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Buying A Car - Car comparisons, prices, data and specs

13 August 2012
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The competition between car manufacturers has never been so intense, and the quality of new cars, never better. However, this can also make the buying process much harder. How do you pick one car to buy, when many others will be just as good – or maybe even better?

The final choice between two cars could well hinge on a small variation in specification, running costs, or an extra inch of legroom. However, for some, the final choice will be driven by emotion, alone.

For those who prefer more analytical approach, whatcar.com users can call on our comparison tool. Enter the specific version of the car you're interested in, and the 'Compare' screen will prompt you to add one or two more cars by make, model and version. You'll then see an image of the three cars, its list price and Target Price, followed by a wealth of information under the three headings of Equipment, Running Costs and Performance & Measurements.

Under the main Equipment heading you'll find the following seven sub-headings:
Engine & Transmission: including the availability of an automatic gearbox, and of particulate filters etc.
Entertainment: covering audio and MP3/iPod connectivity)
Exterior: metallic paints, alloy wheels etc.
Safety: from passive items such as airbags and side impact bars through parking sensors and rain-sensing wipers to active driving measures like stability control, traction control and cruise control.
Security: including etched windows, visible VIN numbers and marked parts as well as the usual alarms and immobilisers
Comfort and Interior: this covers all the occupant comfort and communications features, from heated mirrors and seats to panoramic sunroofs.

If features are available as a cost option, the Compare function will give you a price for it, and a check box to tick. When you've clicked the 'Update All Prices' button, you'll then be able to see the final price for a car (along with the What Car? Target Price) after it's been specced-up with the extras that might well be included as standard on another car. This is a revealing exercise, which can often more than justify an apparently expensive but well-specified rival.

The second main heading, Running Costs, gives a comprehensive rundown of fuel consumption, CO2 rating, along with other useful information such as fuel tank size, typical contract hire and servicing costs, and warranty periods. The section includes a percentage figure revealing the value each car retains over a three-year period, and ends with a figure for what that car is likely to cost you over the same timeframe.

How to buy a car

The final heading, Performance & Measurements gives dimensions, weights and boot capacities, along with manufacturers' power and performance figures (0-60mph and top speed), towing weights and Euro NCAP crash-test ratings.

The Compare function takes away the need to wade through confusing information on a succession of manufacturer's websites. It's a simple, but highly effective tool for modern car buyers.


Next step: How to spec a car >>


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