Purchasing a new car can be nerve wracking, no matter how many cars you might have to buy. Having not bought a new vehicle for a while, it seems that nothing much had changed since my last car, though it still felt a tad overwhelming and stressful trying to find "the one" that worked for me/us, while simultaneously holding on to a modicum of patience and decorum in the process.
No matter what you do, nothing really prepares you for the load that comes with buying a new car, no matter how you approach it and research is definitely a giant key to success, which makes sites like cars.com an invaluable resource.
Some of the things you have to factor in to your decision making are:
Your needs vs. your wants
You might really WANT that flashy sports car, or the most expensive car on the lot, but do you really NEED it? What you walk away with may not always be the car you want, but you definitely should think about the car that you need.
Do you need a 7 seater? Is your family going to be comfortable in a new Mini as apposed to a People Carrier? Do you need a lot of space in the back for work-tools, or a smaller car just to commute? Think about your choices realistically and put off the fancy sports car until you can really afford it - and if you can afford it, and that is exactly what you need right now, then remember to cover all of the next steps before buying that car.
Affordability and funding
When looking for your new car, and when you have decided on the kind of car you'll need, you will have to look at your finances and decide if you are going to really be able to afford it. Are you looking at financing a newer car or buying second hand? Do you have a set budget to pay now or can you afford to spread payments?
Personally I have always liked to buy a car outright and not worry about holding a car payment over my head every month but (if you can afford it) taking on an installment plan monthly to cover your new car might work best for you, and on a budget that you can afford - just try and stick to a price within your means so as you don't leave yourself short every month in exchange for the car you might not have money to put gas/petrol in if you do.
Suitability for the family and life you lead
Something to consider, which we might not all remember, is how is the car going to fair in comparison to how you might intend to use it? For instance, you might have a large family but maybe you don't travel much together, if at all, maybe one of the older children drives or you already own one car, so is another bigger car really the best idea, or could you do with a smaller one for your second car?
Do you travel a lot? If you do, do you really want to pick up a car with too many miles on it, knowing that it might not last too long if you intend to put a lot of miles on it over a shorter period of time. Could a newer car, or one with less previous owners, and less mileage be the best choice for you?
Alternatively, do you only drive once in a while, are you only using it for leisure or short trips? It is possible that a cheaper, second hand, but well cared for car might be for you, instead, and if you buy the right car, with a good history behind it, then you may well get a great deal on a little run-around without putting yourself too far out of pocket.
Are there any extra little bonuses?
Sometimes, the little things really help when buying your next car. If you are buying privately you might get a better value on the price you pay, but sometimes when you buy from a dealer you might have them run it through an inspection and make sure it is up to date with everything it needs. Some places will also take off a little money for your old car if you'd like to trade it in (which you won't usually get with a private seller) and you may get a car-wash, detailing or discounts on future services depending on where you buy.
The car I picked out for my current needs is this Honda Civic. It isn't anything too over the top, it looks sharp for its age, has a sun-roof, electric windows and what not, a nice sound system and it also came with its inspection done with a full 12 months on it. I checked its history and spoke to the dealer, took it for a test drive and was pleased that I had a couple of days to really think about it before I took the cash in to pay for it outright.
We did get a free detailing and it came to me very clean and sparkly. The service was great and the staff at the garage where I purchased the car were very friendly and willing to work with me on a deposit to secure the car, which was much, much lower than what they usually take - the moral of the story there being that if you don't ask, you wont get, which actually applied to haggling, too. If you think a car is worth less and want to haggle the price down a little, don't be scared to try it. If you see a better price online (for example) then you could ask the price to be lowered a little and you might be pleasantly surprised at a person's willingness to bend.
I am very happy with the one I came out with, it is perfect for my current needs and suits the children very well. I don't really need to drive too much and so just having the option is a huge bonus for me and helps to get things done a little quicker, which is always a plus with 2 younger children running about.
Whatever car YOU choose to drive next, keep your options open, research all your corners, bases and stops, get the best you can across the board and enjoy your new found freedom.