First of all, congratulations! If you’re reading this article, chances are you’re looking for some solid advice on how to purchase your perfect first car. You’ve saved up some money and are ready to enter the world of car ownership. While it may seem easy to just choose the cheapest vehicle, or even the most luxurious, there are many things to consider before putting your hard earned cash into your automobile.
With so many models on the market and new designs being introduced all the time, it’s hard to know where to start when choosing a car. It’s so confusing that many people just take recommendations from friends or buy something that catches their eye with sleek design or clever advertising. There’s a much better way to pick the right car, an approach that also allows room for some fun.
1. Figure out what you need
How often do you really go off-roading or need to tow heavy loads? If you try to get something that does everything, you’ll probably be stuck and without a choice in mind. When picking a car, start by understanding whether you need a car. If so, move on to narrowing down what kind you need. If you have a big family and need room for five passengers, your choice could be an MPV or SUV. If you’re single and like to go off-roading on the weekend, it’ll be obvious you need a four-wheel-drive vehicle. If you want a car that will fulfill many duties, in that case, prioritize its roles in your daily life, then decide from there.
2. Set your budget
Unless you’ve saved up or have a pile of cash lying around, you’ll probably need to take out a car loan. It’s smart to keep your total monthly car expenses — payment, insurance, fuel, maintenance, repairs, registration — to 20% or less of your monthly take-home pay. Use a car loan calculator to find out what purchase price will provide a monthly payment that comfortably fits into your budget. Avoid the temptation to stretch the loan just to buy a more expensive car.
3. Use a car finder tool
Even if you’re firmly convinced that you know what you want, it’s important to look at competing models. The market is so crowded these days, it’s easy to overlook a model that might better suit your needs than your initial top pick. Don’t rush this part of the process, because once you get a new car, you’ll have to live with it for years. Build a target list of five cars to research by reading reviews from automotive experts and owners. If you have trouble comparing competing cars, you can use the AutoDeal Comparison Tool, which presents features and specs in an easy-to-view table for side-by-side comparison. Based on your research, narrow the field to three cars.
4. Test driving
Nothing beats actually sitting and driving the car you’re aiming to buy - first hand experience is the best experience. Here’s an easy way to get the job done: Set aside a morning, preferably on a weekday, when showrooms are less busy, and call a dealership. Tell them you want to try out a specific model, but are still debating whether to get it. Call all your desired dealerships and drive your target cars back-to-back so all your impressions are fresh in your mind.
5. Coming to a decision
If you’re still undecided after the test drives, go back to the car finder and look for a new candidate. Whether you’re aware of it or not, your emotions and intuition will play a big part in your choice. But don’t let your feelings dictate that. Cover the practical bases first, and then open the door to the fun factor. Then you’ll have a car that you enjoy and that serves your needs.
When you’ve made your choice, you’re now ready to put down the money and live with your decision for the next few years. Good luck!
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