College is an exciting time period in your life. You’re surrounded by friends, taking courses that feel more relevant than your high school classes, and enjoying a little bit more freedom than you may be accustomed to. But if you don’t have a car at college, you could end up feeling like you’re coming down with a bad case of cabin fever. You might even yearn for the days when your mom and dad picked you up from school and carted you around (just kidding…maybe).
When you’re looking for a car while in college, it’s important that your set of wheels is as comfortable as it is dependable. But if it’s your first time buying a car, it can be a little overwhelming knowing what to look for. However, we’ve assembled a helpful guide to point you in the right direction so you can confidently buy a car.
Keep reading to learn more about what you should keep in mind as you shop for an affordable college car:
Tip #1: Buy used
Look, we get it – a brand new, shiny car has a lot of flair to it and might impress all of your newly-acquired university friends. But you know what a new car doesn’t have? Staying power in terms of value. As soon as you drive your new car off the lot, you’re already losing money on your initial purchase price. New cars depreciate very fast. Your best bet? Invest in a used car.
You don’t have to get a rust bucket or fancy vintage vehicle, but pre-owned is a good way to go. A car that’s at least one to two years old is great if you want a car that’s basically new with a much lower sticker price than new cars. As an added bonus, the insurance rates for a used car are much more reasonable than the rates for a new car.
Tip #2: Be careful about who you buy from
Look, we all want to think the best of humanity but there are plenty of unscrupulous people in the world. You might end up being able to score a great deal on a used car by buying directly from the owner. However, you may also end up putting thousands of dollars of work into it as well. Your best bet is buying from a dealer and looking for a “Certified Pre-Owned” car, which will generally have fewer issues. If you don’t feel confident about going into the dealership and sticking to a price or budget, a good idea is to check Kelley Blue Book for a fair market price.
Go to a local dealer, for example, a used Audi dealer in Plano or a used BMW dealer in Miami – wherever you happen to be, a local dealer may be more open and flexible with price.
Tip #3: Don’t overpay
Here’s the hard part: how do you plan to purchase your college car? The key to affording your vehicle purchase is to create a budget beforehand that you can stick to so you have the cash to buy it outright. The other option is financing your car, which may allow you to buy it, but it also means you pay more over the long term. And let’s be real after you factor in student loans, paying off your car on top of that expense is not ideal.
If you can pay in cash. Don’t have the cash? Consider starting a side hustle if you can fit that into your academic schedule. Are you a great writer? Tutor your peers. Love coffee and you’re a morning person? Consider picking up some early morning shifts before classes at a local coffee shop. There are plenty of ways to make a little extra cash when you’re trying to save for something big.
Tip #4: Look for modern safety features
While you don’t need a ton of bells and whistles to get you to and from class and your job, you should still consider what sorts of safety technology the car has. Side airbags, high crash test ratings, blind-spot monitoring, and backup cams are good, basic safety features to look out for.
With these tips, you’ll be driving off into the sunset in the used car of your dreams. Happy driving!