General Question

girlofscience's avatar

Can you offer advice in buying a car in my circumstances?

Asked by girlofscience (7464 points ) November 15th, 2008

I am currently in the process of purchasing car #5. Before you offer advice, please consider my detailed circumstances.

Cars #1–4 were basically “disposable” cars for me; each lasted about 1.5 years. They were Hondas or Toyotas from 1994 or 1995 and cost around $2,000. (All were purchased in full from a private seller in an ad.) I drove them until their needed repairs exceeded their value and then moved onto the next disposable car.

Now that I’m almost 23, it’s getting kind of embarrassing to drive a car that looks so old, and I think it’s about time I have a car that will last me longer than a year and a half and that I won’t be ashamed of.

I would be satisfied with a Honda Civic, Honda Accord, Toyota Corolla, or Toyota Camry (or something similar!) from around 2001 or so. At least something like that would look respectable and be more reliable than the ones I’ve been driving that are twice that age. I’d prefer that the car has less than 100,000 miles on it and not require any repairs.

Now, even though my previous cars were somewhat embarrassing-looking, the nice thing about them was no car payments! I paid the $2,000 in cash and didn’t have to worry about monthly payments. I realize that I’m probably going to have to finance something as new as 2001. I really would prefer not to do this, especially because that would mean I would have to purchase from a dealer, which would be much more expensive than a private seller who posted an ad. And it’s just so much nicer to not have to worry about making monthly payments.

I also don’t know how much I should reasonably be choosing to spend on a car at this point in my life. I could afford a down payment of about $2,000. (I am a first-year grad student, and my stipend is $30,000 per year. Since I just graduated college in May 2008, I have no savings yet.) Obviously, I’d prefer to just purchase another $2,000 car and be done with it, but that would likely result in yet another embarrassing-looking car, and I really think it’s time for me to move up from that.

Considering all of these factors, what is reasonable to do in my situation? Should I buy a real car, suck it up, be an adult, and start making monthly car payments like everyone else? Is having a non-embarrassing-looking car worth the monthly payments at this time in my life?

If the answer is yes, what is the best way to go about this purchase? Would it be possible to find a 2001 Honda or Toyota for a reasonable price through a private seller?

Or should I go to a dealer? I went to two dealerships today just to look, and the 2001 Hondas and Toyotas they had were listed as being $9,000. I do NOT want to have $7,000 worth of car payments—no way. The MOST I would probably be willing to go for is $5,500 (that is, $2,000 down and $3,500 financed), but I would still prefer to buy a car under $4,000. Is it possible to get a respectable-looking car for this price? If so, how and where?

Also, for those of you with experience at car dealerships, if a car is listed as being $9,000, what is the most you can bargain it down to?

If you have any additional avenues for car purchasing to suggest, please do!

Thank you for reading this very long explanation of my car situation, and I am very open to advice in how I should handle my next car purchase!

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61 Answers

Darwin's avatar

I am sorry, but I have spent most of my life driving embarassing cars. I don’t believe in car payments and I don’t see why the appearance of my car should matter to anyone, especially if I am a student with a limited budget. Now if I were a stock broker managing millions of dollars of other people’s money I can see that a sleek new car would give my clients a warm feeling, but as a grad student I think your car just needs to get you from here to there, even if you have to put up an umbrella inside when it rains or you can see the street through the rusted out floor boards (actual cars I have owned).

In fact when I was a grad student on a much smaller stipend than you have, I happily drove an elderly Datsun until someone parked their car on top of it (a young lady that had a need for speed discovered that it is easy to break the laws of Florida but not the laws of physics). My next car was an elderly Nissan (new enough that it recognized the name change of the company) that lasted until I planned to have kids and needed something bigger. It also survived some major body damage during its lifetime but if you parked it so the driver’s side was hidden no one could tell.

In fact, cosmetic flaws often make it much easier to find your car in giant parking lots, so a poor automotive appearance can even serve as a plus. Ugly cars are also less likely to be stolen and that new ding in the door really doesn’t upset anyone, since the door is already dinged.

So my recommendation is that you find another disposable car through a private seller and work harder at saving up some cash so that each time you do this in the future you have a bit more to play with. Buy a $2000 car this time, and next time try for a $3000 car, and so on.

The other thing I did actually was make friends with several mechanical types and learn enough from them that I could do some of the repairs myself, thus keeping the cost of repair down longer and extending the usable life of the car. It may not be romantic, but a Saturday afternoon date spent replacing your water pump makes a lot of economic sense.

