An automobile, in the most basic sense, is a wheeled passenger vehicle that has its own engine to make it move. It usually seats one to seven people and is designed for the transport of passengers rather than cargo. The term typically encompasses a wide range of vehicles, from the family sedan to exotic sports cars. Regardless of the type, automobiles are a vital part of our lives and an integral component of modern society. They serve a variety of uses, from providing personal mobility to allowing for the flexible distribution of goods. But they also contribute to sprawl and degrade the environment, and their driving can cause traffic congestion.
Automobiles have been around for more than a century. They were first conceived of in the late 1800s, and their development has transformed society. In many countries, entire economies have been restructured around the power of rapid long-distance movement conferred by automobiles, and around the flexible delivery of goods made possible by trucks.
Thousands of different parts make up the modern automobile. Like the human body, it is arranged into semi-independent systems with distinct functions. The heart of the car is the engine, which consists of pistons, cylinders, tubes to deliver fuel to the cylinders, and other components. Like the circulatory system, it provides a means to distribute coolant and lubricant, to reduce noise and pollution, and to provide the energy to operate other automobile systems.
Other automobile systems include the suspension, which ensures that the tires remain in contact with the road surface. Its design is influenced by the vehicle’s intended use and specifications. For example, a car that is intended to be driven at high speeds must have a stronger and more powerful engine. It may also require more sophisticated handling and steering features. The choice of front- or rear-wheel drive can affect the car’s handling and fuel efficiency. Computer control technology, the most recent addition to the automobile, often requires changes to other systems.
The design of the body must take into account standards of safety, size and weight, aerodynamics or ways to reduce friction, and appearance. The automobile must be capable of meeting these requirements while ensuring that the driving experience is satisfying and comfortable.
In addition, the automobile must be economical to produce and operate. Some important cost considerations are the price of raw materials, labor costs to build and assemble the car, and the price of fuel. The cost of a car’s operation is further increased by taxes and other fees.
Whether you need an SUV, sedan, or truck, Consumer Reports has tested and rated the best vehicles for your money. Prices here reflect the average retail price for a 2022 model, or in the case of discontinued models, the last available model year.