In my last blog, I examined the first steps to buying a car out of college. After making a budget and doing some research, it is time to narrow the search down to a few cars to test drive and ultimately make a decision. This is the more exciting part of looking for a car, but it is also important to take your time to ensure you are making the best decision for your future.
The test drive: Now that you have a list of what you want and you have done your research, it is time for some test drives! While it sounds exciting, and it is, it is also important to prepare for your test drives. One problem I had early on in the car shopping process was that I never prepared before going to a test drive. Instead of having questions I wanted to ask and a purpose, when I went to dealerships, I simply went to drive the car. Quickly I realized that I wasn’t really getting much out of these trips to dealerships. Yes, I got a better feeling of which cars I liked and which I did not, but I probably could have figured that out in my first couple of test drives. Instead, I wish I would have taken the time to sit down and figure out what I did not know about each car I drove. Questions, such as: “What do I still not know about this car? What should I compare to what reviews say? Do certain functions or features matter to me as much as I think they will?” would have helped me get more out of my test drives. It is normal for your first couple of test drives to be much less serious than those later on in the shopping process. In other words, you are not as likely to buy the car on the spot as when you have done several test drives and narrowed down the cars you are really interested in. However, once you do become more serious, the test drive can be a vital part of getting a good deal on the car you want. Whether it is a private owner or a dealership, both want to sell the car to you. Your goal during your interactions with them is to show that you are a serious buyer, but that you aren’t “in love” with the car. You are interested, but features, stats, price, etc. are hampering your ability to buy on sight. Tactics, such as pointing out problems with the vehicle as well as its benefits, talking about how it is slightly more than you want to pay, and talking about your other options, are all keys to obtaining a good deal and making a good decision. A test drive is a great opportunity to create this optimal setting for purchasing a vehicle.
The decision: Finally, it’s time to make up your mind. To recap: You’ve set a budget, done a ton of research, and if you are anything like me, you’ve probably looked at more cars in person than you care to remember. It’s time to make a decision. Honestly, if you’ve done all these things, this might be the easiest part of the processit was for me. By following my advice for a successful test drive, you probably have some idea of what the final price of the serious contenders will be. Be sure to work these numbers in a budgetyou do not want to let the emotions of buying a car allow you to reach further than your budget. The key to making a decision is listening to both your brain and your heart. You want to make a decision that makes sense (fits your budget, is a reliable car, is a car that works with your future plans, etc.) but also a car that feels right to buy. Be sure that you look at comparable prices to make sure you know what a fair, good, and great deal is. Once you’ve done all that, it is simply a matter of negotiating a fair price, shaking hands, and signing the needed paperwork.
Every individual is different, and ultimately the car I chose is not the best car for everyone. Personally, I made the decision to purchase a new 2012 Mazda3 that was still on the lot in mid-January of 2013. It worked out that because I was interested in a manual I could get a new car for only a couple thousand more than the used cars I was looking at. I was able to find several dealers with 2012 manuals still on the lot and was able to negotiate among them to get a great deal. Although it was a large up front expense, I am working to pay off the car within the year by having a strict budget. For me, the extra few thousand dollars fit within my expected budget, although barely, but it was worth it because I am planning to keep this car for a long time. Again, the factors that were important for me are not important for everyone. The key is to realize what is important to you, and take the time to find what best fits your needs, your budget, your future, and lastly, your wants.
Financially Stephen grew up in a family that preached saving and living below your means. That, in part, translated to his interest in Economics, especially how economics can affect individuals’ financial lives. Through his financial markets class in the fall of 2011, he furthered this interest by analyzing macroeconomic events. Stephen believes that finance, personal finance in particular, is a subject severely left out when it comes to public schooling in this country, and it is a problem that has manifested itself and contributed to many of the problems seen today. He also believes that education is the key to improvement and hopes that through his writings he will be able help people learn about finance, macroeconomics, and how to be financially savvy for the future.
In his free time Stephen enjoys playing and watching sports, wakeboarding, sailing, and country music. At UNC he has participated in Strive for College, UNC Dance Marathon, and UNC Relay for Life.