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New Year. New Car. New Debt.

Updated on January 29, 2015

Out with the old. In with the new.

How did I get here?

I was lucky enough growing up that my parents were able to give me a car for my 16th birthday. Now, don't get too excited to hate me too much. It was previously my mother's and my father's before that, so it was a very nice hand-me-down. A 1999 silver Volvo S70. Her name was Shoshana (after my favorite Broadway star).

It really was a great car! There were come issues with it: chipping paint, no air conditioning, the window would stick sometimes in the cold, but she got me where I needed to go.

Since I graduated college, my car has been on the downward spiral. It was only a matter of time before it became an emergency to get a functioning car. I wanted to wade into it, and really do all of my research.

I made the mistake of deciding to go car browsing one day. We walked through CarMax just to get an idea of some different cars that were out there. I was looking for something small, but not too small that got great gas mileage and would last me a long time. I was interested in the Honda Civic, Honda Fit, and Toyota Carolla. In an ideal world, there would have been some sort of SUV in my price range that got amazing gas mileage, but, day.

Do Your Research

One of the greatest pieces of advice I can give you is to do your research.

To start, know what car you would like to get. There are so many different options out there. It can be extremely overwhelming. Once you know the car, the rest of the research is pretty easy. It's also important to know whether you're going to get a new car or a used car. Again, there are great sites like True Car or Auto Trader to compare prices. Dealerships also usually have a multitude of used cars that may not be the brand of the dealership.

Figure out what your priorities are. Do you need a fuel efficient car for frequent travel? Do you need a larger vehicle to be able to fit your family? Will you have to tow anything? Ca you see yourself driving this car in 10 or 15 years? These are all important questions to ask. This is a big of the biggest of your you need to make sure that it's something you're going to be happy with.

Research also includes putting a budget together. Look at your expenses over the last few months. Make sure you think of everything! Walk into the dealership KNOWING what you can spend, and make sure you spend less. You should never spend more than INVOICE on a car. That is what it costs the dealership to bring it in.


Used Car vs New Car

My original intention was to get a used car. I though there was no way I would be able to afford a new car. There are pros and cons of each.

Used Cars:

  • PRO - Lower Price. This is one of the main things shoppers are looking for. Potential car buyers go looking for used cars in order to get that lower price.
  • CON - Previous Ownership. This day in age, there exists the internet and Car Fax. You can see the full history of a car with the Car Fax. Dealerships are generally overpricing these cars. I looked at a used car with a sketchy Car Fax, and it was almost $2,000 cheaper than the same car with a "clean" Car Fax.
  • CON - Higher Interest Rate. Dealerships need to make their money back, so they are more likely to charge you a higher interest rate on used cars. This is, of course, negotiable, but be ready to fight for it.

New Car

  • PRO - That "New Car Smell". Really, is there anything better than having that new car smell?
  • PRO - No Previous Ownership. This car begins as yours. That means, anything that happens to it is your responsibility (I suppose this is a bit of a terrifying con too.). My car started out with 7 miles on it.
  • CON - Higher price. These cars will generally have a higher price tag. Remember, it is an investment. Being the sole owner (and taking good care of it) will help you out later on if you need to sell the car. Dealerships will also tend to offer you lower interest on new cars.
  • PRO - Design the Car & Choose What YOU Want. You get to choose the car you want. You're getting new? Choose the color. What kind of interior do you want? You have the ability to design the car to your liking (within reason).

These are, of course, just a few pros and cons. I'm sure you will find your own along the way.

What do you think?

Would you rather buy a new car or a used car?

See results

Surprises Along The Way

There are obviously a large number of things that can (and will) surprise you with buying a car.

  • Salesmen are pushy. This is a simple fact of life. There is a reason people don't care for car salesmen. Some of them aren't that bad. You may speak to someone who is plenty nice. However, when it comes down to the nitty gritty or possibly walking away, they turn on the charm and try to trap you. It's an awful experience. They will bring out their manager and try and talk you into it. DON'T FALL FOR IT. If you're not comfortable, walk away. They can't make you do anything you don't want to do.
  • Your insurance will change. When working on your budget, make sure you take into account a probable increase in your car insurance. It happens. If you expect it, it won't make too much of a blow to your budget.
  • It will take a long time. Of course, you've done all of your research, but it will still take a long time. For me, that was really agitating. I like to get in and out, and complete what I need to. Just expect to spend hours there.

Ask Me Questions!

I certainly hope this was at least a little bit helpful. I would love to share some more of my experience with you. If you have any questions or things you think I should add, leave it in the comments below! I really appreciate the feedback.


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