How to choose the right car for you

Amy Bairstow
Amy Bairstow
How to choose the right car for you

You need a new ride. There’s a whole lot of choice out there. So how do you decide what car to buy?

Whether you’re looking for a no-frills commuter or the ultimate weekender, finding the perfect car involves a whole lot more than looking at price alone. Here’s where to start as you consider how to choose a car that ticks all your boxes.


A work vehicle has very different requirements to a car for fun getaways. So first up, consider what your car will be primarily used for. Short city trips, or heavy towing? Keeping your tools secure, or transporting half a tiny soccer team to games?

As you consider your car’s core purpose, think about:


Look ahead to the types of environments you’ll be driving in. A two-wheel drive will be enough for most drivers who spend their time on decent roads. If you intend on going off-road you might look at all-wheel drive cars for increased traction, or upgrade to four-wheel drive options if you plan to get really rugged.

Seats and storage

Seats and storage obviously matter for a lot of different drivers, but requirements can really vary. Perhaps you’re a tradie who wants to maximise your tray space for equipment, or you’re planning an epic #vanlife conversion and want to max out the room in the back. If you have a big family or regularly give lifts to dance or sports events, then you might consider a used people mover for plentiful seats (and minimal squabbles).

Key features

Features like keyless entry and rear parking assistance can really make life easier in the day-to-day, and there may be features that are make-or-break for you. Perhaps Apple CarPlay is a must after years of battling with a Bluetooth transmitter - or maybe you’ll be doing long highway drives and really want adaptive cruise control. These days it’s easy to filter car searches if there’s a feature you simply don’t want to go without.


Performance includes aspects like engine power, agility, speed and the overall driving experience. These factors can be particularly important if you’re looking at luxury models, plan to tow heavy loads like trailers or caravans, or are simply looking for a drive that’ll put a big grin on your face.

The transmission type can also influence all of these factors, so think about whether you prefer the control that comes with manual transmission or the convenience that comes with automatic transmission.


Naturally we all want a safe car, but some are safer than others. We’re lucky in Australia that we have the ANCAP safety rating, which makes it easy to compare different vehicle options. Safety ratings take multiple factors into consideration, including crash results and safety assist technology.

Good to know:

You can search by minimum safety rating when finding cars on Carma, which makes it simple to find a safe choice for your family.

Price & budget

Price is undoubtedly a major factor when choosing a car. Unfortunately, plenty of buyers focus too closely on the up-front price without factoring in the ongoing costs. So here’s a quick breakdown on what to consider when finding a car to suit your budget:

Purchase price

This is the initial cost you agree to when buying a car. It might be a single payment if you’re buying up-front, or regular repayments over time if you’re using car finance. Remember to factor in interest if you’ll be paying the car off over time.

Running costs

Fuel efficiency and the price of parts and servicing all factor into running costs for a vehicle, and these can really vary. Some luxury and overseas models can have noticeably higher costs for parts and repairs. Then there are electric vehicles, which tend to have a relatively higher purchase price but can offer lower running costs over time.

Car insurance

Will that stunning new car sting when the time comes to get covered? It can help to check ahead of time how much a particular vehicle’s make, model and year will cost you in insurance premiums. MoneySmart provides a handy basic guide to car insurance, and you can find great car-specific options through our partnership with Compare The Market.

New, leased or pre-owned cars

You’re certainly not limited to only brand new vehicles when there are some excellent pre-owned cars to be found. You can also lease a car if flexibility is important to you. Remember, some new cars can lose upwards of 10% of their value the instant they leave the yard through depreciation. If you’re looking for value for money, it can really be worth looking at the second-hand equivalent with low kilometres.


It’s great if your new purchase comes with a warranty in case something does go wrong. New cars come with a manufacturer's warranty, and some modern pre-owned cars may still have time left on their manufacturer’s warranty, so this is something worth looking out for.

Good to know:

In addition to any existing manufacturer’s warranty, any car you buy with Carma comes with a 3 month warranty included for peace of mind. You can also choose to add on extended coverage as an option, which provides mechanical protection and premium roadside assist for three years.

Your personal driving experience

Cars are an incredibly personal thing, and it’s important to find something you really love driving. It’s why we’ve done away with the test drive on all of our pre-owned cars in Sydney, and instead give you 7 days to test your new purchase in real life. If you don’t love it for any reason, you can simply return it for a complete refund (Terms and conditions apply).

In fact if you’re wondering how to pick a good used car, Carma takes a lot of unknowns out of the equation with our meticulous inspections and incredibly high standards. We’re here to help you find the car that suits you to a T. To get started you can use our car selector quiz CarMatch, or browse all of our cars right over here.

To wrap things up...

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