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Advice for First Time Buyers

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On: Thu, Oct 17, 2013 at 9:30AM | By: Karen Cook

Advice for First Time Buyers

Buying your first car is exciting and liberating! And difficult. It’s hard to find a decent car that fits within a first-timer’s budget. When my son bought his first car he wanted to do it totally on his own, even though we offered to help him with making sure he got a dependable car without being cheated. He wouldn’t have it and off he went to do it all by himself. He really didn’t do too badly. He came home with a two-tone (green body with a black spray-painted roof) Sentra that lasted him several years without any major problems. He got lucky. So, for all of you who don’t like to take advice from your parents, here’s a little you can take from me and just not tell them.

You need to take a page from my son’s book and look beyond the body first. If the car runs well, what it looks like should be a secondary concern unless there is serious body damage. There are a few very dependable cars that make very good first time buys. Honda makes reliable vehicles that are cheap to insure and are easy and inexpensive to repair. They look nice too. Even if you find a cheap hot-looking sports car remember to factor in insurance payments and repairs. Insurance companies are already considering you a high risk and if you buy a cherry red Corvette, your friends might think you’re cool, but your insurance company thinks you’re irresponsible.

Mileage is another concern but there’s no set rule to go by. If a car has been cared for properly it should run well for hundreds of thousands of miles. If not, even with low mileage the engine could have significant damage. If you can get a Carfax on the vehicle it may give some insight about the care the car has received. It’s not foolproof but it is a good starting point.

Asking prices for vehicles generally do not reflect the car’s actual value. Dealers need to make a profit and private owners want to get as much as they can. So it’s a good idea to go online and find out how much the car you’re interested in is worth. This will give you a baseline for negotiations, but keep in mind that at a dealership there are other costs that will have to be covered.

If you buy from a private owner always ask to see the title. It should have the seller’s name printed on the front with no other information filled in. Each time a car is sold the title must be reissued in the new owner’s name before it can be sold again. In order to get the title transferred to your name it must go from the owner printed on the front directly to you with no other person or persons in between.

This is only a starting point to get you going. No one expects you to know everything about buying your first car. My biggest piece of advice is not to be too proud to ask for help from someone you trust. There’s no shame in knowing your limitations and asking for the information you need. Actually, it’s shows wisdom and, as a bonus, makes your elders feel good.


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