Car Guide
- definitive car-buying advice

For people moving to America, this car guide will prove invaluable. Why?

Because getting a car is not something you can defer or put off. A car is NOT a luxury in the US – it is a virtual necessity. Public transportation is limited to the bus or local train/metro equivalent, and that too in selected cities like New York. Public transport is good, but service is infrequent, especially on weekends, and limited to certain routes and areas only. Distances are large - it is not uncommon for a suburban American to consider 2 miles as ‘round the corner’ and 5 miles as ‘close by’. Even going to the grocery store will usually require you to travel by car.

But here's the great part - America is one of the best places to acquire a car. Financing is easy, choices are numerous, and relative to other countries, prices are better for almost all makes and models. Plus driving is fun - gas is affordable and the extensive highway system is one of the best in the world. Indeed, choosing and acquiring a car will be one of the most enjoyable of your settling-in experiences.

So how does one go about it?

Car Guide Tip #1
Assuming you haven't shipped a personal car from your home country, you first need to make arrangements for the initial days, post arrival in the US.

Most new immigrants and migrants typically have car-sharing agreements with friends or colleagues. These informal agreements could be 'unpaid' (you just ride free with a friend) or 'paid' (you pitch in with gas money). The former is, of course, like a favor and cannot be a long-term option. But the latter is something worth considering. Paid car-sharing, or car-pooling is a mature concept in the US, even for long-term residents. Click here for more information on the whys and hows of carpooling.

Car Guide Tip #2
If you haven't zeroed in on the car you want to acquire, or need a stop-gap arrangement till you get to the buying decision, a smart thing to do is rent. America has an established car rental industry and there are numerous companies and many cost-effective 'deals' out there. You could rent long-term (say a month at a time) or short-term (daily or weekly). If you decide to use public transport for home-to-office commute, you could still rent a car on the weekends for household chores or going out. For tips and advice on how to rent a car, click here.

The Buying Decision
When you finally decide to acquire a car, you'll need to take 2 major decisions. Your subsequent car search will depend on how you choose on each of these decision paths. Namely:

  • New Car vs. Used Car
  • Leasing vs. Buying

While most of us would naturally gravitate towards a new car, America does have a huge used car market too. Used or second-hand cars are known as 'pre-owned cars' in the US. Unlike other countries, pre-owned cars are generally of good quality, and often come with extended warranties or manufacturer warranties. Click here for guidance on how to go about searching and choosing a pre-owned car. Similarly, leasing is a popular financing option in the US (compared to buying on loan or buying outright). Leasing usually allows you to acquire a more expensive car for a similar monthly payment, compared to buying. Of course, both leasing and buying have their advantages and disadvantages. Click here for tips on when to lease, and when to buy.

Car Guide Ratings on Specific Cars
If you've already made up your mind on a new vs. used car and whether you're leasing or buying, you next need to decide on the specific makes and models. Keep a look out on this page, as we add real user feedback on different car models. In the meanwhile, check out these industry-standard websites for recommendations:

Experienced a good car? Let us know!

If you'd like to recommend a specific make and model - either for a used car or a new car - or would like to share an experience with an automobile, we'd love to hear from you.

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