There is much more to the purchase of a new car (or a used one) than simply exchanging money for goods, or signing a loan agreement. The cost of the car isn’t just what it says on the sticker. Particularly if you use your car every day or several times a week, there will be constant costs and considerations in order to keep your car in good condition.
Buying a car isn’t as big of a financial commitment as buying a home. However, it is still one of the bigger financial decisions you will have to make. That is why it is important that to think thoroughly about the process of buying a car.
I’ve created a checklist for some things to consider when you are thinking about buying a car.
We are talking about actual necessity. Not new car envy. Create a list analyzing the reasons why you need this car. Of course if your clunker stalled for the 20th time and you’re on the side of the highway in the middle of a snowstorm, the reasons may seem obvious. But if your situation is not as emergent, you need to take the time to analyze if you really need to purchase another car—or can you get by with the one you have now. A new car is a serious expenditure and the financial commitment can span years (if you are financing it).
Don’t just calculate costs based upon the price of the car. If you do your research before you go to the dealer, you will already know the MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price), but this is just a jumping off point for bargaining down to a price that you are comfortable with. Even if you’re getting a good leasing or financing deal, you will still need to think about the future costs of the car—such as maintenance, repair, and gas.
As with any big ticket purchase, you will always be better off if you regularly check and maintain your car rather than letting it go until something drastic happens. Therefore, make a budget for the total cost of the car for each year of use—keeping in mind taxes, insurance registration fees, gas, oil changes, tire replacements, regular tune ups, and checkups. To save money, definitely consider a more fuel efficient car that gets at least 30 mpg. Gas is one of the biggest costs of any car. If you are on a tight budget, you will thank yourself for getting a fuel efficient car instead of a V-6 gas guzzler. If you drive 12,000 miles a year you can save over $1,093 in gas per year if you drive a Toyota Corolla instead of an Infiniti G35. Don’t believe me? Go to Fuelly.com to check out the numbers for yourself.
Also, not many people know this but if you shop for cars at the end of the month, you will often get better rebates and incentive offers as dealers are trying to hit quotas.
Who’s going to be driving or riding in your car? If it’s only you, then this gives you more freedom in the car that will make you a happy driver every day. Particularly if you’ve got a regular commute, you’re going to want to be comfortable, and dare I say it, joyful to get in the drivers sear each day. If your car is for shared or family use, you will need to think about seating and comfort, especially for the kiddies.
4. New or used
Since brand new cars depreciate in monetary value the second they leave the lot, a used car might be a better option for your budget. For short term ownership, used cars are a better deal. Those that worry about a vehicle history or those who do not want to do much maintenance might want to look at new cars. Do your own research first; you can find anything online today, including personal accounts from other car owners and drivers. Most experts recommend perusing the Kelley Blue Book for price information on new and used cars.
Once in the buying zone, consider the features you really want or need. These are the little things (or big things) that ensure the safety, excellent handling and overall driving experience of a car. From anti lock brakes to air bags to stereos, select the features you can and can’t live without. You could end up paying a lot less if you haggle with the dealer for a vehicle that doesn’t come with features you will never use.
Once you get a handle on the new or used car of your dreams, and the price is right, take some time to consider a few less tangible aspects of car buying. Make sure you have a good feeling from the dealer. You should have a sense that you are being dealt with honestly. You don’t want to end up driving to work every day cursing yourself for settling on a car doesn’t have enough leg room or guzzles gas. Visualize yourself using the car day in and day out, is it right for you? Will you have fun driving it?
And one last thing, don’t ever pay sticker price. I have never paid sticker price for a car and you shouldn’t either. Dealers expect you to haggle and barter when you come in there.