How to Find the Right Car For You – 7 Things to Consider

Finding The Right Car

There are always many reasons for thinking about buying a new car. Circumstances in our lives change, which often are behind the reason for a change in vehicle, or purchasing a vehicle for the first time in our lives. The real problem for buyers out there is how to really find the car that’s right for us.

According to manufacturers, whatever car they want to sell us is the right one. It can make the search incredibly frustrating. Competition between brands is so fierce that you feel somewhat bombarded and pressured by the various sales techniques of each dealership’s staff.

These difficulties are the inspiration behind today’s blog. Today our sole goal is to help you get the best-possible car to suit your needs. In other words, our blog today is about getting the right car for you.

What is “The Right Car”?

There are arguably many ways to define this phrase. Is the right car…

  • …the most beautiful?
  • …the most famous brand?
  • …the fastest?
  • …the one with the most storage and seating capacity
  • …the one with the best fuel economy?
  • …the most loaded with ADAS features?
  • …the most laden with gadgetry and technology
  • …whatever you can afford and fits on your drive or in the garage?

And so, the questions can continue in this fashion? What exactly is ‘the right car’ for you? These questions demonstrate that the right car does depend on your circumstances, and that will be the basis of the first in our list of buying tips.

7 Tips for Finding the Right Car For You

1. Prioritize Your Needs

Find Car

The first thing you should always do is ask yourself the questions that we mentioned above about what kind of things about a new car matter to you. While one requirement may stand out, such as seating capacity, fuel type or cargo space, there will invariably be multiple factors that you want to take into account.

Buyers looking for a new family car, for instance, will likely prioritize fuel economy, seating capacity, cargo space, interior storage, ability to add things like roof-racks, insurance costs and tax costs. A young white-collar professional, on the other hand, may favor the executive look of a sedan or coupe, engine, horsepower, exterior color and interior design. They want a car that makes an impression. Different personal needs drive the process to finding the right car for you.

Ask the questions above, reflect on what you will use the car for, and make these considerations a priority in choosing the right model. In doing so, you will maximize your chances of getting the right car, even if it turns out to be a model that you had previously never considered before.

2. Factor in Desire, Too

It’s no good being totally functional. Don’t be afraid to factor in some of what you want as well as just what you need. In our first tip, all we are saying is that it’s better to prioritize your needs. That does not mean that you should just ignore the things you also really want. After all, you’re likely going to own this car for the next several years. 

The average time people keep their cars in America, according to autolist.com is about six years. It’s a tough proposition to drive around a car that is strictly functional and contains nothing that you really liked or wanted for more than half a decade. There are simple things you can get exactly as you want without compromising on pure need and function.

For example, you can choose the exterior color, size and style of alloy wheels, optional extras and packages with additional features that enhance the driving experience in whatever car you’re driving. The list of things goes on. There’s plenty you can do to a car cosmetically and with simple features that don’t detract one iota from those things you prioritized as “must-haves.”

3. Budget, Budget, Budget

Next comes the trickier part in our tips list, and that’s budgeting. This is the thing that most people find hardest when it comes to their cars because they don’t seem to want to take the time — or perhaps can’t — to sit down and crunch the numbers. Perhaps the problem is that there are a lot of numbers when it comes to buying a car, be it new or used. Here are some of the things you’ll have to go over.

  • Sticker price – and this is just the beginning
  • Taxes and registration
  • Additional fees from the dealership
  • Leasing costs (if you choose to lease)
  • Car financing and interest rates
  • Running costs such as fuel
  • Maintenance costs – check Edmunds for their true cost of ownership ratings
  • Potential resale value 4-6 years down the line

The first and foremost of these will be deciding and settling on how much to spend. The amount you can comfortably afford is the right way. If you can’t afford a Jaguar or Bentley, then the sad truth is that these are just not the right cars for you yet. A good rule of thumb is to never spend more than 15 percent of your monthly take-home pay if it’s a new car, and 10 percent if it’s a used car. Other costs like fuel and insurance will probably take up a further seven percent of your income.

A good way to set yourself a budget all in one go is to talk to banks and credit unions to see what kind of car loan you can get. If a bank or credit union pre-approves you for a loan of up to $20,000, then you have your ceiling right there. If $20,000 is what you can afford, then everything under that will be easier to manage. 

