I’m a huge fan of driving a car as long as humanly possible for a couple of reasons. First of all there’s HUGE savings to be had and second of all I’m not a car person so driving a 10-15 year old vehicle doesn’t bother me in the slightest.
What has been bothering me lately though, is that my car is all of a sudden having problems. For the past nine years of car ownership I’ve had very minimal issues. And now they all seem to be coming at once. #GoFigure
My plan is to have my car fixed and squeeze at least another 2-3 years out of it. But I’ve also been thinking of what to do when I need to purchase a new vehicle and if that time comes sooner than later.
Here are some of the most important things to consider before car shopping and what I’ve been thinking about lately.
What Can I Realistically Afford?
This isn’t usually the top of most car-buying lists but here’s the problem – the average car payment is $479 per month and the average income is $3,769 before taxes.
Since taxes account for about 25% of income that makes take home pay approximately $2,800. After you factor in rent, debt payments, utilities, health insurance, auto insurance, internet and phone bills you’re not left with much. And we haven’t even factored food into that equation.
It’s clear that the average car payment doesn’t really match up too well with the average income. So don’t have an average car payment!
Be real with yourself when you’re car shopping.
Obviously, it’s ideal if you can pay cash but if you can’t, don’t take on a large monthly payment. And even more important don’t spread that payment out over 6-7 to years. Make a reasonable budget for your car, find the right financing and stick with your plan.
What are My Must Haves?
The next question I’ve been asking myself is what are my must-haves with my next vehicle?
Since I’ve been driving the same car for the past nine years I’ve got a good idea of what I do and don’t like.
Taking that into consideration I’ve made a list of things that I must have. 1)A car with all-wheel drive since I live rurally, down a long driveway that’s near impossible to drive in during the snowy wintery season. 2) A small to mid-sized SUV. I currently have an 07 Equinox and I love the size of it. It’s not too big, not too small and I’m much more comfortable in it than I am driving a car or a big truck. 3) Something reliable and that’s been well taken care of but that is slightly used.
Other than the must-haves I also have a list of things I prefer (like leather seats that I can clean rather than fabric that’s destroyed by children) but those things definitely aren’t make or break.
Before you go car shopping make a list of your must-haves and would-like-to-haves. It’s good to know what you’re looking for. You don’t want to buy a vehicle on impulse and then completely regret it.
How Will I Pay?
When I bought my car nine years ago I had very little credit. I visited car lots with salesman who tried pressuring me into using their financing at 20%! Luckily I was smart enough to say no.
When it comes to purchasing a vehicle you do not want a high interest rate on an already costly purchase.
Think about financing well before you go car shopping.
Can you save up some cash? Trade in your current vehicle? Use a local bank with a reasonable interest rate to finance? Figure it out.
How Long Am I Willing to Look?
The amount of time you’re willing to look can be a game changer. You’ll be able to save up for your purchase longer and will be able to give the time necessary to find the right deal.
If you have a long time to look you can start browsing Craigslist and local car lots to get a good idea of what you can get in your price range.
The More You Plan the Less Susceptible to Pressure You’ll Be
Car salesman can be pushy and buying a car is a pretty big deal. The more planning you do ahead of time the less likely you’re going to be in making a decision that you regret.
Start the planning process early and get all of the unknowns squared away.
What went into your planning process the last time you bought a vehicle?