When it's time to choose a new car, some of us don't want or need the flashiest car going. Some of us are just looking for a reliable motor that doesn’t need mollycoddling to do its job.

So that usually means that practicality is one of the main features most people will look for in a car– usually, looks come second. Here are some tips for how you can find a practical car.

How to find a practical car

Practicality obviously means different things to different people. To me, practicality means how well a car does its job, based on what you specifically need from it. Chances are, you’ve probably got a similar definition yourself.

So with that in mind, here are two questions that you need to be asking yourself when you’re trying to find practical cars:

Step #1 — Think about your needs at the moment

What exactly is that you need from a car? It sounds a stupid question, but coming up with a few answers to this before you even start looking for a car can save you a lot of wasted time and money in the long run.

Looking for a car without knowing what it is you want from it is like walking into a supermarket when you’re hungry, without a list. When you come out, you find you’ve bought 12 packets of chocolate biscuits and not much else. The same (slightly stretched) analogy can be made when it comes to getting a new car.

You need to come up with an objective that will be achieved with your new car. This will help you judge cars against one another and find the one best suited to what you actually need. Your needs could be small things like better legroom in the driver’s seat or they could be bigger things like a more powerful engine.

You don’t need to restrict yourself to just one key objective either: there’s nothing to stop you looking for a combination of things in your new car. It obviously does make your search a wee bit more challenging though.

Step #2 — And also your needs in the future

Your current situation isn’t set in stone either, so don’t base your practicality assessment of a car just on what you need at the moment. Things could change, so you should try and future-proof your choice of car based on where you see yourself in the next couple of years. If you’ve got a growing family and plan to add to it over the next five years, investing in a larger car is probably the way forward. Likewise, if you know that money’s going to be tight in the years ahead, you might to downsize and get a smaller, more economical car.

What to look for in a practical car

So, you’ve worked out the general thing that you’re looking for in a car, now what?

You make it more specific!

Here’s some indicators of practicality it makes to look for, based on the particular thing you’ve decided you need.

Reliability

One of the most important things you should be looking for in a car in terms of practicality is how reliable it is.

Working out the reliability of a car isn't that difficult. At it's simplest, it's just a case of doing some quick internet research, and finding out how liable the car is to particular faults or strains. Finding out any issues that are associated with the make before leasing it will spare you a lot of hassle in the future. Even 10 minutes of research is likely to help you avoid problems cars, or at least let you know what you should expect with them.

Safety

How safe a car is to drive, and ride in, is obviously a big indicator of how practical a car is overall. Nothing says practicality more than how likely a car is to injure you or your passenger. As a bare minimum, you should look at the Euro NCAP (European New Car Assessment Programme) ratings for the cars you're considering. These give you a good indication of how the car has fared in particular safety tests.

Check out my blog, What Safety Features Should I Look Out For When Leasing, to get an idea of the specific features that you should be looking for.

Space

  • Storage: Storage space can contribute massively to how much freedom your car gives you and it’s a key indicator of how much useable space your car actually has. If you’ve got a young family, you’re going to want to have as much space as possible for the pushchairs, toys and everything else that comes with raising kids. So going for a family car is probably your best bet in this situation.
  • Passenger space: Backseat drivers complaining about the lack of passenger room can make your life hell on long journeys. Nip that problem in the bud by paying special attention to the amount of passenger room available.
  • Legroom: Most drivers are in an eternal quest for more legroom. Even the flashiest car might not have great space for your legs. And this is a pretty big thing when it comes to important attributes that your car has.
  • Car seats: You're going to be spending all of your time driving sat down, aren't you? That makes finding the right type of seat pretty essential when it comes to the overall practicality of the car for you. For instance, if you suffer from back problems, investing in a car with rigid seats that offer no lumbar support is a probably a bad idea. Likewise, if you've got young children, you'll probably want a furnishing that's easy to clean – like leather, rather than the usual nylon polyester.

Affordability

  • Type of fuel: Each type of fuel is suited to particular needs, circumstances and driving styles. Petrol, for instance, is usually cheaper than diesel at the pump and is better suited for short journeys around town or the city. Its drawback is that it doesn’t give you the MPG and power that other types of fuel can provide. Diesel, on the other hand, is more expensive but gives you much better MPG and a hell of a lot more power. As a result, it’s better suited to faster, long-distance journeys.
  • Fuel consumption: Some cars will obviously use fuel more efficiently than others. And whether or not the car is right for you will depend on a lot of other factors, besides fuel consumption. It’s still worth bearing in mind though. Around 50 MPG will give you the best value for money per tank of fuel. If you're interested in saving fuel, check out my article 5 Proven Tips To Save Fuel While Driving.

Environmental impact

Okay. If you see yourself as the next Jeremy Clarkson, you’re unlikely to really care about what impact your driving is having on the ice-caps and polar bears, but there’s one reason you really should – the Government makes you pay more for polluting cars.

Road tax gets steadily higher based on the type of fuel that a car uses and the amount of emissions it produces. And as time goes on, the amount charged for these types of vehicles is only going to get higher and higher.

Investing in a car that gives you better MPG without compromising on emissions will help you to offset the cost of this, as can investing in a hybrid or a full-on electric vehicle.

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