What Car Should I Buy?

(Here's how to find the best option)
Written by Meg Stefanac
Written by Meg Stefanac

Financial blogger and business owner, Meg Stefanac, has more than 15 years experience working in the financial services industry and enjoys helping individuals make solid financial decisions. Meg has extensive experience writing about insurance and finances and is a key contributor to TrustedChoice.com.

College Student Car Insurance

Whether you are purchasing your first car or your 10th, shopping for a new vehicle can be both exciting and perplexing. With hundreds of different vehicles available on the market, it may be difficult to narrow your choices. The first thing you need to do before you set foot in a dealership’s showroom is to answer the question, “What kind of car should I buy?”

But how do you make this determination? And are you covered with an affordable car insurance policy?

To help you decide on what car to buy, we came up with a blueprint you can use.

The rules:

  1. Of the nine statements below, choose up to three that are the most pertinent to you. 
  2. Review the list of recommended vehicle types for each. You might discover that a certain type of car falls into two or three of your chosen categories. If so, this may be the best type of car for you to buy.

Parents need for passenger space. Consider the largest number of children you are likely to be driving around at one time before choosing a vehicle. Your best options are these:

  • Four-door sedan: Sedans make for practical family cars. Make sure that the back seat provides plenty of legroom. 
  • Minivan: Minivans are spacious and provide ample, comfortable seating for seven. They make it easy for parents of small children to move to the backseat to handle things like spills or diaper changes without exiting the vehicle.
  • SUV or Crossover: These vehicles offer plenty of backseat legroom as well as lots of storage space for sporting equipment and other gear.
  • Conversion van: These vans are ideal for those with large families. They have spacious interiors and some can handle seating for up to nine passengers.

New cars are an expensive purchase, and for those on a tight budget, the selection of appropriate vehicles is much smaller. Keep in mind, however, that a car with a solid reliability rating may cost more initially, but it is likely to last much longer and may therefore end up costing less in the end.

  • Compact car: These vehicles are often the least expensive on the road. They are a good idea if you need a car mainly for driving to work or for short jaunts to the grocery store. Of course, due to their small size, they are not ideal for families.
  • Sedan or Coupe: These cars are practical and many are very reliable. The price range for these cars is wide, so it should be easy to find several that are within your price range.
  • Hatchback: Often overlooked, these vehicles provide a cost-effective alternative to the popular SUV.

For many drivers, safety is the number one concern. If you fall into this category, look to the following for one of the best cars to buy:

  • SUV or Crossover: Many safety-conscious consumers choose to buy these vehicles because they are more solid and heavy than most other vehicles on the road and their occupants are therefore less likely to suffer injuries in an accident.
  • Minivan: Most minivans include safety features like front-passenger and side-curtain airbags. They are also larger and heavier than automobiles, so passengers have better protection.
  • Sedan or Coupe: Many people do not think of sedans when they think of safety features. These cars have the added benefit of having shorter stopping distances than their heavier counterparts have. 
  • Luxury car: Luxury cars are often equipped with the most modern and high-tech safety features available. If safety is your main concern, you may want to research some of the features offered by these more expensive cars.

Rising gasoline costs have led many consumers to pay more attention to the number of miles per gallon new cars are getting. If you drive a lot, switching to a high-fuel-economy vehicle now has the potential to save you thousands of dollars in the end.

  • Electric cars: These are beginning to catch on, but as the technology is still rather new, make sure to research the safety features before you buy. 
  • Hybrid cars: These popular models use both traditional gasoline and battery power. They are quite efficient, but have a higher up-front cost than a traditional car, and may be very difficult to find used. 
  • Diesel cars: These also get great gas mileage, but you must be sure to fill them up at a gas station that offers diesel fuel. In addition, they often require higher levels of service if you experience a mechanical breakdown. 

