When you go and look for a car, what do you look for? A lot of times, it's an emotional connection, you get excited about a particular brand. They call that "getting into your funnel."

But what really matters with a car? Certainly reliability is a big factor. But how about what it actually costs you?

Kelley Blue Book's 2015 5-Year Cost to Own survey points out that the sticker price on a car is not nearly as important as the overall cost of ownership over 60 months.

Read more: Avoid the #1 mistake that car buyers make

2 winners this year

So if you really want your wallet to smile on you, what brand would you buy that would give you the lowest cost of ownership? That would be Subaru, according to KBB.

"Long respected as all-weather wonders, Subarus now exhibit recent efforts in the areas of efficiency, functionality and style that have sent them to the top of the CTO class," the website notes.

However, if you're a luxury car buyer, Lincoln is the brand that has a really low cost of ownership.

"Lincoln bested all luxury competitors on the basis of highly competitive pricing and a resurgent product line with interesting new vehicles like the Lincoln MKX midsize SUV, a winner in its class, and the smaller MKC compact crossover."

What you do, know this: Cars are generally the second largest expense in our lives following housing. Changing your car ownership cycle is one of the keys to real long-term wealth.

Cars don't tire out. We tire out of the car. People dump a car because they're bored with it. We get excited by new car fever. That's not a good idea. If you want to maximize the car dollar in your life, here's the formula: Either buy a new car and hold it for 10 years or buy or 2 to 3 year old used car and hold it for 3 or 4 years. The math works out in your favor either way!

Read more: How often should you change the oil in your car?

Is leasing the answer?

Leasing is all the rage in the auto industry again, but does it make sense for you to get into a car this way?

I've seen several news reports that say leasing is now the No. 1 strategy of automakers and car dealers to reverse the trend that we're keeping cars much longer. The average age of a car out on the road is now the longest it's ever been.

One story I saw proclaimed that 200,000 miles is the new 100,000 miles, as more people start to see their cars as being babies once they hit 100,000 miles and keep them on the road.

With increases in car reliability, it's entirely possible that you might keep a car 10 years without breaking a sweat. That's not good for automakers and dealers. So you'll be seeing a strong effort to lease one in three of every new cars that gets sold.

For the most part, leasing is a disaster for you. Edmunds.com has new numbers to give you a sense of just how much of a disaster it can be. Basing their calculations on a car that sells in the mid $20,000 range, they've estimated leasing will cost you $6,000 more than buying the car new. That loss goes up to over $10,000 vs. buying a gently used version of that same car a couple of model years old.

When you get on that lease treadmill every 2-4 years, each time you're taking on an obligation and you have nothing to show for it at the end. Each time you take on 100% of the loss in value of the vehicle for the time you drive it.

Read more: Are extended car warranties worth it?


Image of Clark Howard About the author: Clark Howard

Clark Howard is a consumer expert whose goal is to help you keep more of the money you make. His national radio show and website show you ways to put more money in your pocket, with advice you can trust. View More Articles

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