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Each year, car manufacturers inundate the market with more than 400 new makes and models of vehicles. Even if you are sure you want a new car, this makes for a long and intimidating list of vehicles to choose from! It may seem like you have a dizzying array of options to sort through before you arrive at the perfect car for you. Luckily, you have this Buying Guide to help you make sense of it all!

Of course you will want to test drive any car that makes your short list, but beyond this necessary in-person activity, most of the research you need to do can be performed online. And in fact, you will want to do 95 percent of your research online to be sure you only test drive practical picks.


10 Step Guide To Your New Car

If you still feel a bit overwhelmed by the whole process of researching a new car and being sure you get the most for your money, these 10 questions will help organize your search!

1. What is your budget?
Here, you want to be sure you include your TOTAL monthly budget for a new car. This includes the monthly car payment, your monthly insurance premium, your known annual expenses (inspection, registration, regular service) and variable expenses (gas, oil, tires, et al). Only by adding all of these up for a monthly total will you know if the new car you are looking at is affordable for you.
2. What features are a priority for you?
Part of the answer to this question may be practical and part may be fun. For instance, maybe you feel you can't live without a sunroof or Bluetooth. But you also know you need good fuel economy and a high crash test rating. So list out the top features (start with 10 in priority order and go from there) and then match vehicles with your list.
3. What seating do you need?
If you will primarily be using the car yourself alone, this may not be as much of an issue. But if you are buying for a family, or you drive in a carpool, or you move frequently (by car), or you take camping road trips with lots of luggage, or you have a 100 pound dog that likes to ride in the car with you, these lifestyle choices should absolutely influence your choice of vehicle.
4. Do you enjoy off-roading area?
In some areas and for some people, choosing an "all terrain" or 4 wheel drive vehicle is the only choice that makes practical sense. If you live in an area that gets lots of rain or snow, or you enjoy off-roading, or you like to hunt or fish, or you have a job that requires hauling a lot of heavy equipment, you should definitely factor these activities into your choice of vehicle.
5. Are you committed to sustainable living?
This may not be practical for everyone, but if you have chosen a lifestyle where sustainable, eco-friendly options are always on the priority list, some vehicles naturally lend themselves better to this lifestyle than others. There are more hybrid vehicles available today than ever before - even large SUVs! You can choose from electric and hybrid vehicles of all sizes and shapes.
6. Where does safety enter into your priority list?
If you have a family, you are probably concerned about safety more than practically anything else. So you will want to look at safety features like airbags, ABS braking, crash test results, et al, and pick the vehicle that you feel safest driving.
7. Where does horsepower fit into your lifestyle?
For some folks, a vehicle is much more than a safe and practical ride from Point A to Point B. And this is great - because some vehicles are tailor-made to deliver the horsepower! But don't factor out traditional sedans just yet - you might be surprised what some practical-looking cars may be hiding under the hood!
8. Do you change vehicles frequently?
If you don't keep cars for a long time (such as more than five years) you will definitely want to look at the potential resale value for any vehicle you are considering. Honda, Subaru, Toyota and certain other makes and models traditionally carry a high resale value.
9. Does your profession require a sharp ride?
Some professions just lend themselves to a snazzy ride. If you entertain clients frequently or work in an industry where what you drive sends potential clients a clear message about how successful you are, be sure to consider this too.
10. How important is reliability?
No one really enjoys taking their vehicle to the shop. But some vehicles just seem to spend more time there than others. Unless you have a spare vehicle on hand, reliability is something you will definitely want to research!

The Internet is Your Research Partner - You can compare and contrast everything from gas mileage to safety ratings, crash test reports to trunk space on the internet. You can also use the internet to generate price quotes, compare financing options and look at warranty and extended warranty options. You can also take advantage of the new breed of specialized Internet Sales Managers (ISMs) whose sole task it is to help Internet Buyers (i.e., you) automate your online research process.

A 1-2-3 Step Process - First, make a list of your top features in priority order. Next, get your insurance quote to be sure you can afford insurance for the car you are looking at. Next generate some quotes for financing. Now you should have a short list of vehicles that made your final cut. At this point, you are ready to go for a test drive.

Test Drive Your Short List - Taking a test drive is about moving beyond the research and deciding what you personally like (or don't like) about each vehicle. When you drive each car, pay attention to visibility, seat comfort, whether you like the dash display and where the controls are located and safety issues like pickup and brake controls. Only by doing a "hands on" road test can you decide if that is the car for you.

Generate Some Friendly Competition - Once you have completed the test drive phase, you can start the process of getting dealers to compete to earn your business. The easiest way to do this is to generate free price quotes online from a number of different ISMs. After submitting your request, you will be contacted by each ISM. If you encounter any ISM who won't give you a price quote up front, tell them you won't do business with them and move on. If you get a price quote on a vehicle you really like but it isn't as low as you want, then look for a lower quote to use to get that ISM to lower their price. If you play your cards right at this stage, you will have dealerships falling all over themselves to deliver the low price quote and get your business (which can be quite fun!).

Take Your Time! - Because buying a new car is right up there as one of the biggest ticket items you will ever buy, it pays to really take your time and do your homework. If you feel a bit nervous or overwhelmed, know this is only natural - and also wise, since you want to be sure you spend your funds well.

Finding Wiggle Room in Your Budget - If you have your eye on a vehicle that is priced beyond what your budget can accommodate, first take a look at manufacturer rebates and incentives. You can enter your zip code online to view the manufacturer rebates and incentives that are offered in your geographic area. Some types of rebates and incentives include low-interest financing (APR), cash back, freebies (such as free OnStar or free luxury upgrades) and more. Also be sure to note the safety features on the new car you are considering and contact your insurance company to find out if you might pay less on your monthly premiums because of these extras.


Further Reading: Good Time To Buy A New Car - How To Buy A New Car - Auto Financing - Reasons To Get New Car Over Used Car
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