Buying a car is a huge decision. Selecting the wrong vehicle for you can have a major negative impact on your daily life satisfaction and wallet. There are many choices to be made: used versus new? electric versus gasoline? sporty versus utilitarian? loaded versus minimalistic? Luckily, in today’s connected world, there is a plethora of information available online for researching vehicles. Here are some tips for researching your vehicle options before buying one.
1. Research the Full Cost of Owning the Vehicle
The first step in buying a vehicle is to determine how much car you can afford. When calculating how much you can afford to pay per month for a car, don’t forget to include the operating costs of the vehicle in your budget. Fuel, insurance, state registration fees, maintenance, and repairs can add up. Several tools are available online to help you estimate the operating costs of each model and make of the car.
2. Remember the Sales Tax
The conventional wisdom is that selling your old vehicle yourself will net you more money than trading it in. However, this is not necessarily the case. When selling privately, it may take weeks to find a buyer and during this time you are likely to be paying two car payments. In addition, when selling privately, the sales tax on the purchase may take away any remaining advantage over a trade-in.
3. Avoid Choice Overload
There are thousands of different makes and models of vehicles available today. Potential car buyers can easily get paralyzed by choice overload. Before starting to research makes and models, make a short list of your definitive vehicle needs and use it to help you rapidly narrow down your choices. For example, if you need to carry six passengers, fit the vehicle into small parking spaces, and pay little out of pocket for fuel, you will have successfully eliminated 90% of the vehicles in existence and now you can focus on finding the best vehicle for you from the remaining shortlist.
4. Focus on the Important Things
Car dealerships try to entice buyers with fancy options and add-ins for their vehicles by touting amazing features like “goes from zero to 60 in five seconds.” That sounds cool, but are you ever going to use that feature while rolling slowly through the school zones on your way to work? Focus on the tried-and-true important aspects during your car research:
- Cost to Own
5. Investigate Your Color Choices
While narrowing down your make and model choices, pay attention to the colors the various makes come in. You probably think the color of your next vehicle is one of the least important features to consider. However, the color of your car significantly affects your accident risk and how easy the car is to maintain. Black cars have a significantly higher rate of accidents because no one can see them. Silver and blue cars also tend to fade into the background, especially during rainy weather and at dawn and dusk. Red cars may be glaringly apparent during daylight, but at night, they disappear. Yellow, orange, gold, and white cars have significantly lower accident rates than other colors. In terms of maintenance, black cars are also the worst choice since dirt and scratches are glaringly obvious.
6. Read Expert Reviews
Car experts drive a lot of cars and their extensive expertise allows them to compare knowledgedly across categories of vehicles. Once you have decided on a particular type of vehicle, read as many expert reviews about vehicles in that class as you can find.
7. Read Owner Reviews
Charts and statistics can tell you a lot about a particular make and model. However, if you want to know what a vehicle is like, read honest reviews posted by actual users. Look for reviews posted by people who have owned that vehicle for a while and have experienced its quirks in full.
8. Get a Vehicle History Report
Even if you are buying a certified used vehicle from a dealership, do not skip the vehicle history report. Have one pulled and carefully examine it for red flags.