Andrea's Guide to Buying a Car | Andie Ibanez

Andrea's Guide to Buying a Car

I got a new car! Well, its a used car BUT its new to me!

I'm pretty in love with it. It really is everything I wanted, the process was smooth, and the deal we got was amazing!
As happy as I am about this purchase, there was a purchase we made a few years ago that didn't go so well....

Let me tell you a quick story. 

The year was 2012. I was a recent college grad who landed a sweet job with a tech company in the valley. I was making way more than I was used to... Also its important to note that I drove a '98 Oldsmobile. It had a big V6 engine and tricked out lights built in the car that flashed to the music. I felt like such a baller when I was cruising through Utah County (I know, I know). Anyway, my dad said I really should get another car that fit my new life a little better and to start building my credit (also because my Oldsie was braking down ever few weeks). I've always been very frugal with my money, so the thought of putting a chunky down payment and opening a line of credit freaked me out. But my dad was right. I needed a reliable means of transportation and I needed to start building my credit. So Daniel and I went to a dealership "just to look" and 4 hours later we had a shiny red car. Now, I love our Corolla! It's so reliable and gets great mileage BUT it was a terrible experience and i'm convinced we over payed... 
[Sorry for the bad quality! It was pretty dark outside when we took this]

That's the reason I'm writing this. I don't want anyone to make the mistake we did. Daniel and I did a lot of research this time around and we've compiled it into a list of what we think are the most important things. I present you....  

Andrea's Guide to Buying a Car

Before the Hunt

1. Research to find what type of car you want. If you start looking at available cars first, the features, colors, price, etc. may distract you from what you really need.

When we were thinking of buying our second car, we thought about what we wanted first. We love the outdoors and going on trips with gear, so we knew we wanted something bigger than a sedan. We'd love to pull our parent's small boat and/or their pop up camper but we don't need to pull anything bigger than that. We also don't want something that guzzles gas. Ok so we agreed on a Compact SUV

2. Now that you know what type of car you want, research what make, model and year are the best.

Check out the Best Cars Ranking from U.S. News, they've already done all the research for you. This step will help you set a realistic budget. We knew the type of car we wanted was a pricier choice but with help from this list, we were able to find what category worked best for us. Check it out! The 2010 Toyota RAV4 is straight up ranked #1!! Wahoo! (That's what we got!). You don't have to commit to one car yet, but I would keep it to no more than 3. We had 2 types of vehicles on our radar: 2010 Toyota RAV4 and 2010 Honda CR-V (#1 and #2 on the list).

3. Make a wish list. But make sure that's only what is.. These are just extra perks. Not deal breakers. We had the following on our wish list:
- White/Pearl color
- Leather seats
- Seats that warm up
- Roof rack already installed
- Trailer hitched installed
- Sun roof
- Blue tooth
- Rearview camera

Spoiler alert: we were lucky enough to get everything on our wish list (except the trailer hitch). 

4. Make a game plan. We used a site called Car Gurus (they have an app too). Essentially it tells you that inventory of local dealerships, used car lots, and private sellers. Since you already have the specific make(s) and model(s) you're looking for, just search those. It made our game planning much easier than it could have been. After playing around on the site, we noticed 2 main lots that seemed to have the best inventory according to our needs. Plan to hit up your desired car lots on a day when all the decision makers in your family can go and spend a few hours. You don't want to be rushed! 

The Hunt

1. Don't buy a new car. Just don't! New cars lose 70% of their value in the first four years. But this shouldn't be a problem cause you've already identified your top 2 or 3, right??
2. Try to avoid dealerships. For the most part, their prices are higher (just our opinion, but we've never had a good experience at a dealership).

3. IF you buy from a private party, go to a mechanic you trust and pay them to take a look before you buy. Think of this as a Home Inspection for your car. If you find something wrong with the car, it sucks that you're out some money BUT you could have bought the car (for a whole lot more) and found a problem later...

4. Go to a used car lot. They have less of a dealership mentality and their prices are better than the dealerships (from our experience).

5. Don't be passive. If you feel like you've done your homework and are ready to move forward then plan on buying a car that day (if you see what you want). If you're interested in a highly ranked car, chances are its not going to be around for a while. The better a car is the more likely it will sell quickly. However, if you're not feeling it, then don't move forward. The last thing you want is to feel regret after spending thousands of dollars.

6. Don't buy something because its a good deal. There was a neat car that was SUPER cheap that had what we needed. I was almost convinced that it was ours. When you get in this mind set you may over look other aspects. For example, this car had a million miles on it but I kept justifying it. (note: Don't let cars with lots of miles scare you. As long as the ROI is there and you've researched that specific make/model then you're ok).

7. Don't just negotiate price. There are lots of ways to do this and probably tons of articles out there that can help you become a better negotiator. But when buying a car some places won't negotiate the price for whatever reason. You should still negotiate features and/or services. The car lot we went to didn't negotiate prices at all (because they were already so cheap). But we negotiated a lifetime warranty and a bunch of extra add-ons.

8. Cash cars for the win! If you are in a financial position to pay for your new-used car upfront, do so. Not much beats owning your car and not having to make payments. It's always better to live within or under your means when possible. If you were like 2012 Andrea and you need to build your credit, then you'll need to get a loan. BUT make a plan of when you're going to pay it off. Shoot for a year. But my best advice is just follow the steps above but search for a car that you can pay for full upfront.  

10. Be happy about your purchase and treat your car well:)

We did everything on this list and had such a great experience and found the perfect car for us. We got everything on our wish list, and no car payment! Give this guide a try and let me know how your experience goes:)

If you have any questions about buying a car or just general family finances, please reach out! My husband and I can't really cook or clean (or even keep a plant alive). But we are really good with our finances so we'd be happy to help!

Happy Car Shopping!

Xoxo, Andrea

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