When To Buy

It would be nice to get a new car every year, but there are few of us who can afford to do so. Leasing options make getting a new car every other year more realistic, while some folks appreciate paying off a car in five years and being done with car payments.

However, after 10 years or so, it can cost as much to maintain a vehicle as it does to buy a new one. On the other hand, some lucky drivers might find that the older car they have paid off works fine, and as long as it is running properly (with working brakes, suspension, and other systems), there is no need to replace it.

If you are unhappy with your vehicle, then by all means consider getting a new one. But also consider the risk of giving up a working vehicle for a different one. You must take into account a number of other factors as well, including the following:

  • Your financial situation
  • Options for financing
  • Your vehicle needs, such as size, air conditioning, and safety
  • Commuting and other driving needs
  • Personal preference

Money Matters

Obviously, we would all like to pick up a new Porsche or Suburban whenever something with our existing car goes wrong, but a vehicle should really be viewed as a longer-term investment―a few years at least.

The starting point to determine whether it is time for a new vehicle is your financial situation. You might be wishing your car had a little more spunk, the air conditioning was a little cooler, or the sound system had a little more sound, but it might not be practical to replace your wheels.

If you are able to save up enough money for a good used car or a down payment on a new car or lease, you might be able to start thinking about a new vehicle. However, this should be a fairly substantial amount, either to ensure you are buying a quality used vehicle, or to get a better financing deal for your new or leased one.

There are certainly no hard and fast rules about how much you should spend, but at least $2,500 is a good starting point. Of course, you will be able to get a better used car, or a more expensive new or leased car, if you can come up with $5,000.

If you are unable to save up that much money―and it is by no means a small amount or easy to save―then you might be better off staying with the vehicle you have. When you do manage to start saving, then you can start thinking about buying a new car.

Depending on the condition of your existing vehicle, you might be able to sell it privately, or trade it in to help make a down payment on a new vehicle. Do not expect to get as much with a trade-in as you would with a private sale. However, selling a vehicle involves some work on your end, and it could worth your while to use your vehicle to trade up for a newer or different one from a dealer.

What Is the Car For?

The next thing to consider when contemplating a new or different car purchase is what you will be doing with the vehicle and how it will be utilized by you and your family. You might want a sports car, but will you be able to pick up the kids, carpool with your neighbor, or take the dogs camping with it?

Think about your needs and the available vehicles that might fit your situation. Also, you will need to ask yourself whether your existing vehicle is sufficient for your needs, and whether a newer one would be worth the cost and payments.

Time to Trade

Sometimes a new or different vehicle is less of a choice and more of a necessity. If an older vehicle requires extensive service and repairs, you must assess whether you would be better off saving that money to put toward a new purchase. You might also find that your family, work, or other situation has changed your vehicle and driving needs, so this may be a good time to trade or add a vehicle.

A vehicle can be a significant part of our lives. We spend a lot of time in them and depend on them to get us where we need to be. Cars provide freedom like nothing else can. Whatever your decision, think about the long-term implications and whether you really will be better off with another vehicle.

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