Last weekend I saw some high school friends that I hadn’t seen since probably mid-college. We were chatting about our lives: trips we’ve been on, career moves we’ve made and accomplishments we’ve had. One of my friends got a new car last year, and I blushed, admitting that I still have the same, old Ford Taurus.
Part of me is hoping that this car lasts forever (mainly because buying a car is expensive), but also because I seriously have no idea what to do when it comes to car shopping. When you buy a house, you’ve got a loan officer, realtor, Redfin, Zillow and a gaggle of excited friends to help you dissect every inch of a house and decide whether you want it or not.
But with car shopping, I feel much less guided. When I went to go test my beloved Mazda3, it was just me and a salesman that looked like Slenderman. And unlike a house, where I knew that I wanted 2 bedrooms, at least 1.5 baths, a patio/balcony and to be within walking distance to my favorite Richmond spots, I know nothing about what car I want. I mean, I know I want it to have four wheels, an aux cable hookup and air conditioning, but that’s almost every car on the market.
How do I know if I want the model I drove? How do I know if that’s a good price? What’s he talking about with the engine numbers? Why is this paint job more expensive than the nearly identical one right next to it? What’s the difference between the speaker systems? How do I know what they’d pay for my car is a fair price? WHAT AM I DOING?!
That internal monologue drove me to drive off the lot in my Taurus, begging the car gods to bless my car with an eternal engine so I’d never have to make a decision.
Years have gone by since the day I went car shopping, but with my car now 12 years old, it’s time to be prepared should my car decide it doesn’t want to drive anymore.
Recently, I’ve started casually looking into what kind of a car I’d want. I’ve used cars.com to do some of my beginning research. Their interface makes it easy to pick the price I want to pay, the type of car I want and where I’m looking for a car. Since I’m just beginning research on cars in general, it’s been really helpful to browse different makes, models and sellers and not just be confined to a single dealership website. Plus, they include summaries, pictures, videos, Carfax reports and price comparisons so I can compare options side-by-side. It also feels less biased, since they're selling all different kinds of cars from different sources.
And as for what is my car worth?
Cars.com also can help identify what your car is worth. Sadly – but not unexpected – my car is not worth very much anymore…. But maybe the good memories we have together help bring the retail value up? Nope? Bummer.
But I digress.
One day – hopefully far, far into the future – I’m going to have to buy a new car. And with the plethora of information that cars.com aggregates for us, I will be less panic-stricken than I was back in the Mazda dealership back in the day.