So, you have decided to buy your first car, a big step for sure! Woot Woot! Since I have just been through it with my daughter, I have some tips that might help you with the process. There can be a lot to consider and it can be very overwhelming.
Click on the image for a downloadable checklist.
1 DECIDE ON A BUDGET
Decide on a budget, keeping in mind not only the price of the car but also extra for maintenance, gas, repair and insurance. In my daughter’s case, she knew she wanted a hatchback because as a professional BMX freestyle rider, she wanted a car where she could easily get her bike in and out.
The car my daughter ended up with was her first choice. She had originally set her budget at $6K but ended up finding a car for for $4800!! It had 140K miles but because of the type of car and price she decided it was worth the extra miles and the mechanic agreed.
2 CONSIDER YOUR NEEDS
For your first car, as a young adult, we recommended cars that have good gas mileage, no more than 120k miles, not salvaged (carfax will tell you this with your VIN number) and reasonable repair and maintenance costs. These are all items that can be researched online. A car with only one owner and all the repair records is a true bonus!
3 STALK THE WANT ADS (and be patient!)
Each day she would look at Craigslist, Ebay, local classifieds, rental car agencies (avoid stick shifts) and some trusted local dealerships. She was prepared to negotiate on price as most people are asking more than they are willing to accept. When she would find a car that peaked her interest, she would look at the Kelley Blue Book price (http://www.kbb.com). The Blue Book® is the vehicle information resource used by consumers and the automobile industry to establish price guidelines.
4 DUE DILIGENCE
When you find a car that you are interested in, find out everything you possibly can about that car online. Get the VIN number and make sure it has not been in major accidents or that the title is not salvaged. Check out the CarFax and Kelly Blue Book. When you are ready to see the car, make arrangements to view it at a public place and bring a friend or family member. Find a local mechanic that is willing to check over the car prior to purchase. Some charge for such a service and some do not. When you find the car that you think is “the one” go through the checklist steps to complete the transaction.
5 DON'T BE A JERK!
She said, “It was the most stressful thing ever to buy my first car by myself”.
The seller wanted to sell it to someone “nice”. It was more of a concern than the actual price as the car had been in the family and was just sitting in the garage. Be patient! Scenarios like this are more frequent than you would think!
It was definitely a rite of passage, and great that she had to do it ‘on her own’ even though we were supporting her from afar,….not only that, but up to that point, she had been driving our camper van that was her security blanket. Now she is driving around in an actual car, purchased on her own and is one step closer to conquering her anxiety.
- Bring a friend with you
- Meet in a public place
- Match up driver's license with the Title name
- Have a mechanic check out the car
- Give money ONLY after the title is signed
- Have car insurance before driving away