Discovering new-car flaws when you're home

FRESNO, Calif.

Consumer reports finds a number of new-car offerings are surprisingly disappointing once people get the vehicle home. AAA manager Robert Sinclair says he's seeing more and more motorists who need a tow because they have a flat tire and their car didn't come with a spare.

Sinclair said, "They feel ripped off by their vehicle not having a spare, a brand-new vehicle."

Consumer Reports says eliminating the jack and the spare saves the carmaker money but could leave you stranded.

Rik Paul of Consumer Reports said, "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."

Other rude surprises for new-car owners - economical cars like the Subaru Impreza come with expensive performance tires.

"These are designed to provide better handling and braking. But beware replacing a set of these tires can cost as much as $1,000."

And watch out for carmakers touting "three-person" rear seats. Consumer reports finds the center spot is often mighty tight. So try before you buy.

"Another heads-up is salespeople may push for an extended warranty, but we say skip it because what you pay in premiums will likely be more than you'll save in repair costs," Paul said.

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," Paul said.

But all new cars can help you in those situations because electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes are standard equipment.

Consumer Report says if you have young children, another feature that can be disappointing is the latch anchor system for car seats.

It's supposed to make it easier to secure a child seat. But consumer Reports' tests have found latch anchors in many vehicles are tucked so far behind the seat cushion, they're very hard to use.

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