Shopping for a new car is supposed to be fun, right? Ever since my car took its last ride before taking a permanent dump in Iowa, M and I have been obsessively looking for a new car. When we first started looking, I was really excited. Who doesn’t like the idea of getting a new car? But now, a week and a half later, I am ready to collapse on the floor. I had no idea car shopping could be such a chore and strain on our relationship. If you’re in the same situation as M and I, I recommend you read on and prepare yourself for the “joy” of car shopping.
A few months ago, M sold his Grand Am in order to get rid of a car payment. My Buick had been paid off since the day I got it, and M’s parents let us use their little Festiva as a run-around car. So for a few months, we were living in bliss with no car payment. As we know, that quickly changed when my car broke down and left us stranded in the humid heat of Iowa for 6 hours as we waited for M’s dad to come rescue us. The engine was shot. We both decided we were done with my Buick. It wasn’t worth fixing. So that only means one thing: we had to get a different car.
We spent all day the next day after getting home shopping for cars in a larger city, about thirty miles from our home. We knew we liked Pontiac Vibes for their versatility and gas mileage, but they were hard to come by. We got sidetracked and looked at some other cars, but nothing really caught out attention like a Vibe. After hours of looking, my excitement started turning into discouragement. I never realized car shopping could be so frustrating!
We returned back home with our tails between our legs, until we went to a car dealership in our hometown. They had the largest selection of Vibes we had seen anywhere. Buying new was out of the question, but there were two cars they had closer to our price range. One thing we soon discovered about the Vibes was that they hold their value more than most other cars. For a three year old car with 50,000 miles, they were asking only a few thousand dollars less than what was paid for a new car at that time. On top of that, the interior was not as pristine as what we would like, and the car didn’t even have ABS. But being that we knew we can’t afford a new car, it was really our only option at the time.
Each evening for the next few days, M and I took several trips to the surrounding towns, only to find a very poor selection of Vibes, if any. Supposedly they are a hot item right now, and they are quick sellers, so few dealerships have them. We kept talking with our salesman in town and had him give us a print out of what our payments would be on the used vehicle. Just for fun, we had him give us a print out of a new Vibe as well. We were shocked! Because a new car has a much lower interest rate than buying used, the monthly payments were very comparable. Because of this, M started talking as if a new car was actually a possibility.
Let me give you a little background about our families. I came from a family of eight children. Buying a new car was never even an option for us. And to this day, my parents think that buying a new car is a waste of money, since it depreciates so much as soon as you drive it off the lot. M, however, just has one other sibling. His parents believe in buying new because its the only way you know for sure that you are getting a decent car, as well as a warranty to back it up. I don’t believe either of our parents is wrong in their thinking, but it kind of caused some conflict between M and I. I like the idea of getting a new car, but I kept asking, “Do we really need a new car?” I could tell M was sold on getting a new one, and when he showed me the numbers of our payments and total interest paid, I was convinced. New was the way to go.
So now, a week and a half after my old car died, we have a brand new Pontiac Vibe sitting in our garage. The story I’ve told you is definitely the shortened version. There was a lot of headache involved in making a decision. There were countless times where I felt so unsure about which decision was the right one. There were times when I had a bad attitude because of it. This was the first time in my life that I’ve ever had to go through having to buy a car, and I learned a lot.
If you are in the process of looking for a new car, and like me have never been through it before, here is some advice that will hopefully help you before you start. If someone had told me this before we started shopping, things probably would have gone much smoother.
- Before even beginning to go car shopping, figure out how much you can afford. M and I had an idea of what we wanted to spend, but until you actually sit down and crunch the numbers, you are just guessing. Write a list of all of your expenses and add them up. Do the same with your income. Doing this will let you know how much extra money you have to work with each month for a car payment. It’s easy when car shopping to start with a limit and soon find yourself saying “but this one is only $2000 more”. If you start with a definite plan, you are more likely to stick with it.
- Discuss with your spouse who will be doing most of the dealing, and how it will be done. M and I hit a major road block here. I was expecting M to handle most of the dealing, and I think he expected me to do some as well. There was one time in particular where we were looking at a car we were interested in. I was waiting for M to start talking price, while M was waiting for me to. We ended up leaving without ever discussing it with the salesperson, and the whole way home we were both in bad moods because of it. Tell each other your expectations before you even start, and your dealing will be much more pleasant.
- Explore all options. When M and I started looking at cars, we thought buying new wasn’t a possibility. But by chance we found that the monthly payments and total interest paid between the new and used were nearly the same. We now have a perfect new car with 14 miles on it instead of a scratched used car with 44,000 miles for a difference of only $20 in monthly payments. Not only explore new versus used, but also kinds of vehicles you thought you might now even like. When the Vibe first came out, I thought they were ugly. M, however, liked them right away. Over time, I started to like them more, especially after seeing all of the possibilities for use. And when we started looking to buy, and actually test drove one, I was completely sold on it. So don’t pass anything by. You’re looking to spend a lot of money, and its a big commitment. Make sure you are going to be happy with your decision.
- Pray about it. I believe that God wants you to make the right decision, even when it comes to picking out a car. He will direct you while you’re looking. Be listening for that still, small voice. God cares about the small stuff too. M and I prayed every day over our car situation, and I believe it’s because of God that we were able to purchase a new car. So don’t forget to pray!
Hopefully with this advice, your shopping experience will go a little smoother than ours did at first.
Update: I submitted this to ProBlogger’s: Lists – Group Writing Project. Check it out. I thought B had a great list of car buying tips. -M