Sunday, February 18, 2007

Washington's Birthday Car Sales Present Choices

There’s no way of knowing what George Washington would think about having his name linked with the biggest automobile sales marketing promotion of the year. But I imagine he wouldn’t object.
After all the automobile offers us a kind of freedom that was unavailable to him. I’m sure he would appreciate, too, that with that freedom comes choices.
In that spirit, here’s a few things to consider as you head out to the showrooms to take advantage of the Washington Birthday sales-a-thon.
• What is it that you really expect from your vehicle?
If you travel a lot with your car or make a daily commute of over 35 miles each day, your needs might be very different than if you basically use your car to shop and go to the mall with the weekly paycheck and you work for an employer who is just miles away.
• Do you do more or less city driving than highway driving?
Hybrid vehicles are much better on gas mileage in the city than on the highway. On the other hand, some of the new larger engines with variable displacement or variable valve timing are much better on the highway than in the city. There are new V6 engines that can deliver over 30 mpg on the highway and V8 engines that get upwards of 28 mpg highway.
• How big a vehicle do you need?
Buying a truck just because you might need it to move (change residences) is a little narrow if you’re not going to need it for much else otherwise. You can always rent a truck when you need it that’ll be bigger than any pickup out there. Conversely, buying a low-end minivan with a small 4-cylinder engine to save money does you little good if you plan on hauling around a van-load of people all the time or need it to haul a boat.
• How long do you plan on keeping the vehicle?
Buyers who keep a vehicle for over five years benefit a little bit financially because they lose less dollars in the end to depreciation. A five year old vehicle will likely depreciate less in the sixth year than a new vehicle in the first year. If you want a new car every two years, leasing might pay off better.
• Do you seriously expect your financial situation to change in the next couple of years for better or worse?
It helps to plan your purchase out a few years. Examine whether going with what you can afford right now will hamstring you or rein you in.
• What is the biggest down payment you can afford?
Calculate it and bring it with you. The less you have to finance the better off you’ll be especially at trade-in time.
• What kind of auto insurance can you afford?
If you finance a vehicle, your lender is going to require full coverage on the vehicle. That means you’ll be insuring what the vehicle is worth in case it gets stolen or destroyed in an accident. You’ve got to figure in those monthly payments on insurance (not to mention fuel allowance) when you calculate how much car you can afford.
Just about every driver I’ve ever met wants to own a new car. It’s a beautiful thing. But if the numbers don’t add up, don’t give up. There are great buys to be had in the used car market, too.
• Are you hung up on brand?
Shop around. Don’t let your brand prejudices blind you to good deals and good vehicles.

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