Buying A New Car: What Do You Really Want?

Ferrari 458 Speciale, 2013 Frankfurt Auto Show

A new car bought on emotion alone will disappoint early and often.  When you understand what you really want, what matters most to you, making an informed purchase leads to less regret.  Consider the following when you’re buying.

Safety.  New cars come with a host of airbags and safety features, but the commonality ends about there.  Compare models online with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sites.

Style.  It’s a subjective point, so if it matters to you, consider what you really want: cutting edge and trendy, or timeless.  Factor in paint color here as well.  Understand that what turns heads today might do the same in a few years, just for different reasons.  Will the design and color still appeal to you after a few years, or several?

Warranty.  A comprehensive factory warranty matters when buying a new car, so look at your top picks’ coverage details.  Make sure the support is worthwhile and will suit your driving needs.

Reliability.  A warranty is fine, but a new car should ideally behave so that you don’t need to call on that coverage for help.  Even with a warranty, reliability issues are a pain when you’re visiting the dealer on a monthly basis.
Durability.  It’s lumped in with reliability often, but this is more about how finishes and materials hold up under use.  Review long-term evaluations and owner feedback to understand how well your new car is likely to perform.

Performance.  Summoning a high-performance engine to life and slinging a car through tight curves can make you drunk on power very quickly.  Meanwhile, a slow, ungainly vehicle can get you into trouble as well if you’re unable to avoid hazards.
Fuel economy.  The old saying “your mileage may vary” really is true.  Advertised EPA fuel economy numbers are appealing, but understand that to achieve them, a lot is riding on you.  You may have to choose certain option packages in your new car, and above all, you have to tailor your driving style to make those numbers possible.

Comfort.  A four-wheeled day spa sounds like just the ticket to soothe you on your commute, but be honest about what level of comfort you really want on an everyday basis.  If you never turn on the shiatsu seats and just have them for bragging, it could be money poorly spent.
Room.  First-time parents are a good example here.  A newborn will require bags o’ stuff accompany you on every jaunt, but that alone doesn’t necessitate upgrading from a modest sedan to an extra-large SUV.  Look at usable space and configuration for passengers and cargo, not just cubic foot numbers.
Features.  Your smartphone has dozens of features you will try once and then forget the rest of the time you have it.  Same goes for your new car.  The difference is the price of underutilization. When you have a choice, springing for every last option or option packages you don’t need can cost thousands extra.

Traits like great gas mileage, solid reliability and reasonable price don’t mean as much if the new car isn’t a good value overall.  It shouldn’t have a huge Achilles’ heel in any one area versus its peers.  It should also have strong resale value.  That ensures you enjoy both short- and long-term value.

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