In Part One of our series titled How to Find the Best Car For Your Budget, we discussed the importance of safety and reliability, as well as true cost of ownership, when shopping for a car. But there are several other considerations to keep in mind to help ensure your purchase stays within budget and puts you in a vehicle you’ll be happy to own.
How to Find the Best Car With Features You Want For Your Money
Features, Features, Features
These are the things that can push the price of even a modest model into the luxury realm. Many features that were once optional are now standard. Seat belts and airbags, options when they first appeared, have been mandatory for years. Other features you may really want — Bluetooth phone integration, navigation — are still an extra cost. If that must-have is stretching your budget, consider this: Enrolling in the AutoPayPlus service may save you enough over the course of your loan to afford that entertainment system. By paying your auto loan bi-weekly instead of monthly, you’ll pay less in interest and you’ll pay off your loan earlier — meaning you could budget the savings toward extra features. To find out how much, check out our Biweekly Loan Calculator to help you get your best car at an even better price.
You may not be looking for acceleration capable of cracking a vertebra — or maybe you are — but performance is about much more than speed. A car’s traction on wet surfaces, its stability while turning and braking ability can determine whether you get into an accident or avoid one. Here’s where the auto enthusiast magazines, especially Car and Driver, really shine. Their real-world performance tests give hard numbers for acceleration, braking and traction. They also talk about the experience of driving and how the vehicles feel and handle in everyday traffic and on the road. If the vehicle you’re interested in has been around long enough, there may even be a “40,000 mile test,” which is exactly what it sounds like: the Car and Driver staff drives the vehicle for 40,000 miles over a two-year period and then report how it holds up and how their impressions of it changed over time.
It’s Not Easy Being Green
If the best car for you means it also has a lower impact on the environment, you’ll have to do a little extra research. Electric cars are good, and when fueled from a low-emissions utility plant, they have the least impact on the environment of practically any kind of vehicle. But how that electricity is generated (coal, nuclear, etc.) also plays a part in whether they’re more of a boon or a boondoggle in terms of their eco-footprint. Remember that “green” doesn’t necessarily mean “hybrid” anymore; some cars powered by ultra-efficient diesel engines are getting close to hybrid efficiency in highway driving without the extra expense of a secondary electric drivetrain.
Be prepared to compromise when you make your final choice. No one vehicle is going to have it all, but do make sure that your final pick is safe, reliable, affordable and — given the kinds of driving and hauling you do — functional. Ultimately, that’s what makes it the best car for your budget.
Found your dream car? Tell us about it!