Here are eight things I learned from buying my first car

By: Lisa Coxon on February 22, 2018
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This year, my boyfriend and I decided to buy our first shared vehicle. For nearly two years, we’ve been avid car renters: at least once a month, we drop close to what a monthly car payment is worth just for a weekend trip away. For how often we rent, it just didn’t make sense anymore not to own. So, we spent the last few months doing some research, some test-driving, and a whole lotta talking ourselves out of and then back into buying our own vehicle.

I went into this auto adventure as a bonafide beginner—the type of person who notices colour over anything else. “That one’s nice!” I’ll say to my boyfriend while we’re walking down the street, pointing out a forest-green Jeep or deep-purple SUV. But despite my shortcomings, I’ve learned a thing or two about buying a vehicle. Here, some key takeaways:

Everyone has an opinion

Now I finally understand why expectant parents like to keep their potential baby names hush-hush. It’s exhausting wading through everyone’s advice and opinions (as well-intended as they are) on everything from colour to financing to buying used versus new. Oh, don’t get black! they tell you. It will get so dirty and show every tiny scratch. The thing is, everyone has a preference and, therefore, an opinion. It can be hard not to let them sway yours.

Dealerships still sell to men

Even shopping for a vehicle, women aren’t safe from sexist presumptions. At one dealership, even though I was the first to enter and say hello, my boyfriend got the first handshake. At the next, only his driver’s license was requested for the test-drive. “Or both,” the saleswoman corrected, once she saw me begin pulling mine from my wallet. After my boyfriend drove it around the block and was about to pull back into the dealership lot, I had to ask if I could also take it for a spin. “Oh, sure,” she replied, unfazed by her ignorance. Don’t assume that just because I’m a woman, I’ll be spending all my time in the passenger seat. You need to sell to me, too.

The upsell is real

As first-time buyers, we can’t afford the top-of-the-line. So, no matter the vehicle, we made it clear to every salesperson that we were interested in the base model. But guess what? Most dealerships only have the luxury model for you to test-drive. “Sorry guys,” they’ll say. But they’re not sorry. They’re upselling. During that test-drive, you’ll be asking the salesperson if the base model also comes with a heated steering wheel (it does not), automatic seats (nope), and the bird’s-eye above-view rear camera (haha!). Right… I don’t know why I even asked.

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A sour dealership experience can sully your opinion of a vehicle

At one establishment, it took almost a half-hour for someone to approach us. We had to ask the front desk if we could speak with a salesperson. When one finally did come over, he opened with, “Uh, I’m actually done my shift, but… what would you like to know?” Sadly, our impression of that vehicle, which we were actually quite interested in, took a hit. Sure, lousy customer service has nothing to do with the vehicle itself, but it became difficult not to associate it with an unsavory feeling.

Ask questions and you’re less likely to get taken advantage of

If they’re doing their job right, salespeople will pounce on you the second you walk through the door. And they’ll be sure to ask a few things upfront: when you’re looking to buy, what your budget is, and whether or not you’re first-time buyers. It can be hard to take control of a naturally pushy situation, but the more intelligent questions we hit them back with—ones that proved we’d done our research—the less they tried to sell to us.

The simple act of standing up goes a long way

At 10 p.m. on a Thursday evening, we found ourselves (still) at a dealership, caught in a back-and-forth of some not-so-attractive offers. We didn’t even plan on buying a vehicle that night, so I made it my boyfriend’s problem to tell the saleswoman that we weren’t interested. He stood up, I assumed, to do just that. But that’s when the manager came hurrying over and the real negotiations began. After his third offer, we finally got him down to a price (with a few free add-ons) that made sense for us. When we got home, my boyfriend asked me with a smirk, “So, how’d you like my standing-up move?”

It doesn’t matter how ready you are; it will still feel like a crazy decision

No matter how much you’ve prepared yourself mentally or financially for this leap, it’s going to feel like *in the voice of Gob Bluth* you’ve made a huge mistake. After we signed our vehicle purchase agreement that night and shook everyone’s hands, we left the dealership somewhat in shock. “Did we just… buy a car?” Fortunately, that feeling goes away pretty quickly and then excitement takes over.

Saving money isn’t always a matter of buying used over new

Sometimes, it’s all about the year. The night my boyfriend pulled his standup move and got us a better deal, we walked away with a brand new 2017 Mazda CX-5. And when we found out that the only difference between the 2017 and 2018 models (which had just been released) was the price, we couldn’t see any reason not to scoop up their last 2017 base model. And guess what? It’s black. Gasp! I know. I’m going to Car Colour Hell.