Buying a car, whether it is new or used, can be very confusing. It can make you feel as if you are in a world awash in question marks. First, you have to decide what kind of car you need, next comes narrowing your vehicle choice to just one, then you have to consider your budget. Finally, you need to understand the true cost of owning a particular vehicle. All of those decisions have to be made before you even start shopping. Once you have started shopping, there are many more things to look for, but that is for another post… one that we will be adding next month.
For now, let’s look at the four items we have mentioned in more detail.
Deciding What Kind of Car You Need
The sheer number of vehicle types available today is daunting: subcompact, mini, compact, Kei, sedan, SUV, crossover SUV, compact crossover SUV, estate wagon, cabriolet, etc. How can you be sure what you buy is going to fit your needs throughout the life of the note you have to take on it? After all, what you need today, may not be what you need one year from now. Following one simple step should help.
That step is to ask yourself this question: What will be the main use of the vehicle? If you are buying a car to get you around a crowded urban area, you need to consider parking and traffic. If you are commuting quite a few kilometers to work each day, you want to consider fuel economy. If you are looking for a vehicle that will accommodate a family that will be growing over the next five years, you need plenty of cabin space.
The key is to look at what your vehicle needs will be for at least three years into the future. That will give you enough time to pay the note down so that you can get enough resale value to pay off the note if you trade the vehicle in or sell it. It sounds almost too simple, but how many people do you know that have bought a car because it was flashy or a sexy, then regretted it less than a year later?
Narrowing Your Vehicle Choice
Great, you know what type of vehicle you need. Now, you have to decide which one to buy. Do you grab the Toyota offering or the Honda? Hey, why not buy a Hyundai or Kia instead? Well, maybe the Daihatsu is better!
Many buyers develop a brand preference early in life. They can’t really be sure why, but it happens. Others do not, they rely on solid research. Research means a lot of questions, but where do you find reliable answers? One of the first places a buyer should look is those who are close to them who have similar cars to the type they want. For instance, ask your parents about similar cars they have owned in the past. Turn to friends and other family members as well. Talking to people you can trust who have experience with a particular vehicle is very valuable.
Next, you can look online. We have reviewed many cars in our resource library here at BE FORWARD. Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds post many indepth reviews of models as they debut. Both resources generally cover North American versions of vehicles, but they should give you a solid knowledge base. There are thousands of other review sites that you can visit to get different opinions about a car, so visit at least four before deciding on the vehicle you want to focus on.
No one wants to buy a car, only to find that they can barely afford the payment and nothing else. That happens far more often than one might think; people rush in without a plan. Budgeting for a car should start several months before the purchase. After deciding what vehicle you are going to buy, you will need to know how much it will cost. That means looking online for an average cost for that vehicle. You will need to include every aspect of the price, though. If you are able to travel to the seller, you will need to consider the sale price, all taxes, and any licensing fees. If the car is going to be imported, then you will want to find out about export fees, import fees, customs fees, and transportation to your location in addition to the selling price and taxes.
With those figures in mind, you can decide if you are able to pay for the car in full or if you need a note. If you need a note, you will want to determine if you can afford the payments in addition to your living expenses. The easiest way to do that is to use an online car loan calculator. All you need for that is the total cost of the vehicle and an approximate interest rate, then it will give you an estimated monthly payment. Once you have that figure, get an estimate of how much the insurance coverage will cost you monthly. Try saving the total of the payment and insurance costs each month for three months. If you are able to save that amount monthly without feeling as if you are short of cash, then the vehicle is within your budget.
True Cost of Car Ownership
Unfortunately, the cost of owning a vehicle does not end with the purchase. On top of any payments on a note, there is insurance. Those costs are obvious, but others may not be.
Many urban buyers overlook the cost of parking their car. This cost is easily overlooked because it gets paid daily, becoming nearly reflexive. Despite how innocuous the cost of parking may seem it can mount up, especially if you have to pay to park at work and at home. Another cost that buyers should consider when purchasing a car is the average cost of maintenance per year. Tires, belts, and oil changes need to be accounted for.
The most frequently overlooked cost of ownership is fuel. It seems silly, but everyone takes for granted their vehicle needs fuel; however, few take into account exactly how much that fuel is going to cost on a weekly basis when buying a vehicle.