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Important Things to Know Before Choosing a Car Brand

Kaitlyn Short
Kaitlyn Short | Contributor

In 1888, the first automobile was produced by Karl Benz in Germany. Since then, the car buying market has been flooded with new models and makes from around the world. We now have cars that run on electricity and utilize self-driving functions. 

Many new car buyers feel overwhelmed with the number of car buying options. However, with the right information, you can make a decision that will benefit you for the next 10 to 15 years. We’ve compiled all the basic information you need to know before making a big car buying decision. Keep reading to learn about major topics and frequently asked questions pertaining to the car buying process.

Automobile cost 

Similar to a home or other large purchase, buying a new vehicle takes strategic financial planning. Past the initial price tag, you will need to factor in monthly payments, routine maintenance, and resale value. Try using the following car financing options and tips:

  • Improve your credit score — Unless you are buying with cash, you need to build up your credit score so you can be approved for a loan. According to credit score experts, you should aim for a credit score above 660 if you are looking to buy a car. Seek extra help from a reputable credit repair company if you need advice on improving your credit score.
  • Buy with loans Before purchasing a car, determine what down payment you can afford. If you start with a large down payment, your monthly payments will be less and you will pay less in interest overall. A good rule of thumb is to pay back your car within three years or less. If you cannot meet the three year deadline, consider purchasing a cheaper car or waiting until you have more cash. Overall, loan financing is a great way to buy a car if you don’t have the total in cash. Once you have finished financing your car, you are the owner. 
  • Lease a car Leasing is a popular financing option for individuals who enjoy driving new cars and paying lower monthly rates. When you lease a car, you are essentially renting the car from the dealership. At the end of the lease, you return the car without any ownership. People lease cars to stay up-to-date with the newest models and to avoid maintenance fees common in older vehicles.
  • Purchase with cash — Cash is the simplest method for purchasing a car. This option can save you hundreds to thousands in interest payments. However, you should take into account other expenses you may need the cash for in the next few months to years. Extensively review your finances before making the decision to buy with cash. First-time car buyers will often need to use a loan financing option.

On-going maintenance

Cars need routine maintenance such as oil changes and tire rotations to preserve longevity and reliability. These costs should be factored into your personal car budget. Your maintenance costs will vary based on the make of the car. A luxury brand, like BMW or Mercedes, is more expensive to maintain because of limited service stations and specialty parts.

Resale value 

If you ever plan on selling your car, you should consider the resale value. The resale value is determined by factors including mileage, number of owners, accident history, age, and overall upkeep.

This information helps the prospective car buyer determine the vehicle's reliability. The resale value of an older car can be used to purchase your next vehicle. Maximize your resale value by keeping up with car maintenance and avoiding reckless driving.

Types of cars

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Cars models can help you categorize what you want out of your car. You can make a decision on seating, truck space, and doors by finding the right model for your needs. Once you have a decision on the model, you can start exploring the different car brands. 

Brand

A major factor in choosing a car is the brand image. From the clothes we wear to the food we buy, consumer brands have internal associations that help build our own personal brand. A car purchase is no different.

While brand image is not the most important factor when buying a car, brands can help you make the final decision once you've narrowed down your options. Are you a mini-van or SUV family? Do you see yourself in a reliable Toyota corolla or a high-tech Tesla Model 3? Would you feel more confident in a pickup truck or a sports car? When choosing a car, pick the brand and model that best fits your lifestyle.

The market for used cars is just as popular as the market for new cars. Most dealerships today sell both new and used cars. The decision to buy new vs. used is based on your personal preference and car buying goals. Here are some general pros and cons to consider when deciding between a new vs. used car: 

New vs. used car

Car specifications

Information is thrown at you a hundred miles per hour when buying a car. You need to be able to understand the basic specifications of a car in order to purchase the car that makes sense for you. Before engaging in the car buying process, familiarize yourself with the following common car details such as fuel economy, price, towing capacity, seating, drivetrain, and safety features: 

