More motorists need a tow because they have a flat tire and their car didn't come with a spare. What you may find in your car is a sealant kit and a small air compressor. But neither is going to be any help if your tire's sidewall is damaged. You'll have to be towed. Consumer Reports says eliminating the jack and the spare saves the carmaker money but could leave you stranded.
Other rude surprises for new-car owners-economical cars such as the Subaru Impreza come with expensive performance tires. They are designed to provide better handling and braking. But beware that replacing a set of those tires can cost as much as $1,000.
And watch out for carmakers touting "three-person" rear seats. Consumer Reports finds that the center spot is often mighty tight. So try before you buy.
Another heads-up: Salespeople may push for an extended warranty, but Consumer Reports says skip it because what you pay in premiums is likely to be more than you'll save in repair costs.
And don't think you have to buy all- or four-wheel drive to get more grip on slippery roads in all kinds of driving situations. You don't. That just gives you more grip for going forward and backward but doesn't help when cornering or braking. But all new cars can help you in those situations because electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes are standard equipment.
Consumer Reports says if you have young children, another feature that can be disappointing is the LATCH anchor system for child safety seats. The system is supposed to make it easier to secure a child seat. But Consumer Reports' tests have found that LATCH anchors in numerous vehicles are tucked so far behind the seat cushion they are very hard to use. So make a point of trying out your car seat as you shop for a vehicle.