Most of us need a vehicle to get around. but most of us aren’t too keen on the process of finding and buying that vehicle. Cars are expensive, and car shopping is stressful and frustrating.
Things can be a little easier if you address the heart of the matter before you start bouncing around car lots taking test drive, though. The key question is this: What kind of vehicle is right for you? Once you know what your hypothetical dream vehicle looks like, you can match your expectations up to real-life models and find a way to get the closest thing to your ideal option.
What will you use your vehicle for?
There are many different cars and trucks out there, partly because there are so many different uses for them. Are you a general contractor who is going to load up your vehicle with tools and materials? Is your vehicle going to be used for a short urban commute? Are you going to be cruising up the coast on vacation, putting mile after mile on your car while you look for that “site for shore eyes?” How many passengers will be in your car on a typical day?
These are crucial questions, and each one will give you a hint about what sort of car you’re looking for. Write these questions down as your shopping. Asking simple questions and recording the answers (or taking an online quiz) is how you can determine and organize your expectations. If you’re going to drive your car a lot, jot down concerns like “fuel mileage” and “reliability.”
With these details down, it’s time to narrow down your search in some simple ways. With the details you’ve figured out so far, maybe you can rule out SUVs or pickups (or determine that you do want those things). Start with these big details and keep narrowing down criteria as you go. Consider how important each factor is, too.
What’s your budget?
Your budget is at least as important as every other detail about your car purchase. How much are you willing to pay for your next vehicle? How much are you able to pay for your next vehicle?
It’s a critical question and one that many Americans get wrong. Defaulting on an auto loan is not good, yet that’s just what many Americans are doing right now. Calculate your budget carefully, and remember to include other car-related expenses, like gas and insurance. Your vehicle-related expenses should total no more than 20 percent of your income.
Shopping for your ideal vehicle
Once you know what you’re looking for, it’s time to go out and buy that perfect vehicle. This is easier said than done, though. There’s no guarantee that the dream car you’ve come up with is sitting on a dealer’s lot somewhere and happens to be in your price range.
You’ll need to consider how you might prioritize the things that you’re looking for. If you find the right car in the wrong color at the right price, is that okay? What about the fuel mileage or the safety rating? Know what you’re focused on and what you can compromise on. Remember that you should never compromise on your budget.
Luckily, there are some ways to save on your next vehicle. For starters, you could choose to shop online instead of at a dealership. Many customers don’t enjoy the dealership experience and it’s hard to blame them. Pushy sales associates and incomplete information can make it a nightmare to car shop. Consider checking out online sources so that you look at a larger selection and do your research online as you shop. In particular, looking at car auctions online might give you the chance to land a used vehicle for much less than you’d pay at the dealership.