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A while back, I blogged about some of my experiences shopping for a car in October of last year. That entry focused mainly on some of the pressure I encountered about 'buying American' rather than buying a foreign car. Now, I'd like to focus on another part of the car-buying experience, namely: perception. This refers to the perceptions people have of auto brands.

Through doing a lot of online research, getting advice from friends & family, and talking with sales people at various dealerships, I heard a lot of conflicting information. Much of it (outside of the reviews) tended to fascinate me because it seemed to rely almost exclusively on perception and anecdotal evidence. Needless to say, that isn't the most reliable sort of opinion.

Did you know, for example, that Toyota, Honda and Nissan produce cars that last forever and rarely have problems? Well, that's what people's perceptions will tell you. But what about the massive recalls in recent years from Toyota? The recently-annouced 53,000 unit recall from Honda's luxury line, Acura? Or the fact that, yes, you will see a great many old Toyotas, etc, on the road today, but that they often look and sound like rust buckets?

My mom purchased a 1991 Nissan Sentra when it was new. It became my teenage driving car, and then my early-adult car and, while it was overall a good vehicle that made it 15 years with 166,000 miles, those last few years of life weren't without a great many (costly) repairs. So many people would tell me, "Those Nissans, they'll last forever." Yes, but at what cost?

It became obvious that the most reliable sources for car information were the professional car critics/reviewers. They test hundreds of vehicles each year, and have their fingers on the pulse of the industry. That's how you'll discover stuff like how far a brand like Hyundai has come, how Hondas have become stagnant and never addressed their noise issue, how the U.S. automakers have really stepped-up their game, and how there really aren't any truly bad automobiles being manufactured anymore.

Perceptions are one thing. Actual knowledge? That's quite another.


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