• Everyday Driver

Finding Your Next Car


Since the start of this show, we’ve been focused on helping people discover fun-to-drive cars they can actually afford. The good news is there are fewer truly terrible cars on the market than ever before. But the bad news is there are plenty of cars we can only describe as “fine” – these are well-designed transportation appliances with all the fun of a refrigerator. We want more, and most of you do too.

As a result, a lot of our viewers reach out to us with buying questions, comparison options, or just trouble deciding what’s best. Most enthusiasts can quickly name their dream cars and know the painful realities of their budgets, but after that things can get less defined. In our conversations, we know that every driver’s needs are a bit different, but here are some universal things to keep in mind.

<strong>1 – Is this your only car?</strong> – We hate to see two of the same kind of car in one driveway, so if you have a car that’s able to haul kids and stuff it frees you to get something a bit more fun or focused. However, if your new purchase will be your only transportation then it will likely need a wider range of capabilities.

<strong>2 – How do you really drive?</strong> – This can be the most revealing question of the process. If you’re looking at a six-speed Porsche Cayman but will only be driving in stop and go traffic then you won’t love or experience its strengths. Take a long hard look at how you use a car and decide if you will actually take your new purchase to a mountain road or a track. If not, then getting something better for traffic and road-trips makes more sense. While an S2000 or Cayman is fun in the twisties, they take real dedication in traffic. By contrast, a 3 series BMW or VW Golf makes traffic easier and still offer some fun on a sweeping off-ramp.

<strong>3 – What un-fun option is required?</strong> – We always encourage those who buy something two seat, RWD, and hard-core. But cars often need to do other things in our daily lives. If you get hard winters you might feel the need for AWD. (<a title="Really Tired" href="http://everydaydriver.com/awarnings/really-tired/">Either way - buy proper tires</a>) If you regularly take a child or multiple adults around town, then two-seaters are probably out. (See #1). Maybe you can’t drive a manual (so no Lotus Elise or S2000 for you) or you haul large items often enough that you’ll need a hatch. Keeping these needs in mind narrows your options quickly.

However, don’t kill your own fun by trying to buy one vehicle that will do everything you might ever need... ever. If you go to snow once a year, buy tire chains. If you only haul something occasionally, then rent a pickup when you need one. The thinking here relates to #2… figuring the majority of your usage and shopping with that in mind.

<strong>4 – Do you mind maintenance?</strong> - We’re huge proponents of used cars. Buying used allows you to get an amazingly expensive car that still fits your budget. There’s a great victory in driving something you love while paying no more than the guy in the econo-box next to you. Go old enough and high enough in mileage, and most any car is affordable. However, any high-mileage car will definitely require maintenance. Shocks, seals, and all the rubber elements wear out. Time or mileage takes its toll, and a large amount of both means replacement. Tune-ups are necessary. Fixing an old German luxury car is going to cost more than a Japanese sedan. If you’re comfortable with a wrench in your hand, or would rather spend some money at the mechanic in order to afford your dream, then shopping used can yield wonders. Conversely, the budget benefit of a new car isn’t the car itself, but the fresh components and the warranty.

<strong>5 – How far do you want to go?</strong> - We love AutoTrader.com, and have wasted many days searching and dreaming over cars. The site has a great search engine to look within your budget and area. (No, they aren’t paying us, we just love their search feature… we’d happily accept payment for feeling this way). If you’ve decided on the car of your dreams, but can’t find one near you, start widening your search. Especially if your goal is a rare or niche vehicle, consider searching nationwide and calculating a fly-out-drive-back adventure into your purchase price. Starting your ownership with a road-trip will teach you about your new car and provide a break from the computer you stared at to find it. Many viewers have told us great stories of driving home triumphant in their new four-wheeled treasure.

Obviously, this doesn’t cover everything involved in buying you next car. Remember that any car out there has a dedicated forum and prospective buyers can bury themselves in information long before throwing down cash. We highly encourage knowing as much as you can about any car you’re about to purchase. We’re happy to help whenever we can, but long-term owners are going to know things about living with a vehicle that we can’t discover by driving a press car for a week.

What else should be included here? Let us know those things you always consider or suggest when looking for a new garage filling fun car!


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