Buying the right car

So many car dealerships are eager to sell you a vehicle. Most don’t care which vehicle it is as long as you’re willing to pay for it. As the consumer, you need to be concerned with the price, the drive quality, the options, and gas mileage, and so much more. If you’re having trouble getting started, make two lists: one column should be NEEDS and the next should be WANTS. Make sure you check off your needs list first, and then you can start adding wants in.

  • When it comes to deciding what is a need vs. a want, think about things you absolutely have to have. For instance, how many children do you have? If you have four children, and a spouse, you NEED to have a six-passenger vehicle. Do you drive an hour to work and have a lot of expenses? If you find yourself struggling for gas money, then you NEED to have good gas mileage. Are you unable to drive a manual transmission? Then you NEED an automatic transmission. Don’t say to yourself that you’ll learn just because you like the styling of the car. Chances are you will have to, but you may not like it. Then you’ll be stuck with something that you’re uncomfortable with. You can’t afford to take chances when deciding on such an important purchase.

You can continue the list on your own now that you get the idea. If you have trouble thinking of other needs – here are ones to consider: size of your garage, whether you need four-wheel drive, how much cargo room you require, whether you need towing capacity. As far as wants, think of where you’ll be doing most of your driving and what features you’d like- if you’ll be driving in the city you may really want to consider getting turn signal mirrors, a small car that easy to park, and a back up camera. If you’re driving in the country you may look at four-wheel drive, a sunroof, and Sirius radio.

  • The next step is figuring out how much you can afford. Are you going to lease or buy? The rule of thumb is that your car payment should not exceed 20% of you monthly take home pay. To be honest, that’s still high. At twenty percent you’re looking at almost an entire week’s paycheck going to your car payment. That makes it a hard week. I think it’s better to say your car payment shouldn’t be more than a half a weeks pay. If you make $600 a week – don’t go for a car payment over $300. Remember you still have insurance to think about.

If you’re not sure whether to lease or buy, remember that with leasing you can get a more expensive car and drive it for a few years, however there are limits on mileage. If you don’t drive much, it may be worth considering.

  • The next thing to think about is the class of vehicle you want. Nowadays, there are so many different styles out there it’s almost overwhelming. Narrow down your search by deciding on a class. Do you want a four-door sedan? A two door coupe? A big SUV? A station wagon? Do you want a pick-up truck? Or maybe you want a SUV? Decide on a type, see what features each class offers, and then narrow you search down from there. If you want a 100,000 mile warranty, you can start looking at all the sedans that Hyundai and Kia offer. If you want a luxury convertible, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, and Audi all have great options.
  • Once you figure out the vehicle type and decide to head to the dealership, make use of your test drive. If you normally drive on highways, don’t take it around the block. Actually go on a highway. If you’re test driving a pick-up for its 4-wheel drive ability, don’t be scared to ask to take the car out for an afternoon. If you’re serious, they shouldn’t have a problem with it. Replicate the condition in which you normally drive. Also, if you have to test drive with the salesman, ask him to be quiet while you drive so you can evaluate things on your own. Let him show you features before you start, at stoplight, or once you return. Use the rest of the time to use your intuition.
  • After the test drive, and this is important. Walk away. Don’t get excited and sign the papers. Don’t let them talk you into staying. Tell them you need time to think, and leave. No matter what. On the second test drive, it’s okay to stay and purchase. On the first, you need to go test drive other vehicles, do your homework, and think it over. Was there something about the car you didn’t like? Was the transmission touchy? Maybe the seats were uncomfortable? Don’t tell yourself it will be okay – you’re paying a lot of money for the car, you need to love it!
  • When you’ve finally come to your decision, the best thing to do before you sit down and sign, is read reviews. Do you know someone who bought the same car? Talk to them. Do you know someone who bought from that dealership? Talk to them, too. Read reviews on the car you bought. Read a lot of them. Read enough to evaluate both sides. Remember, people naturally are going to jump to the computer when something is wrong. They don’t always jump when its right. So make sure you don’t go off just one review.

You’ll know you’re ready to buy when you feel really good about the purchase. Remember your gut instinct is your best weapon – but always back it up with plenty of research!