How to Decide What Kind of New Car to Buy

Know what you want from the car before you head to the dealership.

Know what you want from the car before you head to the dealership.

You crunched the numbers and decided it's time to buy a new ride. Now you just have to narrow down the hundreds of options available on the average car lot. Several factors go into a new car purchase, from the way you drive to your budget. If you see yourself in a sporty two-door while your spouse envisions a trusty sedan, the car selection process becomes more complicated. To avoid head-butting at the dealership, take some time before you shop to consider the options.

Set a budget for your purchase, based on money you have saved or the amount you can afford to finance. Remember to include the cost of the vehicle's tax, title and licensing.

Consider what you like and dislike about your current vehicle. Write a list of things you want from your new car based on your experience with the vehicle you already own.

Discuss the way you will use the car. Consider how often you drive, road conditions, weather, towing capabilities and the size of your parking arrangements--especially if you park it in a garage--to ensure it will fit well.

Talk about specific features you want in the vehicle, such as the type of transmission, safety features, seat positioning, trunk space, plus whether you want four-wheel drive and power windows, mirrors and seats. Consider the amount of space you need in the back seat and the trunk.

Consider how long you plan to keep the car. Think about not only your current situation, but how your family might change during the years that you own the vehicle. For example, if you're planning to have children in the next few years, you want a vehicle large enough to accommodate kids.

Write a list of vehicles you like. Compare the specifics of those cars to your list of preferences. Narrow down the list to the best matches, leaving at least three or four vehicles.

Call your insurance agent to get a quote for auto coverage on the vehicles you're considering. Provide as much information about the specific models you're considering as possible to get a more accurate quote. Keep the cost of insurance in mind as you make your final decision.

Test drive the different models you're considering. Driving several cars gives you a better idea of which one feels the best. Choose the vehicle that best matches your budget, needs and preferences.

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