The above is a screen grab of a 2011 Mazda3 sedan I saw on a car-buying website. This screen grab is the only memento I will have of that car, because by the time I called the dealer, it was already gone. It had been on the lot for a matter of hours before it was snapped up.
This little Mazda caught my eye because of its low miles, one-owner status, service records on hand, and fairly reasonable price considering that Mazdas hold their value like crazy.
“I have plenty of other cars in the same price range!” the salesman chirped. “Come on in and we’ll see what we can get you into!”
I bet you will, Slick. Next!
I’m sure he meant well, but I just don’t have the stomach for dealer shenanigans, hence my plans to check out Triple A’s car-buying service when the time comes.
Talk about a car-shopping adventure.
What I’ve learned so far
Bigger is better: Forget coming in with 10% down. Make it 20%. Barring a lottery win or a random appearance by the Fairy Carmother, I will be doubling down on my efforts to work myself into the ground in order to come up with 20% down.
It’s still a seller’s market out this way so prices are inflated, but a 20% down payment will give me more options and could soften the blow of the eventual hosing I will take due to said seller’s market.
My eyes are still bigger than my wallet, however.
My(very) short list:
Mazda3 hatchback or sedan, 2011-2013.
Hyundai Elantra, 2011-2013
Kia Forte, 2011-2014
Who didn’t make the cut: I’ve ruled out Fiat 500 (reliability/quality issues) Honda Civic or Accord (the only ones in my price range were too old with too many miles), Honda CR-V (again, price. Bummer). Toyota Yaris (The only Toyota I can afford to get into, but I’m a raging claustrophobic, so nope).
I’m also not a domestic car gal despite my Detroit roots. I still can’t erase the images of entry-level domestic cars and their crappy fit and finish, walls o’ plastic, cheap materials and spotty reliability. Call me crazy, but that’s where I stand.
I may have an entry-level budget, but I do have my standards.
I’m sure my short list will grow over time.
One of my goals is to not be a shackled to a huge car payment. I’ve played the game of getting into more car than I can really afford, and it’s a nerve-wracking way to live. I was in my 20s at the time. I was young, fearless, and slightly stupid.
I just don’t have time or patience for dealer BS: I’m of very little patience these days, so I don’t want to expend any of that limited patience on a dealer and their BS.
In the meantime, my shoulder will be to the grindstone in the weeks and months ahead in an effort to scare up a decent down payment. Wish me luck.