Wednesday, July 14, 2010

How Patience Can Save You Big Money

By Kristi LeGue

Some of you may know my story, some of you may not. I am really not bashful about sharing it because I want people to learn from my mistakes. I recently realized that I want to share with all of you the same things I want to share with my three boys. If I can teach you something before it happens, I will save you from the same pain and frustration I went through. For a year and a half now, I have been driving around a really cute little Camry. Yes, I have had three boys and three car seats squeezed into the back of this little Toyota Camry for the last 20 months. Although I love this car, it has not really been a cup of tea. Let me go back and explain a Cliff Notes version of my story.

In June of 2004, I had a little Honda Accord very similar to my Camry in the picture. I gave birth to my second son that same month. I quickly realized (like on the way home from the hospital) that a 2 year old and a newborn with a rear facing car seat do not fit well in a Honda Accord. My husband and I went out and purchased a used Ford Expedition. While it served us well in size for three years, being raised with Honda's I was disappointed in the repairs I had to perform in those three years with such low miles on the Ford. In August of 2007 I had had it with the Ford and its repair costs so I went and bought a fully loaded 2007 Toyota Sequoia Limited brand new...for $55,000. What was I thinking? Don't ask me because I don't know. I went home so excited that night. However, the proof is in the pudding (as they say). I was up all night that night, sick to my stomach trying to figure out how I was going to pay the $726 a month car payments for the next five years.

Long story short, this was the same time the gas prices decided to jump up over $4 per gallon. I was spending about $1,000 per month on my car alone. Holy cow! I started to panic in August of 2008, the economy was starting to go down and my husband's electrical work was starting to slow down significantly. I called my friend who is an auto broker and she found me this beautiful Toyota Camry for a great price...but it was still brand new. I was $7,000 upside down in my Sequoia and I had to fully finance the Camry. My kids barely fit in the back seat, but I had to make it work because we were going to sink if we kept the Sequoia. So, I have been driving around this cute, sporty and fun Camry for the last 20 months. However, when my children were in the car, I was pulling my hair out.

"Mom, Shawn keeps looking at me!"
"Mom, Nathan is touching me!"
"Mom, Derek is punching me!"
"Mom, he is breathing in my space!"

I just couldn't take it any more! For the safety of my children and my sanity my husband and I started to look around for USED full size SUV's. My instinct is to make a decision and make it happen...quickly. However, when I mentioned this to Lindsay, my Tax and Accounting Manager, she advised me her Dad was an auto broker and did this for a living. Between her and her dad, they gave me some insanely good advice on buying a car. Here are some of the nuggets of information that saved me these last couple of weeks.

1. Patience, Patience, Patience - Wait for the right car to come to you. Take your time, there is absolutely no need to rush this. You are going to be driving this car for years. Be patient and everything will fall into place.

2. Do your homework - Look around on the internet, go to Carmax, look at other dealers for exactly what you want. Test drive all of the cars you are even considering purchasing. Find out everything you can about the different cars, resale value, maintenance and repair records, Carfax reports, Consumer Reports. This is one of the largest buying decisions you will be making throughout your life, don't take it lightly.

3. Buy used over new - I have always purchased new cars (except for the Expedition), but honestly, I have learned that it makes a lot more sense to buy something used. You lose an enormous amount of value the moment you drive off the lot with a new car. Even if it has 10,000 miles, you can get a screaming deal with a used car and you won't take such a hit driving off the lot.

4. Know your price point - Figure out what your budget is and don't let someone persuade you to go over that. You have to stand firm. On the other side, don't set it too low and then jump all over the place. Do your homework up front and stick to it.

5. Start looking when you feel the urge, don't wait for it to be urgent - I clearly waited too long to start looking for a new car. I was so anxious about it I was tearing my self up every time I got in the car with my boys. Once you start to feel the need for a new car, start your search with patience and clarity.