The Finance Corner: Car Ideas Part 2- Electric Boogaloo
Welcome to Part 2 on The Finance Corner’s take on car buying. In part 1 we addressed buying a new car. In part 2 we address buying used. Yes, she may be junk but she’s the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy.
BUYING A USED CAR
1) Everyone hates homework, but if you don’t do it bad things will happen. If you don’t do your homework for school you will get lower grades. If you don’t do your homework for buying a used car you will pay more than you should. Your MOST important assignment when buying a used car is to have it inspected. Never, nunca, niemals, mai, NEVER buy a used car without having it inspected. Do not trust the dealer. Sure, go ahead and get a carfax to get the car’s history but you still need to have it inspected to see what is and is not wrong with the car.
You want to hire a Diagnostic Mechanic to inspect your potential car. If you can’t find a Diagnostic Mechanic in your area, you need to take the car to a auto repair shop and have them do an inspection of the car’s systems. Such an inspection will tell you if there has been flood damage (which can be very dangerous for your electrical system) or when certain parts of the car will need to be replaced (which can raise the cost of the car). Whenever I tell someone they MUST have any used car inspected before purchasing it I always get the same question: “What if the used car owner won’t let you have it inspected?” I always give them the same answer: “Shake the owner’s hand and tell them this is not the car for you.” There is only one reason that the car’s owner would not want the car inspected, and that is because they know that their car has a hidden defect that would cause you to not buy it or to pay much less than the asking price.
2) To avoid the “hidden problems” that point number 1 seeks to avoid, it is a good idea to seek used cars from friends and family. If you do not particularly care about the make or model of car you get, and you just want something to get you from place to place, checking with your friends and family for someone looking to get rid of an old car or someone planning on getting a new car (and subsequently looking to unload their current vehicle) is a great idea. I have gotten my past two cars this way, both of which I was able to simply give the owner (friend) what they were asking for since they asked for below Kelly Blue Book value (see the previous article).
3) Search, search, search for your car. In the modern internet era, it is easier than ever to find the car that you are looking for- you just actually have to look. People often make the mistake of only looking at nearby dealerships and used car lots to find the car they want. If you could find the exact car you wanted one state over for $2K less than your first choice at a nearby dealership, shouldn’t you deal with the hassle of a long distance drive? Classic car enthusiasts in the New England area will buy cars from as far away as Texas and drive them across the country. This is because without the harsh winters of New England, southern cars will have less wear on them. So, you could look across the country for your car, but that is simply too much hassle for me. There are tons of sites nowadays to help you find the car you are looking for: AutoTrader, EbayMotors, Craig’s List (NOTE: Especially for Craig’s List, NEVER send someone money for a car sight unseen.)
To Consider When Owning Any Car
In the last installment, I covered things to consider when you are buying a car that did not necessarily pertain to a new or a used car. In this installment, I will cover things to consider doing when you own a car, whether or not it is new or used.
1) Consider becomming a member of a Motor Club. The most well known motor club is AAA, but many auto insurance companies and big box stores (like BJs and Costco) have their own motor clubs as well. I prefer AAA because of the additional benefits you get as a member, such as discounts on travel and online shopping. The reason I advocate for being a motor club member is cost, both in terms of money and hassle. The cost of AAA is less the $10 a month and depends on what level of membership you choose. Without AAA the cost of a single car tow or car lockout could cost you more than an entire year’s membership. As careful a driver as you think you are, you can’t know what troubles may befall you. Overall, I am of the opinion that paying for AAA is less expensive than not having AAA. So long as you are a member of any motor club, you should be alright.
2) Be prepared! I grew up a Boy Scout and I am an Eagle Scout. The Boy Scout Motto is “Be Prepared.” You don’t have to be a Boy Scout to take that advice. In my car I keep all of the following things, and suggest you do the same: Power Steering Fluid, Oil, Break Fluid, Anti-freeze, Spare Tire, Jack, Tire Re-inflation Kit, Replacement Windshield Wipers, Portable Gas Can, Flares, Fold-able Traffic Cone, Pantyhose (Pantyhose can be used as a temporary replacement for a busted fan belt). There are a number of other things I keep in my car for emergencies, but the above list is just for car breakdown related situations. Plan for whatever emergencies you want, but always plan for your car to break down.
3) This could have gone in number 2, but is important enough to warrant its own section. Always keep a spare cellphone and cell phone charger somewhere in your car. I use my previous cell phone and charger, and keep them stored in the glove compartment. You don’t even need to have an active cell phone plan on the phone, any cell phone can always be used to dial 911 with or without a phone plan. Most people have cell phones on them all the time now, but even so, I have forgotten my cell phone on occasion but was still protected because I had the backup phone in my car.
Now we just need to wait for scientists to develop teleportation on the macro level and we will be able to do away with guides like these. Wouldn’t that be nice?