When you buy or lease a car, you're normally making a multi-year commitment to the vehicle.  Translation:  you want to make sure you're buying or leasing a car that provides you with the reliability and service you need.  That means that sleek new two-seater just won't do for most families of five.

If you're thinking about buying a car in the next 12 months, the information in this article can help optimize that process.  With the average price of a new car hovering close to $30,000, it's important to make the right decision.  There is a lot of money at stake, and it's a choice that can impact your life for several years.

According to statistics released by the Federal Reserve, the average car loan is nearly $28,000.  Buying a car involves a considerable amount of money, and is oftentimes the second largest purchase decision made by households.  The ability to understand and analyze the available financing options is critically important.

At one time, nearly everyone bought their new cars directly from a dealership.  Only those individuals that were driving a car for business purposes were leasing their vehicles.  Today that's all changed, and a growing number of individuals are now leasing instead of buying.

Whether the car is used to drive back and forth to college, or a recent graduate needs basic transportation to a new job, finding the best car for a college student (or high school) is all about striking the right balance.

Anyone thinking about buying a car over the Internet is going to be pleasantly surprised with the experience.  Buying a car online is a fairly simple process.  It also eliminates a lot of the unpleasant interactions often associated with a visit to the local car dealership.

When thinking about buying a new car, we instinctively look at local or online dealerships.  But there are other options too, such as exporting a car from Germany or perhaps importing a car into the United States.

It's becoming increasingly popular for many Americans to donate a car; especially right after buying a new vehicle.  Unless the older car is being given to a family member or friend, there are a limited number of options the owner has including trading the vehicle in, selling it, or donating it to a charity such as the Salvation Army.

With the continued threat of rising gasoline prices at the pump, buying a fuel efficient vehicle is a way to save money while helping the environment too.  From a consumer's standpoint, the technologies used in today's cars to separate a gas guzzler from a fuel efficient car are nothing short of amazing.

When gasoline prices first jumped in the summer of 2005, consumer interest in fuel efficient cars increased dramatically.  Individuals that were used to paying around $20 to fill up their cars were suddenly paying over $50.  That summer was a wake up call for everyone that thought paying $3.00 or more for a gallon of gasoline would never happen.

Anyone thinking about buying a new car over the next couple of years may be introduced to an entirely new breed of vehicles:  fuel cell cars.  They're not exactly ready for sale today, but in the coming years everyone will be hearing from several car manufacturers that have these vehicles in the evaluation stage right now.

While anything is possible, it looks like the long-term price of gasoline is going to stay below the $3.00 per gallon mark.  Given this new price point, the economics of buying a hybrid vehicle are changing, which is good news for "green" consumers.

With the cost of gasoline hovering around the $4.00 per gallon mark at one point, it cost $50 or more to fill up at a gasoline station.  Just as fuel economy became more worrisome for many consumers, the automotive industry introduced a new technology with a promise to lower those monthly gasoline bills:  hybrid cars.

In the never-ending drive to squeeze more miles per gallon of fuel, automobile manufacturers are once again turning to lean burn technologies.  The government showed its support for this equipment when it passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005.  Cars, trucks, and SUVs certified as advanced lean-burn vehicles qualify for tax credits as high as $1,800 under the provisions of that law.

Twenty years ago, leasing a car made sense for individuals that were writing-off their monthly payments as a business expense.  Today, many people prefer the luxury of driving a new car every two or three years.  The shift from buying to leasing cars has led to a large and growing marketplace.

When negotiating with a dealer, or reading through the terms and conditions of a car lease, the terminology can be pretty confusing.  Even when looking through advertisements, it's sometimes hard to figure out what the dealer is saying.

Perhaps the most important term associated with a car lease is the money factor.  It's the equivalent of the interest rate on a car loan, and provides the consumer with a measure of the financing cost associated with a lease.

