They say you never forget your first time, and that couldn’t be more true. I did my research because I have been waiting for this day for what seems like forever. And finally it came last Wednesday. I bought my first car.
I was a late bloomer. I didn’t start driving until I was 20, and for several years I drove my parents’ old minivan (a total hot rod for a college girl, right?). However, I decided that with graduation looming in May and a decent job I knew I would continue to have throughout graduate school, I could swing the car payments. Of course, the easier thing would have been to let my parents buy me a car, but this was something I wanted to do on my own, and that’s precisely what I did.
Wednesday morning, I drove that old minivan for what I hoped was the last time. I arrived at Patterson Honda confident and ready to get down to business. After talking over the phone a few days prior I met with my dealer, Ted Turner. With all the stereotypes of shady car dealers, especially with women buyers, I was surprised at how upfront and laid back he was. In fact, I was quite taken aback by the entire team at Patterson. Unlike other car dealerships I have been to, they all seemed to do their jobs, but still manage to have fun. And you could tell they were doing something right because there were customers in and out all day long.
I met with two other men that day, the first of whom I like to call “Coachella dude” because he helped me find and secure my car all while telling me about his awesome taste in music. And the second, “Money Swing,” was the gentleman who liked golfing and handled all of the money and paperwork. Both were excellent through this entire process, and again, I can’t tell you how surprising it was to walk out with such an excellent car at a reasonable rate.
It didn’t take too long to start signing off on paperwork. Ted had me try out one of the Civics and I fell in love, but since this was an investment and I knew I would have this car for years to come, I didn’t want just the basics. So I told Ted I wanted a white Honda Civic EX-L Coupe, fully loaded, and later that afternoon they trucked one in.
While the salesmen at Patterson are friendly at first, that’s probably only because they want to make a sale. Once it was finalized and they knew they were getting my money, it seemed like their service took a turn for the worst. It turned out that we had to redo the paperwork because we listed the wrong VIN number, so the final steps were slightly unprofessional. When the salesman says it’s done, I expect it to be done.
Even worse, I had to wait an entire four hours to finish the deal because a couple were buying two cars, so that sale must have trumped me in importance.
Come Monday, after they add some hot-pink stripes, it’s officially mine. Racing stripes might seem out of place on a Civic, but it’s better than my original idea: hot pink for the body. In fact, that took major convincing because I was all for it until I learned that the resale value would be destroyed if the whole thing was pink.
My first time buying a car was mostly a pleasant experience, so here are some pointers:
Be realistic. If you’re a broke college student, don’t walk into a dealership and try to get a Mercedes. Even if you get approved, think of the payments. You wouldn’t want to miss one too many and have your car taken from you.
Look at safety. I always have someone’s kids in my car, whether I’m babysitting or taking my siblings somewhere, so I knew I needed a vehicle that was kid-worthy. Sorry, convertible.
Think longterm. Impulses can be tempting, but not when you’re purchasing something as monumental as a car.
Do your research. See if you’re going to a highly rated dealer and find out if your car is worth buying. A simple Google search can reveal quite a bit.
Look for incentives. Figure out if the car you want comes with any deals or is a part of any special programs. Honda has the grad program which is pretty nifty.
Don’t pay sticker. Talk to your dealer about your price range and they will find you something that works — it beats losing a sale.
Fewer things are more exciting than buying your first car. But for me, the fact that I managed to do this all on my own without so much as a signature from anyone else is exciting. This is something I did on my own, and something I’m proud of.