In my 13 years of licensed driving, I’ve been lucky enough to only have gone through two cars. I’ve watched many friends go through one automobile after another for a variety of reasons: the cost caught up with them, it didn’t fit their needs, or it broke down beyond repair. A lot of the time, these issues could have easily been avoided if they had taken the process of buying a car a little more seriously.

I don’t consider myself a “car guy” by any stretch, but because of this I tend to go overboard when researching a new vehicle. When I invest my hard-earned money into a new car, I want it to last me a while. Knowing this, I’ve always taken the following into consideration:

Purpose

What are you going to be using your new car for? Will you be the only one using it? Do you have children who constantly need a ride to events, parties, and practices? Will you need to drive long distances for work? Do you need to transport tools and other equipment for your job or hobbies? These are all questions you should ask yourself before you buy a new car, truck, or van, rather than going for what feels right at the time. Think about what you’ll be doing with your new automobile, and you’ll avoid having to give it away for much less than it’s worth when you realize it doesn’t fit with your lifestyle.

Need it or want it?

Along with figuring out why you’re in the market for a new car, think about whether you absolutely need one, or if you’re simply looking for an upgrade. On the one hand, if your current car is on its way out, you need to lower your standards at least a little bit when looking for a replacement. You don’t want to end up stranded with no way of getting to work, so you unfortunately don’t have the luxury of “shopping around.” However, you still don’t want to settle for “what works for now,” as it’ll likely end up costing you in the long run. On the other hand, just because you’re in a position to buy a new car because you want one doesn’t necessarily mean you should hold out for whatever is considered the absolute top of the line. In either case, make sure you make an informed decision and avoid splurging on the first thing on four wheels you see in the lot.

Monthly cost

It shouldn’t come as a shocker to you that your car makes up a large part of your monthly expenses. Whether you’re buying or leasing a new car, don’t let a low monthly payment blind you to the hidden costs that come with an automobile. You’ll have to pay interest on your loans and monthly insurance costs, not to mention gas and other maintenance fees over the years. Failure to take all of these into consideration will almost certainly result in you giving your car away for less than its worth, while opting for something “a little more manageable.”

Safety features

This should actually be the first thing you take into consideration when buying a new car. Automobiles come with more safety features than ever before nowadays, so there really is no excuse for buying a car that you don’t feel safe driving. Seatbelts and airbags are commonplace nowadays, and the newer features – rear-view cameras, alert systems – are becoming more and more prevalent as well. Even with these accommodations, you should still check out the crash rating for your potential new automobile. While ignoring the other items on this list might set you back monetarily, ignoring the safety rating of your car could cost you much more.

Add-ons

In addition to all the new safety features new cars come with, they also include a bunch of other extras that make one model more appealing than another. Bluetooth, Wi-Fi hotspots, iPhone connectors… all of this seems really awesome – and, well, it kind of is. However, is “awesome” worth the extra cost? Make sure you analyze the difference between the base price and the price for an all-included model, and think about whether or not you actually need your text messages to be read aloud to you on your ten minute drive home from the store. Then again, like I said: If you can afford it, and you’ve earned it, then go for it!

Featured photo credit: 2014 Proton Perdana 2.4P / Manoj Prasad via farm4.staticflickr.com

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