New car buyer

Hi everyone!

Looking to buy a car. I don’t have a specific make/model in mind, beyond probably a reliable brand like Toyota or Honda, and sedans.

I want to eventually own a plug in hybrid or electric car so I am not fully dependent on gas, but for the time being I am flexible. I just do not want to get stuck with a fully gas car for years to come. I want to be able to buy (or lease?) a car and feel comfortable selling/trading/ending lease in a few years when I think the market will be better in general and there may be more affordability and flexibility with PHEVs and EVS.

Should I be looking for a used car? A new car? Possibly a lease? Is it ever a good car purchase if you know ahead of time you hope to get rid of it in a few years (if I lease, I would stick with it for the full lease term)?

Everyone I’ve talked to has had a different opinion (and I expect varying opinions in this discussion), but they’ve all had some sort of bias towards my situation (friends, family, car dealers), and I’m imagining there will be less bias here. Maybe I’m wrong. Hopefully I’m right!

Thanks in advance for any advice you can give me :slight_smile:


Some additional info -
I’m 24, living in Boston/Somerville, commuting to office 20-25 miles away 1-2x a week, commuting home 20 miles away once every two weeks (lower than average total commute per month I presume). A good estimate for my car budget is $550-$600 a month (for monthly payment, insurance, gas, maintenance). I am definitely leaving some wiggle room and could bump it up a bit if needed.

Well , you are wrong about that . Everyone has a brand that they like and some that they don’t .

You might get more replies if you gave some info such as - where you live (not exact but area ) - age - commuting distance - budget .

It is rare that anyone comes here with this type of question ever actually buys what was recommended. And planning on trading or ending a lease early is just plain foolish.

I personally lease a new Hyundai for my wife every three years, for a few reasons: 1) the car is always covered by the full factory warranty, 2) I have the flexibility of determining if we want a different type of car at the end of each lease term, 3) I am spared the hassle and cost of expensive maintenance that comes with an older car, 4) we always have the latest technology in our cars. Sure it’s a bit more costly than buying a car and driving it until the wheels fall off, but items 1-4 make that cost worth it to me.

You really can’t have a fully electric car as your only vehicle if you want to ever go on long road trips that involve driving more than several hundred miles in a day. Unless planning your trip around getting from one charging station to the next and hoping there is something to do while you wait for over an hour to recharge is how you like to travel. The long range EVs can do better on long trips but the huge battery adds so much weight and the initial cost of the vehicle is so high that it’s impractical economically. It becomes more of an expensize show off toy that costs more to operate than a gasoline vehicle. The long range EV is tested is with the heat and air conditioning turned off, while driving slower than most of the other speeding traffic is going.

I personally buy cars which are at least 15-20 years old, and drive them until they have broken down and cannot be repaired again. I usually end up doing significant mechanical repairs to keep these old cars on the road, but at DIY prices, it’s way cheaper than a loan/lease payment. I also do not have to worry about privacy-infringing technology built in to newer cars, nor do I have to worry about intrusive GPS tracking devices which are installed in most financed vehicles.

That is mainly a practice used by the Buy Here - Pay here used vehicle lots . If the payments are made on time where is the problem ?

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As observed everyone has their bias but there are some basic rules …

  1. The initial cost of a new car is higher than a similar used car
  2. The cost of a new car with cutting edge technology is higher than a used car without it
  3. The new car depreciation rate is higher than a used car.
  4. The new car maintenance and repair costs are lower than the used car.
  5. The financed costs (including financed depreciation) of a leased car is higher than the financed cost of a purchase.

So the rational approach is decide on your transportation needs, estimate the useful life, factor in the expected cost of ownership (finance costs,depreciation, gas, insurance, maintence, etc. less resale value) and consider your budget

And then go out and buy the “hot red little 20 year old Porsche or Corvette that you always wanted”. :rofl:

*Unfortunately there have been reports of some used late model vehicles having prices as high as new due to the goofy supply we have now.

