I was recently in a bad car accident and totaled my car. My trusty 2009 Honda Fit was gone for good, and I was left with some nagging (though not life-threatening) injuries. I hadn’t planned on looking into buying a car for years‑now I needed a new plan. Despite my injuries, I had to start looking for a car right away. I was going to start work again in a few weeks and couldn’t rely on San Diego public transportation with a long commute.
Starting without much experience and not knowing what to do first was a pretty stressful situation; one that I’d like to help you avoid. Here is some of what I learned from that experience:
Be Prepared to Test Drive
Due to my injuries, there were days I was not up for taking cars out. I wanted the car pool sticker. Imagining the long commute again was a motivator. Once I test drove the Prius, my opinion shifted 180 degrees. The positioning of the back window and other features didn’t feel right to me. Days and hours wasted on research. A pushy salesman didn’t help. I gave up on the car pool sticker. No other car I was interested in or within my price range qualified for the sticker.
Ask the sales person what cars they recommend based on your lifestyle: Next I went to a Volkswagen dealer. The first day I was not up for driving due to pain. I narrowed it down to two models, Beetle and Jetta. I did research on price, features etc. and never made it back to test drive… more on that later.
Ask Friends, Use Kelley Blue Book, and Get Estimates
I was constantly asking friends and family what cars they liked driving and what they thought I should buy based on my lifestyle. They pointed out cars that wouldn’t have occurred to me. Don’t dismiss suggestions right away: it might be more affordable or comfortable than you thought. I realized I could afford some of the more luxury brands. Make sure to factor in taxes, maintenance costs, extended warrantees and insurance. Insurance brokers can give you estimates. In my case a Beetle was more than a Jetta under the same coverage. Kelley Blue Book offers free guidance on used or new car purchases on their website. Don’t show up to dealerships un-informed. Do research and take notes.
See the signs and vibes: On my way to the Jetta dealership for the second time, I mentioned to my gal pal driving that I had looked into Mini Coopers and they were more affordable than I expected, but I would go on another day. We took a wrong turn and ended up at the Mini Cooper dealer. The salesman their made the conversation fun and educated us on the company history, in addition to the car features. My friend had bought several cars and was able to balance my lack of experience. I test drove various models and decided on the two-door. I do not have children and my biological clock is ticking, so this is my last shot at a two-door for the foreseeable future. The millage per gallon is pretty great too.
Bring Backup Support
Take a strong personality with you for final negotiation: I went back the very next day with a male friend. Studies show that women’s negotiating power at car dealerships has increased in recent years, but regardless of gender, it’s always a good idea to bring a friend along to make the final deal. I compared bank, credit union, and dealer interest rates. Being indecisive in which exact car within the decided model helped. I had print-outs of local dealerships with similar cars and features clearly listed with price. The car arrived that day so it limited my negotiating power. If it has been sitting on the lot longer, I would have had more leverage. I was still able to negotiate hundreds off the price with extras, and Mini Cooper doesn’t typically negotiate price at all, so that was a win. My friend was able to play “bad cop” a little so the sales person could not induce as much pressure. I would text him to jump in and help at times.
It was a great choice and I love my car. And I’ve found that my friends love to drive it, even the tall ones.