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, “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 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.


  1. Randy Smith 12 May, 2019 at 23:12 Reply

    This is great to hear other students stories about buying cars. One thing to keep in mind as well is to research prices and understand what kind of deal you are getting when you are buying a car. Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds are two great resources to use to help gauge the right price of a car. Also, if somebody decides to finance be sure to shop around of rates you can get and how long your loan can be for. The lower the interest rate, and the longer the loan, the less the monthly payment

  2. Anayah Mathias 12 May, 2019 at 23:54 Reply

    This is the perfect article. I have been recently looking into buying a car and of course it would be nice to get a new car but it is going to be more expensive and right now I’m just looking for something to get me from point A to point B.

  3. Norman Wheeler 13 May, 2019 at 18:41 Reply

    Buying a car for the first time can be scary. I myself was in a accident during the winter season, so I can definitely identify with this article. I’ve had cars and trucks and in my opinion, trucks do maybe take up a little more room and burn a little more gas. With todays technology cars and trucks can pretty much burn the same amount of gas. It also depends on how many people ride in your car, home far you commute everyday and what size tires you have. These are just a few of the things that factor into gas mileage. I agree, if you do your research finding the right car can be less difficult. When buying a new car, I myself look for a slightly used vehicle with little mileage. A newer car might be more reliable, but no car payments. This is just my opinion on buying cars.

  4. Tiffany Canter 11 July, 2019 at 07:42 Reply

    Perfect article! My fiancé has always dreamed about a Caliber Srt4, I found one for him last April and we got it! The process was super easy due to everything being done online now, cutting back on time. It was a good experience due to us knowing what was wanted and needed before we traveled to pick it up. Excellent read!

  5. Christina Clarius 11 July, 2019 at 15:08 Reply

    I will soon be in the process of buying a new car and found this article helpful! I currently have a 2001 Tahoe which I love but the gas traveling my long commute to and from work is a bit much not to mention to ware and tear,
    I hope to get one more year out of it!
    This time next year my son will be preparing for kindergarten, without the extra cost of daycare, I will be able ti use the money I spent on that for a car payment. I am not a confident driver on the snow so I will need a vehicle with either four wheel or all wheel drive. I also enjoy the comfort of sitting up high so I will likely stick with an SUV.
    After reading this article, I will be sure to make a list of the must haves and what is important to me vs what is not to help make this whole process as smooth as possible.

  6. shettirea 12 July, 2019 at 20:50 Reply

    This is a great article unfortunate I wish I would have read this article before I brought a car I have never had a new car before and I wish somebody would have told me what I was up against before I made that big move. But I can always take inconsideration what I have read in this article if I make another purchase in the future

  7. Abe Tadros 12 July, 2019 at 22:25 Reply

    I think you did a great job explaining the car buying experience and because I work in a car dealership I couldn’t agree more, I would like to add that it is also important to know everything about the car and be caution of cars involved in accidents and cars with usually more than 4 previous owners to avoid the possibility of needing to repair later on. Make sure to read the carfax of the car to see how the car was maintained.

  8. Ashley 12 July, 2019 at 23:14 Reply

    This article is so important and helpful for college age students! Personally, I would never have known how to buy a car without my parents help, and not all students are as fortunate. Schools usually don’t teach students important skills like car buying, taxes, etc. and articles like this are very helpful. Kudos to CCBC for publishing an article like this and supporting their students outside of traditional schooling.

  9. sheeva purvis 8 December, 2019 at 09:25 Reply

    I am glad someone made this article I wish I had seen this when I had bought my first new car 4 years ago. This will help out a lot of students especially those who do not have family or friends to help them through this process. Personally I Had a horrible experience with my 1st used car and my 2nd car I bought brand new and have had no issues so I always recommend new but like the article said do your research . I didn’t get my dream car but that’s ok this one was affordable and has food gas mileage .I would not go back and change anything.

  10. Corey Brooks 8 December, 2019 at 21:17 Reply

    This is a great article to read up on for first time buyers. It helps that it is coming from your peers which means you are more open to listening to them. Take the advice you get with this along with doing your own research as well.

  11. alexis 8 December, 2019 at 22:01 Reply

    I like this article because it explains the car buying process for the first time buyer pretty well. Personally I wouldn’t know how to buy a without some kind of trusted help but not everyone is lucky enough to have help. So articles like these online can someone buying a car by themselves along with other research and understanding.

  12. chenee williams 9 December, 2019 at 21:55 Reply

    This article didn’t mention some guidelines I stick with when purchasing a car, therefore I’m going to share. When you decide to purchase a car obtain your own financing from a credit union if possible majority of the time their rates are lower. I would suggest a down payment of no more than $1000 to $1500 because the car depreciates in value once you drive it off the lot. Try to bargain online for the price you are willing to pay in advance. But if you do go to the dealer and they aren’t willing to negotiate walk away they will definitely call you back and make a deal.

  13. Daniel Ademiluyi 2 August, 2020 at 22:20 Reply

    My personal first car was a 2008 Toyota Camry. I bought the car in 2018 and have enjoyed it even though it was a decade old at the time. I was lucky enough to have my father and older brother help me purchase it at the time but for those without people In their lives to help them buy one, this article does a great job of breaking down the process in a simple an easy way to understand.

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