We know you want to feel a love connection with your car. But true love is based on more than good looks. If you want a satisfying, long lasting relationship with your next car, you've got to key-in on the quality of life issues that really matter. Here's how.
What do you need? Ok, you need a car. But do you know exactly what you need this car for? Look at your lifestyle and figure out what you will do with this car 80% of the time —not 20% of the time, or only in your dreams.
How many people do you have to haul? How much stuff and how often? How far do you drive? Don’t be swayed by popular notions about car shape or brand — be honest about what this machine needs to help you accomplish.
If you just need to get yourself to work in town, you’ll probably want a fuel-conscious little sedan. If you haul a lot of stuff or people you need room for them — but be aware that height and weight brings down gas mileage and increases cost of ownership.
SUV’s once reigned supreme in popular car fashion — but if you care about your gas budget, you might do better with a wagon or hatchback.
You may have sworn you’d never get a minivan, but today’s options are cuter than the monstrosities you may have in your memory banks — and sliding doors really do make family life easier.
If you need to work through denial, try Edmunds.com's car compatibility test for an outside reflection of the type of car that best suits your lifestyle.
What can you afford? You simply can’t love a car your budget hates. Determine what an affordable monthly payment looks like for you, and do not exceed this figure!
Total car payments should not exceed 20% of your monthly take-home pay — so, figure out what that is. Be sure to subtract any payments you’ll still be making on other household vehicles.
Next, consider any cash downpayment or trade-in value you may have to work with. You can use Kelly Blue Book to estimate the value of your current car if you like.
Now, hit this very cool affordability calculator at Edmunds.com to find a recommended range of sticker prices for you — including a handy “not to exceed” number. Play with the length of the loan and interest rate to see the impacts the total you can afford.
You can even click through to see cars that fall within your sticker price range, and change the criterea to search more options. Or, hop over to Kelly Blue Book's car finder and punch in your requirements to get an idea of what's on the market in your area.
As you look, start thinking about how much lower you can push your sticker price range and still get the car you need. Whatever car you consider, be sure to compare competing options — look especially at fuel efficiency so you understand the gas consumption you're signing up for.
What feels right? Just because you like fancy pictures of a car doesn't mean you'll like the car in person. To make a good decision, narrow down the list of cars you think might make you happy to a reasonable number — say 3 to 5 — then, go online to request test drives at local dealerships who have those cars on-hand.
If you are interested in a brand new car, work with a dealership specializing in your preferred make. If you want a used car, a local CarMax or other large used car dealership can make it easy to compare many models in one stop.
Drive the cars you are considering in a concise time-period, preferably back-to-back. Remember to replicate real driving conditions as you test drive. Make sure to stop and start, rev up to freeway speeds, and even back up to test visibility.
Don't forget to consider how the car fits your body, as well. Does your back feel supported? Do your legs fit behind the wheel? How 'bout in the passenger seat or in the back? Is it easy for you to open and close doors and hatches, access the back seat and trunk? Can you picture doing these things over and over and over? If not, cross that car off your list and keep searching.
Ignore any sales pitches and concentrate on how you feel about the car. Do note the personality of the sales staff and whether you'd like to pursue a purchase with them. If you don't feel comfortable with the treatment you recieve at this stage, cross that dealership off your list, as well.
Remember: think about the important things first — like your needs, what you can afford, and fuel efficiency. Then, and only then, should you consider color or style.
Just as there are many fish in the sea, there are many, many, many cars for sale. Take your time in deciding which you'll take home. Shop around and make an educated decision — you'll be happy you did.
At Murphy USA, we’re always looking out for ways to help you manage your life with cars. That's why we share car care tips, travel fun, ways to save, and more — all to help you make the most of life on the go.