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Overwhelmed First-time car buyer, unique circumstance.

Rand0_SlimRand0_Slim UtahPosts: 8
edited October 2018 in General
Hello, I apologize for what is probably the millionth topic like this. I am 29 and have never owned or purchased a car due to eyesight problems. Now though, some things have changed and I have the required 20/40 or better eyesight, suddenly I'm allowed to drive. I never really had to plan my life to accomodate a car and can't afford much. I make an embarrassing 41k per year and don't have much disposable income, I currently spend roughly $250 per month to use Uber to get to work or other places that using a bus costs too much of my time. I've done a lot of reading already and know that if say I could come up with a $1000 or $1500 down payment I could "afford" a car with a sticker price in the $7500-10k range. I'm just gonna guess insurance will be $75-$100 more per month. Assuming I'd never need Uber again, I could handle total TCO in the $250-$300/month range at most. Theres a few used cars in that range that still might have some warranty left. I know to avoid Euro cars because of repair costs, and everyone tells me Korean cars are crap. The common advice in my situation is to just buy some boring toyota/honda for cash and run it into the ground, right? Here's some variables I'm struggling with though:

1: I probably won't be putting a ton of miles on a car, I won't be the person putting 20k or more miles per year on it.
2: I know nothing about fixing cars. Sure, I'll read the manual and stuff but I have no tools or space to do the work.
3: I'm terrified of 3 or 4 digit sudden repair bills that could come from a heavily used beater car.
4: I don't have the cash reserve to just drop like 3-4k in cash outright for said beater car in the first place, I'm still working on just having an emergency fund to cover 3 months rent/food/utilities and contributing to a retirement fund.
5: I'm newish to the area I live in and don't have any trusted mechanic friends or like some guy that fixes up cars reliably and flips them.

It just feels like no matter what I choose it's a complete gamble. Buying new you run the risk of ending up in an "underwater" or "upside down" loan where you get trapped in a never ending cycle of a 6 year loan you can never pay off. Even if you do, you now own a car that is nothing but a ticking time bomb and all you've gained is the right to pay for expensive repairs out of your own pocket and you have to hope that whatever repairs you have had to do on it cost less than the trade-in value. Buying used has all of these problems also but you probably get no warranty right from the start on top of it and you have to squirrel money away to prepare for repair bills. Leasing denies you even the chance of having future trade-in value and I'm assuming they find every excuse possible to charge you for "excess wear and tear" fees just like how apartments find every excuse to steal your security deposit.

So assuming I'm too poor to even consider buying new, what the heck is even the difference between having low monthly payments on a lease but no worries and therefore a little disposable income that could go elsewhere versus buying heavily used and having to put the money I saved away just so I can blow it later anyway when the transmission craps out or whatever? Seems like in the end all you can do is make sacrifices to the Great Machine God in the Sky and hope your car magically has no problems. I get it, people say leasing is stupid financially.....but I mean.... you can't take any of it with you when you die, and if leasing allows you to put money elsewhere in your life that can bring back a good rate of return due to the low monthly payments.....is it really that bad? Maybe I'm just paranoid about used cars more than I should be, I really don't know. But if I get unlucky on my first used car and it's a lemon.......it could ruin my life for a good 2-3 years. It just seems to me all the people who go the equity route end up constantly paying on a new car anyway and don't get much if any time to be "free and clear" because most cars are designed to fail right around or before the time you are done paying for it, and even with the trade-in value factored in to each purchase they still end up paying as much or more per month than with a lease unless they downgrade. Anyway, sorry this is long......but yea I need some help. I know a guy at the gym who works at a dealership I could ask, but I assume his incentive is to take advantage of me.
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  • MichaellMichaell ColoradoPosts: 140,654

