A car can possibly be one of the most sizeable purchases or investments you’ll ever make, aside from a house or maybe jewelry. That’s why it’s one decision you should make with caution. It’s sensible to invest some time in doing your research, consider all the options, and plan before you commit to the purchase.
Considering the variety of car brands and models you’ll find, it can be confusing when you think of how to choose the right car for your lifestyle. But don’t fret. Here are 10 guidelines that’ll help you make the right choice—one you won’t regret later!
1. Decide On A Budget
The critical question to answer here is how much car can you afford?
Once you identify the specifications of the type of car that suits your lifestyle, you now need to consider its cost in relation to your budget. How much are you willing to invest in a vehicle? Is this your first car purchase? If it is, you might not want to spend that much. Remember that the value of most cars depreciates over time.
The model and condition of the car also plays a role in its cost. A used car will cost less, but you need to ensure that it’s in good condition. When purchasing a used car, it’s advisable to get it checked out by a reputable mechanic. After all, you don’t want to spend extra money on fixing defective parts. Usually, buying a reliable car requires a significant amount of money for the purchase. If this is not something you have on hand, you might want to consider a car loan.
There are tons of car loans out there, and you only need to decide how much you can afford as your monthly payment. The rule of thumb is that your monthly deductions shouldn’t exceed 15% of your monthly salary. You also need to plan for fuel, insurance, and maintenance costs. These can accumulate fast, so you need to calculate the total expenditure you can afford on your car.
2. Look Into Safety Considerations
No matter your lifestyle and needs, safety plays a crucial role in the car you end up buying. It’s even more important if you drive around with your kids. You want a vehicle with a reliable safety rating. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rate and certify cars using crash tests.
The data they publish tells you how safe a vehicle is when it experiences a head-on collision. They also collate data on side collisions and rollovers. Most of the cars on the market today are designed with safety in mind. However, you should look out for safety features such as:
- Stability control
- ABS/Anti-Lock Brakes (this should be a standard feature)
- Traction control (this is particularly essential for front-wheel drive vehicles)
- Number and location of airbags
3. Consider Fuel Economy
If your daily schedule involves long drives, you might want to consider fuel-saving vehicles. Gas prices also tend to fluctuate, so, sometimes, filling up your tank can be expensive. Cars with a fuel economy feature ensure you save money on gas no matter how long your commute might be. That weekly expense on gas or diesel can make a sizeable dent in your wallet by the end of the month.
4. Check For Vehicle Warranties
It doesn’t matter if it’s a used or new car—check if it’s still under warranty. The longer the term, the better. However, always take a closer look at the terms and conditions of the warranty. Some terms to look out for include:
- Does the warranty cover some or all parts of the car?
- Are you allowed to use any service shop or a particular service shop to keep your warranty valid?
- Is the warranty valid for the life of the car or a fixed number of years or miles? (Usually, whichever is reached first.)
Some cars also come with extended warranties, but be careful with these. Sometimes, the additional warranty is from the dealer, not the manufacturer. Often, the terms and conditions can be quite tough to uphold. Additionally, it might not cover as much as the manufacturer’s warranty.
5. Consider The Vehicle Size
When choosing a car, the size of the vehicle is as important as your budget. You need to be clear about the number of passengers you’ll be transporting in your car. For example, if you have four kids, then you should get a vehicle that has enough rear seating. This could be a minivan, SUV, or hatchback.
The size of your car is also affected by the area you live in and where you’ll be driving. If your city has limited parking areas, then you’ll likely need a smaller vehicle so you can squeeze into any parking space available. You might want a family-size car if you live in a densely populated suburb, so you might be best served with a sedan or hatchback.
Hatchbacks are usually spacious, easy to drive around in traffic-heavy areas, and can be parked in impossible places. On the other hand, if you live in a sparsely populated area, you might be better off with a compact SUV or minivan.
When buying a vehicle, always prioritize your everyday size needs over the occasional ones. You can always rent a car for those less frequent needs.
- See If Replacement Parts Are Expensive
Aside from fuel costs, maintenance costs can blow what feels like a Mt. Kilimanjaro-sized hole in your pocket. When insuring a car, if replacement parts are expensive, you might end up paying a premium for coverage.
Compare the prices of the essential parts of your preferred vehicle (such as the brake pads, fuel pump, and the windscreen) with that of other cars. This should give you a fair idea of what your insurance provider will bill you for coverage.
7. Cargo Requirements
Next, you need to determine the amount of cargo space you need. Are you going to use the vehicle on your weekend camping trips? Do you need a car that allows for enough space to haul toys, groceries, and other items that come with having two or three kids?
