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May 23, 2010

Step 3: Detailed research (Buying a Car)

Back: Step 2 - Basic research

Now that I had a manageable shortlist of 6 cars it was time to compare them in more detail.  By the end of this step I wanted to have a clear and comprehensive list of criteria.  These detailed criteria would enable me to:
  1. Identify the 3 (or so) leading cars
  2. Articulate my criteria for purposes of comparison and ranking (for use in step 4)
  3. Start to prepare me for the bargaining process with car dealers (step 5)
As I considered the six cars on my shortlist I became aware of a further, hitherto tacit, criterion:
  • Does the car look good to me?
In my reading I also began to take notice of what the experts were saying.  While the experts would be applying different criteria and I did not have the patience to go through all the minutiae in their reviews, general consensus among experts carries some weight.  Hence:
  • Has the car received generally good reviews? 
    By answering these two additional questions I was able to narrow my selection to the 3 most appealing and acclaimed cars: Honda Jazz, Suzuki Swift, Toyota Yaris. 

    My next step was to visit a few dealerships, take these cars for a test drive, and grill the dealers for more information.  I noted what I liked and disliked about each car and after a few test drives I had a good idea of what to look for.  Here are my notes:

    Honda Jazz

    Suzuki Swift

    Toyota Yaris
    Spacious boot (trunk)
    Narrow body
    Fuel economy not great
    Full-sized spare
    tinted windows
    High safety rating
    Small boot (trunk)
    Wide body
    Excellent fuel economy
    Small spare
    Great around corners
    Excellent brakes
    Great acceleration
    Very good fuel economy
    Full-sized spare
    High safety rating
    Great safety rating
    Good brakes
    Cheap to repair
    Mechanics love it
    At this point my list of criteria was expanded (although not yet organized) and I had a much clearer idea of what to consider.  I had the reassuring feeling of being in much greater control of the process:
    1. I was no longer was paralyzed by choice, having reduced my selection to a very manageable final list;
    2. I no longer felt ignorant, having researched my selection and noted each car's pros and cons; and
    3. I no longer was afraid of paying too much, having ascertained the market price of my prospective cars.
    I was now ready to compare the finalists in detail and was only one step away from driving a hard bargain for myself.

    Next: Step 4 - Brainstorm and categorize

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