Car Shopping Made Easy – What I have learned about car shopping
My beloved minivan died 2 days before our trip to Springer Mountain Georgia for the start of a week-long section hike on the Appalachian Trail. It was clear that I needed to buy a new car. Quickly. I learned a lot of simple things that are helpful to know. I hope you find this helpful.
1) When to buy a different car. A different car is needed when the yearly repairs on the old car are more than the yearly payments on a new car. I know that may seem elementary, but it really helped me decide on not repairing my old car.
I started the year knowing my car needed $3000 of repairs. As this happened just after tax season, I knew I had spend $2000-3000 on repairs the year before. It was only when I did the math that I realized I should have replaced the car last year.
A different car would cost $3600 over the year. This car needed $3000 of work before it died on the side of the road in March. It had the rest of the year to accumulate other new repair needs, over and above the $3000 we started the year needing.
2) Whether to send to salvage, sell or trade in. I have long been a fan of selling my old cars. You it’s a little hassle, but you generally get much more money from selling. However, I couldn’t even drive this vehicle. I could get $1000 =/- $500 on trade-in (if I could drive it), and $400–$1200 to send it to salvage. Since repairing the first problem, the radiator at $1600, would only allow me to see if the second and new problem, the transmission at >$3000 was bad, I decided that my old car was going to salvage.
It’s well worth pricing out salvage. I called several local salvage yards, and two 1-800 salvage options. I was quoted $400 by all but one: Peddle, one of the 1-800 yards offered me over $1000!
3) How to choose a vehicle:
Choose 3 to 5 most important features. The science is that the more expensive the purchase, the fewer features we should consider. Our minds work best this way. For an explanation, Read Blink by Malcolm Gladstone. (This is one of the best read I have ever had, entertaining too.)
I had these features on my list:
- Minivan. I had selected good gas mileage as a primary feature previously, and ended up with a car. I found I was quite unhappy without a minivan. This time I only included minivans in my selection.
- Mechanically Sound,
- Comfortable Seats. I drive a lot and get sciatica from long distances in many car seats.
- Lowest cost per miles. I drive – a lot!
- Heated seats – we live in the north.
4) Next, I found an equation to help me select between the myriad of choices in mileage and cost. This is the Big Equalizerfor me. It made everything else simple!
Cost/ Miles Ratio:
Take the expected remaining miles you think you can get out of the car and divide the cost by that number. For example, I said I expected all minivans to give a total of 200,000 miles. I subtracted the miles on any candidate vehicle from 200,000 to get miles left in the candidate car. Next, divide the cost of the candidate vehicle by the miles left. Compare cars – Lowest number wins!
a) Miles Expected – Odometer Miles = Miles Remaining. b) Cost divided by Miles Remaining
Ex: Car 1 – 45,000 mile car for $16,000.
200,000- 45,000 = 155,000. 16,000 divided by 155,000 = 1.032
Car 2 – 73,000 mile car for 11,000
200,000 – 73,000 = 127,000. 11,000 divided by 127,000 = 0.866
Car number 2 is a better deal.
This ratio gave me a number to really compare which deal was the best one, based on mileage. I felt supremely confident erasing all the vehicles that fell over 0.108
5) I selected the make and model by driving 2 cars. They were a type of car I had previously had, but I wanted to compare their comfort to my most recent car. They had so many more bells and whistles, I really wanted one of them to work. Plus their Cost/ Miles Ratio was fantastic!
6) After test driving these two brands, it was easy to simplify my search – these two were not nearly as comfortable. Out the window they went! I was now down to one make/model!
I just had to find the one car I would buy.
7) I went to 2 dealers and felt no pressure, in fact I had fun.I moved through the buying process with ease, having the 5 parameters and 1 calculation in my pocket. It really made life simple. I had lots of good options, knew what I wanted, and was calm and confident.
I admit to one mistake. I did not thoroughly peruse my number one feature – mechanical soundness. I was in such a hurry to get to Georgia, I skipped the step of taking your potential vehicle to an independent dealer. Unfortunately, my new car had a bad fluid leak. Fortunately, it was covered under the drive train warranty, and the company fixed it. However, it is a lesson to not skip steps.
I hope this article was helpful!
by Tama Cathers – Confident Car Shopper, brought to you by MATH!
Photo Credit – Pixabay – CC0 Creative Commons