This is a stock photo of my car, the 2013 Ford Edge. It wasn’t my first choice, but we’ll get into that in a bit. The good thing here is that I was able to replace my car and get back on the road relatively quickly after my last car accident because the car insurance company sent me a check for almost $10,000 which went right towards my down payment. It was kind of like winning a sad lottery.
First, I have to put a disclaimer out there. I worked in the automotive industry for a major manufacturer for a few months shy of five years. I’ve seen/sat in/driven every major manufacturer’s cars at some point. To me, a car is just a means of transportation. As long as it has 4 wheels, a couple of airbags, and runs on gas, I’m pretty satisfied. I have absolutely no loyalty to any brand. I’m also pretty knowledgeable about competing models within each category. I’m also aware of a rough time frame of when new designs for cars are scheduled to come out. In other words, I’m a car salesman’s worst nightmare. My husband? Mmm, not so much.
The last time we purchased a car I chose a Jetta, and honestly, my husband is well over six feet tall and linebacker sized. Folding into a Jetta was easy when he was 30. Years later, it was a much harder endeavor. Other than knowing that we would purchase the crossover version of an SUV and having a price in mind, I didn’t care which car we purchased. I let my husband take the lead. Big whoops.
He was blinded by the shiny bells and whistles and whosy-whats-its. In his defense, I could have vetoed his decision and chosen the car that’s more practical, but here is why I didn’t; this isn’t a dictatorship. I compromised between what I thought we needed and what he wanted. Since this car is a full 30% more expensive than I wanted to spend (holy Jeebus!), we struck a deal that he would be solely responsible for the additional purchase price. Also, selfishly, I wanted to preserve my own sanity because I would have heard him whining about the car for the next 7 to 10 years if we hadn’t purchased it.
If you are in the market for a new car, there are a few things that you should do before shopping.
- Make sure that you know exactly what it is that your family needs. How many people do you need to have room for? What’s your lifestyle? How often and in what kinds of conditions do you drive? This can help your narrow down your search to a few cars immediately.
- Set a maximum budget that accounts for taxes and other fees. Also, know how much in monthly payments your budget can support. That way, when the shiny object that you just have to have pops up that is priced outside of your budget, you won’t be swayed, or you’ll know what you’re willing to swap out for the new must-have item.
- Don’t buy at the dealer things that you can purchase more cost effectively elsewhere. I’m thinking of things like wheel locks, window tinting, cargo and trunk liners, etc. If you are purchasing all weather mats outside of the dealer, make sure that you get one that matches your own car and fits into the mat locks of your vehicle. Your pedal can get stuck in an all-weather mat that is not made specifically for your car if you are not careful.
- If you’re financing your car, shop around. Don’t feel as if you have to use the manufacturer’s financing company. Unless they’re desperately trying to get rid of a car or an older model year, chances are that you can get a better deal at your local bank or credit union. Zero percent financing offers are hard to beat, but you’ll only qualify if your credit score is above 720 and if that deal is offered on the particular model that you’re buying. I found the best rate for me (1.9%) at a Chase and not through Ford.
- Call your insurer to find out how much a car that you are thinking about will cost to insure. Your new car might cost more to insure than your old car and you don’t want to be caught off guard if you have not budgeted for the extra cost. If you are financing a car, you will most likely need to have full coverage insurance. Remember, you current car insurance company might not be the best one for your new vehicle. Be sure to shop around for full coverage car insurance to get the best coverage at the best rate.
- Don’t be afraid to test drive your potential cars as much as possible in every condition imaginable. I especially love testing out cars in the worst possible weather. Living on the East Coast, I’m less concerned about how my car handles in the summer than I am in the winter. If the salesman gets annoyed, ask to work with someone else at the dealer.
- See what the competition is offering for a competitive car and play them against each other. I was able to squeeze an extra $2,000 off my purchase price by telling the dealer, truthfully, that I had narrowed my final choices down to two vehicles but since their car was more expensive, I was ready to immediately put a down payment on the car if they could give me a better deal. Deal struck!
- Sleep on it. Outside of a home, a new car is the second largest purchase that most people will make. It’s fine to take your time to decide on exactly what it is that you want. If you’re not leasing a car, remember that this decision will stick with you (hopefully) for a long time. Be sure to get everything that fits your needs and desires.
So, I said that my car wasn’t my first choice. It was my third choice, but I’m fine with compromising. It works for my family. Hopefully, we won’t be in the market for a new time for another decade, but if we are, expect me to just as savvy about the next purchase as I have been with this one. Now, get ready to make car payments.