Ready for a New Car? These Tips Will Help You Find Your Perfect Match

Tips For Finding The Right Car

What’s your perfect match?

You know the old saying “you have to kiss a lot of toads before you find your prince.” I think we can all relate. Looking for Mr. Right isn’t easy. And sometimes Mr. Right turns into Mr. No Longer Right and the search resumes. The same thing happens when you’re searching for the right car—minus the kissing, of course.

What you want and need aren’t always compatible—it’s kind of like wanting a bad boy but needing someone reliable. Or with cars, maybe you want a two-seat sports car but you need a place to put your children. Like it or not, your right car for right now may be an SUV or a minivan.

Choosing the right car is not an easy task. There are several things to consider. And while we can’t help you find the right match for your romantic relationships, we can give you some tips for finding the right car.

Can you spend this much time together?

According to AAA, the average American spends 46 minutes driving per day. That adds up to almost 300 hours or 12 days a year. That’s a long time to spend in an environment you dislike. Your car should feel like a second home. It needs to be compatible with your style and your lifestyle.

Chevy Cruze - Tips For Finding The Right Car

Happy passengers equal happy road trips. Photo: Terri Marshall

Will your passengers approve?

Imagine who is in your passenger seat. Are you a sole navigator? Do you take road trips with a friend? Is your backseat filled with children? Unfortunately, most drivers don’t take the time to reflect about this before they decide to buy a car. As a consequence, they make a regrettable decision and end up having to trade within a year or two.

Although it’s just me and my husband in our house, we had to take into consideration our occasional passengers. We needed a vehicle that his mother could get in and out of easily. We also needed space for my kids and grandkids and their luggage when they come to visit.

Tips For Finding The Right Car

Yes, that’s a full sized bike in the car! Photo: Teia Collier

What will you haul in your car?

Consider your favorite hobbies. Do you enjoy outdoor activities like cycling, kayaking, camping, boating, or four-wheeling? Some cars can handle off-road driving without a problem. Others would perform badly—and you might end up breaking down, which is one of the most stressful things ever. Some cars can haul heavy loads without any issues. Others don’t have the strength and power for that.

Even if you don’t need a place for a kayak or bikes, be sure you have the cargo space you need for those monthly Costco runs—otherwise someone will have to hold the mega pack of toilet paper on the ride home.

What matters most? 

Think about your values. Would you rather have a sensible and cost-efficient vehicle or a luxury car that turns heads? Do you feel safer in a car equipped with the latest and greatest safety features, or do you believe paying attention to the road is the best form of accident prevention? For eco-conscious drivers, a hybrid or an electric car may be the best choice. Prioritize your values and find the cars that match up.

Read more: Is an electric car right for you?

Smart Fortwo Electric - Car Buying Tips

The cabin of the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive is easy to see with the top down! Photo: Scotty Reiss

What can you really afford?

Be realistic about your budget. No one wants to skip girl’s night out or pass up a sale at Saks because a hefty car payment eats up too much of your paycheck. Know what you can realistically spend on your new car. Consider your down payment or trade in, how long you intend to own the car and other costs like gas, tolls and insurance. That low monthly lease payment may be enticing, but if you’re a high mileage driver it might end up being a costly mistake. If that Mercedes-Benz still fits the picture and you need to be swathed in luxury, then go for it!

Read more: Tips to save for a new car.

Keep a car journal

Write down your answers to all these questions in a notebook. There isn’t a right or wrong answer to any of these questions. It all depends on your unique situation. Don’t buy a car that doesn’t meet your needs. Reflect on these questions before you begin car shopping.

2018 Houston Auto Show

A Girls Guide to Cars brought women together at the Houston Auto Show. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Find an auto show near you

Auto shows are one of the best places to find your dream car. With so many makes and models in one place and no car salesman lurking nearby, you’re free to check out the car’s features with no pressure.

Before we bought our Subaru Outback, my husband spent 12 hours—yes, 12—at the New York Auto Show checking out every comparable vehicle. That’s more time than most people ever need, but this is a man that dated me for 7 years before marrying me so it’s really not a surprise.

Terri Marshall grew up road-tripping around the country. Her love for the open road remains strong today. A travel... More about Terri Marshall