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Thread: Most over-sold new car features....

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Most over-sold new car features....

    You can get all kinds of stuff today that was either rare or not offered at all ten or twenty years ago.

    The question is - do you really need these things? Or are you just buying into the hype?

    * All-wheel-drive (AWD) -

    This feature has gone from being almost unique to Subarus and Audis to a commonplace offering on vehicles from many other manufacturers that range from economy-type small cars to family sedans to those sort-of, not-quite SUVs we know as "crossovers."

    AWD does deliver superior high-speed handling grip; and yes, it provides better traction in wet/snowy weather than rear-wheel-drive. However, you may never (or rarely) face driving conditions where AWD would make much difference.

    If that's the case, why buy it?

    Most people just go from "a" to "b" at speeds within a few MPH of posted maximums; the high-speed handling advantages of their AWD-equipped car thus never really come into play. In rain and snowy conditions, AWD aids traction/grip - no question. But prudent driving and a good set of all-season tires on a front-wheel-drive car will likely do the job of getting you from "a" to "b" just as effectively - and for a lot less money.

    AWD costs more (all else being equal) at purchase time. It adds weight to the car - which hurts both fuel economy potential and acceleration capability. These are definite costs that you'll pay for every single time you drive - vs. a theoretical advantage that may never come into play. Think carefully about whether you really need the extra capability AWD provides, given the type of driving you - not that guy in the commercials - do most of the year.

    And buy accordingly.

    * Four wheel drive (4WD) -

    People sometimes confuse AWD with 4WD - and the automakers are guilty of aiding and abetting this confusion - but the two are not the same thing. 4WD used to mean a truck-based system with a rear axle, two-speed transfer case and Low range gearing - features that are necessary for serious off-road driving. AWD systems, in contrast, usually don't have a two-speed transfer case or Low range gearing; instead they typically use a device called a viscous coupling differential to automatically send some engine power tothe rear wheels when the front wheels begin to slip. (In normal driving conditions, virtually all engine power is routed to the front wheels in an AWD-equipped vehicle; in most 4WD vehicles, all of the power is routed to the rear wheels until the 4WD is engaged.)

    But like AWD, 4WD is arguably over-sold.

    In fact, it may be even more over-sold than AWD because AWD is at least designed for improved traction/grip on dry paved roads - as well as in rainy/snowy weather- while truck-style 4WD is basically intended for off-road use. On dry, paved roads, 4WD should not even be engaged. (Doing so may even cause excess wear and tear to the 4WD components.)

    Thus, you're driving around in 2WD - but paying extra for 4WD you may rarely, if ever, actually need.

    Rule of thumb: If you don't need to drive off paved roads - and only face a handful of snow days each year - you almost certainly don't need 4WD.

    * 18, 19 20 inch (and larger) alloy wheels -

    If ever there was a victory of image over substance, this is a case in point. Do big wheels looks good? Sure. But for most normal drivers plodding along in traffic, they don't add anything other than another big expense to the bottom line cost of the car.

    Extra-tall, extra-wide rims require extra-expensive tires, for openers. Many people don't realize just what they're in for until 20,000 or 30,000 miles after they buy their new car - when the time comes to shop for their first replacement set of tires. $150-$200 (and more) per tire is not uncommon. That's as much as 50-100 percent more than the cost of a stnadrad-size all-season tire. And these specialty tires are typically "performance" tires built for high-speed, high-load driving. That, in turn, compromises their useful life - because such tires typically are made using compounds that wear down faster. So you get hit in the wallet a second time - in the form of more frequent replacement intervals.

    Those super tall, super wide rims also typically require what's known as "low aspect ratio" tires - tires with short, stiff sidewalls. Otherwise, the combined diameter of the wheel/tire would be balloon-like and the car would sit way high off the ground, like the monster trucks you see on TV.

    These low-aspect ratio tires look super sporty, but their ride is often super stiff, too.

    Big wheels and tires are kind of like a tailor-made tuxedo. You look great - but you pay through the nose to wear a suit that's seriously uncomfortable. A pair of jeans - or a set of 15 or 16 inch rims with regular all-season tires - might make a lot more sense. And will absolutely involve a lot less expense

    * Hybrid cars -

    A hybrid car may save gas relative to an otherwise equivalent car without a hybrid drivetrain. But the real question ought to be - does a hybrid save you money?

    In virtually every case the answer is - no.

    The typical hybrid vehicle costs about $3,000 more than a similar car without the hybrid drivetrain. It will also probably hit you up for higher service/maintenance costs down the road for things like replacement of the battery pack/cells as they lose their ability to hold a charge. You should weight these higher up front (and down the road) costs relative to an otherwise equivalent, non-hybrid car and see whether you come out in the black - or the red.

    And if you're really concerned about saving money, why not just buy a used economy compact? Instead of spending $20,000 or more to buy a new Prius (the least expensive new hybrid vehicle you can buy) spend $7,000 or so on a lightly-used, recent vintage Corolla. It may only get 35 mpg vs, the 45 mpg of the Prius, but you'll have $13,000 or more in your pocket, which buys a helluva lot of gas - even at $4 per gallon.

    That's about as "green" as it gets.

    END

  2. #2
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    Re: Most over-sold new car features....

    Just posted this article to the main page:




    http://www.ericpetersautos.com/home/...3&Itemid=10853

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    Re: Most over-sold new car features....

    I've driven a 4WD vehicle a total of 1 time. It was great to get over the huge snow pack where the plow had come and blocked it in (govt car). However, I found that front wheel drive worked just fine in snow (we're talking North Dakota snow!).

  4. #4
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Most over-sold new car features....

