Just the thought of owning a new set of wheels is exciting enough to get carried away for a bit. While it’s natural to want to explore the market to see what all you can squeeze around a loosely estimated budget, there are more practical ways to go about buying your car so that you don’t lose too much money on it, or end up being dissatisfied in the long run. Assess your needs before hand - This is probably one of the most crucial factors while looking out for your next car. Consider carefully what you want to use your car most for, to arrive at a right fit. Do you want it for small local trips or long outdoor runs; will it be used by a single person, or multiple drivers; how many passengers and how much luggage will it be carrying mostly? Decide whether you want a new or a used car –This is completely dependent on your savings. While a new car may last you longer and require less immediate maintenance, an older car will set you back by a lesser amount initially and if maintained properly over the long run, maybe a more economically savvy decision. Is there an old car that you plan to trade in and how much more will you need to put in from your personal funds, are some important factors to consider here. Research on models and prices – We all usually have a “dream car”, and this is where all practical thinking stops. Every vehicle will have many unique features which differentiate it from the others, however research shows that 90% of the time, we shortlist a car based only on one or two features. Obviously, it’s practical to research all options built around our needs in the market and then take an informed decision. With the Internet making research so easy, use websites that give you information on different models, features, comparative studies and car prices to shortlist cars that fit your budget. Check cars for comfort, performance and on-road safety – Anything that’s a small irritant at the time of buying your car, might turn into a major grievance once you start using it regularly; so it’s important to check the car you are interested in for factors like performance, comfort, economy, appearance, dependability and car safety . Consider long term costs – Though economy has been mentioned earlier as a checkpoint while considering a car, it’s important enough to discuss in greater detail. The money you spend on your car will not be a one time expense. Consider factors like ongoing maintenance and spare parts, registration and car insurance costs. Many websites compare these factors on various car models to give an average cost of maintaining a car. You can have a pretty good idea about what you should expect to spend on your car on a regular basis before you decide to buy it. Do you plan to finance your car? Research options on finance and dealer discounts – This may involve some legwork on your part but is definitely worth it. It’s important to shop for money, BEFORE you start shopping for your car. If you’re looking for a loan, your credit union might be the best place to start. It’s easy but not really smart to go with the dealership finance options as you might not get the best deal there. If you can get a preapproved loan, that will help you negotiate better for your car. Finally, Stick to your price - Don’t get carried away with “I’ll throw these mats in for free” pitch by your dealer. Stick to your price, especially if you’re not trading in your old car. Because of a weak market, it is often easier for a dealer to sell you a car for a slimmer profit than get loaded with an old car, which he may not be able to dispose off easily.