Saturday, September 30, 2006

Car Shopping

It's become like a tradition for us to go out every Ramadhan to visit car dealerships pretending like we're buying a car. In last year's Ramadhan car shopping post, someone commented that 40% of cars sold in Oman are sold during Ramadhan. So you see, it would be un-Omani of us not to join our fellow citizens in their march. Except this time, I might actually end up buying a new car, if only I can find one that I like within my budget.

First thing I noticed this year is that the automotive world has changed a lot in the 8 years since I last bought a car. For one thing, car salesmen are no longer the annoying, persistent creatures that they used to be. Nowadays, with the economy booming, cars sell themselves. If the salesman finds you to be taking too much of his time, he doesn't want anything to do with you. He'd rather just move on to the next customer, who'd probably buy the car without all the questions that you're asking. In the past I'd try as hard as I can to resist giving my phone number to a car salesman because they'd annoy you with their phone calls asking if you made up your mind about what car to buy. This year, I've given my number to maybe a dozen salesmen, and none of them has called me. Not one of them. Quite surprisingly, most people buy cars without test driving them. Some dealers don't even keep test drive vehicles, or only offer short 5 minute drives around the block. And the age of the affordable car is over (or maybe that's because our salaries in Oman never increased while the world around us kept moving). There's absolutely nothing out there below 10K unless you buy Korean. Otherwise, almost all Japanese 6 cylinder cars are above 10 grand. The Lexus ES350 which is a glorified Camry goes for over 15K, and the GS300 is now around 20K. Japanese luxury cars like Lexus and Infiniti are now almost toe to toe with BMW on price. They're no longer more affordable.

So what are the options out there these days for someone looking to buy a 6 cylinder family sedan?

The new Toyota Camry has a face only a mother can love. It is one of the ugliest cars ever from the front, but is quite nice inside and back. It only comes in a 4 cylinder at the moment, not that I'd ever buy one. The reviews on

Nissan Altima: Not exactly a good looking car, but nicer than anything Toyota makes. I really like the 3.5 liter V6 for its power but the model's getting changed soon and the one sold here is really thread-bare when it comes to options. The car is available as is. You can't order anything extra like navigation or even a premium sound system. I liked it last year, and I still do this year. But with the new Altima coming out in November in the states with a ton of new features and a brand new shape, it would be pointless getting one now. I didn't wait 8 years to buy a car whose shape will change in a few months.

Toyota Avalon is a shapeless whale of a car. Very powerful, comfortable and quite well equiped. A great car if you don't care what your car looks like. It's a car designed specifically for retired Americans.

Infinti G35: An excellent car with an insanely powerful engine. It's a car that begs to be driven fast, yet is extremely comfortable and comes standard with an amazing sound system but again, navigation is not even an option. A bit outside my price range, and the model is being replaced next month in the US- probably by March next year here.

Subaru Legacy: Strange, I stopped at this showroom only because it's next door to Chevrolet where I wanted to see the new Tahoe but it was out of stock. I ended up loving the new Legacy. It's really nice both inside and out and is available with a 245hp 6 cylinder engine. Unfortunatly they've only brought the 4 cylinder now and the guy at the showroom says it might be 4 months till they get the top of the range model which should be priced around 11K.

Mitsubishi Pajero, nice car but it's been the same shape for eons and the new one was announced just yesterday in the Paris Motor Show which looks almost exactly like the current model. Dunno when it will arrive in Oman, and how much over budget it would be.

I didn't look at any American cars except the GMC Yukon which I really like but costs 17K and with my lead foot would probably suck up 100 rials of fuel a month. The Chevy Lumina might be an option that I should consider.

I still need to visit the VW and Honda showrooms but from the looks of it so far, it might not be the best time to buy a car with some many models about to be changed.


Omar said...

Don't buy american!
I have worked in the automotive industry and I know first hand why a Toyota lasts the time that it does, and why a Ford will start falling apart at 160K

NiGhTFaCe said...

Why I dont see anything new with the cars maybe except for the new Lexus IS.

I tried driving the Toyota Avalon. But, I am not that impressed, maybe because I prefer the breaking system in my car.

