Better Budgeting: What is the Best Car to Buy?

What is the Best Car to Buy?

Car Tips (featured column)
by Kyle Busch

The number of vehicles that are available to satisfy your driving needs has never been greater. During the last decade, auto manufactures have really jumped on the vehicle bandwagon by offering numerous automobiles, sport-utilities, multipurpose vehicles, minivans, and  trucks. When it comes to buying a vehicle, the central question is: Which vehicle is the right one for you?

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Choices and More Choices

In addition to having multiple divisions within a single manufacturer, the choice of vehicles from which to choose is enough to make the consumer really spin his or her wheels trying to figure out just what vehicle to purchase.

The bottom line is that you deserve the most smiles per mile when you sit behind the wheel.

A very dangerous frame of mind is to "fall head over heels" for a particular make or model of vehicle based purely on emotions. Although emotions are a part of life, it is useful to put excessive emotions aside and focus on your day-in and day-out transportation needs.

Some Things to Consider

The following are some things to consider that will help you to choose the right vehicle:

-  What are your present and future transportation needs?

-  How many people will you transport in the vehicle (seating capacity)?

-  What type of objects will you transport in the vehicle (cargo space)?

-  Will you be driving in bad weather or off-road (rear-wheel drive, front-wheel drive, all-wheel  drive)?

-  Do you have an overriding need for fuel economy, safety, luxury, etc.?

-  Do you drive mostly in the city or on the interstate (automatic, semi-automatic, or manual transmission)?

-  Do you have a preference for an American or a foreign vehicle?

-  Do you need a vehicle with a full box type frame for off-road use or a lighter unit-body type frame designed to be used on roads and highways?

-  How long do you plan on driving the vehicle (warranty and maintenance)?

-  What will it cost to insure the vehicle?

-  How much can you afford to spend on a vehicle?

Information is Your Best Bet

If you are not familiar with the numerous available vehicles, or if you are still uncertain about which vehicles will really meet your transportation needs, visit your local public library and consult the yearly publication or the monthly magazine (April issue) of Consumer Reports. This objective resource provides vehicle information such as the size, weight, engine horsepower, optional equipment, miles per gallon of fuel, etc.

Try to identify two or three vehicles that will meet your driving needs. By identifying two or three vehicles, you will have some latitude and bargaining power when you go to purchase a vehicle. Then be sure to consult the frequency-of-repair information to determine if the vehicles you have identified are dependable and that they will not need outrageous future repairs. If you are seeking to purchase a new vehicle, you can use the frequency-of-repair information from the previous two or three years for a specific vehicle.

Last, but not least, read the road tests about the vehicles of interest in magazines and/or Internet publications such as Road & Track, Car and Driver, Motor Trend, and MotorWeek. How will reading the road tests be useful? Lets say that you identify three vehicles in a particular category.

It initially appears that all three of the vehicles will meet your driving needs. However, say you have a preference for a vehicle that has a soft ride or one that has certain convenience features, the vehicle road tests will include comments about such information.

You can then better determine which vehicle out of the three is your A, B, and C choices. This will increase the chance that you will be really happy with the vehicle and want to drive it for an extended period of time.

Vehicle Prices

If you are planning to buy a new vehicle, Consumer Reports will provide information about what dealers paid for vehicles. You can then figure what would be a reasonable profit (say $1,000-$1,500) to determine your target price to pay for the vehicle.

If you are planning to buy a used vehicle, be sure to consult the N.A.D.A. - National Automotive Dealer's Association Official Used Car Guide at your local library or at a bank, credit union, or auto dealership. A consumer addition of the guide is available, however, it is better to consult the regular dealer's edition.

The yellow pocket-size dealer's edition of the guide specifies the retail, trade-in, and loan value of domestic and imported automobiles. sport-utilities, minivans, and trucks that are up to seven years old.

If the vehicle is greater that seven years old, you will need to determine how much the price dropped from the sixth to the seventh year as stated in the guide. Then subtract that amount for each year that the vehicle is beyond seven years old.

In addition to the N.A.D.A. guide, be certain to consult the vehicle classified sections of the largest newspapers (LA Time, Boston Globe, etc.) in the United States. Many of the newspapers will also be available at your local library. Large newspapers usually have multiple listings for the vehicle of interest. Since vehicle prices generally begin in major cities, this is an easy way to get a read on vehicle price trends.

When buying a used vehicle, try to obtain a vehicle that is in excellent condition for a price that is in-between the retail and the loan value.

Remember, information is power! Therefore, make certain that you are well informed prior to buying a vehicle.

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Copyright 2002 by Kyle Busch. All rights reserved.
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