You are NOT your car. It is simply a tool to help you get to where you need to be.

Besides, think of the tales you can tell your kids when they start hounding you for a car someday in the future.

fireside's avatar

At 23, I was driving a used blazer that I picked up for $5000.
I waited until I was 30 to take on car payments.

asmonet's avatar

The lower end of Carmax seems like it would work for you. :)

Considering you’re not willing to go higher but you still want to have pretty car that seems like the best option.

mamasu's avatar

You are only 23. Your car is meant for transportation, not status advertisement. Buy the disposable car. Learn how to fix it. Stay away from new with payments. You’ll be paying interest on something that depreciates by 1/3 the moment you drive it off the lot. If you go with a place like Carmax, remember they tend to be overpriced. Most manufacturers are offering great deals right now. Investigate and take advantage of them. Look into previously owned with a warranty to help it last a little longer.

asmonet's avatar

Good idea, mamasu.

cooksalot's avatar

You know at 23 there’s lots of time to get a car that means car payments. From experience i know that getting into a car payment of any type before getting a job that your well established in could be a big mistake. Believe you, me that it could be a biggie. I would say get another disposable car or two before jumping into a more expensive car. Who knows by then hybrids might be the way to go and you won’t have any regrets then.

Mizuki's avatar

remember—a car is the worst financial investment of all times.

girlofscience's avatar

Interesting perspectives so far, thank you.

I know I am only (almost) 23, a grad student, etc., but everyone else in my same situation has much nicer cars!! All of my friends have had parents who gave them an “old” car when they were done with it (“old” as in, like, 2004) or downright bought them a gorgeous car of their choice. And I am always (“lovingly”) laughed at for the cars I drive because they look like pieces of shit compared to everyone else’s. Why can’t I get a nice car like everyone else? :\

@mamasu: Whoa, I was never considering buying a new car! Anyway, do you have more information about what you mean by the manufacturers that are offering good deals right now? I can’t imagine that I could buy a car from a manufacturer—wouldn’t that be too new? Also, previously owned with a warranty—that would be going through a dealership, which I don’t want to do, and don’t warranties only cover up to something like 42K miles? I could never afford a car with so little miles that it would still be under a warranty.

@cooksalot: I know, car payments would make me very nervous, but I am guaranteed this $30K/year stipend for the next five years, so I thought this might be a stable enough “job.” I agree, though, that it may be too soon for this.

@asmonet: What exactly is Carmax, and how does it differ from other online listings of cars?

@fireside: Sigh. I wish I had $5,000 at 23 to spend on a car.

@Darwin: Great answer, thank you. I know, in reality, I agree with you, but I can’t help but envy the cars of everyone else with my age and my income…

greylady's avatar

My boys used to give me that same argument- “everyone else’s parents give them a much nicer car than I have”. I would tell them that really wasn’t totally true, and that if those other parents had that kind of money to spend on their children, that was fine for them. Wishing does nothing but make you feel bad. A real plan is what you need to get to a goal. Don’t try to fool reality.
You need to spend a lot of time shopping to get the best deal. When you get it narrowed down to the best 2, then take an older man along to help you deal on them. Unfortunately a girl alone will not get the best price. Even me- late 50’s- take along my brother, or now, one of my sons. Private sales usually don’t come with any warranty, so I would go with a dealer. When I buy a car it is always used. I make a down payment and pay it off in one year. That is a good boost for your credit rating.

augustlan's avatar

Vehix.com. You can input your specific wants/needs and price range, and it will help you find the car for you. I didn’t actually buy my last vehicle from one of their posts, but it helped me enormously by way of education on prices/models, etc that fit my needs.

girlofscience's avatar

@greylady: At dealerships, they had nothing below $9,000. In order to pay a car off within a year, I should not buy one for more than $3,500 ($2,000 down payment, and the other $1,500 paid off during the year.) My other four cars have not had a warranty, and only the super expensive ones at the dealerships came with a warranty (not even the $9,000 one!). I can’t imagine that I could have negotiated $9,000 down to $3,500 and gotten a warranty, too, so how would you suggest buying from a dealership?

tigran's avatar

dude what kind of grad school are you in? your stipend seems nice.

