Tag Archives: car shopping

I Bought a New Car! Part One: The Decision

For those of you who have already read Take the Wheel, I was in love with my 2005 Subaru Baja. It was the ideal car. I searched for it, I waited for one I could afford, I bought it and threw the dog in the back seat and drove happily ever after.

The Baja in happier days.

The Baja in happier days.

But then.

When I drove with two coworkers to a writing conference six hours east of here, we had to cram our luggage into the fourth seat and wrap our business’s booth gear in plastic so it could ride in the bed — in one of the worst storms we’d seen in a long time. When I drove to the coast with a friend and the dog, we had to cram my luggage, her luggage, and the dog gear into the fourth seat, leaving the bed empty for lack of tie-downs.

I tried upgrading the stereo, and I bought the Baja-specific in-bed bike rack. I wanted to stay in love, but it wasn’t working out. My needs had changed. It wasn’t her; it was me.

I did love the bulletproof Subaru engine and all-wheel drive, so I first fell in love with the shiniest new Subaru of all, the Crosstrek hybrid. Which was way too expensive. So I flirted with the gasoline-only Crosstrek. That flirtation lasted a couple of months, during which time I was amazingly able to convince my husband that my buying a brand-new car was a good idea, despite my position as a freelance writer and book editor (in case you weren’t aware, not one word of my job description screams “Lucrative!”).

But I wrote this book, and I did all this research, and I knew better. I knew it was time to do the math.

Part Two: The Budget

Good News! Cars Are a Wee Bit Cheaper This Year

Everybody knows that the price in the commercial or on the MSRP sticker isn’t often the price you’ll actually pay for a car. After all the hemming, hawing, and haggling, you’ll likely pay a bit less than the official price, especially if the manufacturer has incentives involved, like $1000 cash back.

Happily, the people at TrueCar track these things for us. They look at the average transaction prices of new vehicles — the final price that people are actually paying — and look at how it compares to previous years and months. The good news right now is that passenger vehicles industry wide are half a percent between November 2012 and November 2013. According to TrueCar’s research, consumers paid $30,832 on average for a new car in November 2012 and $30,634 in November 2013. It’s only a couple hundred bucks, but for me, that’s three trips including tip to Maggie, who makes my hair pretty.

Manufacturers are also offering buyers more money as incentives — but only 0.7% more over last year. November 2012 saw an average of $2,490 being handed out for new-car incentives, while in November 2013 $2,507. That not-quite-twenty bucks isn’t going to make a huge difference in my life if I’m buying a $30,000 car. But that’s an industry average; the car you’re interested in might come in on the high end of the incentive scale. Ford and GM, as of last month, were averaging more than $3,000 in incentives, for example.

2014 New Car Prices 8-26 thru 8-30

Conventional wisdom says you should buy a car in September because that’s when manufacturers are rolling out cars for the new model year. Conventional wisdom isn’t wrong. As the new cars roll out, so do their new prices. Here’s this week’s roundup, in case you’re getting ready to do some Labor Day Weekend shopping:

  • 2014 Kia Soul: The hamsters have redesigned their favorite wheel for 2014, with three trim levels: Base ($14,700), Plus ($18,200), and Exclaim ($20,300).
  • 2014 Nissan Maxima: The Japanese four-door sedan has two versions: S ($31,000) and SV ($34,090).
  • 2014 Subaru BRZ: The sporty crossover project with Toyota comes in Premium ($25,595) and Limited (stick shift $27,595; automatic $28,695).
  • 2014 Toyota Corolla: The longstanding little four-door comes in four trim levels: L, LE, LE Eco, and S; prices range from $16,800 for the L to $19,000 for the S.