    Hello, I apologize for what is probably the millionth topic like this. I am 29 and have never owned or purchased a car due to eyesight problems. Now though, some things have changed and I have the required 20/40 or better eyesight, suddenly I'm allowed to drive. I never really had to plan my life to accomodate a car and can't afford much. I make an embarrassing 41k per year and don't have much disposable income, I currently spend roughly $250 per month to use Uber to get to work or other places that using a bus costs too much of my time. I've done a lot of reading already and know that if say I could come up with a $1000 or $1500 down payment I could "afford" a car with a sticker price in the $7500-10k range. I'm just gonna guess insurance will be $75-$100 more per month. Assuming I'd never need Uber again, I could handle total TCO in the $250-$300/month range at most. Theres a few used cars in that range that still might have some warranty left. I know to avoid Euro cars because of repair costs, and everyone tells me Korean cars are crap. The common advice in my situation is to just buy some boring toyota/honda for cash and run it into the ground, right? Here's some variables I'm struggling with though:

    1: I probably won't be putting a ton of miles on a car, I won't be the person putting 20k or more miles per year on it.
    2: I know nothing about fixing cars. Sure, I'll read the manual and stuff but I have no tools or space to do the work.
    3: I'm terrified of 3 or 4 digit sudden repair bills that could come from a heavily used beater car.
    4: I don't have the cash reserve to just drop like 3-4k in cash outright for said beater car in the first place, I'm still working on just having an emergency fund to cover 3 months rent/food/utilities and contributing to a retirement fund.
    5: I'm newish to the area I live in and don't have any trusted mechanic friends or like some guy that fixes up cars reliably and flips them.

    It just feels like no matter what I choose it's a complete gamble. Buying new you run the risk of ending up in an "underwater" or "upside down" loan where you get trapped in a never ending cycle of a 6 year loan you can never pay off. Even if you do, you now own a car that is nothing but a ticking time bomb and all you've gained is the right to pay for expensive repairs out of your own pocket and you have to hope that whatever repairs you have had to do on it cost less than the trade-in value. Buying used has all of these problems also but you probably get no warranty right from the start on top of it and you have to squirrel money away to prepare for repair bills. Leasing denies you even the chance of having future trade-in value and I'm assuming they find every excuse possible to charge you for "excess wear and tear" fees just like how apartments find every excuse to steal your security deposit.

    So assuming I'm too poor to even consider buying new, what the heck is even the difference between having low monthly payments on a lease but no worries and therefore a little disposable income that could go elsewhere versus buying heavily used and having to put the money I saved away just so I can blow it later anyway when the transmission craps out or whatever? Seems like in the end all you can do is make sacrifices to the Great Machine God in the Sky and hope your car magically has no problems. I get it, people say leasing is stupid financially.....but I mean.... you can't take any of it with you when you die, and if leasing allows you to put money elsewhere in your life that can bring back a good rate of return due to the low monthly payments.....is it really that bad? Maybe I'm just paranoid about used cars more than I should be, I really don't know. But if I get unlucky on my first used car and it's a lemon.......it could ruin my life for a good 2-3 years. It just seems to me all the people who go the equity route end up constantly paying on a new car anyway and don't get much if any time to be "free and clear" because most cars are designed to fail right around or before the time you are done paying for it, and even with the trade-in value factored in to each purchase they still end up paying as much or more per month than with a lease unless they downgrade. Anyway, sorry this is long......but yea I need some help. I know a guy at the gym who works at a dealership I could ask, but I assume his incentive is to take advantage of me.

    First, congratulations on the change in your life circumstances that allow you to become a driver and car owner!

    You are right to be concerned about what path to take. Buy used and risk constant (and possibly expensive) repairs. Buy new and commit to a big payment.

    I see that you are in Utah - I'll assume you are in SLC, given your use of Uber to get around currently.

    A few questions to help us:

    1. Is $250 your total monthly budget, including the loan payment, insurance, gas, parking costs, maintenance and repairs?
    2. How many miles would you be driving, each month?

    There are advantages to both buy and keep versus leasing. I have one vehicle financed each way in my household - wife's Subaru is financed for 6 years (with some negative equity rolled in, so I understand your concerns), while my VW is leased for a pretty low payment ($225/mo, and another $75/mo for insurance in suburban Denver).