First of all, if you want to by from a private seller and make monthly payments, all you need to do is go to a local bank and ask for their best financing. (they own the car, you pay them monthly + interest)

Second, if you are starting off with 30k a year, and will have that increase, why not just lease a good car???? It will be roughly 4,000k a year, a little over than a disposible car a year, but still something you should consider spending since you are now getting a nice stipend for being in school. I’d say get a nice car, it will make you do better things, and feel better about yourself. Definitely. Think about it, if you stick to junky cars you will feel like your car, and when you get out of it to meet with someone for a new job you will feel like you don’t deserve a higher paying job. just my 2 centavos

wundayatta's avatar

I think the real issue here is social status. You say people laugh at you.

I say, make your throw-away car a positive thing. First of all, you are saving so much more money than they are. Second, it is so much better for the environment to not have to build another new care. Third, they are stuck in status hell, while you think it is beneath you. Fourth, your car is kinda cool! It has personality. No one else’s car has that. And it really does speak for you.

Also, when guys see a cute chick riding around in a heap, they fantasize about “rescuing” her. You wont know this, but they will be eating their hearts out, wishing they could get a date with you.

Of course, they do the same thing with a chick in a hot car, but that’s different. That’s about status and fantasy. WIth you, there’s something a bit more soft and sincere about it.

Yeah. Right. She’s gonna buy a car to make her seem like a waif?!?

Things could be worse.

tigran's avatar

I didn’t realize you were a girl, but still, I think its better to have a clean nice looking car to get in the real world, then feel cute and funny in a crappy car.

mamasu's avatar

@girlofscience, my new car bit was just a little advice. As for manufacturers, the automotive industry is taking some hits. You asked, as part of your question, whether you should go to dealers. My point with the incentives and the previously owned with warranty, was simply that because of hits to the industry, most manufacturers are offering great deals (each is different) that you might want to research. You don’t buy those from the factory, you go to dealerships. Yes, you say in the post above that you don’t want to do that, but I included it because it was a part of your question. My post was just a little bit of my own experience offered up. Oh, different warranties cover different mileages and you would be surprised at how low the price can be for some lower mileage cars if you learn how to research and negotiate. The last car I bought was 6 years old, but only had 15,000 miles on it and was pristine inside and out. It was a steal.

hearkat's avatar

I bought my first brand new car at 20. I had dropped out of college and was working full time, but within a year, I returned to school, and went in to get my AA, BS, and MA , and had a baby while making payments on that car. Those were lean times, but I also had the peace of mind of having reliable transportation. It also helped me build strong credit.

I recently did some used-car shopping, and I also used Vehix.com, Cars.com, AutoShopper.com, Edmunds.com, and Yahoo’s auto pages. You can also go to ConsumerReports.org and access some if their information without an account.

If you stick with a set purchase price and don’t let them con you by talking payment amounts, you’ll be fine. Interest rates are low and the dealers are pretty desperate to sell. So I suggest buying.

Zaku's avatar

(Looking at the picture of the “old” car): That’s an embarrassing car to you? Huh. Personally, I think almost all cars (and worse, SUV’s, trucks, blobs, mountains) created in a long time are really boring and similar and uninspiring.

Your friends may have “nicer” cars, but that means they probably have much less other things (debts, foreign travel, other things that might make much more difference or that you really care about… or do you really care about how expensive your car looks?).

Dealers tend to be rip-off artists. Sometimes getting cars via friends and/or relatives is a good way to get a reasonably-priced reliable car.

buster's avatar

Is it possible to use your $2,000 and get another $1,500—$2,500 loan from maybe your father or grandparents that you pay them back at a substantially lower interest rate or no interest rate than the banks? You should be able to find something mechanically sound and reliable that will last a lot longer than a year and a half for $4K-$5K. Remember also if you get a loan from a bank you must also pay full coverage insurance on it until it is paid off. If you pay for it and its flat out yours you can pay only liability which is much cheaper than full coverage.

girlofscience's avatar

@tigran: Ph.D. programs in the sciences = nice stipends! (But the $30,000 is kept constant for my five years here, unless I happen to win a grant, in which case it could potentially increase to $34,000.)

