1. Assess Your Needs
As much as you might like to dream about what you want in a car, it’s best to think more about what you need — not just now, but in the future, too. Functionality should trump flash. Here are some practical considerations to keep in mind:
- How many passengers do you need to carry?
- What type of driving do you do: highway, surface streets, off-road?
- Will you drive in ice and snow?
- Do you have a long commute and, because of that, is fuel economy important to you?
- Do you need all-wheel drive?
- What safety features are important to you?
- Do you need a lot of cargo capacity?
- Will you be using children’s car seats?
- Will you be doing any towing?
- How much garage or parking space do you have?
2. Set Your Budget
Unless you’re paying cash for your car, you’ll need to think about financing your purchase or lease. How much can you really afford to allocate toward a car payment each month? The general rule is no more than 20 percent of your monthly take-home pay.
3. Decide If You Want to Lease or Buy
Leasing and buying each have pros and cons, and how you feel about these may help guide your decision on which route to take.
For example, a lease requires little or no money down and offers lower monthly payments. But when the lease ends, you have no car and will need to go shopping again. On the other hand, buying a car is more expensive initially, and the monthly payments are higher. But when you pay off the loan, you will own a car that you can drive for as long as it runs.
Here are a few more factors to consider while deciding between leasing and buying:
- You can drive a more expensive car for less money.
- You can drive a new car, with the latest technology, every few years.
- There are no trade-in hassles at the end of the lease.
- You have more flexibility to sell the car whenever you want.
- You can modify the car to your tastes.
- There are no mileage penalties if you drive a lot.
- In the long run, your car expenses will be lower.
4. Consider Other Cars in the Class
Do you have your mind (or heart) set on a specific car? Many shoppers do. But in today’s ever-changing marketplace, there are always new cars hitting the showrooms, and one that you’ve never even considered could be right for you. Edmunds lets you easily research and compare similar cars to find the one that truly fits you best.
If you already have a car in mind, you should still review other comparable vehicles in the same class to make sure you haven’t overlooked an even better choice. You can do this by choosing the same vehicle type, as listed in our Car Finder tool, and setting the parameters that are important to you. Once you settle on a worthy prospect, you can easily check for detailed information on pricing, specifications and features. You can also compare vehicles you chose to more easily contrast features and specifications.
5. Weigh the Costs of Ownership
Some cars may be cheaper to buy but more expensive to own. Why? Even if two cars have about the same price, one might depreciate faster or cost more to insure and maintain.
Before you commit to a car, you should estimate its long-term ownership costs. These include depreciation, insurance, maintenance and fuel costs.
6. Find Cars for Sale
In the past, you had to visit dealerships in person to see inventory and find out if the cars had the options you wanted. Now, you can visit our site.