Being Smart About Buying a New or Used Car


So, I turned in my cute leased vehicle, that I barely drove over the past three years, because I got used to the ease of taking a Lyft or Uber to auditions and meetings, living in the center of town, and then the pandemic happened and literally no one was going anywhere.  My monthly payment that I was throwing at this car was going to waste because, in essence, a lease is a contractual rental that eventually comes due and you either turn in the leased vehicle for a new leased vehicle or pay the difference left on the vehicle to own that car.  I didn’t own it and I wasn’t using it. I barely drove it 5,000 miles per year.  It basically was cute garage candy to look at while we all went nowhere.

For me, the difference on that lease to own the vehicle was the price of a new car, so I knew that it would be silly to purchase. Upon turning in my lease at the dealership, I was immediately pressured by the salesman to get into another leased vehicle.  By the end of the day, they almost had me signing papers on a car I didn’t ask for nor even liked!

Persuasive little buggers, claiming to have given me an “amazing deal” on a car that, in reality, THEY actually needed to get rid of for their own sales needs. I left the dealership that day deciding that I needed to figure out what I really wanted in a car, not knowing where life was taking me. Ironically, I came to the conclusion that I missed an old car that I used to own, that has since become a “collectible,” and I thought if I am going to own something, I should love it.

I wanted to purchase this specific coupe model that had been discontinued by the maker in 2015. It was an adorable little two-door turbo coupe that I loved but, by comparison to new cars, now has outdated technology.  I searched for this model of car, every day online, via carmax.com, truecars.com and dealer websites, as this specific model is very difficult to come by, due to it being limited edition. I actually found a few: a red one in Texas, a black one in North Carolina and crazy blue one in Irvine, California, which was the closest to me.  

I checked in on it every day, online, to make sure no one snuck up and bought it. Just by my own obsessive behavior, I knew that I had to have this car. It was listed as a 2015 model in electric blue, excellent condition, but used, of course, at a great price,  $15,995 plus fees, in Irvine, California. I got pre-approved for a car loan from my credit union for $18,000, as I was told that amount would cover it by the dealer.  I was ready to take that money to the dealership and buy that little car.  Here is where the story turns bad and I wish I had researched more. Eventually, this will all turn out good, once I tell you about what I am doing now to calculate the price and payment of future cars, so just hang tight.  

So, I went to the dealership in Irvine, only to find out that the little cute coupe that I so wanted had not only had majorly outdated technology but also no warranty and it reeked of cigarette smoke (something that will never come out, no matter how clean it looks). I was being pressured to buy the car and would have to purchase an extended warranty package, which with taxes and fees on the price of the car would now bring the car purchase amount to $26,000.

I literally was looking for a car that I would love owning, but also one that was inexpensive, given the unclear state of employment and the world,  so I didn’t ask for much money. My credit union had already approved the $18,000, but another new situation that arose was that the credit union would only finance 80% of the Blue Book value of the car, because it was an older discontinued model!  

This meant that my credit union loan was actually only going to finance $14,000 of the vehicle and the rest of the remaining purchase price of $26,000 would have to be my own cash. That means I would have to lay down $12,000 in cash to get a used 2015 car with limited technology and still have loan payments, which was NOT going to fly.  

Not smart!

I wanted that car, but seriously, not that much. Also, by this point, the pandemic was in full swing and all work stopped for me. Beyond this, the car was of no use to me with that cigarette smell permeating the vents! Immediately, when I said I needed more time to think on this and figure out what I wanted to do, the dealership had sent me pressuring messages every day to purchase this vehicle, slowly dropping the price only a few hundred dollars.  They told me they had cleaned the car four times and the smoke smell had gone away. This tactic may work on some with a weaker resolve, but not me.

I am a researcher and I really had thought that I had planned this car purchase out well and I never would have thought I was being offered a car with no dealer warranty in place when we had our initial talks about the $15,995 price. I was VERY wrong.  I did not look into things enough, and didn’t know the right questions to ask and even now, being that we are still at the tail end of a pandemic and rideshares are not exactly ideal, when and how to handle a car purchase needs to be done right.

So, now, I am writing this blog to help others. Upon looking online for a finance app or website to understand and plan for car purchases, I found one which hosts easy access info about all things related to calculating payments for leases or purchases of any vehicle. If I had this breakdown in simple terms fed to me before all this hoopla with the coupe, and especially when I was in college, I would have been better for it. There are other sites that lean toward this knowledge but they do not give it in as clear cut terms.  The site is free, so why not! You can simply input any scenario and use this as your own calculator. There is even a widget to add it to your website, while you shop. It doesn’t save any of your info or ask for any personal information and it is ad free. It is just simply a free, handy tool. I did a similar blog about calculations of cooking measurements that are on another useful site. Free tools, you gotta love them! 

Now, I am using this site to help my friends to figure out the calculations and precise money situation for every vehicle, no matter whether purchasing new, used or leasing. It is helpful to break things down realistically, so one doesn’t get caught in the above situation like mine, with any dealer. I also know now to not get so excited and ask about the warranty upfront if it is not listed. 

There are so many things on this particular site that I want to paste and copy here because it is pretty informative but if you click any of the pictures or highlighted links it will take you there to get more info. It has more than just auto info. It offers a ton of personal finance advice you may need. 

So, I bet you are wondering what my own personal outcome was with getting a new car. Well after utilizing my fiancé’s extra vehicle throughout pandemic, we got a new family vehicle in December. for me to drive. It was a purchase and we utilized this calculator method for the sale with the dealer. This past year and into this year, it has been difficult to purchase or lease any vehicle, due to low stock because of slow shipping and manufacture rates. Prices have jumped up, meanwhile most people are still not working at full capacity. So now, more than ever, it is best to arm yourself with knowledge and plan ahead.

Other sites you should always check out when you are in the market for a new, used or leased vehicle:

Forbes Cars & Bikes

Marketwatch Autos


CFPB Auto Loan Info 

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