I disagree with some of your ideas though. I would never feel like I didn’t deserve a certain salary because of the car I was driving, and I think leasing a car for $4,000 a year would be a gigantic waste of money.

girlofscience's avatar

@everyone: Another possibility for me that I failed to mention in the description of this is that I could just put off getting a car all together and share my boyfriend’s car. We live together, and he has a gorgeous 2001 Mustang convertible that I have full usage of at any time I want. Since my parking spot is far from my lab, he drops me off and picks me up from work everyday anyway (on the way to and from his work), so we don’t really need two cars. We’ve just always had two cars, so I never really considered the possibility of just sharing one. Is it way too inconvenient for a couple to share a single car? He is willing to give me joint ownership of his.

buster's avatar

Whats the trade-in value and bluebook price of your current car? You will be adding that in there with your $2k you allready have.

Zaku's avatar

Well if you just share your boyfriend’s car, you get to spend more time with him.

tigran's avatar

Hmm I guess its different when you’re a PhD and your research speaks for itself :). However the prices have gone down quite a bit, I would still reccomend getting something new. The 08 VW jetta was going for 199 a month, and thats about 2,500 a year. Not bad for a new car to own.

susanc's avatar

Share with boyfriend is win!!! look, I learned a new word from asmonet

What are you going to do with your existing car? How bout give it outright to someone who actually needs one and will appreciate it even though it’s your idea of shit.

girlofscience's avatar

@buster and susanc: So, my existing car works and runs perfectly fine; however, it got in an accident yesterday. My boyfriend was driving it, and a car cut him off on the highway and busted the front corner + headlight and broke off the front bumper. He swerved into the shoulder, and the car went into the guardrail, so there is damage on the other side as well. It was raining very heavily, and the person who hit us just drove off, and we weren’t able to see the license plate. In these circumstances, our insurance rates would probably just go up, so it’s not worth going through the insurance company. And it would cost way too much to fix everything enough for the car to pass inspection. So, we can’t really give it to someone or trade it in at a dealer. We are probably going to just get a few hundred for the engine at a junk yard, I guess. :\ What an asshole that person was for driving off and sticking us with all of the damage…

tigran's avatar

someone totaled my car on the freeway and drove away. I called a cop, then my insurance and they took care of it.
My insurance rates didn’t go up, and they covered the car minus 500 deductible. It would be worth checking with your insurance.

girlofscience's avatar

On sharing with boyfriend

@susanc: Do you have experience sharing a car with someone? I am trying to figure out mentally if it would work. The thing that scares me is that we have no fall-back car. When one of our cars has been in the shop before, we were still able to get around (and get the car to and from the shop!) since we had an additional car.

@Zaku: lol, I don’t think it would increase our time together, considering he already drives me to and from work anyway, and the other times I would use his car (instead of my own), I would take it out alone. Also, we spend enough time together, as we share a residence!

———

It would be great if this could work because it would cost $0, AND I would own a Mustang! No embarrassment there. I just can’t figure out if it would be too difficult to share one car between two people.

Darwin's avatar

@girlofscience – I didn’t look at the photo of your car until just now – you call that a junky car?! That is a wonderful-looking car. The paint is even all the same color! Now that it has been in an accident, of course, it may be a different story.

Also, don’t write off insurance so quickly – if you guys haven’t had any previous accidents your rates probably won’t go up, and if the car is “totaled” that means you’ll at least get Blue Book trade in value, which can go towards another car, or you can get the car repaired and then sell it or trade it.

My parents did indeed “give” me my first car – for my 16th birthday they gave a me a Mercedes sedan with doors that really opened. Of course, it was manufactured by Tootsie Toy and could fit in my pocket. I got my real first car at the age of 21 because during my senior year of college I moved off-campus and started to actually need a car.

Where are you going to school that people “laugh” at your car? And where a grad student in the sciences gets 30k a year? I was a grad student in the sciences and got 5k a year plus tuition (state resident rate).

The wise thing to do is keep on driving junkers – as long as they run and pass inspection you are saving a mint.

As to sharing a car – people do it all the time. I have European friends living in the US who actually shared a car with another family – so 4 employed adults shared the one car for getting to work, shopping, doctor’s appointments, and so on. It may not be perfectly convenient at all times, but folks do it all the time. It is called cooperation.

Zaku's avatar

What do you think of using a Zipcar when you need two cars?

Or, at the other end of the consideration spectrum, a Smart Car Batmobile . . .

augustlan's avatar

@Zaku: That Batmobile is SWEET!

girlofscience's avatar

@Darwin: That picture isn’t actually my car, but rather a photo of the same model when it was new. (And that’s actually the one I had before #4, but #4 is very similar.) Of course, it didn’t look as shiny and new when I owned it, but there were no serious problems.