    I'll get some of our regular posters to join this thread and offer their opinions, but the answers to the above questions will help us help you.

    Did you get a good deal? Be sure to come back and let us know! Post a pic of your new purchase or lease!


    MODERATOR

    2015 Subaru Outback 3.6R / 2014 MINI Countryman S ALL4

  • stickguystickguy Posts: 35,899
    first, Korean cars are not crap. Old wive's tale.

    IMO, buying a cheap used car, is an art form. Especially if you are going to have to take a loan out on it, so you don't get the cost certainty advantage of having a new car. And it is really helpful if you know cars and can either do things yourself, or understand what you are talking about if having to take it in for repairs. And cheap cars are going to need more of them.

    reading all this, I actually think a cheap lease is your best bet if you can swing it (and qualify). Only way to really get into a car with the little you have to put down, and actually have cost certainty. No, you won't have equity at the end, but if you get a cheap old car, in 3 years, it won't be worth that much anyway plus you will have put money into it most likely.

    the trick is getting a lease in the $200/mo payment range. Not easy, won't be fancy, but it is a great way to get started. In 3 years, hopefully you have saved a little more, making more, etc. If you did find a car for $7.500, and put down $1,000, you would be paying $200/month on it for 3 years anyway.

    anyway, I feel for you. Getting started is tough, and expensive!

    2019 Acura TLX A-spec 4 cyl. (mine), and 2020 Acura RDX tech SH-AWD (wife's)

  • benjaminhbenjaminh Posts: 4,822
    edited October 2018

    .... I currently spend roughly $250 per month to use Uber....

    In my humble opinion your safest path is to continue to use Uber and Lyft. When you count all the costs of car ownership—car payment, insurance, gas, maintenance, repairs, depreciation, etc.—it's going to cost you *significantly* more than $250 a month in the long run to own a car.

    But if are going to get a car in spite of that, here's a site that's good for looking at some prices for used cars:

    https://www.cars.com/

    Program in your zip code, budget, desired equipment, etc. and see what comes up in your area.

    But you might also consider trying to swing a lease on something like a new Elantra, which Hyundai has an offer for of c.180 a month + taxes etc., but that's with a downpayment of $2000:

    https://www.hyundaiusa.com/financial-tools/special-offers.aspx

    Finally, probably not possible, but by any chance Is there a relative or family member who would be willing to sell or loan you one of their old cars for a really good price, or even free?

    2018 Acura TLX 2.4 Tech 4WS (mine), 2018 Honda CR-V EX AWD (wife's)
  • kyfdxkyfdx Posts: 148,174
    Ditto on Uber/Lyft.

    If you are covering all of your transportation expenses on $250/mo, then just keep going that way.

    Did you get a good deal? Be sure to come back and share!

    Edmunds Moderator

  • Rand0_SlimRand0_Slim UtahPosts: 8
    edited October 2018
    Thanks for the detailed replies. Ok to answer the first question, once I factor in the occasional doctor appointment I actually probably already spend $300 on uber after re-figuring it so that's my current budget. I will be freeing up and additional $275 per month here shortly when I have a personal loan paid off. Obviously there's no reason to spend all that just because I theoretically could, need to save for other things. But yes, ideally I would not want to exceed $350-$400 per month in total costs. I live in Ogden btw, so not quite SLC but theres enough Uber presence it works.

    The problem with uber is if I want to go anywhere else, out for a drink, to the comedy club, a ball game, a date, or to the start of a trailhead to hike, THEN using Uber for all that could easily be like $400 or more per month......so mostly I do nothing and stay home, I order all my groceries online so I never have to go to the store. I would pay nothing for parking at my apartment or at work. I don't think I'll put a ton of miles on a car really, work would only eat up like 8 miles a day, so assuming I wanna go out more.......maybe lets call it 400 miles a month maybe 500 at most, really depends how comfortable I start to feel on the freeway as people drive extremely stupidly on I-15, the Utah/bad driver stereotypes are quite true from an outsiders perspective (I'm from Illinois where Chicago drivers are crazy but at least skilled). Hell, I might start driving for Uber a little at peak times to offset some costs.

