Buying Your First Car: Don’t Be Fooled By a Pretty Lemon

Monday, 08 July 2013 02:18 Written by  Kim Shine

For most teenagers and young adults, owning your first car offers a level of independence incomparable to many other experiences. So, there is nothing wrong with wanting the car of your dreams. But depending on your situation, there can be a difference in what you need versus what you want. To help ease the decision-making process, here are a few tips to consider when buying your first ride.

Aim high, but know your budget – Most people don’t have the income or savings to afford an Audi as their first car, especially if you’re a college student or recent graduate. Even if you have saved up, it is unwise to break the bank for your first vehicle. Don’t forget, a car (new or used) loses value after it leaves the lot. So, think about the additional expenses, such as gas, oil changes, brake jobs and even paint jobs (if you dig the car, but not its color).

Determine Your Needs – Before you start your search create a “wants vs. needs” list to help choose your car. Is this an A-to-B car (for school or work)? Or is this car for pleasure? Sifting through these qualities will also help you decide whether to buy a new car or a used one.

New vs. Used – Depending on your budget and needs, this can be a very important choice. But don’t get stuck here. New cars are great, because you are the first owner. But many used cars are also in good condition. It all depends on how the car was maintained before it came to you. Regardless of which you choose, don’t be afraid to negotiate the price before you buy!

New car pro: You’re covered by the Lemon Law, which protects buyers from purchasing flawed vehicles. Check your individual state’s legislation to see what is covered and what is not. For instance, in Illinois, used cars are not protected under this law.

Used car pro: Depending on who sells you a car (neighbor, auto dealership) and the car’s age, you could pay less for taxes on the sell. Visit your local DMV site or use the VINquote Calculator to find how much extra you might pay.

Give yourself time to learn – Though you probably won’t think of your first car as a starter, it is. It’s your first experience driving something that you own (or at least drive primarily, if your parents pitched in), so give yourself time to learn the basics. Discover how you drive, how others drive and what to do if your car gets a flat tire. Even though cars may require different types of gas or oil, car maintenance is overall the same.

Use Your Resources! – There are many FREE websites you can consult with information on the best car (new or used) for your needs and your budget. Doing this research before you buy can save you money and time before you test drive. The following sites can help get you started: Carfax, Kelly Blue Book and Edmunds.

 Kim Shine

Kim Shine

Kim Shine is a GlossMagazineOnline (GMO) staff writer. A multimedia journalist, she has reporting experience in entertainment journalism, health and local reporting. Kim is currently pursuing her MS in Journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. She has written for Medill News Service, the Northwest Indiana Times, Level-Up Magazine and Chicago Hip Hop Connects.

She can be contacted at