College 101: Buying a Car - Part I


It's every teenager's dream to get their own bucket. That is until it turns into a complete nightmare.

I don't typically enjoy beginning a post with a personal story, but this nightmare is definitely an exception. Like Aladin, I can show you the world by making the next two posts is all about finding and buying a car.

During my freshmen year of college, I desperately wanted a car. I believed that it was an essential part to earning success during my college career and gaining freedom. So when I finally found a dealership with a car that I liked and told me that I didn't need a cosigner, I was eager to go check it out.

Oddly enough, the car that I wanted was "out of my price range"; so, they introduced me to a 1992 Isuzu Rodeo. For the most part it seemed like a decent car. But, then again, I had no idea what a decent car was supposed to look and sound like. I was hesistant but by the end of the test drive, I had a signed contract—which I didn't even get to read—and a car named Billie Jean.

Ironically, I did not name the car because I am one of those weird sexist peole. I named the rodeo Billie Jean because the Michael Jackson song reflected the entire situation. Billie Jean was definitely not my love but the dealership kept claiming that I am one. So, I drove off the lot without blinkers, lights, passenger mirror and absolutely no idea how deep in the dookie I was.

The next day, everyone was begging me to take Billie Jean back. Although I did not want to take the car back, I knew deep down that it was the right thing to do; so, I went to the dealership and tried to return the car. Again they told me that I am the one and blamed it on "Buyer's remorse"; but, at the very least, offered to fix some of the things wrong with the car. Meaning, they only fixed the blinkers. On the second day, my parents got involved. We offered many deals so that I could walk away from Billie Jean but they wouldn't accept anything. I was starting to believe I really was the one.

Defeated, I kept Billie Jean for nearly two months before I realized I keeping this car would be the death of me. Of course, I didn't realize that Billie Jean was leaking carbon dioxide into the inside of the car until I passed out while driving. Of course, this dealership still wouldn't take the car after I told them that and accused me of slander because I had no proof. Of course, I didn't have proof. I am a broke college kid. I can't afford to pay for all the testing so I could sue. In the end, I did something very desperate, called a voluntary repossesion—which basically means I left the car at the dealership. Not only did I loose the $2,000 dollars that invested into Billie Jean but I also destoried my credit. My credit is so bad, I cannot get student loans, cars financed, or even an apartment without having high interest, a cosigner and a hefty down payment.

Unfortnately, we, college students, are extremely vulernable because we are young, fresh and, often niave. There is a lot of companies and organizations that feed off of that vulnerability. By writing this article, I hope that at least one college student will be spared from everything that I went through.

A lot of students believe that the first step in buying a car is just finding a car but the truth is: The first step is finding where to buy the car from. This largely depends on your budget, your credit score, and your location. Ideally, since we are college students, I recommend finding a simple car—that is listed for around $2,000 dollars—and can last two years or so. This elminates a monthly car payment and actually helps decrease the cost of insurance. Doing that also allows you to save money while building you credit so that you can get the car of your dreams after you graduate. But, not everyone is the same. So when considering where to buy your car there is three valid options:

1. Dealership

Going to a dealership is where students typically think of going when it's time to buy a car. However, there is a few warning signs and roadblocks when using a dealership to buy a car. Roadblock: As a college student, you are most likely going to need a cosigner because you don't have significant amount of credit and a large downpayment. Finding a cosigner is extremely difficult because your actions will affect the cosigner instead of yourself. Most people do not want to take that sort of risk especially when it involves a college student. However, there is a lot of dealerships that offer whole sale where you can buy a cheap car up front without being financed. But, this does mean you will have to buy a fixer-upper instead of a brand new car. The only way around this is to get a simple credit card and use it for three years before purchasing a car. Just remember, if you do choose that route, you can only use 30% of your credit and it is imperative that you pay it off every month, on time. Otherwise, you will defeat the entire purpose of building your credit. Warning sign: If a car dealership gives you the opportunity to be financed without a cosigner, do not it! This usally means that you will have an extremely high interest rate. For example, Billie Jean was only supposed to cost two thousand dollars but with the added interest I would have paid $7,000 by the end of the cotract. Benefit: You will receive a fairly new car which will most likely come with a warranty to get the car serviced. In addition, there is no need to worry about scams or questionable behavior

2. Car Programs

Being a college student does have it's perks. There are several programs available to students that either help you purchase a car or allow you to not have to buy a car at all. This saves a ton of money. Uber is a great way to get quick rides but not many people know that you can sign up to become a driver and Uber will help you purchase a car. This is a great source of income and an extremely flexible job. Almost every college students' dream. The only problem is that you have to be 21 years old in order to sign up and drive. But while your waiting for that special birthday day, you can save money and build credit which will both be handy when the time is right. Zipcar is another great program that allows you to rent a car for a few hours or a day for a reasonable price. Also a great way to save money because you only pay for when you're using it. Unfortunately, the accessibility of this program depends on your university, but, you can still sign up on your own. You just might not get the same discounts. Turo is another program that is similar to Airbnb. You can rent various cars for a day and some users allow long term rentals. However, if you trying to purchase a car so that it is your daily drive, then this program will eventually become very cosly. Pro: These options are much cheaper if you only need a car every once in a while. But if you are hoping to find a car that is a daily driver you might want to consider the next option. Con: Although this is cheaper, whatever option you choose (in exclusion to Uber) the car will not be your own, thus, you won't get the same flexibility that you could have when owning your own car but you will have insurance and acessibility.

3. Private Seller

There are a couple different websites where you can purchase a car from an individual such as Bookoo, Craiglist, and Sarge's List. This often means who you are buying a car up front and without financing that may have problems or might have a sketchy owner. However, there is a lot of warning signs when buying a car from a private seller. If you take anything away from this article, please remember to bring someone when you go to the dealership or to a private seller with you as a safety precaution. The biggest warning signs you can experience before even going to look at the car are as follows: - If the seller does not have the vin available, or if they give it to you and the vechicle under the vin is different than what advirtised, then that's a no-go. You can use several sites such as Kelly Blue Book that will check the vin for free or provide a more detailed report for a small cost. - If the seller says that they listed the ad for a relative and that, "you should contact them using" other information, then do not even respond. - if the seller want some form of a money order or wire transfer, then turn around and never look back. - If the seller offers to ship the car to you, then that is a huge N-O!

I understand that not everyone is car crazy so you should know that there is several alternatives to buying a car. You can buy a bike or moped, you can use the bus, you can be friends with people who have cars, or you can just walk. Buying a car is expensive and stressful but having a car is as distracting as having a needy boyfriend so make sure you consider all of you options before jumping in. Next Friday, I will tell you what to look for when you find the car that you want and tell you the happy ending to the Billie Jean story. But, in the mean, good luck!

~Lexi


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Creative Problem Solver & Graphic Artist

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