Some people love staying on top of automotive trends. There are countless magazines and thousands of websites that celebrate the latest vehicle developments. But why should you care? What does a trend have to do with commuting to work in comfort? How can a trend keep your teenager safe?

The short answer is that knowledge is power. The longer version is that the more you know, the more you can find a car to completely and cost-efficiently meet your needs.

For example, I wanted a car with great ventilation. Summers in Georgia are intense, and I needed to keep cool on hot days after work. I did some research and realized only the Toyota 4-Runner offered a back window that rolls down. Although I wouldn't lower it while driving, I could roll it down while waiting to cool off. At the dealership, the salesman told me Toyota no longer offered that option. He was wrong. Had I not done homework, I would have missed a chance to get a car with an option I love.

How do you stay on top of trends without making a time-consuming commitment to monitor the automotive industry? There are three easy ways that won't cost you a dime.

Step 1 – Go to a virtual auto show.
The Internet is the obvious choice for trends, but the specific sites might escape you. What is our favorite source of new car trends? Auto shows. Every few months, manufacturers showcase the best concepts, features and vehicles you might see in the future. Each show is a rich source of information and ideas. That's why we've created a special auto show section on It's the easiest way to take a trip to Pebble Beach and see which car is selling for more than $2 million and then pop into Tokyo to discover which car could "change the lives of millions." Best of all, after a virtual show you can head to the New Model Showcase and see which of these exciting new vehicles are already available at dealerships near you.

Step 2 – Reach out to friends.
Everyone knows someone that loves cars. Maybe it's a relative or a coworker who spends most weekends doing a bit of wash and wax. Regardless, it's easy to find people that can help. The next time you're in the market for a car, ask your friends to visit a dealership with you. They'll help walk you through the new features you don't want to miss.

Step 3 – Turn the road into a research laboratory.
Ever notice that you don't see certain vehicles until you start thinking about them? All of a sudden, that Volvo you're considering is everywhere. The same is true of features you're curious about. Make a short list of the things that matter most to you — whether that's the size of a sunroof, how running boards look or a thousand other options — and start checking for those features. You'll be surprised by how often you're able to evaluate what works for you just by staying observant in traffic.

There might still be an obscure tailfin released in Japan you won't find out about for months, but that's OK. The point of this exercise is to focus on the things that matter to you. There are thousands of trends but only a handful that are going to make you happy.

A quick way to find out which trends you'll love is to visit the New Model Showcase. You can watch videos, check out 360° spins and read expert reviews on the latest new vehicles. Plus, when you're ready to take the next step from trend to transportation, everything you need is right there. From a simple way to compare cars side by side, to the chance to build and price your dream vehicle, has you covered.


© 2007, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
"" is a registered trademark of TPI Holdings, Inc. used under exclusive license.

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Jon Acuff is a staff writer for

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