Mini with a Mini: 5 Tips for Your First Car Purchase

Mini with a Mini: 5 Tips for Your First Car Purchase

On August 8, I bought a car. I don’t even know where to begin with this post because it’s about 6 years in the making.

Only a handful of people know this, but I actually didn’t have a car consistently until my last semester of college. My close friends know it’s been a soft spot for me to talk about. Yes, I know how to drive and I’ve had my license since I was 17. But being the middle child and the third to go to college left me without a car to call my own. It’s not that my parents didn’t want to buy me a car, they just couldn’t. Every year we would have the same discussion about how we could move cars around in the family or possibly buy one for me but every year it came down to either paying for school or for a car, and I wasn’t about to stay in my hometown just to be able to drive to a community college.

People that knew I didn’t have a car always asked me how I lived without one, but it actually wasn’t as difficult as you would think. In college, I always lived at an apartment complex located on the university bus route so I was able to get to and from class. I was also incredibly blessed by roommates that took me with them when they ran errands. Practically speaking, it was possible to live without a car. In terms of a social life, it was a nightmare. I didn’t have the freedom in college to join clubs or groups because they always required meetings in the evening held off-campus. Having my own car to just go to the grocery store was a privilege that I always looked forward to. 

But flash forward one year later to present day. I’ve lost count of how many life dreams I’ve planned, but one thing has always stayed the same since I walked off that stage with my diploma: I want to save money for whatever dream I finally decide on. As much as I wanted to buy a new car to finally call my own, I knew I had something with four wheels already and that was good enough for me. Car or no car, I was still better off than a lot of people in this world and I was thankful for what I had.

Yet as my luck would have it, cars finally did change in my family but not in my favor. My little sister took the car I had been driving since my last semester. This left me with the choice between hitchhiking to work (with the possibility of being kidnapped) or finally buying something of my own (with the certainty of increasing my debt).

Seeing as hitchhiking in Houston, TX didn’t seem like the safest option, I began to car shop. I decided to go with a Mini Cooper Countryman and I really do love it! Sometimes I wake up and don’t believe it actually happened. I’m happy with the investment I’ve made and look forward to the many adventures down the road! I figure, if I can’t be in on an adventure in Europe, I may as well bring a little bit of Europe to me!

P.S. - As a first time car buyer, knowledge is power!

I knew nothing going in but did a little research along the way. I’ve devised a few tips I’d like to give to all recent post-grads that are currently on the hunt for a new vehicle:

1. You don’t deserve a new car.

Before I bought a car and before YOU should buy a car as a recent post-graduate, READ THIS ARTICLE. I didn’t deserve a new car just because I graduated or even because I never really had one. If I was going to be able to drive to work every day and keep my job, I needed a car. If you have something that is currently running, why on earth would you double your debt for a new toy? 

2. Look at used vs. new.

Buying new wasn’t in my original plan but turns out my parents and I negotiated the price of the new one down to what I would’ve paid for the used one I was considering. Decent used cars are almost as expensive as new ones these days, so look at both options when considering buying a vehicle and weigh the pros and cons of both.

3. Don’t be afraid to say no.

I’m the queen at avoiding confrontation but at one point, even I had to just tell a salesman I wasn’t interested. Give yourself time to shop at multiple dealerships and never under any circumstances let a salesperson pressure you into buying something.  Bring a parent or friend as backup if you need to.  It’s okay to leave a dealership without choosing your dream car!

4. Calculate the total cost of the car.

The price you’ll be paying for a car isn’t just the MSRP! Of course you should take into account a monthly car note you’ll be comfortable with but also your monthly fuel and insurance costs. Most importantly, don’t forget to calculate the tax, title and license.

5. Checklist of things to do before you walk into a dealership:

-- Apply for a loan at a bank of choice BEFORE you walk into a dealership.  Knowing what rate you’ve been pre-approved for can really help when negotiating with the dealer.

-- Get a quote from an insurance agent on what your monthly payment would be.

-- See if the dealership has any kind of recent graduate programs. If they do, have a copy of your diploma as well as your most recent pay stub with you when you’re ready to purchase.  It’s not usually much of a discount, but every dollar counts! 

Happy car buying!

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