Haha, and my friends only “laugh” at my car in a loving way… Like, my boyfriend (who has a Mustang) would always make jokey comments about how mismatched our cars look when they’re parked next to each other, since his is so nice and mine is so 1992. And some of my girlfriends say things like, ”[girlofscience], your car is so old-lady like!” And I’ve given random classmates rides who make jokey comments like, “Sweet car.” Never in a mean way, just in a way as in laughing along with me about the fact that I have a shitty car.

The stipend I receive is at the very high end of stipends, yes, but in general, most stipends for science PhD programs are relatively high these days. When I was applying, I received offers from 12 different schools, and the stipends ranged from $19,000 to $30,000, with most falling between $25,000 and $30,000. (And no, I did not just pick my current institution because they offered me the most money!) I will PM you where I attend grad school.

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

@girlofscience, Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace program has a car buying strategy that would seem to fit your driving habits. Buy the $2000 car. Make car payments of $350—$500, whatever you would be paying at the dealership for a car payment,, into a savings account. After 10 months, you should have $3500 – $5000 in the account. Take that money and the $2000 car and trade it in on another used car; you should have at least $4500 – $6000 to invest in the next car. Continue making car payments to yourself for 10 months, then take the 2nd used car and the $3500 – $5000, and invest it in a 3rd used car. You snowball up in better cars, and rather than paying the bank, you’re paying yourself.

wundayatta's avatar

My wife and I have shared a car for almost 20 years, and we’ve never had any problems, until now, when she has to go up to take care of her mother once a month. Even so, it’s not a big deal. A lot of the time we don’t go out Saturday night, anyway.

There is a carshare company in town, but we haven’t needed it. We also have access to the trolley, which gets us downtown in fifteen minutes, if we need it. We’ve even thought of going carless, and living with careshare on the weekend and rentals for holidays. We’d save a lot of money. We also wouldn’t have to deal with the increasing level of parking hassle on our street.

shadling21's avatar

As a fellow student, I respect a girl with a crappy car. It’s a smart decision, especially with the high cost of education in North America.

As someone who has never owned a car, I don’t think that I should offer much more advice (as I have none) =)

Darwin's avatar

Actually during my first three years as an undergraduate I specifically sought out folks with cars, crappy or not. It sure beat walking, especially when it rained.

asmonet's avatar

@susanc: Yes! :D

@grl: Carmax.com is kind of like car thrift stores. They are a bit jacked up in price, but everyone I know who buys from them has a solid car with very very few problems. And I thnk your car looks fine, better than most people my age, and you’re not that much older than me I imagine. If it’s running well, keep it. No need to fuss.

andrew's avatar

I’ve had the same car for ten years with one repair, so I have a skewed perspective. If you want a car, and it’s important to you, then indulge yourself. Dealers are almost giving away cars.

I’d really recommend against doing away with your car altogether—it just seems like unnecessary stress on your relationship, and if, god forbid, something were to happen, you’d be out of luck.

If, on the other hand, it’s more important to you to be frugal, I think alfreda’s advice is fantastic.

asmonet's avatar

@andrew: Out of curiosity, what do you drive?

andrew's avatar

‘98 trans am six speed. I’ve taken good care of it.

it was bitchin’ in the 90’s

asmonet's avatar

@andrew: in the 90s.. joshin’.

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

@asmonet, Our “new” car, the “good” one, is a 1997 Honda Accord. The second car is a 1991 Volvo. This is the first year that we are going to consider junking a car (Volvo) because of repair bills exceeding the value of the car.

nikipedia's avatar

I am the worst person in the world to give money advice, so don’t take me too seriously.

1. I would call your insurance company anyway. Even if your rates do increase, the increase may still be less than the payoff for car. (E.g., if they raise your rates by $20/month for 24 months, you are still coming out way on top if they give you $1200 for your car.) And based on my experience, I don’t think they will raise your rates.

2. Dealers are a waste of money. Buy from a private party or similar. If I were you, I would get a small loan from a credit union—they usually have the best rates—and get a car that meets your niceness standards without being too ridiculously expensive (and I am happy to give you some suggestions). If having a car you love will make you happy, do it. You have the means for it, so why not?

