After holding out for years, I've decided to shift from leasing a car to buying one. The monthlong decision process was informative, if not as hassle-free as I would have liked, and illuminated for me the massive technological shift the industry has undergone in the past several years.
When I arrived in Detroit, I was adamant about getting around by bus, car-sharing and biking as I had in other cities. That stubbornness carried on for six months, and then winter hit. Needless to say, I got myself to the nearest dealership and signed a lease on the cheapest car I could find.
At the time, I dreaded car ownership for all the cliche reasons many young people do. Ownership is daunting. But on the positive side, leased new cars had Bluetooth, and a degree of reliability I couldn't find elsewhere.
Years later, I'm a little smarter and a little less stubborn. Diving into the world of certified pre-owned hatchbacks gave me a front-seat view of the incredible variance of tech and safety packages among carmakers, model years and trims that's difficult to grasp from just reporting.
Before, I was almost entirely focused on cost. Now, facing the prospect of keeping this car for some time, I realized there was a lot more I cared about: cargo space, driving experience, fuel economy and definitely a backup camera. I also found myself caring considerably more about image and design, factors that I'd noted before but never valued.
As a former car skeptic, I now find myself in the uncomfortable position of having preferences for what I want out of a car. Turns out, my initial budget was too low for all the safety and entertainment options I wanted. I ended up going $1,000 over my budget to meet my champagne tastes.
Mobility advocates often categorize people in two groups: those who view transportation as a utility and those who are more in love with cars. But it's not that simple. There's overlap between people who love cars and people who love public transportation. Maybe in the future, the auto industry can find a way to bridge that gap.
— Shiraz Ahmed