Choosing a Car: Finding the Right Ride for You

As you drive down life’s highway, choosing the right car can make all the difference. But leaving the lot with the perfect ride takes more than a simple test drive.

Whether you’re looking for luxury, safety, speed, or style, knowing your needs before you start shopping will help you find a car you will love for the long haul. Here are some tips to help you start your search.

Consider Your Commute When Choosing a Car

Reflect on your driving habits and what you need your car to do for you. For instance, if you have a long daily commute or take frequent road trips, you may want to prioritize comfort and fuel economy. If you live in an area that gets heavy snowfall in the winter, consider four-wheel drive options that handle better in bad weather.

Most importantly, remember that functionality should outweigh appearance. While color and design can be a car’s most exciting features, you may end up back on the lot sooner than expected if you purchase a vehicle that doesn’t meet your daily needs.

Plan for the Future With Your Car Purchase

The car that seems right for you today may not serve you well in the future. Think about how long you want your car to last before you start shopping. Then consider how your life will change during that timeframe. Are you planning to start a family? Do you expect to move or change jobs? While you can’t predict all of life’s surprises, reviewing your short-term goals will help you select a car that can get where you want to go.

Set Your Car Budget

Determine how much you can afford before you step into the showroom. A good rule is to spend no more than 10 to 15 percent of your gross monthly income on auto expenses, including monthly payment, insurance, gas, repairs, and maintenance. Use the Regions Calculate a Vehicle Payment calculator to better understand how much you can afford on an ongoing basis.

Then look to your savings account to determine the down payment you can afford. Try not to tap into your emergency savings fund if you can avoid it. Most car dealerships will offer a minimum down payment amount, but paying more will decrease your monthly payments and finance charges, ultimately reducing the car’s total cost.

When you’re buying a car, also compare long-term ownership costs. One vehicle might be cheaper to buy upfront, but could depreciate quickly or incur higher insurance and maintenance costs. Insurance fees can fluctuate depending on a car’s safety features and record, so ask your insurance agent for quotes on each model you’re considering before you decide which car to buy.

To learn more, and build the car of your dreams — and budget — visit Regions Auto Center.