Choosing Make and Model

What car type is right for you?

Figure out what type of car meets your needs, and of course, still fits your budget. If you will be transporting children and packages on a regular basis, a mini-van might be the vehicle for you. Will you be driving through snow or on dirt roads? If so, consider an SUV with 4-wheel drive. If stop-and-go traffic is a part of your daily life, you'll want a car with an automatic transmission. Do you often have more than one passenger in your car? Then you probably want a 4-door car, not a 2-door. Those on a tighter budget should consider an economy car, which will have a lower price tag, cost less to insure and will consume less gas. Driving a hybrid will allow you to save gas and be kinder to the environment.

Do Your Research!

Compare Performance and Features

There are many factors to consider when choosing a car, including performance, reliability, safety, comfort, value and fuel economy. Take the time to research how the various makes and models compare to each other and how the experts rate them:

  • Read automotive and consumer magazines
  • Get sales literature from car dealerships

Check out product reviews and comparisons on the following websites:

  • Consumer Reports
  • Edmunds
  • Kelley Blue Book
  • NADA Guides
  • Take a test drive in the vehicles that interest you.
  • Go to a rental car company and rent a car for a day.
  • Attend an auto show to look at multiple vehicles for appearance, size, controls and features.

Price Compare

See how the various brands differ on price within the particular vehicle class you're interested in (e.g. SUVs, economy cars, mid-size sedans, etc.). In addition to the manufacturers' websites, you can compare prices at these sites:

Once you've decided on the make and model you want, select two or three dealerships for comparison shopping, based on location, reputation, and recommendations from friends or relatives. You can check a dealership's reputation by contacting your local Better Business Bureau to see if they have a favorable rating. Then see what the dealership offers you, both in terms of vehicle price, warranties, as well as services after the sale, such as:

  • Express check in/out when coming in for a service or maintenance appointment
  • Shuttle service to home or work
  • Loaner cars
  • Discounted service rates
  • Extended service department hours

New vs. Used

There are pluses and minuses to both scenarios. A new car will be in mint condition inside and out. You'll get the latest safety features and have the most up-to-date "look". In addition, most new cars come with at least a 3-year/36,000-mile warranty, so you should not have to pay for major repairs during that time. If you're financing the purchase, the interest rate on a new car is usually lower than on a used car. And with a brand new car, there is less risk of being deceived as to the car's actual condition, as can sometimes occur when you purchase a used car.

On the other hand, new cars depreciate faster than used cars. According to Consumer Reports, most models lose about 45 percent of their value in the first three years. Therefore, a used car often turns out to be a better value. An older model will obviously cost less. Plus, taxes and collision insurance on a used car will be lower. Another advantage of buying a used car is that you may be able to afford a more upscale model or one that's fully loaded.

Next Step: Getting Financing