BUYER’S GUIDE: Find A Base Model Vehicle You Will Love With The Features You Want Most

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Today’s base model vehicles can come with features once reserved for luxury models. Here is how to find a base model vehicle you will love.

Which features matter most is entirely up to you, but the great news is there are many great base trim vehicles on today’s market. Are you most concerned about safety? Or is an outstanding infotainment setup your first priority? Is all-wheel drive a must-have feature in your next vehicle? How about a fun and sporty ride? All of these priorities can be satisfied with a vehicle that has zero options. You just need to know where to look. Here is a quick breakdown to get you started as you search for a vehicle you will love on a limited budget.


Standard Active Safety

We all want a red convertible Ferrari. However, families bring responsibilities and new priorities. We hope you get that Testa Rossa someday, but in the meantime, you need to think about keeping yourself and your family safe. Shopping by the pound used to be the best way to achieve this goal, but in the modern era that can conflict with budget and environmental priorities. The good news is there are many safe choices in many different vehicle categories. Whichever segment you are shopping for, look closely at models with standard active safety features. The most important of which is automatic emergency braking. This technology has proven to reduce accidents with injuries by as much as 64%.

Toyota has taken an early lead in this technology vowing to make it standard on every trim of every new mainstream vehicle it produces. If you are shopping for a  new crossover, Toyota’s RAV4 will have this technology even on its least expensive trim. If you are shopping for a midsized sedan, Nissan’s Altima will only come with advanced safety features and you won’t have to pay more to get them. This priority is getting easier to satisfy every year. Automakers have pledged to make the technology standard by 2022. Most automakers are close to having it on all popular models now. Be sure to check. There are some laggards.

 – Looking for a great new vehicle that won’t break the bank? Start your search at 

Excellent Infotainment Standard

Automotive infotainment is undergoing a revolution right now. The days of automakers only offering navigation along with a huge list of options is being circumvented by Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. These two systems work with your smartphone to allow you to use its apps, which are not just better than your car’s but also less distracting, and integrate them directly into the car’s audio system and screens. At-No-Cost.

Volkswagen is one brand that offers both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on its bare-bones base trims (usually called “S” trims). And it works great. We have tested three base model VW cars recently and found that they are not just tolerable, but outstanding cars in many important ways. Other brands offer Apple CarPlay on many trims, but some skip the base trim. Be sure to ask if the trim you plan to buy has the technology and give it a try in a test vehicle with help from the salesperson to be certain it is what you expect.

Standard All-Wheel Drive

Subaru. This is their thing. “All-wheel drive, it’s all I’ll dive.” Subaru has vehicles in seven entirely different segments that have all-wheel drive on every trim. Only the BRZ sports car from Subaru has rear wheel drive and we love Subaru for being brave enough to ignore their own marketing department. As much as we would like to continue singing Subaru’s praises, we should be fair and point out that in many markets, automakers only ship all-wheel drive crossovers to dealers. So, in effect, those become the “base” trims. Safe, reliable, five-passenger, fun vehicles priced under $20K are now available to buyers on a budget who need AWD.

Affordable Cars With Base Models Just As Much Fun As Their Pricey Top Trims

So, back to that Ferrari. How would you like a base model car that looks a bit like the car from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and is quicker than the Ferrari in the movie? Or maybe you were one of many young people that had a poster of the original Lamborghini Countach on your bedroom wall next to Farrah Fawcett or Rick Springfield? If those are/were your dreams we can help you. With a car. The current Mazda Miata is faster than both of those old heartthrob cars. Quicker, in fact, than a lot of cars folks consider fast. Best of all, the base trim is just as quick as the top trim. Other cars with fun to drive base trims include the Subaru BRZ and Toyota 86. All of these cars start under $30k. All come standard with a manual transmission for maximum involvement.