The question, what car should I buy, is always a difficult one.  Buying a car is an exciting time – until you realize just how many options there are on the market today. As soon as you visit a lot or even just start browsing around on the web, you will find that there are an amazing number of different vehicles for sale in both new and used models. To add to the confusion, many of them have similar features and most of the major manufacturers today offer a high-quality product for a fair price. Making a buying decision can be much more difficult than you might have expected.

Before you write a big check or take out a large loan to purchase your next set of wheels, be sure to ask yourself these three questions so you can improve your chances of settling on just the right vehicle for you and your family.

1. What is my budget?

This is the obvious question that needs to be asked first and foremost. If you can’t afford a specific model of vehicle, it doesn’t matter how much you like it – you aren’t going to be able to own it. Assuming you are going to take out a car loan to finance the purchase, work with your bank to get a pre-approval letter for a specific amount of money. You don’t have to spend all of that approval amount, but it will give you a basic guideline as to how much money you are working with.
One important point related to car loans is to be sure you understand what a given loan amount will mean in terms of the monthly payment that you have to make. It doesn’t do much good to know that you are borrowing $20,000, for example – it only will help you budget to know how much that loan payment is going to be on a monthly basis. With that number in hand, you can then decide if there is room in your budget for the purchase. The best strategy is to set a limit on the monthly payment that you will accept and then shop for cars that fall under that threshold.

2. How many passengers do I need to carry?

If you are single and normally only take yourself or one additional passenger around town, you can shop for any vehicle that catches your eye without a concern for seating. However, if you have a growing family with car seats to think about, room in the back seats is going to be a top priority. Think about not only how many passengers you will be carrying now, but also in the future. You will hopefully own your next vehicle for several years if not longer, so try to plan ahead as best you can. If you only have one child now but are planning for more, a small SUV might not do the job – you may need to opt for a full-size model.

3. Where do I live?

So, what car should I buy?

The needs that you will have for your vehicle depend greatly on where it is that you live, and what the weather is like in your area. For example, if you live in a location with typically warm and dry weather, the need for four-wheel drive is probably rather limited. However, if you live in a wet or snowy place, four-wheel drive may be non-negotiable. Also, if you find yourself living in a place with heavy commute traffic that you have to deal with each morning and afternoon, great gas mileage should probably be near the top of your priority list. The perfect car for a person in one city could be the completely wrong choice for someone in another city, so think about your specific situation before closing the deal.
The right vehicle for you is out there somewhere, but it may take a little bit of looking in order to find it. Work your way through the three questions above to answer the question of ‘what car should I buy’. Eliminate some of the market options and leave yourself with a far more manageable list. Once the selection has been narrowed down, start taking some test drives until you settle on the perfect vehicle that meets all of your needs and stays under your budget.