Saved By My Car Budget

Car Toy KeychainIt’s not easy starting a new life as a single mom, and my first big challenge was to buy a decent but affordable used car.

I’m loyal to Hondas and Toyotas, because I believe those cars spend less time in the shop. But my budget was $200 a month, firm.

At first I thought I’d only be able to afford a car with 90,000-plus miles on it. But a friend warned me against that, saying that I’d end up spending too much on repairs.

So I spent some time on eBay, which gave me a better sense of how much used cars go for. (Did you you know you can buy a car in another state, and it’s sometimes cheaper?)

And I read the US News & World Report car rankings.

I decided on a Toyota Matrix (not as cute as a Honda Element, but roomier if you have two kids). And when I walked into the local dealership, I was ready to play ball.

I was clear with the salesman: “I can afford $200 a month in financing, and I can put $1,000 down, and if you can’t help me find a car, I’ll go somewhere else.”

Naturally, he sat me down and tried to upsell me in a dozen different ways—alarms, warranties, etc. But I stuck to my mantra: $200 a month or bust.

After about 45 minutes, and a couple of test drives, we found a Matrix that I could afford. I went home to think it over. When I went back, I was ready to buy my first certified, pre-owned vehicle—for $1,000 down and $207 a month!

OK, I’m seven bucks over budget. But I can live with that.

Shift gears. What are your car-buying secrets?

Sasha Miller is a DailyWorth contributor, writing about the financial side of starting over as a single mom of two.

photo source: evgie’s shop on etsy

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