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Buying your first car is a huge step, not only in terms of finance, because it usually involves making a loan or saving up for years, but also in terms of lifestyle. The vehicle you purchase has to live up to your expectations and serve you on a daily basis. Even after the initial enthusiasm of buying a car wears off, you still have to be happy with your choice and not regret buying it. Don’t let the dealer tell you what you need. Write down the things you want or don’t want in a car and answer these questions before making a decision:

Can I afford it?

Having your own car is great, but not if it compromises you financially. We all want to drive sportscars and luxury sedans, but until you earn a six-figure annual salary, it’s best to listen to the voice of reason and buy a reasonably priced car. When determining how much a vehicle will cost you, don’t look only at the starting price; more often than not, it will go up considerably depending on what extra features you want to add. Also, ask about the car’s fuel consumption and spare parts prices to find out if it’s costly to maintain.

Where will I be driving it?

Some cars shine only in certain driving conditions, so ask yourself where you will be driving your new car in the next ten years. Will it be only occasionally, for trips to the groceries or picking up the kids, for road trips, or will you spend most of your time in traffic? If you’re an adventurous driver and plan on taking your car off-road, invest in an SUV. If you want to drive a car around town, go for a sedan. Or, if you’re not sure yet, choose an all-rounder such as the Ford Escape 2018, recommended by Edmunds. This is a compact SUV that lends itself to both city life and long trips.

Do I want looks or functionality?

Last, but not least, you should decide what aspect you’re more interested in: design or features? Do you want your car to impress your friends and turn heads on the street, or do you want a regular vehicle that may not be particularly good looking, but simply works and you can rely on it? Ideally, you should look for a car that offers a balance between the two, because looks without features is simply not very useful.