Just say no. "Paint protection, fabric protection, and alarm systems can often be installed far cheaper after you buy the vehicle," says AAA's John Paul.
2. Should I pay extra for car insurance when I rent a car?
Not unless you enjoy double paying. If you already have car insurance, and you're charging the rental on your credit card, you're likely covered, says Jean Chatzky. Call your credit card and insurance companies before you go, and ask what your policies cover.
What kind of car should I buy...
3. If I'm a long-distance commuter?
Three things to consider: gas mileage, comfort, and stereo extras to keep you entertained. "I like the Toyota Prius," says Brian Moody, senior road test editor at car pricing and review website Edmunds.com. "It's a hybrid and gets over 40 mpg." Nonhybrid options include the Honda Fit or the Ford Focus; the Focus comes with the Sync system, which allows you to control your MP3 player by voice command. Visit FuelEconomy .gov to check gas mileage.
4. If I hate to drive?
Moody goes with the Prius again: "It requires so little effort. The steering is electric, the shift is electric, and it has a certain ease."
5. If I'm a mom with two kids?
"I would get a sedan, because they're cheap and roomy, and they don't guzzle gas," says Moody. "Unless you live where it's snowy, in which case a compact SUV, like a Honda CR-V with all-wheel drive, would make sense." Before you buy, scour safety ratings at SaferCar.gov and IIHS.org.
6. If I'm a weekend outdoorsy person?
A Subaru Outback or Land Rover LR2. "They're essentially easy-to-drive station wagons with decent fuel economy, but they slug through mud," says Paul. Visit Edmunds.com to see both the dealer cost of the vehicle and typical buyer prices.
7. If I'm single and want a car as carefree as I am?
The Mazda MX-5 Miata or Saturn Sky. "They're fun, you can put the top down, and they're not an awful lot of money—less than $30,000," says Paul. Note the minimal storage space, though: A small, soft duffel is just about all that fits in the trunk.
Arianne Cohen is a Manhattan-based writer. Her exploration of the world of tall people, The Tall Book (Bloomsbury), will be published in January 2009.
Additional reporting by Brooke Kosofsky Glassberg and Kate Sandoval.