I’ve been into cars my whole life. If I could sell my long-gone childhood Hot Wheels collection, I’d be a rich man.
My idea of fun reading is a car magazine. I love learning about a vehicle’s performance, design, value, and how it stands up against the competition. As a result of a lifetime of study, I know a lot about cars. I may not be able to diagnose why your car won’t start, but I can tell you which vehicle is the best in the class you’re considering.
I’ve never formally been a car salesperson. But I’ve recommended cars to many friends over the years.
Here are some of my favorite tips…
- Skip the lease. If you buy a car, you’ll save a lot in the long run by buying a lesser model for the same as the lease payments for a fancier model. “But I’d have a monthly payment anyway,” is not a good argument when you consider where you’ll be at the end of the lease – having to start again compared to having a paid-for car. Better yet, keep driving your old beast and save up to pay cash.
- What’s your primary use? If you’re going to live in the mountains with serious snow to plow through every day for months, then all-wheel drive is a good option. If you spend the vast majority of your time driving around town and live in a place that gets snow, a good set of snow tires and front-wheel drive will get you to your destination 99% of the time.
- If you’re buying from Craigslist, be sure to take the vehicle you’re seriously considering to a reputable shop nearby to have a mechanic check it over. That could save you thousands in repair costs. The shop may turn up a serious problem you won’t see.
- Make sure it has a clean title. If the used vehicle you like has a salvage title, you’ll save upfront but you’ll never recoup the difference when you later try to sell it.
- Reliability makes a big difference five years down the road. Spend $10 on a month-long membership to Consumer Reports and find their ratings on the model you’re considering. You’ll discover, for example, that the Mazda CX-5 has much better ratings than the Hyundai Tucson.
- Make sure it runs on the lowest octane. 30¢ a gallon adds up to a lot of money over the course of a year. (If you’re considering an electric car, this obviously does not apply.)
- Finally, have fun. I’ve shared many practical considerations. But it’s worth spending a little more for a vehicle you’ll enjoy.
Disclaimers: I am not judging you if you lease your vehicle! And as with many things, do as I say, not as I do… one of our two vehicles has all-wheel drive. (The other, however, has front-wheel drive with snow tires – and it works great in the snow.)
The dashboard photo is courtesy of Claude Gabriel on Unsplash and is used with permission.