Find the intersection of the fuel economy from your current car with that of the ones you’re considering for potential costs savings per year. For example, If you go from 26 mpg to 34 mpg, you save $239. If you want to trade in for a sportier, less fuel-efficient car, the numbers in red show your added fuel cost.
How much it costs to repair your current car
If your annual repair bills exceed a year’s worth of car payments, then it’s time to start shopping. But even dropping an occasional $1,000 bill to keep an older car running might save you money over buying a new car.
How much value that new car will lose
Cars depreciate significantly over the first few years of ownership, often more rapidly than your monthly payments are paying down the loan—putting you “upside down” financially. The chart below shows typical vehicle depreciation based on the average new-car price.
Every car should have
Electronic stability control (ESC)
Consider these to be safety basics. Don’t have them now? Buy a new or relatively recent car that has all four.
How to be even safer
Forward-collision warning with automatic braking
A “Good” score in the IIHS small-overlap test
Decision point. Getting a car with most or all of those features will push you toward buying new, especially for nonluxury models. Shop wisely and you can find good late-model used cars that balance features and price. But only the latest designs do well in the difficult small-overlap front crash test from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Why they’re worth it. Many of today’s high-tech cars work to avoid crashes altogether, warning the driver about hazards and sometimes responding to threats quickly. Advanced systems can automatically slow or completely stop a car. Visibility aids, such as rear cameras and blind-spot monitoring, show what’s around you, helping situational awareness. All things being equal, consider the safest car that you can afford.
3. Connected features
Want to listen to custom playlists or Pandora, or use your phone in your car hands-free?
Basics in most new cars
USB port for plugging in a phone
Bluetooth phone connectivity
Decision point. Almost every recent car has these as standard. You can install an aftermarket Bluetooth kit in your current car, and various audio-system upgrades can add modern features to older factory systems or replace them entirely.
Voice commands for selecting audio
Ability to use integrated apps like Pandora or Spotify
Decision point. Getting those features usually requires an aftermarket addition or buying a new car. Voice commands simplify complicated functions; good systems can reduce distraction. Built-in navigation gives you larger screens than on your phone or a portable navigation device, plus it will automatically adjust stereo volume for instructions.
But it’s not just audio and phone features that distinguish new cars. Even some basic cars now offer fancy stuff, like a heated steering wheel or cooled front seats, which were once exclusive to luxury cars. It sounds frivolous, but once you’ve grasped a heated steering wheel on an icy morning, there’s no going back.