Just recently the time came up to purchase a new car for our family. Our sedan served us well, but its time had come. Not only did it not start at times, but the cooling system was gone. (Who doesn’t like pulling their car over to cool down every 10 minutes? Oh, wait, that’s me.)

In our car search, as a family of four (with two small children) the main things that we were concerned with were safety and affordability. A good look over government crash test ratings immediately ruled out some car options. We wanted 5 stars on all impact angles, and 4+ star rollover.

After we had a list of  attractive and safe options, we evaluated cost. The true total cost to own a car is much more than ticket price alone. Factors like gas mileage, dependability, and cost of repairs can quickly make a car more expensive over the life of your five-year loan and beyond.

As a family, we also wanted a car with some features (power locks and windows are a must with two small children!). But, too many features–however fun or useful they may be–can quickly add up to a greater number of very costly and unnecessary repairs in a few years.

Depreciation is also something we wanted to consider, as paying a little more now was worth getting a much larger resale or trade-in several years from now. Lastly, we were concerned with the cost of insurance, because our insurance premium would be just as regular a payment as the car payment itself, and last as long as we owned the car.

A helpful website in this process was Edmunds.com. Some especially helpful information were professional and customer reviews, cars’ true market value so you don’t overpay, current dealer incentives so you don’t miss out, and details about features and gas mileage.

There are also some tools that were valuable, especially the True Cost To Own calculator, which takes many of the above financial concerns and calculates the approximate true cost to own over a five-year period. We were surprised to find that despite differences in ticket prices, our two final choices of a Honda CR-V and a Mazda 5 were essentially the same price, total cost to own.

Due to better reviews and more space, we decided that the Honda CR-V would be the right car for our family. Finally, to help us find the right time to buy, we were even able to utilize the Predictive True Market Value to get the best price for our vehicle!