there’s a tree in the engine

SisterAlyson makes a good point that I should post pictures of my car.  Or at least write one other post so that you all know that I’m okay.  I’m okay.  So much more than the car is.  I still feel a little wonky, but I think I’ll heal.  The car will not.  It’s been declared totaled.  And now I have some cash to play with to buy a new car.  Which is not as awesome as just having a car that was getting close to being paid off.  BTW – my mother expressly stated that she does NOT want to see the pictures, so I’ll post them after the jump.

Part of the fun of being a lifelong Saturn owner is that I never had to think about car buying.  I liked the car, I bought another one, I didn’t haggle about the price.  I just got what I wanted in the color I wanted and that was that.  But money’s tighter now, and I have to decide what kind of car I like.  So far, this is what I’ve decided:

I’m not going to get a high-mileage car for under $5,000.  While it would be great to not have car payments, I don’t have anyone in my inner circle who knows cars really well.  And if the car breaks down, I won’t know for sure if the repair is $600 or $6,000.

New cars are out.  Most of the price depreciation of a car takes place at the very beginning.  I was driving a 2007, I wouldn’t mind hopping back into another 2007 if it means saving a couple thousand.

That means I’m looking at some newer used (pardon me, pre-owned) cars.  And in the space of a few days, I’m getting an education on cars that aren’t Saturns, and how to go into a car lot with confidence.  Let me ask the peanut gallery: any tips, insight or horror stories about car buying?

And want to see some pictures of what I’m leaving behind?… After the jump…

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12 responses to this post.

  1. Oh my! Glad u’re oK!

  2. I’ve owned multiple Hondas in the past and they are reliable and comfortable and relatively cheap to fix if need be. I am also a big fan of my Nissan, and the 2007 is the year that I have- I like the design and it’s roomy. That’s all the car advice I can give, but I will say I test-drove a whole bunch of cars before I bought the Altima and I hated most of them.

  3. I rely on cars.com and kelly blue book, to make sure I am not overpaying for a car. I also look at Consumer Reports annual car report, to see which cars have had the fewest problems. And I scan the classifieds, to see what models everyone is dumping. After that, it’s a crap shoot. Good luck!

  4. I have a 2004 Ford Focus that’s been the best car I’ve ever owned. It’s got 150,000 miles on it and never, ever broke down on me or left me stranded. I know others have had a hard time with Focus’ (Foci?) but I haven’t.

    Glad to know you’re ok.

  5. Oh wow! That is really hard to look at! So glad you’re on the mend!!!
    I drive a Suzuki and have amazing love for my car. They aren’t super expensive to begin with and I got mine used. I would buy one again, although, I hope to drive mine for ever and ever.

  6. Posted by badger reader on February 23, 2010 at 10:24 am

    I’ve had 2 honda civics (’98 that was totaled in a 4 car accident and ’99 that 6 weeks later was stolen and used in an arson) and am currently driving a(n?) ’01 chevy cavilier. I love to hate on my chevy for not being a honda, but I have put way less money into this car than I ever did with my hondas (brakes and tires were expensive on those). As for the car buying skills, I stink. I take my dad with me. Not sure if this is wise or defeated. I will probably never buy a new car again as taking that depreciation hit is just too painful. Buying used is tricky because I have found it is hard to negotiate/haggle when there are other interested buyers. I did pay asking price for my chevy, but in return I got free oil changes for the first year.

  7. Eek, those photos give me the shivers. Again, glad you’re OK.

    I wholeheartedly recommend Honda. They have a whole certified pre-owned program that ensures you’re not getting a car that someone abused. I’ve had my Honda for seven years now, and it’s never given me a single problem. Plus, if something goes wrong, it’s cheap to fix and every mechanic around knows how to fix a Honda.

  8. Holy crap! I’m glad you are OK!

    I would go with a Nissan. I have a Nissan and I’ve had it for 11 years and it is still going strong with 150,000 miles on it. My stepmom had a Nissan for like 15 years and the only reason they got rid of it was it was too small when she had 3 kids.

  9. Oh my GOSH!!! I am so glad that you are alright!!! That is terrifying!

    I’ll second Kristabella and tout Nissan. For the sake of full disclosure, I have never owned a Nissan myself, because I have twice bought cars out of IMMEDIATE NECESSITY – like, “I need a car NOW because I am halfway through the state of Texas, my car is broken past repair, and I am supposed to start a job in California in two days.”

    Ahem.

    That said, my ex boyfriend had a Nissan that had 350,000 miles on it. SERIOUSLY. And the thing was amazing! We dated for 6 1/2 years, and the Bullet (the car’s monniker) was in the shop exactly once!

    Good luck, friend!!!

  10. Yikes, I’m glad you’re ok. I’m on my fourth Honda and I can’t say enough for them as a reasonably priced alternative and a VERY safe used car bet.

    If you know exactly what you’re looking for and you’ve got a mechanic you could find to help you out- sometimes craigslist can be a real asset. Another option is edmunds.com its a great site allowing you to compare and even find cars on autotrader in your area

  11. I hear great things about Toyota.

    Seriously, though. I’m glad you’re not buying new, because why does anyone? I’d say just aim for something less than four or five years old and with a good reputation.

  12. Wow, that was obviously some crash. Really glad you are okay.

    We owned a 1997 Altima that was great. Good, reliable car. Ford has also come a long way in recent years. Best thing is to shop around and compare, because the good news is this is a buyer’s market. You’ll probably find some great deals.

    Your good/bad reminded me of when I lost my beloved Volvo S40. Great car that I got for a really great price, one I planned to drive for forever. I got rear-ended at a stop light by some doofus, but luckily the car wasn’t totaled and I got it back looking good as new. About six weeks later, it was totaled (along with the Altima) when a tornado destroyed our garage. It was going to be too much to replace and I didn’t want to buy one with high miles on it, so I had to let it go.

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