For those of you who don’t know, I have a twin sister who goes to UGA. She and I have shared a car since we were 16. While most of my friends could not even imagine sharing a car, I did not think it was that bad in high school. I would get the car every other day — not a terrible situation.
When we went off to college our parents decided that we did not need cars as freshmen. But come sophomore year, she and I were determined to work something out. The solution: I got the car fall semester, she got it spring and we shared over the summer. The problem with our solution was that one semester with a car made the semester without a car so much worse! She is also graduating a year early, and we will most likely not be living in the same city this summer.
I know I had to do something, so I started to save my money to buy my first car. After four months of looking online and hearing many people promise they found me my dream car (my dream car to my dad was a minivan and my dream car to my grandfather was a convertible that I could not afford to pay insurance on). I finally found my car, a 2003 Mazda 6 that my twin sister named Jolene.
I had help looking; don’t get me wrong. But I did most of the process on my own, and I found it to be a lot harder than I thought it would be. So here are my 10 Tips for Car Shopping in College:
- Be Practical: Most likely this car has to last you at least five years, so you need something dependable. You also need a car that does not make your insurance impossible to afford.
- Know Where to Look: AutoTrader.com is a great tool. You can specify exactly what you want and put it in your price range. Remember you have to actually drive to where the car is to look at it in person.
- Live Near a Big City: I am in Statesboro, and there are no cars down here. Try to look around big cities: more people = more cars.
- Bring a Friend who Knows Cars: You know those people who can listen to an engine, look under a hood and tell you everything you need to know about cars. Make one of those people your friends, and take them car shopping. However, what you really need is a fortune teller to let you know how long the car will last you.
- Get it Checked Out: Have in mind a mechanic that you trust and remember this will cost you extra. If you are at a dealership get an insurance wavier to take the car to your own trusted mechanic.
- Be Prepared with Insurance: First make sure you can get a free quote. Next look at the VIN number on the bottom right side of the windshield. Call your insurance company give them the make, model, year and VIN. They will give you a quote that you can compare with each car you look at.
- Know Someone Who Can Get You a Deal: Cars are expensive. So unless you are the best bargainer in the world, you need someone with you who has connections to get the best price.
- Ask a Million Questions: Car dealers like to slither around answers. Don’t let that fool you! Ask what am I signing, why does it look that way, why do I have to pay this, will you clean that out? Don’t assume: ask.
- Be Smart: Walk around the car look for anything unusual. Check the radio and air conditioning. Listen to the engine run — weird noises are not normal. If you aren’t convinced it is a good car, then it probably isn’t.
- Be Prepared to Pay: If you can pay cash, then do it. Financing is just one more bill. Understand that a car means money for insurance, gas and repairs. A car is a big investment, but it is worth it.