Needing a car by next Fall.
November 27, 2011 3:18 PM   Subscribe

Hello MetaFilter, I am a marine sciences graduate student in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I will be moving to Morehead City next Fall for the second half of my masters program, and will need a car. I am not sure how I will be able to do this. (more inside)

Right now I am putting $500.00 a month into a savings account, and should have $4000.00 saved by April. I don’t know very much about cars, and I am pondering buying a new or certified pre-owned Honda Fit based off of my awful previous experiences with used vehicles. Is it realistic to take out a a 60-month auto loan from a credit union such as SECU? I have a good credit score, last I checked. I will be using this vehicle to drive to school every day from either Beaufort, Morehead City, or Atlantic Beach, plus I will have to drive 3 hours each way to visit my girlfriend on the weekend.

What do you think I should do? What would you do if you were in my position?
posted by oceanjesse to Work & Money (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Also, I might mention that I have been reading "Don't get taken every time" as per prior suggestions.
posted by oceanjesse at 3:29 PM on November 27, 2011

Sounds like a good plan to me. I bought my civic with a credit union loan back in '92 and it's still running great (KOW). It seems like you could afford a shorter term. Budget for the maintenance/ servicing that might be required to satisfy the warrantee. The dealership will overcharge for this work, so go elsewhere. Make sure things like the righthand rearview mirror and floormats are included in the price. Don't let the salesman talk you into rustproofing or other stuff. You can get it all done later, for less.
posted by bonobothegreat at 3:43 PM on November 27, 2011

$4k will be a fine down payment on such a car, but will you have the income to make the payments after you move?
posted by jon1270 at 4:30 PM on November 27, 2011

I have a stipend for the duration of my program, average time to completion is 2.5 years and I'm in the first semester. So I guess I'll have the income for a while? Stipend is $20500/year.
posted by oceanjesse at 4:38 PM on November 27, 2011

To get a loan you'll need proof of income. I used paystubs, not sure how you get paid. If you have a letter or contract stating the terms of your program & stipend, and a recent letter confirming your employment that'd be sufficient to me.

However, the fact that it's only a 3 year program and you're looking at 5 year loans might be problematic.
posted by pwnguin at 5:00 PM on November 27, 2011

Is there anyone who could cosign for you? I love SECU and have found them to be wonderful lenders, but it might be nice to have a cosigner available and in mind in case they are uncomfortable with the risk. OTOH, at the Chapel Hill branches they are probably quite used to graduate students and should understand stipends and the like.

The last time I went car shopping, I got pre-approved from SECU for up to a certain amount, which was very helpful in fending off the finance-department sharks at the dealership.

Also, although you said you had bad experiences buying used in the past, I would suggest giving Carmax a try. I bought my last car from them and could not believe how easy and non-shady it was.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 5:16 PM on November 27, 2011

Another option for seriously lowering the hassle factor is to use a car-buying service. The credit union may offer this, and we've used the one offered by our insurance company a couple of times. You generally end up buying the vehicle from the fleet sales person (or department) at the dealership for a pre-negotiated price that's usually a pretty good deal. No negotiating, high-pressure sales tactics, or upselling at all. You walk in, sign the paperwork, and leave.
posted by jquinby at 5:23 PM on November 27, 2011

I can't see going into long-term consumer debt as a graduate student. If you're going to have $4000 to spend, then I'd look into a Corolla or a Camry in the 125,000 mile range from a private party on craigslist, have it thoroughly inspected by a mechanic referred either by a friend or found through the Mechanic's Files on Parts are plentiful and inexpensive, any garage in the country can make repairs easily, and the major systems are very nearly indestructible. The Fit is a fun and reliable car, but at this point in your life boring will save you a lot of money that you can use later on.
posted by 1adam12 at 2:31 AM on November 28, 2011

Thanks for the answers, everybody.
posted by oceanjesse at 7:54 AM on November 28, 2011

Just wanted to update everyone - I found a great deal on a 1998 Toyota Camry with 90 thousand miles on it. Thanks again for the advice!
posted by oceanjesse at 4:32 PM on January 24, 2012

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