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Learning, Sharing, and Teaching => Ask a Mustachian => Topic started by: nanu on June 14, 2016, 10:21:12 AM

Title: Looking to buy a car (for the first time)
Post by: nanu on June 14, 2016, 10:21:12 AM
Hi there!

My girlfriend and I have decided it's time for us to get a stupid-gas-guzzling-lazy machine that is able to transport our bodies (+some stuff) from point A to point B.
Our reasoning is that having a car will allow us to do bulk grocery shopping, but mostly allow us to do things over the weekend away from home.
Up until now we relied on renting zipcars and such for a day/a few hours over the weekend to get to places requiring a car.
However, paying that $100 every time we want to get somewhere makes us go out less. And so even if getting a car isn't the best decision financially, we have decided to do it.

We're only two people (and no planned tiny-humans in the next 5 years, if not longer), so we definitely don't need a huge ass monster car (, just something that can easily fit us + some belongings (suitcases, groceries, etc').
Price (including over time), fuel economy, safety, and reliability are the important factors to us for this purchase.
We don't have a set budget we can't go over. We live in Boston, but I don't expect we'll do much snow-driving or anything (car isn't used for commuting, so on those days we'll just stay home).

I really appreciate the help, and let me know if you need more info.
Title: Re: Looking to buy a car (for the first time)
Post by: catccc on June 14, 2016, 10:37:26 AM
I think you should get a car that does fit little ones, even if you don't have any planned for the next 5 years.  I have a feeling like us, many mustachians keep their cars for longer than 5 years.  DH bought his car (2005 Toyota Matrix) when he was single and living with roommates.  Fast forward 11 years, now it is our main family car, toting us and our 2 small kids everywhere.  I bought my small pick up (2004 dodge dakota) almost 5 years before our first was born.  I was going to get just a 2 seater truck w/o a back seat, but was convinced otherwise (it has a small bench seat that can accomodate car seats, but still just 2 doors.)  It's now 12 years old and I'm really glad that both of us are able to pick up the kids if needed. 

A Honda Fit or Civic, Toyota Corolla, or Mazda 2 or 3  will probably meet your needs in terms of price, fuel economy, reliability... but still keep you flexible for the future.
Title: Re: Looking to buy a car (for the first time)
Post by: neo von retorch on June 14, 2016, 11:52:09 AM
I'd look for a $4-8k car that is 3-8 years old - the list above is appropriate! (I drive an 8 year old Honda Fit - practical, efficient, inexpensive, reliable, surprisingly enjoyable.)
Title: Re: Looking to buy a car (for the first time)
Post by: nanu on June 15, 2016, 03:45:48 PM
Thanks! I'll look into those.

Any others tips? My girlfriends' parents recommend to go with a certified pre-owned car because of the "peace of mind".
From reading about it online, it doesn't sound that great (limited warranty, much smaller selection) but having never owned a car before, there is some peace of mind in knowing someone is responsible for any/most/some issues with the car.
Title: Re: Looking to buy a car (for the first time)
Post by: Sailor Sam on June 15, 2016, 04:09:43 PM
I've been doing some car research, in a half-hearted attempt to swap my expensive sports car for an econobox. I've found these links to be informative

Of course, they concentrate on new cars, but you can extrapolate back a couple years.
Title: Re: Looking to buy a car (for the first time)
Post by: Choices on June 16, 2016, 08:14:24 AM
From personal experience, "Certified Pre-Owned" doesn't mean it's a good car. I bought a 6 month old 8K mile Jetta with a clean CarFax from a dealership, and it was a huge mistake. It turned out that it had been in a major wreck that the dealership lied about, then tried to say that because it had aftermarket parts (that they put on) it voided my warranty.

If that weren't bad enough, it broke in a major way every three months like clockwork- power steering, seats falling out, windshield washer fluid leak, door wouldn't open, wouldn't shift, etc. It was a nightmare.

I'm not saying they're all bad, just that a used car from a private party can be checked out before purchase by your own mechanic and that life has no guarantees.
Title: Re: Looking to buy a car (for the first time)
Post by: neo von retorch on June 16, 2016, 09:38:29 AM
I bought a CPO Acura - a week later, when it rained, massive vibrations became apparent in two of the rims. The dealership would do nothing about it, saying "maybe I hit something in the week since I bought the car." Cost quite a few hundred to replace those rims.
Title: Re: Looking to buy a car (for the first time)
Post by: catccc on June 16, 2016, 11:40:34 AM
I think if you are buying a reliable brand, like those mentioned, you can forgo the cpo nonsense.  I know a lot of people recommend having a mechanic give a potential purchase a look-over.  You can do that for piece of mind, if you can find a mechanic you can trust.
Title: Re: Looking to buy a car (for the first time)
Post by: mtn on June 16, 2016, 11:50:33 AM
Know someone who knows cars? Take them with you on the test drive. I know cars very well, and always try to have my dad or brother with me (and my wife) when test driving because they'll notice things that I do not (and vice-versa).

Next, always get the carfax. I pay for the 60 day one. A clean carfax doesn't mean the car is good, but a dirty carfax tells you that the car has indeed been in a wreck.

I always, always look for maintenance records. When I bought our current car (10  year old Acura) the thing that tipped it was that they always had it serviced at the dealer they bought it from like clockwork. After we purchased it, I took it there for an oil change and asked for them to print the maintenance history for me--good for reference (When was the timing chain/belt serviced/replaced??) as well as when I go to sell it.

Look for rust, everywhere. Look for signs of a re-spray, which will indicate it has been in a wreck or has had other body work done that can lead to rust down the road. Look at the tires--if they're mismatched it is a sign that the maintenance hasn't been kept up with. I'll usually walk away from dirty cars even though I can clean them; my reasoning is that someone who can't clean a car for a showing probably doesn't care about changing the oil.

I prefer to buy from individuals rather than dealers, but I do buy from both. An individual I can get a good idea of how the maintained it, especially if I can meet them at their house (risky business there though). Fewer owners the better.

For the most part, everything that I've typed here are guidelines and not rules.
Title: Re: Looking to buy a car (for the first time)
Post by: mtn on June 16, 2016, 11:56:03 AM
Recommendations for you:
Toyota Prius, Corolla, Matrix, Camry, Avalon, Highlander, RAV4.   
Honda CRV, Civic, Accord, Fit
Lexus ES (any of them), RX (any)
Ford Fusion, Focus, Fiesta (2009-current)
Mercury Milan
Scion Xa, Xb, Xd

Don't worry so much about gas mileage. You aren't driving that much so it shouldn't be a huge concern.