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Beginning Adulthood

I am going to be graduating next year from my under-grad in NYC. I had no need for car there but-here is where my multiple questions begin-I will need one when I go to grad school. I am taking a year off to work and save money while living with my parents outside of Boston and so my question is-where should I buy my car? Should I buy it around Boston or should I buy it in So. California where i plan on attending grad school? And on top of that question what kind of car should I look for that will be under 10,000 and a mini SUV so I can feel comfortable taking it on long drives to places like Alaska or the Mid-west (or potentially cross country)?

RE: where to buy: That depends. How early are you going to get to SoCal before you have to start coursework? If you’re planning on showing up the weekend before school starts, shopping for a car is the last thing you need to be worrying about. Buy it locally. If you’ll get there 3 or 4 weeks early to get settled, then you can probably buy it there, which would be advantageous because cars tend to be in better condition in California, thanks to the whole lack-of-heavy-snow thing.

As for what to buy, at that price I’d probably be looking at a used CRV, if I insisted on having a small SUV.

Does Boston have decent mass transit? If so, I would buy the car in Southern California.

If you buy an SUV, you will spend more to own it, more to maintain it, and more to drive it. Do yourself a favor and buy a car unless your parents are millionaires and are footing the bill. If you are spending someone else’s money, and they can afford it, you should get a Cadillac Escalade.

Boston has great masss transit. Save your money and buy something (or not) when you get to CA. Southern CA is beautiful all year, by the way. A bicycle would be a much better grad school vehicle than a car.

The advantage of a california car is less potential rust, but that may be a price adjusted advantage. Used cars are hit or miss, the equalizer is spending the bucks to have an independent mechanic check the car over. You probably will be fine buying a car anywhere.

In Southern California it won’t be rusted much, the metal brake lines won’t be about to rust through. You will get your title in ten days or less. Make sure the owner has it smog tested before you buy it. He will give you the paperwork or at least let you see it. It must not be over sixty days old to be good. If the title the owner signs over to you says John Doe AND Jane Doe, both of them have to sign it. If it says OR, only one has to sign it.

If there are any questions, visit the local DMV; it’s almost impossible to call them.

Get a pickup, put a locking plastic bed cover on it and keep your excess junk in it. They are much easier to fix and maintain. Don’t keep anything in the cab or it will be stolen.

I really like the idea of a compact 4cyl PU in 2wd. They are surprisingly economical if you don’t drive too fast, and very flexible for your needs. Using a bike and public transportation as much as possible is appealing too. Trucks and bikes go together for an active lifestyle.

With regards to where to buy: where will it be registered? If you plan to register it “back home” in mass, then get it there, but if you intend to actually register it yourself (in california) buy it in california…it will come wwith a license plate and already smogged to california standards, less rust, better roads, so the suspension will be in better shape too.

As for what to get, this sounds like the right time to suggest a perusal of consumer reports best used car list.

Second on that too…there are a million ford rangers out there…just keep it simple…4 cylinder, NO 4wd.

Bostons mass Transit is very good…The only problem is…I wish it was expanded outside the city more. Within the city and the immediate surrounding towns…it’s EXCELLENT.

Massachusetts cars are generally California emissions standards vehicles. I believe we’re the only non-CA state to maintain the same standards.

OP said “outside of Boston”. For the most part that means little or no public transportation for most areas. My town, and surroudning towns have no buses or light rail. Rush hour commuter rail 10 miles away is only option other than driving, and this still requires driving.

Try concentrating on going to school instead of cross country trips to Alaska and the mid-west for now. Save that for after you graduate, and find a real job. Buy something cheap to survive the driving conditions of where you are attending school.


By the tone of your post, adulthood is still a long ways off…I would defer this decision until you actually find yourself in California with $10K in hand, a moment years away by the sound of your post…

It depends on the suv, really. If you bought a Ford Escape, you’ll likely only take a fuel mileage hit. If you get an Acura or Lexus, the you will pay more to own it; premium fuel, synthetic oil, and pricier parts to replace.
As for an Escalde, too easy a target for thieves. One Detroit news station ran a story called “gone in 15 seconds”, because that’s how quickly they were stolen. Break window, climb in, break gear lever and put in neutral, buddy uses another stolen truck to push it to a place to strip it down for parts. One woman that retired from GM said her Denali was stolen 7 times before she decided ti default on her lease/loan. In that time, her insurance paid about as much as the vehicle was worth, new, between all those theft recovery claims.

“Massachusetts cars are generally California emissions standards vehicles.”

In addition;
"Besides California, four states (New York, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Jersey) have adopted California?s motor vehicle emission standards. Maine has adopted a portion of the California standards. "

Have you priced gasoline in California ? If you can only afford $10K, you may want the most efficient car you can get. Used Corolla, Civic, Yaris etc. are among the most economical gas engine non hybrid cars made.

I almost forgot why a pickup comes in handy. When it rains, the streets can get a lot of water that won’r drain right away. You might want a little height. Small pickups are a lot easier to work on than small cars. Four cylinders in trucks are great. It’s great if the truck has shock absorbers instead of struts due to inexpensivenessities.

Don’t worry about negative comments about being young. None of us were born 40 years old. Imagine telling war stories five minutes after your birth certificate was signed. “So there I was, upside down and naked, crying my head off.” May it take years to become that boring.

Streets with water applies to California. Sorry I wasn’t clear that I lived there.