Shopping for a new vehicle? Before you get overwhelmed by the entire process, sit down and spend some time thinking about your wants and needs for such a vehicle. Maybe you’ve always bought or leased a full-size sedan or a larger SUV. With changing family needs and the economy and gas in a stage of uncertainty, perhaps your needs could better be met with a smaller vehicle.

Here are the five most important reasons to buy a smaller vehicle.

Saves gas. When it comes to sheer physics, the reality is that it takes less energy to propel a smaller vehicle down the road than a larger and heavier one. With that in mind, one of the most important reasons to buy a smaller vehicle is that it costs a whole lot less in gas. In fact, in recent surveys conducted during the height of gasoline price spikes, consumers said a more fuel-efficient vehicle was their number one consideration in buying a new (or used) vehicle. Research the city/highway/combined fuel economy of vehicles by class or by model at www.fueleconomy.gov.  There are high fuel economy small cars (40 mpg highway) available from many auto manufacturers, including Chevrolet, Ford, Hyundai, Kia. There are also numerous small and mid-size hybrid vehicles that achieve excellent fuel economy.

Less expensive. Always in the top five reasons for buying a smaller vehicle is the fact that they cost less to purchase or lease. That is true in almost every case, except when comparing a small luxury crossover to a mid-size sedan or small crossover or SUV. Luxury vehicles tend to cost more than more affordable vehicles across the board. Price is a huge consideration, both upfront and over the lifetime of the vehicle. If you can’t afford the monthly payment on a larger vehicle, a smaller one is likely to be much more manageable. And, it isn’t always small that you’ll wind up with. You may be moving slightly down in size from a full-size SUV to a mid-size one, for example. Even in this scenario, you’ll be saving considerable money. Be careful of larger engines and expensive options, though, which can jack up the price quickly.
Lower insurance costs. While it isn’t always the case, generally speaking, a smaller vehicle costs less to insure than a larger one. There are also other variables to take into consideration regarding insurance costs, such as number of accident claims, costs to repair, your own driving record and claims history, where you live, your age and gender. Still, a mid-size to small sedan will typically cost less to insure than a sporty car, convertible, off-road vehicle or pickup truck. Do an insurance cost estimate with your current insurance provider before you get your heart set on any vehicle. You may find that a smaller vehicle is more appropriate for your next purchase or lease.

Lower maintenance and operating costs. Bigger isn’t always better, especially when it comes to overall maintenance and operating costs for the life of the vehicle (or a five-year period). The first thing to check is the reliability of the vehicle year/make/model in question, either through Consumer Reports or some other reliability tracking website. Five year cost-to-own estimators from Edmunds and Kelley Blue Book are other good resources for comparing what it will likely cost you to own a particular vehicle. Steer clear of those with consistent reliability problems or high repair costs. And, keep in mind that high-tech security and entertainment and handling options cost plenty to repair when they break down. Look into warranty coverage for vehicles you’re considering as well to see just what is covered and for how long.

All the room you need. Auto manufacturers are getting really good at packaging their vehicles, and this includes putting more room into smaller vehicles. Just because a car is a compact or subcompact doesn’t always mean that you’re cramped and have no storage space. Check into the cargo capacity as well as passenger seating room (headroom, legroom, hip room and shoulder room). You may find with some smaller vehicles that you have all the room you need. In some cases, a small car or crossover has the interior room and nearly as much cargo capacity as a mid-size car or crossover.

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