6 questions to ask before you start car shopping

6 questions to ask before you start car shopping

As you may have suspected, I often get asked which car to buy by friends, family and neighbors. With this question comes a response in interrogative form. Defining the answers to these questions may help you better narrow down the best next vehicle for you before you begin car shopping.

What do you want your next vehicle to do for you?

This is the question nearly every car salesperson will ask you when you arrive on the lot. Why? They’re trying to get a feel for the purpose your next vehicle must serve. Do you have a soccer team you haul around or is it just you and Missy the Maltese? If you’re starting with a blank slate and an open mind about your next vehicle purchase, then these factors play a big role in helping to narrow down your options for consideration.

What kind of car do you think you’re looking for?

Are you a wagon person? Do you hate hybrids? What is your “car compatibility” score? Everyone has some sort of opinion about the car they’re driving or may be driving soon. Think about the vehicles that draw your eye (in a good way) when you’re on the road. Find out what makes and models they are so that you can begin tracking what types of cars attract you most. If nothing else, it’s a good starting point for your new car purchase research.

What would you like to spend?

This question should really be: What can you reasonably afford?

Buying a car is the second largest purchase most Americans will make in their lifetime. It’s a lot of money at one time, so it’s important not to over-extend yourself. If you’ve been saving cash for your next car, then you pretty much have a finite budget. If you’re planning to get a loan, then it’s a little easier to budge on your top number. It’s important that you speak with your banker to know exactly how much is reasonable for you to spend — not just how much you qualify for — because, often times, you qualify for more than is wise to borrow.

Do you want to get a new or used vehicle?

Sometimes this question is dependent upon the budget you have to spend. For instance, if your budget is $35,000, then you may be able to find a luxury brand used car that’s got low mileage and is a few years old (still within the model’s current design cycle) for the same money you’d spend on a brand-new mainstream vehicle. And don’t forget, when you buy new the car instantly depreciates roughly 20 percent upon driving it off the lot. Like it or not, cars are depreciating assets.

Are you planning to lease or buy?

This is probably the biggest question for new car shoppers. Lease deals are often very enticing on the front end, but they can become complicated on the tail end. Ensuring a high residual — the guaranteed value of your car upon its return to the manufacturer after 24, 36 or 48 months — is the most important factor when signing a lease.

If you’re buying the vehicle, then you have the option to purchase it with cash, bring in your own pre-approved financing, work with the dealership to obtain a loan through the manufacturer’s finance arm, or even get financing directly through the car dealer.

What’s your timeline?

Are you in the market now for your next vehicle? Or are you just casually thinking about what could be the next car for you? Maybe you’ve had your eye on a vehicle that was new a few years ago and is now more within your financial reach. Whatever the case, know when you’re planning to make a purchase. This strategy can help to prevent emotional, impulsive purchases.

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This article was written by

Melanie Batenchuk founded Be Car Chic in 2009 as a way to help consumers make smart decisions when buying and selling their cars. Her prior work at the dealership, trade association and manufacturer levels has provided her a deep understanding of the complex facets within the auto industry, making her a leading woman in her field.

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