First Car Buying–Sage Advice Part 2

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Op-Ed by Paul Wimsett and AR Bunch

As a follow up to the last article, what’s the best standard advice or conventional wisdom around what car to buy, as a first car. Well, if you are a teenager with an unrealistic sense of financial responsibility (which is actually a trend these days), then we do have some advice for you.

If you chose a car that has sold well for a long time you’ll probably find a make & model that hasn’t built a bad reputation and you’ll be able to find parts for it for many years.

You should also think about buying a car that’s already been broken in, and lost the rapid depreciation you get when a new car is now slightly used. So right now you’re looking for model years 2013 to 2016. If you have a good steady job, try to buy them 3 years old and sell them at 6 years old. The best selling car by year were:

Best Seller 2012 & 2013

#1
Ford F-Series
763,402 645,316 18.3%
#2
Chevrolet Silverado
480,414 418,312 14.8%
#3
Toyota Camry
408,484 404,886 0.9%
#4
Honda Accord
366,678 331,872 10.5%
#5
Dodge Ram
355,673 293,363 21.2%
#6
Honda Civic
336,180 317,909 5.7%
#7
Nissan Altima
320,723 302,934 5.9%
#8
Honda CR-V
303,904 281,652 7.9%
#9
Toyota Corolla/Matrix
302,180 290,947 3.9%

Chart by Good Car Bad Car

Best Seller 2014  & 2015

#1
Toyota Camry
429,355 428,606 0.2%
#2
Toyota Corolla
363,332 339,498 7.0%
#3
Honda Accord
355,557 388,374 -8.4%
#4
Honda Civic
335,384 325,981 2.9%
#5
Nissan Altima
333,398 335,644 -0.7%
#6
Ford Fusion
300,170 306,860 -2.2%
#7
Hyundai Elantra
241,706 222,023 8.9%
#8
Chevrolet Cruze
226,602 273,060 -17.0%
#9
Hyundai Sonata
213,303 216,936 -1.7%

Chart by Good Car Bad Car

Best Seller 2016

  1. Ford F-Series: 820,799. +5.2%. Ford.
  2. Chevrolet Silverado: 574,876. -4.3% …
  3. RAM Trucks: 489,418. +8.7%. …
  4. Toyota Camry: 388,616. -9.5%. …
  5. Honda Civic: 366,927. +9.4%. …
  6. Toyota Corolla: 360,483. -0.8%. …
  7. Honda CR-V: 357,335. +3.4%. …
  8. Toyota RAV4: 352,139. +11.6%

So putting it all together the first thing you’ll want to do is decide if you want a truck or a passenger car, but that’s a topic for a different sage advice post. For now lets ignore the trucks. The list really looks more like this…

#1 Toyota Camry

Tie for #2 Toyota Carolla & RAV4, Honda Accord, Honda Civic, Honda CR-V, & Nissan Altima.

There is one other factor, which is expert opinions on what was a good buy at the time. Without taking time to justify this opinion, since it is an “Op-ED” lets include the chronically under-rated, Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata & Elantra.

Now that you have a list or potentials, you need to start test-driving. This is where it gets dicey. The best way to test the cars you might want is to go to a car lot determined not to buy. (Literally, come up with some terrible thing you will do to punish yourself if you break down and buy something and tell a friend about it.)

But go where all the cars are and sit in them to figure out what fits you. That way you have narrowed it down to just a couple models and a small age range when you start looking for the right deal to make.

Once you have picked the right model and year you’re ready to establish the right price. This is easier than ever, fortunately, and it doesn’t require knowing a car curmudgeon like us. Any car is a good deal, depending on your needs and abilities. Can you fix minor problems yourself? Is your job one that will let you come in a little late if you get broken down unexpectedly. Really, you want a safe car, but maybe you can skimp on the super safe features a little because you’re a teenager who hasn’t learned that life is a thin flame in a hurricane of wind and rain.

money-1425581_1920Then its just a question of paying the right price for the exact vehicle. What makes it a bad deal is paying what comparable cars are worth when the car before you is not a good representation of that model. There is only one way to know the car you’re buying is priced right, and that’s getting it inspected. You need an expert who works for you, not the car lot, to examine the vehicle.

Its unbelievable how compelling car dealerships make it sound that they have inspected the vehicle and wouldn’t sell it if it weren’t good. Of course they inspected it. Of course they got rid of the junk. They bough it blind at auction! The first thing they did is check to see if they got a steal or got burned. Of course they turned around and re-auctioned the worst of the ones they bought. None of that means the car they kept is priced accurately for the condition its in! It helps a little if they give you a year warranty, but lets be real, they tend to warranty the parts that aren’t likely to go out or that their mechanic can visually inspect. It’s your job to know what you are buying. Don’t skip parts of the process because the dealer makes you feel foolish for asking.

Back to the question at hand, how do you know the right price? A good inspection service will come to the dealership or home of any car publicly listed for sale and inspect the car. It’ll include a test drive. It’ll also include a the use of carfax and other internet investigation which examines the history of the car, with KBB.com to show where that particular car lands compared to other cars of its make and model, that have sold locally, in the recent passed. Its the combination of all the information that can give you the actual value of the car before you–which is powerful information to have when negotiated the price you want to pay.

Look for Next Monday’s Sage advice to learn about cars and savings.

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