MML Alex: Beginning the Car Search

Written by
Alex Eaton
MML- Alex

It's finally time to begin looking for a car. Since I got home from Europe in June I've been saving almost half of my take-home pay simply for this purpose. Currently I have about $6,000 to spend, but I still have a bit more time before I will actually need to make the purchase. Buying a car is nerve wracking. There is so much involved it becomes difficult to stay focused and seek out the right deal.

Here are my three priorities for my car:

  1. Gas mileage - I'd like to be around the 25 mpg range or above. I'm open to getting a crossover or larger car, but it will have to be efficient.
  1. Reliable - Speaks for itself, I think the make and model will have a lot to do with this. I want to be able to road trip in this car.
  1. Low maintenance costs - Also probably dependent on the brand, I've heard some brands maintenance costs are massive compared to others.

The next question is where to buy from. I've begun looking online on sites like AutoTrader, OfferUp, and even Craigslist, as well as local used car dealerships in the area. My initial searches haven't been very focused, it's been more about seeing what is out there and what I may be able to get. I feel like buying from someone personally selling their car will get me more bang for my buck, but there are also a lot more risks involved in that process.

To be perfectly honest, I'm not quite sure how to move forward. Should I narrow down to a few different brands who fit my criteria well and seek them out? Should I go dealer to dealer to see what I can find? Wait for the perfect online listing to appear? This is the most complicated purchase I've made so far, so I'm feeling gun shy.

There is also the question of how much to spend. A car isn't extremely important to me. I don't care much about how it looks, special features, and brand names. So one of the biggest questions I've been asking myself is how much to invest. Do I spend less on a worse car or put more money into a better car that will last longer? A cheaper car won't always be cheaper as well, there are most likely higher maintenance costs in the near term if I get a cheap car. The next question would be do I get a better car and finance the remaining portion to guarantee I am getting a car worth my while. I really don't want to put myself further in debt, but if it's the right choice I think I should consider it.

Welcome to my complicated car-buying journey, we'll see where this ends up.

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