Buy A Car With Personality

Matt is going to be saving for a car on his own, and one of his friends got his first car and discovered used car dealerships refuse to take cash for a car. How can Matt avoid this hassle?

QUESTION: Matt in Omaha just turned 16 and is looking for a job. He’s been through Financial Peace University and is going again. He’s going to be saving for a car on his own, and one of his friends got his first car and discovered used car dealerships refuse to take cash for a car. How can Matt avoid this hassle?

ANSWER: To start with, your friend is not telling you the truth. Plenty of used car dealerships take cash. Matt, that’s absurd. There may be one or two that are trying to push tote the note or financing on you. And they may push financing so hard that it feels like they won’t take cash. But if you write them a check, they will sell you a car. That’s ridiculous.

You might not buy it from a used car dealer anyway. It’d be okay if you got a good deal there. I endorse a few good used car dealers around the nation, and there are some. In addition to that, there’s always Craigslist. There are always classified ads to where you buy directly from an individual.

My guess is your budget, based on what you’re describing, is going to be pretty limited. The best $1,000 cars are what I call garage sale cars. I think you’re going to buy those either from an estate sale or literally at a garage sale. You might find one on Craigslist that way. When you’re buying a $1,000 car, I think this is exciting for you because this is a car that is going to be ... What you’re looking for is something so ugly that it needs a name, like the Blue Goose or something. You’re going to give it a name. It’s going to be legendary around the high school. Those are some of the coolest cars that people drive. What you’re looking for is something that is not necessarily a cool car. It probably isn’t. It’s not necessarily a cool color. It probably isn’t. But it’s very mechanically sound. The truth is if you’ll think that way, you can get a lot of transportation, a lot of utility, for $1,000. If you’re trying to look for something cool, what you’re going to get is something that’s been completely ragged out, and the mechanics are used up. You’re looking for the classic hoopty.

Keep in mind this is not the car you’re going to be driving forever. This is the car you drive while everybody else has a car payment, and you bank what would’ve been a car payment. Then you move up. Then you move up again. And then you move up again. You may own three cars by the time you get to college. That’ll be okay. It’s still cheaper by far than having a car payment, and it’s an adventure. It’s a treasure hunt. You’re not going to just waltz up on the car dealer lot and just write a check for something. It’s not in your program. It’s not what you’re set up for.

Be looking at estate sales. Look at the auction section of the newspaper. You can find some of the coolest old stuff that way that’s really got a personality. And it’s got to have some benefit because it’s not really much of a car. But it’s temporary, and you’re establishing in your life a set of values and a set of processes that are going to serve you for the next 30 or 40 years. You’re really to be commended at your age for being so mature to even have this discussion, much less to actually live out these things.