So, you need to get a car. This is not about wanting a car; that’s a different article. My first new car purchase occurred the day after my exceedingly used 1972 Cadillac engine blew up. Yes, piston rod through the block, right in front of my sister new townhouse. Leaving engine fluids all over their formerly spotless driveway. My commute to work was twenty miles and no transit options available. I needed a car. And, while I had a few hundred in my bank account I did not have any credit history.
First mistake: I went to the local Ford dealership and explained my desperate situation to the salesperson. Second mistake: I bought the car we test drove. A 1980 Mustang which was essentially a Pinto with nothing except a four-speed manual paired to a small four-cylinder engine. Bank of America had a new to credit rate at twice the market. While I was still excited about my new ride. I discovered three days later that I paid about thousand over others. I discovered this in the then Sunday newspaper ad section.
Optimal perspective on a car purchase
Cars are the second major purchase after buying a home. There are definite rules to the search. First, never fall in love with a car…period. Second rule: there is no such thing as just one car for you. There are several reasonable choices so no rush. If you are told the deal is too good to be real…then it likely isn’t. Take the time to consider the many options available and identify the car type that fits your needs.
There are exceptions. I have a friend who has a family of five and he came home with a Mazda Miata which is a small two-seater. He later explained to me that this was deliberate to avoid having them all together; in a way he took care of his need. Today it is really quite easy to figure out fuel mileage ratings for any given vehicle. Visit https://fueleconomy.gov/ and put in the year, make and model of your choice. The public library reference section has all the stuff you need at no cost such as Consumer Reports which provides detailed maintenance experience for that year, make and model.
Alternative car options
If you are fine with a relatively new used vehicle, you may consider a lease return that can save you considerable money and typically, they have been required to be maintained according to their service intervals and have extended warranties available. Just ask the dealership used car people and don’t forget to reach out to a credit union as they frequently have vehicles coming off lease available. Today you can generally see the specific maintenance record as well as any recall information for that specific car you’re considering so request the CARFAX report.
There are many good cars out there and some are hybrids and all electric vehicles. I recently bought a 2014 Toyota Prius that had 155,000 miles on it and for the year I have put another 10,000 miles on it with just two oil changes. I average about 55.3 miles per gallon; I do keep my tires inflated to 35 pounds which helps. The fact that the car had so many miles on it did not really concern me as I have friends who have well over 200,000 miles on their Prius’ with no serious issues. Plus, it was obvious that the car had been well maintained and cared for. I did do my research at the library with Consumer Reports and I did get a copy of the CARFAX report for the car which provided the maintenance history.
There are several all-electric vehicles (EVs) available. And while they are not cheap there are some important considerations. Should you be looking for a new EV consider the Federal, State and local rebate programs in place. A friend bought a new Nissan Leaf. They purchased the in-between model which has a range of 215 miles on a charge at a list price of around $27,400. The rebates added up to a little over $7,000 so out the door for about $20,000. This made the purchase very competitive especially to any hybrid vehicles out there now. With charging stations appearing everywhere the range is becoming less of an issue.
Check out our EV article that dives into cost comparison https://drivewayenthusiast.com/is-a-modest-ev-an-affordable-commuter-vehicle/
There are many good cars out there and there are some useful places on line where you can actually shop and get an idea of what they will cost before taxes and registration. Try searching Cars.com at https://www.cars.com/ or Autotrader at https://www.autotrader.com/ for that vehicle you think you may want both new and used are available and these sites include both dealerships, simple mom and pop used car shops as well as private party.
Check your local laws…
Please know that California does NOT have a cooling off period by operation of law so to speak. So, when you buy that car and roll out of the dealership…it is yours and there is no returning it unless you negotiate a separate agreement in writing that you can return it within whatever period of time that is mutually agreed to. Yes, there are what are commonly known as “lemon” laws but knowing that you did your homework should keep you out of that situation.
If you finance, check your options
The discussion of financing among a few other things is usually the final step once you have decided on that car. You can make life easier by finding out what rates your credit union or bank may have available and get preapproved and at least know how this compares to what the dealer will offer. Typically, banks tend to be a bit higher so don’t be surprised. The important ingredients are the annual percentage rate along with the number of months so you can do apples to apples comparison. When you finance a car remember that you will be paying significantly more than what you might expect so any amount you can put down does help. Given that you need a car your would-be trade-in is most likely on its way to a Pick-n-pull wrecking yard.
You need a car so pick a few that look like they may meet your requirements. Then start doing your homework and that takes just a couple of hours. Analogues to my first new car purchase, had I spent the time doing some research, I could had saved well over a thousand. And that is about half the cost of a bargain two-week trip to Hawaii. Aloha!