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This 80-page section is structured to be your all-in-one guide to buying a vehicle. Starting off on page 132, we detail the 5 Steps to Get the Right Car and Best Price. Buying a car can be thrilling and terrifying at the same time, but following these five easy steps can take the advantage out of the salesperson's hands and put you in charge of the buying and negotiating process.
Turn to page 142 to see which vehicles, among the 246 we recently tested, did best and worst in our Ratings. Here you can see how each ranks among its competitors in overall test score, real-world fuel economy, Ratings for predicted reliability, accident avoidance, and crash tests.
The vehicle profiles, starting on page 153, are our summary reviews of 253 vehicles, including our recommendations and Predicted Reliability Ratings.
Consumers considering a used vehicle should turn to the Best and Worst Used Cars, on page 178. You'll find our CR Good Bets, models that have performed well in our road tests and reliability surveys, as well as the CR Bad Bets, vehicles with poor reliability that you should avoid.
We close the section with our Reliability History charts, starting on page 184. These charts are based on responses from our 2006 annual survey, when we ask our approximately six million magazine and Web site subscribers about any serious problems they have had with their vehicles in the preceding 12 months.
This edition's reliability data are based on about 1.3 million vehicles. They provide you with information on 250 vehicles, showing you how models from 2001 through 2006 are holding up in 16 trouble spots. These are comprehensive reliability data you can't get from other publications.
5 STEPS TO GET THE RIGHT CAR AND THE BEST PRICE
Buying a new car can be an exciting time. But many people are intimidated by the dealership experience, including the price negotiations and the high-pressure sales tactics that can be used to manipulate you into spending more than you need to. Others find it confusing and frustrating to try to pick the right vehicle from the more than 300 models on the market.
To ensure that you get the right vehicle at the best price, you need to be an informed buyer. That means investing time in research and preparation. The car-buying process can be boiled down to five steps:
* Get the right information to narrow your choices and make a smart decision.
* Check out the cars by doing a thorough test drive.
* Set a target price and learn the value of your trade-in.
* Shop for financing before you deal by comparing terms and interest rates, and getting preapproved for a loan.
* Get the best deal by contacting dealerships, comparing offers, and using a proven negotiating strategy.
Step 1: Get the right info
To accurately compare vehicles and determine the best one for your needs, gather as much information as you can about any models you're considering. Fortunately, the Internet makes that easy to do. But just as cars can vary greatly in quality, so can sources of information. The key is knowing what to look for and finding the best sources of information. Here,we list some of the major areas in which you should consider when comparing models.
AUTOMAKER WEB SITES
Use those sites to get basic information, such as which models and trim levels the manufacturer offers, available features and options, specifications, retail pricing, warranties, and the locations of dealerships. Most sites also let you compare vehicles and "build your own car," giving you a retail price for your individual configuration. That doesn't guarantee, however, that you'll find a vehicle configured the way you want it on a dealership's lot. Keep in mind, too, that the main purpose of those sites is to promote their own products, so the model information is the same as advertising.
CONSUMER REPORTS' Ratings (see page 142) can help you narrow your list by giving you a quick look at how tested vehicles compare with their competitors in several areas. The Ratings chart also shows you which vehicles meet our stringent requirements to be recommended.
Reviews give you an in-depth perspective on a vehicle's performance, comfort and convenience, and overall driving character, as well as insight into deficiencies that might not be apparent on a test drive. Because different sources have varying points of view, we recommend reading a variety. But keep in mind that most are in publications or on Web sites that are supported by automaker advertising, and no company wants to bite the hand that feeds it. So you might not find hard-hitting analysis or insight into safety or reliability issues. Only a few do their own instrumented testing, which allows more accurate comparisons between different vehicles.
CONSUMER REPORTS conducts the most comprehensive auto-testing program of any U.S. publication or Web site. We differ from other …