Consider all of the above and more when it comes to budgeting for your new car. Go through all the numbers once and then again to make sure everything adds up. Remember to calculate conservatively to avoid nasty surprises down the road.

4. Plan a Longer Search

Don’t think that buying a new car will ever be just a question of rolling up to a dealership, pointing to a model, paying and leaving. Even when doing things in the right way, you can’t be sure that you have the right car for you unless you do a longer and more extensive search. You should plan to first cast a wide net, looking at many different models, brands and their differences. From this initial research, you can build a shortlist for closer investigation and test driving.

When you factor in the research, inquiries, planning and budgeting, testing and then making final considerations, it will take at least a few weeks and possibly a month if you want to be absolutely sure of getting the right car.

5. Expand Your Test Driving

Test Drive

This is the part most buyers get wrong. When test driving, they take the car from the dealership or seller, drive it around the block a few times, maybe through the local town center, but then just take it back and consider the job done. A test drive should be truly thorough.

Let’s say you have a shortlist of five cars. Start with a simple test drive that includes as many of the following factors as possible:

  • A drive on low- and high-speed roads to test different driving styles
  • Driving in wet weather conditions
  • A driving route with tricky corners and turns
  • Performing a parking or other driving maneuver (e.g., 3-point turn in the road)
  • Checking visibility through windshield and when using mirrors
  • Checking ease of access to various controls

From this initial test, pick just 1 or 2 cars for a longer test. If you included all of the factors mentioned above, then you should have a good idea of the car’s performance, capabilities and general feel as you drive it in different conditions. The only way to really know that a car is right for your particular lifestyle, however, is to rent one for a few days or perhaps a week and use it as you would normally.

This is the best possible test to ensure that your choice of car is truly right for you.

6. Include Used Cars

When shopping for cars, you shouldn’t automatically discount used cars from your search. Some people do, feeling that pre-owned cars are automatically inferior to brand-new ones. It’s true that in some respects used cars can’t live up to their newer counterparts which come with the latest technology and other features. That doesn’t mean, however, that used cars having nothing to offer.

First of all, used cars are far cheaper to buy and insure. You can enjoy significant savings even buying a car from the year one year previous to the current model year. That car will have almost all the same features as the new one, but will be much cheaper as dealerships are desperate to move old inventory.

Second, used cars allow you to go above and beyond your original budget. A sum of $30,000 will buy a lot more car in the used market than it will in the new market. You could upgrade to a higher trim level, or get additional accessories and features that you otherwise couldn’t afford.

7. Don’t Rule Out Leasing

Just as you shouldn’t rule out used cars you also shouldn’t rule out leasing. Some people say that leasing is a bad idea because you pay and pay but gain no real equity in the car unless you make that final balloon payment at the end. It’s just a way of spending money with no tangible assets in return. This isn’t inaccurate, but doesn’t mean as much as the critics think.

Leasing gives you a great deal of flexibility, and is a way of financing a vehicle without having to place a huge deposit. The fact that you can return it at the end means you often get cheaper monthly rates than when you get an auto loan. If you can afford the final payment to own the car, then you can buy it, but if not then you can return and upgrade to the latest model. Leased cars, owing to being brand new most of the time, also have minimal costs in the way of maintenance. 

The point is, leasing has its advantages too and you might find that leasing works better for you if, for example, you know you’ll only need the car for a shorter period of time than the average 6 years.

Final Tip – Sleep On It First

One final tip from us to really make sure that it is the right car for you: sleep on it before you sign any papers or make a final decision. Dealerships will wait at least overnight while you think about the pros and cons of a decision and allow a good night’s sleep to process all of the information that is undoubtedly swirling around in your head.

Just like with many problems in life, when you sleep on it, you often know exactly what you want by the morning. If the car you were so keen on the day before is still one you feel the same about the following day, then by all means pull the trigger and get the sale finalized.

Written by: Magnus Sellén

Founder, owner & main author of Mechanic Base. I have been repairing cars for more than 10 years, specialized in advanced diagnostics & troubleshooting. I have also been a drifting driver and mechanic for over 7 years.