Buying your first car is a milestone. You are ready to spend a portion of your savings on a vehicle that will serve you for years. While it’s natural to get drawn to fast and stylish models, you still want to make sure you have a car that suits your lifestyle. After all, you do not want to end up with an expensive headache.
To help you get you started, here are five key steps you should consider in purchasing a car:
1. Know Your Car’s Purpose
Ask yourself, “What will I use it for?” Is it more for city driving, or for out-of-town use? If you’re driving to work, you’ll undoubtedly need a vehicle with good gas mileage. In this case, avoid getting an SUV because it is not the most fuel-efficient option for daily drives.
Do you have a big family? Then it is better to choose a mini-van that has room for up to seven people. Mini-vans are easier to handle than trucks. They drive a lot like a regular car, just slightly bigger, and can be customised for handicap accessibility.
An SUV is also a popular family vehicle that comes with a 4-wheel drive option. If you like going to the mountains for vacation, this may suit you. SUVs allow you to drive in steep and off-road terrain. If you only have one or two passengers, look for a sedan.
Sedans generally have an excellent mile per gallon rating and are practical for people who drive to work or school. Cars with only two doors are called coups, which are typically sports cars that run very fast.
2. Set a Realistic Budget
Before getting too excited, set your budget first. When you take out a car loan, you should calculate how much you can realistically spend per month. Factor in the payment, fuel, maintenance, and insurance. Do not forget the cost of registration and maintenance repairs.
Avoid spending more than 20% of your monthly salary on the car. This ensures you are not spending on unnecessary fees while being able to maintain your other living expenses. Not sure how to start budgeting? You can use an online car loan calculator to estimate your monthly expenses.
Once you have a realistic budget, you can steer clear of bad deals.
3. Research Online and Visit a Car Dealership
Now that you know what type of car you need, do your research. Make sure to check online and visit a car or automotive dealership to survey your options. Want to narrow down your research? You can use an online car finder tool that sets the price and vehicle model for your search.
This also allows you to check rival models in closer detail. But of course, nothing beats going to an actual dealer to shop around for cars. Once you are there, you can check vehicles and see their interiors for yourself. More importantly, you get to ask relevant questions to the dealer directly.
4. Test Drive and Perform a Thorough Inspection
Test driving can either make or break a deal. Sometimes the deal may seem pretty good. However, after a test drive, some buyers still hold off to check other options. So try to test at least three different vehicles to have a good feel of each.
This is also an excellent opportunity to inspect the car. Check outside for possible dents or scratches. Look at the interiors for damage or stains. Testing the A/C and heater is a good idea too. If you are purchasing the car, make sure it’s in pristine condition.
Finally, if you don’t feel comfortable driving that car, no matter how good it looks or how many fancy features it has, don’t get it. It’s your comfort and income on the line. Do not settle for less.
5. Review Your Options and Prioritise Your Needs
By now you should have a pretty good idea of what car you prefer. However, if you are still not happy about your options, go ahead and search for other models. Not sure whether the price is worth it? Again, go back to step one: “Know Your Car’s Purpose.”
Prioritise your needs, and you will be able to figure out if it’s worth the cost. Remember, it is best to take your time in finding the right car. Do not rush, and you will have higher chances of getting a better deal.
Finding the Right Car and Keeping It in Shape
These are just tips on how to choose the right car within a realistic budget. Once you have a car, the next step is to keep it well-maintained. If you perform the necessary routine checks and keep it clean, it will be reliable for years to come. A well-maintained car also has good resale value if you intend to sell it in the future.