Choosing to own or lease an automobile is as much about a lifestyle preference as it is a financial decision.  When making a large investment, as is the case when buying a car, it's important to weigh the pros and cons of buying versus leasing the vehicle.

When shopping for a new car, consumers have a number of choices.  One of those options includes leasing a car.  In this article, we're going to provide a car lease spreadsheet, which is an Excel workbook that can be used to calculate monthly car lease payments.

Consumers looking for a no-money-down car lease should evaluate the opportunities that a swap a lease marketplace provides.  The term "swap" is a bit misleading, because trading leases isn't necessary.  It's an arrangement whereby a buyer agrees to assume responsibility for the seller's existing lease.

One of the terms and conditions a car lease typically includes is an agreement to take possession of the vehicle for a predetermined period of time.  But what if it's necessary to terminate the car lease early?   What options are available, and what needs to be taken into consideration before making a decision?

Used cars may represent one of the best values on the market today.  Of course that holds true only if it's dependable.  Interestingly, that's one of the nice features about these cars; previous owners have already put them through a real world road test.

Whenever buying a used or new car, it's always advisable to take a closer look at the vehicle's historical repair record.  There is a saying in the investment world that past performance is not a guarantee of future performance; but when it comes to used cars, historical repair records need to be carefully considered.

Ironically, buying a used car is oftentimes more complicated than buying a new one.  In addition to the research needed when purchasing a new car, it's important to understand a vehicle's reliability record too.  Fortunately, the time spent doing a little research now will save a lot of headaches later on.

Not every used car comes with a standard warranty, even if purchased at a dealership.  There are "as is," implied, extended, manufacturer's and even warranties of merchantability in the used car marketplace; it's important to understand the difference.

According to the latest government statistics, the average price paid for a new car is around $30,000 in the United States, with a new car loan averaging near $28,000.  Buying a car involves a considerable amount of money, so anytime a buyer is looking for a loan, shopping around can really pay off.

Figuring out which new car to buy can be a very stressful experience.  Financing decisions only add to that stress, especially if someone has bad credit.  That's because having a poor credit score can lower the ability to get a competitive interest rate on a car loan.

Rising fuel prices, longer terms on loans, and rolling-over debt from prior vehicles can all contribute to a condition known as an upside down car loan.  When this happens during a credit crunch, it's hard for consumers to escape this financial burden.

This is the final article in our used car buying series, and it's going to address the question of financing.  At this point, a car has been identified that meets both the driver's functional requirements and budget.  The car was inspected by a mechanic, and the warranty on the vehicle can be found in the Buyer's Guide.

Everyone that's driven a car understands that insurance is a good way to protect their investment.  In fact, leasing agencies and lending institutions will usually require the purchase of an insurance policy to protect their investment too.  After all, until that lease is up, or the car loan is paid off, those companies are part owners of the vehicle.

It's easy to buy a car that looks and feels great to drive.  Smart consumers will also want to know the safety features a car has to offer.  While it's important to feel comfortable and in control, it's equally important to buy a car that will protect its driver and passengers too.

Annually, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety chooses car models to win its Top Safety Pick award.  This award recognizes car designs that provide for the best protection in front, side, and rear collisions.  The award is based on a series of safety tests the institute performs.

Back in 2001, the federal government took a firm stand on car seat safety.  Statistically, studies showed that 82% of the child safety seats deployed in cars were not installed and used correctly.  That's why cars manufactured after September 2002 are required to have LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) installed; a system that makes attaching a child's safety seat easier.

There was a day when no one even thought about purchasing anti-theft devices.  Cars were parked on the street or in parking lots with their doors unlocked and windows wide open; nobody worried about their car getting stolen.  But now it's a $30,000 investment parked on the road, and buying anti-theft devices is standard practice today.

One of the many options consumers need to think about when buying a new car are the accessories to purchase.  At one time, air conditioning was viewed as a luxury feature to have in a car.  Today, nearly all new cars come with air conditioning installed as standard equipment.