    I'm fine with saving up for a bit bigger of a down-payment since I'm not gonna buy until 2019 anyway. I actually just got an 1100 dollar performance bonus at work so I could wait till the $2000 mark for sure. My credit score is like middle 600s if that helps also. A car I had my eye on is a Prius-C, I like the hatchback look more so than the sedan version, with as few miles as I would put on it, gas would be almost negligible for me. This leads me to probably a really stupid question: can you lease cars that aren't from the current model year?

    Short answers to other questions: nope, know nothing about fixing cars, have no tools to use, my experience with cars is through video games as sad as that is. I have no family in Utah and so far no friends either (its a hard place to make friends even if you are friendly). I'm well aware it helps to "know a guy", but I just don't so far, I could try asking around at work and the gym I suppose.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    OK, so $75 per month for gas.

    Insurance? Even the most basic insurance has got to be maybe...what?....$40 a month?

    Let's say this old car turns out to be pretty good, so maintenance and repairs (expendable items) maybe...two oil changes a year, wiper blades, let's say two tires, washer fluid, a few car washes, some brake pads in front.....so let's call that another $40 per month.

    So TCO per month is going to be, in the best case, $155 per month.

    Then plates and registration, so another $15.

    OK, $170 per month minus the $300 you have = $130 per month to buy or lease a car.

    Doesn't look good. If you went to a budget of $400 per month, that leaves you $230 a month--so that's a real squeaker on a lease.

    If you took out a 3-year loan for $230 a month to purchase a car that's a loan of around $7800. Not too bad to buy a used car.

  • Rand0_SlimRand0_Slim UtahPosts: 8
    edited October 2018
    The used cars I was looking at were in the $5k to $7500k range, so yea that makes sense.. It appears I just need to get over my fear of getting screwed on a used car and probably do that for my first one. I am gunning for a sizeable promotion that could get me into the $65k range in a couple years, I feel like my chances are strong, but that's all for another day and car #2 I suppose. God, how does literally 80 percent of people manage to do this and a mortgage and kids?
  • stickguystickguy Posts: 35,899
    2 incomes or a lot of debt.

    given your relatively low expected usage, less risk with a used car than if you were depending on it for a lot of long trips.

    2019 Acura TLX A-spec 4 cyl. (mine), and 2020 Acura RDX tech SH-AWD (wife's)

  • benjaminhbenjaminh Posts: 4,822
    edited October 2018
    Saving up a bit more sounds like a good idea.

    Usually you can only lease new cars.

    2018 Acura TLX 2.4 Tech 4WS (mine), 2018 Honda CR-V EX AWD (wife's)
  • Rand0_SlimRand0_Slim UtahPosts: 8
    Cool, thanks for the replies, used it is then.
  • kyfdxkyfdx Posts: 148,174
    edited October 2018
    One note about insurance: If you need a loan to buy the car, then you'll have to get full coverage. Without a car ownership/insurance history, your rates will be high. Budget at least $100/mo. for that. (it might be more).

    If you can pay $5000-$7000 cash for a used car, then you might be able to skip collision and comprehensive insurance, and possibly drop your insurance budget to around $50/mo. (of course, you are at risk for the $5000-$7000 vehicle value).

    ...so mostly I do nothing and stay home,

    This is a values choice... it's easy to fall into this, when you are single. IMO, the money you save by doing this is just not worth it. When I was 30, I was single, owned my own home and a Porsche. But, I spent a lot of time pinching pennies to make it happen. I would have been better off without the Porsche and a bigger entertainment budget. (and, my social life would have been better).

    So, don't wait to get a car, or worry about the extra $100/mo. for Uber.. Get out there and live a little.

    Wait, is that car advice? :D

    Did you get a good deal? Be sure to come back and share!

