Baby, you can drive my car

I always pictured the day I got my first car as a happy joyous occasion. The ability to go wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted without having to abide by anyone else’s schedule…

Well, I suppose the actual day I got my car went somewhat like that … (although I cleared my bank account and couldn’t drive my own car off the lot since I chose a standard car that, at the time, I didn’t know how to drive)…

But the two months of torture, stress, and confusion that led up to it made this process my most unpleasant life experience to date. Okay, maybe that’s going a little far. But, I truly did not enjoy the car buying procedure. The problem: I don’t know anything about cars and everyone has a different opinion, suggestion or piece of “expert” advice.

What was I looking for? A used car, with low mileage, a few power features (like windows), for less than $10,000. The specifics (colour, etc) were not that important to me.

Could I trust the dealers I asked for “honest” advice about my particular situation? … No. Did my guy friends keep providing me with the same key point that I knew I had to follow … No. Cars seem to be something very subjective, with every car owner having a preference on what make or model is suitable for them (or me!) … but when you have no real knowledge about makes or models it makes for a confusing process to say the least.

So in a philanthropic effort to help our readers in the future if they ever are on the hunt for the perfect ‘mobile here is the information I compiled over my two month search. Inevitably some people reading this will disagree with the info, but that is the beauty of car buying!

Don’t fret, there is a silver lining: I just love cruising around in Scarlet the Red Rocket (and yes, I know how to drive her now).

Scarlet the Red Rocket

–  BUYING NEW: Was a ridiculously expensive option, so I have little to no advice. The cheapest new cars are about $14,000 before taxes. Madness.

–  LEASING: Leasing a car is a viable option if you really don’t want to have to worry about repairs, if you’re planning on staying relatively in the same place for a while, if you won’t be excessively driving your car and if you don’t mind not having anything at the end of your lease. Leasing a car is just like renting a house. It’s easy because you have a landlord (dealer) that will take care of anything if something goes wrong – but,
many people look at it like you’re throwing away money. Just like renting a house, all you’re getting out of it is the use of something. With buying, you can re-sell it at the end. The difference between houses and cars is that houses usually go up in value over time while cars decrease. However, if I sell my car in about a year or two I’m imagining I’ll be able to sell it for at least ¾ what I paid, which would make my bank account quite happy.

–  BUYING USED: this was the option I selected and heard time and time again that it is the smartest way to go. Due to the fact that a car will drop in value as soon as you drive it off the lot, buying a used car that is only a few years old can be a way better investment. I ended up with a 2007, with low mileage that still smelled new when I sat in it for the first time. Of course, when buying used it’s a gamble. You have no idea how
the last owner drove it, but sometimes making a big purchase is also taking a small leap of faith.

–  KILOMETRES (“clicks”): This was one of the main things I was focused on when buying a car. The number of kilometres on a car impacts how expensive it is. The lower the mileage the more expensive the car. Often through a dealer cars are under warranty until they hit 100,000 kms … which means they are more likely to incur problems after that mark due to the natural wear and tear. The average person puts between 20,000 and 25,000 kms on their car a year. If you’re someone who drives for work (like me) it may be more than that. The car I ended up buying had less than 50,000 kms on it. So if I plan on driving it for a couple years and then selling it, it will most likely still be under 100,000 kms, thus easy to sell. Some models, like Honda Acura’s or Toyota’s have been known to run well up to the high 200,000’s or higher but every car is different.

–  MAKES AND MODELS: Toyota, Honda and Mazda always got the highest review (of cars I could actually consider … No BMWs yet, sadly), but are always a couple thousand more expensive. In the end I discovered I would not find one of these models with less than 80,000 km’s on it for less than $10,000. I ended up choosing a Ford Focus. Some said that I should steer clear from North American models and others said that was more of a warning from a couple years ago and that Ford has now caught up to the imported models. Both my parents and one of my best friends have had a Ford for many years without ever needing any major repairs. It was the best bang for my buck by far, and so far, so good.

–  CARS THAT HAVE BEEN IN ACCIDENTS: Some dealers will purchase cars that have been in accidents and will fix them up and re-sell them. This makes the price go way down and the car seem affordable. But, almost everyone I talked to said this is not a good option. “Cars that have been in accidents are sometimes never the same” – you never know how good the repairs are and if the fix will be lasting or will fall apart in a few months. Also, it depreciates the value of the car even more, hence why it’s so cheap. So if you have plans to ever re-sell it, you may have trouble finding someone who’s interested and you’ll definitely have to sell it for a reduced price.

–   STANDARD vs AUTOMATIC: Standard cars are cheaper, easier to find when you’re buying used and not THAT hard to learn how to drive. I was able to learn enough to drive on a road by myself (not well), in just one lesson. After another one I could drive fairly well but was still very nervous. After the third day I drove to a town an hour and a half away, for a work assignment, without a hitch. So don’t be afraid! If I can do it, so can you!

–   MEGA AUTOMOBILE IN GATINEAU (Outside of Ottawa): This is where I purchased my car after looking at used car sites by the thousand and also visiting some local dealerships. At Mega they buy cars in auctions and then only mark them up $500 and then sell them. No negotiating. Their prices are significantly lower than most used car dealerships around because they operate on volume selling about 25 cars a day. I looked at one car and when I went back the next day it was gone. So my best advice is look online, print off pictures of several cars (minimum 5, I brought 10!) from their lot  and hope they haven’t sold them all already. I was a little peeved with them after they told me I could have my car the following Saturday and didn’t get it until the following Wednesday, but other than that I was very pleased with dealing with them.

–  FUN FACT: 2 door cars are more expensive to insure then 4 door cars (and more annoying)

–  ** MUST DO ** : always ask to see a “Car Proof” or “Car Fax”. Dealer’s in North America are forced to provide information on the car’s history. You must look at this before deciding on a car. You want to makes sure you know exactly what a car has been through before you put the sold sign in the window.

And there you have it, the knowledge I gained in two short months, in a nutshell. It’s amazing how you start scanning every car on the road as soon as you’re looking for a car. It came down to leasing a new Mazda 3 or buying used but after scouring the lot at Mega I found “the one”:

2007, Ford Focus
Colour: Red
Features: Power locks, power windows, keyless entry, cruise control, AM/FM
radio, 6 Disc CD player, volume controls on wheel, **SUNROOF**, tinted windows,
spoiler, body kit.
Km’s: 48,000
Price: Just under $9000

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About Catherine Kitts

Catherine (@catkitts) has been known to put her party dress on at the drop of a hat and will rarely say no to a new adventure. After completing her Bachelor of Journalism at Carleton University, she worked at the editor of a local newspaper for three years before trading hard news for the world of communications, marketing and advertising. Constantly juggling hectic work and social schedules, she always makes time for some of her biggest passions: news, sports, pop culture, cuisine, literature and many others. You can expect her to cover a wide variety of topics, keeping her finger on the pulse of Ottawa, her hometown - a city she's grown to love. *Bad Habit: never wanting to miss out *Favourite Food: pickles *Favourite Restaurant: El Camino *Wine of Choice: whatever Kate is drinking *Favourite Band: (solo artist?) Justin Timberlake *Favourite Song: Dancing in the Dark - Springsteen *Fashion Icon: Lauren Conrad *Political Affiliation: none *Favourite Movie: Back to the Future, Kindergarden Cop, Jurassic Park, Drive. *TV Series: Seinfeld *Sport: Hockey / Football *Team: Ottawa Senators / Seattle Seahawks *Favorite Book: Great Expectations - Charles Dickens, Freedom - Jonathan Franzen. ** To contact Catherine write her at : inanutshellca@gmail.com

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