what to look for when buying a new car

What to Look for When Buying a New Car: The Ultimate Shopper’s Guide

Every year, more than 17 million Americans purchase a new car, truck, or SUV.


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Before they do, they usually shop around quite a bit to make sure they get exactly what they want out of a new vehicle. With the average price of a new car coming in at over $36,000 these days, there is very little room for error when conducting a new car search.

Are you in the process of looking around for a vehicle to buy? You should educate yourself as far as what to look for when buying a new car. By taking the right steps and considering the right things, you can set yourself up with a car that will work best for you.

Here are 8 things you should carefully consider prior to purchasing a new vehicle.

What Are You Going to Be Using Your New Car For?

Prior to taking your first trip down to a car lot to check out some of the new cars that are on the market today, sit down and think about what you’re going to be using your new car for.

Is it a car that you’re going to be driving an hour to and from work every day? If so, a car with great gas mileage is something that might appeal to you.

Is it a car that you’re going to be driving on weekends for pleasure to blow off some steam? If so, something that’s a little bit sportier and more fun to drive might be your best option.

By thinking about how you’re going to be using your new car, you can start to narrow down your search. You’ll be able to check out the kinds of cars that might fit your lifestyle best from the beginning.

How Big Do You Need It to Be?

In addition to considering what you’re going to use your new car for, you should also think about how big you want it to be. Cars today come in all shapes and sizes.

If you have a large family and pets that like to come on road trips with you, a two-door car with limited seating is obviously not going to be ideal.

At the same time, if you’re a single person with no kids and no pets, a four-door car with plenty of cargo space might not be necessary. You can easily get away with something that’s smaller and, by extension, less expensive.

What Features Does It Need to Have?

When you start looking around at all the different new cars that you can buy today, you’re going to find that just about all of them are jampacked with a million and one features. Car manufacturers do a great job making every feature that they put into a car sound like the most important feature ever.

If you don’t decide which features you really want before you start car shopping, your head will likely be spinning before you make it to the second row of available cars. You’ll be more confused than ever as you try to sort your way through the features to decide which you need and which you don’t.

Make a list of some of the features you would like to have in your new car before you begin checking out cars. Here are some features that might interest you:

  • Four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive
  • Forward-collision warning
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • Heated seats
  • Automatic emergency braking
  • Backup camera
  • Dual-zone climate control
  • Keyless entry
  • Lane-departure assist

Even just reading that (relatively short!) list of features, you’re probably struggling to keep up with everything automakers can put into cars today. So don’t forget to list the features you really want before you get bogged down by all the features car salesmen will try to sell you on.

What Brand Do You Think Is Best?

There are some people who are loyal to one car brand and one car brand only. Their very first car ever was, say, a Honda, so the only cars that they’re going to buy are the ones that are featured on this site.

If you’re loyal to a specific brand, that’s perfectly fine! As long as that brand has kept you happy, there’s no reason to go with a completely different brand at this point.

But if you don’t have a brand that you like best, you might want to do your research to see which car company will work for you in 2018. There are more than a dozen car companies that dominate the industry, so it shouldn’t take you too long to narrow your choice down to one or two that you like most at this time.

How Much Maintenance Are You Prepared to Do?

When considering what to look for when buying a new car, most people don’t spend any time thinking about maintenance. After all, they’re buying a new car, so it’ll likely be months and maybe even years before they have to worry about maintaining and repairing it, right?

In a perfect world, yes. But we all know that this world isn’t perfect and that you could end up having to maintain your car and make repairs to it a lot sooner than you were planning to.

There are some cars that are very easy to maintain and repair. Parts for these cars are readily available and won’t cost you a fortune. It’ll make managing the costs associated with your car pretty simple and straightforward.

But there are other cars, particularly certain foreign luxury cars, that can be very costly to maintain and fix. You could find yourself paying significantly more than you were expecting to do something as routine as an oil change.

Look up the maintenance and repair costs associated with specific cars before you decide to buy one. The last thing you want to do is commit to buying a car and then realize that it’s going to take too much time and money to maintain it properly.

How Much Do You Want to Spend?

The cost of a new car shouldn’t be your only concern. You don’t simply want to buy a new car because it’s cheaper than all the others. That’s a good way to end up making payments on a car you don’t actually like in a year or two.

But you should create a budget for yourself prior to purchasing a new car. Decide how much you can afford to pay for a vehicle every month and then look for a car that fits neatly into your price range.

You might be able to make a car fit within your budget by extending your repayment period over the course of five or six years. But try not to extend it too much. There are many people who have taken out car loans that span over the course of 84 months, and they’ve quickly come to regret it.

Keep your car insurance costs in mind when buying a car, too. A modest sedan with a bunch of safety features inside of it will likely cost a lot less to insure than a bright red sports car will.

How Much Could You Resell Your New Car For Later?

You’re on the verge of buying a new car. So why in the world should you already be thinking about the day you’re going to sell it? Shouldn’t you, you know, buy it first before you worry about how much money you’re going to get when you go to resell it later?

Yes…and no.

You don’t have to spend too, too much time thinking about the potential resale value of a car when you’re first buying it. But it is something that you should have in your mind.

Kelley Blue Book hands out the Best Resale Value Awards every year, and there’s a good reason why they do it. They want to let people know that the resale value of a car is almost as important, if not more important, than all the features that are tucked inside of it.

Generally speaking, the cars with the best resale values are the ones with the names that people know and love. These cars will be more valuable than others released during the same year in just a few short years.

A car is a big investment so don’t totally disregard resale value when purchasing a new vehicle. It could net you a nice profit in the future when you go to sell your old car to buy a newer one.

Know What to Look For When Buying a New Car From the Start

When you what to look for when buying a new car, it’ll make your entire car-buying experience that much better. You won’t feel so overwhelmed when you start looking around at cars.

Ask yourself all the questions listed here when shopping for a car and answer them to the best of your ability. It’ll increase your chances of finding a car that you love.

Check out our blog for more advice on buying a new car.