Finding the perfect car for you might seem like an insurmountable task. Something fraught with unknowns, potentially pricey mistakes, and lots of time spent with annoying salespeople. Fear not, dear Instamotor reader, we have you covered. We’re here to take the fear out of choosing the right car. If you follow the advice below, we’re 99% sure you’ll find something that both you and your pocketbook will love.
Assess Your Needs
First assess your needs. Take inventory of what you like to do on the weekends, how many people you haul, how much time you spend commuting. Are you going to need room for car seats? What about towing? Think about how much you’d like to spend on gas, diesel, or electricity, (depending on the type of power your car will have) and how often you might need to fill up. Think about what you want to communicate to the world with your automobile. The kind of car you drive communicates a specific set of perspectives. Do you want to be associated with some and not with others? What are they? What are your own stereotypes around specific brands of cars? If a Buick makes your skin crawl but a Porsche makes your jaw drop, take those factors into consideration.
Other things to consider when you’re assessing your needs are the kinds of roads you drive on. Are they mostly surface streets or highways? Rough or smooth? Does it snow or ice where you live? Will you need to travel in extreme weather? Do you need all-wheel or four-wheel drive to get to and from work? Also consider what you want in your car—whether it’s navigation or specific safety features, it’s important to know what you expect your car to be able to do. You’ll be spending a good chunk of your income on a car and a considerable amount of time in it, so be sure to be honest when answering these questions. It will help you make a better decision when it comes time to sign on the dotted line.
Narrow Down Your Options
There are some resources out there that you can use to help you hone down your list of desirable cars. Autobytel has a fun calculator that lets you choose the “kind of car” you’d want for your personality. Once you choose a category you can use the slider at the left to narrow a price range. Another good resource can be found over at Cars.com. Their “Vehicle Recommender” uses the answers you give to basic questions, to help you hone your choices down. If you find you are more interested in getting a car that will be a bit greener, visit CarMax. There they have a good resource for research on alternative fuel vehicles.
Figure Out How Much You Can Afford
Once you have a better idea of what exactly you want, it’s time to do the number crunching. The FTC estimates that the average cost of a new car is around $30,000. That’s a big chunk of cash to spend and you should take as much time as you need to figure out exactly what you want. It is, after all, your hard earned cash. Keep in mind that you can get a used car that could be just as good as a new car and save thousands, according to Autotrader.com. That savings and reliability, all depends on the age, mileage, type, and desirability of the car that you are looking at. The second step in determining the right car for you is to take a close look at your budget. Unless you’re paying cash for your car, you have to really take a good hard look at what you can afford to pay on a monthly basis. The best way to tackle this is to look at what your monthly outlay currently is. Take into consideration costs like housing, transportation, parking, insurance, cell phone bills, grocery shopping and going out, sports or gym memberships etc. Once you’ve collected all of your relevant bills, you can start to get a better idea of what you can afford to spend, per month, on a car. The general rule of thumb is that you don’t want to spend more than 20% of your take home on any car, whether its new-to-you or a brand new car off the lot. Don’t over leverage yourself. It will damage your credit and put you in a financial bind as time progresses. Once you’ve set your budget and set your mind to what kind of car you think you’d like it’s time to start shopping for the right vehicle.
Do You Need Financing?
Once you’ve narrowed your list and determined your budget it’s time to think, at least preliminarily, about financing. Will you lease or buy your new or new-to-you vehicle? According to Edmunds, some cars can be cheaper to buy than to lease. It depends on a number of factors including the interest rates and rate of depreciation of the specific types of vehicles you’re looking at. Some luxury vehicles, for example, take a huge depreciation hit the moment they are driven off the lot. Others maintain or even increase in value once they’ve been bought. Part of determining the right car for you will come down to figuring out the True Cost of Ownership of a specific car. True cost of ownership (or TCO) takes into consideration things like long term depreciation as well as insurance, maintenance and other costs. If you want to learn more about TCO, check out our post, here. These are all the things you’ll need to consider when looking to buy any new car.
Next is the fun part: locating cars for sale and test driving them. For specific used vehicles visitInstamotor to see what is available in your area. If you have a specific manufacturer in mind you can visit dealerships in the area that carry a stock of used cars. You can check to see if they have the car you want on the lot by visiting their sites and checking their inventory. We’d recommend calling ahead to make sure the specific vehicle you want is on the lot and ready to drive, as it can be a hassle to get to a dealership only to find that the car you want has already been sold or is in the shop for repairs. If you have new cars in mind, you can also visit dealerships and see if they have what you want on the floor. Sometimes dealers don’t have all the options in one car so you may have to look at a few different versions before you find the one you want. There are also times when an option may only be available on a very specific, limited run car. In that case you may have to custom order the car before you can actually experience it. That can take a few weeks or a few months depending on how backlogged a manufacturer may be. Be sure to ask for exactly what you want and find out what the added cost might be if you decide to go down this road. Be sure that you test drive any vehicle before you buy it. If you are buying used or from a private seller be sure to test drive and take the vehicle to a certified mechanic before you plunk down any hard earned cash.
Buying a new or new-to-you car should make you feel great. While it can be a bit stressful getting there, finding the right car should make you feel excited. If you climb into a car and think “blah, this is awful,” then you need to keep looking. The right car is out there, much like your true love. You just have to keep seeking it.