Buying a car is equally exciting and stressful.
Exciting, because after all, you’re getting a car that’s new to you. Freedom! Mobility! Independence!
Stressful, because buying a car is complicated. Should you lease or buy? Are you paying too much? Or are you paying too little, and getting a car that will need expensive attention down the road? And does it ever make sense to buy a cheap car with high miles or known issues?
Also, buying a new car has never been more expensive. And as CarDealershipGuy mentions in this interview, prices are unlikely to drop to pre-pandemic levels, because “new vehicle production costs have risen significantly since 2020. The prior price baselines no longer reflect reality…. Prices absolutely WILL decline, but it’s very unlikely that we’ll get back to pre-2020 levels.”
With high prices and endless options, it’s essential to stay organized and focused on the factors that matter most to you.
To help you navigate this process, here are free car comparison spreadsheet templates designed to compare prices, and features, and understand the value of your current car as a trade-in or sale.
About the 20/4/10 Rule for Buying a Car
If you’re going to use a loan to buy your car, the 20/4/10 guideline helps you budget for what you can afford. It recommends making a 20% down payment on a car, taking out a loan for a four-year period, and keeping your total transportation costs under 10% of your monthly income.
This rule is designed to help you buy a car that you can afford to pay for and maintain comfortably with less risk. Here’s how the 20/4/10 rule works:
- 20% down payment. A 20% down payment means you’ll have to pay 20% of the purchase price of the car upfront before you can even take it home. It’s important to remember that a down payment will reduce the amount of money you’ll have to borrow, and it will also make your monthly car payments lower.
- 4-year loan. A 4-year loan is a good option for most people. It’s long enough to give you time to pay off the loan, but not so long that you’ll end up paying a lot of interest.
- Budget 10% of your income for transportation. This includes your car loan payment, insurance, gas, and any other expenses related to your car. If you keep your transportation costs under 10% of your monthly income, you’ll be in a good position to afford your car.
Of course, the 20/4/10 rule is just a guideline. There may be times when it’s not possible to follow this rule, or when it doesn’t make sense for you to do so. But if you can, following the 20/4/10 rule will help you buy a car that you can afford and that will meet your needs.
Read more about the 20/4/10 rule here.
A Great Resource for Car Shopping: CarSheet.io
While it’s not a traditional spreadsheet template, CarSheet is a great source of current car prices and other data.
It allows you to sort, filter, and compare cars with over 50 customizable columns including price, power-to-weight ratio, CVT, electric recharge time, headroom, automatic parking assist, and more.
Car Comparison Calculator from Vertex42
This car comparison calculator from Vertex42 for Microsoft Excel helps you see how much you’re paying for your current car, and what you might spend on your next car. You can also use this car comparison spreadsheet to decide if you should lease or buy a car.
Car Comparison Spreadsheet from Penny Hoarder
This is a simple spreadsheet for comparing new cars or used cars.
Mileage to Dollar-Cost Spreadsheet from Money at 30
This Google spreadsheet from Moneyat30.com seeks to objectively show which car from a list makes “the most financial sense.”
It aims to show how much value you might get from a “miles on the road” perspective, along with other potential factors, such as upgrades, car color, and model year.
“My Crazy Car Comparison” Google Sheet
The goal of this sheet is to find the best deal from a list of cars. For spreadsheet nerds, the documentation of this sheet is fantastic.
(The author notes “Anyone who knows me will tell you that I probably spend more time making spreadsheets than I do actually saving time with those sheets… That may or may not be true but either way, I love making spreadsheets!)
Car Comparison Spreadsheet from Reddit
This is an older Excel spreadsheet, but it’s remarkably comprehensive and can easily be customized. The author of this spreadsheet notes “It was tremendously helpful for my overly analytical brain. It may help someone else out there.”
Vehicle loan payment calculator for Microsoft Excel
Track vehicle cost of ownership for your personal car or business fleet with this accessible vehicle service record template. Use this vehicle maintenance log template to enter monthly service expenses. This printable vehicle service template calculates the year-to-date total automatically for you.