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I have a 2017 Honda Accord EX-L with the 4-cyl engine and I’m very happy with it. On my 27 mile commute to work with low traffic I get 40 mpg. Around town it’s more like 32 mpg. A lot of the depreciation might be expended already in a 5 year old car.

Whatever you buy or lease take it for a long test drive to make sure it is comfortable and there are no obvious flaws. If it is used, take it to a mechanic you trust for a pre-purchase inspection. You will pay up to $150 for it and it is well worth the expense. Consumer Reports even recommends a pre-purchase inspection for a certified pre owned car.

Yeah, “emotional needs and wants” often trump “rational decisions” and since Mrs Beancounter’s salary from advertising helped pay our kids’ college expenses, I’m all in favor of of it, especially the “gotta buy it right now” emotion. :slightly_smiling_face:

You might want to go buy the Consumer Reports car buyer’s guide, lots of info on getting a car, along with reviews of all of them.

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The CR guides are often available online at the public library. In my county I sign into my account with my card ID and search for the online CR URL. All their reviews are available.

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I’d start first with my budget for the car. Look at at the total price of the car, not the monthly payment. That will narrow down your choices considerably.

As far as gas vs. electric…Step 1 ought to answer that question for you. But if some electric cars are still within your budget…consider whether you actually have access to a reliable charging source for the car. It might be frowned upon to run a 100’ extension cord across your apartment complex. But it you have a house with a garage, then charging shouldn’t be a problem.

Good luck.

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A plug in electric hybrid is a good choice for a long term vehicle… IF you have a place to plug it in overnight at your home or during the day at your work. The 20 mile commute is possible with electric only mostly eliminating a gas bill. The car can still travel long distances with simple gas stops.

The next step is to do a search on all the available PHEVs on or See what they cost to buy and own. Take some test drives at the dealer or better the big used retailers like CarMax. Then decide if you want new or used.

Honda and Toyota pioneered this technology and build good products but there are others out there.

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As noted, you may not find a fully electric or plugin hybrid vehicle affordable or practical. As also noted, recent vintage used vehicles are frequently as expensive as new. Given all that, the least expensive new regular hybrid sedan I can find is the Elantra Blue. They’re in the upper $20k’s here in the St. Louis area.

I think hybrids are a good combination of good fuel economy and up-front cost. I’ll be looking at Toyota and Lexus.

Technology like THIS is a good enough reason to avoid cars built after this is mandated.

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As you can see most everyone has a different opinion, all worthwhile to at least consider. If your budget is truely limited at $550 per month max however, I think you best bet is a used car. A make/model/year that has already proved to be reliable. Consumer Reports Used Car Guide has most of that info. If you simply can’t find one on the used car market, which is very tight right now due to Covid, then a new car is next in line. The monthly $ max will limit you to the less expensive models stripped of many of the popular options. It is what it is. I expect one or the other, that’s your best bet.

After you purchase your car you can save considerable $$$ in car expenses by doing much of the routine maintenance yourself; provided you have a diy’er inclination, and have a place where you are allowed to do that sort of work. If so, purchase one of the aftermarket repair manuals (Haynes, Chilton’s) asap, after you purchase the car. You local public library may have the manuals as well.

Suggest to not worry about hybrids and electric cars at this stage in your car owner life. Plenty of time for those later.

If you want to know exactly which cars I’d consider in that situation: Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Mazda 3, or Nissan Sentra. All with as few gadgets and gizmos as possible, and with manual transmission.

Once again I’d avoid the Sentra or pretty much any Nissan because of their history of automatic transmission issues. It’s simply a fact that nearly all cars have automatic transmissions.
As for payments, the OP gave a budget of $600/mo. A $25k loan for 72 mo. might be doable. $25k for 72 mo. at 6% yields a payment of $414 and change. Figure $150 mo. for insurance and you get $564 and change, less with a higher down payment. A new car should require minimal maintenance and many new vehicles include oil changes anyway. I haven’t included gas because that’s a volatile expense.

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Thanks everyone! A lot to consider here, but I’ve felt more grounded by reading all of your input