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The 7 Criteria for Car Buying

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author photo by Jessica Shea Choksey May 2019

As the summer sales period approaches, many drivers have their eye on their next new car. But buying a car can be a stressful thing if you don't know what you're looking for. Regardless of the segment you're shopping in, buyers should focus on certain areas to help in their decision-making. We narrowed the field down to seven criteria that every car buyer should consider: looks, cost, safety, functionality, performance, fuel economy, technology. Here's a quick rundown of each.

Looks

 This is the most basic of all criteria because it's based on pure visuals and emotion. If the design of a car is appealing to you, you're going to be attracted to it. It's a simple as that. Styling is the initial thing that either connects you to a vehicle or makes you look away. You'll likely decide on whether you like a car within 10 seconds of putting your eyes on it. And since beauty is in the eye of the beholder, every buyer will have their own opinion (even the Pontiac Aztec was once regarded as beautiful by some). Of all the car buying criteria, this one is clearly the most subjective.

Cost

 This criteria is a bit more tangible than the one above. You may be working within a certain budget, but if you come across a vehicle you really like, you may be willing to stretch that budget. It's important to realize that a vehicle's sticker price is not necessarily the end-all and be-all to determine affordability. Other factors such as financing options, "buy versus lease" and the trade-in value of your current vehicle can come into play. To keep things simple, cross-shopping within a segment is a good, common sense approach for most consumers to make apples-to-apples comparisons to find the best value out there. Ultimately, the goal here is to get the most bang for your buck without breaking the bank.

Safety

For many, there is nothing more important than keeping themselves and their family members safe. Crash tests from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) are very telling of how a vehicle will fare in an accident situation. Car brands like Volvo, Mercedes-Benz and Honda pride themselves on the structural integrity of vehicles. But beyond strength in construction, buyers should also be looking at active and passive safety features, ranging from airbags and car seat anchors to driver-assistance systems like lane-departure warning, blind spot monitoring, forward-collision warning and automatic braking, to name a few.

Functionality

How a vehicle performs lives up to its primary purpose determines its ultimate value. If it's a truck, you want it to be durable, strong and have the ability to haul materials. If it's an SUV, you want it to be capable, spacious and comfortable for family moving. You get the point. This criteria is all about how functional a vehicle is compared to other vehicles like it.

Performance

This criteria relates to the engineering of a vehicle, specific to engine, transmission, chassis and brakes. The first thing you might think of is the 0-to-60 mph time of a sports car, but performance can mean various things to various vehicle segments. For a commuter car, this might mean good acceleration for highway merging. For a midsize sedan, performance may equate to its ride and handling equation. When you test drive a car, evaluate how it performs relative to the way you're going to drive it.

Fuel economy

When it comes to cost and affordability, fuel economy is an important consideration. Small cars, hybrids and electric vehicles will obviously save you the most in terms of refueling. But that doesn't mean you're stuck buying in just these segments. When you're looking at a vehicle, compare its mileage ratings to others in the same category. Not just city and highway, but the combined figures as well. A few extra miles per gallon can equate to hundreds of dollars per year out of your wallet. That's significant!

Technology

These days, in-car technology can mean a lot of things. From sophisticated driver-assistance systems to mobile hot spots and wireless charging, your vehicle can make your life easier and more streamlined on the road. But technology features can also be costly. Choose the options you know you'll use, but watch out for expensive tech packages that include things that are not practical for you. Luxury vehicles and larger SUVs often have lots of standard tech goodies, so that may be the way to go if like having plenty of bells and whistles. Find a vehicle for sale

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New 2019 BMW 4 Series Coupe
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New 2019 BMW 4 Series
New 2019 BMW 4 Series
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New 2018 BMW 2 Series Convertible
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New 2019 BMW X3 xDrive30i
New 2019 BMW X3
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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
The 7 Criteria for Car Buying - Autotrader