AAA offers tips on picking the 'right' new car

(March 25, 2011) ORLANDO, Fla. (PRNewswire-USNewswire) — For many Americans, their vehicle is one of their largest financial assets. So when the time comes to purchase a new car, it's not a choice that should be made lightly. To help consumers, AAA offers a checklist of factors to consider when looking for the 'right' new car.

"Today's consumers have more choices than ever when it comes to picking a new vehicle, but that also means the selection process can be much more difficult," said John Nielsen, AAA National Director of Auto Buying, Repair and Consumer Information. "There are a myriad of factors to consider, many of which take place long before a buyer ever hits a car lot."

When shopping for a new vehicle, AAA recommends the following:

    • Determine What Is Affordable. Before considering any specific makes or models, first sit down with the household budget and determine what is affordable before visiting a car lot. Consider how much a trade-in is worth and how much savings you want to put towards the vehicle.

Investigate financing options available to you in advance. Speak to AAA or another insurance agency to get a rough estimate of premiums on the type of vehicle being considered. Take time to sit down and crunch the numbers to determine how much can be comfortably afforded without overextending.

     • Evaluate Driving Habits. Take a realistic look at how the vehicle will be used. What types of trips will it be used for most frequently? How many passengers will the vehicle need to carry? How long of a commute will it be used for? Will the vehicle be driven on the highway? Will you need extra cargo space?

     • List Needed Features. Make a list of all required features the new vehicle should include, being careful to separate 'wants' from 'needs.' How much seating? How much cargo? Minimum fuel economy? When making the list, do not just think about needs today, but look several years down the road. Could children be in the future? Could the commute lengthen?

     • Consider Depreciation Costs. The biggest yearly expense to new cars is depreciation. Research how much models being considered depreciate within the first few years and consider a model that has a track record of holding its value longer.

     • New or New to You. Look at pricing options for both new vehicles, as well as models that are one to two years old. There are benefits to both new and slightly used models. New vehicles typically come with longer warranties, buying incentives from the automaker, the latest features and are widely available. Slightly used vehicles might offer a price break, but it can be more difficult to find the 'perfect' vehicle with the exact features a buyer is seeking and does not have buying incentives from the manufacturer.

     • Review Warranty and Maintenance Costs. Review the length of the warranty of vehicles being considered and exactly what it covers. Investigate the maintenance costs associated with the car by reviewing its recommended maintenance schedule and pricing out the cost of several of the regularly needed maintenance items.

If the buyer consistently uses the same auto repair shop and has a relationship with one, they should talk to them about maintenance costs to see if maintenance and repairs would be similar to the current vehicle or different due to special types of fluids, parts or other items required to work on the car.

      • Investigate Safety Ratings and Features. Check the safety ratings of all models under consideration from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) at and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) at Evaluate the safety features available on each model. If using a car seat for a child, check out if it is easy to access the vehicle's LATCH system and installation of a car seat.

      • Seek Recommendations and Reviews. Ask friends, family and colleagues for feedback on their vehicles. Read both professional reviews such as found on as well as feedback from current owners of the models being considered. These can often be found on web forums.

       • Don't Limit Choice to One Vehicle. Narrow the choices down to two or three vehicles that meet all the criteria, but do not narrow it down to only one. By allowing flexibility, buyers have more negotiating room and a better chance of finding the best possible price.

AAA can assist consumers shopping for a new vehicle by providing all of the information they need to make an educated decision by visiting