How To Choose The Car That's Right For You

By Michael Royce
Consumer advocate, former car salesman

After going from dealership to dealership and seeing new car after new car, you probably can't help but wonder what really is the difference between a Honda and a Toyota and a Ford and a Chevy. After awhile they all start to look so darn alike. So how do you know which new car is really the right one for you? Making the big decision can certainly drive you crazy. Well, have no fear. Here are some practical tips for easing your car-buying anxiety, narrowing down your choices and choosing the car that's right for you:

1. Examine your budget.
If you're experiencing any anxiety or confusion about how much money you can afford to spend, then look at your finances. Make a detailed list of your total monthly budget: your rent, food and other expenses. Then determine how much money you feel comfortable spending each month for a vehicle. Be sure to take into account the additional costs in owning that car such as insurance, gas and maintenance. And remember that is far better to allow yourself less than you might think you can actually afford rather than more. There will always be unexpected expenses in owning any vehicle. You'll need that extra money down the road.

2. Examine your needs.
Be honest with yourself about what you really need in your new vehicle. Ask yourself:

  • What will I be using my car for?
  • What kind of driving experience do I want?
  • What do I like about my present car?
  • What do I dislike about my present car?

In answering these questions, don't be concerned with what other people (your friends, family, co-workers, neighbors) might think. Answer with what's right for you.

3. Do some research.
To narrow down the choices of cars that you're considering, it pays to do some research and to learn as much about each vehicle as you can. The more you know, the better buyer you'll be.

Excellent sources of information are the manufacturer's brochures available at most dealerships. Read them carefully. Compare the features and specifications offered as well as the various equipment levels (such as DX, LX, SE) to see which one is most appropriate for you.

For more product information, contact the automobile manufacturers directly. By visiting their websites or calling them, you can learn a lot about the new models and you can get valuable information regarding rebates and other incentives. You can also request free brochures. To contact the various manufacturers, click here.

For vehicle safety information, contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. They offer several free safety publications including the well-regarded Buying A Safer Car report. Call their Auto Safety Hotline at 1-800-424-9393.

4. Take a 24-hour test drive.
The test drives that the dealerships offer are very limited in time, distance and flexibility. Wouldn't it be great if you could test drive one of these new cars on your own for 24 hours, taking it anywhere you wanted? You can. Simply call your local automobile rental agencies and ask if the car you're considering for purchase is available for rent. Renting the vehicle for 24 hours will cost you a little bit of money, but the opportunity to drive that car anywhere you want and park it in your own garage may make the small investment very worthwhile.

5. Don't stress out.
If you're still experiencing confusion or anxiety about choosing the right car, then take a deep breath and relax. It's perfectly normal to feel some fear about making a mistake, of buying the wrong car or spending too much money. However it may be that your anxiety is clouding your thinking. Remember, this is not a life-or-death situation. Nor is it a test; you are not being graded. So relax.

6. Make the big decision.
Once you're satisfied with the research that you've done and you've narrowed down your choices to the final few, it's time to make the big decision: which car is the right one for you?

Making the decision can be tough. Real tough. At this point, you've probably heard and read a lot of conflicting opinions. The salesman tells you that this car has more horsepower but a friend tells you that this other car is more reliable but a magazine tells you that the other one is "Car of the Year". Whew.

So how do you choose the right car?

First, forget what the salesmen say. Then forget what your friends say, what the magazines say and what the so-called experts say. Sure, all of the research and opinion gathering is important. That's why you did it. But in the final analysis, you shouldn't buy a car simply because your Aunt Gladys thinks it's so cute.

Remember, this is going to be your car. What really matters is which one you like. So the bottom-line is this:

The car that's right for you is the one that fits your needs and your budget -- and feels right.

That advice may sound over-simplistic, but it's really quite true. You can go bonkers trying to analytically figure out which car to buy. As a matter of fact, if you try hard enough, you can probably make a good argument for buying almost any car. So don't over-analyze this. Simply take into account all of the things that you've learned so far, then find a quiet place and a quiet time and let your intuition be your guide.

Save time and hassles. Get a free price quote. Click here.

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