How to find the right car that will meet your needs in the coming years? To find and buy exactly the right car that suits you the most, you need to spend a little time researching and planning a car purchase. The following steps are devoted to helping you select, price, test-drive and find the right car that is best for you.
Step 1: Assess your needs
In too many cases people choose a car for its styling or because it is a trendy favorite. However, take a moment to think about what you use your car for. How many people do you need to transport? What type of driving do you do most often? How long is your commute? Is it important that your next vehicle get good gas mileage?
Let your needs, not your wants, drive your decision.
Step 2: Set your budget
Regardless of whether you decide to buy or lease your next car, establishing a realistic monthly payment that fits into your budget is crucial. How much should this be? A rule of thumb is that your total monthly car payments shouldn’t exceed 20 percent of your monthly take-home pay.
A used car will be less expensive, but the same rule should apply. If you’re looking to lease, aim for a monthly payment that’s less than 10 percent of your take-home pay. You’ll also want to factor in an additional 7 percent of your monthly income to cover fuel and insurance costs.
Step 3: Decide if you want to lease or buy
Leasing and buying each have their 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. It is important to research the advantages and disadvantages of both before making a decision.
Step 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, new cars are always hitting the showrooms, and one that you’ve never even considered could be right for you. Therefore, before buying any specific car that you have been dreaming about for so long, visit car dealerships of other brands, where you may find exactly the car that you really need and is most suitable.
If you nevertheless have already noticed a certain car model, then do not rush with the acquisition. Before running to a car dealership and spending money, do a small analysis of the characteristics and cost in competing models (other models in the same class).
Step 5: Weigh the costs of ownership
Here is an often-overlooked fact of car ownership: One car might be cheaper to buy, but more expensive to own. Why? Even if two cars cost about the same to buy, one can depreciate at a different rate or cost significantly more to insure or maintain.
Before you commit to one car, you should estimate the long-term ownership costs of the vehicle you are considering. These include depreciation, insurance, maintenance, and fuel costs. This will help you make a smart decision up front that can save you thousands of dollars over the life of the car.
Step 6: Research options.
In the past, car buyers have been trained to visit local dealerships to find the car they want. In the internet age, you can quickly cover more ground by shopping online. Car dealers are waking up to this new breed of shopper and have created internet departments within their dealerships to serve the educated buyer. The only things you have to do in person are test-drive the car and sign the contract. And in some cases, you can even have the car delivered to you by the salesperson.
Step 7: Set up a test drive
It’s a good idea to make your initial contact with a dealership by phone or e-mail before going there in person. This can give you a sense of the sales style you will be dealing with throughout the buying process. Call the internet department (sometimes called the fleet department) and ask if the car you’re looking for–in the right color and trim level – is actually on the lot.
Test-drive about three different vehicles so that you don’t limit your options. Try to schedule a few appointments back to back; it will make comparing the cars easier and give you a graceful exit from the dealership.
Step 8: What to look for in a test drive
A car might seem to have all the features you want, but the true test takes place when you are in the driver’s seat. You should test-drive the car the way you would drive it during your everyday life.
While you are evaluating the car, don’t be distracted. Take your time looking everything over. Then consider one last thing: your intuition. If you are uneasy about the car, follow your instincts. A vehicle purchase decision is too important (and expensive) to undertake without total confidence.
Step 9: After the test drive.
After test-drive, you should leave the car lot. Why? You will probably need to drive other types of cars at other dealerships. It’s a good idea to do your entire test-driving in one morning or afternoon. Driving the cars back-to-back will help you uncover differences that will lead to an educated purchase decision.
Step 10: Getting ready for the buying cycle.
At this point, you should have considered all the cars in the class that interest you. You should have a good idea of what you can afford. You should know if you want to buy or lease your next car. In either case, take a moment to congratulate yourself. You have done your homework to find the right car for you. Now you can move forward with confidence.