I Bought a Car…

My Experience

For my car research, first I narrowed down the make to Japanese cars because they are reliable regards of mechanical issues, and they retain a higher resale value.

Then I looked into 4 models that could possibly fit into my budget (15k) and looks good — Honda Accord, Honda Civic, Toyota Camry, Toyota Corrolla. Civic and Corrolla are compact cars while Accord and Camry are sedan. I did some test drive at dealerships and found I like the sedans better. And to me, Accord interior looks better than Camry.

Price Research

  1. Kelly Blue Book — KBB

KBB allows you to enter the car’s make, year, mileage and other configurations to give you an estimated price for buying from a dealer, or buying from a private party with the condition being either excellent, pretty good, good, or fair. It is a very reliable and popular resource. But from my experience, a lot of dealers advertise their price as lower than the blue book so KBB price seems can get a little bit higher.

2. National Automobile Dealers Association — NADA

It shows the trade-in value regarding with the car condition so you have a general idea how much the dealer got the car for if you are buying from dealer or how much the person can sell it for to a dealer if you are buying from a friend.

3. Edmunds, Cars.com, CarGurus

Those websites aggregate cars on sale from different dealerships. So instead of one suggested price, you will be given all cars that match your filter criteria and how much different dealers priced them at.

Different resources give different results, refer to the ones that are in favor of you during negotiation. But don’t be panicked or offended when the seller shows you a different reference.

Buying from Private Party

  1. Check Craigslist or Facebook market place or your college Facebook groups for available cars. But notice that most of the people selling cars are college seniors who are graduating so their cars are very very very old, more than 20 years old and more than 100k miles.
  2. Ask for the CarFax report that shows how many previous owners there are, each time when they did service, was there any accident/major recall happened to this car etc. It also gives an estimated condition for the car.
  3. Based on the estimated condition, check the retail price on KBB from private party.
  4. Check the trade-in price on Nada and KBB to see how much this person will get as credit if they trade in the car to a dealer instead of selling it to you. Usually it will be a couple thousand dollars less than they are asking and that’s something you can use to negotiate the price.
  5. Do a mechanic check to be safe. You probably will be paying for it though.

Buying from a Dealer

  1. Check websites like cars.com or carguru.com and dealer’s websites too to find cars you like.
  2. Narrow down to at least 5 dealers and 15 cars you are interested in.
  3. Plan 2–3 days within 1 or 2 weeks to shop around dealers and do test drives. Dealers could be pretty far away from downtown so plan enough time for this.
  4. Make a list of at least 3 cars you want.
  5. Negotiate the price. Always have backups so you have some leverage with the dealer. Things to notice here is that dealers sell cars very quickly. If you found a car you absolutely love, and you go back again after one week to the dealer, it is very likely that it is already gone. So sometimes it’s impossible to get to a perfect price, it’s more of a tradeoff between how much you like the car and the opportunity cost of not getting it.
  6. Go to Car Sense if you are in Pennsylvania and don’t want to negotiate with salespeople. Car Sense sells cars not older than 4 years with very low mileage which they call “like new” cars and offers amazing warranty. The price is not negotiable and there are a lot of choices so you won’t end up with a almost perfect car just without GPS or just not in the perfect white color you like. The price is also very competitive. However, there are more Nissan, Ford, Chevrolet and less other brands. I think it’s because those brands don’t restrict their car auctions to their dealers only.

What I Finally Got

I purchased this champaign Accord 2013 with only 24k miles from a Honda dealership in Pittsburgh at around $1000 lower than what KBB was estimating and I am very satisfied with it so far!

Edited

After driving my new car for about 3 months, I started to feel it is a little big for me because I live alone and I am not good at parking. Maybe Civic / Corolla is a better choice for new drivers. But I do love the backup camera and right rear mirror camera a lot. I liked the acceleration is a little sporty. I also liked that I can put the back seats down so I can fit in bigger stuff when I was moving to my new apartment. I definitely like the cruise control, the powered driver seat, the powered lock, and the rear defroster too. I would say this is a very time efficient and affordable purchase!

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she/her/她 linkedIn @tinabu insta @_tinahbu

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Tina Bu

Tina Bu

she/her/她 linkedIn @tinabu insta @_tinahbu

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