    Edmunds Moderator

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    It comes down to what you want vs. what you need. If a used car will buy him TIME, that's worth considering as a good investment. Everyone says "Time is money"---but it's not at all. One is replaceable, the other isn't.
  • Rand0_SlimRand0_Slim UtahPosts: 8
    edited October 2018
    Yea.....at the end of the day you can't actually put time in an investment account. Reality is its just too hard these days to have anything nice without dual incomes like stickguy said unless you are a doctor, lawyer, high ranking business exec, or a successful entrepreneur. I suppose its more or less always been that way. Even if I get my next job at 65k it still isn't bleep in today's world. I may have to just suck it up and get a different apt in the ghetto or even worse, a roommate. But that's all off topic, embrace the suck and all that I guess, as the generation x-ers say.

    Ideally, if I could find something fun to drive that's not the exact same cookie cutter Civic/Corolla/Accord that seemingly everyone has that would be cool. All-wheel drive would be nice given where I live too but even just that small list seems unlikely in my range. Don't want a truck or SUV really either. Good news is this site has manufacture specific forums so I can do research on individual models to learn what parts to expect to replace and what brands/models last the longest.

    One other thing I just thought of: Are certified pre-owned cars actually trustworthy enough to not bother taking it to a mechanic? Given that I don't know anyone to trust or anything useful about cars......it seems like a waste of 100 bucks to me in theory to do that.
  • stickguystickguy Posts: 35,899
    still not a bad idea to have it checked, but unlikely you are going to find a CPO unit (or anything under warranty) in your price range.

    here are a couple of random ones in NJ in your price range (top and bottom end)

    http://www.royaleasing.com/detail-2012-honda-accord_sedan-4dr_i4_automatic_lx_premium-used-18024502.html

    http://www.royaleasing.com/detail-2012-honda-accord_sedan-4dr_i4_automatic_lx_premium-used-18024502.html

    this one is a pretty good mix of price, age, equipment and miles.

    https://www.royalautogroups.com/vehicle-details/2011-chevrolet-malibu-lt-alloy-wheels-conv-pkg-sunroof-silver-certified-sedan-26a01b592ac1354ebe1cd890ff81fce0

    slightly over budget, but much newer lower miles. should last a long time and be cheap to own.

    https://www.royalautogroups.com/vehicle-details/2014-nissan-versa-sv-alloy-bluetooth-conv-pkg---silver-certified-sedan-bf064e0a2dac7340b5685491591be843

    2019 Acura TLX A-spec 4 cyl. (mine), and 2020 Acura RDX tech SH-AWD (wife's)

  • benjaminhbenjaminh Posts: 4,822
    edited October 2018
    Yes, certified used cars have already been mechanically checked out. You pay more for them for that reason, but there's no need to go a mechanic. If you can afford a certified used car that might be a good way to go.

    Carvana is a relatively new company that also checks out its used cars before it sells them....

    https://www.carvana.com/cars

    You shop online with Carvana, and they will deliver a car to you....

    2018 Acura TLX 2.4 Tech 4WS (mine), 2018 Honda CR-V EX AWD (wife's)
  • Rand0_SlimRand0_Slim UtahPosts: 8
    Oh I like that Carvana idea, never heard of that before, thanks!
  • benjaminhbenjaminh Posts: 4,822
    Carvana has a "budget friendly" selection of cars, and one I saw was a 2012 Nissan Leaf electric car for $8800....

    https://www.carvana.com/search/2000178643/2012-nissan-sl-hatchback-4d-

    But just to say the obvious, it will be important to figure out if when all costs (including insurance, etc) are figured in whether it makes sense for you.
    2018 Acura TLX 2.4 Tech 4WS (mine), 2018 Honda CR-V EX AWD (wife's)
  • stickguystickguy Posts: 35,899
    well, at least with a leaf, you don't have to budget for gas. Just have to figure out how to plug it in when you are in an apartment.

