How to Choose Your Next Car
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How to Choose Your Next Car

In a perfect world, we’d all be able to drive the fastest sports cars, nicest luxury cars, and the biggest trucks. In the real world, we have to temper our desires by making sure we get a vehicle we can afford to drive. After all, a car is the largest purchase most people make next to a house. Here are some things you should consider before you buy your next vehicle.

New or Used?

A car becomes “used” the moment it’s purchased, losing an average of 11% of its value. From then on, it will lose an additional 15%-25% of its value per year over the next 5 years. However, banks are much more likely to approve a loan on a new vehicle which can mean lower interest rates. For vehicles with low depreciation like trucks and SUVs, a new vehicle may end up costing about the same as a used one when interest is factored into the price. On the other hand, since luxury cars are all about prestige, they lose value far faster than other vehicles, making them a dicey investment.

How Much Car Do You Need?

Simply put, the bigger and fancier a vehicle is, the more it will cost to maintain. The lower depreciation on trucks and SUVs is offset by higher costs for fuel and repairs. Luxury cars can require staggeringly expensive parts and lots of labor for even basic maintenance, but some automakers offer free service for the first few years of ownership.

When you start making a list of possible vehicles, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you going to use the payload capacity of a truck frequently, or would it make more sense to just rent one once or twice a year?
  • Do you need to haul a lot of people around in a three-row vehicle, or would a regular sedan work just as well?
  • Does opting for a higher trim level add features you’ll actually use?

Overall, small cars by reputable brands usually have the lowest total cost of ownership: they cost little to fuel, little to repair and remain desirable to people who want something simple for their commute.

How Much Does It Cost to Insure?

When you have your list of possible cars narrowed down, get some estimates from your insurer to get an idea of how much these cars will cost to cover. The differences, even for vehicles in the same class and price category, can be significant.

What makes a car expensive to insure? Popularity with thieves? Size? While these can both increase costs, they pale in comparison to performance editions. Drivers of special high-performance vehicles have a higher accident rate, and the parts used on these cars can be absurdly expensive because of low production numbers. That means the insurance company is more likely to pay a claim, and they’ll have to shell out a lot more money for that claim.

If the word “track” is part of the name or it was built with the cooperation of a performance division like AMG or Nismo, expect the insurance cost to be well above that of a standard model.

How Much Does It Cost to Maintain?

Do some pricing ahead of time to see what it will take to keep the vehicle on its maintenance schedule. If the car is used, see if there’s an enthusiast forum for it and look for common problems that owners experience. There are a few particular issues that can make maintenance particularly costly:

  • A timing chain should last the life of the engine, but a timing belt will need to be replaced periodically. The cost of this repair can vary widely from vehicle to vehicle and can range from a few hundred dollars to over a thousand.
  • Some all-wheel drive systems need to have all four tires be almost exactly the same diameter for the vehicle speed sensors to work correctly. That means you’ll have to buy four new tires if just one tire gets a flat.
  • Runflat tires can be driven on when they have a treat puncture, but a sidewall leak will leave you with no option except having the car towed to a shop for a replacement.
  • Modern engines need large amounts of synthetic oil resulting in pricey oil changes, but this is offset by much longer oil change intervals. Some cars can go as long as 15,000 miles before they need to be serviced.

Keeping Your Investment

An accident can lower the value of your car, but a good repair job can help get some of that value back. Merton Auto Body is I-CAR Gold Class certified, so our technicians are trained to fix even the newest vehicles. Looking to sell your old car to finance your new one? Bring it in for a professional detail: the better your car looks, the more desirable it will be to buyers.


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