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A drive down and around Dubai’s streets can seriously confuse anyone’s view of what’s considered to be an average car. From huge SUVs to luxury cars, many may feel that a compact car – that is probably a best seller in many European countries, for example -- simply isn’t good enough compared to the pool of cars in the UAE’s top cities. For those who are on a tight budget but still conscious of how far they fit in, the decision to select a car to buy may become hard.

If you’d like to base your decision on what works for you financially, however, you need to think beyond appearance and class, and weigh your options carefully based on your income and savings as well as the importance of driving the latest model – or not. To make sure that your car purchase — along with its financing -- won’t upset your budget balance, think of the following points.

1. Used or new

First off, you should decide whether you want a new or used car. If used, do you like to still finance it or pay in cash fully. This decision is your starting point because it determines the direction of your search and comparisons. Each has its pros and cons in terms of availability of warranty, maintenance costs, etc.

To make your mind, you will need to tour car dealerships to know the estimated cost for each scenario. By collecting and comparing information, you will be able to make an informed decision. For example, you may find that a car that is just a couple of years old with low mileage still comes with some warranty and maintenance package but costs significantly less than a new one.

2. Credit or not

If you’re able to pay in cash, this may mean significant discounts as well as an immediate ownership of the vehicle, which can come handy if you’re considering using it for travel outside the United Arab Emirates or selling it within a short period.

With these points in mind, make your initial decision before you proceed any further.

3. Car make

As mentioned, the UAE is home to some of the most luxurious cars in the world. So getting competitive may be a lost battle anyway. It probably makes more sense that you select your car based on more practical features such as: fuel efficiency and long-term costs of maintenance and resale value.

When you make your decision based on these factors, not only your car payment will be within your budget, but your overall cost. This also will mean that if things get tight, you shouldn’t worry too much about petrol cost or car maintenance. Eventually when it is time to sell for an upgrade or otherwise, you will be able to get the best deal if your car belongs to a popular, affordable and well-received make.

4. Get a car to last

Cars depreciate quickly, so try to buy for many years to come. In fact, in some cases, getting a more expensive car that is more durable and meets your long-term requirements can end up less costly than changing cars frequently. In addition, don’t overlook all the costs involved in selling and registering a new car. When you’re making your purchase decision think of a car that meet your requirements and your family size for several years to come.

5. Does it fit your lifestyle?

Similarly, select a car that is right for your commute and your lifestyle. If you live close to your workplace and rarely take long trips, an economy car probably can be just fine. In short, taking these factors into consideration when you’re making your buying decision can direct you to the car that is the perfect fit for your situation even if it is not the largest or the best in class.

Rania Oteify, a former Gulf News Business Features Editor, is a Seattle-based editor.