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Car Buying—It’s a Process

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Last year our family came to a crossroads about what to do with our beloved minivan. It had been a very reliable, dependable vehicle for us, but was giving us reason to question that reliability when we had to replace the transmission for the second time in only three years. It took me a while to calm down from that and I’m rather proud of the fact that we didn’t jump out of the frying pan and into the fire by purchasing another vehicle on emotion and impulse.

It is nearly a year later and we still have our minivan, but we have been looking at the prospect of purchasing a different vehicle. I have to admit, it is much harder than I thought and it feels like there are a lot more questions now than there were over 10 years ago when we bought the minivan. I am sharing this to help any prospective car buyers with what we have been learning in our quest not to have to do this again any time soon!

One very important step in your research is to talk to your mechanic. I thought I had narrowed down our choices for a reliable, safe vehicle, but when we approached our mechanic about one in particular he had two words for us, “Stay away!” He actually had two of them in his shop just as we were talking with him. Your mechanic will be your greatest asset on this search because they know first hand which vehicles are reliable and which ones aren’t, old or new.

More importantly, they know the cost of the repairs and the most frequent repairs that need to be done. Our mechanic has been a wealth of information and is willing to inspect any vehicle we bring to him that we might be interested in purchasing. On that note, the seller of the vehicle you are looking at should be more than willing to allow you to take it to your mechanic for such an evaluation. If not, shake hands and walk away.

Something else we have wrestled with is the difference between paying cash and using a lender for the purchase. If there weren’t Biblical principles in place that answer this question, this can be a gray area, especially in our current economy. Right now interest rates are extremely low and auto loans can be stretched out as long as 6 years or more. The problem is that we don’t know what the future holds and if we don’t pay cash for everything, even these really large, expensive purchases, they can easily be taken away from us when we run into a month or two or three of not being able to make that payment. Suddenly, we are without a car and without anything to show for all the money we’ve put into it up to that point.

Another reason not to carry a car payment is for insurance purposes. Depending on the age and condition of the vehicle, you may or may not want to carry full coverage. However, if there is a lien on the vehicle, you won’t have a choice. The lender will require full coverage on any vehicle that they still hold the title on, whereas, if you own the vehicle outright, that decision is up to you. Also, even if you initially choose to carry full coverage because it makes sense to do so, if you’re still paying on a car 5 or 6 years down the road, it is not likely that it will still warrant that amount of coverage. Yet, you will be bound to have full coverage if the title is not in your hands.

These are just a couple of points to consider if a car purchase is in your future. I will add more points to this discussion as we continue our search for the perfect vehicle for our family.

“The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.” ~Proverbs 22:7

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