The average American keeps a car for 11.4 years. It could be the economy, it could be brand loyalty, and it could be an aversion to pushy salesmen. And with the average cost per auto approaching $30,000, it pays to spend some time considering all your options before signing on the dotted line.
With the 2014 models coming to market, car builders are bringing out the big advertising guns. Advertisements range from the cute, “The Italians are coming!” to the snooty “Call to schedule a test drive.” Really? They are so busy selling cars they can’t make time for a walk in? Looking beyond the advertising campaign will allow for an informed decision before committing to a decade long investment.
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Multiple factors make up the decision process: the size of your family, the use of the car, who’ll be the primary driver. The initial cost and the actual cost (maintenance, gas, etc.) are key factors. Consider resale value too. Eventually, that new car will turn into an old jalopy and you’ll be looking for a replacement.
Before you set foot in the showroom, it helps to decide what type of car you’re looking for:
Coupe: Who doesn’t dream of jumping into a sweet little two-seater and heading for the open road? Singles and couples alike can explore in a range of choices. The least expensive cars are coupes, or two-doors, and they’re also the most expensive (think sporty convertibles). Perfect for city living, a coupe can be maneuverable and fuel efficient without breaking the budget. It can also be a luxurious, high end, premium gas guzzler that will cost a year’s salary. If all you need is storage space for groceries or an overnight bag, the coupe may fit the bill.
Sedan: Have you moved beyond the two door and need space for car seats or 2.5 kids? The sedan, in all its many versions, is the right fit. Nearly all brands offer a “family” sedan. Prices range from the basic four-door to the upscale with leather seats, navigation systems and Bluetooth technology. Dependable, reliable cars, sedans fill the needs of commuters, families, and carpoolers alike.
Minivan: The modern update of yesteryear’s family station wagon, minivans are in every manufacturer’s inventory. This is the perfect vehicle for soccer moms and family vacations. Once again, prices change with options. Go basic with three rows of seats or upgrade with captain’s chairs, individual DVD players, and more cup holders than anyone ever needs. For taking the kids to school, or the family to abuela’s, the space of a minivan can’t be beat.
SUV: With a higher ground clearance than a minivan, sedan or coupe, SUVs are a good choice for rough weather and rugged terrain. Sizes range from compact to gargantuan, and prices and fuel economy correspond to the size. Headed for the lake or the campground? Many of the larger models can accommodate tow packages. SUVs can get muddy on the way to the perfect fishing spot and clean up well enough for a night on the town. The SUV says there’s still a bit of rough and tumble youth deep inside you that is too cool for a minivan.
Trucks: The pickup truck is woven into American culture. Celebrated in song and story, pickups range from the lightweight to the heavy duty and are one of the more popular driving options. Crew cab models have a full back seat and can double as work truck and family vehicle.
Luxury: Leather seats, parallel parking technology and a voice activated online concierge service are all available, for a price. And that price is usually pretty steep. If you’re still digging Cheerios out from between the seat cushions this is probably not the right car for you. But if the kids are off to college and you’re ready for a life of heated seats and valet parking, it’s time to move up to the lap of luxury.
Any number of online sites can aid you in the buying process. Complete with independent reviews and budgeting tools, these are the first step in the buying process. Nothing replaces the test drive though. Once you’ve decided on your budget and type car to buy, make the fun choices. Slick black or “arrest me” red? Leather seats or those you can hose off?
Figuring out which car to buy is the easy part. Paying for it is a lot harder. Do the research, drive the model you like and do the homework on cost. Walk into the showroom armed with the make and model already decided. Be prepared to negotiate on trade in and don’t be swayed by the pressure to buy extra “care” packages. Make the deal and drive away in your new car. Enjoy that new car smell. Maybe it will last 11.4 years!