I don’t know about you, but car shopping has been one of the most daunting and complex experiences I have ever had, mostly because it was extremely difficult for me to choose between several different vehicles. In the end, I didn’t regret my decision, but many people still walk away from a dealership wondering whether or not they could have gotten something better for the price they’ll be paying.

If you’re about to purchase a new car, you might be completely confused and overwhelmed by the number of options you have. But, don’t worry, to make things easier for you, we’ve created a list that’ll guide you throughout the entire comparing and purchasing ordeal. Here is what you need to do and focus on when browsing through your options:

1. Determine How Much You Can Spend

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Before you can actually start looking for a new car, the very first thing that you’ll need to do is to determine how much money you can spend. Nowadays, purchasing a new vehicle will require you to pay approximately $35.000, however, this is before all the fees, taxes, and insurance have been added to the overall price.

This is why you might want to follow some guidelines that’ll help you determine how you’ll pay for the car. For starters, the monthly payments you’ll have shouldn’t be more than 15 percent of your pay, and if possible, you’ll want to limit the loan to 4 years – or even less, but this will depend on your initial budget.

Besides this, the down payment they offer you should never be more than 20 percent of the overall purchasing price. Once you determine your budget, you can move on to comparing different models.

2. Make a List of Cars That You Can Purchase

Once you determine your budget, the next step you should take is to make a list of cars that you can purchase. Now, this is, perhaps, the most time-consuming and daunting thing to do, however, if you want to ensure that you choose the best vehicle for the money you’ll be spending on it, you cannot skip this step.

Hence, start browsing through different options and once you find a few models that you like, write them down. When you write down all the options you can choose from, it’ll be easier for you to eliminate some of them from your list as you go through all of our tips, and in the end, you’ll be left with the top models that you can buy.

Once you’re done with making the list of potential vehicles, your next step is to use an online comparison tool and/or platform, which is something that leads us to the next point in this article…

3. Use an Online Comparison Tool

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We live in the era of technological advancements, which is why we can now use technology for making our lives easier – and this includes the fact that you can use an online car comparison tool such as the one offered by Edmunds. Besides making it easier for you to compare the average price paid and make & model of a particular vehicle, you’ll also be capable of comparing the pros and cons for each of them – which will make it easier for you to determine what to purchase.

For example, if you type in “Audi A3 2012”, you’ll see that some of the benefits include a modern interior, amazing sound system, enjoyable and easy driving, as well as high fuel efficiency, however, you’ll also see that there are some cons such as limited rear-sear room for tall people and a complex and difficult to use navigation system. By comparing all of these features, it’ll be easier for you to choose which vehicle model you’ll buy.

4. Think About Your Lifestyle

Purchasing a sports car might be quite suitable for you if you’re single and if you don’t have small children. However, since you’ll be paying for it for at least 4 years, you might have a child in the meantime, and having a sports car won’t really suit all the growing needs you have. Because of this, you’ll have to think about where you’ll be in the next four years, as well as how your needs might change over that period of time.

By doing so, you can ensure two things – for starters, you can ensure that you don’t have to sell your car and purchase a new one (which will only increase all the expenses you have), and second, you’ll guarantee that you accommodate all the needs your growing family has. Hence, once you go through the first three tips we’ve mentioned, you’ll have to take some time and determine where you see yourself in the next four years.

5. Less Expensive Might Prove to Be More Expensive

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This is the last tip on our list, however, it’s equally important as everything else we’ve mentioned above. You must keep in mind that just because your online car comparison tool showed that one vehicle is less expensive than the other, it doesn’t mean that it’ll be cheaper in the long run. For example, although an Audi Q5 manufactured back in 2012 will be cheaper than some other Audi models on the market, it does consume a lot of diesel, which is why it’ll actually cost you more in the future.

This is why it’s extremely important for you to read the testimonials left by individuals that have purchased and driven a particular vehicle. By reading them, it’ll be easier for you to make your list of potential cars shorter, but more importantly, it’ll be easier for you to choose something that’ll suit your preferences, lifestyle, and of course, the budget you have for maintaining and actually driving the vehicle.

Conclusion

Purchasing a car is a really big investment. In fact, after purchasing a house, it is probably one of the biggest investments you’ll be making in your life, which is why one of the most important things that you could do is to ensure that you choose a vehicle that’ll suit your budget, preferences, and more importantly, your lifestyle and needs.

Since you now understand how you can compare different cars, as well as what you’ll have to consider before choosing one, you shouldn’t lose time. Instead, you should return to the first tip we’ve mentioned – which is determining how much you can actually spend on a new or used car.