Buying a Car: An Excel™lent Adventure

car lot

Which car?

used car lot

New or Used?

Look! Financing available!


Hummer: Lease or Buy?

Lease or Buy?


For sale by ownere car

Keep or Sell?

PT Cruiser: Selling your parents

Making the Case


Choosing the Right Car

You could begin this project in a number of different places. Let’s start by tackling the question of which car. Car buying can be a very emotional decision, made without much regard to cost and money. For the purpose of this exercise, you will need to be at least a little analytical. Start by making a list of cars you might like to own.  Since this is for a technology course, type up your list.

            Once you have at least three and  no more than ten cars, we’ll begin the research. You may know which one you want, but we want you to look at the test from an economic standpoint before making a commitment.

What would each car cost? Let’s start by looking at the price of the car. Go to one of these sites and find the price of each car new.

Research the price of the cars new at three sites (or another one that you’re familiar with):




Car Insurance

Auto insurance is a big part of the cost of driving for young drivers. You may shop online for insurance at

Auto Web
Ins Web
Car Source
Auto Insurance Quotes
Insure Me
Automobile Insurance
Prudential Insurance
State Farm
Allstate Insurance
Geico Insurance

                        You will find that you will have to give some personal information in order to get an online quote. Price coverage with three companies for the cars that you are considering. Place that on another spreadsheet or tab. If you'd like to see what this looks like, click on the image to get a screen shot:

(You can rename the tabs by right clicking on them and choosing “Rename”.

Total Cost of Ownership

Did you notice the Total Cost of Ownership tab? Here’s an important concept: The cost of a car is much more than its price and insurance. Of course, there’s gas, but there’s also depreciation, maintenance, resale value, and other items. There are organizations that track these figures and you can access the information on the web. The insurance information is going to be the most inaccurate, since you are a teen driver, but you can still use the figures to compare which cars, relatively speaking, are the most costly.

For new cars, you can find this information at Edmunds and Kelly Blue Book. Go to Edmunds and look for the True Cost of Ownership page on the bottom right hand side (the address is Edmund- TCO )  For Kelly Blue Book, select the Intellichoice 5 year cost of ownership option at the bottom of the “Build a Car Price Quote”. Take this information and plug into your spreadsheet. You can either start a new spreadsheet or click on  the sheets found in the bottom left corner of Excel and use a new sheet in the same worksheet. Here’s how to copy the information:

            Using the pull down menu, input the information for cars you are interested in. When you have retrieved the information about a car, copy it into Excel, following these steps:

1.      Highlight the information in the columns and rows Click image to see example

            You can now copy the columns by:

  1. Holding down the right mouse button (PC) and selecting “Copy”
  2. Holding down the Control and C key at the same time
  3. Selecting Copy from the Edit menu.

Start up Microsoft Excel (or any other spreadsheet program) and paste in the information.

      It’s possible that  you will find that the information is not truly in columns that you can use. The Landmark Project for Schools web site , by David Warlick, has directions for turning the data into columnar information that will be more useful: Follow the directions at Landmark Project

      When your information is in columns, delete extra columns and rows. This will enable you to use them for making calculations and graphs.

You can right click to bring up a menu to do this (click image to see a page with an example)


            Make sure you label your information for each car. Based on the information about true cost of ownership, which of the cars on your list would make the most sense? 

Make a Chart  

          Now, create a graph/chart to present your information in the way you think is most appropriate.

            You can find directions for making charts under Help. You should select the Index and look under Chart, as shown in the example (Click image for page with example) :

You can also find directions for making graphs at:

Goza Graphs

WinPlanet or search under “Microsoft Excel charts” for other tutorials.

            Before moving on to the next section, look at the Crash test results at the NHTSA, National Traffic Safety Administration . How does your choice stack up now?

            Upon completing this section, you should have the following:

  • A list of potential cars
  • A spreadsheet with data from Edmunds on the True Cost of Ownership
  • A chart or series of charts presenting your information
  • A written summary of the car that you have selected and why, including crash test information