I bought my 2001 Lexus ES300 a month ago and I love it. It has been a very good performer so far.
I did a lot of research before buying this car. Sites like intellichoice.com, edmunds.com, autobytel.com and msn.com were helpful. I knew that I wanted a near-luxury car priced in the low 30's, so I narrowed the list to the ES300, the Acura TL, BMW 330, Mercedes C240, Volvo S60, Infiniti I30 and Audi A4. Aside from price, I was interested in resale, economy, reliability and a quiet ride. I test drove all cars and, by process of elimination, narrowed the list down to the ES300 and the Acura TL.
The BMW was almost out of the question from the start. Edmunds loves BMW, but they give high marks to any car that can take tight curves fast. I rarely do that. I just want a comfortable ride. The BMW also charges for every little option, like the Mercedes. After adding the options that seemed like basics, the BMW and Mercedes were too expensive. BMW is also expensive to insure and fix.
The Audi was fun to drive, but little things about it bugged me. I think I will get my soda from the cup holder now and take a drink - Oh, wait, I have to raise the arm rest first!!! It was the most fun to drive, but I couldn't get by the little inconveniences. On the plus side, it also looked a lot like the Volvo in terms of safety.
I drove the Volvo, but didn't like what all of the reviewers said about it. If you want the safest car, though, Volvo is it.
The Infiniti was nice, but lacked a good resale value according to the reviews. It had a lot of little conveniences I liked, though.
The TL was great. It had the nav system and I like that. In the end, it looked and acted too much like my 1999 Honda Accord. It was also less quiet than the ES300. If I hadn't received such a good deal on carsdirect.com, I would have purchased the TL.
Carsdirect.com was great. It is one of the only sites where you can get prices without giving your personal info. Usually, you have to give your name and phone number and "have a dealer call you with a quote." I don't have time for that! There was a special factory incentive on the ES300 in my area, so it turned out to be about the same price as a TL with nav. NOTE: To get the real price on carsdirect, you have to go 2 screen levels in. The first screen will give you a price, but not the special price (if there is one for that car). You can also call carsdirect.com without giving your name and ask about the details of any particular deal.
The only down side was that we had to get some options we didn't necessarily want, like high intensity headlights. They are nice, but I wouldn't have added them. I saved so much, though, that it was still a great deal.
My ES300 came with just about every option, including wood steering wheel, trunk map, wheel locks, cargo net, upgraded tires, etc. The whole nine yards.
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