In Part 1 of Buying a Used Car, we talked about budgeting for your car purchase. Hopefully, you have put together a working budget, and you know what you can afford for a monthly car payment. Now, it’s time to decide what type of vehicle you need; another way to ask it is, “What body style will work best for you?” Although there is some overlap, the most common body styles are sedan, coupe, convertible, hatchback, station wagon, crossover, SUV, van/minivan, and pickup.
A sedan, or saloon for the Brits, is a 4-door car with a separate trunk. A coupe is a two-door car with a separate trunk, although some companies claim to be manufacturing 4-door coupes!?!? Obviously, a convertible has a removable or collapsible top. Hatchbacks and station wagons are similar to one another in that they’re both sedans or coupes with extended roof lines such that the trunk is incorporated into the cab. The only difference I can see is the amount of room behind the back seat; from the side, a hatchback has a small glass behind the C-pillar while a station wagon has a full-sized window. Crossovers and SUVs are also very similar; both are like taller versions of a station wagon. The difference is that crossovers are built on car chassis while SUVs are built on truck chassis. Vans, both mini and full-sized, are taller still, with many having enough head clearance for the occupants to walk between seats, albeit in a hunched position. Pickups are known by the presence of a bed used for transporting large items (although some cars have been offered with beds).
What kind of vehicle you need depends on how you’ll be using it and how many people will be riding with you. If you often haul things, a truck would be better than a coupe. If you’re single, a 2 door may be better suited than an SUV; with a large family, the reverse would be true. If it’s just two of you, a Miata would be fun and fuel efficient, but if you’re going to have a child, a Miata doesn’t have a third seat. Larger vehicles, obviously, will not be as fuel efficient; this is changing, however, with the advent of 9 and 10 speed automatic transmissions. In any case, you will need a larger vehicle to transport larger families or to transport a large amount of luggage. To be sure, most smaller vehicles are more fuel efficient, and they also rely on smaller tires, so they’re more economical there as well. However, they can be cramped if you’re particularly tall, so the economy may not be a fair trade for less comfort. When choosing the body style that’s right for you, you have to look at many variables. In other words, you should look at vehicles that best fill the most needs most economically.