I bought a car today, amidst much earlier jeering of friends and family. At this “I told you so” moment, I’m reveling in my purchase. Why did this spark so much controversy?
Here’s why my car adventure was such fodder for jesting earlier. I refused to spend more than 4K for a reliable car. I wanted at least a 2005, with low mileage. One consistently ranked by consumers as a low maintenance, good performance vehicle based on Edmunds owner ratings. And I wanted great gas mileage, (30 mpg’s or better). On my desired, but not necessary list, I wanted a fun car to drive. I spent five months researching this. Four thousand dollars was not a sum plucked out the air. It’s what I had budgeted. And I refused to take a loan out.
Unless a dire emergency presents itself, I am a cash buyer. Period. I am all about building credit, but I hate paying interest and despise monthly bills. My credit post bankruptcy is still not great, and my loan rates are reflective. The car I purchased immediately after bankruptcy with a loan was a necessary buy at the time. But this time I dug my heels in, unrelenting on my budget goals.
There is a money lesson in today I’d like to share. Saving cash takes time. It’s like a quest of sorts. But at the other end of your successful journey, you will be the one laughing all the way to the bank. Trust me. I’m positively giddy today. The only thing that would make it better is if I had taken bets from my friends on the probability of my budget/car goal occurring.
As a woman who is rather unknowledgeable of vehicles, this was an undertaking by the way. It was only a few years ago, I assumed changing the oil was invalidated if you merely dumped new oil in periodically. (Why waste money changing the oil if it’s continuously being refreshed?) Mechanics still point at me and chuckle over that. Sometimes hyper-budgeting is problematic.
My auto purchase exodus began when I was in a vehicular accident this spring. My beloved car that bore me all the way to both coasts, lived through two children learning to drive and was generally an agreeable part of the family, died on the highway. Totalled. Gone in a flash.
I began researching new vehicles, only to discover salesmen laughed hysterically or sneered when I ticked my desired auto requirements off. The average car every dealer tried to push my way was around 7k. All of them hoped for me to take a loan out, as most salesmen get extras for that item. Cash buyers do not have the clout of former years, especially skin flints like me. That, my friends, is a sad state of affairs, when our society encourages loans instead of embracing cold cash. Last time I checked it was what got us in the economic mess we’re in now.
I test drove multiple four thousand dollar cars. Each had issues, (bearings, transmission, rust, or was a gas hog). Ick. One guy selling a Ford Focus with faulty bearings and a leaking transmission, sputtered, “No offense, you’re a woman.” when I pointed out the mechanic’s findings and a two thousand dollar offer. WordPress won’t let me print my reply to this gentleman’s gender comment, btw.
It appeared my budget was conflicting with reality. Here’s where the lesson in frugality begins in earnest. Most people cave at this point. Savvy shopper do not quell at a gauntlet toss.
Switching gears, I looked online, scouted public auctions, made friends with a rather odious car dealer to pick his brain, and researched sale prices versus suggested retail prices.
Along the way, I was told the following:
- Just get a “Buy here, Pay here car” (this is code for, “give up and sell your soul to the debt devil”)
- Due to the Cash for Clunkers program, there are NO 4k cars available anywhere. (On the whole planet?)
- With the economy, used cars are a premium and no one is going to budge on prices.
- Why can’t you just take out a small payment and apply the cash you have?
- If you get a co-signer, your rate will be better. (The only thing I hate worse than monthly payments, is owing friends or family).
- Can’t you just lower your expectations?
- A new car would be better for you. (At least ten mechanics told me they see routinely, used cars with well over 200K in mileage, still very street worthy. New is only better if you can afford it.)
- Anything that price is junk.
I found, on eBay, in the last ten minutes of an auction, a used Aveo LT. It was a 2005, with 80k in mileage and one owner. A super rapid Carfax report confirmed this, along with my earlier Edmunds findings. I knew the car was a good one. Out of 169 consumer ratings and comments on Edmunds, the Aveo LT received 4 out of 5 ratings on nearly everything (low maintenance, mileage, overall impression, etc). It’s not a luxury car, but it is the upgraded version of the Aveo. And it’s what I can afford.
There were virtually no bids. I believe this was due to a poorly worded ad, and bad marketing. I bid at $4050.00 and won the car. Until I arrived to pick it up, I still had negatives from scoffers. Before I handed the money over, we agreed I could take it to a mechanic for an inspection. His words were, “Lady, if you don’t buy this, I will”. The car had been owned by an elderly woman, and is nearly in pristine condition. It’s actually fun to drive. Quite frankly, it’s everything on my list and then some.
My point is not the car I bought. It’s the simple issue of staying true to what you can afford.
The lesson is to stick to your budget. It will sound crazy to others. The temptation will be to give in, or to sell your soul to the debt devil. Stand your ground. Buy only what you can afford. Know the options and educate yourself to the possibilities. You, like me, will be celebrating your savings success all the way to the bank.