If you are more interested in purchasing a car with a traditional gasoline-fueled engine, you might want to consider one of the following:

  • Compact car: These cars offer some of the best gas mileage going, often doubling the gas mileage of larger cars like SUVs.
  • Sedan or Coupe: Many of the new sedans marketed today get great gas mileage that is likely to be an improvement over the vehicle you are currently driving.
  • Crossover: Although these vehicles do not get exceptional gas mileage when compared to cars, they are a great alternative for those who prefer the space and utility of an SUV.

If you frequently carry heavy loads, such as mulch for your yard or materials for your home improvement jobs, you will want to have a vehicle that can handle the job. You might want to consider one of the following:

  • Pickup truck: The beds on these trucks offer a lot of room without the constraints of a roof so you can haul taller objects with ease.
  • Cargo van: These vehicles have the utilitarian purpose of hauling large loads rather than passengers.
  • Conversion van: You can convert these large, luxurious passenger vans into cargo vans by removing or folding down the rear passenger seats.
  • Minivan: Most have a third row that you can fold down for ample space to load larger objects.
  • SUV and Crossover: These utility vehicles are tough enough to tow heavy trailers and roomy enough to carry large loads.
  • Hatchback: You can fit a surprising amount into the back of a hatchback car when you fold the rear seat down.

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If you live in a state that sees heavy winter snowfalls or if you frequently drive into the mountains and heavily wooded areas, you may want to buy one of these vehicles:

  • SUV or Crossover: These vehicles couple four-wheel or all-wheel drive with a powerful engine that will help pull you through the most rugged terrain.
  • Truck: Most trucks offer four-wheel drive and have large tires that overcome many rough and bumpy roads and off-road situations.
  • Jeep: These vehicles are great when it comes to off-roading or driving over unpaved and obstacle-filled roadways. However, they are not especially comfortable for long rides.

If you spend a lot of time in your car, such as during long commutes or on extensive road trips, comfort may be among your top priorities when shopping for a new car:

  • Luxury vehicle: As the name implies, these pricey vehicles spare no expense when it comes to creating a luxurious ride. Expect to find features such as heated seats, plenty of legroom and electronic seat adjustments that allow a seemingly infinite number of positions.
  • SUV or Crossover: These roomy vehicles provide plenty of space for both driver and passengers, and are great for long trips.

A car can say a lot about its owner. If you want people to notice you and your car, you may want to choose from among the following:

  • Convertible: When you drive with the top down, those sharing the road with you will invariably take notice. 
  • Sports car: People notice sports cars with their sleek designs and bold colors. They can tear up the roadways in a way that most other vehicles cannot. 
  • Luxury vehicle: These vehicles come at a price, and those around you know it. If you have worked hard for your money and want to show off your accomplishments, what better way to do that than in a luxury car?

Some people simply love driving. They tend to choose cars based on how much fun they will be to drive, rather than how utilitarian they may be. If you fall into this category, you may be most interested in buying one of the following car types:

  • Sports car: With their low center of gravity, these vehicles really hug the curves. They are exciting and powerful and are ideal for those who love driving and have no need for backseat passenger room.
  • Muscle car: Muscle cars are making a comeback. Detroit has recently released a host of new muscle cars for 2014. If you want to sit behind the wheel of a powerful performance machine, this might be the best vehicle for you.

Now that you have answered the question, “What kind of car should I buy?” it is time to make a list of the vehicles within that class that visually appeal to you and then take them for a test drive.

Remember, salespeople will not want you to leave the showroom without making a purchase, and they may try to make a hard sale. Do not fall into the trap of buying the first car you test drive. Make sure that you check out all the vehicles on your list before making a decision. The salesperson will be just as happy to make a deal with you if and when you return.

After you've purchased that new car, auto insurance will come into play. If you finance the purchase of your vehicle, your lender will typically require you to carry collision and comprehensive on the vehicle for the life of the loan. Your state also has liability insurance requirements that you will need to meet before you hit the road. When you're ready to learn more about auto coverage options and requirements, independent agents can help.

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