The purchase of a vehicle, particularly a new vehicle, is a major economic decision
for most households. The first step in buying a new vehicle that meets the household’s
needs is deciding what major vehicle characteristics are most important, and making
a list of those characteristics in their order of importance. Be sure to bring the
list with you when you are looking at vehicles, so that you do not “fall in love”
with a model that does not meet your needs, or costs more than you need to spend
to meet your needs. Characteristics to consider include:
1. Vehicle mileage versus vehicle and engine size. Remember, whatever gas mileage
the vehicle gets you will be “stuck” with for as long as you own the vehicle. That
big SUV or larger engine may be needed once in a while, but will you ever be happy
with the vehicle when you drive up to the service station? Try not to buy that larger
vehicle or larger engine just because it might come in handy a few times a year.
Remember, you can always rent a van for that special family vacation, or pay to
have those building supplies delivered if necessary. Hybrids, that offer better
mileage, are becoming particularly popular and are even available in some larger
vehicles. Check on FuelEconomy.gov for mileage estimates of different cars.
2. Vehicle reliability and repair costs. While any make or model vehicle could
end up being a “lemon,” some vehicle makes and models really are more reliable than
others. And even if reliability is expected to be the same, some makes and models
cost more for both routine maintenance and needed repairs than others. Because hybrids
have fewer components that require regular maintenance, some auto service providers
believe that hybrids may actually cost less to maintain versus a conventional drive
train. Over time this may or may not turn out to be true, but remember specialized
hybrid components will require hybrid-trained auto technicians to complete repairs.
For the foreseeable future, these technicians will probably be more expensive and
harder to locate. Also, while hybrid batteries are designed to last several years
and may even last the life of a vehicle, if they do need to be replaced the cost
can range from $3,000 to $5,000.
3. Tire replacement. Some vehicles not only wear out tires faster than others,
but the replacement cost for the tires is greater. For instance, low profile tires
will generally wear out quicker and will most always cost more than standard size
4. Options and accessories. Buying all those fancy options and accessories can
really make a vehicle nice. But make sure you only buy those options that you will
actually use. For instance, is that $2,000 sunroof really going to be used much?
5. Insurability. Depending on vehicle characteristics, the cost of insuring
the vehicle for collision, comprehensive and liability will differ. For instance,
a high-performance sports car will generally cost more to insure than a standard
sedan, even if the purchase value is the same. This is particularly true if you
have teenage drivers. And you will pay this cost differential each year you own
the vehicle. Look under the “Automobile Insurance” heading for more information
on vehicle insurance.
6. Trade-in value. If you are not planning on keeping the vehicle for most of
its useful life, its expected trade-in value should be considered.
Finding a Make & Model
The second step in purchasing a new vehicle is to visit as many different car dealerships
as possible to understand what makes and models are available, how they might best
suit your needs and their approximate cost.
1. There are so many vehicles available today that you should be able to locate
at least a few models that suit your needs very well, and are within your desired