I bought my last car a year after finishing business school and pre-kids. I bought an Audi Allroad (which my boss at the time called a “grocery-getter”), and it served me well through a few ski leases in Tahoe, two babies and a dog. Last year I was faced with a big car repair bill that caused my heart to stop temporarily. My reliable and fun wagon felt like a money pit. After having my car for eleven years, I started to evaluate the possibility of getting a new car that better suited my needs.
While cars are useful assets, they are also depreciating assets, meaning every day they are losing value. As a financial planner, I try to stay away from this type of “investment” since it also reduces net worth. However, after selling my car to my mechanic for a good price and being down to one car for the summer, I realized that I needed a car in order to have a greater sense of autonomy and flexibility in my life.
I asked myself the following questions to help me on my quest for a new car:
What do I want in a new car? Here was my list: Takes regular gas, All Wheel Drive, third row seating, sunroof (personal preference), Bluetooth and that awesome button on the rear that opens and closes the tail! Since I only drive 4,000 miles each year, fuel efficiency was not one of the top factors.
How much do I want to spend? I was amazed by the sheer number of cars that fit the profile above, and the range of prices was also astounding. SUVs meeting my criteria ranged from $23,000 to over $94,000! Time to narrow down my search. While I loved my Audi, I wanted to avoid high price tag repairs. This ruled out most luxury SUVs. In addition, I do not drive very much. Why spend $50,000+ on a depreciating asset? Searched narrowed:
Look at Affordable SUVs only. My target price was $40,000 including all taxes and title.
Which cars do I like the best? Two affordable SUVs made the top of my list: the Mazda CX9 and the Hyundai Santa Fe GLS. A few families I know have the CX9, and I have always thought it was a good looking car. I test drove it and loved the way it handled like my old Audi. However, through my research I learned that it was due for a major design change around 2016. This bothered me, as did a little thing like the design of the center console. I know I was being picky, but if I am going to drive this car for the next ten years I better love it! I test drove the Hyundai Santa Fe to please my mother, who is a car enthusiast. She sent me every article showing it was the #1 Affordable SUV across all categories. It felt like a luxury sedan when I drove it, and despite having tons of room across all three rows, it did not look like a big car from the outside. (Note: She drives a Q5 and is a car snob but loved the Santa Fe). Winner: Hyundai Santa Fe.
New or Used? The Hyundai Santa Fe was redesigned in 2013, so there was relatively little inventory for used ones. In addition, there were none in any color I liked. New models only.
Whercare to buy my new car? I cast my net far and wide by using websites like Edmunds to help locate dealerships that might have my car. Within hours I received phone calls and emails from ten dealerships in the Bay Area. Texts soon followed and I felt inundated with solicitations for my car. But, none of them had the car I wanted! They had different models with different features and no one had the color I wanted. I spent hours on the phone and even called up to Oregon to find the exact car that I wanted. I learned that local dealers often trade with further away dealerships to get cars but most can only search up to 200 miles away. The car I wanted was like seeing a Yeti! I was tired of looking for the impossible. Time to outsource: Call Cartelligent.
How to get the best deal? I was hesitant to outsource finding my car because I wanted to save as much money as possible. I did not want to spend $495 on a car broker to do what I should be able to do myself. However, I buy one car every ten years; Cartelligent probably buys ten cars a day. They are the experts, so I decided to see if they could do the impossible… Find a Silver AWD Hyundai Santa Fe with the Ultimate Package. They usually can locate and buy a car within a couple of days at most. My search took nearly two weeks, but they did it! They found the car in Long Beach, and I paid less than invoice. This made me very happy. The best part was that I picked my car up in Sausalito and one of the Cartelligent experts walked me through the technology of my car from bumper to bumper.
My car buying experience took about six weeks from start to finish. Next time, I will save myself the first four weeks of research, internet searches and phone calls and outsource that process to Cartelligent.
I decided to finance half the cost of my car due to very low rates. I do not like having a car payment and set a goal to pay off the car within the next two years (instead of five).