Your first car purchase can be one of life’s milestones. Until you can afford to buy property, it’s likely to be the most expensive single item you pay for. And for most people, that equates to a statement of financial independence.
Buying a car also implies a lifestyle choice. You’re no longer bound by the routes of public transportation or the logistics of ride-sharing. You can travel overland as you please, setting your own itinerary and schedule. And while some car owners prefer to focus entirely on the practical aspect, many also embrace the pleasure of the experience and its associated status benefits.
Every would-be car owner should do some research before they commit to a purchase. But while it’s easy to get lost in all the features, reviews, and comparisons, especially if you’re a gearhead, are you considering the factors that will genuinely make you happy?
The price point is almost impossible to ignore when buying a car. If you’re young and still growing your wealth, you want to be cost-effective. But even the very wealthy will consider price, only with a different perspective. When you’re in the market for a luxury car, the price tag and additional costs of Porsche service only add to the prestige and pleasure of getting behind the wheel.
If you want maximum satisfaction from your car purchase, give economic factors their due evaluation. You might want to start using the 10% rule of thumb for value considerations, only paying up to 10% of your gross annual income. But unless you’re intentionally living a frugal life, don’t stop at the lowest end of the budget range.
Experiment with the numbers to see what car you can afford. Give yourself some wiggle room to accommodate personal preferences and additional features you’re after. A car is a big purchase, but as long as you can avoid going bankrupt, allow yourself to enjoy it. After all, if you want to get more value from that auto loan, you’ll be driving around for the next five to seven years, at least.
Traditionally, car marketers try to sell the experience. They show you what it’s like to go out on the open road, zooming around on cruise control with miles of beautiful scenery in the background. One thing you probably don’t see in all the car advertisements? Traffic. Another one? Parking. Yet most people will probably spend more time dealing with those things than going on a road trip or hitting the race track.
Researching your cars with various practical applications in mind isn’t glamorous or exciting. Your mind wants to get stoked about head-up displays, wireless functionality, climate control systems, and integration with iOS or Android devices. The socially responsible consumer in you is driven to look for hybrid or electric vehicles.
Make no mistake. If these things matter to you, they also contribute to your happiness with the purchase. But they need to be balanced against practical considerations. The city you live in will be a big influence on the sort of driving conditions you face. Some people love the feeling of shifting gears when driving stick, but are you prepared to sit through stop-start traffic with a manual transmission? And if parking space is a squeeze in places you routinely visit, a smaller vehicle could mean zero headaches each day.
Modern marketing tactics offer an additional lens through which you can evaluate your potential satisfaction with a car purchase. With the advent of big data, analysts and marketers are combining their expertise to develop consumer psychographics. This allows them to explore a consumer’s underlying emotional and psychological motivations, then target them with more relevant messaging.
By reversing this tactic, you can take control of your purchase and wrest yourself away from marketing strategies. Understand your psychographic profile. What are your activities, interests, and opinions? What are the influences that make you feel that way about car ownership?
Perhaps you want to buy a Subaru for off-roading. Is that driven by enthusiasm for getting into that hobby with your friends? Or have you been sold on a lifestyle of rugged, outdoor living when in reality, you don’t hang out with anyone who shares the same interests? Think like a marketer, and get to the bottom of what you like. This will help you to discover what truly matters to you.
By weighing these factors together, some options will fall out of favor. On the other hand, models you might not have considered previously will emerge as contenders. Open up your range of choices, and let yourself be happy with how you spend your money.