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Buying Your First Car

A note:

  1. This feature is much like a “Pick-Your-Own-Ending” type of writing. Start at the beginning, and follow the directions until you’ve come to a conclusion that fits you!

16 years old, fresh out of the BMV with your license and maybe some money saved up to buy your first car. Buying your first car can be tricky, new, or challenging. Some kids get their parents’ old cars, others get cars bought for them by their parents, but most just buy their own car with their own money. Whatever the case may be, follow along these bits and pieces to the best way to buy your first car;

Section 1: Money!

The amount of money you have saved determines just how “nice” a car you can buy; take into consideration, though, the maintenance costs, fuel, registration, insurance, and any other possible issues that the car could have.

  1. You have help from Mom and Dad to buy a car:

Alright! They’ve agreed to help. With your own money plus the help from Mom and Dad, you’ve got the opportunity to find a (maybe) nicer car. Go to Section 2.

  1. You’re on your own:

The more popular of the 3, most new drivers are on their own for paying their way into the automotive world; often times, cheap cars are found on sites like Craigslist or apps like OfferUp or LetGo. Go to Section 2.

  1. You’re inheriting Grandma’s car:

Yayyyyy….. not. Although Grandma’s sunday Buick from 2002 might seem old, outdated, and not fun to drive, it is probably more reliable than most, due to low mileage, grandma’s driving, and the car sitting in the driveway or garage for weeks on end. Go to Section 3.

Section 2: Searching for “The One”

Finding the right car is the biggest hurdle in the entire process. Everyone wants something fun and cool, like a BMW or a Corvette, but the repair costs and reliability is something that can bring your budget down drastically to a Subaru or a Toyota. It is also very important to find a car that has been taken care of well, and hasn’t been thrashed like Ken Block in Gymkhana 10.

  1. Dealerships

Bad idea for a first car. Unless you’ve got loads of money for a brand-new car, a private sale is a safer, less financially-stressful decision for the 2004 Subaru you’ve found. Wholesale cars are a good idea if you; A) know a lot about the car B) are a mechanic, or C) are willing to put in a lot of work for a car that the dealership can’t guarantee to function properly. Go to Section 3.

2. Private Sale

The best of the three routes, a private sale can eliminate whatever dealership fees, offer a clearer view as to information about the car, and help find a better option. Most people look on sites like Craigslist, finding promising cars, but private sales don’t have guarantees or warranties like most dealerships do. It is a toss-up, however, because some cars won’t have service records or have an accident report, making the car a bit “sketchier” to an interested buyer. Go to Section 3.

3. Junkyards

This route is NOT recommended for anyone who isn’t an enthusiast or mechanic. Most people will find a junkyard for parts, but in some very rare cases, entire cars can be found and restored for a fraction of the price. TA Senior Joshua Jacques, for example, is a Mercedes enthusiast and budding racecar driver and mechanic; his 1992 Mercedes-Benz 190E was found in a junkyard, and he stated; “The junkyard guys had no idea what it was, and I traded it for a Saturn I was junking. Within a couple weeks the car was running and driving.” The paperwork is the hard part; finding a title, or salvaging the title if needed, can take up to months to recreate and make the car legal to drive. Go to Section 4.

Section 4: So You’ve Found A Car…

There’s a couple things to do once you’ve got your first car. Some of them include;

  1. Getting the car registered:

Getting the car registered varies by state, but in the state of Maine the minimum age to register a car is 18, and the price of the registration is relative to;

  • Excise tax
  • your car’s MSRP when it was new
  • If you bought a vanity plate or a donation/specialty plate

2. Insuring the car (also expensive):

Insurance is expensive for every single new driver; it tends to be more expensive for boys, and higher-end cars. A way to combat that is good grades (seriously) and adding your car to your parent’s insurance plan
Making sure the car is in top-notch condition and is safe to drive

3. Making sure the car is safe to drive:

Most states in the US require a vehicle inspection annually or every couple of years, but some states don’t; be sure to have your car inspected for any worn or broken parts that may not be visible.

**A Note: Do NOT forget the expiration dates of insurance, inspection, or registration! If pulled over by the police, they can fine you for outdated paperwork!**

IF and only if you’ve got all the paperwork is set, the car is in good condition, and you’re ready to go, head for Section 5!

4. Find a reliable mechanic

This is a tricky one; finding a good mechanic is harder than it should be, unfortunately because some mechanics will overcharge for work that could be much, much cheaper. Ask parents, friends, they’ll most likely know a decent enough mechanic.

Section 5: Start Driving!

So, now you’ve got the car, the paperwork, and hopefully some money left over for some gas, and maybe some parts to make the car a bit more fun to drive.

But finally, some tips from TA seniors on buying your first car;

Cove Beaudoin, ‘19: “Buying your first car, make sure it’s in moderately good condition (at least), not a brand-new car, because you’re a new driver and not experienced.”

Joshua Jacques, ‘19: “Before you buy, do your research and understand what you’re buying; make sure you have a trustworthy mechanic to look it over, and never make an impulse buy.”

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