RandomMrdan's avatar

I’d go out and buy a used car…Honda’s are really good choices I feel, very reliable, and get good gas mileage…

The sharing part- I’ll probably never want to share a vehicle with a girlfriend who lived with me…I would probably even help a bit to even get her her own vehicle. Sometimes it is just more convenient based on how things progress throughout a week.

The car part- Do research on whichever particular model you’ve narrowed it down to, know the kelly blue book value of the car so you have some where you can work towards in price negotiating. I wouldn’t buy any extended warranty on something like a Honda, or a Toyota…just take good care of it, and it should serve you well. It sounds like your stipend is more than sufficient for making a monthly payment on a car around the price point of 7,000 after you make a down payment.

What I did was, financed a car worth 12,000 (honda civic 2003) back in 2005. I stretched to the longest term they offered me, and after I picked up a good job and was banking a lot of money, I started making principle payments to pay it off a lot faster so I can get back to that great feeling of having no more payments.

I setup automatic payments through my bank so I was sure not to ever miss any payments. And as others have mentioned, it does help build better credit as well.

I would keep an eye for for things like…Hail Storms. They have a tendency to ding up cars pretty good, and you can get a hail storm sale. If you keep the car long enough for another hail storm and you have good comprehensive coverage with a good deductible, you can probably get it fixed for next to nothing.

Oh, well…hope some of this helped. By the way, financing a new car like a few others have mentioned isn’t always a bad idea either, you get a better APR that way, and usually less for insurance coverage.

jessehattabaugh's avatar

Just ride a bike

Pros;
A bicycle costs about $300. It will help you get your recommended 30 minutes of exercise to prevent cardiovascular disease. They require no fuel, or insurance. They cause no emissions. You can ride right up to your destination, and you never have to pay for parking. You can break just about every traffic law including riding on the sidewalk, without fear of the police stopping you.

Cons;
It doesn’t go as fast. It doesn’t protect you from the rain. The only people who will be impressed by it are other bikers.

girlofscience's avatar

@jessehattabaugh: I cannot “just ride a bike;” are you kidding me?!

The roads that must be taken to get from my home to my work are not bike-safe, and the main reason I need a car are to get to places that are more than 30 minutes away by car… and all highway driving. A bike would not help me in any way whatsoever.

jessehattabaugh's avatar

@girlofscience Perhaps you should simply live closer to the places you need to be. Seems kinda silly to live 30 minutes from places you need to be often. Your way of life isn’t very sustainable is it?

girlofscience's avatar

@jessehattabaugh: I live less than 1.5 miles from the place I need to be 40 hours per week – it’s just that those roads are not bike-safe.

I do not live 30 minutes from places I need to be “often,” but I enjoy having the freedom to attend events in nearby cities when they occur. A bike would not offer me that freedom; a car does.

Also, my parents live 8 hours away from me, so visiting them requires a car. No, it is not practical for me to just live closer to my parents either. My career is here; their careers are there.

Also, choices of living location are often not simply driven on one’s own required destinations. I live with my boyfriend, and his work does happen to be a half hour from where we live. We moved here together for my career, and the job he found was a half hour away. Even if we moved exactly in between our two career locations, neither would be bikable because everywhere you go around is JUST HIGHWAY.

A bike is not helpful at all for my lifestyle.
And I’m not changing my lifestyle.

wundayatta's avatar

1.5 miles and the roads aren’t “bike safe”? What do you need to feel safe on a bike? Are there no side roads that parallel the main roads, but have less traffic? Wow! 1.5 miles! There’s got to be a way. Send me the two addresses and I’ll Google Earth it. If there’s a way, I’ll find it.

Are there sidewalks? That’s short enough to walk.

I learned to ride in traffic in Oxford, England, when I was 15. In Europe, it seems, the bicyclists are much less sissy than in the US. I learned to ride between lines of traffic and do all kinds of things, and it was normal. All the bicyclists did that kind of thing.

In the US, I have a different strategy. I find less travelled roads. Philadelphia is a city on a grid system. So there are always alternatives. At the bottlenecks where I have to deal with traffic, like bridges, I learn the traffic patterns, and I’m pretty safe.

Every once in a while, the drivers get in a mood. When that happens, and if it’s bad enough, I might ride on sidewalks. I’ve only had one accident in 22 years. I got doored once on a street with trolley tracks. Other than that, nothing much.

girlofscience's avatar

@daloon: I do not currently live in Philadelphia; I grew up there. I now live in Durham, NC.

