Finding the ideal car involves many considerations from your budget to your needs. But, before you begin shopping, you’ll first want to know what vehicle type best suits you.
Consider how often and how far you usually drive, what roads you typically travel, how many people come along for the ride, and specific requirements like ample cargo space.
You can even take a unique approach when searching for a car. For example, suppose your dream ride is a supercar. If you want to find one that is affordable, you can look for a list of wrecked Lamborghinis (hoping to repair the damage).
However, no matter what you’re hoping to find, having a plan can save time and money. With this in mind, let’s explore the best techniques for identifying your perfect car.
Separate Want from Need
Driving an exotic car like a Lamborghini might be a want, but does it meet your transportation needs? For most people, the answer is no. We all have visions of the ultimate ride, but they are seldom practical for the daily tasks of getting groceries and picking up your kids from school.
From the beginning, have a clear goal for what you want this vehicle to do. If you indeed are looking for a Sunday cruiser or an over-the-top sports car, then realize the vehicle will serve little other function. And that’s OK, as long as you have this expectation from the start.
Understand Form Vs. Function
Similar to the want versus need debate, a car search can cause a conflict between aesthetics (form) and practicality (function). Buying a sleek Corvette may satisfy your preference for a beautiful car, but it will do little to help transport your family or bulky supplies from the home improvement store.
Simply put, determine where your vehicle priorities lie as far as looks and functionality. One isn’t necessarily better than the other; it’s just vital to know what you want to avoid falling in love with a car that’s the opposite of what you need. Sure, you can find a sharp-looking SUV, but it probably won’t make you happy if your heart desires a convertible.
The Right Car: Getting Practical
With the big-picture questions of wants, needs, looks, and practicality out of the way, let’s explore the more fundamental aspects of finding the right car.
People and Cargo
Sit back and think about who regularly occupies the passenger seats. Are these family members, friends, and business associates? You’ll need to take all these riders into account when buying a new vehicle.
And even if children aren’t in the picture now, could they be part of it in the future? Car seats and strollers take up a lot of room. So, thinking ahead might prevent you from trading in that sporty coupe for a family-friendly SUV down the road.
Part of assessing car needs includes determining what stuff you typically haul in the car. Most vehicles can handle a few grocery bags but identify what else you usually bring along. This could involve sporting equipment, camping gear, boxes, strollers, and other bulky items. If vacations include driving, you’ll want plenty of room for suitcases.
Locale is a combination of two things: roads and weather. Taking stock of the highways and streets you usually travel on is essential. This matters because endless hours on the interstate are better handled by something large and comfortable. On the other hand, driving in cities and suburbs may require a vehicle that’s easy to park and cheap to refuel.
Secondly, climate can impact the choice of an ideal vehicle. For instance, areas with winter weather are best traveled by cars with all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. If you live in an area where post-storm roadway water accumulations are expected, a vehicle with a higher ground clearance (like a truck or SUV) may be helpful.
Fuel Type/Fuel Economy
It wasn’t long ago that car buyers only had to choose between gas or diesel for a fuel type. But, the rise of hybrid and fully-electric vehicles has expanded the options. Determine your priorities to steer yourself toward the best power source for your next car.
Gas still remains the number one option by far, as fuel stations are plentiful and gas engines are well-suited for long-distance travel. Plus, hybrid cars (which offer better fuel economy) are still powered by a gas engine.
In contrast, electric charging can be difficult to access, and EVs aren’t ideal for long trips. Some buyers split the difference with a plug-in hybrid that offers local all-electric driving with gas power for longer journeys.
Other factors, like the desire for strong acceleration, may also direct fuel type. For instance, many of the fastest cars on the road today are all-electric.
Options and Features
Options and features can help personalize a car, but these equipment choices can be overwhelming and significantly raise a car’s price. It can be helpful to do some basic research to identify what’s available on the vehicles you’re considering.
Then, divide them into three categories: must have, nice to have, and don’t care/don’t need. This method will simplify the shopping process.
No matter what preferences, fuel type, and options you decide on, the choice of a car often comes down to budget. And stretching the dollar can include looking beyond the dealer, such as buying a car at an auction or through a private sale.
Further, correct budgeting must go beyond the bottom-line price of the vehicle. Be sure to add financing costs, maintenance and repair expenses, insurance, taxes, fuel (gas or electric), and other car-related outlays (like parking and washing) in your calculation. Get a total number before signing the paperwork.
Final Thoughts: How to Identify the Right Car for You
Finding the ideal car shouldn’t be a haphazard process that later results in regrets. Instead, follow a systematic process that clearly identifies your preferences. It’s the best way to ensure smiles with miles.
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