The vehicle you drive says a lot about you, whether you mean it to or not. If you’re driving to a sales meeting for work, it could be the root cause of a client’s first impression of you. If you’re simply going out with friends, it could help you feel more confident, and complement your personal fashion choices. It’s also going to determine how, when, and where you drive; for example, a truck with four-wheel drive can accomplish a wider range of tasks than a smart car.
So how can you go about choosing a car that suits your personality?
Setting a Budget
Before you get too far in this process, it’s important to understand what you can afford. Using an auto loan calculator, you can estimate the monthly car payments you’d face for loans of varying size. Ideally, your total car-related payments (including loan payments, insurance, and maintenance) shouldn’t come out to more than 10 percent of your gross income. So if you make $4,000 per month, make sure your auto loan and insurance payments don’t amount to more than $400.
Alternatively, if you want to buy a car above this financial threshold, you can work to save up money for a bigger down payment—or even pay for the car in cash to avoid the need for a monthly payment. Either way, you’ll understand the approximate price range you can work with.
Next, think about your practical needs — and how different vehicles may be able to suit those needs and/or exaggerate certain elements of your lifestyle. For example, are you an outdoorsy type who loves camping, and do you spend lots of time on home improvement projects? If so, a truck with a large bed for transportation might be right for you. Are you an eco-conscious consumer who wants to minimize their environmental impact (and show off the fact that you’re doing it)? If so, an electric car or hybrid may be a better option.
If your practical needs are at odds with the image you want to convey, you’ll find yourself at a crossroads. Do you want to purchase a vehicle that looks better, or one that better suits your daily life? Most people “should” lean toward buying a car that best suits their needs, rather than looking more stylish, but occasionally, it’s worth aiming for style.
The bulk of your decision should be made while accounting for your personal taste. Take a look at different models of vehicle within your price range. Do any of them look like they fit you? Do you love the sharp angles and rigid structure of this car, or the smooth, rounded form of that one? Do you see yourself driving something big or small? What about colors? Are you interested in driving something bright, that stands out from its surroundings, or something more neutral that blends in?
You’ll also want to think about the interior of the car, and how it feels to drive. For example, you may strongly prefer a car with lots of horsepower and acceleration, allowing you to rev your engine and quickly accelerate to top speed. Or, you may prefer a car that’s easy to maneuver in and out of tight spaces. There are no right or wrong answers here; you have to go with whatever feels “right” to you.
Depending on how much you value the opinions of others, you may also want to consider the stereotypes associated with different cars; you may find yourself subject to these stereotypes, whether you want to be or not. For example, minivans are often the face of soccer moms and active parents, while a vanilla car like a Toyota Camry might lead people to think you have no personality—again, only by judging your vehicle.
If you’re not sure what you want, or what would suit you best, the best course of action is to test drive multiple vehicles with the help of a salesperson. Get behind the wheel and compare different models; which one feels more in line with your personality? Which one makes you feel the most confident?
The Finishing Touches
No matter what kind of car you end up buying, there are some steps you can take to adjust your vehicle to be more in line with your personality. For example, a different coat of paint or a handful of decals may give your vehicle more of a “pop,” or tweak it to the image you desire. You may also be able to make adjustments to the exterior lighting, wheels, or the interior of the car. And since most vehicles can be customized almost endlessly, you’ll have no shortage of options for making this car your own.