Buying a car. Always a dreaded but rewarding experience, if you know what you’re doing. ChicMoto has discussed car buying in the past but we thought it was time for a refresher! Especially since we’ve recently bought a car and wanted to share our experience 🙂
Buying a car is fun if you make it fun! Be confident, organized, and persistent and you’ll soon be driving away in your dream car.
Buying A Car On Your Own: You Can Do This!
Like I mentioned above, we have written articles in the past around the topic of buying a car. The one article I want to touch on again is called Your Ultimate Car Search Guide. Before even thinking about going to a dealership you should print out this guide to help you decide on what you want. This car search guide is the beginning step on how to buy a car. Why, you ask?
Mainly because it organizes your thoughts before you move into action. The biggest issues we come across when buying a car is 1. we buy something out of our price range, 2. we get haggled into something we really don’t want, and 3. the car salesperson wins.
Change that right now! This car search guide forces you to focus on three top choices & dealers so your mind is already set on something specific. Then, as you move along, you finalize a winner & go to the dealership(confidently). I am not going to go through each section in detail because you can read my article for that, but I will point out the key pointers to this car search guide & why it’ll help save you time & money at the dealership.
What You Need To Know Before Buying A Car, While At The Dealership, & After You Purchase
1. Buy vs. Lease?
This one is pretty obvious, but you do need to know right off the bat whether you can afford to buy a car or lease a car. Refer to our pro/con list below, and read this article if you are thinking about leasing a vehicle.
As you flip through our car search guide, you’ll notice a section on what type of car you need. This would include things like, “I need this vehicle to haul kids around”, or “I want to just drive something fun”, or “I really want something affordable & don’t need power, yet need 4-wheel drive for snowstorms.” Know your environment, current living situation with or without spouses/children, and what type of drive you need.
3. Car Capability?
What do you want your car to do for you & what ‘extras’ are you willing to pay for? Leather seats, a manual transmission, heated steering wheel, or a backup camera? These all come at a cost so please remember that when calculating what you can afford.
4. Reading Online Reviews
I cannot stress this enough. You need to read reviews on the vehicle you are looking to get. This includes forums, asking friends who own them, etc. You want to know if there have been any recalls or issues with the engine. Ask your friend if they think it drives well or if it’s a junker. Get to know the car before you go see it. Oh! And don’t forget to check the Carfax!
5. Search Dealer & READ REVIEWS
Probably the most important! Read online reviews on the dealerships you are looking to buy from. Google, Yelp, Facebook, etc. If the majority says the dealer was horrible and the car broke down, believe them & move on. As far as where to search for a vehicle online, head over to this page.
6. Narrow Down What You Can ACTUALLY Spend vs. What You THINK You Can Spend
Yes, we all want a Ferrari but can we actually afford it? No. We have to make choices based on our lifestyle & what we can afford currently. Not if we win the lottery tomorrow. You’ll be in debt forever & will probably end up selling your brand new car. I would suggest creating a list of all your current expenses, see what you can afford monthly, then fill out this car payment calculator to narrow down a price.
7. Contact People & Make Appointments
Finally, we can set up an appointment with dealerships & private sellers. Make sure you go during the day so you have plenty of time to review the car & so you can see everything in the light. ***Make sure you warn them ahead of time you want the car on a lift!*** I will explain more about this next.
8. Test Drive The Right Way
Down to the test drive. First things first, make sure you check the car out before driving!
Exterior Check List: Check for scratches/dings on the body & wheels, tire tread, motor oil & other fluids (yes, you can legally do that), cracks in the windshield & rear window, all the exterior lights including high-beam, wiper blades, & any leaks on the floor.
Interior Check List: Check the floor & mats (most dealers take them off so make sure you ask for them back!), see if there are any big scratches on the upholstery, go through all the lights, sound system & sub-woofers, make sure the heated seats work, A/C & heat work, and any upgrades that car may have.
Test Drive: Now it’s time to test drive! Make sure you drive through city & highway roads & go through all the gears. If they don’t let you then just walk away. They are hiding something anyway & in order to check for issues you need to go over 60mph! Feel for vibrations, listen to any weird noises, make sure the radio works well, roll the windows up & down, and check the horn!
Up On The Lift: If you feel comfortable, make sure you check the underside of the car out on the lift. This will not only intimidate the car salesperson 😉 but will also allow you to triple check for any damages. Make sure the frame is straight, minimum rust if any, the brakes look good, & no big leaks. If you don’t feel comfortable I would suggest bringing your mechanic along!
9. Finalize & Win 😉
How are your negotiation skills? Just remember, whatever you find on the car that wasn’t already advertised you can use to your advantage. You can either A. ask for a lower price because of these issues, or B. ask them to fix everything for free before you leave if you want to pay a higher price. They want you to buy this car. Trust me. They rather you buy it then go through everything again with someone else! So, you are at the advantage; own it 🙂
Buying A Car From First-Hand Experience
Ok, I will try to keep this short. I just bought a 2015 Jeep Rubicon and unfortunately, my experience was NOT good! The car now is fine but it wasn’t until just a couple weeks ago…. Sometimes, no matter how well you know cars & check everything out you can STILL get burned by salespeople. That’s why they have a reputation right?
