Whether you’re living a car-free lifestyle or driving a vehicle that’s on its last legs, the decision of when to buy a car can be surprisingly tricky. You have to consider your daily habits, your future needs, and perhaps most importantly, how much you can afford to spend. Knowing when to buy a car is even more difficult nowadays, when global supply chain issues continue to push up the price of cars.
If you’re debating whether or not to buy a car, here are a few points to consider.
Alternate Transportation Costs
If you don’t currently own a car, or if the vehicle you do own is unreliable, you’re no doubt spending some of your paycheck on alternative transportation. Calculate your total monthly cost for a bus pass, bike share program, walking shoes or however else you get around town. Importantly, be sure to add in those Uber and Lyft rides too—especially with winter coming up, when it’s harder to stick to only the cheapest forms of transportation. Once you’ve added everything up, take a look at the number on the page. How much more expensive would it be to buy a car? How much would you save in terms of time and energy, by having your own vehicle?
Your car insurance premium changes depending on the make, model and year of your vehicle. Cars with higher quality safety equipment will have less expensive premiums, as will older model cars (although keep in mind that a lower premium on an older car also means a smaller payout from the insurer if your car is totaled). Sportier cars and luxury vehicles, on the other hand, tend to come with higher premiums—so if you currently own a high-performance car, trading it in for a lower risk vehicle could lower your monthly car insurance cost.
Car issues can emerge unexpectedly and upend your budget in an instant. If you’re driving an older or unreliable vehicle and you’ve already sunk money into repairing your car, you may be tempted to put off buying a new car. While it’s certainly a good idea to get your money’s worth, you don’t want to fall for the sunk cost fallacy and continue sinking money into a vehicle that’s going to mean too much money or trouble in the long run. Speak with an auto mechanic you trust and get their honest opinion on how much your vehicle could end up costing you in the next few years, and keep that number in mind as you consider when is the right time to buy a new car.
While gas prices are finally coming down, they’re still having a big impact on drivers’ monthly budgets. If your current car is getting under 30 miles per gallon and you drive over 300 miles per week, it’s definitely worth looking into a car with better gas mileage. While electric vehicles sometimes have higher insurance premiums than their gas-powered counterparts, you can take advantage of federal tax credits for electric vehicles, as well as state and local incentives. Some auto loans also have a discount for green vehicles, including HUECU, which offers a 0.25% rate discount on auto loans for hybrid and electric vehicles.
If your needs have changed, it might be time for a new car. Maybe your family has outgrown your current vehicle, or you’ve recently moved to a different climate or landscape, or you’ve changed jobs and now have a far longer or shorter commute. Delaying a change of car to meet your changed needs could result in more money spent in the long run—for example, putting too many miles on an old beater, or wasting gas on a 4x4 SUV after a move to the city. Don’t wait too long to take an honest look at how your needs have shifted and if a different car would better suit your life.