Hello friends! Last week, we bought a car. I had needed one for a while since we've shared one car the whole time we've been together. But the whole idea of buying a car, especially the financial investment, terrified me. As does any large purchase. But then I realized I have the smartest husband ever and I should never worry about money when he's managing it. He'll share his top car buying tips below.
Now, some of the story. I went to Provo with Seth and we planned to go to a dealership and look around after he got off work. When I picked him up, he started talking about a particular car he wanted to see and test drive. I was all, "How do you know about this one, specific car? I thought we were just looking around?" Apparently dealerships post their cars, new and used, online (who knew?) and Seth had already shopped around, compared models, prices, carfax, you name it for a couple weeks. He knew what he was doing. Which is why we ended up buying a car only a few hours later. And why my anxiety was completely set at ease. And why I'm having him share tips, because he's smarter and I would probably say something silly like, "don't buy a car unless you can pay for it up front with cash!" Which no one can do.
And now, Seth's super-smart tips for newbies who know nothing about car buying.
My new (to me) Nissan Murano. And protruding belly.
1. Decide what type of car you want.
That might be easier for some people than others, but for us it was half the battle. We started the process thinking of getting a sedan, then decided we needed something with a little more room like a hatchback, and from there felt like it would be best to have something that could handle the snow. I looked a lot on Cars.com and AutoTrader.com to compare. Once you decide what you really want is a midsize crossover SUV with all wheel drive (what we finally settled on) it makes it much easier to sort through your options.
2. New or Used?
This is mostly a budget question. Buying new comes with more security, it's more likely you'll have a Long time before problems come up, and you'll have a manufacturer's warranty just in case, but you'll pay for it up front. Keep in mind that as soon as you drive off the lot the car value drops an average of 10%. Unless you have the money to blow or absolutely need the newest and greatest, I recommend used.
3. Private or Dealer?
This is also a budget question, but for me it was more about security. I bought a car about 5 years ago from a private owner, only to have the engine blow up less than a week later driving from Washington to Utah. Of course this doesn't happen very often and it may have been a fluke, but it ended with me paying for the car twice. While you'll generally pay more at a dealership, you can rest a little more easy knowing the car has been looked over with a 150 point inspection. Many dealerships also offer extended warranties and gap insurance, which makes it in their best interest to sell you a car they know is going to last.
Due to past experience, I knew I wanted some peace of mind even if it cost more, but if you aren't the kind of person to worry too much about it and feel like the car is reliable then you might choose to do without this. If you do get a warranty, get just enough coverage to make you comfortable. This might be a basic powertrain warranty, which covers the big stuff like engine and transmission, or the full package that covers anything that could go wrong. We took the middle ground that also covers electrical issues, mainly because it wasn't much more than the powertrain.
5. Gap Insurance?
This covers what you owe on the vehicle in the event that you get in an accident and total the car. Basically it makes sure you aren't continuing to pay for something you don't have any more.
6. Check the carfax!
I know the commercials are corny, but you want to know if the car has a clean history. It has information like the number of owners, average number of miles per year it's been driven, and maintenance records. If the car was ever in an accident, you should know that before you buy. You should also check Kelley Blue Book, kbb.com, to get an idea of how much the car is actually worth.
This is something we didn't know much about before going in. As first time car buyers we got an interest rate of 6.99. We have great credit, but since we haven't taken out the type of loan that requires large payments, the interest rate was a little high. The advice we got at the dealership was to make payments for about 6 months, then go into our credit union and refinance. After about 6 months of making payments, we should be able to qualify for a much better interest rate, about 2.99 to 3.99. The dealership finance guy said he has refinanced his car 4 or 5 times in a few years. As your credit improves, take advantage of the better loans you qualify for. The added bonus to this is that when we go to buy a home this will help us qualify for a better home loan as well. We hadn't even thought of that but it made the idea of car payments much easier to think about.
8. Don't get pushed into it.
We had a great experience at Ken Garff Nissan in Orem, mostly because we didn't feel pressured at all. After hearing all the typical stories of car salesmen, I went in fully prepared to battle it out, but they were very open about what our options were and didn't try to make us feel like we needed to jump into anything. Afterward I kept thinking I should feel more like a sap, since we did walk in and buy the first car we looked at, but because of the research I had done and the way we were treated, I felt really good about the whole experience.
*amber and seth*