How to decide what car to buy

What car should I buy?

When you’re looking to buy a car, it’s important to consider what type is right for you. To help you decide, you need to consider a few key questions.

what car should i buy

What factors to consider when buying a car?

It’s best to think practically about why you need a car and how you’re going to use it. You can then find a car which best suits your personal needs.

It’s a good idea to think about what the future may hold: your needs may evolve in a couple of years’ time, for example if you have kids. What your car can do, and what features it has should always be more important than how it looks, and there are many different types of car to choose from.

Here is a list of factors to consider when buying a car:


  • How many seats do you need?
    • Most cars have 5 seats, but the back seats can get uncomfortable with 3 people. Some cars have 3 full rear seats making it much roomier but if you want space for additional passengers you may want to look at 7-seater vehicles.
  • What safety features will you need?
    • All cars will have basic safety features, but more advanced features can be found in modern cars such as parking assistance.
  • Do you often drive in conditions that are icy or snowy?
    • Whether you do or not, you may want to choose a car that is designed to safely and efficiently handle this type of weather.
  • Do you have a long daily commute?
    • If so, it is important to choose a car that has good fuel economy, to make sure that you are getting the most out of the money you spend on fuel.
  • Do you have hobbies that need you to transport large gear, e.g. surfing or horse riding?
    • It might be wise to consider a car that has a lot of transport space, or something that can use a trailer.
  • Do you want to buy a petrol or diesel car? Which would be cheaper to run?
    • Which fuel type you choose depends very much on your lifestyle. Diesel cars are generally the better choice for motorists that intend to do a lot of miles, while petrol cars can be more cost effective and better suited for shorter journeys.
  • What type of gearbox does the car have?
    • With many different types of gearbox available, it’s important you weigh the pros and cons of each. Motorists seeking convenience may want to invest in an automatic gearbox, while manual gearboxes tend to be cheaper and offer greater control.

What is your budget?

Depending on your budget, you will want to decide whether buying a new or used car will give you the best value for your money. Used cars tend to be cheaper, but come with a higher risk of breakdown or repair costs, whereas new cars will cost more to buy, but repair costs should be low and they are often protected by a manufacturer’s warranty for a set time.

You may have to think about finance so you can borrow money to buy your car. You’ll then need to ask yourself how much you can afford to spend on car repayments each month.

Some people use a benchmark of up to 25% of their monthly pay to assess their own affordability. This might work for some but the important thing is personal circumstances can be very different and will change over time. For example, the affordability of a retired couple with their mortgage paid off is likely to be very different to a young family with lots of bills to pay.

It’s important to work out what is actually affordable for you. Once you have a realistic figure in mind, you can then use our handy car finance calculator to quickly work out what sort of total new or used car value you might be able to afford.

what is your budget

Car comparison tools

If you’re unsure of which car you should buy or is right for you, there are some great tools and quizzes which can help you narrow down your search further.

For instance, the ‘Which car?’ tool by Parkers recommends cars based on your budget, use type and style. You simply set your purchase price or monthly budget, select the reason you plan to use the car for most often (company car, long journeys, city driving etc.), and select if you have a body type preference. From these parameters, the tool suggests relevant cars to fit your needs. This is a really useful tool in identifying cars which are compatible with your preferences, lifestyle and finances.

When you have considered all of the questions and factors which go into choosing the right car, you are ready to make an informed choice on what car to buy and move onto the buying stage of the car buying process.

Do you want to lease or finance?

Another financing option to consider is whether you want to buy the car outright or lease it. Each option has its own pros and cons, so you need to weigh them up carefully to make the best decision.

Leasing a car means renting a car and making fixed monthly repayments over an agreed time. Car finance is similar but when all the monthly repayments have been made, you’ll usually own the vehicle. Find out more about the difference between car leasing and car finance.

Have you considered any alternatives?

Often, we’ve already got a specific, ‘favourite’ car in mind already when we start to think about a new car. However, in the current marketplace, it is really important to fully consider alternatives. There may be other models or manufacturers that you have not considered.

There are many car finder tools available which can help you find a car similar to the one you want, but at a lower cost.

When you have considered all of these questions, you are ready to make an informed choice on what car to buy and move onto the buying stage.