Buying a vehicle is generally among the largest purchases you’ll make, so it's important to get a vehicle that meets your needs and wants. When it’s time to go car shopping, start by asking yourself these 10 questions:
1. Will I buy new or used?
It’s a simple question, but one that will dictate the rest of your search.
2. How important is the make and model?
Do you have your heart set on a specific vehicle, or are you looking for an overall type?
3. How important is the resale value?
Is this a vehicle you intend to keep for many, many years or do you plan on selling or trading it in after a few years?
4. What size vehicle do I need?
Will you be driving solo or loading up 6+ passengers on a regular basis? Be sure to consider carrying capacity for more than just passengers too. A Smart Car might be nice if it’s just you, but if you regularly transport large items, a small car is less than ideal.
5. How important is the vehicle’s power and performance?
This question could be rephrased “Car or Truck?” Trucks can be really nice, but if you don’t need the towing and carrying capacity they offer, they can be an unnecessary thorn in your side at the gas station.
6. What kind of gas mileage is acceptable?
Could an extra ten MPG save you hundreds on gas or are you willing to sacrifice mileage for other important features?
7. What sort of extra features do I need, or want?
It could be argued that leather seats or a better stereo system are unnecessary extras. In some respects, that can be true, but if you’re going to spend thousands of dollars on a vehicle you’ll use every day, it’s worth a little extra to satisfy a few of those “wants.”
8. What level of warranty coverage do I expect?
Decide what makes sense for you and your use of the vehicle. Is 5 years/50,000 miles enough or do you want more?
9. What will it cost to insure the vehicle?
This is an often overlooked cost that is required by law and can cost hundreds of extra dollars each year. It pays to spend some time researching similar vehicles to determine how insurance costs may vary.
10. How much do I want to spend?
This is perhaps the most important question. Setting a specific amount will help you ensure you don’t get talked into something that you don’t need or can’t afford. If you’re not sure what this number should be, get pre-qualified. That will help guide you into a number that makes sense for you.
Generally speaking, there are no right or wrong answers to the above questions. It all comes down to your preferences, needs and wants. But taking the time in advance to answer these 10 questions, and any others you may come up with, will help narrow your search and ensure that you drive away happy with your decision for years to come.