The Toyota Camry doesnt have that space it used to have for the passengers at the back.

I wouldnt suggest any American car for now.

Chulupu said...

I dont know about you. But for a person who drove BMW for 8 years, one would only assume that you will never buy anything else.

Well thats my opinion, after driving the mini, which is basically BMW engineering, I think my next car which is soon inshalla would be a BMW five series. I dont know, but driving a beamer or any european car for that matters, u feel you are in control.

Another thing, did you consider looking a second hand luxury car. I understand in Dubai you can get a very well maintained not so old module car (2004) as much as 50% out of its new price!

muscati said...

Chulupu - Absolutely, BMWs are without a doubt the best cars to drive. Lexus might make cars which keep their value longer and don't give their owners as much trouble as BMWs do, but they are horrible soulless cars to drive. If it was up to me and I could afford it, I would buy another buy another BMW. If I wasn't constrained due to other circumstances, primarily that I am in the final stages of building a house, I'd probably buy a BMW 540 or 550i. But considering that I am buying forced by circumstances to buy a car at a time when I don't have the resources, I am looking for the best possible alternatives where I can at least get a 6 cylinder car that's well put together, drives great and has at least 200hp which won't cost more than 10K out of my pocket (plus whatever I salvage from the value of my damaged car).

C'est la vie.

Chulupu said...

phewww for a moment there I thought you had issues with the beamer. Nice to hear that you confirmed my feelings toward the beamer. Now I have no doubt whats so ever that my next car will definetly be a beamer, no doubt.

And yeah, I remember the days I was building, every baisa counts.

I have an I dea, get yourself a simple japanes four cylinder car, use it for couple of years, until you finacial situation becomes better, than buy a car that you love, not the one your are forced to

M-Pac said...

I can advise u on the VW's

Golf GTi: 4 cylinder turbo engine, absolute dream to drive. Comes at 11k

Golf R32: 3.2ltr, 6 cyclinder 250hp cruiser. Comes at 13k

Passat: 2 options, 4 or 6 cylinder, luxurious. Didn't drive one but looks great. Comes between 12-16k

Best thing is Navigation is an option on ALL the above Volkswagens. Ramadhan offer includes Free Service, Free Insurancce/Registration, and AAA card.

Kay said...

I second beamers. We put my 5 series bm to sleep two weeks ago, and while we shopped around for many other options, in the end I got another beamer - 3 series- smaller yes but a still a beamer. not much of a price difference between the 3 series and 5 series but i wanted something smaller.

Good luck Muscati finding a car thats afforable and you actually like.

ColOman said...

Nissan Nissan Nissan Nissan wa bess
I thinking of buying a Nissan Titan next year

Arabian Princess said...

Look at the new Passat, its lovely .. and you could get it for 12k if I remmber correctly.

and strange, salesmen did not bother you?? we still get calls from salesmen even after months of buying the car checking if we are intresting in trading in or something like that.

Degoat said...

You have the Dodge Charger.. resonable price i think

Or if you dont like that, i think the Pegeout 407 is amazing.. Very very cheap.. check it out.. but no navigation system i think


illogicist said...

Gee I dont know about the Pajero...the new one does look like the old, but its kinda nicer. Looks like its trying to be a Range Rover - and who can blame it?

x~nezitiC said...

Happy Eid all.

Sree said...

What do you mean "navigation" is not an option in G35s? It certainly is an addable option in all G35s since 2004. My roommate has an '04 coupe with navigation system, bose speakers and the whole deal.

muscati said...

Navigation is not an option on any Nissan or Infiniti model sold in the GCC. They will not be available till the 2009 Model Year. They might available every where else in the world but not here in the gulf. Even the new M45 that was launched two weeks ago doesn't have navigation.

anky said...

Nice blog your review about car is impressive but in my opinion mitsubishi Pajero is a well known luxurious SUV with world class styling.The Mitsubishi Pajero is a well thought-out, well executed, and progressive SUV with superior styling, especially the innovative headlight design.
Mitsubishi Pajeronsoll

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