Financial Advice

Buy & Own a Car

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Know Your Driving Habits

When you’re in the market to buy a new car or even a used car, the options can seem overwhelming. Coupe or sedan? SUV or truck? Hybrid or gas? Before you succumb to paralysis by analysis, take the time to think about your personal driving habits and needs. Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you ever step foot into a dealership.

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How Will You Use Your Car?
Someone who uses a car to run errands a few times a week will need something very different from someone who hauls heavy equipment around for a living. While knowing the main purpose of your new car before buying seems like a no-brainer, it’s easy to be distracted by the newest, shiniest vehicles out there.

Consider all the reasons you’ll be using your new car and then focus on the most important ones. You probably don’t need an SUV just because you might take a road trip every couple of years, and you definitely don’t need a small sports car if you’re starting a family soon.

How Important Is Safety?
Cars are safer today than ever before. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a higher proportion of occupants in older vehicles are killed in crashes than those traveling in newer models.1 In fact, according to Forbes and the NHTSA, the fatality rate of cars manufactured in 1984 and earlier is more than double that of those built between 2013 and 2017.2

That said, some cars are safer than others. If you have children or are buying a car for your teenager, vehicle safety is a high priority for you. Be sure to research safety ratings, and look into the safety features of each car you’re considering. Bonus: A safer car often equals lower insurance rates.

What About Fuel Efficiency?
If you’re looking at a two-hour commute to and from work every day, you’re going to want a fuel-efficient car. It doesn’t make sense to put a lot of miles on a gas guzzler, no matter how pretty it is. Hybrids and electric vehicles can offer the greatest fuel efficiency, so it may be worth it to look into those options.

On the other hand, if you’re on a tight budget and you don’t put a lot of miles on your car, fuel efficiency may not be a huge factor in your decision. An older, less fuel-efficient car can be cheaper and your insurance costs may be lower, which could save you money in the long run.

How Much Space Do You Need?
When you consider your space requirements, think about more than the physical amount of space you will occupy. How often will you have passengers? Will they fit comfortably into the back seat? Do you need to worry about bulky car seats? Will you be transporting camping gear or other large items regularly?

Think It Through
Be sure to think your decision through either way. That small, fuel-efficient car might look great on paper, but if you feel cramped every time you drive it, it’s probably not worth the physical discomfort. And the idea of being able to drive home your big purchases from the local hardware store in the back of your pickup may be appealing, but you might have a change of heart when your friends start calling you every time they need something moved.


NHTSA.gov: Newer Vehicles are Safer

Forbes.com: NHTSA Confirms Newer Cars Much Safer Than Older Ones