I know it may seem kind of late in life to be buying my first car at 40 years young. But I didn’t need a car living in NYC. Everything was easy to get to by simply walking around the corner, hopping on the subway or catching a cab. However, having a car is a necessity now that I’ve moved to Albany County. Hence began my journey shopping for the perfect first car. I ended up with three new cars in just as many months. So I decided to give y’all some tips to help you avoid making the same mistakes that I did.
DON’T BUY A NEW CAR
Purchasing a brand new vehicle is not the best choice for a first car. Especially if you are a new or young driver. The car will be costly and may require you to secure a loan in order to pay for it. It’s not worth the cost since the car will lose value as soon as you drive it off the lot. Also, insurance will be at a premium for a new whip. Even more so if it’s a luxury vehicle. It will be even higher if you live in New York. Possibly exorbitantly high in NYC. An expensive car note along with a pricey insurance premium may be biting off more than you can chew. Buying a used ride from a reliable brand, that you can pay for in cash is a more financially sound choice.
CHOOSE A RELIABLE BRAND
Choosing a reliable brand such as Honda or Toyota is extremely important for safety and longevity. And you’ll get the most bang for your buck since the car should last several hundred thousand miles with proper maintenance. My first whip was a new to me 2006 BMW 530xi. It was a huge mistake buying an old, foreign luxury car. Especially one that was not properly maintained or vetted. Old uxury cars such as BMW and Mercedes Benz will end up being money pits as the parts are expensive. So is the labor. The dealership will try to beat you in the head with repair costs. While an indy mechanic may not have the expertise necessary to work on these vehicles.
My BMW ended up being a lemon and needed $12,000 dollars in repairs (dealership pricing). I got rid of the car immediately after only having it for a month. It was more cost effective to just buy a more reliable ride. That was a hard pill to swallow.
DO YOUR RESEARCH
Make it your business to thoroughly research the whip you have in mind before purchasing. You should be looking for open recalls and class action lawsuits. Along with known issues for the particular make, model and year. Do not purchase any vehicle that has serious safety recalls or lawsuits for things such as engine failure. After narrowing down your selection, don’t forget the CarFax. Rule out vehicles that have been in an accident. Fleet vehicles. And those that don’t have detailed maintenance records such as oil changes, inspections, brakes etc. This may be signs of neglect. But also keep in mind that some people maintain their own cars. So maintenance details may be missing from the CarFax. However, in the event that your car ends up being recalled or part of a class action, detailed maintenance records may be necessary. I experienced this first hand.
My second car was a 2015 Hyundai Elantra. It had an immaculate CarFax with very detailed records for oil changes. Spark Plugs. Brakes. Fluids. The works. I drove the car for eight days. Then all of a sudden while on the highway, the low oil pressure light started flashing. My son was driving the car and was able to make it home. But on the way to a mechanic the engine seized. Shut down completely.
My particular car ended up being a part of a class action lawsuit for engine failure due to piston slap. Turns out that there are also several Hyundai vehicles recalled for engine failure. The Hyundai dealership tried to claim that the engine seized due to neglect. Watch this vlog to see how I was able to resolve the issue with my Hyundai Elantra. Do your due diligence to avoid being in the same situation.
GET A PRE-PURCHASE INSPECTION
Before finalizing your purchase, it’s a good idea to take your potential whip to a qualified mechanic for a pre-purchase inspection. It’s a red flag if the seller does not want to agree to a PPI. They’re most likely hiding something. If you can’t find a mechanic near you then take the car to the official dealership.
This will allow you to be informed of any damage or possible problems. You can use this information to decide whether or not to purchase the vehicle. You’ll also be aware of any additional costs for repairs or wear and tear such as brakes and new tires. A pre purchase inspection is not free. It’s usually between $150-$200. But it can save you from potentially losing thousands of dollars on a lemon.
GET A TUNE-UP
So you’ve decided what whip you’re going to buy. You’re paid in full and ready to roll. Now what? Get a full tune up immediately. Especially if the car has over 100K miles. Start with an oil change. Even if you were told that it was done already. Take the car to the dealer or a reputable shop to get an oil change to ensure that the right oil and filter is used. You’ll then have this oil change on record and can properly keep track of when the next one is due.
Next you’ll want to put in new engine and cabin filters. Note the dealership will try to charge you a grip to do this. You can order your car filters from Amazon and change them yourself in a few minutes. Or enlist the help of a family member or friend. This is important as dirty filters can affect vehicle performance.
The filters in my most recent (and hopefully final) new car purchase- a 2009 Honda Accord LX- looked like they were in the car since 2009. They were absolutely disgusting. There was also what looked like a squirrel’s nest in the cabin filter compartment. My Dad had to thoroughly clean out all traces before we installed the new filter. My Hyundai Elantra didn’t even have a cabin filter. So we were pretty much breathing in dirty air until I bought and installed one. Don’t skip this step.
If you have no indication of a change in the maintenance records, then check the spark plugs and PCV valve. Also check to see if the MAF sensor needs to be cleaned or replaced. My Honda Accord had a brand new MAF sensor. But my Dad installed a brand new PCV Valve and spark plugs as it appeared that the original parts were still in the car. Although they were wearing well, my car has 141,000 miles. So changing these parts were necessary if I want to keep my car running smooth.
Get new brakes and tires if necessary for maximum safety. My Accord has new brakes. However, my tire tread is wearing low. More so on the front wheels at 4/32. So I definitely need new tires before Winter comes. I guess that’ll be my birthday gift to myself this year.
Follow these tips when buying your first car (or any used car) and you should be good to go. I don’t want you to make the same costly mistakes that I made. I was lucky. You may not fare as well. Hopefully the third time is a charm and the Honda Accord is the one for me as your sis can’t deal with another car heartbreak. Make sure you watch my Life Update Vlog for more details on my car shopping journey.
What other tips do you have for first time car buyers?
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