I was looking for a 4-door, cool(ish) car for under $35,000 to buy, not lease. I have a good credit score but only wanted to spend around $400/month since I would be loaning money from a bank. So, I took out my car search guide & started filling it out!
I narrowed it down between two vehicles; an Audi S4 and a Jeep Wrangler. Both 4-doors & both really cool! At least I think so. I spent about a month looking for cars that had low mileage in my price range (I didn’t want something with more than 20,000 miles). I finally realized I would be searching for years before finding an Audi S4 and needed a new car before September 2018 for personal reasons.
With that being said, I found a 2015 Jeep Rubicon online at Barbera Autoland. It was manual, white on white, had mud tires, and even leather seats; like WHATTTT! Pretty much everything I wanted & it was a Rubicon so even better! I made an appointment.
I walked in, saw they pulled the car out for me and the first thing out of my mouth was, ” do you have a rag I need to check the oil”. He found me a rag, I checked the oil & brake fluid (the transmission fluid was underneath), and so far so good. He knew right then and there I was a car gal & didn’t want to mess around. I take the car on a test drive then had them put it on the lift for me.
My first warning sign—- They didn’t want me to take it on the highway. But I did anyway because I needed to go through all 6-gears, not thinking much about it because I was already driving the car 😉
All checked out on the lift & I decided to continue with the purchase. I was there until midnight; no joke! I got there around 5p and didn’t leave until midnight. Yes, I left with the Jeep but every question I had (which was a lot) they needed to ‘speak with a manager’.
Cool! I just bought my first car on my own & it is awesome! I drove 2 hours to see the vehicle so had to drive another 2 hours back home that night. Then the next day guess what? MY CHECK ENGINE LIGHT CAME ON! Seriously?!? I freaked out. I had my mechanic (since I work at a car restoration shop) look up the issue. The screen said “cylinder 5 misfire”. Well, shit (excuse my language), that can’t be good and I just bought this car!
I called the dealer back furious. Then, had to drive another 2 hours there to get it “fixed” and another 2 hours back once they said they just had to change the spark plugs. I thought the issue was fixed; yay! But, not really. One day later, CHECK ENGINE LIGHT came on again! Now, I was threatening to send the car back & have them refund me. So, they offered to pick the car up & dig into the situation more.
Anyways, 3 weeks later I finally get my car back. Yes, 3 weeks. Mind you, I already spent money on the down payment, insurance, & a monthly loan payment on a car I haven’t even driven more than 24 hours.
Again, this was all at Barbera Autoland in Philly. I normally don’t like to bash other companies but they deserve it in my opinion.
So, what happened here? I thought I checked everything out! I did & here’s what happened. Barbera got the car knowing the check engine light was on. They automatically ‘inspected it’ and cleared the code so no one noticed when driving. Fortunately, when you clear a code but the issue is still there, after so many miles the light comes back on. which is exactly what happened! But what about them “fixing” my issue the first time? Yea, they didn’t do anything but clear the code again. I had my guys check the spark plugs before the car left the second time.
First Mistake I Made: Seeing the car after 5p. I knew I would have limited sunlight and should have made an appointment during the day since it took so long to fill out paperwork. I didn’t haggle the price because I actually thought it was priced very well. Which leads me to my second mistake.
Second Mistake: I should have trusted my gut which was saying “how could a car this nice with low mileage be for sale at such a low price, something has to be wrong?” Also, why didn’t they want me driving it on the highway? Yes, something was definitely wrong.
Third Mistake: I should have asked for those spark plugs they “changed”. Since I owned the car at this point, I should have asked for any old parts back after they “replaced” them. They didn’t touch my spark plugs after I made the 4-hour trip which was why the light came on again.
Fourth & Final Mistake: Not really reading reviews. I knew of Barbera since I live near Philly and did glance at the reviews. But, after this happened I really read through them & also listed one myself & would have never looked at the car had I done that. They have a reputation for selling lemons and being rude… which was what happened.
Moral of the story: No matter how much I checked that car out, it was the dealership being shady from the beginning. No matter how well you know cars, you can still get burned by dishonesty. I am not saying all dealerships are bad, but this is why you need to find a good one & stick to them!
What happened to my Jeep you ask? I saved that for last 😉 It is fine now and yes, I still own her! Her name is Rubi for Rubicon. They had to completely replace the passenger side cylinder head & the power control module. They actually sold me a car that needed those replaced which is disgusting! Luckily I didn’t pay for anything other than insurance & a whole month car payment on a car I didn’t drive…. but that’s beside the point.
The point is, even I made mistakes when buying a car! However, that didn’t distract me and I was proud I went in there, car search guide in hand, and still kicked butt. The check engine issue was nothing I could diagnose since the light was off at the time of purchase, but I did get my monthly payment to what I wanted. Now, I have a really cool off-roading vehicle that’ll last forever….hopefully.