How to choose the best car that fits under your budget?

best car

Buying a car is a celebrated moment in everyone’s life and buying one is a major decision that one has to make keeping in mind multiple factors – the car itself, maintenance, insurance, and fuel costs. According to a leading statistical firm, there were more than 200 types of cars to choose from between 2004 and 2016! 

Now, that’s a lot of choices for someone out in the market looking to buy one! Confused? Don’t be. We’ve shortened the whole car-buying process into 6 simple steps that’ll give an insight on how to go through the process.

Which car fits your lifestyle? 

To start off with, the basic question one has to answer is to assess the need. To answer this, the most important step is to assess the individual needs of a person, and also what the person expects from his/her car. For the people who need to commute from point A to point B, there are cars like the 2021 Hyundai Elantra and the 2021 Honda Civic that fit the bill perfectly. 

Equipped with all the latest tech one expects from a car of the modern age, these cars are the best bet in today’s market. For someone looking for a more engaging driving experience, cars like the 2021 Kia Stinger GT offer the performance and handling characteristics one is looking for. The list is long but some pointers can surely help you out here:

  • How many people will you carry?
  • What is the type of driving you do daily?
  • Will the car be used for long drives?
  • What features are you looking for?
  • What safety features do you want?
  • How much cargo capacity do you need?
  • How much space is there in your garage?

How much $ do you need to buy one? 

The budget plays a major role in what car will be parked in your garage, whether you’re financing the car, leasing it, or going for an all-out cash purchase. In the case of an all-out cash purchase, the calculations are simple but if we go on to the financing side of things, you’ll have to see how much you can afford to pay towards the car monthly. 

A rule of thumb is the amount shouldn’t exceed 15% of the earnings. If you’re considering leasing the car, reduce the % to 10%. This is just the cost of acquiring the car. Insurance and fuel costs factor in an additional 7% of the take-home earnings. These are just general % and will differ in individual scenarios.

Lease? Buy?

The dilemma arises because – leasing will get you a more expensive car while costing low upfront but after the lease ends, you’ll be left with no car. Buying will get you the car for a longer time but budget constraints might limit the choice of car. Some factors to keep in mind while:

Leasing:

  • Can drive more expensive or/and latest car at a lower price every few years
  • Most repairs covered under factory warranty
  • Minimal hassles while trade-in

Buying:

  • Not bound by a contract
  • Can sell anytime
  • Can modify as per taste
  • No mileage penalties
  • Lower expenses in the long-term

What are the other alternatives in my budget?

There are numerous cars that’ll be of varying body shapes, features, brands, reliability records, safety, comfort, etc in your budget. Always consider the other cars as well. It might be that a crossover suits you better than the sedan you were looking at for so long. Who knows? If your mind is set on one car, looking at what the rivals are offering will help in ensuring that you’ve not overlooked a better car. Choose wisely!

What are the costs of ownership like?

Some cars can cost similar to the buyer but the ownership costs can differ by a lot, or a car might depreciate faster than the other, or the insurance and maintenance costs on one car are higher than the other. 

Remember, a car is a big-ticket purchase for a person and before committing to a specific car, always factor in how the ownership costs will weigh in. There are tools like Edmunds True Cost to Own (TCO) calculator which will provide an estimated price of ownership for a 5-year timeframe and will factor in costs like insurance, depreciation, fuel, repairs, maintenance, etc.

Does the local dealer have it in inventory?

Don’t be shy of visiting the local dealer and see the inventory it has. There might be cars that have all the features that you’re looking for and there might be cars that can add your favorite features as options. 

Do thorough research of what all cars fit in your budget and visit the dealership to check how the people there help in easing out the process. Chances are you’ll get a good offer or a discount on a car that matches your preference and the dealer is eager to get the car off its inventory due to, say an older model year.

Test drive!

Once you’re done with the above steps the most important thing is to take a hearty test drive of the car, which the local dealerships are very eager to provide. Who doesn’t want a happy customer? Take test drives of the cars that you’ve shortlisted and take the test drives within a short timeframe. This will make comparing the cars easier. Some points to look for in a test drive are:

  • Performance in stop-go traffic
  • Stability at highway speeds
  • Handling
  • Braking
  • Interior comfort
  • Tech on offer
  • Suspension
  • Road noise
  • Rear-seat comfort
  • Cargo space
  • Ease of installing a child seat (if you plan to do so)

One thing to keep in mind during a test drive is to stay focused and not take as much time as is required for you to be satisfied with the car. The salesperson will try to talk numbers and statistics the whole time but you, the buyer, need to stay focused on the drive and judge the test-drive car objectively based on its merits.

Always remember that buying a car is a tedious process and there are a lot of heart v/s mind decisions that you’ll have to make as a buyer. Follow the above steps and if you’re still unable to decide, don’t fret. Take more time because the time that you’ve taken isn’t as bad as a buyer’s remorse later!