Shopping for a new car can be overwhelming and quite frankly, scary! Making the right decision for your needs and budget can completely affect your lifestyle. I am a weirdo. I’m 36 years old and even though I started driving at 16 years old, I have only owned 3 cars. A 1985 Ford EXP, a 2000 Plymouth Neon, and our newest car a 2013 Kia Soul.
I literally drove that Plymouth Neon into the ground. I bought it in February of 2001 with 34 miles on it and paid about $11,000 for it. The dealership was clearing out their lots for all of the newer year model cars, so I got a heck of a deal on it. It’s sitting in my yard now with 187,000 miles on it. Let me tell you though, it took me years to get to the point I was ready for a new car. The final straw for its demise was a squeaky belt, that I am fairly certain is the timing belt. With a repair estimate of $500.00 and a Kelly Blue Book value of significantly less, I finally decided it was time to retire the car.
Here are some of the things I learned while car shopping for our newest purchase:
1. Set goals and specifics for your vehicle
It’s all well and good to go car shopping unprepared for what your financial goals are on a vehicle, however, I do not think this is the wisest choice. I sat down and made a “must have” list for the vehicle and a “would like to have” list to go with it. To keep the list short, my main goal was the mileage, if used, had to be an average of 15k miles per year or less (which is average) and within our budget.
2. Set a budget based price point and refuse to break it
Ok, this might sound easy, but it can be a lot harder than you think, especially when you compare your budget to need versus want. We set our price point at $15,000. Not one penny more. I am not exaggerating when I say I have spent 8 months to a year trying to find a car that met with our standards. I am proud to say not only did I go UNDER budget, I actually purchased the car for less than the Blue Book value.
3. Prepare for a purchase LONG before you think you’ll need it
The majority of the reason I held off so long on buying a new car was simple: I didn’t want a car payment. I haven’t had a car payment in 10 years and since we are pushing to get out of debt I didn’t want to add more to it. However, I also had to be smart and realize that my old car was a ticking time bomb and because it was our only vehicle, I had to prepare in advance for it to break down. Let me tell you, we tried over and over again to save up enough money to pay cash for a car, but honestly, the last few years have been horrid on us financially. We were at the point where we were going to get up to go to work one morning and discover the car was dead, or it was going to break down on the freeway during my commute. If that happened, we were going to have to go car shopping and quickly make a purchase. It was going to take control of our purchase away. That was not acceptable to me. However, knowing what I know NOW, I am going to make sure our next purchase is very different.
4. Research research research!!!
I found what I thought was going to be a great deal on a car. It was a 2000, but it only had 30k miles on it. I even scheduled a test drive on the car, a Saturn Vue, and was ready to do some serious car shopping. That night I looked them up online and instantly found post after post of the most horrid reviews I have EVER seen. There was a major flaw with the transmissions on that vehicle, in fact, so much so it was one of the major contributing causes to Saturn filing bankruptcy and the company blowing away into the wind. I’m glad I checked into it before I bought it!
Before I purchased the most recent car, I spent a lot of time reading reviews on Car and Driver. It was absolutely invaluable to helping me make a decision. It will tell you the “best” car in its class, average pricing, the features, and what they decided were pros and cons on the vehicle. While I ended up picking a different car than what they felt was best in its class, I would probably still be shopping if it wasn’t for their site helping to push me in the right direction. (Not an affiliate review by the way! All my own honest opinions!)
Additionally, the more information you have when you walk into a dealership, the more inclined you will be to say NO to those good ole salesmen tactics. For example, the financing department manager asked me if I wanted GAP insurance. Because of my experience and knowledge in insurance, I was able to tell him no, and I would purchase it through my auto insurance. He pushed again, and I was able to kindly and firmly tell him nothing would change my mind, but thank you.
5. Check with your insurance agent on the pricing of the insurance before you buy!!!
Yes, I am an insurance agent. There is nothing more annoying to me than someone who buys a car first and then gripes at me about the cost of the insurance AFTER they have purchased the car. It annoys me so much I mentioned it in my post on 10 Ways to Save Money on Your Car Insurance.
I discovered while I was taking my time car shopping that many of the less expensive cars on the market had significantly higher insurance premiums. It helped that I was able to do my own quotes while shopping, but the general fact is one simple call to your agent can save you hundreds of dollars a year.
6. Don’t rush it
Scroll back up and read through the bullet points again. Do you see a common theme? Simply put, purchasing a car is not something to take lightly. Whether you are spending $30,000 or $5,000 you want to make sure your decision is wise. Yes, it took me 8 months to a year to replace my old vehicle. However, I also have a new to me, barely used car with enough bells and whistles to make me giddy and I was UNDER budget. It was worth the wait!
Are you car shopping? Tell me about your biggest hesitation or your best deal!by