How To

What car should I buy?

Is it time for a new vehicle? Tips and thoughts on how to figure out which car you should go for.

Hints to help you assess which car you need before starting the search.

Which car should I buy is the question automotive people like me get asked the most. The proper question is more in the lines of: what type of car do I need? Here are hints and suggestions to help steer you towards the type of car you actually need.

Vanity and “how will I look at the wheel of this” kind of ego-driven thoughts always happen, but need to be put aside for a few minutes here. The goal is to figure out what vehicle will suit your needs for the next few years… Or even decade.

How long?

Speaking about years or decade, the first question you needs to ask yourself is how long you expect to keep this next vehicle? This will have an incidence on which car you go for… If you plan to keep the car for over ten years, you need to factor in the changes in your family situation and make sure the car will answer these needs appropriately.

couple discussing what car to buy at a dealership

Say you are a newlywed for example. Do you and your spouse want to have kids? How soon? If yes and the answer is within the next three to five years, then you need to make sure your next vehicle will be able to accommodate for baby seats as well as cargo… You have no idea how much stuff needs to be carried, even on a small day-trip, when you have toddlers and very young kids aboard!

Related: 5 Essential Car Accessories for Moms With Toddlers

To the opposite, maybe your kids are all grown up and progressively leaving the family house. Do you still need that minivan or big SUV? Probably not.

In short, in assessing your needs, you need to ask yourself and try to figure out what your needs will be, in terms of people, cargo and distance covered over the planned ownership timeframe you are considering.

Various styles

Cars now come in more shapes and styles than ever. Two door coupe, traditional sedan, station wagon, crossover, small SUV, full-size SUV, minivan, pickup truck, sports car… To make choice even harder, manufacturers are going after small niches that were not even thought of twenty years ago, like VW and its Passat CC which is a coupe-looking sedan version of the Passat sedan.

As mind-numbing as these all are, doing your homework first in assessing your needs will help you narrow down the style of vehicle you should go for. To keep the same example mentioned earlier, you wont go for a low-headroom swoopy sedan-coupe like the Passat CC if you often need to carry adult-sized rear passengers, but it makes sense if you only occasionally have someone on these rear seats and style is important to you.

The mechanical aspect

There are a few questions you need to ask yourself that will influence what type of running gear you need to look for.

Do you spend most of your time in the city or on the highway? If you are a city driver, then a smaller car will allow better parking and maneuverability and a font-wheel drive or all-wheel drive car will help you get out of snow covered parking lots; if you are always on the highway, then you will want a larger car for comfort and stability and all-wheel drive is less of a need.

Interested in SUV’s? Read about the best SUV/CUV’s of 2015 below:

Best SUV/CUV under 35k

Best SUV/CUV 35k-60k


Do you go off the beaten path often? Never? Then don’t bother with all-wheel drive. If you do occasionally, then a vehicle with decent ground clearance and a good all-wheel drive system will work well. If you are often off-roading, then a proper four-wheel drive vehicle will be needed.

Who do I carry?

As important as this question is, it is often the most overlooked aspect of deciding which car to go for.

It is very important to consider rear passenger legroom if you are going to carry toddlers or newborn babies. This may seem counter-intuitive as they are very short, but the rear-facing seats they need to be strapped-in can be very cumbersome. For example, the six-foot tall man I am can’t sit in the front passenger seat if I carry our youngest daughter in her rear-facing car seat in my 2004 Volvo S60 as the seat needs to be brought forward to allow enough space for the baby seat; this causes no problem whatsoever in our family wagon, a 2004 Volvo V70, which seems to be the same as the S60, but has a longer wheelbase and offers more rear seat legroom.

child in car seat

Another consideration is if you or passengers you often carry are elderly or have mobility issues. You may find a regular sedan to be too low and be hard to sit in or get out of; crossovers and small SUVs are great for that as they often offer a seating position that is closer to waistline and do not require one to climb in the car or drop into it.

If you have a family and often run around to various practices or take short trips with extra kids, ask yourself if a vehicle with an extra set of seats, to be used occasionally, may not be needed?

What else do I carry?

People are important, but it is just as important to consider what needs to be carried regularly in the vehicle. Are you packing the car with luggage on a very regular basis to head out to the cottage? Then make sure the cargo area can swallow all this activity gear… If it is only once or twice a year, then a rooftop cargo box can do the trick. Do you spend your winters going to the ski hills once or twice a week? Then you may want to make sure you next car has a ski pass-through allowing you to place the skis inside the car and still have use of those rear seats. If you are a DIY type of person, then a cargo area with a hatch, like a station wagon or an SUV, will allow easier loading at the lumber yard or at the garage sale.

trunk full of items

Put some thought into what your needs are and it will help ensure you make the right choice when it comes time to decide which car you need next.

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