3 Things to Consider When Asking, "Should I Get a New Car?"

What you need to know before buying a new car.

You've been scanning online car ads, reading reviews and driving through car lots.

If you've been thinking, "I want to buy a new car," but are unsure whether you should be considering a new car, a new-to-you car or keeping the one you have.

If you find yourself asking, "Should I get a new car?" check out these signs that the time may be right to trade in your current set of wheels for something different.

3 signs you might consider buying a new car

1. Do repair bills exceed the value of the car? If you've been making several trips to your mechanic and the bills are higher than your car's current value or equal one year's worth of car payments, it may be time to trade it in. You may also want to consider getting rid of your car if you no longer trust it. If you fear that you will be stranded due to a break down, or if rust or damage have made the car unsafe, a new car may be in order. Your ideal car is one that is, at a minimum, both reliable and safe.

2. Does your current car lack safety features? Modern safety equipment may make a huge difference in avoiding an accident or suffering fewer injuries in a car crash. At a minimum, anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control will help improve your safety. These features reduce skidding on wet or snow-covered roads. Likewise, curtain air bags cushion you and your passengers in a side-impact crash. Most new cars also have back-up cameras and blind-spot monitoring as standard features. If your car doesn't have the safety features you'd like, it may be time to buy one that does.

3. Does your car fit your lifestyle? Does your car no longer measure up to changes in your life? If you've recently had a baby, you may want to consider a larger or safer vehicle. Are you an empty-nester? A smaller car may be right for you. Have you recently changed jobs and now have a longer commute? You may benefit from a car with better gas mileage. These and other lifestyle changes may point you toward buying the car that's right for you and your family.

How Your Finances May Influence Your Car Buying

Even if the signs point to buying a new car, it's not always an easy decision, especially if you will be taking on debt. The average car payment is $350 a month, and some payments reach $400 or more. It goes without saying that buying a new car may be a hefty investment.

‘Should I Buy a New Car?': Tips for Deciding

Before you make a final decision, consider the following:

  • You may want to part with your car while it still has some value. The proceeds from its sale or trade-in can then be used as a down payment on your next car.
  • Take a look at your finances before drawing down savings and/or taking on debt. Financial considerations should go beyond the cost of the car and monthly payments. Consider how changes in gas mileage, car insurance rates and routine maintenance will affect the total cost of owning the car.
  • Do your research. Consider all of the vehicle options available for sale so that you don't make a decision you'll regret later.
  • If you plan to take out a car loan, sign up to get free credit reports at least a month before you buy so that you can address any issues that may surface on the reports.
  • Get pre-approved for a car loan. Knowing how much you can borrow will help you better negotiate the car's price.

Knowing why you want a new car and being prepared to make the investment will go a long way in helping you answer, "Should I get a new car?" Good luck, and happy car shopping!