Q. The old saying was that you had to own two Jaguars, one to drive while the other was being fixed at a repair facility. I know things have improved greatly with Jaguar after Ford bought it years ago, but where does Jaguar stand now, especially since Ford's finances forced it to sell that automaker?-- E.H., Chicago
A. That's really an old saying. Jaguar, which Ford sold to India's Tata Motors last year after spending a small fortune on it, tied with Buick for the No. 1 spot in the J.D. Power and Associates 2009 Vehicle Dependability survey. The survey concentrated on problems of original owners of three-year-old (2006 model year) cars and light trucks. It was found that vehicle owners are keeping them eight months longer before trading them in, compared with the length of time before trade-ins in 2006. That makes dependability even more "critical," J.D. Power said.. Incidentally, Lexus finished in second spot in the survey, followed by Toyota and Mercury.
Q. I'm thinking about buying a Saab, but read that General Motors has it up for sale. I'm worried about such things as parts replacement and warranty coverage if I own a Saab. Do you think I could get 30 to 50 percent off on a Saab because of the reports about its sale? I'm also looking at the redesigned 2010 Ford Taurus, which looks pretty slick. -- R.R. Fernandina Beach, Florida
A. I doubt you could get a Saab--a really good car--at a tremendous discount. But opt for the sleek new Taurus if you're concerned about parts and warranty coverage, although I suspect they wouldn't be a problem unless you kept the Saab for a very long time.
Q. I could afford a new car, but am not financially secure enough to buy a new one. So what about a used or "certified pre-owned" car? -- J..S., Downers Grove
A. More people currently are interested in used or certified used cars, likely because of the poor economic situation. New cars seemed to still be a good investment just six months ago, but cars.com now says 32 percent of shoppers are thinking of getting an affordable used car instead of a new one. Last October, 27 percent of shoppers said they would switch from buying new to used. Your best best is a certified used car because dealers only pick the best autos they find before correcting faults and then giving them certified status. Of course, a car you know has been babied by an individual also is a good choice. The general rule is the later model the car, the better. And it's always a good idea to have a mechanic examine any used car.
Q.Are people still selecting cars mainly on the basis of such things as styling and power? -- A.H., Berwyn
A. Given the current economic environment, a recent survey conducted for CarMax Inc. found that affordability and quality are the two most important factors "driving the majority of vehicle purchases."However, I feel that styling still plays a big role in selecting a car, especially with young drivers
Q. I'm worried that gasoline eventually will hit $4 a gallon again. I'm not interested in a small economy car because I must haul lots of people, so what tips can you give about getting the best fuel economy from, say, an average car? -- J.S., Park Ridge
A. Nationally publicized fuel economy runs were a big deal in America in the 1950s, and you can still use some driving techniques of the old economy run champs. For instance, accelerate moderately and smoothly from a standing start and get your vehicle into the highest possible gear as soon as possible. With a five-speed manual transmission, for example, directly shift from first to third or fourth gear. But don't "lug" the engine because that will hurt its bearings. With an automatic, moderate acceleration will quickly put a car in its highest gear. Avoid topping 65 mph on highways. Also, don't rush to "beat" traffic lights, coast as often as possible and avoid lines or sitting with the engine running for more than a minute. Use cruise control on flat terrain, but not in hilly or mountainous areas.
Q. How can I get the most money for my used car? --R.L, Des Plaines
A. You reportedly can get about 18 percent more for it if you sell it yourself and avoid a trade-in at a dealership, although you may have to contend with folks who want to "steal" the car for a ridiculously low price. Ten years ago, 80 percent of cars were sold via newspaper classified ad sections, but now less than 4 percent of autos are sold that way, according to CARFAX, which says one of its reports can add "$400 to a car's value." It's hard to believe the percentage has become that low, and another study might find otherwise. However, it seems to make sense that, if selling online, the more pictures you show, the better the chances you have to sell.