It’s All About How You Get There

Entering the real world (a.k.a. life after college) means getting more responsibility (like a job) but it can also mean getting things you couldn’t afford before.  Last month I was able to purchase my first “real car.”  Now, when I say, “real car” I mean I was able to actually pick what I was going to buy–not just the first car I saw that I could afford.  Granted, having a real car means having real bills but for me it was all worth it.  I got to trade in my clunky (and a bit beat up) Nissan Altima for a pretty, silver Scion tC.

Finding the perfect car wasn’t easy.  I actually had to do my research.  Does it hold its value?  What are some of the common problems with it?  And as much as I wanted a 2012 Range Rover (do you guys have any idea how horrible they are in gas?!), I had to maintain some sense of practicality and get something that I loved but was also in my price range.

Here are some tips for getting a high monthly bill a new car.

Know your price range…and stick to it!  Financing means you’re not going to be paying for the car all at once.  You’ll put some money down, and then make monthly payments for the next who-knows-how-many years until the car is paid off.  Because you’re looking at cars without actually having all the money in the bank, it can be easy to tack on a couple grand to the price you’re willing to pay.  However, you need to remember that you’ll actually be paying more than the sticker price in the long run (ever heard of interest?).

Take care of it.  You might not have washed the old clunker weekly, but with this new beauty, a little maintenance will go a long way.  One of the first things my dad told me when I got this car was to make sure to wash it.  Things like salt air, salt from the roads, dust, and other things can slowly wear on your car and leave it prone to rust.  And don’t forget about oil changes, refilling fluids, and rotating your tires.

I suppose I’ll be buying these mats off Ebay…

I know you’re excited, but pay attention. When I started looking for new cars I knew I wanted a Scion tC.  What I learned was that they’re not very easy to find (they’re not obscure, but they’re a but harder to find than say, an Altima or Corolla).  So when I finally found a dealer nearby that had one in stock, I quickly rushed over.  It was love at first sight and I was too excited to notice a few minor details.  For example, my car doesn’t have floor mats.  Fun fact: you really should have floor mats to prevent the actual rugs from getting stained, ripped and worn.  Had I noticed this at the dealer, I may have been able to get them added in.  However, excitement got the best of me (same thing with the small chip in the windshield that I failed to notice) and now I’m stuck spending money on these kinds of things even after my purchase.

Extra cash?  I know just what you should buy. If you ever get some extra money (maybe from a birthday or a bonus at work), you should put it towards your car.  You’ll be thanking yourself later.  Paying the car off faster than you thought also means that there’s less interest for you to pay later.

It’s not just a car you’re getting…it’s a fun book of bills too!

Choose your loan wisely. When you finance a car, you choose the number of years it’ll take to pay off your car.  From what I’m told, most people choose a 5 or 6 year loan.  Despite knowing I would be able to pay my car off a bit faster, I still decided on a 5-year loan so I could have lower monthly payments.  I pay at least $100 more each month than required, but I still have the option of paying a little less (the required amount) if I’m strapped for cash.

Don’t be too proud to ask for help. Let me begin by saying that I hate saying no to people… and how I really should have considered this when proudly walking into a Toyota dealership alone.  All I did was glance at a fully-loaded 2012 Scion (that I didn’t even really want), and I had two different salesmen rushing straight in my direction. Forty-five minutes later I’m (feeling) trapped because they’re talking about horsepower, something about the engine and something about the wheels…or maybe it was the stereo.  I had no idea what they were talking about, was too embarrassed to admit it, and swore then and there that I would never go car shopping alone again.

Car shopping is fun, but the best part is the day that you’re driving it off the lot.  My smile was huge, my wallet was lighter, but so far… it’s all been well worth it!

Good luck!

~J

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