Brain And Gut Purchases, Cars Included

There are some self-propelled feelings that are in a world of their own: accepting a new job offer, graduating from school, winning an intramural championship, and the first drive in a new car (among others). By self-propelled, I mean that they take a lot of individual effort (in addition to that of several friends, teammates, colleagues, and family members) to make happen. In more obvious words, it’s the toughest goals that feel best when attained.

With that, buying a car is NOT EASY. It takes a lot of time to research, compare, test drive, communicate with dealers/sellers, and work the numbers. When the numbers are worked, they’re usually big. It’s a major financial commitment that can’t be made in a vacuum. There are tons of options out there. How do you know that the car you get is the perfect car for you. When all is considered, it’s a lot to consider.

But in the end, the reward is great. The feeling is awesome. I’ll start with the end product, then give some advice…

I ended up with a 2007 Lexus IS 250 with 19K miles on it. It’s AWD, 6-Cyl, 22/28 mpg, 201 HP, nav system, keyless ignition, backup camera, blue exterior, black leather interior. I got it from CarMax with an extended 6 yr / 72K mile warranty. I LOVE IT. It’s sporty, practical, and very much me. My picture above kind of stinks given the storm we had this weekend, but when cleaned and washed… wowzas. That feeling of pulling out of the lot all registered and complete was accomplishment, happiness, and relief all in one.

I started my research months ago on both the types of new cars and the available purchasing options and incentives. My first realization was that it can get confusing fast and it would take the good ol’ organizational toolbox to best assess my options. Spreadsheets, calculators, and lots of notes…

In general, here is some advice for a car buyer:

1. Be open to everything. Don’t convince yourself that you like something to make the process easier. It’s a lot better to back-track and get frustrated now than to be unhappy with a purchase later. I started with wanting a gas-guzzling, new SUV and ended up with a small, used sedan.

2. Do the math. Don’t believe anything til you have proven it to yourself. If you need to make a decision for a dealer within the next 10 minutes, don’t. It will be your car, and there’s lots of them out there. Most times, the numbers are the best truths on paper. Set limits, estimate expenses, and make your car fit your budget.

3. Diversify your sources of advice. Many people have purchased cars before and therefore have lots of (different) lessons learned. As with many choices in life, the best advice you can get is a lot of different advice from credible sources. Thanks especially to Dad and Christine here though.

4. Last of all, but most importantly, make your purchase with both your brain and your gut. It’s a “One Brain” purchase, requiring logic and everything non-logical. Aside from making the numbers work, you need to find the right balance between power, style, comfort, fuel efficiency… and happiness. When you see you car, you need to be happy it’s your car.

So when it feels right, you’ll know. If you don’t know, then it won’t feel right. How’s that for logic?