Our Two Cents: What’s the first thing you look at when looking for a vehicle?


This week we asked members of the Hagerty Media team the following question: What’s the first thing you look at when searching for a vehicle?

Indeed, there are different things to look at depending on the individual vehicle. A new one is a bit different than a used example. Trucks serve a different need than a family sedan. Daily transportation is clearly different than a vehicle that appeals to your hobby. But those differences kinda don’t matter, because this question isn’t the only criteria, just the first hurdle we must clear. So let’s see what our team initially looks for when buying a vehicle.

Room for my stuff

Van and everything it carries
Kyle Smith

“Cargo space. Not like Elon launching a roadster into orbit, but only that the vehicle can carry the things I need. Also the lineage of the powertrain: What is new versus what is time tested and proven reliable. My Chevrolet Express extended van with a 6.0-liter gas V-8 checked those boxes in spades, so buying it was a no-brainer. Nothing better than a rolling storage unit with a time-tested pushrod V-8.” — Kyle Smith

“Cargo space, especially for a daily driver. For example, when I was shopping for my truck, I measured my kart first. With so many bed sizes, it takes some work to narrow down what you really need. Unless, of course, you want to go hog wild and get a full-size long box.” — Cameron Neveu

The Three S’s


“Does the vehicle start, stop and steer? It’s a phrase I learned when I reviewed a Mercury Montego sedan that was factory fresh, but sitting unloved on a dealer’s lot for months. This neglected thing had less than 50 miles on it, but didn’t start (drained battery) and stopped a little too well (disc brakes rusted shut). Once the battery was charged, the salesperson slowly drove it back and forth in a rocking motion, resulting in satisfying, decoupling snaps at the front and rear wheels. Now it passed the SSS test.” — Sajeev Mehta

Personality extension

Greg Ingold’s 1969 Pontiac Grand Prix
Greg Ingold

“For me I look at how well it fits my personality and how much I like it. Yes, there needs to be an element of practicality and it needs to fit my lifestyle, but I can’t bring myself to buy something on practicality alone. I still need it to have something that makes me excited to own it, and it has to pass the ever important, ‘look back at it when you walk away in a parking lot’ test.” — Greg Ingold


Glenn Lindberg | Vi Bilägare

“Ergonomics. You only look at a car from the time you walk out the door and get in, but you have to sit in it forever. Can I get comfortable for a long trip? Can I live with these instruments and controls for 72 months? It’s more important to me than styling.” — Steven Cole Smith

All-wheel drive

(Yes, this is an advertisement for four-wheel-drive, not all-wheel drive…but the point still stands. – SM) 

“I want all-wheel drive due to our steep driveway. Even with the best snow tires, a front-wheel-drive vehicle will not get up our driveway if there is more than an inch of snow on it. I could park at the halfway point and trudge up the hill, but I am lazy and want to zoom up the hill just like my partner does in their Jeep Wrangler with Blizzaks.” — Joe DeMatio

Efficiency in all forms


“Efficiency is the number one criteria for me now. Efficiency of size, efficiency of weight, efficiency of interior packaging: What car does the most with the least?” — Aaron Robinson

The Online Configurator


“I want the online, ‘build your own’ configurator. Well, only when I am looking at new cars, because it ensures I see what it’ll actually cost the way I want it built!” — Matt Tuccillo

“Not gonna lie, I get a thrill when I configure a car online and see the factory-to-dealer incentives and financing rates at the end. I get attached to whatever I created, and the deals at the end of the process make it even more appealing. I’ve been tempted to buy a Mitsubishi Mirage many times over the years, too bad that’s coming to an end!” — Sajeev Mehta

Addressing a hankering


“My answer is a question: What hankering am I trying to fulfill with this purchase? Even if it’s just time to replace the daily, there’s always some vehicular emotional void that initiates the search. That leads to a more specific dive into attributes and usually a month of looking for all the traits, pitfalls, and pleasures of the candidate cars.” — Eddy Eckart

Price is paramount


“The first thing I look at is the price. Is this vehicle cheap enough to buy with money I have hidden away in my sock drawer? If yes, I look to see if the tires match, then go from there.” — Stefan Lombard

“My cash isn’t in the sock drawer, but I’ll admit to ‘updating’ my marketplace search boundaries when paper is added or subtracted from that stack. That’s a fun one, Stefan.” — Kyle Smith




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    Mr. Ingold and Mr. Eckart said it for me. A vehicle purchase obviously is important enough to warrant “meeting a real need”, but it must speak to me on an emotional level first and foremost. I’ve bought almost every car, truck, or motorcycle I’ve ever owned because I felt drawn to it way before I ever investigated price of practicality.

    I am like a venus flytrap when it comes to purchasing cars… I more or less wait for the right car to come to me at the right price. My neighbor’s daughter had my Blazer, and I had always expressed an interest in it. When my neighbor got tired of paying her gas bill, it was mine. My Vette and Allante were friend of a friend deals. My Impala, I went with a friend (the intended purchaser) to look at the car, and ended up buying it myself.

    The first thing I look for is a three pedal manual transmission. Followed shortly by it having real character to drive.


    If it is a play car condition, performance, price and emotional connection.

    If a daily driver new purchase. Needs, comfort, performance price and emotional connection.

    If for my wife what ever she wants.

    I have to like a car feel good in it and fit may needs for daily driving. Also can I afford it.
    These are my general points to look at.

    Now I did buy an HHR SS once. Not an HHR fan, not a Turbo fan and for sure not a FWD fan. But I drove one and the driving dynamics sold me. The power ride and handling along with the fact it could haul what needed got me to buy. I drove a first gen Colorado and I hated it. The feel and drive just had nothing that hooked me.

    You ask “looking FOR a vehicle”…

    That’s too easy. Most all of us are on the lookout for a specific Model or Type.
    If you’d like a 1960’s British roadster, you’re not going to peruse 1980’s SUVs.

    So that FIRST thing will always be that one category, be it narrow or wide.

    Now, looking AT something means that it is currently in your presence.
    All experience, wisdom and borrowed experts are now immediately necessary.
    Good luck and caveat emptor!

    We are a tall family. First thing–do we fit? S197 was first Mustang in years that the seats went back far enough and piqued my interest enough to purchase. As a rule we like big trucks and SUV’s–one of which has that proven 6.0 and runs like new at 265K. I also tend to wait for the right deal to come by…

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