They say the best time to buy a car is when you need one. It also helps when your car is a total loss.
So, how do librarians buy a car?
There are a lot of great resources available for free with your library card. Being as how I have intimate knowledge of the services we have and provide, checking them out could potentially save you thousands and a lot of headaches.
First, you probably have an idea of what kind of car you want. Because I had a very scary accident on the LIE in a subcompact, I’ve become very safety-conscious. You don’t want to be in a 2000 Toyota Echo going 60 and slam into a F350. That I walked away with minor bruises is a testament to the fact that yes, I do have nine lives.
I’m looking for a four-wheel drive or an all-wheel drive vehicle (Did you know that four-wheel drive and all-wheel drive are not the same?) with an eye on safety. Safercar.gov is a great place to check safety ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It has an entire database devoted to 5-Star Crash Test Safety Ratings going back since 1990. AWD and 4WD vehicles aren’t necessarily safer in slippery conditions. Winter tires are. But how would I know where to get a good quality set of tires and a decent car????
My friends, let me introduce you to Consumer Reports. Did you know that by living in Patchogue or Medford and having a library card, you can access the Full online version of CR with Cars Best Deals Plus? Just click that link and put in that long number on the back of your library card with your PIN. You can also find it by:
- Going to our Website (pmlib.org)
- Hover over Information About…
- click on All Research A to Z
- Clicking on Consumer Reports with Cars Best Deals Plus (listed under Magazines and Newspapers)
- Put in your library barcode and PIN. Don’t have a PIN? Leave that field blank, then press login. It’ll prompt you to create one.
- Click login
They have a whole section devoted to cars: new, used, reliability, tires and car accessories, etc. etc. etc. It’s really great.
I’ve found the Car of my Dreams!
(…For my budget)
This is the part where my dreams have become horribly shattered. I’ve found the car of my dreams…but then I remembered that thing about cars not being free. And, to make matters worse, I have other bills to pay, killing my plan to finance a fully loaded 2016 3.0 liter 6 turbo BMW X3. What can I say, I like a fast car. You probably already knew the part about cars not being free.
So, what fits the budget? I figured this out by:
- Making a budget
- Keeping it
- Being realistic about my spending
Plug: My / The Patchogue-Medford Financial Literacy Page can help you with that.
I can, if necessary, finance the car if need be. I like to prepared before I make a big purchase, so I used the Auto Calculators from dinkytown to figure out how much it would cost to finance. The hard numbers demystify important decisions like leasing vs. buying, financing from a dealer or a credit union, refinancing and taking an auto rebate vs. low interest financing.
And what about the fees and taxes? The State Department of Motor Vehicles has a page which can direct you to an estimate of registration fees and taxes. These do not include sales taxes. For that, visit the Department of Taxation and Finance page to determine the Sales tax.
The nice thing about Dinkytown is that if you decide to finance, you can include the fees and sales tax rate in the calculator to get a better idea of what your payments will be.
I’ve Found the Car I can Afford!
So I’ve been on all the sites where one buys cars, researched what I could afford, and have narrowed down my choices. I started going to private sellers and dealers. I’m almost at the point where I can buy a car, right? Almost.
Know the vehicles history if you’re buying used. You can use Carfax and other VIN Checking services for a fee. They usually charge for either a per vehicle report or you can pay for a short-term subscription (usually a few days) for unlimited vehicle history reports. If you go to a dealer, you can always ask for the history report, too.
There are two very important, completely free places to check a vehicles history for any Recalls or if it’s been reported as stolen. The National Insurance Crime Bureau VINCheck lets you know if the car was reported stolen and not recovered or was previously registered as a salvage vehicle. Safercar.gov maintains a Database of Recalls Look-up by VIN. I made sure to check these just to be sure I wasn’t getting into a giant headache down the line.
I’m still looking, but there are some important protections in place for consumers that you might not know about.
- Check out Let the Buyer be Aware by the State Department of Motor Vehicles to be informed about the car buying process.
- Decided to Lease? The State Attorney General’s Office has information on Motor Vehicle Leasing Rights
- You are protected if you buy a lemon. The State Attorney General’s Office has a fact sheet on the State Lemon Laws.
If you’re in my situation, good luck! If not, keep this post handy in case you need to shop around.