Buying A First Car - Part I
June 2, 2012
By Scott Lewis
I took my son for his driver's permit a few weeks ago. In the fall he
will be a senior in high school and have a driver's license a couple of
months after that. I fully plan to make sure that when he gets his
license he has a car to drive. So this summer we went shopping.
I did a little research on my own. First of all I had to set a budget. I
wanted to go higher... but I could only spare a maximum of $6,000 (the
budget for this month's Classic Car Watch
That had to include TTL and any other incidentals to get the car the way
he will ant it (read: make sure he can play music from his iPod in the
car). I had this much available in cash, so I could easily make an offer
on the spot in a private sale.
What kind of car for a first car? Since I would be keeping this car in
my name... and plan to use it when I need more space than my Mini Cooper
(or future, smaller car) we had to go with a 4 door. I do not
, so that put us in the sedan market.
Doing a search on AutoTrader showed that that site would be little use.
I saw very few cars in the $5-6K range on AutoTrader. So I did most of
my searching on Craigslist.
I wanted to try and stay under 100,000 miles. At this price point that
would be nearly impossible. However, I am a fan of Honda and Toyota and
their reputations for reliability, so I would go up to 150K miles for a
Honda or Toyota. Nissan... we'll see.
Here are the main cars I started searching for:
2004+ Pontiac G6
2004+ Ford Taurus
2005+ Dodge Stratus
2003+ Mazda6 -- Too Expensive
I did my due diligence and started finding cars for my son to look at...
as in look at the pictures online so I could be sure he would find the
cars acceptable. Some he did... some he did not. Here was the first
batch of cars after removing the cars he found "unattractive":
2003 Honda Civic, Blue, 117K - $4,950
2006 Dodge Stratus, Silver, 118K - $4,500
2005 Civic, White, Private Seller, 129K - $4,999
2001 Toyota Camry LE, Black, 128K - $5,350
2000 Toyota Camry LE, Silver, 158K - $4,995
I did find a couple Ford Taurus models for my son to look at, but he did
not like them. I also came across a Nissan Maxima... in Gold... which he
hated. Though he said he would be willing to look at them in another
color. And there in lies a rub... Gold has to be the least attractive
color... and the most affordable in the used car marketplace. At least
that is what I discovered in my searching.
Since this car would be in my name... I was willing to go a little bit
outside the box. I found two cars by accident:
1995 Lexus ES 300, White, 120K - $5,995
1999 Lexus GS 300, Silver, 163K - $3,495
These two cars were older than I would have liked... but the mileage
seemed completely reasonable. After all... they are Toyotas under the
skin. I could see getting an older luxury car with leather interior.
At this point in our story... it is time to start seeing cars in person.
I am waiting on my June 1st paycheck before hitting the dealers... this
will bring my available cash to $6,000, though I really would like to
stay at about $5,000.
Next month I should be able to tell you what we ended up with.