I’ve always been a car guy, since the time I was old enough to hold a gas pump in my hand and race HO scale slot cars. As I got older, a lot of people would ask me for advice on what car to buy, based on my knowledge and experience. Now that I write about cars for a living, the number of questions I get has only ramped up.
A few years back I made it my policy to not give advice on what car to buy, and below are my reasons. I’ll give you an unbiased opinion of any car I drive, but don’t ask me if you should buy one or not. Here’s why.
No matter how sound the advice, people will generally buy what they want.
When friends or relatives used to ask me “what should I buy”, I’d spend hours doing research and building comparative spreadsheets. Now matter how much effort I put into it, no matter how much documentation I provided on what to buy and what to avoid, my friends and relatives usually bought what they wanted, regardless of advice. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. I’m not insane, so I no longer give purchase advice to friends and relatives.
If they buy what you recommend, every problem is your fault.
Especially true with used cars, this also applies to new cars as well. What happens when a new car is recalled by the manufacturer six months after purchase? Friends, family and relatives look at me like I should have known this. What happens when the brake rotors require replacement 20,000 miles after a buddy buys a used car? I should have warned him about it.
As much as I know about cars, I can’t tell you what models will be recalled next year, and I can’t tell you what’s going to go wrong with your 100,000 mile Hyundai in 18 months. I’m good, but I’m not that good.
Endless whining about “I should have bought this instead”
If you actually have friends and relatives buy a car you recommend, be prepared for endless whining about the car they really wanted. Unless you enjoy a five year guilt trip, it’s best to just nod you head when people talk about what cars to buy. Unless they take that as agreement, in which case you still get the prolonged guilt trip. Face the facts; your friends don’t want advice, they want validation of their choice.
Why didn’t you tell me to wait for better price / newer model / bigger engine?
The internet has really improved the flow of information from automakers to the general public. Anyone with access to a computer can find pricing and new model information from any manufacturer, but that doesn’t always fit into their purchase schedule. Recommend a particular car, and be prepared for comments like, “I would have waited if you told me a new model would be released in two years.”
This just in, folks: manufacturers are constantly updating their product lines. Car models are like sharks; unless they keep moving forward, they die. It doesn’t matter when you buy a car, there will always be something better just around the corner.
I don’t want to have to handle the dealer negotiations.
One of the unique skills I have is negotiating with car dealers, because I always approach it as a business transaction with no emotion involved. Let’s face it, if I can’t get the deal I want from Stealership A, all I need to do is keep shopping until I find one willing to sell me the car I want at the price I want. That said, car shopping is a giant pain in the ass that takes a lot of preparation (knowing costs for the specific make, model and trim level, knowing holdback, knowing current incentives to dealers and the public, etc.) and a lot of energy. Throwing down against a car salesman is no different from any other contact sport; there comes a time when you’re happy to fight your own battles, but don’t see a reason to fight other people’s battles for them.
That’s not to say I’d throw a family member to the wolves, but I’m sure as hell not going to go with my cousin’s friend to try and negotiate a better price on a Nissan GT-R lease. For which he’s trading in a 1990 Hyundai Sonata. That doesn’t run. I’m a firm believer in being prepared, and experience tells me that other car buyers rarely are.
Feel free to ask me what car to buy, and I’ll tell you the same thing I tell friends and family: buy whatever car you really want. Life is too short to be miserable behind the wheel.