Tips & Advice

I've always been asked, 'What is my favorite car?' and I've always said 'The next one.'


How do you find the car that will exactly suit your needs for years to come? It just takes a little research and planning. When you know the kind of car you want, you can then decide whether you want to buy a new car, lease a new car or buy a used car.

Let’s get started.

1. Assess Your Needs
As much as you might like to dream about what you want in a car, it’s best to think more about what you need — not just now, but in the future, too. Functionality should trump flash. Here are some practical considerations to keep in mind:

  • How many passengers do you need to carry?
  • What type of driving do you do: highway, surface streets, off-road?
  • Will you drive in ice and snow?
  • Do you have a long commute and, because of that, is fuel economy important to you?
  • Do you need all-wheel drive?
  • What safety features are important to you?
  • Do you need a lot of cargo capacity?
  • Will you be using children’s car seats?
  • Will you be doing any towing?
  • How much garage or parking space do you have?

2. Set Your Budget 
Unless you’re paying cash for your car, you’ll need to think about financing your purchase or lease. How much can you really afford to allocate toward a car payment each month? The general rule is no more than 20 percent of your monthly take-home pay.

Online you can find some great tools to help demystify pricing and let you figure out what car you can afford. When you’re searching for a car, look for special offers to get an up-front, guaranteed price on a specific car. To see how the price compares to what others are paying for that car, look for what they call Average Price Paid — also known as True Market Value (TMV®). Finally, estimate your monthly payment on the car with a Car Affordability Calculator.

3. Decide If You Want to Lease or Buy 
Leasing and buying each have pros and cons, and how you feel about these may help guide your decision on which route to take.

For example, a lease requires little or no money down and offers lower monthly payments. But when the lease ends, you have no car and will need to go shopping again. On the other hand, buying a car is more expensive initially, and the monthly payments are higher. But when you pay off the loan, you will own a car that you can drive for as long as it runs.

Here are a few more factors to consider while deciding between leasing and buying:


  • You can drive a more expensive car for less money.
  • You can drive a new car, with the latest technology, every few years.
  • There are no trade-in hassles at the end of the lease.


  • You have more flexibility to sell the car whenever you want.
  • You can modify the car to your tastes.
  • There are no mileage penalties if you drive a lot.
  • In the long run, your car expenses will be lower.

4. Consider Other Cars in the Class
Do you have your mind (or heart) set on a specific car? Many shoppers do. But in today’s ever-changing marketplace, there are always new cars hitting the showrooms, and one that you’ve never even considered could be right for you. You can easily research and compare similar cars to find the one that truly fits you best.

If you already have a car in mind, you should still review other comparable vehicles in the same class to make sure you haven’t overlooked an even better choice. Once you settle on a worthy prospect, you should check for detailed information on pricing, specifications and features.

5. Weigh the Costs of Ownership 
Some cars may be cheaper to buy but more expensive to own. Why? Even if two cars have about the same price, one might depreciate faster or cost more to insure and maintain.

Before you commit to a car, you should estimate its long-term ownership costs. These include depreciation, insurance, maintenance and fuel costs. This information will help you make a smart decision up front that can save you thousands of dollars over the life of the car.

6. Find Cars for Sale 
In the past, you had to visit dealerships in person to see inventory and find out if the cars had the options you wanted. Now, using as many car buying online tools as you can, will c cover more ground and save money. Once you have an idea of what car you want, you can easily see its availability. Once you select a vehicle’s make, model and year, (you can even choose your car in a specific color), contact the dealership of your chose to confirm the car’s availability.

7. Set Up a Test- Drive 
Now that you’ve found a car that seems like it might be a good fit for you, call or email the dealership’s internet department to schedule a day and time for a test-drive. By making a test-drive appointment, you ensure that the car will be waiting for you when you arrive.

8. What to Look for in a Test-Drive 
A car might seem to have all the features you want, but the true test takes place when you are in the driver seat. You should test-drive the car the way you would drive it during your everyday life.

If you commute, drive the car in both stop-and-go traffic and at highway speeds. If you trek to the mountains, find some steep hills to climb. Drive over bumps, take tight corners and test the brakes in a safe location. Get in and out of the car several times and be sure to sit in the backseat, especially if you plan on carrying passengers. Check out the cargo space. If you plan on using children’s car seats, bring those along to test for fit and ease of installation.

While you are evaluating the car, don’t be distracted. Take your time looking everything over. A good salesperson will respect your need to experience the car and will let you focus on the driving experience. Turn off music so you can listen to the sound of the engine. You can evaluate the sound system when you return to the dealership. If the conversation does turn to questions about whether you’d like to talk about purchasing or leasing, you can say that you’re still in the test-drive stage.

9. Pick Your Car 
After test-driving several cars, the choice should be clear. If it isn’t, sleep on it. In the morning, you might have your answer. If not, you might need to take a few steps back and drive more cars.

While making the right decision is important, it’s also good to realize that there isn’t one perfect answer. Today’s cars are safer than ever before. They get better gas mileage. They have amenities at lower costs than in the past. In short, there could be several good vehicle choices and the final decision is really a matter of individual taste.

10. Time to Buy or Lease 
Now that you’ve done research that (we hope) makes you feel confident that you’ve found the right car for you, it’s time to buy or lease. There are other articles to help you go thru the process.


  • Know the Invoice Price
  • Check the Manufacturer’s Website for Rebates
  • Research the Dealers
  • Check Your Credit History
  • Get Your Own Financing
  • Time Your Purchase
  • Do Not Buy a Car on Your First Visit
  • Get Internet Quotes from Several Dealers
  • Make an Appointment with the Sales Manager


What it takes to be Tops


Predicted trouble-free new cars based on actual problems reported in 2016 auto surveys on more than half a million vehicles. Predictions for new or redesigned models depend on the manufacturer’s track record or previous generations.

Award Winning Cars

The best new cars of 2017 are outstanding all-around performers, shown to be reliable, safe, and satisfying. That means they have scored high in a stringent track tests and extensive owner surveys.


All cars recommended by Consumer Reports must perform satisfactorily in accident-avoidance tests at our track and provide effective occupant protection based on crash tests conducted by the government and/or insurance industry (if tested). I give credit to models that have standard forward-collision warning (FCW) systems or automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems.

Owner Satisfaction

Simply put, a good car should make its owner happy. Rated owner satisfaction based on the percentage of surveyed owners who say that if they had to do it all over again, they would definitely buy the same car. Collected data on more than 300,000 vehicles from model years 2014 and later.

Road Test

Performance for each car is rated based on more than 50 evaluations, ranging from instrumented track tests to assessments of comfort and convenience while in daily.

Overall Score

To be a Top Pick, a model has to have an exemplary Overall Score in its category. This single number consolidates the findings from four key pillars: road-test performance, predicted reliability, owner satisfaction, and safety. A car that bests the competition by these measures is truly extraordinary.

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