you want to avoid – once you find a vehicle you’re interested in, the CARFAX report is available in full with the click of a button – completely free, no strings attached.

Is it worth buying an extended car warranty? Consumer Reports #car #repair

#used car worth

Peace of mind comes at a cost

After dedicating an afternoon (or more) to test driving, negotiating, and completing a pile of paperwork for your shiny new car, don’t be surprised if a bubble-bursting finance manager at the dealer gives a compelling pitch for an extended warranty. It is for your peace of mind, right? Well, not really.

The last-ditch effort to sell you a warranty, or various other unnecessary services, is the dealership’s final assault on your checkbook before you tuck it securely away and drive off. Sure, the pitch is convincing: Should an expensive repair be necessary after the factory warranty ends, you’d be protected. No one wants a big, financial surprise, nor wishes to be stranded roadside. (Read Watch for These Dealer Sales Pitches . )

But breathe deep and think this through. A survey conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center in late 2013 found that 55 percent of owners who purchased an extended warranty hadn’t used it for repairs during the lifetime of the policy. And, on average, those who did use it spent hundreds more for the coverage than they saved in repair costs.

Among survey participants who used their policy, the median out-of-pocket savings on repairs covered by extended warranties for all brands was $837. Based on a $1,214 average initial cost, that works out to a net loss of more than $375. Factoring those who didn’t use their policy, the median savings was zero. And that may have something to do with why satisfaction with auto­mobile extended warranties is among the lower rated of all products and services surveyed by Consumer Reports, and why only about a quarter of respondents said they would definitely get it again.

For sale: Road-tested German Sports Cars- Consumer Reports #cheap #car #seats

#german cars for sale

For sale: Road-tested German sports cars

The one question we get asked all the time is: What do you do with your test cars when you’re done with them? Since we buy every car we test, we can’t just simply give the cars back to the manufacturer when we’re done, like a typical press loan. Hence, we have to sell them.

We usually find someone among the hundreds of Consumer Reports employees that’s interested in buying the retired test car or we might simply trade it in for a new one.

That time has come for several convertibles and for a twist, we thought we’d offer these entertaining roadsters to our readers.

Forget how cold and gray it is in much of the country—spring will be here soon. And when the sun is shining, what’s more fun than a drop-top sports car ?

If you are interested in one of the low-mileage sports cars listed below, you can save about $10,000 over the price as-new and take delivery at the Consumer Reports test track in East Haddam, Connecticut. We’ll even give you a tour of the facilities and a few laps on the handling track in your new car. (Learn how Consumer Reports tests cars .)

Click on the name to see the complete road test (available to online subscribers).

2012 Audi TT 2.0 TFSI quattro S-Tronic (automatic)

Asking price: $36,500

MSRP: $45,300

Approximate miles: 6,600

2012 BMW Z4 sDrive28i (manual)

Asking price: $45,000

MSRP: $55,225

Approximate miles: 8,400

2012 Mercedes-Benz SLK250 (manual)

Asking price: $39,500

MSRP: $48,045

Approximate miles: 8,500

2013 Porsche Boxster (manual)

Asking price: $48,000

Serious buyers may contact us for more information and window stickers at crtestcars (at)

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Car Safety Comparison Ratings – Consumer Reports #car #window #tint

#compare cars

Several different elements affect a vehicle’s overall safety capability

Crash tests. Frontal- and side- and rear impact crash tests are conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. You’ll find crash-test ratings for all tested models on their Web sites.

You’ll also find crash-test results going back 10 years in the used car vehicle profiles. NHTSA revised its testing standards for the 2011 model year. This means that test results from prior years can’t be compared with results from 2011 forward. You can see the NHTSA and IIHS ratings on our vehicle profile pages .

Accident avoidance. A vehicle’s ability to help you avoid an accident is just as important as its ability to protect you in a crash. For every accident there are numerous near misses that statistics don’t reflect. Several factors contribute to a vehicle’s accident-avoidance capability, with the two most important being braking and emergency handling. Using our test data, Consumer Reports provides an accident-avoidance Rating on all tested vehicles.

Rollover resistance. Rollover accidents account for about 33 percent of all vehicle-occupant deaths and are of particular concern with SUVs and pickups. To help consumers compare vehicles, NHTSA provides a five-star rating system called the Rollover Resistance Rating (RRR). The RRR is based on two factors: a vehicle’s static stability factor (SSF) and a dynamic rollover test. The SSF, determined from static measurements of the vehicle, essentially indicates how top-heavy it is. The dynamic test simulates a driver having to make a series of sharp steering maneuvers, as can happen in an emergency. Vehicles that tip up fail the test, but it only downgrades the overall star rating slightly.

We think a vehicle that tips up in this type of situation has serious stability problems, and we will not recommend it. RRR ratings are available at . Click on the model’s name or star ratings to get more information, and scroll down to “Rollover.” Note that prior to 2004 models, NHTSA used only the SSF to determine rollover ratings, so there are no dynamic test results.

Rear-impact protection. Although rear enders have a low fatality rate they have a high injury rate, especially for whiplash neck injuries. The design of a car’s head restraints and seats are critical factors in how severe a whiplash injury will be. CR evaluates head restraints for all seating positions in every tested vehicle. Any problems are noted in our road-test reports.

Another good source for information on rear-impact protection is the IIHS website. The institute conducts evaluations of head restraints and performs dynamic rear-impact tests that measure how well the seat/head-restraint combinations in different models protect against whiplash.

Blind zones. Every year, children are injured and killed because drivers don’t see them while backing up. A contributing factor is that some larger vehicles, such as SUVs and pickups, have larger blind zones—the area behind a vehicle that the driver can’t see. See our report on the dangers of blind spots .

To check a vehicle’s blind spot yourself, sit in the driver’s seat of the parked vehicle while someone stands in back and holds out a hand at about waist level. Have the person walk back slowly until you can see the hand through the rear window. This will give you an idea of how big that vehicle’s blind spot is.

Power-window switches. Some vehicles have rocker- or toggle-type power-window switches that will raise the window when they are pressed down or forward. This is a very risky design because a child who is leaning out of an open window can accidentally kneel on the switch and close the window, possibly causing injury or death. A better design is a lever switch, which raises the window only when it’s pulled upward.

See our cars Safety section for more information.