Smart Car Shopping: What to Look for beyond the Sticker Price

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Smart Car Shopping

When you head off to the nearest car dealership, you may already have a car in mind. You may even know the price you’re looking for, but do you know enough about car shopping to be a smart car shopper?

Sure, you’ve read Consumer Reports, analyzed the crash test statistics and know how many cup holders the vehicle has, but this information isn’t necessarily enough to make an educated car buying decision. It’s also important to learn about the other factors that will affect the overall cost of owning the car.

Other considerations include:

  • What is the depreciation of the vehicle?
  • How much gas does it use locally and on the highway? Is the gas consumption of the vehicle going to put a dent in your budget planner or give it a reprieve?
  • How is adding the new vehicle to your car insurance policy going to affect your rate?

In the end, finding the answers to all of these questions determines how much you are really spending on the vehicle – the price beyond the sticker.

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Depreciation of a vehicle can be as high as 30 percent in the first year and up to 50 percent by the third year, according to Fox Business. If you tend to drive your car for two or three years, then trade it in for a newer model, depreciation should be a bigger player in your decision than it may for those who drive their vehicles until they wind up in the car graveyard. Look at the resale values on the vehicles you’re interested in to get an idea of what you may be able to sell or trade them in for two or three years down the road.


Consider the number of miles you drive on average per year and how many miles to the gallon your vehicle is getting you. While you may not be able to put a price on leaving a smaller carbon footprint, you can calculate how much you’ll save in gas by switching from an average vehicle to a fuel-efficient one.

For example, if you trade in your current vehicle that gets about 25 mpg, for a fuel-efficient car that gets 35 mpg (a 10 mpg difference), and drive an average 12,000 miles per year, you’ll save $408 a year (assuming an average gas price of $3 per gallon). For some people, that savings plus a lesser impact on the environment is well worth it. For others, $408 a year in savings may not be enough to justify trading in a gas-guzzling SUV and the perceived safety it provides.


Several factors go into calculating insurance rates, but the type of vehicle is definitely one of the major ones. For example, the same insurance company charges $785 a year more for a Nissan Murano than for a Ford Edge, which are comparable mid-size SUVs. Before you decide on one vehicle over another, check with your insurance agent to see which vehicle affords you a bigger bang for your buck.

Looks, safety features and sticker price are just the initial factors you should weigh when deciding which vehicle is the best buy for your money. Make sure you also consider depreciation, gas and insurance costs to calculate the true sticker price of your next vehicle purchase.

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For more ideas about how to make the most of your money, check out, where you’ll learn how to achieve your credit potential and get out of debt faster. Also, be sure to give these other, great money-saving articles a read: