How To Shop For A New Car

You’re spoilt for choice – and it’s not an easy one

Say you’re in the market to buy a new car and you have no more than $50,000 to spend. For that type of money, you can buy an Acura TLX – the largest Acura sedan available in the USA – or the MDX crossover SUV from the same automaker. Two entirely different body styles for the same money. And that’s not all. Sticking with our budget, a BMW 2 Series Convertible would fit the bill as well, as would a GMC Sierra truck, a Chrysler Pacifica minivan, or a Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe. The choices are astounding.

If you’re trading up from a Camry or Accord, an Acura sedan might sound like a logical step up but does it still makes sense to buy a sedan in an SUV-crazy world? And while it is very tempting to splurge on a convertible, could you live with a $50,000 purchase that’s good for nothing but good roads and two people? The head must rule the heart when you’re spending that much and if you don’t have money to throw around, you can do with a checklist on how to be sensible about your next new-car purchase.

red Honda Civic sedan

Car-Buying Checklist

There are many things to consider but they can be summarized as follows:

  • What you need and what you want: These aren’t the same thing. You might want that convertible but it won’t meet your needs. Other wants might be reconcilable with what you need, such as an EV or a vehicle capable of going off-road. Start with what you want and then shorten your list by weeding out the vehicles that don’t suit your needs.
  • Research: Research your shortlist of cars online. There are many comparison websites where you can compare cars’ features, crash ratings, fuel economy, performance, and prices. Educated yourself beforehand, so you’re not at the mercy of the salesperson.
  • Where and how it will be used: Where the vehicle will be parked, how large your garage is, and whether you have to traverse confined spaces all play a role in choosing the right size of vehicle. If you have to traverse bad roads or snow in winter, AWD might be necessary. If you live in the city center, something small with an automatic transmission might be in order. Consider your weekend activities too.
  • Capacity: How many seats must it have and how many people do you have to transport regularly? How much cargo space do you need? Must there be enough space for child seats on the back seat? This would also require a LATCH system to secure these child seats. Are you going to tow with it?
  • What you’re willing to pay: The car’s MSRP is important but focus on the total cost of the car and don’t fixate only on the monthly payment, which is what the salesperson wants you to do. It can tie you up in a very long repayment period with unfavorable terms. Consider whether you’re paying cash, taking out a loan, or leasing. Consider low-interest loan offers or cash-back deals to save money.
  • Acceptable compromises: The perfect car does not exist. You’re going to have to compromise somewhere and you should decide what you’re willing to compromise on. For example, you might not get the new car you want unless you buy it used.

How To Shop For A New Car

Things You Can Do Without

Not all features salespeople try to sell to you are worth the money:

  • xpensive rear-seat entertainment systems can be replaced with iPads
  • Keyless push-button start confers very few real advantages
  • A sunroof can rob headroom and interfere with roof-mounted loads
  • Ambient lighting is nice to have but certainly not necessary
  • Built-in navigation is unnecessary if you have phone mirroring
  • Heated and cooled seats and heated steering wheels are often unnecessary
  • Big wheels often just hurt ride quality and cost lots of money
  • Special-appearance packages are rarely not worth their cost


If you’re in the fortunate position to buy a sports car or convertible just because you want one, go right ahead and indulge yourself. For most of us, sensibility has to prevail and for that, our useful checklist will prove useful to find what best suits your needs. Think over each point carefully and you’ll make the right choice for you and your family. Arrive at the dealership armed with information and don’t be bullied into going over budget, settling for unfavorable loan terms, or buying unnecessary extras. You don’t want to suffer buyer’s remorse the moment you drive your car off the showroom floor.

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