Welcome to First Car Guide

Buying a car for the first time, or even the second or third time, can be a perplexing and stressful experience. There’s so much to know and understand.

What are the best first cars? Which cars are cheapest? Which is safest? What should I pay? How much can I afford?

Where can I find cheap cars? How do I get a car loan?  What if I have no credit, or bad credit? How does the car buying process work? How will I know if I’m being cheated?

What about auto insurance? Which company has the best rates?

Should I buy a new car, or used? Buy from dealer or individual seller?

Can I sell/trade my car if I still owe money? How about leasing?

These are all common questions asked by first car buyers — or any car buyer.

We give you the the answers you need, the expert advice, and the specific knowledge you need so that you can go into your car buying experience with confidence that you’ll make the right decisions, get the best deals, and not get cheated.

Welcome to FirstCarGuide.com

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Cheapest Car Leases – $199 or Less

best car lease dealsMany car companies offer special lease deals on selected models and styles each month. Some are very affordable at less than $200 a month.

This month, we list over 50 leases for $199 or less. The list gets larger every month as car manufacturers increasingly work to attract new customers by offering low monthly car costs.

These are usually genuinely good deals that are worth considering as long as you like the models and styles being promoted. The deals usually only last for one month, require a down payment, and have a specific mileage allowance — usually 1000 miles per month, average. Be aware that these deals may vary by region of the country.

Most lease deals are for 24 or 36 month terms. At the end of the lease you can simply return the car, or you can purchase it for the guaranteed purchase price stated in your lease contract. In some cases, you may have equity in the car (it’s worth more than the purchase price) such that it makes sense to buy it and sell it for a profit, or use it as a trade-in for another new vehicle.

Here are the cheapest car lease deals being offered at this time:

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What’s a Good Car To Buy?

It’s difficult to recommend cars since there are so many choices, and so many types of people and personalities who buy them. We all have different likes, dislikes, needs, and finances. If we were all the same, there would probably only be one car brand, in one model, and at one price.

There are many differences in cars. They are far from being the same. Although they all can get us from Point A to Point B well enough, that’s where the similarity ends. There are different types of vehicles to meet different needs: 4-door sedans, coupes, sports cars, SUVs, trucks, minivans, to name a few. There are differences in size, style, safety, riding comfort, reliability, performance, color, technology, and of course, price.

One of the most important things that automotive consumers can do now to make sure they select the best vehicle for their needs — that wasn’t available until about the last 15 years — is to do research online, on the Internet.  Buyers can find professional reviews and ratings, prices, specifications, and even discuss vehicle experiences with other owners. They can get expert advice on web sites such as this one, see pictures, explore colors, compare models, get fuel economy ratings, and find manufacturer incentives (see http://best-car-deals.buyerreports.org). They can actually request dealer price quotes without first stepping into a dealer’s showroom.

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Car Buying Checklist – 50-Point Self-Inspection Guide

checkmarkUsed Car Inspection Checklist

Use this 50-point checklist when buying a used car
Print it and take it with you as you shop

 

Wheels and Tires

chkboxAre tires worn to unsafe level (less than 2/32″ tread depth at lowest point)?

Tires with less than 2/32″ tread depth at lowest point are unsafe and should be replaced immediately. Less than 4/32″ is unsafe in rain. Less than 6/32″ is unsafe in snow. Hint: Buy a cheap ($5) tire tread-depth gauge at any auto parts store, Wal-Mart, or Sears

chkboxAre left/right tires worn unevenly on front? On rear?

Unevenly worn left and right tires are unsafe and cause handling and steering problems. It might indicate a bent or twisted frame as a result of an accident. Always replace tires in pairs

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How Does a Car Loan Work?

There are essentially two ways to buy a car. You can pay cash, or if you don’t have the necessary cash, you can get a loan. Actually there’s another way — leasing — that we won’t discuss here, but is discussed in a number of other articles on this web site.

When you get a loan, you are borrowing money from a bank, credit union, or finance company and promising to repay that money, with interest, over a specified period of time. You use that money to pay the dealer for your car. Although car buyers can arrange their own car loans with local banks or credit unions, many choose to let their car dealer arrange the loan for them.  Dealers don’t provide loans themselves but work with banks or finance companies on customers’ behalf.

