Variety Is the Spice of Life

Consumer Guide isn't the only way to find the right car for you. Several publications provide car ratings to help guide your buying decision. Consumer Reports may be the most popular source for auto reviews, though both its ad-free online and print reviews are funded by subscription fees. You can also explore places like Intellichoice.com, Edmunds.com, NewCarTestDrive.com and AutoTrader.com. Make sure to read car reviews in magazines like Road & Track, MotorTrend, and Car and Driver, too. Between all of those sources, you're sure to find a car that keeps you going for a long time [source: McDermott].

Improving Consumer Guide Automotive Ratings

The editors at Consumer Guide do a great job of putting mountains of information at your fingertips, but there are some areas of the site that can prove a bit confusing or awkward to use. For instance, since there is such a large amount of content available, navigating through the site to find exactly what you're looking for can be difficult at times. Consumer Guide could make things easier by providing more interactive content. For instance, users can currently see how a particular car stacks up against others in the same class, but they have to go to an entirely different part of the site to find out what other cars are in that class. If users could simply click the comparison chart to find more information, they could save themselves a few steps.

The Consumer Guide rating system could use a tweak or two as well. Potential car buyers are no doubt shocked to pull up a rating for a popular car like a Honda Civic only to find a rating in the low 60s on the screen. Going back to grade school, we've come to equate scores in 40s, 50s and 60s with a giant red F for failure. Consumer Guide's ratings work differently; the Honda Civic actually consistently outperforms other compact cars on Consumer Guide, for instance, but users have to dig to figure out how the ratings work. Adding what place a car came in out of its class would provide more context for the ratings.

Consumer Guide also might consider incorporating other elements into its reviews that only apply to a particular class of car. For instance, a towing and hauling capacity rating for trucks could be a great resource for potential truck buyers.

And while it's understandably difficult to keep all of the details straight about every vehicle make and model, there are some places where Consumer Guide's information is incomplete. Many reviews don't include safety ratings, for instance. In some cases, particularly if users dive into a vehicle's features and options through Consumer Guide's comparison section, missing information starts to become a problem. As a case in point, a search through the features of a 2006 Nissan Frontier shows that neither drum nor disc brakes are available for the truck (a major omission, since those are the only types of brakes available). In fact, the truck comes standard with disc brakes and a number of other features, like a radio and ABS, which Consumer Guide also lists as unavailable for the 2006 Frontier.

Despite these small issues, Consumer Guide remains an excellent source of information for anyone who's in the market for a vehicle. Keep reading for more tips on car shopping.