Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Advice for car shoppers in slumping economy

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (8/27/08)--Responding to $4 per gallon gasoline prices, consumers are revved up about hybrids. But their craving to drive these eco- and gas-friendly vehicles may not be the best panacea for the problems at the pump ( Aug. 19).

While most hybrids boast excellent fuel efficiency, the prices are higher than for other vehicles, which can create a lengthy period for your gas savings to "pay back" that initial price. In fact, when long-term ownership costs—such as financing, insurance, fuel, taxes, maintenance, and repairs—are considered, the popular Prius hybrid model ranked No. 34 in Edmunds' True Cost to Own ranking system.

When buying a vehicle, step back and consider the big picture. While a hybrid may be the best vehicle for some, don't overlook a traditional compact car or even a used SUV.

Consider these tips in the current car-buying market:

Shop for fuel economy and low price. Check out Then visit for current auto prices from Kelley Blue Book's "New Car Blue Book Value." Choose a few that get at least 30 mpg and cost less than sticker price. Ask local dealers to beat that quote, and you may end up with a lower price than the Blue Book Value.

Avoid used vehicles that are in higher demand. Expect to pay a premium for the popular models. A Ford Focus, for example, sells for less than 60% of the manufacturer's price, while a higher demand compact Honda Civic goes for 70% to 90% of manufacturer's price. Instead search for cars with high reliability ratings from J.D. Power & Associates at

Search for reduced sticker prices on SUVs or crossovers. If you're a low-mileage driver, this may be a good option. While these aren't gas-sippers, you may be able to get as much as 15% off the manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) and also land great financing or rebates. Check with the credit union first to compare financing options.

If a hybrid is definitely what you're after, be prepared for a waiting list and a hefty refundable deposit as down payment, especially for the two most popular brands—the Prius and the Civic Hybrid ( Aug. 8). Be flexible about special options and features. Consider a lesser-known hybrid with slightly fewer miles per gallon, such as the Chevy Malibu or Nissan Altima, which may be a lot easier to get your hands on.

For more information, read "Going Greener With Your Next Car," and "Will a Hybrid Car Save You Money?" in Home & Family Resource Center.

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