So if you buy a brand new Ford, and need a loan, the Ford dealer will send our loan application to Ford Credit Corporation, who will provide the loan (assuming you are approved). Ford Credit pays the dealer for the car and begins sending you bills for each monthly payment. From now on, until the loan has been paid off, you will be dealing with Ford Credit, not the car dealer. It often takes a few days for the approval to come through.

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First Car Questions

We answer questions from first-car buyers almost every day when we participate on the Yahoo! Answers web site in the Car Buying and Selling section. The majority of those questions come from teens and young adults who have little or no experience in buying, trading, or selling cars.

In the few years that we’ve been doing it, we have seen certain common questions come up over and over again. Some come up numerous times in a single day.

We thought we would post some of the most frequent questions here, and answer them just as we do on Yahoo! Answers.

Here goes.

Q.  How many miles are too much for a used car?  How many miles will I get from this used car?

A. All used cars are different. It’s not possible to say that a certain car of a certain age and of a certain brand that has 150,000 miles is a good car. It depends on how it has been driven and cared for. Some cars with only 50,000 miles are ready for the junk yard, while others with 150,000 miles are good for another 150,000.  Even brands such as Honda and Toyota, that are known to be very reliable, can have serious high-mileage problems. Therefore, don’t make a purchase decision based on mileage alone. Get a professional mechanic to inspect your car before you buy. It’s the actual condition of the car, not mileage, that is important.

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What Car Should I Buy?

which car should I buy? There are literally thousands of combinations of different automobile types, makes, models, styles, and prices, which can make it difficult to choose. However, we will help you determine the perfect car for your needs.

What is a good first car?  Which car is the best buy? Which is more reliable? Which gets the best gas mileage? Should I buy a SUV or pickup? Which car is safer? Which is more economical? Which is cheaper to insure?

What car should I buy as my first car?

If you were to ask this question and you gave no other information about yourself or what you wanted, we would suggest you buy either a Honda Accord or Toyota Camry, two of the most popular and most purchased cars in America. Both cars come in either a sporty 2-door coupe version or a 4-door sedan, and with a variety of engines, luxury features, and safety options. Both also offer gas-saving hybrid versions.

However, if you already know you don’t want a Honda or Toyota, stay with me. I’m not going to try to convince you that these are the only brands you should consider. I’m just using them as a starting point to help you choose the right car for you.

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How to Find a Good Cheap Reliable Car

We hear the question all the time, “Where can I find a good cheap reliable car?”

The people who ask this question obviously have limited funds but are looking for the best car that can be purchased with the least amount of money. Unfortunately, finding a car that’s inexpensive AND good AND reliable can be very difficult. Although not impossible, it’ll take a lot of looking, test driving, and inspecting before the right car is found, at the right price.

Cars with prices in the $1000-$3000 price range (cheap) will nearly always be cars that are at least 10-15 years old, with lots of miles, considerable wear-and-tear, and may have been damaged at some time in its life. Again, this doesn’t necessarily make them bad cars, but it’ll take some effort to prove otherwise.

We also often see questions about which vehicles are the most reliable. Although some vehicle brands such as Honda and Toyota have exhibited outstanding reliability over many years, it doesn’t mean that every Honda and Toyota is reliable, especially those with lots of miles, accident damage, and those that have been driven hard and maintained poorly. It’s not wise to assume that an old Honda or Toyota, or any other brand, is going to be a good (or bad) buy based on the brand’s reliability reputation.

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Do I Need A Co-Signer?

Who needs a co-signer for a car loan? How does it work?

need a co-signer for car loanNew or first-time car buyers are often surprised at being turned down for a car loan because they have no credit history, which unfortunately has about the same effect as having bad credit. Getting a co-signer might be the answer.

Lenders want to see that a borrower has a good record with previous loans and credit cards. Without a history of credit, a borrower represents a risk to lenders. If they don’t know a borrower’s history, they take the low road and assume the worst.

It’s a familiar “catch-22″ situation in that you can’t get a loan to establish credit without already having credit. So what is the answer?

What is the answer?

