What's the best car for car idiots?
May 13, 2014 5:25 PM Subscribe
I am moving to the SF South Bay in a few months and need to buy a car. I've read previous car-buying askme's, done a bit of avoid-scams/how-to-haggle online research, but mostly I'm overwhelmed. Step 1, I think: make, model, new or used?!? Please help me choose a car!
posted by serelliya to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Some questions going 'round 'n' 'round in my head:
1) For a young first-time car buyer, is it better to go with a new car? I know nothing about cars and would prefer to learn the minimum amount possible about them, but I'm willing to pay other people reasonable amounts of money to fix my car if it breaks in an obvious way, or to follow a maintenance schedule that's spelled out for me.
2) Where/how do I find a "trusted mechanic" if I'm new to the area? It seems like this is a must if I'm shopping for a used car. For instance, buying a used rental car seems like a good way of avoiding new-car depreciation while getting mechanical reliability.
3) How much car can I "afford"? I have decent credit--low 600's, no late payments, no debt of any kind, ~3 years of credit history--and will be making an entry-level software engineer's salary. But I also might be going back to grad school in 1-5 years, back on the East Coast, at which point I'd have to figure out what to do with my car. If I'm going to splurge on something, I'd rather get a nicer apartment close to work than have a nicer car. Still, I can afford to buy something that isn't an old clunker.
3) How do I choose the make and model? I definitely want 4 doors, existent trunk space, good gas mileage, adjustable seats (my significant other is a foot+ taller than me). So probably a compact with decent headroom; what about hybrids? Automatic keyless ignition would be nice, to save digging my keys out of my purse, but it's not worth thousands of dollars if it comes to that. The last time I remember being in a car dealership, power windows was a fancy new option.
Ideally I want to buy an inexpensive car (factoring in gas costs) with minimum maintenance/repair hassle. The upper end of my price range is in the low twenties, if I give up on "maximizing" and just buy a new Prius, but I feel like I'd be overpaying for the very small luxuries of picking my favorite paint color and ooh'ing over "power button" ignition. OTOH, if I buy a cheaper used car under 10k, I could probably pay cash (but maybe a loan will actually be better for building my credit history).
Can someone who knows about cars please help me sort through all these competing factors? What are the most important points to think about? Thanks in advance!