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The last few months of 2017 were full of exciting (and, let's be honest, expensive) purchases in the Langr household. In December, we moved from our first apartment into a duplex. That meant buying a new couch along with a washer and dryer set. Only a few weeks later, Joseph was in a car accident (no one got hurt!). So that meant that we went on the hunt for a new car. Buying a new-to-us car was fun and exciting, but it also was something that we put a lot of thought and research into.
If you asked me last year if I knew a lot about cars, I'd laugh. I mean, you're talking about the girl who drove around the first year of owning her car thinking there wasn't any air conditioning (it turns out, you have to press the AC button to make the air cold). I told people who sat in the backseat that their door was broken (it was just the child lock). Since those days, I've learned quite a bit about cars - thanks to Joseph's knowledge and some handy Youtube videos that explain things in layman terms. I even am confident in my oil changing skills - which is literally something I never thought I would say.
Here are four things to keep in mind if you have to make a used car purchase soon!
1. Do your research
If you're like me, you spend hours doing google searches before making a big purchase. I spent quite a bit of time researching what brand of jeans I wanted, so why wouldn't I put the same amount of time (or more!) into researching what car to buy. Since pre-owned cars are usually out of their warranty window and have quite a few miles on them, it's even more important to spend time reading up on common problems and reliability scores.
That may sound like a daunting task - but resources like Consumer Reports, Cars.com, and Long Term Quality Index have pages and pages of information and data. They'll help you figure out what cars are worth putting down some cash for - and which ones you'll want to avoid like the plague.
2. Don't dismiss private sellers over dealers
Buying a car from a dealer is incredibly convenient. Instead of clicking through Craiglist pages, you can stroll around the parking lot and see the selection. But just because a car is in dealer lot, that doesn't mean they're any higher quality than a car you could buy from a private seller. You'll save a little bit of money by buying from someone you know (or someone online). After all, Dan from your local Craiglist page isn't having to make a profit off his car the same way the guy at the dealership does. Most of the time, private sellers just want to get a car off of their hands and get fair market value for what they're offering.
Granted, you need to be smart when shopping online for cars. If you're responding to a Craiglist ad, keep an eye open for scams. Meet in a public place to look at the vehicle and take someone with you when you go check it out.
3. Stick to your budget
We set a budget and stuck to it when we went looking for a car to replace the one that was totaled in the accident. Don't get me wrong - it was tempting to bump up our budget. We wanted to spend under $6,000 and buy a car that had great gas mileage, a little room to grow, and something we could park it in our garage . . . oooh, look at that Mazda Miata! No matter what your inner race-car driver says, stick to something that's logical and practical for what you need. Unless what you are looking for is a race car, and in that case, more power to ya.
We ended up finding an 2006 Prius that I love. Joseph is still undecided and doesn't like the label of a 'Prius driver' but maybe it'll grow on him? It gets amazing gas mileage, we can pull it in our garage, it doesn't make any weird noises, and the hatch back is fantastic. Because of some bargaining with the private seller who was trying to get rid of it, we ended up spending less than our budget. Then we went to get tags and pay taxes and, well, there went that money. But that's life, right?
4. Take it for a test drive
You wouldn't buy clothes without trying them on (well, okay, I've done that before - but it's always turned out badly!), so don't buy a car without test driving it first. You're wanting to listen for any funky sounds, shudders, or quirks. Then check under the hood to see what shape the engine is in. You're going to want to look at the color of brake fluid and coolant. How are the belts and hoses?
If you're asking "Cars have belts? I thought those were just for pants?" don't worry. I'm also have a ton to learn about cars. If you're not married to someone who knows cars like Joseph does, don't be afraid to ask a friend to come along for a ride and give their opinion.