The most common solution is to have someone “co-sign” your loan contract. Typically, it’s family member who has a good credit score. A co-signer plays no part in the loan unless the primary borrower fails to make payments. In that case, the loan company would have the right to seek payment from the co-signer.

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How to Drive a Manual Transmission Car

stickshiftOne of the questions we see pop up often from young drivers is “How to drive a stick shift (manual transmission) car?”

The question arises for a number of reasons. Some people who are driving for the first time know they’ll be driving a “stick shift” car and are concerned that it might be difficult to learn. Others who have been driving automatic transmissions for years may be looking to buy a manual shift vehicle for the first time.

Manual transmissions (often called “standard transmissions”) were around a long time before automatics. It wasn’t that long ago that most cars had manual shifts although now it’s the other way around.  Manual shift is popular with car enthusiasts who enjoy the feeling of greater control over the operation of their cars. Some car owners feel that a manual is more fuel-efficient and provides better performance, although that’s not necessarily so with today’s much improved automatics.

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Is THIS a Good First Car?

cheap auto insuranceI regularly answer people’s car buying and selling questions on Yahoo Answers (My user name is TiggyWiggy, my cat’s name) and one of the most frequent questions that comes up several times a day is, “Is this a good first car for a teen?”  And in the details, they’ll state what car they are talking about. It might be anything from a 1980s Oldsmobile with 200,000 miles, to a brand new high priced luxury car, to a big SUV, a high-powered sports car, or a 1960s muscle car.

More often than not, the car they like is NOT a good first car. I sometimes think they know that, but they are looking for some opinions otherwise. Often, they are in disagreement with sensible parents who are opposing their poor choice.

Here are some of the kinds of vehicles asked about:

Old inexpensive used car, unknown condition, high mileage

Many old cars, even with high mileage, can be in excellent first cars. However, most old cars have problems, some serious (and expensive), some not so serious.  And no car, even a reliable brand such as Honda and Toyota, are exempt from problems when they begin to age. The only way to know whether such a car is a good first car is to have a professional mechanic inspect it before the purchase. It’s not a good practice to rely on the word of a seller in determining a car’s condition. Not that sellers are all dishonest, but sellers and dealers often don’t know the real condition of the cars they sell.

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Car Loan – In Plain Language

car loan explainedYou, the car buyer, wish to purchase a car but you don’t have the necessary cash.

You need a car loan.

A bank or credit union can provide you the loan you need, or your car dealer can arrange the loan for you with a bank or finance company that he works with. Understand that dealers generally don’t make loans nor approve them.

The bank or finance company explains the loan to you in this way:

“We are willing to loan you our money to pay the dealer for your new car, assuming we check your credit history and find that there is not a risk that you won’t pay us back our money. If you have no credit history or your credit is poor, we may decide to turn you down. We might also turn you down if you do not have a steady source of income that will allow you to repay the loan. If you can get a co-signer with good credit and a good income who is willing to sign with you, we may reconsider”.

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How Are Car Leasing and Renting Different?

Uninformed automotive consumers often confuse car leasing and car renting. They sometimes think the two are the same. They would be very wrong.

The confusion is somewhat understandable because of the similarity of terms to that of apartment leasing and renting. Many of us can remember our parents telling us that renting or leasing an apartment was “throwing our money away” and that we should buy a house instead. Until the recent recession, it was true that you could invest in a house and get all your money back, plus more, when you decided to sell the house later. The house “appreciated” in value and was a smart use of your money.

Cars are not houses or apartments, and don’t act the same. All cars, unlike houses, “depreciate” in value over time and miles. They never appreciate in value — except possibly if they turn out to be classics 30 years from now. You always lose money with a car, whether you buy with cash, finance, lease, or rent. Cars are never good investments (except for some old classics). The average new car will lose half its value in three years, and even more in the following years, regardless of what was paid for it.

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Hottest Cars – What Cars are Best Sellers?

most reliable carsThe best selling cars are those that car buyers like best and buy most often. Given that most of those buyers do at least some research before they make a decision, they choose their cars wisely and make informed decisions. If other buyers don’t want to do the research and make their decisions based on what other buyers are choosing, that’s okay. They still end up getting great cars.

Although we will be talking about best-selling new cars here, the same cars are generally the best-selling used cars as well. Furthermore, we won’t talk about trucks, but suffice it to say that the Ford F150 pickup has been the best-selling vehicle of any type for years.

