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Getting your first car all on your own is easily one of the most exciting things in the world—albeit also terrifying. Something that gets you from point “A” to point “B” is a good place to start in your twenties, but you should have more criteria than just “a car that runs.”
Even if you aren’t in the position to be picky with your finances, you need to do research. Obviously, no one likes to do tons of research, but it will definitely be beneficial in the long run. These are some things you need to find out to pick the right (and reliable) car for the next 100,000-200,000 miles.
Above all, one of the most important things you need to research is whether the vehicle has a history of reliability. Of course, every make and model has its own reliability score, but you don’t want to pick up a car with a history of problems. For example, the Ford Fiesta has had a two-out-of-five reliability score since 2011, according to U.S News. The powertrain (your engine, transmission, and drivetrain) are likely to fail, which costs thousands to replace.
Never trust a single site when it comes to trusting the reliability of a vehicle. Check a variety of different websites to see what customers have experienced with the car you have in mind. A few trustworthy places are Edmund’s True Cost to Own, US News, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s SafeCar. All of these sites give you information on your potential vehicle so you can view the reliability before you spend thousands.
Everyone needs something different based on their driving habits. For example, if you’re the type to drive many miles a day, then you’ll want Bluetooth to connect to your phone and maybe a USB port to charge your phone.
Before purchasing the car, inventory what’s important to you in your vehicle. Good gas mileage? Lots of room? Ability to tow thousands of pounds? Buying a car that doesn’t fit your need could cause you to be unhappy in the long-run.
Everyone is on the search for a car that doesn’t guzzle gas. Usually, the smaller your vehicle is, the less fuel you need to keep it moving, so you’ll experience higher fuel economy. Compact cars have high gas mileage, which is great for anyone who needs the most from their tank. However, because it’s a smaller vehicle, the tank is usually fewer gallons when compared to a full-sized model, meaning you’ll need to fuel up much more often.
Hybrids and electric cars are also an option if you live near an area with a charging station. Electric vehicles are a good option for people who just need to get around town, but those who travel many miles per day, an electric car may be more bothersome. For example, the Ford Focus Electric can only go 76 miles on a full charge.
Safety may not be your top priority, but it should definitely be one of your major considerations. Safety ratings are relatively easy to check online, and the good news is that many vehicles tend to become safer the more recent the model year. This is because many manufacturers choose to include safety features basic with their cars such as rear view backup camera, lane assist, adaptive cruise control, collision warning system, and more.
We all want a car with the best features rolled into one cheap package, but the likelihood of us getting that car is low unfortunately. Make a list of all the features you absolutely have to have—bluetooth connections, hands-free calling, steering wheel controls, are just a few of the things you may want in your car. It may require settling, but be sure you’ll be happy with the car for the next five years minimum while you make payments.
Most 20-somethings don’t have $30,000 sitting around somewhere, and the idea of having that much sitting around could make your mouth water. Price is a huge factor in any car, and it’s easy to determine whether $25,000 is a lot to pay for a car, but when it comes to payments, you may not realize how much you’re paying, especially after interest is applied.
Calculate how many years you’ll spend paying off your car and determine whether it’s worth it for the quality. Will your car last the entire time? If it doesn’t have a high reliability, do you want to be stuck with the car after seven years? Another important, and often high, cost to consider is car insurance. Get an Instant Car Insurance quote from Allstate here and factor that into your budget because you can’t go cruising down the road without it.
Dealership vs. Private-Party
Dealerships come with benefits such as financing, but the vehicles are much more expensive on average when compared to a private party. Additionally, dealerships have regulations to keep you from buying a car that has a faulty transmission. Then again, a private-party may actually be more trustworthy when it comes to maintenance and the problems with the vehicle.
You never know who owned the car before you at a dealership, but when you buy from an individual, you’re talking to the previous owner. Choosing between the two can be tough, and it’s an answer I can’t give you, but weigh the pros and cons before making an ultimate decision.
Leasing vs. Buying
Leasing a car is an option if you can’t afford to buy one outright. Leasing a car is like leasing an apartment or anything else; you’ll own the car for a period of time and pay various fees, but at the end of your contract, you have to return the vehicle to the dealership. This leaves you without transportation unless you extend the contract, lease again, or purchase the car you’ve been driving.
New vs. Used
New or used is the ultimate question. A new vehicle doesn’t have a prior owner, meaning it’s less likely to break down due to lack of care. Then again, a new car can be very expensive because once you drive off the lot, the car has already lost 9% of its value. In the first year or 15,000 miles, it depreciates another 19%.
Buying used means the previous owner took the brunt of depreciation. Granted, you’ll still experience massive depreciation, but you would have paid less for the car. Then again, you don’t know if the previous owner got regular oil changes or drove the little compact down a rough dirt road at 30 mph.