I'm in the market for my very first car. I have no idea how this is supposed to work, though apparently it's something that people half my age do all the time.
The plan is to buy a car here in New York and drive it across the country to Los Angeles, where I will be living (and continuing to operate said vehicle). I have a previous AskMe sort of along these lines
, wherein it was suggested I wait to buy the car until I get to California. I had originally planned to do it that way, but there are a lot of logistical problems I didn't foresee. Logistical problems that, to me, outweigh the inconvenience of ultimately needing to register the car in CA.
I'm in the market for a used car, but I probably will need financing. I'd like to put about $2000 down, and pay somewhere in the neighborhood of $10,000. I'm thinking a reliable-enough compact with decent-enough mileage. Looking especially at a Ford Focus, Toyota Corolla, Mazda 3, something like that. In an ideal world my dream car would probably be a Subaru Imprezza, but I don't think I'll find one in my price range.
I have decent enough credit, but not great. My credit is mainly dinged because of not enough credit, not outstanding debt. (I have no debt and pay my credit card balance in full every month.) I'm hoping to be able to finance through my bank. How good does one's credit need to be in order to get an auto loan through a bank? If I don't qualify, should I try to finance at a legit dealership, or just go straight for the usurious
"Buy Here Pay Here" dealerships? How do I do this without getting dinged hard for all those credit checks?
I probably have better credit than your average eighteen year old trying to buy their first car. Being in my thirties, it seems stupid to get a co-signer, but I guess I could suck it up and ask my parents, if that's the done thing.
I will be between freelance gigs when I buy the car. Should I provide pay stubs from my long history of previous employment, or is that not important? Is my status as a freelancer a dealbreaker for getting a car loan? I am not "unemployed" in the formal sense and have no worries about being able to make loan payments.
Can I buy a used car from an individual seller with a bank auto loan? How does that work?
How do I find a reputable dealer? I live in Brooklyn, so it's not like there are a ton of car dealerships that I see every day and could tell "this is a good place" vs. "this is a nasty scam artist".
I know all about how to find a reliable car, what makes and models are good, taking it to an independent mechanic to get it checked out, carfax, kelley blue book values, etc etc etc. Previous questions have been helpful on all of those topics.
Insurance. How does it work? Do I have to set something up before I buy the car? Do I drive my new car home and then go online and insure it? From my scant knowledge of car insurance, it seems like they charge you for several months or even a year at a time? Do I have to pay that in one lump sum?
Registration. I'll be registering the car in New York. How do I do that? Is this something I do in advance of driving away in the car, or is there some kind of grace period? If I buy from an individual seller, is there extra stuff I need to do before I can register the car? Is there any weird little red tape thing I need to be sure of before I take possession of the car, aside from making sure it's in good working order?
Car title. WTF even is that? Is it the same as registration or a different bit of paperwork that has to be done?
How much money should I set aside for upfront insurance, registration, and other incidental costs related to buying a car?
In my mind, this is how this all works:
Sustained online research of makes, models, reliability, kbb values, etc etc etc.
Obtain approval on a bank loan for roughly the amount I intend to spend. (i.e. ~$8000)
Go to a dealership, look around, maybe test drive some stuff. Maybe use the test drive to take it to a mechanic of my choice?
When I find something I'm happy with, formalize the financing, sign some stuff, drive away.
Register car. Insure car. Think about stuff like AAA, cross-country driving routes, etc.
CALIFORNIA OR BUST!!!
(also then later re-registering the car in CA, which I'm very aware of and is somewhat tangential to this question since there's great info on it elsewhere.)
Is there anything else VITAL to the process that I'm missing, here? Anything I need to be doing beforehand that I'm not considering? Any last-ditch reason this is a terrible option and I need to just buy the car in CA? Am I massively overthinking all of this?