Zoom Zoom: Adventures in Car Buying

Most of you who know me know I work from home, but I drive all over Charleston to run with friends and hang out. Some days, I stay at home and run more miles than I drive, but based on where I live in relation to well, everything, I have to own a reliable car.

Until recently, I drove a 2001 Honda Accord Coupe. As a college senior in 2006, I was on my way to class at Francis Marion University one day when I saw the car on the lot and stopped to take a look. I called my parents to tell them about it, and the next day, my dad checked it out and took it for a test drive. After talking to my parents and driving the car around campus, we knew it was the car for me. My dad helped me purchase the car with inheritance money from when my grandma passed away in 2005, along with leftover college savings.

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Driving an older car, I’ve had to spend several hundred dollars each year on maintenance. I had no issues with this, as it was always less than 2-3 car payments if I had a newer vehicle, and I budgeted for those repairs before they happened.

Over the holidays, my Accord started having some transmission issues. The car stalled in traffic, and it didn’t have as much power as it once did. I took it to the shop and found out the cost to fix the transmission would be worth more than the car’s trade-in value.

Through the years, my Honda Accord was reliable in getting me from place to place, race to race, and keeping solicitors away from our home. The back of the car was home to several fun running stickers.

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I loved my Honda Accord Coupe, but it was purchased when I was a college senior, single, and lived on campus. As a 30-year-old married homeowner, I have different needs- and it was time for an upgrade. I had to make the second biggest purchase of my life so far: a new-to-me car.

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I budgeted between 10-15K (before trade in) for a car, then started my search. When you purchase a car, you don’t make impulsive purchases because it takes years to save that money. I was very diehard about staying within my budget and not buying any car until I slept on it.

After looking at inventories online, I visited two car lots and test drove a 2013 VW Jetta, a 2012 Civic Coupe, and a 2013 Civic Sedan. I liked the Civic, so on New Year’s Eve, I dragged Clay to the car lot to look at it. The air conditioner went out in Clay’s car a few days before, which isn’t normally a problem in December, except Charleston is hot year-round.

Clay ended up buying a 2015 Honda CR-V that night. He bought from the showroom and it was fun watching the get the car out.

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On our way home from buying Clay’s car, we stopped at Fred Anderson Toyota– just to look around. That’s when we noticed the 2013 Mazda 3 Hatchback. This car lot didn’t list the prices on the cars and was closed, but we looked at the dealership’s inventory (yay smartphones) and found that it was within my budget. Since it was New Year’s Eve, we waited until Saturday to test drive the Mazda 3.

The internet listing didn’t do the Mazda justice, and I fell in love with it after the test drive. I am 5’0” (hence the blog name), and sometimes we shorties have different car needs. The Mazda driver’s seat sat higher than the other cars, and I didn’t have any weird blind spots. The hatchback model makes good use of space- and there’s a lot of space. The salesman who helped me, Tony, was over six feet tall but could still sit comfortably in the car, so it’s truly a great car for people of all heights and builds.

I left the Fred Anderson Toyota lot with a new ride at the top of my list, but as always, I slept on the idea of purchasing it and talked to a few Mazda owners, including Kindal who also has a Mazda 3, to get their feedback.

On Sunday morning, I went for a nice long run with friends, where I thought (and we talked) about the car purchase. That’s the good thing about distance running- sometimes insights and ideas come to you on the run and it’s helpful for hashing out pros and cons in your heat.

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After my Sunday morning run, I refueled, recovered, and changed into real-girl clothes, then went to the car lot to bargain and purchase. The car dealership didn’t try to steer me toward another car or pressure me to finance, and I was comfortable with the purchase. I feel like I got the best deal my budget could buy, and I was slightly under budget.

So far, I’ve been more than happy with my 2013 Mazda 3. I’ve had to learn the ins and outs of my new-to-me car, including how to dim the headlights, work the rear windshield wiper (didn’t have this with my ‘01 Honda Accord Coupe), and use the dual climate control (again, my old car didn’t have this).

I have driven the car in West Ashley, Downtown, North Charleston, Mt. Pleasant, and Summerville. I want to take a road trip, but I plan to wait a few weeks until I’m 100% used to the new car and my budget recovers from writing the check. I’m already looking for a potential destination race in SC or surrounding states.

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So, who wants a ride? Zoom Zoom!

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15 Responses to Zoom Zoom: Adventures in Car Buying

  1. Fitnessmomwinecountry says:

    How cute Amy, I hate car buying. Sounds like you had great luck and a pretty good experience.

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Thanks, I did have a good experience with the dealership I bought from. I test drove 4 cars total and I will say as far as dealerships went, this was my best experience. I did not feel pressured toward other (more expensive) cars or pressured to finance.

  2. We are actually looking to purchase a new car. I too work from home but only live within walking distance to the grocery store and my husband works 49 minutes away. Both of our current cars are getting up there in mileage and kind of giving us headaches. Thanks for reminding me that it’s important to stay within your budget. Cute car!!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      That sounds like our situation. Clay commutes to Mt. Pleasant for work each day (not 49 minutes away, but probably a 35 mile drive each day). I live within walking distance of a few gas stations, fast food joints, and a grocery store/shopping center. But only the grocery store is walkable, since the others require crossing a major highway. I’m glad to have a set of wheels and that I didn’t have to go without a car for awhile!

  3. Pam says:

    Car buying is so stressful because of the negotiations for an appropriate price. We always wait a few days on our car purchases too and make sure we are happy with our choice, price etc. Congrats on your new wheels and consider Wilmington for a destination race. We have some nice ones to choose from and it’s a pretty place.

    • Amy Lauren says:

      I am considering Wilmington! In fact, I was looking at the Race 13.1 there in a few weeks. I haven’t ever been to Wilmington, in fact, and think it would be a neat place to visit. Plus the race there would be flat.

  4. Hollie says:

    Glad you were able to find something you liked. I felt so bad with all of the things you had to deal with last week with your vehicles!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Thanks, yeah it was tough having one car’s transmission go kaput and the AC go out in the other one- especially since we had a heat wave in SC. Clay and I are both very satisfied with our new cars.

  5. Angela says:

    Happy New Car, it’s a beaut!!! Xx

  6. Congratulations on your new car! It’s gorgeous. My mom’s old Italian tradition when someone buys a car is to throw silver change on the floor – no pennies! It’s supposed to be good luck. I hope someone throws change on your floor! I’d do it if I were in SC.

  7. Laura says:

    Yay for new cars it’s not always a fun process but the outcome is nice! My sister and brother have that same Mazda and love it! Bummer about having the issues you and Clay did with cars but it’s such a good thing you are smart like you are with money, and budgeting- makes the situation easier when it comes to emergencies and situations like this. Enjoy the new ride:)

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Glad to hear they love it! Now that I own one, I have noticed way more of them on the road than ever before… funny how that works?

      I do try to be smart with money. One thing I’ve learned lately is that it’s not about *if* emergencies will happen, it’s *when*. Stinks to be an adult sometimes because emergencies are hundreds or thousands of dollars out the pocket!

  8. Congrats on the two new cars, they both look really nice. I actually drove my Grandpa’s Honda Accord (1.8 sport I think) for about 6 months when I first got my licence. It was a flying machine, probably far too fast for someone who had just learned to drive lol..

    Enjoy the Mazda, I’m sure you’ll enjoy not having to get things fixed all the time seeing as it is so new 🙂

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