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Your Guide to Choosing a New Car

With so many options, sizes, and prices, making a vehicle purchase decision can seem overwhelming. We’ve put together a list of the most important things to consider when purchasing a new car.

The right type

Start by evaluating your goals, needs, and lifestyle to help determine the vehicle that is right for you. Ask yourself:

  • How long do I want to have this car?
  • What will be this vehicle’s primary function (weekend errands/fun, daily commute, long trips, work appointments, helping friends move, backup car, other)?
  • What is the approximate monthly distance I will drive this vehicle? What kind of gas mileage do I want from this vehicle?
  • Who will ride in this car? Kids? Friends? Just me? How many people will usually ride in this vehicle?
  • What kinds of items do my passengers typically bring with them? Medical equipment? Wheelchairs? Car seats? Work equipment? How much space do I need for these items?
  • What is the climate like where I live, in each season of the year? How important is A/C and/or heating to me?

If you’re riding solo, oftentimes a sedan is the most economical choice. But if you have a family or seek to travel off-road, a small or mid-sized sport utility vehicle (SUV) may be what you need. If you plan on doing considerable off-road driving, consider all-wheel or four-wheel drive.

Make a list of criteria you need in your new vehicle. Then list the vehicles that meet that criteria. Compare their features, value, and price. Test drive all the vehicles on your list and take notes on the items in the next section: “Prepare for the test drive.”

Prepare for the test drive
Plan for at least 30 minutes to test drive the vehicle around town, open roads, and especially the highway. Test all the wipers, seatbelts, lights, gears, and cargo space. The Consumer Reports article, “How to Test-Drive a New Car Like an Old Pro,” offers specifics to pay attention to in the categories of ride comfort, acceleration, braking, steering and handling, quietness, and visibility. The article also includes advice you can use after the test drive, including the following questions to help you choose where to buy your next vehicle:

  • Was the salesperson responsive to my questions?
  • Was I treated with respect?
  • Did I get all of the information I needed?
  • Did I get honest answers?
  • Was it easy to arrange a test-drive?
  • Did the dealership avoid any high-pressure tactics during my first encounter?
  • Was I invited back for more test drives?

Know the vehicle’s true value

As you know, dealers are known to mark up vehicles. Before you begin negotiations, it’s smart to know the market value of the vehicle you’re planning to purchase. A few popular websites can help you with that:

If you plan to trade in a vehicle you already own, these tools can also help you evaluate the trade-in value.

Think ahead to after-sales service
If your vehicle is new, look into dealer warranties, and familiarize yourself with the process of using them. Make sure to take advantage of all covered maintenance and service, such as first oil change is free, or similar services. Used car dealerships often offer extended warranty plans that can give peace of mind in the event of a mechanical defect. Keep all your purchase paperwork readily available in case you need to use it.

You may also consider gap insurance. While you’re in the purchase process, it might feel strange to think about what to do if your car gets totaled. But this is the time to consider what kind of coverage you would have in the unfortunate case you are in an accident. Of course, you will need to notify your insurance company after you purchase the vehicle. But while you’re at the dealership, you can also look into gap insurance. Gap insurance is an additional coverage you can purchase that protects you against losses if your car is totaled and the compensation you receive is less than what you owe on an auto loan. You can read about gap insurance at

Consider other costs
Taxes, spare keys/key fobs, insurance premiums, gas consumption, regular maintenance—what else would you add to the list? These items are part of the investment and buyers should consider these when making a final decision. Counting these “add-ons” as part of your total purchase will help you avoid surprise costs.

Vantage West can help

We offer complimentary Financial Reviews to our Members. This meeting gives you an opportunity to share your financial goals with a Financial Representative. We help you make sure you’re on target to achieve your goals. Especially during life changes like expecting a child, changing jobs/incomes, getting married, or purchasing a car, we recommend scheduling a Financial Review. It’s free and there’s no obligation to open any new accounts with Vantage West.

We also recommend checking out our auto loan options at Our loans are available at competitive rates, for new and used automobiles, motorcycles, and recreational vehicles.

We wish you the best in your vehicle search, and we’re here to help you!

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