In any event, I don’t even need a way to get to work because my boyfriend already drops me off and picks me up everyday. The only things I need a car for are non-bikeable distances.

Besides, it’s getting cold. And I’m just not really a biking-type gal. I need four wheels, or I feel trapped. I like to have the ability to go anywhere on the continent at the drop of a hat.

jessehattabaugh's avatar

@girlofscience I did my first bike tour from San Francisco to Big Sur this summer. Don’t tell me a bicycle doesn’t give you the ability to go anywhere you want to go. As for the “freedom” to blow up gallons of petroleum in order to get yourself wherever you want to be “at the drop of the hat” me-thinks your American expectations are getting the best of you.

nikipedia's avatar

@daloon and jessehattabaugh: Can you please drop the condescending, sanctimonious bike lectures? She wants a car, not a bike. Different people have different priorities. Sheesh.

jessehattabaugh's avatar

@nikipedia You’re right, it’s just that some people’s priorities are completely absurd like having the ability to pilot deadly polluting machines so that they don’t get rained on. Cars cause pollution, cars cause war, cars kill bicylists. Excuse me for being passionate about the subject.

CRITICAL MASS!!!

nikipedia's avatar

Congratulations, you’re a better person than the rest of us.

Maybe you’ve spent too much time in San Francisco.

wundayatta's avatar

So what, Nikipedia? You want to rumble? You name the time. I’ll name the place. Be there!

I’m not being sanctimonious. Really. I’m just pointing out options, and trying to defuse the fears about them. Obviously I screwed that pooch pretty badly!

jessehattabaugh's avatar

Just for the record I am being sanctimonious, and condescending, and if I might say; having a great time at it.

Darwin's avatar

@jesse… – and a fine job you are doing of it.

And actually, when I was at the U. of Florida, bicyclists killed bicyclists and sometimes pedestrians. A more recent look at the problem:

“The University of Florida Police Department has registered more than 30 000 bicycles, which is quite a considerable number for a campus with over 50,000 faculty, staff and students. Earlier this month, the University of Florida also worked to increase awareness about bicycle safety, to curb the bicycle accidents that can happen on the busy campus.

The University passed out flyers and the campus newspaper published stories to draw attention to the issue. According to the University of Florida Police Department, a key problem on campus are bicycle-pedestrian collisions. This is simply because many students and faculty walking to and from class as well as many bicyclists rushing to the same classes can create accidents. Although pedestrian-bicycle accidents are rarely fatal, they can be a cause of personal injuries…”

http://www.floridainjurylawyerblog.com/2007/02/university_of_florida_works_to.html

RandomMrdan's avatar

I guess advice for buying cars = tips to ride bikes instead.

proXXi's avatar

I would recomend buying from a private owner.

Used cars from dealerships cost more because they must recover many costs (reconditioning, safety inspection, etc.)

There’s so many listings now thanks to the internet. Take your time to find the car that meets your specific combination of needs.

Then make your best deal. Most sellers are expecting to haggle. If possible secure your cash in advance. Being able to offer cash on the spot improves your negotiating position.

Include the cost of inspection by a trusted technician when calculating cost.

Sites such as Carmax.com are helpful ,but not 100% reliable, use them but listen to your gut also.

You’ll find Hondas to be more engaging to drive than Toyotas (especially in your price range) and just as reliable.

Darwin's avatar

OTOH, we bought from a private owner and it turned out he was lying through his teeth about the condition and repair record of the car, so we got totally ripped off. Fortunately we were able to foist it off on trade it in to a dealership even though we disclosed everything we knew about the car and its dismal repair record for a decent amount. In return we got a much newer certified Toyota for below typical blue book retail that still has some original warranty left.

I suspect they will send our trade in off to Mexico as quickly as possible.

john65pennington's avatar

I almost went to sleep before i finished your question. yawn! you are robbing peter to pay paul. chuck everything you have done in the past with clunkers and go to a Toyota Used Car Lot and find you a vehicle you can live with and afford. all of this buying and trading is just a lot of hassle. come to the realization that its time take a step forward and let go of some serious money for a vehicle you love and is dependable. this would be a Honda or a Toyota.

My wife has a 1991 Honda Accord 2 door with 81,000 actual lady-driven miles on it. it still smells brand new on the inside. many people have offered to buy this car from her, but she refuses to sell. one man offered her $4,000 cash and she laughed in his face. its her car to do as she pleases.

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