Finding the right car to drive is a lot like looking in a crystal ball. The perfect car has to serve you well for the next few years.
Will you add more members to your family? Are you done having kids? Do you want a car that’s fun but also gives you an easy way to get to work? The right car is out there, but you might need some help finding the vehicle that you should drive. Here are ten steps that should give you the guidance required to drive away with the car that makes a lot of sense.
1. What Type of Vehicle do You Need?
There’s a huge difference between needs and wants. You need a vehicle that’s made to take you to work every day, but you might not need heated seats inside that vehicle. When you start with what you need, there are several questions you can ask. Some of these include the number of passengers, type of driving, expected fuel economy, safety features, and cargo capacity. You’ll want to think about where you’ll park the car and whether or not you’ll do any towing with this vehicle.
2. How Much Do You Want to Pay?
You need to figure out what your budget should be and how much room you have for a car payment. If you haven’t had a car payment for a while, you’ll also need to consider the cost of adding full coverage car insurance to your new ride. A good rule of thumb is to keep your car expenses to 15% or less of your monthly take-home pay. This might limit what you can drive, but at least you won’t become “car poor” because you bought a car you can’t afford.
3. Should You Own or Lease Your Vehicle?
Most dealerships only offer lease programs on new cars, but these programs can offer you a much lower monthly payment. If you’re unsure of whether or not you’ll need a larger or smaller car in a few years, leasing might be the best option. With a lease, you pay less each month, but you don’t own the car. If you know you’ll keep the car for a long time, then buy the perfect car that works right for you.
4. Consider an Entire Car Class, Not Just One Car
Many of us grow up with some form of brand loyalty. Our parents drove cars from certain automakers, and we associate positive memories with that name. That said, instead of sticking to a specific brand, consider all of the vehicles in that class. You might realize that a vehicle you never thought of meets your needs much better than the one from the brand that you grew up with. This is a more objective approach and the best way to find the perfect car for your driving needs.
5. Learn About the Expected Resale Value and Maintenance Costs
Most likely, the car you choose today isn’t the car you’ll drive ten years from now. During that time, you’ll either trade or sell the car. If you want to get the most out of it, consider a vehicle that has the highest resale value and will give you the most when you trade it. Learn about the maintenance costs between vehicles as well. This is something you have to pay for during your time of ownership.
6. Find a Few of the Cars You Think Are Right
You’ve answered the questions, set your budget, and reviewed the car class; now, it’s time to find the right car. If you’re buying a new model, visit the dealership websites and see what deals are available to you. It’s a good idea to have at least three models in mind, possibly from different brands. This could require a bit of work on your behalf, but it will help you find the perfect car for your driving needs.
7. Schedule the Test Drive for Each Vehicle
Schedule test drives for each of the three models on separate days so that you’re not rushed into a decision. Make an appointment with your local dealer to drive the vehicle you’re looking for. After driving each vehicle, make some notes about the ride and compare them as part of narrowing your decision down to the vehicle that will be the one you take home. Your test drive isn’t when you commit to buying the vehicle.
8. How Should You Perform the Test Drive?
To properly test drive a car, you need to experience it under your normal driving conditions. If a dealership offers an overnight test drive, take advantage of this offer. If not, ensure the salesperson knows they’re going along for a ride. You need to feel the car over bumps, in tight corners, under hard braking, in a crowded parking lot, and in traffic. Test all of the features, learn how the rear seats fold, review the engine, and inspect the cargo area. This is the most important part of finding the perfect car for your driving needs.
9. Pick Out the Car; After at Least One Night of Sleep
The test drive isn’t when you decide whether the car is right for you or not. This might be troublesome for the dealership’s salesperson, but that’s not your problem. Wait at least 24 hours after the final test drive to make your decision. Think about the car you want to buy and what might make it more attractive to you. Do you want a special color, features package, or some dealer add-ons? Ask for them.
10. Make Your Deal and Drive Home
If you’ve followed all of these steps, it’s time for your to drive your perfect car home and enjoy everything it has for you. This is the car that meets all your needs and gives you some of the items that you want. If it fits your budget, has what you’re after, and gives you a great drive, it’s the car that should handle your driving needs for the next few years.
What’s the perfect car for you to drive? These steps help you make that decision and should lead you to the right vehicle. Stay objective and don’t succumb to sales pressure.
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