    2019 Acura TLX A-spec 4 cyl. (mine), and 2020 Acura RDX tech SH-AWD (wife's)

  • Rand0_SlimRand0_Slim UtahPosts: 8
    edited October 2018
    Ah yea, unfortunately that won't work at my apartment, I have thought about it, thats kinda why earlier I mentioned something like a Prius-C as a compromise but there are none in my budget in my area around Utah. Hopefully this current housing bubble will pop around the time I can actually think about getting a real house to get an electric car lol.

    Still though, I appreciate the replies, and I do feel more comfortable with the math of my budget and some of the options I didn't realize were available to me. I'm a pretty thorough consumer though so I won't rush (I mean hey I've already gone my whole life pretty much without one so whats another 6 or 8 months?).
  • stickguystickguy Posts: 35,899
    Poked around cars.com local to you, and found this one. Actually good be a good deal. Solid car, not too old or too many miles, and reasonable asking price. But even better, it was super well maintained for the last 8 years, all at the same dealer that has it now. Regular oil changes at short intervals. The kind of care you want to see on a used car.

    https://www.cars.com/vehicledetail/detail/752862001/overview/

    2019 Acura TLX A-spec 4 cyl. (mine), and 2020 Acura RDX tech SH-AWD (wife's)

  • MichaellMichaell ColoradoPosts: 140,654
    stickguy said:
    Poked around cars.com local to you, and found this one. Actually good be a good deal. Solid car, not too old or too many miles, and reasonable asking price. But even better, it was super well maintained for the last 8 years, all at the same dealer that has it now. Regular oil changes at short intervals. The kind of care you want to see on a used car. https://www.cars.com/vehicledetail/detail/752862001/overview/
    That’s a great find!

    Did you get a good deal? Be sure to come back and let us know! Post a pic of your new purchase or lease!


    MODERATOR

    2015 Subaru Outback 3.6R / 2014 MINI Countryman S ALL4

  • Rand0_SlimRand0_Slim UtahPosts: 8
    edited October 2018
    Hey wow thanks, that is actually a really good find! I had "thought" I browsed through the inventory of that dealership already, but I was using AutoTrader instead and didn't see anything in that price range on their site and had moved on from that dealer, but I will absolutely look into that. Weird body style but it might grow on me and hey beggars can't be choosers. Gets good gas mileage for an SUV and the utility might come in handy later. It was looking like for a second I'd have to go to one of those shady used car lots. I'm reading a lot of really good stuff about HHRs, never looked into them before.
  • benjaminhbenjaminh Posts: 4,822
    edited October 2018
    How about this (maybe?) $3000 2010 HHR with 99k miles at a Salt Lake City VW dealer? Has an ok sounding carfax with no accidents.

    https://www.strongvw.com/vehicle-details/used-2010-chevrolet-hhr-lt-salt-lake-city-ut-id-25919457

    For this price apparently you have to finance with the dealer, which seems a bit questionable. And so there seems to be a different "cash price" that you have to request. But they do say that for used cars they provide a "lifetime" powertrain warranty for cars with less than 100k miles, which this one just barely qualifies for.






    2018 Acura TLX 2.4 Tech 4WS (mine), 2018 Honda CR-V EX AWD (wife's)
  • stickguystickguy Posts: 35,899
    with those disclaimers the price is going to be, I bet, something different. Sometimes better to just work with an honest place, especially when you are a newbie to the car buying game.

    2019 Acura TLX A-spec 4 cyl. (mine), and 2020 Acura RDX tech SH-AWD (wife's)

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490

    Ah yea, unfortunately that won't work at my apartment, I have thought about it, thats kinda why earlier I mentioned something like a Prius-C as a compromise but there are none in my budget in my area around Utah. Hopefully this current housing bubble will pop around the time I can actually think about getting a real house to get an electric car lol.

    Still though, I appreciate the replies, and I do feel more comfortable with the math of my budget and some of the options I didn't realize were available to me. I'm a pretty thorough consumer though so I won't rush (I mean hey I've already gone my whole life pretty much without one so whats another 6 or 8 months?).

    You could afford an older Prius, and they are very reliable cars.
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