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Which Vehicle Really Meets Your Needs?
by Kyle Busch

Tips to Help You Select the Best Car For You

Which Vehicle Really Meets Your Needs?The number of vehicles that are available to satisfy your driving needs has never been greater. During the last decade, auto manufactures have really jumped on the vehicle bandwagon by offering numerous automobiles, sport-utilities, multipurpose vehicles, minivans, and trucks. When it comes to buying a vehicle, the central question is: Which vehicle is the right one for you?

Choices and More Choices:

In addition to having multiple divisions within a single manufacturer, the choice of vehicles from which to choose is enough to make the consumer really spin his or her wheels trying to figure out just what vehicle to purchase.

The bottom line is that you deserve the most satisfaction
per mile when you sit behind the wheel.

A very dangerous frame of mind is to "fall head over heels" for a particular make or model of vehicle based purely on emotions. Although emotions are a part of life, it is useful to put excessive emotions aside and focus on your day-in and day-out transportation needs.

Some Things to Consider:
The following are some things to consider that will help you to choose the right vehicle:

  • What are your present and future transportation needs?

  • How many people will you transport in the vehicle (seating capacity)?

  • What type of objects will you transport in the vehicle (cargo space)?

  • Will you be driving in bad weather or off-road (rear-wheel drive, front-wheel drive, all-wheel drive)?

  • Do you have an overriding need for fuel economy, safety, luxury?

  • Do you drive mostly in the city or on the interstate (automatic, semi-automatic, or manual transmission)?

  • Do you have a preference for an American or a foreign vehicle?

  • Do you need a vehicle with a full box type frame for off-road use or a lighter unit-body type frame designed to be driven on roads and highways?

  • How long do you plan on driving the vehicle (warranty and maintenance)?

  • What will it cost to insure the vehicle?

  • How much can you afford to spend on a vehicle?

Information is Your Best Bet:
If you are not familiar with the numerous available vehicles, or if you are still uncertain about which vehicles will really meet your transportation needs, visit your local public library and consult monthly magazines such as Consumer Reports, Consumer Guide or ROAD & TRAVEL Magazine. These resources provide vehicle information such as size, weight, engine horsepower, optional equipment, miles per gallon of fuel, etc.'

Your first step should be confirming your budget. What can you afford to pay each month? How much can you afford to put down? How much will insurance cost each month?

Then, identify two or three vehicles that will meet your driving needs and budget. By identifying two or three vehicles, you will have some latitude and bargaining power when you go to purchase a vehicle. Then be sure to consult the frequency-of-repair information in Consumer Reports to determine if the vehicles you have identified are dependable and that they will not need numerous future repairs. If you are seeking to purchase a new vehicle, you can use the frequency-of-repair information from the previous two or three years for a specific vehicle.

Last, but not least, read the road tests about the vehicles of interest in magazines and/or Internet publications such as ROAD & TRAVEL Magazine, Car and Driver or Motor Trend.

How will reading the road tests be useful? Lets say that you identify three vehicles in a particular category. It initially appears that all three of the vehicles will meet your driving needs. However, say you have a preference for a vehicle that has a soft ride or one that has certain convenience features, the vehicle road tests will include comments about such information. You can then better determine which vehicle out of the three is the best bet for you. This will increase your chances of being very happy with the vehicle you've chosen.

Vehicle Prices
If you are planning to buy a new vehicle, Consumer Reports provides information about what dealers paid for vehicles. You can then figure what would be a reasonable profit (say $1,000-$1,500) to determine your target price to pay for the vehicle.

If you are planning to buy a used vehicle, be sure to consult the N.A.D.A. - National Automotive Dealer's Association Official Used Car Guide at your local library, a bank, or auto dealership. A
consumer addition of the guide is available, however, it is better to consult the regular dealer's edition.

The yellow pocket-size dealer's edition of the guide specifies the retail, trade-in, and loan value of domestic and imported automobiles. sport-utilities, minivans, and trucks that are up to seven years old.

If the vehicle is greater than seven years old, you will need to determine how much the price dropped from the sixth to the seventh year as specified in the guide. Then subtract that amount for each year that the vehicle is beyond seven years old.

In addition to the N.A.D.A. guide, be certain to consult the vehicle classified sections of the largest newspapers (LA Times, Boston Globe, etc.) in the United States. Many of the newspapers will also be available at your local library or online. Large newspapers usually have multiple listings for the vehicle of interest. This is an easy way to get a read on vehicle price trends.

When buying a used vehicle, try to obtain a vehicle that is in excellent condition for a price that is in-between the vehicle's retail and loan value. For more information on how to buy a used car, check out RTM's Used Car section on this site.

Remember, information is power! Therefore, make certain that you are well informed prior to buying a vehicle.

Kyle Busch is the author of Drive the Best for the Price: How to Buy a Used Automobile, Sport-Utility Vehicle, or Minivan and Save Money. He has over 300,000 miles on his 1986 Volkswagen Jetta-a used vehicle that he bought in 1991 for $2,600. For more information call (800) 839-8640 or visit The web site accepts all transportation questions.