Drivers have tons of options when it comes to choosing a new car, so finding the perfect one won’t always be easy. Instead of just buying the first thing that comes up, take the time to consider different options and make sure the vehicle will actually be a good fit. Read on to find out how to get started.
Step One: Determine a Budget
Most consumers don’t have piles of extra cash lying around that they can use to purchase new vehicles, so they should start by considering borrowing options. When setting a budget, consider not just how much it will cost to pay off a car loan, but also how much money will need to be devoted to insurance, fuel, maintenance, repairs, and other routine expenses. Most financial advisers recommend spending no more than 20% of monthly take-home pay on vehicle expenses.
Step Two: Differentiate Between Needs and Wants
Drivers may want a car that can do literally anything, but if they’re working on a budget, they’ll have to make some concessions. That’s why it’s important to be able to differentiate between needs and wants. Write down both on a piece of paper, then cross out anything that’s not completely necessary.
Genuine needs include things like enough room to fit a family or groceries, good enough gas mileage to get to and from work without costing a fortune or four-wheel drive for tackling difficult roads in harsh climates. Things that typically fall into the “wants” category may include things like impressive speed, the ability to tow trailers that will only be used for vacations every few years, or luxury features like heated seats or smartphone integration.
Step Three: Narrow Down Options
There are several general automotive websites that offer tools for drivers who want to narrow down their options by price, type of vehicle, or optional features. Try using a site like Kelley Blue Book to evaluate and compare competing models, read through reviews, and narrow down the playing field. Choose three cars that would fit the bill based on factors like size, price, and options. This will make the process of choosing which one to buy much less intimidating.
Step Four: Check with Local Dealers
Once drivers know what type of car they want to buy and have narrowed down their lists to three feasible options, they can start checking with local dealerships to see what’s in stock. Drivers working on a budget should check with used car dealers first, especially if they don’t mind buying a slightly older car. Many used cars still have low mileage and all the same features as current model-year vehicles, but they cost just a fraction of the price.
Step Five: Test-Drive Multiple Vehicles
Don’t just test-drive one car, then call it done. Instead, take multiple vehicles off the narrowed-down list out for a spin and compare how they feel, sound, and drive. Even if drivers feel great about the first car they test-drive, it’s still nice to have something to compare it to.
The Bottom Line
Buying a new car can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. Once drivers have signed on the dotted line and gotten behind the wheel, they’ll have to live with the car for at least a few years, so they should ensure that it will fit their needs.