Consider Your Needs and Budget
Before you set foot in any dealership, it's smart to have a good idea as to what you really need and want in your new vehicle and how much money you can realistically spend.
So first things first. Here are some things to consider:
1. What's important to you in a vehicle?
Think about which of these buying factors are important to you -- and then which are the most important:
2. What kind of vehicle do you need and want?
- Styling -- the look and design of the vehicle
- Performance -- acceleration, speed, braking
- Utility -- cargo room, usefulness, ease of access
- Safety -- safety features, structural integrity, crash test results
- Roominess -- driver and passenger seating
- Handling -- cornering, steering, braking
- Economy -- gas mileage, maintenance costs
- Price -- window sticker price, rebates
- Image -- what the car says about you
- Reliability -- reputation for quality
Give some thought to these choices:
- Nationality of Origin -- The country where the vehicle was designed and built. The distinction between American cars and foreign cars has vastly blurred in recent years. There's no longer any such thing as a purely American car -- every single one has foreign parts in it. And many so-called foreign cars are built right here in the United States.
- Body Size -- Sub-compact, compact, midsize, full-size. Also: sports cars and trucks.
- Body Style -- Two door, four door, hatchback, van, pick-up truck, sport utility vehicle (SUV).
- Engine Size -- The larger the engine, the more power you get. But with that, you may also get less fuel economy and, possibly, higher insurance rates.
- Transmission -- Manual or automatic.
3. What equipment options do you want?
- Drive Train -- Two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. Four-wheel drive gives you the capability to drive off-road and in severe conditions such as mud and snow. But it also adds a couple of thousand dollars to the selling price as well as increase your maintenance and insurance costs. Best Advice: Don't choose four-wheel drive unless you know you'll need it and/or plan on using it.
Consider these popular factory-installed options:
Most options are sold in groups called "equipment packages". If you're buying or leasing a brand new vehicle, look for these packages listed on the vehicles' window stickers when you visit the dealerships. They're a much better buy than purchasing options separately.
- Air conditioning
- Power windows
- Power locks
- Tilt steering
- Cruise control
- Sound system
And don't be concerned, at this point, if you can't yet decide all of the choices and considerations listed above. Merely giving them some thought puts you on the right road.
4. How much money can you realistically afford to spend?
Give some thought now as to how much you can afford to spend each month for your vehicle. In figuring your monthly payment budget, don't forget that you'll have additional expenses such as insurance, gas and maintenance -- so don't max out your budget on car payments. For example, if you can manage $350 each month for your car, consider buying a car in a somewhat lower price range so that you'll have that extra money available for those added expenses.
If you find yourself confused about monthly payments, down payments and other financing details, then be sure to talk with the Car Loan Officer at your local bank or credit union. Most likely, you won't have to have an account to get this valuable free information. They'll give you the straight answers you really need in a friendly, no-pressure environment.
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