If you’ve ever watched Top Gear – or rather, The Grand Tour – you’ve probably seen “The Cool Wall,” in which they rate new cars from “Uncool” to “Sub Zero.” Of course we all probably can’t afford a car in the Sub Zero range (though YOU could be the Stig) we need to approach our car buying in the opposite way to how a Top Gear presenter evaluates cars – what do we really need in a car, instead of what do we want? (Also, we won’t go off and blow our car up, or smash it into bits, either.)
Get out your red pen (or strikethrough)
The first step to choosing a right car is establishing a budget. Living beyond your means might be fashionable, but isn’t the best idea. Once you have a budget, you can then figure out what you’ll be using the car for. Is it for quick commutes? Off-roading? Is Baby (or baby’s brother or sister) on the way? This should all narrow down what type of car (SUV, wagon, hatchback, sedan) you will be asking for when it comes time to shop around.
What your car must have
Every new car has a suite of features – but more features mean more cost. Bigger families need more room. More storage compartments and a 5 Star ANCAP safety rating is a must for growing families. Fuel economy is a “must have” especially amid rising fuel prices. Other “must haves” include safety features such as electronic stability control or ABS. Some of your must haves are up to personal preference: cloth is cheaper, but harder to clean, for example.
What you’d like to have, if the budget allows
For some people, a rear-reversing camera or park assist is necessary. For others, it’s nice, but not necessary. Weigh the “absolutely could not live without” against your budget. Yes, a sunroof is cool. But do you need it? Will you ever use it? Do you really need an infotainment system, considering a smartphone is a handy substitute? By looking for cars that don’t have so many bells and whistles, you might save yourself quite a bit of money.
When you have one or two options, go for a test drive
The obvious way to choose your desired car is to go for a test drive. How does it feel on the road? Do you feel comfortable? Can it fit the kids (you could even bring the kids – though I doubt the dealer will like that.) Will it fit into your driveway? More importantly, can you see yourself driving this car every day? If the answer is a loud and clear yes, you know you’ve got your match!