I began driving 17 years ago. My first car was Volkswagen Quantum. My vehicle journey started there and took me on a wild ride. I’ve owned a few junk cars including a Chevy Lumina, Nissan Maxima, and a Mercury Topaz I bought from an ex-boyfriend for $50. I’ve also been the owner of two Ford Explorer Sport Tracs, a Kia Sephia, a Chevy Cavalier, and until last Saturday, a Dodge Caliber.
I can’t tell you how to change a tire, but I can tell you how to buy a car. Sort of.
You’re probably expecting me to go into great detail about financing and technicalities. No. That’s not the direction I’m going with this. Continue on to read my tips on How to Buy a Car.
(#1) Do Your Research
Before you set foot on a car lot during business hours, narrow down your list of must-haves. I say during business hours because you don’t want pressure while you’re in the beginning stage of your car buying. Back in the olden days — 17 years ago — we didn’t have dealership websites to browse. We had to do all of our shopping in the dark when the salesmen we’re attacking like vultures.
(#2) Color Should NOT Be Your First Priority
I sacrificed a lot because I liked the color of a few cars I’ve owned. Don’t do that. Living in Wisconsin, handling winter driving conditions should be up there above color. Things like windows that roll down, working airbags, and tires with at least some tread take priority over color and how cool you look driving it.
(#3) Don’t Take Any Bull
There are some slimy salesmen out there and I know for a fact women see this more than men. I have had salesmen ask where my dad was. My sister was recently telling me about a salesman who was talking down to her and making very inappropriate comments. This is unacceptable. No vehicle is worth your dignity. If they aren’t respectful, they should not earn your business.
Be assertive and firm. There were times when I was not assertive and drove off the lot with vehicles I didn’t want, but settled due to salesmen convincing me it was my best option. It’s your money.
(#4) Don’t Bother Cleaning Up Your Trade
Last weekend, I spent two hours spot washing the carpet, scraping off coffee stickers, and scouring the interior of my 2007 Dodge Caliber. Three years ago, I paid $9,000 for it. On top of that, I paid for new brakes, new tires, a new battery, and front end ball joints and wheel bearings. For three years, the car squeaked, squealed, and clanked. I wasted two hours of my life last weekend.
(#5) Don’t Purchase Without Test Driving
The Caliber I just told you about… well, I bought that without driving it first. That’s all I’m going to say about this. Lesson learned.
(#6) Bring a Book to Read… or a Rosary or Something
I pulled into the dealership at 12:30 on Saturday and didn’t leave until 5:00. They had magazines, the Olympics on a brand new flat screen TV, cookies, popcorn, and soda, and a beautiful lounge to sit in. I was spending more money on a vehicle than I expected I’d be spending, so none of these things appealed to me. At least if I had a book, I could have pretended I was reading it while I silently sat with visiting with my heart palpitations.
It all worked out. I have to adjust to a sizable car payment, increased insurance, and this newfound adulthood milestone of having my dream vehicle parked in my parking spot. Eight years ago, I had a brand new Rav 4 for a rental vehicle in a horrible snowstorm. Since then, I’ve wanted to own one.
Now I do.