QOTD: Influenced by the Automotive Press?

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey

After last week's story on how Consumer Reports slapped the "avoid" label on the popular Ford F-150, I was going to ask you how much CR shapes your purchase decisions. The magazine is popular, and I know a lot of people, both car enthusiasts and not, who trust it.

Yet sometimes CR says not to buy a car and it sells well. Or vice versa.

After some reflection, I figured opening this QOTD to the larger automotive press would generate a more robust discussion.

Of course, the automotive press has changed. Your local newspaper likely no longer has its own automotive critic -- and if it's publishing reviews at all, they're probably syndicated. That might affect how you, the consumer, do your research.

I'd hope you trust us -- you may not agree with us, or like my style or the style of others who write reviews here, but you should know we're honest. But I am not naive -- I suspect that when it comes time to shop for your next new car, we're just one stop on the dial, so to speak.

I'd bet my meager savings that you're looking at us, Jalopnik, the buff books, the car-shopping giants like Cars.com, and so forth and so on. And, of course, Consumer Reports.

So let's make this a multi-part QOTD. Does the automotive press factor into your car-buying decisions? If so, how, and how much? Which sites are you reading when shopping, and which are you reading just because you're daydreaming about a certain car? Which do you read just for fun? Do Consumer Reports recommendations matter to you? What about Cars.com, KBB, AutoTrader, Consumer Guide, et al? Are you reading the buff books for car-shopping advice, or more so because you want to see who wins the most recent comparison test?

Sound off below.

[Image: Ralf Liebhold/Shutterstock.com]

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Tim Healey
Tim Healey

Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at Web2Carz.com. He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for About.com, CarFax, Vehix.com, High Gear Media, Torque News, FutureCar.com, Cars.com, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as AutoGuide.com, Off-Road.com, and HybridCars.com. He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.

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4 of 58 comments
  • MaintenanceCosts MaintenanceCosts on Jun 21, 2023

    It's possible to learn things about cars by reading the automotive media, but you have to read way under the surface. On the surface, everything about every car is great, because automotive media may be the purest example of access journalism there is. But the reviewers who really care about their audiences will put in subtle tells. For instance, if you read "the car rode beautifully, with just a hint of undamped movement from the 20" wheels," you iknow that the car with the big wheels clomps harshly over the smallest bump and you should avoid it.

    But even with careful reading they are no substitute at all for a short test drive. I make my decisions mostly through driving experiences.

  • Arthur Dailey Arthur Dailey on Jun 21, 2023

    I used to religiously purchase Lemon-Aid and Consumers Reports prior to acquiring a vehicle. And we purchased a vehicle based on the recommendation of a Toronto based automotive writer who publicly wrote about purchasing that make/model for his family. We were very pleased with it.

    Otherwise I believe that 'automotive journalism' is largely an oxymoron and they primarily shill for the manufacturers. Nearly every model is 'improved' over the previous one. Cars that were not competitive are suddenly 'competitive'. And they almost always test and recommend the 'fully dressed' version rather than the base version.

    That is one reason why I originally started reading/viewing TTAC. To get a different perspective.

  • 3-On-The-Tree I don’t think Toyotas going down.
  • ToolGuy Random thoughts (bulleted list because it should work on this page):• Carlos Tavares is a very smart individual.• I get the sense that the western hemisphere portion of Stellantis was even more messed up than he originally believed (I have no data), which is why the plan (old plan, original plan) has taken longer than expected (longer than I expected).• All the OEMs who have taken a serious look at what is happening with EVs in China have had to take a step back and reassess (oversimplification: they were thinking mostly business-as-usual with some tweaks here and there, and now realize they have bigger issues, much bigger, really big).• You (dear TTAC reader) aren't ready to hear this yet, but the EV thing is a tsunami (the thing has already done the thing, just hasn't reached you yet). I hesitate to even tell you, but it is the truth.
  • ToolGuy ¶ I have kicked around doing an engine rebuild at some point (I never have on an automobile); right now my interest level in that is pretty low, say 2/5.¶ It could be interesting to do an engine swap at some point (also haven't done that), call that 2/5 as well.¶ Building a kit car would be interesting but a big commitment, let's say 1/5 realistically.¶ Frame-up restoration, very little interest, 1/5.¶ I have repainted a vehicle (down to bare metal) and that was interesting/engaging (didn't have the right facilities, but made it work, sort of lol).¶ Taking a vehicle which I like where the ICE has given out and converting it to EV sounds engaging and appealing. Would not do it anytime soon, maybe 3 to 5 years out. Current interest level 4/5.¶ Building my own car (from scratch) would have some significant hurdles. Unless I started my own car company, which might involve other hurdles. 😉
  • Rover Sig "Value" is what people perceive as its worth. What is the worth or value of an EV somebody creates out of a used car? People value different things, but for a vehicle, people generally ascribe worth in terms of reliability, maintainability, safety, appearance and style, utility (payload, range, etc.), convenience, operating cost, projected life, support network, etc. "Value for money" means how much worth would people think it had compared to competing vehicles on the market, in other words, would it be a good deal to buy one, compared to other vehicles one could get? Consider what price you would have to ask for it, including the parts and labor you put into it, because that would affect the “for the money” part of the “value for money” calculation. An indicator of whether people think an EV-built-in-a-used-car would provide "value for money" is the current level of demand for used cars turned into EVs. Are there a lot of people looking for these on the market? Or would building one just be a hobby? Repairing an existing EV, bringing it back into spec, might create better value for the money. Although demand for EVs is reportedly down recently.
  • ToolGuy Those of you who aren't listening to the TTAC Podcast, you really don't know what you are missing.