Buying A Car

Jeff,

It’s about time for me to buy my first car. I’ve got some money saved up and I figure it’s about time to stop riding the bus everywhere. And with a baby on the way, my family definitely needs some wheels. I was hoping you could give me some advice on how to get a good deal. Should I buy new or used? What would you do if you were in my shoes? Thanks in advance!

Colleen T.
Sudbury, Ontario

Colleen,

Wow. Just thinking about my first car brings a smile to my face. It was a ’74 Nissan Datsun. It probably had about 200,000 km on it when I bought it. If I remember correctly, it only cost me about $1,500. I loved it though. It got me from point A to point B. I used to cruise around Toronto in that car with the AM radio blaring CCR tunes. What a great memory!

But, anyways, for many people, buying a car is the first really large purchase of their life. It’s not something you want to do without thinking about how it will affect your budget. I’m going to give you the same advice I plan on giving my daughter when she is ready for her first car.

  • Used, used, used – Cars are a strange piece of property. The simple act of driving it off the lot drops its value. That tells you right away that the price of a new car is overvalued. If I were you, I’d try to find a good deal on something used. You don’t want to deplete your savings on an asset that is going to lose value the longer you have it. Buy used and enjoy it.
  • Take your time – This is advice you should follow whenever you need to make a large purchase. If you don’t give yourself enough time to find a good deal, you are going to pay more than you have to. Take your time and be patient. You never know when that perfect deal is going to appear so don’t buy the first car that you see.
  • Be practical – I know, I know, there is a certain cache to cruising around town in a convertible with the top down. Or revving the engine of your Corvette in front of the bus stop. But, buying a car is not the time to make a social statement. You need a car that is going to be reliable and doesn’t cost a lot to run. Sacrificing sexy for utilitarian is the way to go – and it will probably save you money.
  • Take care of it – A lot of people complain about the maintenance costs of their vehicle but there are lots of ways to cut car costs. The simplest way is to take care of it and avoid small problems before they become big ones. It’s just like taking care of your body. If you spend the time to exercise and eat healthy, you will avoid getting sick. Cars are the same.

So, Colleen, I hope my advice will help you as you buy that first car. The last thing I want to say is that although having a car is great and convenient, you don’t have to take it everywhere you go. Continue using public transportation when it makes sense. Taking the bus downtown is actually a lot cheaper than driving there and paying for parking. Good luck!

Jeffrey Schwartz
Executive Director

Jeffrey Schwartz is the Executive Director of Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada and President of the Credit Association of Greater Toronto (CAGT).

If you have a question about your credit or just about finance in general, Jeff is here to help. Send us an email with your question to AskJeff@ConsolidatedCredit.ca. You’ll get the expert advice you need and your question may be featured here on our website.