So, you’re considering buying a car? Maybe life changes have created a need for a different type of car. Perhaps this is your first car purchase. Or you could simply want to make a change. Regardless of your reason for purchasing a vehicle, there are a few things you should keep in mind. In fact, there are seven things you really need to consider before making a purchase as significant as an automobile. Fasten your seatbelt, release the emergency brake, and prepare to take a ride through the list.

Assessing Your Needs

The first and probably most important consideration for your vehicle purchase is “what do I need?” Even if your answer is a list, at minimum think about:

  • What will I be doing in my car? If you are going to be hauling equipment or sports gear you will need to meet the size criteria.
  • Who will be riding in my vehicle? If you have children who will be riding in your car, a two-seater convertible is probably not a good choice. But if it is just you and your sweetheart, you can probably trade in the minivan.
  • Are there specific conditions where I will be driving? Think about weather conditions that may require a vehicle with special features like four-wheel drive. If you are located in an area with extreme temperatures, remote start is something to explore.

Safety

You don’t have to give up style for safety. In fact, some of the coolest powerful hybrid cars also have very high safety ratings. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration conducts frontal, side, and rollover tests on vehicles and assigns safety ratings based on vehicle’s performance. Ratings on cars are based on a five-star rating scale.

Another safety resource is the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The IIHS evaluates crash test ratings based on the efficacy of seatbelts and airbags, survival space, and measurement from crash test dummies.

Insurance

Before purchasing a vehicle, you will want to determine how much it will cost to insure it. Rates vary depending on vehicle value, your driving record, and risk features. The amount of coverage and policy deductible also impact the price. It’s also important to think about insurance when determining what you can afford.

Maintenance Cost

Whether you are buying new or used, you should give some thought to how much it will cost to keep it running. A used car with little or no remaining warranty may have some repair costs on the horizon. A vehicle service history is a great resource and can be obtained with the VIN number. Also, consider wearing items such as tires and belts. Some repairs may be minor but others may cost you more than you expected soon after your vehicle purchase.

New vehicles are no exception. Check out costs for regular maintenance for the car you are considering. The price of an oil change can vary considerably from model to model.

Financing Options

When purchasing a new car, you can often find great interest rates and rebates. The interest rate being charged by the financing company can make a significant difference in your monthly payment. At one time the standard length of time to finance a vehicle was four years. In recent years, lending institutions have extended financing terms to six and sometimes seven years.

Used cars typically do not have special financing offers or rebates. However, it doesn’t hurt to shop around among banks as they can offer different interest rates.

Trade-In

Are you trading in a car? Do you know how much (if any) you owe on your trade-in? Do you know what your trade is worth? If the amount you owe on your vehicle is significantly more than the amount you can receive when you trade it in, you have “negative equity” in your car. That amount will be added to the total price of your new purchase. Your alternatives are to come up with some money for a down payment or find someone else who will give you more for your trade.

Resale Value

While this may not be your first thought when purchasing a car, a consideration for a little further down the road is its resale value. Vehicles that do not have a very good resale value can make it difficult to sell your car in the future or can leave you with a negative equity situation as described previously.

The bottom line is that YOU are in the driver’s seat. Don’t be in a hurry and try not to fall in love with a car before you know you can fit it and all of the associated expenses in your budget. There is nothing wrong with looking around or asking for a better deal. Prioritize these seven considerations and start shopping!