Advice

How can I decide which is the right car for me?

There are plenty of things to consider when you’re deciding which car is right for you – and plenty of cars to consider, whatever your particular list of criteria. We reckon you can start to narrow down your shortlist by thinking of the following things...

Words by: First published: 6th December 2016
There are plenty of things to consider when you’re deciding which car is right for you – and plenty of cars to consider, whatever your particular list of criteria. We reckon you can start to narrow down your shortlist by thinking of the following things:
Budget
For most car buyers, money will be the ultimate deciding factor, so make sure you have a clear idea of your budget before you start shopping. That can involve either knowing the total amount you can afford, or, if you’re buying on finance, the amount you can spend each month.

When you’re setting your budget, don’t forget there is a lot more to consider beyond simply paying for the car. The cost of fuel, tax and insurance – not to mention servicing – could all have a significant impact on the contents of your bank account.
Size
Size, too, is of crucial importance when choosing a car, and it starts with something as simple as asking yourself how many seats you need. After all, why buy a seven-seater if you only ever use five? If you fancy a two-seater, will that hugely cramp your style, because you can never take out more than one passenger?

As obvious as it may seem, check the length of any car you might be considering. You may well be limited by your garage or driveway. And don’t underestimate how hard it can be to find a parking space for a big car in today’s ever more congested towns and cities.
Body style
You can find much more about this by reading our article, but the body style of a car can have a serious impact on just how good it is for you. Do you go for the practicality of a hatchback over the prestige of a saloon? Do you want the ultimate in people-carrying ability from your MPV, or will that simply not be stylish enough? Could the raised height and driving position of an SUV be just what the doctor ordered? Or, can you just give up any notion of practicality and go for that sleek coupe you’ve always wanted?
Fuel
Once upon a time, car buyers only had to choose between petrol and diesel, but things are rather more complicated now, with hybrids, electric, and even hydrogen-powered cars on offer.

We go into this issue in much more detail in our article, but you should consider not just the relative fuel economy of cars on your shortlist, but the prices of the cars, too. Often, a diesel-engined car is more expensive than the equivalent petrol model, so it can work out more expensive to own, even if it has better fuel economy and lower tax bills, thanks to lower CO2 emissions.

Hybrids are certainly attractive thanks to their low CO2 emissions and consequently low tax bills, but they tend to be at their most effective around town. The same is true of plug-in hybrids – which give a longer range on electric power only, but have the back-up of a regular engine to give decent real-world range – so a petrol or diesel car may be a better buy if you regularly have long trips.

The limited range of an electric car may be an issue, but the truth is that an electric car will suit plenty of people who don’t realise it. In fact, if you tend to only potter around town, or never do more than 80 miles in one day, then an electric car – with the attractions of low-tax zero emissions and low running costs, not to mention near-silent running – could well be the perfect choice.

Finally, there are hydrogen cars (which we discuss in more detail in this article), which offer the seemingly perfect combination of zero tailpipe emissions and a range of several hundred miles from a tankful. It’s certainly an attractive combination, but the big problems are that there are so few places in the UK where you can fill up, and the cars themselves are very expensive to buy.