Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Top Tips on Buying or Selling Your Car

Hey all--no projects this week!  Last weekend I had a blast hanging out with some lovely ladies for a fantastic girls weekend, which didn't leave much time for house projects (but I'm definitely not complaining!).  We indulged in ice cream cake, shopping, and girl talk.  It was awesome :)  

The highlight of last week (not including the weekend of course), was when the husband and I decided to upgrade my car.  As you may know, the husband works as a VW technician at a dealership, and he'd been searching for something newer for me for several months before he finally found what he was looking for last week.  It was a big decision for us, and we went back and forth on it for a few days before finally deciding to go for it. (PS: It's a 2009 Volkswagen Passat, and although the husband does work for a dealership, I wanted to mention they don't give us any special breaks on prices--bummer!).  

All of this got me thinking...we're big-time car people (see the car prints hanging up in our living room for proof!), but what do self-professed non-car people do when they want to buy a car?  Eeny-meeny-miney-mo?  Pick the prettiest one they see and call it close enough?  Please don't tell me that you do that!!  For realsies, a car is one of the biggest purchases you're going to make (aside from your house perhaps), so make sure that you do some research before you sign on the dotted line.  To get you started, here is everything that I’ve learned over the past few years of being married to a VW technician:

When you're looking to buy...
1.       Know exactly what you’re looking for and do your research.  For example...did you know that Volkswagen Routan vans do NOT have Volkswagen engines in them?  Volkswagen has Chrysler’s permission to use their engines in the Routan, so yes, even though there is a VW label in the engine bay, technically you’re not getting 100% fine German engineering under the hood. 

New Volkswagen diesels (called TDIs), need to be driven long distances so that their diesel particulate filters can regenerate themselves.  If you drive short distances everywhere (like me!) a new TDI is NOT the car for you.  If the filters don’t have time to clean themselves out over time, you’re going to be stuck with big time repairs later on. Want a little bit more info on TDIs and how they work?  Check out a post I wrote for my company’s blog here

Moral of the story?  Reading some reviews and conducting some research may help you realize that what you thought you wanted is not actually the best fit for your driving habits. 

2.       Talk to a car technician for a completely honest-to-goodness opinion.  Car techs are not sales guys and the ones that I know do not hesitate to express their opinions.  They’re awesome because they know exactly which issues will most likely pop up on specific car models over time.  For example, the Volkswagen Toureg is a fantastic car, but it will probably cost you more on routine maintenance because it requires new brakes and tires more frequently than other VW models due to its bigger size.  

If you do talk to a technician, be sure to keep it short and to the point, and compensate him for his time.  Any time that he spends with you is less time that he has to get his own work done, so be keep that in mind! 

3.       Avoid buying first year models of anything.  First year car models almost always have those annoying product kinks or defects that need working out.  This also applies for significant model re-designs.  

When I was in high school, my dad bought a GMC Envoy the very first year it came out (hence going against his own advice!) and he ended up finding a design defect in the steering system when you turned a sharp corner with the car. 

4.       Know what you need to pass your state’s car inspection.  This is mostly applicable to any used cars that you may be buying.  For example in New York State, any cars from 1996 and later cannot have the check engine light on to pass NYS inspection.  If the check engine light is on, it will not pass.  Your airbag light is A-OK though (in NYS)--your car inspector will tell you that it's on, but your car will pass just fine.  Knowing all this stuff going into a purchase could save you in costly repairs later on. 

If you’re trading in/selling your old car…
1.       Know what your car is worth.  Check The Kelley Blue Book for an estimate.  It will give you values based on both your geographical location and whether or not you’re trying to sell it yourself (private party sale) or trading it in for credit at a dealership.  This is also a good way to determine if you're getting a good deal on a used car.  

2.       Car dealerships will always offer you less than what your trade in is actually worth because (obviously), they need to make a profit on it when they turn around and resell it again.  The upside is that you get credit for it right then and there, as opposed to making a private party sale (which could take a while).  Convenience or more cash?  The decision is yours!

3.       Price your car higher than what you’re looking to get for it (if you’re selling it yourself).  People want to feel like they’re getting a good deal, so I can pretty much guarantee that they will barter with you.  For example, if you want to sell your car for $5000, price it at $5500 or higher (but not so high that it deters people from asking about it!).  For additional reference, see my tips on buying/selling things on Craigslist.   
Well, I hope that I've given you some good things to think about!  Purchasing a car can be nerve-wracking (even for us!), but you can help ease the pain by being thorough in your research.  Happy shopping!  


  1. Uh lala...I love your car ;) GERMAN CAR :)
    We got one too of course. Huge fan of VW... but I wish we could afford a BMW, haha.
    Great tips too!

    1. Ahh, I know! Originally I wanted another Audi wagon (I was driving a '99 model and it was they the newer ones look so gorgeous), but the husband said that it would more expensive for us to fix over time. Ahhh, I can't argue with the professional! Plus my first car was a VW Jetta so I love VWs anyway.

  2. In addition, stick to your budget. If you set a budget for the car that you like, stick and be strict with it. Don’t go beyond what you can afford. There are a lot of cars and dealerships out there. Don’t just go to one dealership. Explore and enjoy your car shopping! -Stelle Courney

  3. Excellent tips, Sara! Buying or selling a car really can be frustrating, because there are lots of things that need to be considered and done. For me, when selling a car, it is crucial that the car has a good motor engine and excellent mileage in order to be sold at a decent price.

  4. Hi, Sara! Excellent tips!. With all the details you've mentioned, I'm pretty sure more will be enlightened. A car really is an important necessity as it serves as our main mode of transportation. This is why it's very important to know all the aspects first before buying a new or a secondhand car.