Top 5 Tips for Buying a Car from a Frugal Mom

Well, it’s true. I am now officially a card carrying member of the minivan driving mommy club. I got a lot of flack from my younger sis’ who remembers me swearing up and down that I would never drive a minivan like my mom did.

But here I am, blissfully enjoying my new used Honda Odyssey! With the impending arrival of our 4th little one, extra space is a necessity. A big ol’ gas guzzling SUV is just not my style, so I knew that a minivan was inevitable.

Thankfully, this vehicle is actually replacing my husband’s every day car, but it will serve the whole family. Hubby will continue to drive our old Volvo, which still has plenty of life in it. That means no new debt, which is such a blessing.

I am amazed at the deal we found on this car! It has all the features we wanted, and then some. If you are truly in the market for a new car right now, the deals are plentiful!

We selected the Honda Odyssey after literally months of research. After careful comparisons and many recommendations from friends, we knew the Odyssey was the one for us.

Using the internet, we compared prices and new listings for weeks. When we saw this one priced about $2000 below Blue Book, we jumped on it.

Although it is a 2005 with 80K miles on it, we know this Honda will keep on running for years to come. My husband still managed to negotiate another $500 off the asking price with the dealer. That brings me to my Top 5 Tips for purchasing a vehicle.

Between my husband and myself, we have actually purchased many more cars than your average 30-somethings. So I do have a lot of experience, good and bad, with buying a vehicle. I have learned these lessons the hard way, believe me!

  1. Need vs. Want: Before exploring the possibility of a new vehicle, determine if it is truly a need. The most frugal car one can drive is actually the one you already own.
  2. Never, Ever Lease or Buy New: I have done both, and regretted it each time. Not everyone may agree with me, but leasing is never a good financial decision. At the end of one, you have… nothing. And usually exorbitant fees for additional miles or extra wear and tear the dealer is bound to find. New cars? They drastically drop in value within the first 2 years of ownership. A used car has already taken this hit.
  3. Do Your Homework: Start with the internet. Read Consumer Reports, reviews and ratings. Talk to friends and neighbors. Narrow down your options before ever looking at a car in person. Edmunds.com is a great resource and will help determine what price you should expect.
  4. Be Realistic About Your Budget: Determine well ahead of time what you can spend on a new vehicle. Don’t consider the monthly payment, consider the overall cost of the car, including fees, taxes, and maintenance.
  5. Financing: Of course, paying cash is ideal. But if financing is your last resort, get it yourself.  Do not ever haggle over financing in a dealership. Walk in pre-approved with a loan from your own bank, or my personal preference, credit union. This gives you negotiating power. Ask for a better price, and in most cases, you will get it!

I could probably list many more tips, but these are top in my mind. What would you add?

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About Alyssa Francis

A thirty-something wife and mother of four! Two daughters by birth, one son by marriage, and a sweet baby boy born in April of 2009. Oldest sister of four girls raised by a single mom. California native. Grew up in Hawaii. Somehow ended up in North Texas. Once a single mom. Former agnostic. A survivor of abuse and addiction. Forgiven by a great big God. Married to my best friend.

Comments

  1. Jessica says:

    We LOVE our Chrysler Town & Country. The stow n go of BOTH rows has been worth its weight in gold!

  2. These are great tips! I’ve always said I wouldn’t drive a minivan and I really want an SUV. I knew a lady who said, “I am not buying an SUV ’til all of my kids can get in and out by themselves.” Hmmm?? I thought it made so much sense. Now I am a minivan loving mom too! :)

  3. Bethany says:

    Those are great tips. We are very fortunate in that my brother married a gal who’s dad was in the used car business. It is his hobby to find you exactly what you want at phenomenal prices. My parents both got used vehicles for so low under the blue book value that their bank was thrilled to give them a small loan. They both also had to get a “new car” loan, because there was so few miles on their cars. They saved around 20,000 each on their cars! Now he’s looking for us a car. My specification is that is seat as many as possible and drink as little gas as possible. It’s looking like a mini van.

  4. Anonymous says:

    These are excellent tips when buying a new (used) car! I would also suggest trying out http://www.carsala.com. The site works best when you already know which used car you want to buy. Carsala will find the car you want at a dealership in your area and negotiate the price for you, so you don’t have to deal with car salesmen or trekking from dealership to dealership searching for the car. It’s a pretty fast and convenient service.

  5. Anonymous says:

    These are wonderful tips. I actually got this tip from a guy that we bought a car from last year. When looking for a car, go at the end of the month, when sales people are more willing to negotiate to get the car off the lot cause they are trying to fill their quota.

    Evie

  6. Way to go! We have one car and maybe two car seats will fit in it (right now, the seat is in the middle…so I dunno). I’m sure I’ll join the minivan club eventually!

  7. Seems like just yesterday I gave up my membership in the minivan club…

  8. We paid cash for a used Toyota Matrix last summer. It felt great to walk out and own it outright, and like you said, we didn’t take the hit on depreciation. This winter the check engine light came on, and since it’s a certified used vehicle, the repair was FREE!

  9. Awww, I’ve wanted a minivan for a LONG time, but my husband convinced me that what we really wanted was a Saturn Vue. Don’t get me wrong, I really like it, but if we are going to have more than two kids – which Lord willing, we most likely will – we’re going to need a minivan. Of course, now my husband is saying what we REALLY want is a Dodge Sprinter, LOL! :)

  10. Very smart buy- according to our favorite financial guru right now Honda has more inventory on lots than it ever has before, which means fantastic deals. My husband and I both drive Hondas and have been thrilled with the performance as well as the amazing customer service. Congrats- enjoy your new minivan!

  11. I think young people who have never had more than 1 car seat in their car or thought realistically about their budget say, “I will never drive a minvan!” I certainly did. But now it’s looking inevitable based on our desire for more kids and no debt. Bring it on! :)

  12. Congrats on the “new” minivan! We have a “new” Tahoe (purchased from our wonderful pastor at a HUGE discount!) that I just love. Enjoy :)

  13. Congratulations on your new minivan! We just finalized paperwork on ours yesterday and are now owners of a 2009 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT. I love the stow ‘n’ go and it will definity be worth having around for a while.

  14. Marianne Thomas says:

    Love your new wheels, girl! You’ll appreciate how easy it is to get the new baby in and out, especially just after he’s born and you’re still a bit sore.

    And it’s nice for the kiddos to have some space – less elbowing and complaining.

    Now the big question – did you name it? We name our cars here; we’re silly like that.

    Take care!

  15. very very nice miss Alyssa! We decided to wait on the new car. My car has very low miles and I figure I will keep it until we have our third (I know I am crazy I should spit this kid out before I start talking about the next one) then I will be a minivam momma myself :)

  16. Bargain Briana says:

    I agree with all the tips except buying new when you are buying a Honda! :) They do not drastically drop in value like other cars. We purchased a new Honda at the end of the sale season and received an extreme discount. It only cost us a few thousand more to get a brand new vehicle with exactly the features we wanted with no miles on it! :)

    The used ones we were looking at were a few years old with at least $50K miles on them! It didn’t make sense for us to do it like that. It has actually been the only vehicle we’ve ever owned that we have “equity” in.

    We love our Honda Odyssey and I know you will too! (Glad you are part of the cool mom mini van club!)

  17. @Jessica,
    I also agree, we have had a Grand Caravan Sport and now a Chrysler Town and Country LX! I hesitate to drive anything else!!

  18. I think doing your homework is the most important step you mention. I also like Edmunds.com and http://www.truecar.com for doing research

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