New car models fill dealerships across the country every year. But if you’re not a car aficionado, you probably haven’t kept up with the latest car trends and features. That can put a real damper on your car buying experience when it’s time to replace your current vehicle.
For that reason, many shoppers stick with the same manufacturer and often the same model, happy to stay with the safe, familiar option. But is the newest model of your current vehicle really the best car on the market for you?
There’s a science to checking all the boxes and finding the car that’s right for your personal needs. It’s as simple as following our guide. Let’s dive into a practical approach to buying a new car.
1. Know Your Needs
Every vehicle shares one thing in common: It gets you from point A to point B. That’s where the similarities end. Nowadays, car manufacturers differentiate their catalog by specializing their products for a targeted type of clientele.
What’s the first step to finding these vehicles specialized for you? Knowing what you’re looking for.
If you’re in possession of a camper or regularly haul heavy payloads, then an ideal vehicle will have the strength to match. Buying a Jeep would likely be your best bet.
But maybe you aren’t worried about physical performance. You’re a family of five and a sedan isn’t going to cut it. A larger SUV with plenty of seating and built-in entertainment could be a godsend for those long drives with the whole family.
Finding the best car on the market goes well beyond space and performance. Ask yourself, do you want a manual shift or are you comfortable with an automatic?
What about your living situation? Some vehicles excel in city driving environments and enduring the stop-and-go traffic of the daily commute.
And if you’re driving 30 or 40 miles a day, don’t forget the fuel economy. Opting for a four-cylinder engine can save you hundreds on yearly fuel expenses.
While these considerations create the foundation of your car shopping experience, other features are worth a look, too. Think about perks like remote starters, seat warmers, and television displays.
Once you rank and prioritize all these different factors, your ideal vehicle should start to take shape. You should have an idea of the type of car you want, such as an SUV or Jeep, as well as a list of must-have features like a backup camera and four-wheel drive.
2. Understand Your Budget
As a rule of thumb, you shouldn’t spend more than 15% of your monthly net income on transportation expenses. That includes car payments and car insurance. Take a moment to calculate 15% of your monthly income to determine the ideal monthly car payment.
And then take another moment to realize that setting a practical budget is a bit more complicated.
The majority of car buyers rely on auto loans to finance the vehicles of their dreams. And by using an auto loan, the interest will increase the overall cost of your vehicle. A great credit score can limit the impact of a car loan’s interest, but you may want to compensate and aim for 12% of your monthly income rather than 15%.
3. Decide on a Payment Plan
You’ve got two options when it comes to financing a new vehicle: buying and leasing. While buying has been the traditional choice for decades, the popularity of leasing continues to grow and now accounts for 27% of all new-vehicle financing.
Which is the right choice for you?
Buying a car with an auto loan results in higher car payments. However, by choosing to purchase a vehicle you also gain equity with every payment and have the freedom to sell the car whenever you’d like.
With leasing, you’re essentially renting the vehicle. Payments are significantly cheaper, but you must return the car at the end of the lease. It’s a good way to drive a car that may be outside of your budget otherwise.
Leasing also comes with some mileage restrictions. At the end of most leases, you’ll have the option to buy the car at a slightly reduced price if you choose. Still, leasing is no doubt the most expensive way to own a car — but the cheapest way to drive one.
4. Find the Best Car on the Market
You know the class and features of your dream car, as well as your current budget and choice of financing. That means you’re finally ready to narrow down your options through the help of a comparison website.
With the help of a car finder tool, you can easily compare and contrast models that check all your boxes and fall within your estimated budget. At this point, your choice of model mostly comes down to stylistic preferences.
However, additional research can go a long way. Look at online reviews for any car model that catches your eye. You’ll get a good sense of the vehicle’s reliability and performance.
You should also give the manufacturer a look, too. Some car manufacturers are notorious for poor quality control, weak warranty coverage, or undertrained technicians. Any of these factors can throw a certain degree of risk into your purchase, though lemon laws in your state may be able to help.
Buy Your Dream Car
Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, find a nearby dealership and schedule a test drive. With this, alongside a physical evaluation, you should have a good idea if this car is right for you. Otherwise, head back to the car finder tool to discover some alternatives.
By taking things one step at a time and researching the current car industry, the best car on the market is well within your reach. You just need to put in a bit of effort to find it.
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