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Seven Important Factors to Consider When Buying a Car

Buying a car is one of the most significant investments most people will make outside of owning a home, and with so many different cars available, finding the right car for your needs can be a daunting task. Cars represent different things for different people: they can be speed machines, a reliable transport to work, a safe haven for your children, or even something like a trusted friend. Before taking the plunge, it is important to figure out what it is you want in a vehicle so that you can make the best possible choice for your own unique needs. Here is a list of seven important things to consider when you start looking for a car.

Factor 1: Price

The first thing most people consider when looking for a car is price, and rightly so. After all, it's important to stay within your budget when making as large a purchase as a car. The sticker price of the car, however, is just the beginning. There are closing costs to consider, dealer fees, insurance costs, warranty programs, and upgrade fees for if you decide you want satellite radio or GPS, which are rarely standard. And while weighing the initial costs of a vehicle is extremely important, it is just as crucial to study the five-year cost of a car. Two cars can be identical in sticker price, but if one car gets better gas miles per gallon or has lower insurance costs than the other, then the five-year cost of the one car will be much lower over time. Visit this website to calculate the five year cost of a vehicle you may be considering. And when considering used or certified pre-owned cars, it is worth it to visit the Kelly's Blue Book website to make sure that you are getting a fair price for the car's model year and condition. Also, knowing the dealer invoice price can provide you with leverage during a negotiation.

Factor 2: Type of Vehicle

The next thing to consider is what type of car you might want, which is based very much on how you will be using your car. Your own personally determined ratio of potential passengers to potential cargo will determine whether a sedan, a hatchback, or a station wagon will be the correct choice for you. Sedans will suit most everyone with more people than cargo, while hatchbacks may be better for those with more cargo than people, leaving station wagons with enough space for both. For those who are interested in something a little bit lighter and sportier, a coupe may be more up your alley. And if you have a larger family to consider, or just want more space, you may want to look for something more in an SUV or a van for ample and spacious seating. Consider the number of people who are likely to be regular passengers in your car and whether or not you have any hobbies (such as bicycling, surfing, or weekend DJing) that would require a certain amount of cargo room or a certain type of car, and make your choice from there.

Factor 3: New or Used

The decision to buy used or buy new is a very personal decision: some people are happier knowing their car is a factory blank slate, and others can't justify the expense of a new car when there are so many certified pre-owned cars out there waiting to be scooped up for a fraction of the cost. There are pros and cons in either direction, but it is ultimately a pretty arbitrary decision that rests on what's more important to you. A new factory direct car gives you the security of a newly minted car, a lot of potential options for scheduled maintenance and warranties, and that always important “new car” smell. It is also far more expensive, both in sticker price and insurance costs, and is an investment you will likely never be able to recoup through use or resale. A used car, on the other hand, especially if you plan on purchasing a “certified pre-owned car” can also offer decent warranty programs while being several thousands of dollars cheaper and normally only a year or two older. The cons, however, is that all the 100-point inspections in the world can't undo hidden damages the car might have accrued from the previous owner, and even reputable dealers run the risk of slipping you a dreaded “lemon”, which will cost more money in the long run that you may have saved buying new.

Factor 4: Safety and Reliability

What good is a new car if you can't drive it? Or worse, don't want to? The reliability and safety of a potential new car is a very important thing to consider, especially if you plan on taking that car on any freeways (you probably are). Check out the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety site for detailed statistics on your desired car model to get the full story on your car's safety and dependability. Check and see what kinds of safety features your potential car has before signing any contracts: features such as electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, hill-descent systems, and even whether or not the back windshield has a windshield wiper can mean the difference between crashing and not. Finally, consider the safety reputation of the company or make and model of the car you're considering. Have there been any recent recalls, and if so, what for? Don't be afraid to ask around, especially if your friends are shop-savvy.

Factor 5: Performance

For some people, “performance” refers to the car's ability to get you from point A to point B. While this is definitely important, though, a lot people are more interested in how fast said car can get them where they're going. Even if speed and power is not a top priority for you, it is still important for you to take note of things like the maximum speed of a car or how much horsepower it has. Higher speed and power can potentially cost more in fuel and upkeep, but if you live in a hilly or snowy area, a higher-powered car could mean the difference between getting home safely and having to camp out in a snowdrift for the evening waiting for a thaw. A commuter in a city can probably make do with a low 0-60 time on his or her car, but a commuter from the suburbs might have more of a need for speed or power. Compare the 0-60 time and maximum speed of the cars you are considering, as well as the horsepower and torque, and figure out what numbers are most important to you.

Factor 6: Fuel Economy

Never in our nation's history (well, maybe the '70s) has fuel economy been such an important consideration when purchasing a new vehicle. Additionally, you now have the choice between a traditional gas-powered car, a hybrid car, or even a car run entirely on electric power. Though owning a fuel-efficient hybrid car has never been more cost-effective, the perceived loss of torque and horsepower is not something on which many consumers are willing to compromise. Regardless of what type of fuel your desired car takes, remember that the fuel economy of your selected vehicle will determine the lion's share of the long-term costs of owning your vehicle, so you'll need to consider now how much a month you're willing to spend on gasoline and whether, if gas shoots up to $4.00 a gallon again, you'll be able (or want to) afford to fill your tank. And if you're a commuter, be sure to note the difference between highway and city miles per gallon (MPG) to better make your selection.

Factor 7: Appearance

Though appearance is easily the most trivial of the things to consider when dropping thousands of dollars on a car, it is arguably the decision you'll most acutely have to live with. Leather versus cloth seats might seem inconsequential when you're more focused on fuel economy or safety ratings, but if you live in Phoenix and have to spend your summers peeling yourself off your hot leather seats, it's going to be a consideration you'd wish you'd made. Things like seat material, ease of use for temperature and gadget controls, cup holders, and storage compartments may seem middling but can make the difference between you loving your car or merely liking it. And remember: getting your car professionally repainted is expensive, so make sure you pick a color you can live with. In five years, that Auburn Night Mist Pearl paint job the dealer assured you was due for a comeback just might be your undoing.

Buying a car can be difficult, but with the right amount of preparation and knowing what it is you want and need in a car, you can reduce your legwork considerably and walk off the lot with a car you feel confident you'll love and use for years to come. Good luck with your search!