It's an important moment in your life. You're about to make a new car purchase. The supply chain is no longer choked like a losing MMA fighter. You've got your finances in order, and you finally saved up enough money for that all-important 20 percent down payment. You've got the loan pre-approval in-hand. You even have your vehicles of choice narrowed down to five, and each one of them is available on dealer lots. But how should you choose? What criteria should you base your final choice on? Let's assume you already love the looks of your final choices, but you don't know how to whittle things down from there. We point you to the most important things to look for when buying a new car. Here are the 7 most important things to look for.
A new car is no good to you if it has too many issues and has to go back to the dealership for repairs, even if it's under warranty. Reliability or dependability is one of the most important things to look for in a new car. It speaks to how many issues a model has in areas such as the powertrain (engine, transmission, driveshaft, axles, differential), brakes, suspension, climate system, in-car technology, body, and paint. A highly dependable vehicle has fewer problems and spends less time in a repair shop. A more reliable car will also last longer because there are fewer things that break and less frequently. Research the model via J.D. Power's Dependability Study or Consumer Reports Reliability Ratings. They provide key information on vehicle reliability every year via extensive research. This should help you narrow down your decision.
Not every vehicle is safe, and some buyers never bother to take a look at this aspect because they're so caught up in the newness of a vehicle and how it will make them look and feel. It would be a huge mistake to overlook this very important aspect for you and your family.
The two best places to do research are the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Every year, they crash test the most popular vehicles for sale in American and put them through the rigors. They adapt based on safety technology and generally make the criteria more stringent. You can count on them for the latest ratings and decide whether or not your vehicles of choice comply.
These days, most cars have adequate power, and most of them are actually front-wheel drive. But you have to take into account the kind of driving you're doing, where you live, and what conditions you drive in. You might think a 500+ horsepower muscle car is exactly what you want until you have to drive it in the wet on a curvy off-ramp. Think again.
An underpowered car with front-wheel drive could present problems for you if you do a lot of highway driving and also venture out regularly in the snow and rain. More power and all-wheel drive would be safer overall. It would improve traction, passing capability, and handling characteristics. That said, a high-powered rear-wheel drive sports car could also present problems if you live in snowy areas. You have to consider these aspects when selecting the vehicle you want.
In-car technology is a reality, and pretty much every new vehicle for sale today has an infotainment system. Some are better than others. While we like fancy-looking systems as much as the next guy, sometimes more tech is less beneficial. It seems many carmakers are looking to put the most complex and largest infotainment systems in their vehicles.
Don't look for huge screens and flashy graphics because these are actually less safe and more distracting than more basic systems that still have physical buttons and knobs, especially for audio and climate, the two most accessed in-car controls. Also, look for good touchscreen responsiveness so there's less lag, and hence, less delay. Easy menus and less complexity also mean you'll be more focused on the road ahead and less on what's inside.
This should matter to everyone, but everyone has a different body. You have to take the time to sit in every seat in the vehicle to make sure the comfort level is good. If you can test drive a vehicle for an extended length of time (days or hours versus minutes), then it should give you a good idea of the comfort level for you.
Check out the seating position, cushioning in the seat, lateral support, seat width, legroom, headroom, and hip room, as well as interior ergonomics, materials, sound deadening, and materials quality. Even the location of in-car storage matters when you're trying to reach for stuff when you're driving. Finally, test the climate system in the car. If there's not enough airflow where you want it, or the heated seats are slow to fire up, then it should be a no-no. Especially if you're going to spend a lot of time in the car, comfort is paramount.
Everybody has different preferences when it comes to the driving experience. Some like it to drive like a race car: blistering acceleration, taut handling, precise steering, and a firm ride. Others want it ultra-cushy with near-total isolation, premium shock absorption levels, forgiving handling, and light steering. How the car manages turns also matters.
You might like the looks of that sporty sedan, but the ride is just too harsh and the steering too jerky for your liking. Or the luxury car you want might be too spongy in the ride and too floaty in the turns. Since you'll likely drive your vehicle on a daily basis, test drive the car in various road conditions. Highways, local roads, turns, uneven pavement. This will let you know what works best for you, and you can choose accordingly.
Some buyers never even think about this aspect because it's just not very sexy. That's too bad because resale value should play a strong role in what you buy, especially if you're prone to changing vehicles often. The bad news comes when you try to sell your vehicle two years later and it's worth far less than you expected.
Some brands do very well overall, while others are in the crapper the day you drive off the lot. Much of it can be tied to the model's reliability, but it's also desirability that plays a role. We've seen cases where a fancy car like a BMW 7-Series value plummets like a hot rock, while a cheap Toyota Corolla holds its value like gold bullion. Do your research on the best resale values, and try to select from those options.