It’s been almost six months now since I bought my first car (the 1990 Dodge Spirit that my parents bought when I was a Sophomore in high school doesn’t count). It’s a 2008 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL (pictures here). Some thoughts as a first-time buyer after having lived with my purchase for a few months:
- Be very wary of the person sells you finance for your car. For me, it was a completely different person than the salesman who got me to buy the car in the first place. When I got my car, I took a three year financing special at 1.9% APR, but after all was said and done I was definitely duped as a first-time buyer with nobody else there who knew better. When the guy offered the “gold” package saying it was only $100 more per month (which is a very deceptive ploy) I agreed to it. Although he claimed that it was only about $2000 overall, it was more like $5000. Now I can have all the lipstick stains on my leather that I want!
- The details were worth it. I probably could have spent 25% less and still bought a pretty comparable car, but it would be missing a lot of the stuff that really make me happy with my car now. Stuff like the paint color, auto-on/off headlights, line-in, mp3 CD player, push-button start, folding rear seats, keyless entry, xenon headlights and nav system are what make the purchase worthwhile.
- Mileage should probably have played a bigger factor in choosing the car. My car has averaged very close to 20mpg since I bought it (although I’ve only put about 1500 miles on it). Fortunately, we carpool to work, so I’m not hit as hard by the rising gas prices. However, when I *do* need to fill up my 20 gallon tank, it costs a pretty penny (about $70 last time I went)
- Both the gas and brake pedals on my car are extremely touchy. Perhaps it’s a Nissan thing, perhaps a Japanese thing, but it actually wasn’t something I noticed as much when I went for a test drive. Even after six months, I sometimes accidentally jerk forward a bit when accelerating. Fortunately, the CVT kind of balances things out, since I can accelerate from 0 to 60 and not really feel the gears change =)
- edmunds.com is an awesome site. They have a great comparison system that let’s you see things like shoulder and leg room for various cars side-by-side (stuff that is hard to find on other sites). They were also really good about getting quotes from dealers. I just checked a few boxes after picking out the options I was looking for an within a day I usually had two or three quotes from local dealers (sometimes it was within minutes!).
All in all, I’m pretty happy with my purchase - four and a half stars =) In hindsight, there are a couple things I would have done differently: I think I would have bought the hybrid Altima instead of the 3.5SL (I’m always amazed with how quiet hybrids are when they’re just on their electric motor) and I would have kept a closer eye on exactly what “extra options” I was getting. Other than that it was actually a fairly painless experience for someone who was totally unfamiliar with the buying process.