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Deal breakers: My top 10 car-sale killers

Lorraine Sommerfeld

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

It's easy to recognize deal breakers in most parts of your life: I won't date smokers, I won't buy a house full of asbestos, I won't show you my gas bill if you're on my front step, and I won't click here to lose belly fat.

But what about in a car? When you're standing there sorting through the minutia of instigating – or finalizing – a car purchase, is there anything that will kill that sale?

There is for me.

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Deal breakers

Headlight indicator: There has to be an auto setting so the rear lights come on with the headlights; if only the daytime running lights are on, the instrument cluster has to remain unlit so I'm aware I'm invisible from the back.

Manufacturers can refuse to make this fix, but I can refuse to buy their car.

Fuel door release: If I have to open the car door to access it, forget it. And if I have to lean way down, that's another strike. I'm fairly tall; what about my shorter friends? Better yet? No fuel door release; I'd rather just push on the door and have it flip open.

Run-flat tires: No, thank you. From higher cost to rougher ride to shorter wear, this is a feature I won't sign up for.

I want a spare.

Rear seats: If usable cargo space is a notable part of this vehicle, I want those seats to fold flat. I don't want them on an angle, and I want headrests that tuck in so I can achieve this without running around the car for 10 minutes playing Tetris.

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Windshield wipers: I once had a car with deeply recessed wiper blades. Never again. Trying to get ice and snow out of there was like digging for buried treasure, but without the treasure.

Communications: While navigation systems can run the cost up depending on which package they're tucked into, the lack of a hands-free phone feature is a deal killer. Most entry-level cars have this now, and it's a safety feature more than a frill.

Fuel-efficiency indicator: I want a setting for current as well as overall efficiency. Keeping an eye on that litre/100 km readout can change the way you drive, and keep you more in tune with your car's performance under various conditions.

Lane-change indicator: Once the province of just the pricier end of the range, a two-part signal system on many cars now allows a lighter touch to produce three flashes of your indicator, which then shuts off. Long enough to signal a lane change, and it does away with FSS – forgotten signal syndrome.

Steering-wheel controls: Radio controls, phone controls, cruise control. It all has to be on the steering wheel. You can create all the fancy screens you want, but if the driver is leaning over to try to jam in information while he or she drives, it means eyes and hands (not to mention brains) are not where they need to be.

A rear middle seat that would hold a leprechaun: Don't call yourself a five-seater if the fifth person has to be big enough to be out of a car seat but still orders off the kid's menu.

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Not quite a deal breaker, but getting close

Fuel cap: I'm in love with Ford's new no-cap feature. No more trying to undo a cap my stronger son has tightened, no more having a fuel cap bounce away because the tether is broken.

Lane indicator warning: I believe this will soon be standard on most cars, much like ABS and stability control have become. I still call it text assist, but as arguments to confront the appalling state of what we call driver training fail, I'll take what I can get.


A sensor that knows that a bag of groceries has slumped against the rear hatch, and tells me a can of tomatoes is about to fall on my foot. Again.

Somewhere to put my purse.

A touch screen that repels fingerprints as it maintains its visibility in bright sunlight.

Voice-activated anything that works without being yelled at repeatedly.

We're spoiled. Cars are travelling entertainment systems, but they also have extremely sophisticated safety features. Buyers are more informed than ever before, and manufacturers no longer have long lead times to introduce anything; there are few secrets any more.

I can't use a crystal ball to see how a car I'm considering buying will be in three years, or five (I consider that the downside to car reviews, too), but I can certainly cull the herd of considerations right there in the showroom.

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About the Author
Drive, She Said columnist

Lorraine Sommerfeld began writing when she was about to turn 40, because it was cheaper than a red convertible. Her weekly column Drive, She Said, while existing in the automobile section, is a nod to those of us who tend to turn the key rather than pop the hood. More


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