We recently bought a new minivan and after two trips, I have to say that I’m loving the room and ability to take our entire family on a trip. When we first started talking about buying a minivan, I asked around in a few groups for recommendations. I was actually surprised to find quite a few anti-minivan moms responding to my posts. It definitely made me think about the different qualities people look for when considering a new vehicle for their family. As a result, I’m highlighting a few of the things you should consider when buying a car. After all, it is a major purchase and in my opinion, those shouldn’t be done on a whim.
The last time I bought a car was in 2008 and it was a much different buying experience. In 2008, I knew exactly what kind of car I wanted, which made the process much easier. At the time, my parents owned a 2006 Chevy Cobalt and I had fallen in love with it. So, I set out to find a newer version of their car. It took a while to find one in a color that I liked, but that was really my biggest obstacle – finding a car in the color that I liked. It took the car salesman a few hours of calling around, but he eventually found me a red Cobalt that I eventually nicknamed Rudolph.
In September of this year, we made the decision to trade Rudolph in for a minivan. Why did we choose the unpopular minivan for our vehicle of choice? Two dogs and a baby are our primary reasons for this decision. As our family continues to grow, we’ve realized that we need more space than a car can offer, especially as a military family that travels to see family from time to time. Fourteen hour trips with us all crammed into a car wouldn’t be any fun. So, we decided to trade in my first car for a new minivan. And, that’s where I realized that there are a few key things you should consider when buying a new car.
Need vs Want
Sometimes you make a car purchase because it’s a need. Maybe your old car is on it’s last legs or your family has grown like ours. There are many circumstances that can create a need for a new car. Other times, you purchase a car because it’s a want – you’ve grown tired of your current vehicle and want to change to something different. It’s important to recognize whether or not your car buying experience is a need or a want as this will affect many aspects of your car buying experience.
Do you have a timeline connected to your purchase? For us, the timeline was an upcoming trip to Arkansas that would have been incredibly hard to make in one of our cars. This gave us about a month to shop around and make our decision. Your timeline can be longer or shorter depending on your circumstances. If you’re working on a short timeline, then you’ll have less time to shop around and will want to move quickly. Cars.com can help you with this. Cars.com is essentially an online search engine dedicated to helping you find the exact car you’re looking for at a dealer near you.
When you’re shopping for a new vehicle, it’s important to understand your own personal preference. As I discovered in some of my mom groups, minivans aren’t a popular choice for some people. However, it was the first choice for us when we started talking about a vehicle that would meet our needs. Neither one of us had an objection to driving a minivan. In fact, I drove a minivan for a large part of my college experience and loved it. (Ask me sometime about the bachelorette party where we traveled in style…) If you’re having trouble figuring out your own personal preference, I recommend using the “research car models” section of cars.com, where they give you a chance to check out different models by type of vehicle. I recommend thinking about how you’ll be using the vehicle you buy. This will play into your personal preference. You don’t want to buy a tiny car to haul around heaps of mulch. A truck is much better suited for that need.
Money is always a concern in any big purchase. This is especially true when purchasing a car. First, you have to decide how you’ll be paying for your vehicle. When I bought Rudolph, it was a one time purchase. I had saved all through college in order to buy a vehicle when I graduated. With the minivan, we decided to do payments because it fits best with our current financial situation. It was a big topic that we discussed in advance before starting our search. In addition to figuring out how to pay for your car, I also recommend figuring out if you have a down payment or not. Down payments can help lower your monthly payments. We traded in my Cobalt and used it for our down payment on the minivan. Once you have your budget figured out, I recommend doing some online window shopping before you head out to car lots. I wish I had found cars.com in September. It would have made our online window shopping SO much easier!
New or Used
Now that you’ve examined your budget, it’s time to decide if you’ll be buying a new or used vehicle. This is a deciding factor in how you go about your search. Used vehicles can be found in a variety of locations (craigslist, yard sale pages, dealerships, car lots, etc), while new cars are typically found at dealerships. We were interested in a new minivan so that it would have a lengthy warranty and last us a while. We could have gone the used route, but we were focused on reliability since the minivan would be a family vehicle making many long distance trips. Depending on your budget, you might find that a used vehicle fits your needs better than a new vehicle.
These are just a few of the things that went into the decision making process when we were looking for our minivan. We took our time and looked around. It’s important to be mindful and intentional when making a big purchase. If you’re currently looking for your next vehicle, I want to wish you luck! It’s definitely not a fun experience, but the end result is typically worth it!
And don’t forget to check out cars.com. They may have sponsored this post, but I truly am impressed with their site and wish I’d known about it in September! As it is, I’m saving it for the future (the very distant future since we currently have no plans of purchasing another vehicle).
What was your first car? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!