  • Fuel economy Most often, new car models will have better gas mileage than old cars because of continued technological improvements. Fuel economy is important to consider for individuals with long commutes or consistent travel obligations. A hybrid or electric vehicle option reduces the need for gas which lowers your monthly cost of use. A reliable car brand will maintain its initial gas mileage average unless other problems arise that affect the fuel mixture or fuel efficiency.
  • Towing capacity — Cars such as pickup trucks, SUVs, and crossovers have a towing capacity to measure additional weight that the engine can pull. Large vehicles with powerful engines can tow heavy trailers and equipment. If you and/or your family plans on owning a boat, trailer, jet skis, or other outdoor equipment, you should consider a car with enough horsepower and towing capacity to accommodate. 
  • Price — The overall price will vary significantly between models and brands. Currently, the cheapest new car you can buy is a Nissan Versa priced at $12,815. When you are buying a new car, check to see if the dealership is offering any rebates or deals. This can help lower the price of newer vehicles. Spend sometime shopping around at dealerships to get an idea of the current car market. If you are purchasing a used car, check on an accredited website to see if a car price matches the industry average.
  • Seating When it comes to seating, plan ahead. This is when you get out your 5 to 10 year life plan. If you are married and plan on having children, you may consider purchasing a minivan or SUV that will accommodate more people. If you are in your younger years, a sedan with 5 car seats may be plenty. At the dealership, you can ask about seating material and adjustment options. 
  • Drivetrain The drivetrain determines which part of the car powers your driving. There are four main types of drivetrains: front-wheel-drive (FWD), rear-wheel-drive (RWD), all-wheel-drive (AWD), and four-wheel-drive (4WD). In FWD cars, the engine powers the front two wheels. For RWD, the engine powers the back wheels, and the front tires manage the steering. FWD is the most common type of drivetrain because of its improved fuel efficiency. The major difference between AWD and 4WD is that AWD powers all four wheels at all times. In contrast, 4WD remains in BWD most of the time except when needed for traversing difficult terrain. 4WD and AWD are best if you live in an area where it often rains and/or snows.
  • Safety features — As technology improves, more safety features are required to meet industry standards. For example, a car manufacturer must include seat belts, airbags, electronic stability control, and adjustable child safety straps to maintain safety regulations. In higher-end models, you can get lane assistance, advanced back-up cameras, sensors, and even self-driving features. You may also choose extra safety features to increase dependability in winter weather conditions.

What should I ask when buying a used car?

Buying a used car brings inherent risks that you need to be aware of. While you can usually get a better deal for a used car, you want to avoid any potential scams by knowing what to ask when buying a used car. This will be especially important when buying from a private owner. Here are a few questions you should discuss with your seller before buying:  

  • Has this car ever been in an accident?
  • What is the title status?
  • How many owners has this car had?
  • What is the mileage on the car?
  • What is your reason for selling?
  • Do you have a maintenance record?
  • Can I take the car in for a manual inspection?
  • Is this car in a good condition for long road trips? 

Answers to these questions will help you determine the reliability of the car.

What is a certified pre-owned car?

One way to lower your risk when buying a used car is to get one that is certified pre-owned. A certified pre-owned car means that the car has been examined, refurbished, and approved by a certified auto manufacturer or industry authority. Unlike other used cars, these cars can qualify for warranties and special financing opportunities. You will find certified pre-owned cars at local dealerships or through used car companies.

When is the best time to buy a used car?

The best time to buy a used car is October through December. This is also the best time to buy a new car. During the last few months of the year, car dealerships are pressed to meet their quotas and make room for new car models. During this time, people will be trading in their used vehicle for money towards their new car. This is a great time to take advantage of the increased inventory and options when buying a used car. 

Of course, if you need a car sooner, you can start your search whenever is best for you. Try to anticipate when you will need a replacement vehicle to give yourself enough time to find the right deal and model.

What is the make of a car?

The make of a car is another way to refer to the car brand. The car model is the specific type of car within that brand. For a Toyota Prius, the car’s make is Toyota and the car model is Prius.

Which car brands hold their value?

According to Forbes, the car brands with the lowest depreciation rates over a five-year period are Toyota, Ram, Jeep, Honda, and Porshe. Pickup and SUV models are also shown to retain a high value in the current market. A car’s rate of depreciation depends on market forces, specifically supply and demand. Vehicles in higher demand will depreciate at a lower rate. The best car brands supply reliable vehicles that can maintain quality after several owners. In contrast, a luxury vehicle, such as a Maserati, is known to depreciate at one of the highest rates among car models.

Do dealerships register cars for you?

Most dealerships will help you fill out the necessary paperwork to register your new car with the DMV. You will usually receive your license plate within two to three weeks of your new purchase.

What do you need to buy a car?

Whether you are buying a used or new car, you will need to bring insurance and identification documents. You should bring the following items with you to the dealership: 

  • Valid driver’s license
  • Copy of your auto insurance 
  • Statement for pre-approved loan 
  • A form of payment 
  • Pay stubs and credit history if applying for a dealership loan 
  • Title, vehicle registration, and service records of any car you are trading in

How do you choose the right car brand?

The best way to choose the right car brand is to do your research. Look up online reviews from trusted sources to find owner satisfaction ratings. Top car brands are easy to spot because they are high in demand and rated well by consumers. Once you’ve narrowed down your options, go to the dealership to examine the car in person. Sit inside, play with the features, and take the car for a test drive. 

Check out our rankings for the best car brands and find the right car for you.

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Kaitlyn Short

Kaitlyn Short

December 03, 2020