My First-Time Car-Buying Experience
Written by Christine Sharma

Thursday, March 7th, 2019

In June 2016, I graduated from university. With my $40,000 education in my pocket, I also had a bucket-load of skills and abilities from working while in school, but I couldn't find a job and I was broke with student loans, credit card and phone bills, and family responsibilities. 

My First Big Purchase

I had been taking public transit for six years, but when I graduated, I knew I needed to make a big purchase: I needed to buy a reliable vehicle.

But it wasn't as easy as waltzing into a dealership and dropping cash on the first pretty car I laid eyes on. Here are the steps I took when it came to buying my first car.

I Searched Online for the Right Car

I did my research - reading reviews, watching videos, asking friends and family - and narrowed it down to three economically efficient vehicles that I liked.

Online car search engines helped when I was narrowing it down. I was able to see the most current average prices of the cars I wanted, and I got a better sense of what was out there.

From there, I chose a day and visited dealerships with my sister and brother-in-law to test drive those three cars.

I chose the car that I felt was the easiest to drive and was best on gas. After budgeting my monthly expenses, I decided it was financially feasible for me to finance a new model.

How Much Car Was I Willing to Buy?

I decided on what I was willing to pay biweekly to buy it: $100 with $10 wiggle room. When I went back to the dealership, I started negotiating lower, at $95.

Honestly, I had no idea what a lease really was until I started looking at cars online, but I had done my homework and was ready to talk about leasing when the salesperson brought it up. I ultimately realized I was more comfortable owning my own car and my goal was to keep my first car for a long time, so leasing wasn't an option.

Surprises from the Salesperson

Salespeople can be convincing and often intimidating, but it was important to keep my budget in mind and stand my ground on what I wanted.

At one point the salesperson even tried to convince me to buy the car in white instead of black (perhaps white wasn't selling so well), but I didn't budge on that. A car is a big purchase, so it's important to be happy with it from every angle.

One thing I wish I had done was look into the additional services a dealership tacks on (like rust and interior protection) before going in. I might have adjusted my budget to include those, because they came to me as a surprise. I did end up buying them because I wanted to protect my car, but it meant going slightly over budget. It's something I'll keep in mind for next time, and I'll plan ahead.

Not as Daunting as I Had Expected

Overall, my car buying experience was less daunting than I expected. The most important part was making sure I was happy with my purchase and that I could afford to make the payments. In those ways, my first big purchase has been a success so far.

I love my new car, I'm making my payments, and I'm enjoying my newfound freedom.


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