    Quote Originally Posted by ducky1776
    I've driven a 4WD vehicle a total of 1 time. It was great to get over the huge snow pack where the plow had come and blocked it in (govt car). However, I found that front wheel drive worked just fine in snow (we're talking North Dakota snow!).
    That is pretty much my experience - and philosophy - too!

    I have a 4WD truck; and I live in a rural area. But the truth of it is I maybe use the 4WD three days per year. And not for any extended length of time on those days, either. I could absolutely get by without it....

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    Re: Most over-sold new car features....

    I would like to add XM or Siruius Satellite radio to the mix. In addition, I would like to add most modern (standard or optional) airbag systems, and the so called 5 star saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety ratings. That crap is so obnoxious I can't stand it.



  6. #6
    DonTom
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    Re: Most over-sold new car features....

    "But like AWD, 4WD is arguably over-sold."

    Maybe not as much as some think. If AWD meets the requirements of not needing snow chains during a snow chain requirement, that could be the ONLY reason many around here have AWD.

    BTW, out here when you see a vehicle that is 2WD it means either they don't live near here or else they also have a 4WD or AWD vehicle.

    And many who do not live near here might want to be able to drive here or other places in the winter without the hassles of putting on snow chains.

    -Don- (Reno)

  7. #7
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Most over-sold new car features....

    Quote Originally Posted by Henry
    I would like to add XM or Siruius Satellite radio to the mix. In addition, I would like to add most modern (standard or optional) airbag systems, and the so called 5 star saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafety ratings. That crap is so obnoxious I can't stand it.

    Amen, brother.... amen!

    At least, we can still own and drive old cars without all this crap. For the moment....

  8. #8
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Most over-sold new car features....

    Quote Originally Posted by DonTom
    "But like AWD, 4WD is arguably over-sold."

    Maybe not as much as some think. If AWD meets the requirements of not needing snow chains during a snow chain requirement, that could be the ONLY reason many around here have AWD.

    BTW, out here when you see a vehicle that is 2WD it means either they don't live near here or else they also have a 4WD or AWD vehicle.

    And many who do not live near here might want to be able to drive here or other places in the winter without the hassles of putting on snow chains.

    -Don- (Reno)
    This is a subjective call, but to my mind, spending a fair amount of additional money "up front" (as well as higher "down the road" costs in the form of decreased fuel economy and more stuff to potentially require service or break down, etc.) for a feature one may only need a few days per year doesn't make financial sense.

    I live in an area that has fairly cold winters; but the truth of it is that I rarely use the 4wd in my pick-up and could easily manage without it. Sure, there might be a couple of days per year (if we have a bad storm, let's say) where I'd be inconvenienced. But for probably 350 or more days per year, I have no real need for 4WD and could manage with a 2WD truck. Next time, I might just buy one - and save some money!

    To me, it's like a cell phone. There are a few times each year where I admit one would be very handy. But I weigh that against the other 98 percent of the time that I don't really need one of the things (and how nice it is to be free of a mobile harasser that pesters me all the time with its ringing, its choppy service and disconnected calls!) and any temptation to waste the money to buy something I don't really need that just adds another layer of cos/complexity to my life quickly fades away....

  9. #9
    DonTom
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    Re: Most over-sold new car features....

    "I live in an area that has fairly cold winters; but the truth of it is that I rarely use the 4wd in my pick-up and could easily manage without it."

    In my Jeep, there's no way to NOT use the 4WD. But that's fine, as I don't even have to think about it. I did manage for a while without any 4WD vehicles. But there was several times when I wished I had one. Going back and forth to Reno makes me especially appreciate the 4WD when others have to waste almost an hour with snow chains as I just drive by. And that snow chain requirement is a lot more than "a couple of days per year".

    But I won't buy a new 4WD vehicle. That makes little sense for a vehicle that I wish to beat up off road as well as expose to road salts.

    I pay for convenience often. Not only do I pay for things I use rarely (such as my cell phone). I even paid for some things I have NEVER even used at all!. Right now I am thinking about the propane barbecue grill I paid a couple of hundred bucks for about a year ago. Covered in the back yard at the Reno home. Never used. But that MIGHT change by this summer.

    -Don- (back in SSF)

  10. #10
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Most over-sold new car features....

    Quote Originally Posted by DonTom
    "I live in an area that has fairly cold winters; but the truth of it is that I rarely use the 4wd in my pick-up and could easily manage without it."

    In my Jeep, there's no way to NOT use the 4WD. But that's fine, as I don't even have to think about it. I did manage for a while without any 4WD vehicles. But there was several times when I wished I had one. Going back and forth to Reno makes me especially appreciate the 4WD when others have to waste almost an hour with snow chains as I just drive by. And that snow chain requirement is a lot more than "a couple of days per year".

    But I won't buy a new 4WD vehicle. That makes little sense for a vehicle that I wish to beat up off road as well as expose to road salts.

    I pay for convenience often. Not only do I pay for things I use rarely (such as my cell phone). I even paid for some things I have NEVER even used at all!. Right now I am thinking about the propane barbecue grill I paid a couple of hundred bucks for about a year ago. Covered in the back yard at the Reno home. Never used. But that MIGHT change by this summer.

    -Don- (back in SSF)
    Yeah, I am "guilty" of the same kind of thing; I have tools, equipment - and just "stuff" that I can't really make much of a case for -other than I wanted to have them and might maybe one day need them for something... .


  11. #11
    DonTom
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    Re: Most over-sold new car features....

    "I have tools, equipment -"

    The problem I have with special hand tools is that I usually lose them by the time I need them. I have tons of tools at both houses. I am a toolaholic.

    -Don-



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