Your Personal Driver Wouldn't it be great to have your very own car guru? Now you do
By Robert Safian/Managing Editor

(MONEY Magazine) – Every family has its resident experts--Grandma Ruth, who has the recipe for every dish; Cousin Patti, who can resolve any question of etiquette; or Uncle Ken, who can rewire an outlet or fix any appliance.

Here at MONEY, we have our own experts--among them Jason Zweig on mutual funds, Pablo Galarza on tech stocks, Jean Chatzky on financial planning. And, of course, Lawrence Ulrich on cars.

Lawrence joined MONEY a little over a year ago and immediately wowed us with his keen understanding of not only automotive trends and the auto industry but also--most important--which vehicles offer the best value for car consumers. There are many car experts out there who can tell you why that 1978 Pontiac makes a tick-tick-tick sound when you go past 60. But no one knows more than Lawrence about the vehicles rolling out of today's factories into your local showrooms. Whether it's raw power that gets your motor going, or stylish good looks, or top-of-the-line safety, he knows precisely where you'll get the biggest bang for your buck and what trade-offs, if any, might be involved.

For the latest edition of our annual car guide, which begins on page 112, Lawrence has outdone himself, identifying his 22 favorite cars and trucks in 13 categories and bringing each vehicle's distinctive appeal to life in brief, engaging and enlightening detail. He has also spelled out nine "commandments" for car buyers (page 118) and identified nearly two dozen models that will be lighting up the auto world in the months ahead (page 117). Our 2004 car tables--with target price, insurance cost and other information on 406 models--begin on page 126.

When my sister-in-law recently asked me about two cars she was considering, I shot off a quick e-mail to Lawrence--and almost immediately got back a lively critique that was perfectly tailored to her needs. We've decided to offer that same opportunity to our readers. While Lawrence can hardly respond to every query, if you e-mail your questions to him at, we'll print a selection of answers in subsequent issues and on our website at

Buying a car is an expensive proposition and involves all sorts of wants, needs and emotions. Lawrence gets all that better than anyone else. We're pleased to be able to share his insights with you.