Your budget is not the only thing to consider when deciding whether and how to buy a used car. Your needs, special requirements and tastes will all play a role. Trying to sort these out and make a good decision is not always easy, but answering the following questions may help. They all really have to do with setting priorities.
- What do you really need from a car?
- How are you going to drive it?
- Who is going to drive it?
- What features or options are necessary for you?
- How long do you plan to keep it?
Let’s get started.
What do you really need from a car? This can be the toughest question of all, as it forces you to eliminate the “likes” and the “wants” to focus on essentials. Consider things like seating – coupe or sedan? First or second car? Auto or manual? Small engine or large? Economy or performance? Trucking or towing?
How will you drive it? Commuting or occasional use? Family hauling or 1-2-passenger drives? Freeway or local roads? Suburban or urban? Cold weather performance (i.e., driving on ice and in snow)? Desert driving? Kids in the car?
Who will be driving? If you’re driving the car exclusively, the choice will be easier than if your spouse, say, will share the driving. Potential drivers need to be honest about what kind of driving they expect to do.
What features or options are necessary for you? Here you should consider everything from four-wheel drive to GPS and Bluetooth. What are the most important safety features you need to have? Don’t include accessories and communications options unless you absolutely need them.
How long will you keep the car? This gets you thinking not only about initial cost, but things like insurance cost; repair cost; possible changes in career, locale, or family size. Most people, according to one site, overestimate how long they will keep a car.
Another good idea: Make three lists—one of features you need, one of things you like in your present car (and things you could forego), and a third list of features you want (and those you can’t stand).
With your lists in hand, you’re now ready to check out some actual cars and deals that make sense for you. The CarGurus DealFinder is, of course, the place to start.
What do you think is the most important criterion or requirement in buying a used car?