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Car Purchase? The little things count, too

Updated on June 28, 2011

Things to Consider When Buying a Car

You've decided to buy a new car. Eagerly, you go car shopping, and you might check out a number of brochures. And you'll be sorting through the usual things to decide, like, 'new or used', what make and model, and price. But, before you head out to a dealer or take test drives, it may be best to do some research and planning.

Pick your possible choices.

First, you may want to check on which makes and models you would consider. This should include vehicles that you somewhat like, to the ones you really want to look at, as sometime during your research, you might realize that some of the ones you 'kinda like' might grow on you and might turn out to have more of what you want.

Research, especially the internet.

Thanks to the internet, and sites like vehix, carfax, and other automobile information sites, as well as auto manufacturer's websites, you can contrast and compare vehicles and can often view pictures of them inside and out. And many of these sites also have user reviews, which anyone in the market for a car should read! I know that they helped me greatly when I was in the market for a car, as there were a few vehicles that I was considering that turned out to be lemons in general, so I took these off my list.

One Important Note!

All through this process, whenever possible, ask owners of the vehicles you're considering, how they like their vehicles. This can be some of the best and most accurate information, as it is certainly doubtful that random people on the street have been picked by dealers to say only good things about their cars!

Do check the stats and features and how they can work for you.

The stats can be a factor that makes you delete one of your possibilities or add a new one. While looks may count strongly, as well as engine type and gas mileage, you may also want to check out things like gas tank size. Good gas mileage is really important today, but you may haqve two possibilities with similar gas mileage, and one may have a larger tank. With the same mpg, you may not see any savings of money with either vehicle, but the car with the larger tank, will mean less trips to the gas station. When I bought my last car, gas tank size combined with mpg was a big factor in my decision.

Many sites will also provide a list of options. This, too can make a difference between vehicles. Be sure to note your 'must have' options and features. And, even though an option may be rarely used, it may become all important when the need arises. My car has all-wheel drive. I did like having this option, even though I don't often find myself in situations where it is really needed. However, one winter I was in several snowstorms, where it really came in handy.

Make a handy cross reference list.

One thing that can help you at this point, is to make a cross reference list of vehicles that you're considering, with features, options, and stats. Include any notes, such as if a vehicle has an unusual option, or, after a test drive, if the vehicle 'feels' a certain way. Which brings us to the next step.

Check out the vehicles in person.

No pictures can take the place of a personal look and test drive of a vehicle. If at all possible, go to a car show first! I did this and it really helped me to narrow my field of choices. The great thing about a car show is that you can sit inside the vehicles and inspect them closely with much less chance of a salesman descending on you and asking "Why can't you buy right now!?". The salespeople there usually are less agressive and more prone to answering your questions and won't take the attitude of not talking with you unless you are intending to buy right then. And, you can check out the 'little' things that may really matter to you that aren't reflected on the internet or in any brochure.

If at a show, check out the little things that matter to you.

One thing I did, was I included my old car, which was then my current car, on my cross reference list, so I could compare it's stats with any prospective vehicle's. I even took measurements of things like the door pockets, and trunk opening. These may seem trivial but if you like to take a novel with you and like to store it in the door pocket when you're driving, but can't because it's not wide enough, you'll know what I mean. These are the little things that can matter later on, that many of us just don't think about, but I'd decided that it was one thing that was important to me.

So, I took my tape measure to the show and took measurements of door pockets, glove compartments, and trunk openings to name a few, as I felt these were important to me. You may have other things that are important to you, just be sure you've decided on most of them by the time you get to the show. One way to find out is to ask yourself what you don't like about your current car, or wish it had, and this includes even the slightest pet peeves you may have with your current car. Some things you may decide you can live with and you can therefore leave them off your cross reference list. I do know that, for me, this really helped. My old car lacked a center console storage area, so I decided that this was a 'must have' for me. At the show, I took measurements of center console storage areas and checked their placement. You can see the one in my current car, which actually has two storage areas. It was one of the features that sold me on the car I eventually chose.

Take a test drive.

You most likely cannot take a test drive at the show, but you can at a dealer. By this time, you've probably narrowed down your possible choice vehicle list. By taking the time to do the steps above, you'll know better which questions to ask and what to look for during the test drive. Also, if the vehicle has power seats, you'll get to see how well the seat adjusts, as most cars at shows are not powered on and so power seats won't operate.

The test drive should be more than just around the block and more than just 5 minutes. This can make or break any one of your current possibilities, since, even if a vehicle has made all your top marks and met all your requirements so far, it may just not handle right or feel right for you.

Second Important Note!

When at the dealer's, really , really keep your ears open! I was with my folks when they were buying a car. The dealer's appraiser was checking their old car for trade in value and said that the dealer should give my folks $1,200 for this car. I casually said that I hadn't gotten his name, so he told me. Later, in negotiating with the salesman and his manager, they said they would only be able to give my folks $800 for their old car as a trade-in. I told them that their own appraisal man, 'Smith', said $1,200. On hearing this and the appraiser's name, they knew I wasn't making it up, so they gave my folks $1,200 for their trade-in.

The final decision.

So now you want to make a final decision. I still had several vehicles that I was considering strongly, so I took my time going over their stats and what I knew about them. No vehicle could have everything I wanted, but the one I chose, a 2005 Subaru Impreza Outback Sport Wagon, had the most features and the best combination of features that I was looking for, so it got the nod and I've never regretted it. The final decision can be difficult if you have two or more vehicles that are still in strong contention, but at least you'll be much better informed.

Good luck with your new car!

Alan S.


Some of the little things to consider!


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