Before we present our list, let’s take a moment to discuss why some cars are super-popular and others not so much.

Generally, the best-selling cars are those that have the best combination of all the things that buyers are looking for — the optimal “package.” Smart buyers want good value, a reasonable price, quality construction, high reliability, good performance, a comfortable drive, adequate space for passengers and cargo, good styling, good fuel economy, modern features, an excellent safety rating, and maybe some luxury features. They also want a car that is reasonably inexpensive to insure, maintain, and repair.

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Preparing Your Teen for Car Safety: Four Tips

teen car safetyPreparing a teen for their driver’s license is both exciting and frightening. The freedom of driving is exhilarating, but the dangers are real. Car insurance for teen drivers is significantly more expensive than it is for more experienced adults — for good reasons. Inexperience and unsafe driving can lead to accidents, and accidents, even minor fender benders, can make a teen’s car insurance even more costly. Using the following five tips while preparing your teen for safe driving can help to ease your concerns and pay dividends down the road.

Buckle Up

Teaching your teen the importance of using seat belts is one of the most important safe driving tips that they can learn. Drivers and passengers who are properly restrained during the unfortunate event of an accident almost always suffer far less serious wounds, and have a far lower mortality rate, than those who are not wearing their seatbelts. It is estimated by the National Highway Safety Administration that properly worn seatbelts lower the risk of fatal injuries by 45 percent, and the risk of moderate-to-critical injuries by 50 percent.

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I Only Have $3000. What Car Should I Buy?

This is the kind of question I see posted on question-and-answer web sites every day. The details might vary but the basic question is always the same.

The askers of the question seem to understand that $3000 (or $1000, or $2500) is not a lot of money for a car and they are asking how to best spend it.

For a car to be priced in the $3000 range, there are a number of potential issues that buyers should be aware of:

1) The car would ordinarily be a $5000 car, but it has problems that will require at least $2000 to fix.

2) The car is fairly priced at $3000 because it is old and has high mileage, which doesn’t mean it’s a bad car, but it has a high potential for having problems.

3) The car is only worth $2000 because it definitely has problems, but the seller is hoping potential buyers won’t notice.

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Auto Loan Rates – How to Get the Best Rates

car loan rateWhen you buy a car with a loan, you not only pay back the amount borrowed but you also pay finance charges (interest).  Each month’s loan payment consists partly of principle and partly of interest. Actually, the amount of principle and interest changes each month, although the total remains the same. In the beginning, you pay more interest and less principle. Near the end of the loan, you are paying nearly all principle.

The amount of finance charges you pay depends on the interest rate and the length (term) of your loan. Interest rates can vary between different lenders. The interest rate you pay also depends on your credit score. Someone with poor credit will pay a higher rate than someone with outstanding credit. More about credit later.

Interest rates are generally higher for used cars than for new cars. And longer loan terms have higher interest rates than shorter loans.

At the time of this writing the national average new-car interest rate is about 3.0% for a 4-year car loan and a bit higher for used car loans. Dealers sometimes add a percentage point or two for additional profit. This is called “reserve.”

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How to Really Screw Up a Car Purchase

According to questions I see posted on Yahoo Answers, there are a huge number of first car buyers out there who have somehow found exactly the WRONG way to buy a car. They then look for help AFTER they realize their mistake. It’s nearly always too late by that time.

Here’s how NOT to buy a car:

Leave a deposit with a seller or dealer for a car you are not absolutely sure you’re going to buy. The problem is that you may not be able to get your deposit back if you change your mind, unless there is a clear written document that states that you’ll get your deposit refunded and under what conditions. In the worst case scenario, the seller sells the car to someone else AND keeps your deposit. Don’t leave deposits unless you absolutely must.

Buy a used car without having it inspected by a professional mechanic before the purchase. Used cars are sold “as-is” which means you can’t get your money back if you find the car has problems later. There are no “right-of-return” or used-car lemon laws to protect you, even if you feel the seller or dealer committed fraud. You can’t rely on a seller’s statement that a car “runs fine” or “has no problems.” A mechanic’s inspection will cost $75-$125 but can prevent you from making a multi-thousand dollar mistake.

