A modern automobile (or motor car) is a four-wheeled passenger vehicle powered by an internal combustion engine burning a volatile fuel. It has thousands of component parts arranged into systems with specific design functions. An engine, for example, needs a circulatory system for cooling and lubricating oil as well as one to transport fuel.
The automobile has reshaped the way people live and work. It has made long-distance travel far more possible for people and reshaped the economy by making goods easier to distribute. But it also encourages sprawl (i.e., straggling, low-density urban development) that degrades landscapes and causes traffic congestion. And it pollutes the air and generates climate change when too many of them are used in a city or country.
There are few inventions in history that have had such a profound impact on people and the world around them. But the promise and perils of this revolutionary new technology remain vividly before us.
A reliable used automobile can be a real bargain if you shop carefully. The best choice in the under-$10,000 range is probably a Toyota Camry. This midsize sedan has been selling for years because it’s a good value, carries passengers and cargo with relative efficiency and has roomy rear seats for family members. If you need more utility, consider a Kia Soul. This little hatchback has a funky style and is available with four-cylinder engines that can be quite thrifty. It may not have the rugged feel of a true SUV, but it has a proven record of reliability and can go where other vehicles cannot.