Not very long ago, the decision to buy a domestic or import car wouldn’t have merited much of a debate. Going back to 2007, before the Great Recession crippled the national economy, it was hard to argue the country’s automakers were in any better shape.
Almost anyone that was car shopping around this time could be found in an imported auto maker’s lot. The vast majority of car buyers were looking for a nicely equipped vehicle that was dependable and fuel efficient. As sad as it is to say for any proud American, those vehicles were largely being made elsewhere.
The only U.S. automaker that wasn’t deep in the red and looking for a government handout was Ford Motor Co. While the lineup at Ford wasn’t quite on par with their foreign competitors they were at least ahead of the curve relative to their domestic counterparts. Now that the dust has settled, the competition for consumer dollars is fierce.
Domestic automobiles are becoming increasingly competitive with their imported competitors. However, while the gap appears to be narrowing, the prevailing sentiment continues to be that foreign automakers still reign supreme in all automobile segments.
Having the opportunity to drive a wide range of vehicles both domestic and imported, I consider myself qualified to compare and critique different nearly every brand that makes it way to the U.S. It may be best to take a wait and see approach when it comes to domestic cars for those looking to keep their car well beyond the 100k or even 200k mile marks.
Longevity is one area where most would agree that brands such as Honda, Toyota, and Mazda have shined brightest. The feeling that your car will be running strong for ten years or more is a benefit the domestic brands haven’t been able to offer in some time.
For many buyers on a budget, this is a huge deal and worth paying a little more for up front in an attempt to keep their car on the road and not getting worked on by the good folks at Duraleigh Auto.While only time will tell on things such as longevity and the cost to maintain, certain domestic brands have surpassed imported cars of similar class recently in other ways recently.
That is until the last year or so, where imported car brands that had been getting by on reliability alone have begun outfitting their cars at all price points with comforts and cutting-edge gadgets.
Beginning with the compact car class, we’ll compare the Ford Focus against the Civic, Corolla, and Mazda3. The Focus has all the tech toys buyers like in an easy to navigate package and offers more bang for your buck in initial quality. Will the Focus still be running strong a couple hundred thousand miles down the road like the other three routinely are? That’s the big question going forward.
In the midsize and standard SUV class, Jeep boasts two great looking and driving vehicles in the Cherokee and Grand Cherokee. Right now, for my money, the Grand Cherokee is the most complete car out of all vehicles driven recently. The way Jeep has taken many of the luxuries you can find in a Lexus RX or the Infiniti QX line while maintaining the rugged performance you expect is a huge success.
I would still lean toward the Lexus or Infiniti, all other things being equal, but the value in the Jeep is undeniable. The Cherokee has many of the same features as the Grand Cherokee but could otherwise be regarded as it’s “slightly littler brother.” The Trailhawk edition is particularly impressive when matched against Honda CRV and Rav4. Unlike the latter two, the Trailhawk is a midsize SUV you would actually enjoy taking off road.
The one class of car the domestic brands have not made as many strides in is the luxury sedan class. There is something special to owning a Mercedez-Benz, BMW, Audi, or Porsche that isn’t present in a Chrysler 300 or Ford TaurusSHO. This is not to say the 300 and SHO aren’t fine cars and values, but the intrinsic value present in the others is unmistakable.
Just be sure to find a trusted mechanic as most luxury vehicles require special care by experienced and knowledgeable individuals. Lexus, Infiniti, and recently Hyundai with it’s Genesis provide a level of style and comfort not yet matched by U.S. brands and maintain those amenities a couple hundred miles later.
Like so many decisions, your budget will play a huge role in which car you choose to buy. You will find the domestic brands offer good value for well-equipped models as compared to their foreign competitors. While some car buyers in the past may not have given domestic cars much consideration, I recommend you do just that when hunting for your next car.
The best advice is to take the test-drive to a whole new level. Find out which car rental companies have the makes and models you’re considering and take them on a weekend getaway. You will be surprised at how much you can learn about a car when you have a few days to spend with it — and without the distraction of a sales pitch.