All of my adult life I’ve had an opinion about people who bought brand new cars. I have to admit I’ve been harshly critical of anyone making this choice. I seem to be eating a lot of crow in my 5th decade because last month I made the decision to buy a brand new car.
For the last two years I’ve been driving my employer’s vehicle. I am so fortunate to be employed at such a good company. However, I have been paying for gasoline and the vehicle gets only 14mpg. And my commute is 100 miles each day I go into the office so I’ve been budgeting $400 per month for gasoline. OUCH!!
After my 15 year old Pathfinder caught fire, I did buy a used car off Craigslist but it turned out to be nightmare. We had to replace the engine within the first six months, and it still didn’t run right. It kept overheating and the check engine light stays on… unless it running great and then the check engine light goes off. My husband has been working on it off and on as we’ve had the money and he’s had the time and inclination. For Mother’s Day our son AJ bought several parts for the car so that it could finally be fixed and I would be able to drive my own car.
However, as the day grew near for me to begin driving my car again, I found myself feeling very stressed since it has never been reliable. Not to mention the tabs had expired over a year ago, and in order to renew them we had to take it through emissions. But the emissions place won’t even test a car whose check engine light is on.
I felt like I was trapped. I was starting to feel sick about driving my employer’s vehicle for such a long time. But then the thought of buying a used car would make me so nervous – what if I ended up buying another lemon. Even so, I just knew there was no way I could buy a newer car because I only had $400 to work with – insurance alone was going to cost around $200 – so I thought.
One day my son AJ and I were talking about vehicles. He was wondering how long he should continue to put money into his old car (which he totally loves). I pointed out that having a newer vehicle will cost more. The yearly tabs expense increases, and often insurance. Not to mention if you don’t have cash to buy the car outright you’re going to have a payment with interest.
Just for kicks I started crunching some numbers. I called my insurance agent to find out how much it would cost for a newer car and was astounded to learn it would be around $60/month more. Starting from my budget of $400, that left me with $340. I know there are vehicles out there that get very good gas mileage, and I crunched the gas mileage numbers and realized that if I got the right car, I might be able to spend only $100/month in gasoline. That left me with $240/month for a car payment.
I started to realize this might just work!
First I began researching cars to find which ones would work for me. I had some requirements. I don’t like driving tiny cars, plus I have a family. I wanted a four door sedan, and I needed to get at least 40mpg. I signed up with Consumer Reports so that I could see what they thought about any cars I was interested in plus I bought Lemon-Aid New and Used Cars and Trucks 1990-2015 to get one more opinion.
Originally I was hoping to find a six year old vehicle, like my faithful Pathfinder. I was hoping to find a certified vehicle. I called the credit union and learned that for a $240/month payment, I could afford about $12,500 worth of car.
I began looking, but then I started getting nervous again about buying someone’s lemon. Also, the credit union advised me that I could only get the best interest rates if the purchase was closer to $20,000.
I went back and forth in my mind. Should I buy used? How old? One of my coworkers kept insisting that I buy a car that still had factory warranty left. When looking at the cars which would fit my criteria I started realizing that they were only a few thousand dollars less used. Should I buy new? How could I go back on my lifetime opinion?
It took a while to decide which vehicle I wanted, and I was always having to take into consideration the cost for insurance, gasoline and the payment. At one point I was planning to lease, because one of the dealer’s I talked to told me it was cheaper to lease. I had a bad feeling about leasing though, I was really afraid some kind of damage would happen and I’d have to pay for that. Another big problem was that I put 15,000 miles on a car each year just driving into the office three days a week. I would almost certainly go over the allotted miles. The dealer tried to make it all seem so simple. Whenever I’d point out my concerns they started talking faster and telling me it wouldn’t matter.
Eventually I narrowed down my selection to either a Nissan Sentra or a Honda Civic. Since I loved my Pathfinder so much, I was leaning toward getting another Nissan. But I was also liking the reliability and MPG that I could get from the Civic (30 city, 41 highway). My credit union works with a car broker and I went there to test drive. I was smitten with the Civic. I went home and did more studying and finally I decided for sure on the Civic.
I was continuously researching and second thinking my decision, as my gut feeling was that buying a new car is wrong. After all, that has been my thought process for the last thirty years. Oh no, I was going to be one of “those” people. One of those people who drives a brand new car. Oh no. What was I thinking?
During my research, I found a post by Ramit Sethi who shared his reasons for buying a new car. In his article, he recommended James Bragg’s Fighting Chance. Mr. Bragg helps you get the best deal – gives you a fighting chance – in buying or leasing a new car. I checked out his site and decided I could do this. When I ordered the packet I had planned on leasing, but in talking to Mr. Bragg I realized that my payment was going to be a lot more than the dealers were suggesting. I thought I might as well go for a new car. I’d had a bad feeling about leasing, and that settled it. I would be buying. I continued to look for a good used car two to six years old, but then my “buying someone’s lemon” fear would kick in. I was a mess for about a month trying to make up my mind what to do.
On top of everything, I’d be going deeper into debt. And I really despise that idea.
In the end I decided I was buying a new car, and I actually followed through. I got a really great price, thanks to Fighting Chance and I’m happy to say that I’m very glad with my decision. I’ll be sharing more of the process with you here at the blog.