Tips for the First Time Car Buyer

*Articles reflect the views of the author and or those quoted and do not necessarily represent the views of CCBC or The CCBC Connection.

Matt Maras

The snow fell fast and heavy, sticking to the roads quickly due to the cold weather experienced during the week before.  To many observers the snowfall resembled a winter wonderland. To others it meant a day off of work or school the next morning, but for drivers in these winter conditions, it signaled the coming dangers of slipping tires and possibly losing control.

Unfortunately for me, the outcome of losing control and sliding off the road occurred, putting me in the unexpected position of needing a vehicle that wasn’t bent like a noodle.  Despite the unfortunate accident, shopping for a car can be an enjoyable task with the proper tactics.

With summer weather approaching many college students will be looking to purchase a new vehicle and for many it may be their first experience with the daunting task of buying an automobile.

Buying one’s first car is a coming of age event comparable to turning twenty-one or first time voting.  Although some may view a car merely as a mode of transportation, often bonds are formed with cars through adventures, events, or even troubles, which truly gives the vehicle personality and a life-like quality.

Although, before a life-long partnership with a vehicle, or a derivative of that, is made, there are many options and questions to be asked that must be factored into such a large purchase.

In a sea of electric vehicles, trucks, SUVs, and sedans, not knowing where to start can complicate a fun process before it has even begun.  An ideal first step is to decide what type of vehicle will fit one’s lifestyle as well as price range the best.

Although it is tempting to buy a truck for its storage capacity, a Jeep for looks and capability, or an SUV for comfort, the larger a vehicle is will usually correlate to less fuel efficiency and a more challenging time maneuvering and parking in congested situations.  Many sports cars require premium fuel, higher insurance premiums, and more intensive maintenance which can result in hefty hidden costs.

Dylan Wood, a twenty-one year old car enthusiast recently purchased a 2012 Volkswagen Golf GTI.  Wood said, “I dreamed about this car for a long time before I was able to buy it.  I’ve put a Subwoofer in the back and took it to a shop to get it tuned for performance.  This car is my favorite thing, and I don’t mind spending more for premium gas or insurance because it is a really fun hobby for me.”

Being honest, deciphering personal needs and wants catered to the individual before visiting a car dealership or seller, will keep the buying process focused and affordable.

Choosing between new, used, and leasing factors into the process of shopping as well.

According to Autotrader.com, “On average, a new car loses between 20 and 30 percent of its value the moment it rolls off the dealer's lot. Some cars can depreciate up to 50 percent in the first three years.”  Because of such a large depreciation many buyers, especially college students, opt for used cars.

Leasing, although enticing, due to the cheaper monthly cost and newer range of models can have negative consequences and lacks the permanent ownership of the car despite the money spent.

Once a class or style of vehicle has been narrowed down, deciding make and model is the next step.  Before stepping foot in a showroom, many websites such as Cars.com or Autotrader will have car listings and many helpful tools and information such as comparisons of models and reliability, safety, and reviews.

Zach Hansen, recent graduate of Towson University and first time car buyer, purchased his used Honda Civic due to the notorious reliability an economical nature.

Hansen said, “Although I wanted to get something faster, the Civic is a fun car to drive because it is so small and I bought mine with a manual transmission which makes it feel much sportier.”  Opting for a more economical solution proves to be cheaper in the long run.

Staying positive, shopping around, and not feeling pressured during the buying process aids for a smooth transition into a new set of wheels.

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