What Car Should I Buy? What To Consider Before You Start Car Shopping

Car lot

Buying a car can be an exciting experience. It can also be confusing and somewhat intimidating. Make the process easier and more enjoyable by taking the time to consider your needs as well as your wants – before you start car shopping.

Determine your budget

Before going out to the dealership to shop for cars, the first step is to figure out how much you have to spend. There’s no sense looking at a luxury car, full-size SUV or convertible if your budget is more in line with a mid-size or small car, crossover or SUV.

When calculating how much you have to spend, also factor in the amount of a down payment, monthly insurance, fuel and maintenance costs. While that large sedan you might want looks good on paper, it may be less fuel efficient and cost you more in gas than you’re allocating. It may also be more expensive to insure, thus adding to your monthly outlay.

How will you use the car?

Factors to consider here include how many people you’ll regularly transport, whether or not you’ll be using the vehicle to haul or tow, if you’ll be going off-road, need to travel long distances or have a specified commute.

Why are these important? You may find that the car you’re considering isn’t right for your needs, despite how much you want it. A sporty car won’t do if you typically carry four passengers or make frequent trips to the home improvement store or garden supply for materials. A pickup truck may not be appropriate for a family with small children or urban use.

Once you know your needs and your wants, you’ll be in a better position to start looking at types of vehicles.

What is your time frame?

If you need to buy a car now, that’s certainly something to consider. Ditto if you have no pressing need to get into a new car at the moment. When you feel it necessary to buy a car, you may be more pressured and anxious. That doesn’t always bode well for getting the right car at the right price. Factoring in more time to do your research and secure the best deal is a much better strategy.

Do research to narrow down a list of potential cars

After you’ve determined your budget, know your time frame and how you’ll use the car, the next step is to begin researching potential cars to narrow down your list. Car shopping experts recommend three to five vehicles. This gives you flexibility in choices and allows you to drill down to find the best deal available.

Use third-party websites like Edmunds and Kelley Blue Book, auto manufacturer’s websites. Check out magazines and newspapers. Talk with friends and family members on their recommendations. Look for vehicles on the road that are in your consideration list.

Look for available discounts and rebates

When you’re in the market to buy a car, it’s time to get your radar tuned to available discounts and rebates. These are the ads you normally turn a deaf ear to but now have added importance.

Keep in mind that a great discount might be available on last year’s model, especially when dealers are trying to clear their lots for the new models coming in. Manufacturers may offer deals on vehicles that are being discontinued. The key to getting the best deal is to be aware, read the fine print, and only shop for the vehicle that really meets all of your requirements.

MORE: See Is It The Best Time To Buy A New Car?

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