Buying a Car

10 tips to help you reduce the high costs of owning and maintaining a car.

  1. Keep your cars longer. There's no reason why you can't keep a car for seven to 10 years or even longer. Those who trade in their new cars every three, four, or five years are simply throwing money away. Sure, a late model car feels good, and you probably think people are impressed by. But is it worth the cost?

  2. Buy a used car rather than an expensive new car. The quickest way to lose $2000 is to drive a new car off the dealer's lot. So many people are obsessed with frequently trading in their cars that many excellent used cars go begging. If you get into the habit of buying used cars, you'll save literally tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars over your lifetime.

  3. Do your homework. The only way to assure a good deal from a car salesperson is to march into the showroom heavily armed with facts and figures. You should know exactly what the dealer has paid for the particular car you want to buy new. You can obtain information on dealer cost by referring to the many websites that carry this information. Lot's of useful information is available for used car devotees as well. Let's face iTOPIC: it's you against the dealer, and if you don't have the right information, you're at a big disadvantage.

  4. Finance over three years or less. Some people never manage to get out from under their car loans. Ideally, you should pay cash. If you can't afford to finance a car over two or three years, perhaps you can't afford that car. If you must finance a car, never tell the dealer how much you can afford in monthly payments because you'll be sold a car equal to that payment. Get the best deal you can instead and let the dealer tell you what the monthly payments will be.

  5. Avoid cars that are more costly to insure. Insurance companies aren't dummies. They maintain extensive records on the claims that they have to pay out by car model. Don't waste money buying a car that, for whatever reason -- perhaps it has 24 cylinders and 300 valves and can exceed the speed of sound -- incurs high premiums than more ordinary vehicles. Bland is better.

  6. Don't get frivolous options. A "loaded" car means two things. First, it is loaded with all the available options. Second, it is going to be loaded with problems as each option starts to fall apart. When you next buy a car, evaluate your "need" for each option. Some of them cost a lot of money and serve no apparent purpose. Not only does a loaded car cost several thousand dollars more up front, you will end up paying dearly to keep these options functioning in the future.
  7. Don't buy the dealer's "extras." Such extras are commonly called "packs." They are as close to worthless as anything you could ever buy. They include items such as undercoat, overcoat, racing stripes, and of course, the infamous fabric protector. If the dealer asked if you would like to add any of these packages to your gleaming new car, just laugh. If you think they're worthwhile, have your head examined. If the salesperson informs you that they or he have been added to the car, thank him or her kindly and then say you're not going to pay extra for them.

  8. Sell your old car yourself. Chances are that you can sell your old car for quite a bit more money than the dealer would give you for it as a trade in on a new car or a newer car. Sure it takes a little effort, but the time is well spent if you can make a little extra money to put toward your next chariot. (If you keep your cars long as I do, however, only the junk dealer will buy it.)

  9. Perform routine car maintenance yourself. Have you noticed the labor charges for car maintenance and repairs lately? While not quite equal to the neurosurgeons' fees, they're getting there. You can perform more routine maintenance tasks on your car than you think.

  10. Find a good mechanic. Auto dealers don't have a monopoly on good mechanics. As a matter of fact, some of them don't have any good mechanics. Like locating any other competent professional, word-of-mouth is often your best resource.