We are all know that new cars are pricey and quickly depreciate in value. That coupled with school loan payments, living expenses and starting your career owning a car may seem out of reach. Yet, while you wait for the public transit to finally arrive and are suffering the pains brought on by extreme weather, you start to calculate the hours you spend at your job, how long it takes you to get anywhere and wanting to have a bit of a social life and realize that having instant access to your own vehicle would be worth the money. Here are 10 points to remember as you venture into car ownership:
1. Know your budget before hand. How much do you have saved? Can you borrow from a relative? A realistic guideline is figure out what you can afford to pay monthly for the next 3 years. MoneySense.ca has a great article about deciding what you can afford to pay for your wheels. Oh, and don’t forget to factor in insurance, fuel and other expenses that come with owning a car.
2. Going to a bank or credit union and see if you qualify for a pre-approved car loan will help you make decisions. Also, remember to take advantage of any new graduate deals that are being offered by manufacturers and financial institutions.
3. Don’t believe the sales hype. All of the extras are nice (yes, in the winter it’s nice to have a warm backside but if you’re not driving in -30% all the time is it really a necessity?) but they are more like toys - they will break. When something breaks on a car, it costs money to repair. For now, it’s better to stick with the basics.
4. Research, Research, Research - research several different cars for fuel efficiency, mileage, known mechanical issues, manufacturer recalls, loan rates and financing packages, the wholesale and retail prices, the current advertised prices, as well as opinions and facts on every aspect of the makes and models that you are considering. Online and other publications like Automobile Protection Association (APA), Cars.com, Consumer Reports, Edmunds, Kelley Blue Book, auto publications, and owners forums are good sources information (as are car savvy friends and family members).
5. Shop around. Scope out car sales lots, read classified ads and auto trade magazines, check listings for online markets, auctions, and local bulletin boards. Don’t forget to use your network of co-workers, friends and family. They may know about a great car that hasn’t been advertised yet.
6. When looking at prices, remember to factor in the age, mileage and condition of the car as well as the location. You want to go for quality at a reasonable price.
7. Research the specific car you are looking at buying. Get a CarProof History Report or CarFax Vehicle History Report to find out about any reported damage or accidents the car has been in or if there is a lien against it. Ask lots of questions about the vehicle and it’s history including the previous owner’s driving habits, what maintenance has been done as well as why they are selling such a great car.
8. Do a thorough inspection of the vehicle including the interior, exterior, trunk, accessories, wheels and condition of the paint job. Do this inspection in daylight as it will help you see any minor defects that could be hidden by shadows. This step should include a pre-purchase inspection by a trusted certified mechanic.
9. Don’t be afraid to negotiate the terms or to walk away if the seller isn't willing to work with you. Remember, the salesperson is not really your friend but a person trying to do their job and make as much money as they can. This is just one car of many. It may be your first car, but it won’t be your last.
10. Once you've taken possession of your vehicle, remember to keep it maintained and in good repair. After all, you don’t want to have to return to taking public transit any time soon.