As I recently have mentioned, I finally bought a car! I want to share the whole entire process, starting from when I started saving money (aka when I first moved). It was kind of a daunting task considering I was a young single woman thousands of miles away from any family. Hopefully by sharing my complete story it can help anyone else who is overwhelmed by buying a car on their own.
- 4 doors
- Relatively low mileage
- No older than 2012
- Under $12,000 (list price not including tax)
Since I wanted something that was reliable, not super old, and with relatively low mileage I knew it wasn’t going to realistic for me to save up enough money to buy a car completely with cash. That’s just based on how much I spend per month. I came to the conclusion that I would finance it but put a lot of money down. I put $4,000 down. In retrospect I would suggest to anyone who doesn’t have their own car and is planning on moving somewhere without good public transportation to start saving as soon as you know it’s something you want to do. I’ve had part time jobs since I was 16 and knew I’ve wanted to move for few years so I could have actively started saving while I was still in college.
How I saved for the down payment:
- Set up my direct deposit to split my paycheck between my savings and checking. This is something I do even when I am not saving up for something specific. In this case I was putting more into my savings than I would normally because you should always have money in your savings.
- Asked for money towards the car for Christmas instead of asking for fun items like clothes, beauty items, or electronics.
- Used all of my tax return towards my down payment.
Once I had all of the money for my down payment saved up I applied for a loan through my bank. I was actually already a part of a credit union so they gave me a good interest rate. I didn’t end up using this loan but by having it I knew for sure that I would have something to cover the car and it would give a number that I could use to negotiate.
Since I had 30 days to use that loan I compiled a list of my top 3 cars with 2 back ups within the first week. When looking at used cars online it is important to note if they provide the carfax for free. If they do, also be sure to note if the car has been in an accident, how many owners it has had, and if it was a rental car.
During the second week after I got approved for that loan I made appointments to actually test drive cars. Some places you might be able to just show up to but the place with my first choice car recommended that I make an appointment.
When test driving cars it is important to pay attention to a whole bunch of technical things. I am still not the best at explaining this part so I’ll just link you to a checklist here.
It is also important to get the car inspected. Also sometimes you will get lucky like me and find a car that is still under warranty. This made me feel better that if something got over looked I would still have something to protect me with this purchase.
In conclusion I would say make sure you are financially ready to buy a car, do enough research to make you feel confident about going into the dealership, and be firm with what you want. If there is someone who can help you definitely take their help but if it gets to be too difficult to arrange a time that works for the both of you don’t doubt your ability to do it on your own.