If you have a large family, minivans and SUVs can be your best options. They not only allow you to carry more passengers, but also come with excellent cargo capacity. If you prefer a hatchback or sedan, then you should consider one with a roof rack. A roof rack allows for more cargo space without sacrificing your desire to drive a smaller car. You can also explore pickups, but they work best as camping vehicles, or a vehicle used to haul lots of cargo.
8. Check Off-Road And On-Road Requirements
If you’ll only be driving through the paved roads of the city, almost any car will do. However, if you plan on going through some rugged terrain now and then—for instance, a cross-country drive—then you should check if your preferred choice has off-road capabilities. If you live in the country, you should check the off-road features as you might be driving through mud trails more often than not.
Your career can also play a part here. If you work in construction, you might prefer a vehicle that can hit those hard-to-reach construction sites. You’ll worry less about your shaft breaking or some other unplanned and unnecessary maintenance cost hitting your account.
9. Think About Whether You Need Extra Features
Extra features are usually a vanity feature, but sometimes, they can be useful. However, you should list out your must-have features so you don’t get tempted by extras that you’ll end up not using or never need. Heated seats, laser headlamps, or a sunroof—it’s all up to you.
What you should be doing is looking out for features that make driving the car more comfortable or safer. Features such as:
- Voice-activated controls
- Keyless entry
- Remote unlocking system
It’s essential that you pay for what you’ll use over the lifetime of the car.
10. Consider Your Future Needs
When deciding on a car, you need to plan for the future. Are there any significant lifestyle changes coming up in the next few months? Are you expecting a newborn or more kids? Or will you spend some time on off-road trips?
It’s best to purchase a vehicle that balances out your future needs and current requirements. You don’t want to force your car to carry loads that it can’t accommodate, or go on roads that could cause damage – make sure to check out DamagedCars.com. While you never know what the future holds, it’s always wise to plan as much as you can without going overboard.
Frequently Asked Questions: Choosing The Right Car For Your Lifestyle
Remember this: there are no stupid questions except for the question not asked. Yes, some questions might seem unnecessary or unusual, but they do need to be answered. Either way, here are a couple of frequently asked questions from folks like you who are also trying to choose the right car for their lifestyle:
1. What kind of car should I get in 2020?
The kind of car you should get in 2020 depends on your needs and lifestyle. There are various models to choose from, such as:
- Coupe – The coupe is a two-door vehicle and features either a single row of two seats or the standard set of two seats in front and three at the rear. The rear seats are almost always too small. It also can’t carry much cargo.
- Sedan – The sedan is slightly bigger than the coupe and comes with five seats—two seats in the front and three at the back. The rear row seats three people comfortably, and it also comes with some considerable cargo space.
- SUV – The SUV seats six people comfortably, and in some instances, up to eight individuals. It also has cargo space and extra legroom in the cabin. Many SUVs are also equipped with a four-wheel drive and come with off-road capabilities.
- Van – The minivan is a great family car—you can carry everyone including pets all at once. They usually have sliding doors and considerable cargo space.
- Pickup Truck – The pickup truck is an excellent vehicle for those who need to carry lots of load while keeping your passengers comfy. Some pickups come with a single row of two seats, while some also have a rear row that seats two to three individuals.
Your final choice should depend on the area you live, the passengers you’ll be transporting in your vehicle, the way you drive, and the sort of features you prefer in a car. Once you compare your needs with the features each vehicle has to offer, you should be able to choose with confidence.
2. What is the best type of vehicle?
There will probably never be a vehicle deemed as the best type of vehicle, despite the millions of dollars companies spend on designing, building, and testing some of the breathtaking cars that we’ve seen in recent times.
Well, we are all different individuals and require different features from the vehicles we buy. One size doesn’t fit all, and never will. However, you can always choose the right car for your lifestyle, and that’s what you should focus on—your needs and desires.
3. What is the best used car to buy?
Sedans are usually the best used cars to buy. In the past decade, there have been rapid advancements in the production of sedans, especially in terms of fuel economy and safety features. However, no matter the used car you decide to get, conduct a vehicle history check.
Buying the right car from the get-go is possible, but only if you’re clear about how your budget meets your needs and desires. Having this in mind ensures confidence when reaching a decision. It also means no car salesman is going to sweet talk you into a deal you’ll regret later. Finally, one last useful tip: remember that the arrow on the gas gauge pointing either to the left or the right indicates from which side you fill up your gas tank.
Author: Chris Muller
Chris Muller is a professional personal finance writer who has written for some of the largest financial publications in the world. Chris brings a BBA and MBA in Finance, along with a decade of experience in the field, to help break down complex financial topics into easily digestible pieces through his written content in an effort to assist others in better managing their finances. Chris is currently in pursuit of FI/RE, is an aspiring minimalist, loves craft beer, and is a dad two to kids.