Today's car shoppers have hundreds of options, which can make it hard to narrow the field. The selection process can be confusing, especially when there's little time to do the research. A car is a major investment for most people, and it's important to go about the process carefully. In this guide, you'll find a few tips on choosing a budget-friendly car.

Do Your Homework

Though there are plenty of online car-buying tools, the best way to go about finding a vehicle is to do your own research. Consider the answers to questions such as:

  • Which car suits my lifestyle?
  • How much can I afford to pay?
  • Should I buy a new vehicle or a used model?

Initial categories are rather broad, including factors such as size. From there, a buyer's choices may be refined by vehicle style, engine size, and other attributes. Once these questions have been answered, you'll have a shorter list of vehicles to consider.

Set a Budget

Once you've decided which type of vehicle to buy, pricing is the next thing to think about. Although buying a new car is exciting, buyers shouldn't consider their wants above their means. For this step, it's best to use a vehicle affordability calculator to determine what type of car you can afford.

With these tools, buyers can experiment with monthly and down payment amounts to give themselves additional options. An affordability tool will help you shorten your list, but it's important to think of other costs such as:

  • Registration. Aside from the monthly payment, you'll have to pay to register the vehicle. Call the local DMV to find out the yearly registration fee for your chosen vehicle.
  • Insurance. Auto coverage is another significant expense. If you're getting an auto loan, the lender will require the purchase of full coverage. Many factors go into the calculation of auto insurance premiums, but vehicle type is a primary consideration.
  • Repairs and maintenance. The cost of upkeep will be higher for a used car than a new model.
  • Fuel economy. To determine the cost of fuel, estimate your weekly mileage. Include everyday activities such as work commutes, weekend outings, and errands. Multiply the number by 52 to get a yearly figure and divide that number by the car's average MPG. Finally, multiply the answer by the average per-gallon price of fuel in your area.

If you're worried about your carbon footprint and the price of gas, a fuel-efficient car may be a smart choice. While electric vehicles have previously been in their own niche, they're rapidly becoming more mainstream. Though they're costlier than gas-guzzlers, they'll help save in the long term.

Closing Thoughts on Vehicle Selection

It's important to choose the right vehicle from the start, because making the wrong decision can be costly in many ways. A desperation-driven decision may cause you to end up in a car that doesn't suit your lifestyle or your budget, and that's never a good thing. Buying a car that's beyond your means can wreck your budget, placing a heavy, long-term burden on the entire family. However, these mistakes are preventable. By considering the factors listed in this guide and getting information from Car Buying Strategies, you're more likely to get into a vehicle that suits your needs and your budget.