Thanks to a combination of wrecks and parents, I'm going to be hunting for a decent used car this week. My car shopping experience to date is fairly limited. I was involved in the hunt for my first car and was the one who found it in the classifieds in the paper, but my parents made all the decisions. They set a budget, looked at Consumer Reports buying guides, and decided on a Ford Taurus. I, who had managed to reach the end of my senior year in high school without getting a driver's license, didn't really have any say in the matter, or else I would have had no car at all.
Immediately after moving to the Delta, I helped my friend U. go car shopping. I'd expected to offer little more than transportation from one dealership to another, but he was someone who'd lived with his parents throughout college and never had to deal with so much as checking his own oil. He's also the nicest man on the planet and had this idea that he wanted to "put money into the local economy" when purchasing a car. U. was lost, and he asked for advice. I'm not a car guy, but my dad is so I grew up reading Road and Track, changing spark plugs, and helping bleed the brakes on the Mustang. I may not be an expert on this, but I was in better shape than U. Fortunately, when two twentysomethings of opposite genders go into a dealership together, it seems to be a universal assumption that they are buying a car together and will want to go off and talk about things. Thus I was able to steer U. away from the satin shirt clad vulture at the first dealership, introduce him to the Kelly Blue Book so he could determine whether he was being cheated, and gently inform him that driving three blocks at 30mph does not constitute an adequate test drive. Still, the ultimate decision was his.
Now I've got to sort out what I want. My still achy neck has convinced me to scrap my plan that my next car would be a Miata. The priorities are now crash test ratings, reliability, and decent gas mileage. Beyond that, I don't really know. My dad advises me to buy Japanese, but I've been very happy with my Ford. I haven't quite figured out my budget yet either. The car fund was at $6,000, but I could probably go as high as $8,000 without feeling overly pinched. Is $2,000, a vast sum to me, likely to make a big difference in the quality of the car? Any advice from my wiser and more experienced readers on how to avoid screwing up the first major purchase of my adult life?