Get a sneak peek at Consumer Reports’ top auto picks for 2011

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Are you looking to buy a new car this spring? A lot more people are than have been in recent years.

For many people, a car is the second biggest purchase they’ll ever make in their lives. I think that one of the greatest pieces of advice I can give you in light of that is to encourage you to put the brakes on your accelerated desire to buy wheels. I want you to do it in the right way and in the right order.

An alarming number of people buy a car within hours of deciding they want one, having done absolutely no homework and just buying on emotion. That’s a bad idea. There are a couple of simple rules to keep in mind when you want to get ready to buy.

First, show me the money. Are you good for the loan? My preference is that you go to a credit union and see what you prequalify for. Depending on your credit, those rates can start in the 3s or 4s. If you don’t have a credit union, go to a bank and shop around or shop around among the online lenders.

Second, once you know you’re good for the money, I want you to look at Consumer Reports‘ annual auto issue that comes out every April. They rank both automakers and individual cars, and I recently saw a sneak peek of this year’s issue in The Detroit News.

The top rated automaker is Honda, followed by a dark horse this year: Subaru. The lowest score of all companies goes to Chrysler. (Boy, that means the people at Fiat have a lot of work in front of them with fixing the broken Chrysler company.) Toyota, with its tarnished reputation because of recalls and cover-ups, still earns a high score from Consumer Reports. And Ford has done a great job improving quality and reliability and that showed in the rankings too.

As for cars with the highest scores, here’s a quick rundown of this year’s top picks:

  • Budget car: Honda Fit 
  • Small car: Hyundai Elantra 
  • Family sedan: Nissan Altima 
  • Small SUV : Toyota RAV4 
  • Green car: Toyota Prius 
  • Family SUV: Kia Sorento 
  • Sporty car: Ford Mustang 
  • Family hauler: Toyota Sienna 
  • Sports sedan: Infiniti G37 
  • Pickup: Chevrolet Avalanche


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