What type of car should I buy?
That’s probably not something you ask yourself very often.
Not if you’re like the average driver, anyway.
The average age of vehicles in the U.S. is 11.6 years and on average, people own their vehicles for nearly 11 years, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Using these numbers, the typical driver will buy about nine vehicles between his or her 16th and 76th birthdays.
The rarity of vehicle purchases amplifies the impact of each decision, especially when you consider how much time Americans spend in their cars. AAA found drivers clock an average of 290 hours per year behind the wheel. That’s the equivalent of about seven 40-hour work weeks.
It’s not like there are just a small number of options to pick from, either, with some estimates identifying as many as 275 vehicle models in the U.S.
So, when faced with purchasing a vehicle, how do you pick the right ride from all the possible options? For starters, you can keep reading this story, and check out the infographic below.
Here are some of the most important considerations to weigh when asking yourself “What type of car should I buy?”
What is your budget?
Answering the question “What type of car should I buy?” starts with looking at your budget. Nothing has more of an impact on your vehicle choice than what you can afford. You’ll want to weigh the overall cost and, if you finance your purchase, what your monthly payments will be. Don’t ignore other expenses like fuel, maintenance and insurance. AAA’s Your Driving Costs study is a handy resource for calculating your overall potential expense. The 2017 edition found that owning and operating a new vehicle cost about $8,500 a year. Some types of vehicles – including minivans, large sedans medium-size SUVs and pickup trucks – cost even more.
What’s it for?
Once you know your budget, ask yourself “What type of car should I buy, and why?” Is it for simply getting back and forth to work, is it for leisure cruising or a mix of both? For example, if you’re buying something for fun, sharp handling might be more important than something for your 9-to-5 commute.
What kind of passenger and cargo capacity do you need?
A two-seat sports car for a married couple without children might be fine, but it won’t do the trick for a family of five who travels regularly for weekend hockey tournaments. Think carefully about everything that goes in and out of your car.
Do I need an all-weather vehicle?
If you’re planning to venture out onto snow-covered streets, you might consider an all-wheel drive sedan or SUV. Anyone considering an electric vehicle should also think about whether it’ll be out during winter, since extreme temperatures can impact the range of electric vehicles.
What features am I interested in?
From infotainment systems that pair with smartphones to automatic braking and lane-correction systems, vehicles come with a wealth of technology. While some may want all of the latest and greatest, others might want something simpler with a smaller learning curve. Remember that many features are optional.
Do I want a green vehicle?
There have never been more green vehicles on the market, and an entire story could be written offering tips for choosing the one that’s right for you. If you’re interested in green vehicles, check out the AAA Green Car Guide, which reviews and ranks dozens of models.
How did the test drive go?
A test drive is incredibly important. All the research in the world cannot tell you what it feels like to get behind the wheel of a car. You’ll want to make the most of the 20 or 30 minutes you have with a potential vehicle, so study up by reading this article all about test drives.
Are you currently thinking about buying a new car? Were these tips helpful? Tell us in the comments!
This post was originally published in 2018 and has since been updated.