So….. is it just me, or does it royally stink when it comes time to buy a new car?!? Wait, let me rephrase that…. Does it royally stink when you have to buy a new-to-you (used) car, with a small budget, AND you don’t want a lemon! That sounds so simple, but my goodness, it is a pain! Well today I am here to share our recent adventure in buying a used car, and give you a few tips that might help the process go a little easier for YOU too!
To start us off, I would like to share our little story that brought us to now… about a month ago, a gentleman failed to look before turning left across traffic and proceeded to move into the path of oncoming traffic (that would be me), resulting in an accident. Thankfully, no one was injured, and we were able to drive our vehicle home (after my husband thoroughly looked over the car to be sure nothing was compressed, leaking, or smoking). So, YAY! we can drive our car, right?!? Kinda. Well, after we got an esimate…. then dropped it off at the garage to get it fixed… then waited a week for the insurance evaluator to take a look… we found out NO, because our car was a little older, even tho it was in drivable condition, the body work that had to be done to get it back to its former beautiful condition would cost more than it would to replace the car altogether, so after a few shed tears on the phone, we now had a rental for an extra week, and no car when that went back, so the hunt was on for a new vehicle. These are the steps we took in the process of finding our new vehicle, and I believe they will definitely help eliminate some of the confusion and frustration in finding a new or used vehicle!
1. WHAT DO YOU WANT TO SPEND
The first thing we did when we started to look was to decide the amount of money we wanted to spend. Our car that had been totaled had been purchased pre-owned through a dealership and we had only recently finished the payments on it, and we really had no interest in going back into debt, so we decided to stay within the amount that the insurance company would be paying us to replace our totaled car. If we had chosen to finance a vehicle, then we would have calculated how much of a payment we could afford, as well as insurance costs, because financing a vehicle also requires full coverage on your insurance policy.
2. WHAT KIND OF VEHICLE DO YOU WANT
Our car that was totaled was a mid-sized sedan. However, we would really like to not have to purchase another vehicle for another 3-4 years, Lord-willing. Additionally, we have two little boys that are rapidly growing, as well as a dog and to travel to visit family, go on vacation etc., I believe it would be needless to say we were in need of something just a little bigger, so we decided to take a look at SUVs and trucks. Now obviously, we needed to be realistic with the price as well, so we were open to looking at vehicles even a few years older than the one we were replacing.
3. WHERE TO LOOK
Now that we had decided what we wanted to spend, and what type of vehicle we were kind of looking for, it was time to get an idea of what was available in our area. We were open to looking at dealerships, but the reality of most dealerships is that their used vehicles are obtained from either a trade-in or through an auction, and they may not have a personal knowledge of ow that vehicle has been maintained or used. Most dealerships are just looking to make a quick dollar (I say most, not ALL, because I am a firm believer that there ARE honest people in the world, even in the car sales industry, and so I do not wich to lump them all together!) For our car search, I went to the websites of the well-known dealerships around and perused the inventory they had that was within our budget. I also googled used car dealerships in our area, and those that were well rated in their reviews I also went to their websites to see what they had within our budget. My main source of listings in our area, however, came from Craigslist. Now before I go any further, I must insert here to please err on the side of caution if you do use Craigslist! It is an amazing resource, it is where we did find our car ultimately, but there are scams actively on there. In fact, it was in the car listings is where I encountered the first scam I have seen in a few years on Craigslist, and a general rule of thumb is, if it sounds way too good to be true, it probably is! Ok, so now to proceed, when searching Craigslist, since we had already set our budget, I set the search parameters to be a large year range, as old as we were willing to go, and I set the maximum amount of money we were willing to spend, and that helps weed out all the extra junk for you. I also highly suggest looking at newspaper classifieds. I checked every paper within our area, but there was not a lot listed. However, I know back east there would be pages full of listings, so I must mention that amazing resource as well! If you are going the new route, be sure to research all of the car dealerships and what deals and specials they are offering to get the best value, as well as researh their reviews on google and see what previous customers have to say!
4. ORGANIZING THE SEARCH
Before we went to look at any vehicles in person, I sat down and made a list of each vehicle we had interest in, the price, mileage, and general location. If there were any details missing from their listing, I then attempted to contact them and fill in the blanks. The day we went to see them in person, I wrote down a list and grouped them by location. I also called any private sellers to schedule a time to look at their vehicle, as well as updated them as to any delays in out schedule, because although they may be trying to sell a car, they also have things to do, and it is good to be thoughtful of that! We live a bit of a distance from where any of the cars were, so we needed to be as efficient as possible, and it is wise to conserve time and gas as well!
5. DOING THE LOOKING
Here it is! Now is the time you have been waiting for… you are going to go get you a car!!! If you are getting a new car, then this step is a pretty smooth transition for you, by now you will most likely know where you are going to go, most likely what type of car you would like to get, and all that is really left for you is to test drive and make sure you are comfortable and settling on a price/payment and the rest is pretty much a breeze. If you are going the pre-owned route, as we did, the paperwork is pretty smooth, but this part can be a little bumpy. I highly recommend that unless you have a complete knowledge of cars and their inner workings, OR have someone with you that does, please do not make an immediate decision! Through the course of our day, we looked at quite a few cars, a few we knew from turning it on, it was a no, and a few that we thought, “maybe this is it,” but when you’re making such a huge decision, and don’t want to buy something that you have to keep fixing, don’t be afraid to be hesitant! By the end of our “looking” day, we were exhausted, feeling quite hopeless, the kiddies were super fussy, but we decided to check Craigslist one more time before we headed home, and there was a brand new posting, and they responded immediately that we could come take a look… so we did… and we REALLY liked it! However, as I said, such a huge decision, the gentleman’s story sounded ok, but we didn’t want to make a wrong decision, so we slept on it.
6. MAKING THE DECISION
The story the gentleman had given us was that he purchases older vehicles that have been totaled like our previous vehicle, there is nothing wrong with the motor, etc, just the body has a few things that need fixed, so he does that and then sells them for less than what may be market value, because they are considered “rebuilt.” Well, we had never heard of this before, so Google was our best friend that night, and we came to find out that it was indeed the truth! Well, since that checked out, we definitely wanted to see it again, but we wanted to be sure it was a sound investment, so we asked a friend that is a little more knowledgeable about vehicles than my husband or myself to come along and take a look. I HIGHLY< HIGHLY recommend that when buying a used car, you DO NOT skip this step! Even if you are buying from a dealership, please DO NOT skip this step. If you do not have a friend that can go, perhaps ask your mechanic if you could bring a car by just for him to glance over and be sure you are making a wise choice. Anyone can make anything sound so good, but once your money is in their pocket, any problems the car may have is generally your responsibility! Back to the story now, the gentleman selling the car was very very open to our having someone else look at the car, taking it for a test drive, asking questions, and the car turned out to be a great find. Our friend did spot a small repair that was needed, and the seller was willing to adjust the price to accommodate for the cost of the repair that was needed, and we came out with the perfect car that fits what our family needs.
I know this has been an EXTREMELY long post and I may have even skipped some information that YOU may need. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask, or any suggestions, those are also welcome! It isn’t very often that we buy a car, so I am very much a novice at the whole experience, I just wanted to share what worked for us and possibly be an encouragement to someone else out there that may be in the same spot!
Before I close, I cannot fail to mention that all of this would not be possible without GOD and PRAYER. If you believe differently, I fully respect your decision, however I MUST state that this entire situation had been bathed in prayer for a few weeks and God ultimately provided exactly what we needed, in the time we needed it in.