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Choosing the Right Vehicle

Buying a new vehicle is usually both exciting and stressful; it is, likely the second most expensive ticket item you’ll buy, after a home, so you want to get it right. Before you even start looking at cars is the time to work through a decision-making process. And don’t wait to buy a car until you need one desperately: buying a car takes time, energy, and the ability to say, “No thanks,” to the salesman and drive away. In order to do that, make sure that you have a car that can still ‘drive away.’  

Unless money is no object, budgets are major considerations. Begin by setting a budget that you can realistically afford and live with. Even a new car quickly loses its appeal if you worry about the monthly credit line. Take this into account when looking at dealer incentives. For example, a car offered with 1% financing might be more affordable than a cheaper car at 5% interest.  

Buying cars also requires a fine balance between wants and needs. Everyone has their own personal taste which determines the type, look, make and model of the vehicle they want, but circumstances will sometimes trump wants.  You need to determine your current needs and focus on what is truly best for your current situation. You might have a dream car in mind, and your budget might even make buying it a possibility, but with three children to chauffeur daily, that Z450 sports model just won’t do it for you! On the other hand, that luxury land cruiser might be a status symbol, but for one or two people to drive to the local grocery store, it’s overkill. 


To determine your needs, consider the following:

  • Size: full-size, compact sub-compact? 

  • Body type: 2 door vs. 4 door; sedan vs. coupe; suv/crossover vs. minivan? 

  • Working vehicle: consider a pick-up truck, many of which are as comfortable as a sedan.

  • Gas: mileage depends on the type of driving you do, city vs. highway. Premium gas adds to the cost of your weekly fill-up.

  • Insurance Costs: all vehicles are not equal; get a quotation from your insurance company 

  • Resale value: not relevant if you plan on keeping the car for a long time, but if you plan to sell in five years or less, it can be a factor.

  • Reliability: new cars should be problem free for several years, but if you plan on keeping your car, then a proven track record becomes an important consideration.

  • Propulsion: This is a new category: traditional gas engine vs. diesel, vs. hybrid, vs. plug-in. Most drivers continue to buy gasoline engines, but the alternatives are an increasing marking segment. This is a topic to explore all by itself. 

Eventually, you’ll narrow the choice to a specific type of vehicle. For example, you no longer need a large sedan or SUV, but you still want 4 doors and four wheel drive. You might look at a number of compact models or small crossover hatchbacks, and you no longer have to give up any creature comforts if you downsize. 

But which make of compact or crossover? This is where education comes in. Invest in the annual edition of Consumer Reports New Car Guide, read several car magazines and definitely consult Canada’s, Automobile Protection Association and its publications. When you test drive your final choices, you’ll know exactly what you’re looking for. 

A final word: try to have two choices, either one of which will make you happy. If you can’t make a fair deal with one dealer, you can easily walk away – make that drive away, because your old car is still working, remember? Go down the street to the other dealer. In this way, you’re always in the driver’s seat, so to speak. 

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