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For many of us, buying a new car is an exciting prospect, but sometimes it can be difficult to narrow down the options and find ‘the one.’ When you’re making an investment and committing to a vehicle for a period of time, you need to ensure that you make the right call. If you’re on the hunt for a brand new wagon, or you’re looking to replace your current motor with something a little more contemporary, here’s a handy guide to help you find the perfect car.

Your budget

Unless you have no limits in terms of what you can spend, your budget will rule out some makes and models. It’s always wise to set a budget before you start shopping around and touring forecourts and dealerships. You might have a vehicle in mind, but can you afford your dream car? Before you set your heart on the best looking model in the showroom, do your sums. Work out how much you can afford to spend, and factor in running costs, as well as the purchase price. Consider whether you want to buy a new or used car, and think about how you want to pay for the car. Are you going to buy a car outright, or are you looking to hire over a prolonged period of time, or buy on finance to spread the cost? It’s worth exploring all the options, comparing costs, and setting either a lump sum budget or a maximum monthly payment. Once you have a figure in mind, you’ll have a much better idea of what kinds of vehicles you can afford.

If you want a new car, but you’re not desperate for a model that has come straight from the factory, it’s wise to look at nearly new cars. Cars depreciate in value very quickly, and nearly new vehicles tend to be significantly cheaper.

Before you sign on the dotted line, work out how much running your car is going to cost you. Get some quotes for insurance, and look at the fuel economy. It’s also a good idea to check for incentives, which may apply to modern, eco-friendly vehicles. You may find that if you spend more on a car, especially a green model, you end up spending a lot less in the long run. When you’re searching for insurance policies, use a comparison site to find the best price.

Your lifestyle

When you’re shopping for cars, and you’re weighing up your options, bear your lifestyle in mind. How often do you use your car, and what are the main reasons you take the car out of the garage? Do you drive to work every day, do you cover long distances as part of your job, do you have children or pets? Do you use your car to carry equipment that you need for hobbies or for work? Do you tend to drive short distances? Are you based in the city center? The purpose of the vehicle will dictate what kind of car is best for you. If you have a family, for example, you can probably rule compact hatchbacks out. If you’re in the middle of the city, and you only drive a few miles a week, you don’t want a huge, gas-guzzling car that’s impossible to park. Opt for a car that will fit in with your lifestyle and enable you to get around without any hassle or stress. SUVs and MPVs are great for families, trucks and estate cars are ideal for transporting tools and sports equipment, and small, fuel-efficient cars are an excellent choice for city driving.

Another factor that may influence your decision is the amount of space you have available at home for parking. If you have a driveway with plenty of space, you can opt or any vehicle, but if you’re limited to street parking, it may be best to go for a smaller car.

Your driving experience

Even if you’re not overly fussed about the performance of a vehicle, and you’re not searching for a fancy car that has all the bells and whistles, you want to enjoy the driving experience. You want to feel comfortable in your new car, especially if you cover long distances, and it’s also important to ensure that you’re getting something back when you put your foot on the gas. Look for a car that you enjoy driving. You can’t tell anything about performance or feel from looking at shiny vehicles in a showroom, so make sure you take advantage of test drives. Organizing a test drive enables you to see how the car runs, how it handles, and most importantly, how you feel when you’re behind the wheel. Even if you think you’ve found the perfect car, it’s advisable to take a couple of models out for a run so that you can compare different cars.

Your priorities

When you go into a new car search, think about what is important to you. How are you going to use the car? What kinds of features are you looking for? What types of models are you most interested in? How do you want the car to look? Base the search on your individual preferences, and what matters most to you and your partner or family. Every buyer is different, and one person may have a very different set of criteria to another. If you’re clear about what you want, you can set out trying to find that perfect vehicle. If it doesn’t exist within your budget, you can figure out what you’re willing to compromise on, and what is essential to you.

Are you thinking about swapping your car or looking for a new model? If you’re on the hunt for a vehicle for work or leisure purposes, figure out a budget, consider what kind of car suits your lifestyle best, work out your priorities and take full advantage of the opportunity to book test drives. This should enable you to rule out some contenders and narrow down the options until you have the perfect car.

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