From picking up the week’s groceries, ordering tonight’s dinner, to finding a safe ride home after a few drinks, many of our daily functions now link us directly to the internet. In this age of advanced technological communication, buying a car — brand new or just new-to-you — isn’t just about you, a vehicle, and that pushy salesperson anymore. The rules of the road have changed.

This also means the entire process has improved, at least in the way of the consumer. Rather than having to do all the leg-work yourself, you can simply navigate to a website, read reviews on certain vehicles, compare prices, and make a wiser and more-informed decision. Many dealerships are quick to put their inventory on the internet and potential buyers aren’t necessarily limited to their local inventory. You can shop around in a much bigger geographical footprint when you don’t have to physically visit every car lot. The lanes have widened. And with a bigger inventory comes a whole new kind of selection.

One downside of this massive automotive consumers’ market is that potential buyers can easily get lost in the sea of information. An established budget and a list of desirable features prepares you for the buying process, but where to begin? And when to end? Is the perfect car just beyond the next listing? Or is the perfect car right beyond the tip of your nose?

Take a breath. Close your browser tabs Kelley Blue Book, Edmunds, Consumer Reports, and all those dealership websites flashing with limited-time offers and holiday deals. Give your texting thumbs a rest. Start here, with our guide to price points and what you can afford on your budget. We’ll at least point you in the right direction.

Before we begin though, let’s set a few parameters.

A Matter of Choice: It’s All Relative

Every car buyers’ shortlist will vary based on personalized factors. However, we’re going to use the following rubric for our listings:

  • Each new car listing below uses the base model entry-level price point for the newest model available.
  • Models (old and new) are compared based on four factors: cost of ownership, fuel efficiency, overall safety, and available warranties.
  • Assignations of specific value assigned to respective factors in their particular price points are arbitrary.

Feel free to move beyond the models we’ve listed here and compare your favorites based on the factors you prize most. Think of this more as a self-guided tour than a set of instructions. It is, after all, going to be your car. Enjoy the process!

Your First Solo Purchase: $25K-$35K

This first price point is what we consider to be the consumer’s first step into vehicular adulthood. Sure, your parents helped picked out your first car (or maybe just handed it down to you), but what kind of ride are you going to call your own? Would you choose any of the following models?

Since you’ll be footing the entire bill on this one, we’ve chosen to focus on cost of ownership. In this case, the 2019 Acura TLX clears out your savings account the quickest. But if a new set of wheels just isn’t in the cards, check out these used, three-year-old diamonds in the rough: the Acura MDX, Cadillac’s SRX, and the Volvo XC60.

We’re Expecting (A Second Vehicle): $40K-$55K

As families grow bigger, so do their automobiles. We’ve picked out the top three new cars you should check out if you’re looking to trade in those Pirelli sport tires for a vehicle with a third row instead:

The budget comes into play in a different way this time around. How about savings at the pump? Well, the 2019 Volvo XC90 is gentle on gas for it’s class, to the tune of 21 city and 29 highway EPA-estimated miles-per-gallon (MPG).

Here are some older contenders in this price range to help you avoid immediate depreciation, but with less focus on family outings: the 2015 Porsche Boxster, Chevrolet’s 2016 Corvette, and the 2016 Jaguar F-Type. Yes, they’re all sports cars, but take a look at the next section to see their present-day equivalents — and corresponding prices.

Two-Car Garage Luxury: $60K-$80K

Well into the height of their careers, the consumers who qualify for this price range might be adding a second vehicle to their collection, upgrading their worn-out older model, or even finally getting that pleasure car they’ve been dreaming of. Luxury, style, and creature comforts are a potent blend in this category.

Safety is the name of the game in this price range. While these vehicles may not yet be rated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), safety requirements for new vehicles often mirror the latest-and-greatest gadgets on the market. From standard equipment to extra add-ons, the safety features in these brand-new vehicles is top of the line — especially at these higher price points.

If you’re looking to save a few pennies for that tropical vacation or maritime cruise, search out these older models from a few years back: Tesla’s Model S of the 2016 variant, a 2016 Maserati Ghibli, or the 2016 Audi A7.

Life’s Greatest Rides: $90K and Up!

Fortune smiles upon the few, and in the case of the automotive gods, there are many suitable offerings in the high-roller range. Just make sure you’ve got the goods to back these cars up — and keep them rolling forward.

  • 2019 Aston Martin DB11: A shiny penny the size of nearly $199,000 gets you the keys to this snarling sports car.
  • 2019 BMW i8: $147,500: That’s how much you’ll need to save up for.
  • 2019 Bentley Continental GT: Rumored to begin around the $220,000 mark, this status symbol can be customized beyond compare.

In reviewing these new top-of-the-line models, we figure warranty might be the best way to differentiate. That is, besides personal taste, of course. Whether you keep it past the warranty date or simply trade it in for the next best thing, each of these manufacturers offers customers substantial coverage on their purchase. Inquire with your local Aston Martin, BMW, or Bentley dealer for more specifics.

Looking for the highfalutin ride without the high depreciation and maintenance costs? Well, the only advice we can offer is to pick from the myriad of vehicles available for in the $100,000 to $200,000 range. There’s quite a few of them to choose from.

What vehicles made your shortlist?

Shopping List

Maybe we mentioned some of your favorite cars and maybe we didn’t, but at the end of it all, we hope you’ve found this article to be helpful. The next time you find yourself at a dealership, wheeling and dealing, use this information to your advantage. Know what’s out there and which vehicles are within your reach. Happy hunting!


Rebecca Henderson has a Master's in German and a Bachelor's in Creative Writing. She alternates her time between writing and working on a variety of motorized projects. Most recently, she and her boyfriend have been building a custom drift trike. Rebecca believes that language, love, and a life worth living are only the first ingredients to happiness.