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First car, newbie buyer. Help me make sure I don't get a bad deal!
December 4, 2013 3:09 PM   Subscribe

So I just started a new job and need a car soon. I've never bought one before, and while I've had advice from friends I want to widen my information sources a bit. Complications, budget and other sundry details after the break...

As my post history shows, I'm in Belgium. However, I'm told it's significantly cheaper and simpler to get a car from my "home" country, the UK, and drive it over. Being right hand drive doesn't seem to make life especially harder for any of my colleagues.

What I want:
- Reliable
- Inexpensive repairs/maintenance
- Comfortable with long journeys
- Decent mileage

My standard usage would be a couple of 50-mile round trips per week, plus longer drives out around Europe perhaps once a month, and back to the UK occasionally; I won't be using it to get to work much as there is a car pool for that.

What I have:
- LOTS of disposable income, for a graduate at least. I could probably pay off close to £1k per month if I had to
- Not much cash (until next payday at least)
- A decent amount of credit

I'm over 25 so insurance should be a bit cheaper than many first time owners. I think I'd prefer diesel, for the fuel efficiency (also diesel in Belgium is significantly cheaper than petrol). Colleagues have suggested I look at things like Ford Mondeos and VW Passats. I'd like to keep my budget under £4,500. Ideally I would like to buy it over Christmas and drive it back to Belgium.

So, questions:
- Would it be better to get finance, or put it on a credit card and pay it off ASAP? (my APR is fairly standard I think, 16.9%)
- What do I really need to pay attention to when looking at used cars with 60-100k miles?
- Are there any particular makes/models that suit my criteria more than the ones mentioned above?
- Who should I try to buy from?
- How much time does it take to get everything sorted from scratch? (vehicle tax, insurance etc)
- Any other useful information I may not have asked for specifically would be most welcome.
posted by fearnothing to Travel & Transportation (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
-16.9% is NOT a good APR for a car loan! Go with financing secured. Ask your credit union or bank (credit union is best).
-Bring the blue book value with you for the model you want. Do your research and know how much they can reasonably ask.
-If you want to drive it off the lot, you need car insurance first, so make sure you know who you want to go with before you buy the car.

I don't know much about the technical details about cars. Sorry. But the financing I am sure of. Bargain hard. Leave if it's not the price you want. Likely they'll call you to come back!
posted by kbennett289 at 4:08 PM on December 4, 2013

When you find one you like, always hate the color (or whatever can't be changed), but act as if, other than that, it would perhaps be acceptable to you. Also, be sure to casually make it clear that your current vehicle runs fine so you aren't desperate for a new car.

I usually have a friend go along so we can do the good cop, bad cop type of thing.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 9:13 PM on December 4, 2013

If reliability and low maintenance costs are important to you, get a Toyota or a Honda. If you're planning on driving this in Belgium, I have no idea why you'd buy the car in the UK - you're just making it harder to safely execute turns by putting the wheel on the wrong side of the car.

If you have 1k a month in disposable income and only want to spend 5k, don't finance a used car. Save up for a few months, pay cash, and avoid financing costs. Or get a loan that you can pay off in the short term (like 6 months), not one that locks you into long-term financing payments.
posted by Dasein at 10:15 AM on December 5, 2013

Do: ask for advice from people you know, and really try get someone automotively inclined to help you shop around and look at cars. This will help a lot!

Don't: pay by credit card, but maybe consider using credit loans if you can get a decent rate. Where I live (Canada, not Europe) car dealers and banks are offering fairly low interest rates right now.

When I was shopping, I passed on a nice older VW Passat because the maintenance costs for older VW vehicles are on the high side where I live, but on the continent this might not be as much of an issue. Here, the holy trinity of value go-carts is Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, & Mazda3, but the EU is another ecosystem. (The one time that I drove a car in the UK it was a Ford, and I thought it was pretty cute. But that was a long time ago.)

(Also: recent Citroens are virtually unknown in North America, but I'd really love to try one out).
posted by ovvl at 3:52 PM on December 5, 2013

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