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Finding Your Next Car



You won't get far in this world without a car — at least, not in the United States, where cars are king! The overwhelming majority of Americans own cars, which they use for everything from commuting to work to traveling on vacation. Cars may be expensive, but — for most of us, anyway — they're an essential expense.

With that said, not all car purchases are created equal. Some are huge wastes of money, and others smart investments in great vehicles. You should strive to get the best deal possible on a car that fits your needs perfectly — and we're here to show you how to do it.

Considering your needs

Car companies want you to fall in love with a specific make or model. The branding, the commercials — they're all out there to get you fixated on one solution. But don't be fooled: The path to your perfect ride starts with your needs, not with a logo or brand name.

So think about what you'll use your car for. Do you need a sedan for commuting to work, or a pickup truck for tough jobs? How many people will you want to fit into your car? What matters most to you in terms of features and perks? How safe do you need this vehicle to be?

Rank your interest in features like touchscreen navigation, seat warmers, and everything else that car companies stick in their vehicles these days. Knowing which things are non-negotiable and which features are more important than others will help make tough decisions easier.


Determining your budget
Knowing what you want will give you an idea of the ideal vehicle for your purposes. But that vehicle might not be the ideal one for you overall, because it could potentially be disastrous for your finances. The best vehicle for you will give you as many of your desired features as possible (and all of the essential ones) for a price that suits your budget.

Be careful! Too many Americans try to stretch their budgets too far when car shopping. Many Americans are behind on their car loan payments, and that's not good. Avoid this fate by making sure that your total car-related expenses (including gas, insurance, and other things besides the loan payments) come in at a sensible portion of your income — 10 percent is a good rule of thumb.


Should you buy a used car or a new one?
If you're concerned that your budget is too limiting, you may want to consider getting a used vehicle. New cars depreciate dramatically at the moment that they are driven off the lot, which

makes a relatively new used car a pretty good deal — as long as you have the dealer certifications or vehicle history reports that it takes to know that the car in question has been well cared for.

Of course, there are advantages to buying new cars, too. As a car's first owner, you can ensure that it gets the care it needs to give you maximum utility and better-preserved resale value.
Narrowing down makes and models
Now you have your list of needs and wants, a budget, and a general idea of whether you're shopping for a new or used car (or if you're considering both). The next step is to start narrowing down your options! Your budget and essential needs will cut out huge swaths of the selection right away, and you can use your priorities list to rank the remainder. Keep narrowing the field methodically, using the information you've already established, and you'll soon find your vehicle soul mate.

Shopping for the best price
So where can you get the best price on the right car? The answer may or may not be a dealership — it all depends. The dealership model hasn't been all that popular with consumers lately, and there are powerful online search engines now that will allow you to check out a broader selection than you'll find on anyone dealer's lot. But there are also dealerships that you can find through these online methods, giving you the best of both worlds; for instance, you can find local dealers like used car dealers in Easton PA on carshopper.com.

Be sure to comparison-shop and, in the case of used cars, check prices against Kelley Blue Book values and other resources. Take your time, then pounce on the right deal!

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