How To Select Your First Car

There are two main ways to buy a car: making payments or paying it off in full. Each option has its advantages and disadvantages. Making payments on a vehicle means you will have to take out a loan from a bank or credit union. This will require good credit and monthly payments. 

However, making payments on a car can help you build your credit history and give you access to a broader range of vehicles. Paying off a car in full means you must save up the entire purchase price before you buy it. 

This can take a long time, but it will mean that you will not have any monthly car payments. Regardless of your decision, there are some factors to consider when choosing the right car. In this article, we’ll give you more insight on how to pick the perfect car for you.

How To Find Your Budget For A Car

While there isn’t an exact formula to determine your budget to buy a car, there are tips for doing it. If you’re buying a new car, then it should be no more than 15% of your monthly income.

If you make $3,000 monthly, your car payment should be around $450. When purchasing a used car, you want to keep it at 10% of your monthly income. 

So, for a monthly income of $3,000, you should keep your payment around $300. This may not work for everyone, so if that is the case, look at your monthly income and subtract all your expenses and obligations. 

This can include electric bills, groceries, and even the amount of gas money you’ll need to drive a car. This will give you a better idea of how much your monthly car payment should be. Another cost to consider is how much the insurance will cost you. 

When looking for a car, you should see how much it is for that specific car. Some dealerships will want you to have full coverage insurance.

You may want to consider purchasing GAP insurance so that if your vehicle is wrecked, it will cover the amount your car depreciates over time. It’s important to factor in the insurance cost with your monthly car payment so you’re not caught off guard by the amount.

Determine The Size You Need

The size of your family or the number of people you typically drive will be a significant factor in this decision. But there are other things to consider, such as how much cargo space you need and how often you plan to carry passengers.

Here are a few tips for choosing the correct number of seats for your next car:

  • Determine the amount of seats you need. The first step is determining how many people you need to seat regularly. A four-seater may be enough if you have a small family or only occasionally drive with other people. But if you have a large family or frequently carpool, you’ll need a larger car with more seats.
  • Consider your cargo needs. In addition to seating capacity, you’ll also need to consider how much cargo space you need. If you have a lot of gear to haul around, you’ll want a car with a large trunk or hatchback. But you can save money by getting a smaller car if you don’t need much cargo space.
  • Think about your driving habits. If you do a lot of long road trips, you’ll want a car with comfortable seats and plenty of legroom. But if you primarily drive around town, you can get away with a smaller car with less interior space.
  • It’s essential to pick a car that you can easily handle. One thing to remember is that larger cars like SUVs and trucks may not be suitable for everyone. If you’re not used to driving a wider and longer vehicle, it can be a challenge to maneuver on the road. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so if you’re uncomfortable driving a bigger car, it’s best to avoid it.

What Features Do You Want?

When considering the features you may want in a car, assessing your preferences and specific needs is essential. Some popular features to consider are: 

  • Seat warming: Seat warming, also known as heated seats, provides warmth during colder months, enhancing comfort and reducing the need for excessive heating within the vehicle. This feature can help people living in regions with harsh winters or those who appreciate a cozy driving environment.
  • Sunroof: A sunroof adds a movable opening to the car’s roof, allowing natural light and fresh air to enter the cabin. It provides an open-air feel and can enhance the overall ambiance of the vehicle. Additionally, a sunroof can appeal to those who enjoy a panoramic view while driving.
  • Backup camera: A backup camera provides a clear view of the area behind the vehicle while reversing. It helps to minimize blind spots and enhances safety, especially in crowded or challenging parking situations. This feature can be precious for individuals who prioritize convenience and aim to prevent accidents while maneuvering tight spaces.
  • Remote start: Remote start allows the driver to start the vehicle remotely, typically using a key fob or a smartphone app. This feature can be advantageous during extreme weather conditions, enabling you to warm up or cool down the car before entering. It provides added convenience and comfort, ensuring a pleasant driving experience from entering the vehicle.

When considering these features, it’s important to note that they may come at an additional cost and could vary depending on the car’s make, model, and trim level.

Remember that integrating certain features may require specific packages or optional upgrades. Evaluating the practicality and value of these features with your driving habits and preferences will help ensure your decision aligns with your needs.

Make A List Of Options And Research 

Once you have determined your budget and identified your requirements for a car, it is time to compile a list of potential vehicles that align with your preferences. This step lets you evaluate each option in detail and make an informed decision. Consider:

  • Gas Efficiency: Assessing the gas efficiency of a vehicle is crucial, as it directly impacts running costs and environmental impact. Look for information on the car’s fuel economy, typically measured in miles per gallon (MPG). Higher MPG values indicate better gas efficiency, reducing fuel expenses and carbon footprint.
  • Maintenance Costs: While purchasing a car, it is essential to consider the costs associated with ongoing maintenance. One specific expense to evaluate is the price of routine services, such as an oil change. Researching this aspect will help you forecast the long-term costs of keeping the vehicle in good condition
  • Consumer Feedback: Gaining insights from other consumers with first-hand experience with the car model you are interested in can be valuable. Reviewing consumer comments and feedback allows you to assess the real-world performance and reliability of the vehicle. Pay attention to recurring positive or negative aspects mentioned by multiple consumers to form a balanced perspective.
  • Safety Concerns: Prioritizing your safety and that of your passengers is paramount. Before finalizing your decision, thoroughly investigate any safety concerns that may exist. Look for information regarding frequent recalls, which may indicate potential manufacturing or design flaws. Additionally, pay attention to any incidents related to airbags randomly deploying, as this could pose a significant risk while driving.

By meticulously researching these factors, you can comprehensively evaluate each vehicle on your list.

This approach enables you to make an informed decision based on reliable data and user feedback, ultimately selecting a car that meets your expectations, aligns with your budget, and prioritizes safety.

Test Drive the Car You Want

Test driving the car you want is crucial before making a purchasing decision. While researching specifications and reading reviews can provide valuable insights, a test drive offers a hands-on experience that allows you to evaluate the car’s performance, comfort, and functionality. Here’s why test driving is indispensable:

  • Performance Evaluation: A test drive provides the opportunity to assess the car’s performance characteristics, such as acceleration, braking, and handling. It allows you to experience firsthand how the car responds to your inputs and how well it suits your driving style. 
  • Comfort and Ergonomics: Every individual’s comfort preferences vary, and a test drive allows you to evaluate how well the car accommodates your needs. Assessing factors like seat comfort, driving position, visibility, and the ease of accessing controls and features ensures that the car suits your physique and provides a comfortable driving experience. 
  • Practicality and Functionality: Test driving enables you to assess a car’s practicality and functionality based on your specific requirements. You can evaluate the vehicle’s cargo space, interior versatility, and ease of use for features like folding rear seats or accessing the trunk area. 
  • Driveability and Handling: The driving dynamics of a car significantly contribute to the overall enjoyment of owning and driving it. During the test drive, you can ascertain how well the car responds to steering inputs, whether it provides a comfortable ride, and behaves on different road surfaces. 
  • Confidence and Peace of Mind: Test driving instills confidence in purchasing decisions. It lets you verify whether the car meets your expectations and aligns with your preferences.

Garry is the happy owner of a funky 2018 Nissan Juke Ti-S AWD. After growing up around his family’s mechanics shop, he is passionate about bringing budget-friendly car care to every driver. Garry has a business degree and is a car enthusiast.