Car Shopping

Our New Car

We have never owned a car. In high school and college summers, we were allowed to use the third family car, which we shared with our siblings. Since Pitt is an urban campus {and your student ID doubles as a free bus pass} we never really needed one here.

Our original plan was to buy a car next year after Adam graduates. But, my new job requires a car, so we ended up buying one a little earlier than anticipated. Here's the run-down of our first car shopping experience.

Money Stuff

First things first, we looked at our budget and figured out what we could spend on the down payment and monthly payments. And insurance too, of course. Luckily, we had just received our semi-annual Byrd scholarships {one of our many sources of income!} so were we able to use those as the down payment without having to dip into our savings.

We plan to spend on gas what we used to spend renting a Zipcar for our monthly shopping trips. I will get reimbursed for my gas to-and-from work and we'll still be taking the bus to most of our favorite spots around the city, since we don't want to shell out for parking. So both of those factors will keep our gas spending pretty low.

We also figured out that we wanted a five-year loan. Anything shorter would make the monthly payments too expensive. But a five-year loan means we'll have the car paid off before Adam starts his last year of grad school. Which will give us time to save for the larger, more family-friendly second car we'll need at some point.

New vs. Used

We automatically assumed that we'd buy a used car. But once we started investigating car prices, we immediately realized that used cars were really expensive in our area. Here's the worst example - a 2005 Toyota Camry with 85,000 miles selling for $15,000. Umm, I think I'll take a new car for the same price, please.

Now, it probably would have been possible to find a used car for a good deal. We were in a bit of a time crunch, so we couldn't search Craig's List extensively. And it would have been a different story if a friend or relative was looking to sell. All of Adam's older brothers have bought their dad's old cars, for example.

So, we quickly eliminated the possibility of buying used. But there's always a silver lining. The one thing drawing us to new cars from the beginning was a warranty. We are on a pretty fixed budget and will be for the next several years, so we really didn't like the prospect of expensive repairs coming out of nowhere.

Safety and Space

Our next step was researching new cars. Our plan of attack was to investigate the lowest-end model of each auto manufacturer and evaluate them based on our two criteria - safety and space. Basically, we wanted the safest possible vehicle to transport us and our future babies. And we wanted enough space to be able to travel comfortably on long car trips.

Some cars were eliminated because they didn't do too well in the safety ratings, like the Hyundai Accent. Some just had no storage space, like the Kia Soul. Others were out of our price range, like the starter models at Toyota and Honda. And still others were eliminated because they were out of stock in the area, like the Hyundai Elantra.

We eventually narrowed our search down to two cars - the Nissan Versa and the Kia Forte.

Visiting Dealers

So, we were finally ready to visit some dealerships. On our first day of car shopping {a Friday} we checked out the Kia Forte at two different locations.

The first dealer only had two in stock. One was black, which we eliminated because black cars just get way too hot in the summer. We are hoping to move back to Texas, after all. The other was silver, but had a bunch of fancy add-ons that we really didn't need.

The second dealer had a basic silver model, exactly what we were looking for. We talked to the salesman about the offer from the first dealer and he was able to give us a much better deal.

On our second day of car shopping {a Saturday} we headed to a Nissan dealership and got an offer on the Versa that we were really happy with.

But...we liked the Kia Forte better. It is safer and more spacious. The icing on the cake was that Kia has a 10 year power train warranty, while Nissan only offers 6 years.

We went back to the second Kia dealer and asked our sales guy if he could match the offer from Nissan. We really weren't sure what the answer would be, but after getting approval from his manager, he agreed.

We are spending a bit more than we originally planned, but it's definitely worth it to get the car we really want. We'll just have to cut back a little in other areas. Let's just say we'll be having more spaghetti and scrambled eggs for dinner around here! Not at the same time, of course.

So, we gave him a check for the down payment and arranged to pick up the car on Monday.

And then there was paperwork...

From there, it was just a matter of getting insurance, applying for PA driver's licenses, and filling out a bunch of paperwork.

We bought our insurance from Geico and were actually able to get a better price by going through the dealer {a savings of about $10 a month from the price were were quoted online}. Insurance was cheaper than we originally budgeted, which will definitely help make up for our slightly-more-expensive-than-planned car payments.

With the whole recent citizenship thing, there were some complications with my driver's license, so we actually ended up getting the car yesterday.

We are so excited about being able to just... go places! It's a great feeling.

P.S. I should mention that Adam's dad has a Kia Forte too. We have driven his several times {like on the road trip we took last Thanksgiving} and loved it. It was even the getaway car at our wedding!


  1. Congratulations on yet another venture of being a grown-up! Car owners! Let the games begin!

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  3. Congratulations! Both of our cars were purchased used, and we've always paid cash to avoid car payments, so that whole dealership and money down and interest rates thing just freaks me out! Haha. You're so brave!

    I bet y'all are just super excited! You get to be car-owners! Of course, now there's the endless string of oil changes, inspections, and car-washing to deal with...haha.


You are awesome.