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 Edmund.com
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.