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Are You a Car Salesman’s Dream Customer?

There’s one kind of car buying customer that sales people just love. They are “payment buyers.” 

A car salesperson’s job is to sell cars — and make maximum profit for his dealership. The way to make maximum profit is by selling at the highest possible prices and including as many “add-on” extra items or services as possible.

Some customers are an easy sale but are difficult to make a big profit from. Others are easy on both counts. The latter of these two types are the kind of customers that car salespeople love.

A salesperson’s dream customer is one who has done little or no research about cars they might be interested in, understands almost nothing about the car buying process, knows little about car pricing, has few negotiating skills, but most of all, wants to negotiate monthly payments, and only monthly payments. These customers are called “payment buyers.”

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What’s Wrong With Car Leasing?

car leasingIs it smart to lease a car? Is leasing a good idea? What’s wrong with it, if anything?

The answer is that there’s nothing inherently “wrong” with leasing a car. It’s a perfectly valid and popular form of automobile financing. It’s not renting (often confused with apartment leasing). And because it’s a bit more complicated than buying a car with a loan, it’s very often misunderstood.

We often see advice from uninformed people on automotive question-and-answer forums advising other people against leasing. The reasons they offer are things such as, “it’s a dealer scam,” “it’s stupid,” “you pay all that money and don’t own the car,” “you’ll get hit with surprise charges and fees,”  or “it costs more to lease.”

There is some truth in all of those responses but it’s not as simple as that. These are oversimplified answers that create false impressions about leasing.

Let’s take a look at the real answers.

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What’s a Good First Car?

first carI frequently visit the popular web site, Yahoo Answers, and answer questions about cars there. Many of the questions are from teens and other young people who are buying their first car.

One of the most common questions is, “What is a good first car?” or simply, “What is a good car?”

Sometimes the asker has already narrowed down his or her choices to a few makes and models but, more often, they simply don’t know and want some advice or suggestions.

It’s difficult to recommend a specific car to someone when you have no idea of their needs or preferences. But I usually suggest the popular Honda Civic as a good first car because it has a great combination of most of the things that buyers are looking for. It offers a lot of car for a relatively low price, whether it’s used or new. It’s very reliable and won’t be expensive to maintain.  It has good gas mileage which makes it relatively inexpensive to drive. Insurance costs are low, compared to many other cars. It’s safe and comfortable. And its 4-cylinder engine provides peppy performance.

Although the Civic is a great car for a great price, it doesn’t fit everyone’s needs.

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Fix My Old Car or Buy A New Car?

fix old car or buy newShould I keep my old car and fix it up, or buy a new car?

Expressed another way, the question is this: Is it smarter, more practical, and more economical for me to keep and fix my old car than to buy another car, new or used?

This is always a tough one to answer. Generally, it’s going to be better to fix up an old car than buy a new car every five years or so.

However, the real answer depends on your particular circumstances. Here are some tips that will help you make a decision

How old is your vehicle?

Older, high-mileage vehicles are more likely than newer vehicles to have problems. There are exceptions, of course. Older vehicles also tend to have more serious problems, such as engine and transmission failures, that are expensive to repair.

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How Much Should I Pay for a Car?

What to Pay for a Car — What’s a Good Price?

what should I pay for my new carHere’s how to determine a fair price for brand new cars (see below for used-car pricing).

What to Pay For a New Car

All new cars have a window sticker that displays the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP). It may also include destination charges, dealer-installed option prices, and other miscellaneous charges. The total of these charges is the price you would pay for that vehicle, less sales tax, without any discounts or rebates.

All these charges but destination charge can be negotiated. Manaufacturers charge dealers this fee for vehicle delivery, and dealers simply pass it along to customers without markup. It cannot be eliminated from the cost of a car.

Price can be negotiated for most vehicles. Unless the vehicle is a hot seller and in short demand, it’s usually possible to get dealers to discount the MSRP. But, how much? What’s the best price I can expect?

Here’s your strategy for negotiating price. Read more

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Common Car Scam

car scamThe most common car scam is one in which a nice car is listed for sale at a low price on Craigslist.com, Autotrader.com, or other web site.

There is no hint, other than the low price, that it is a scam. They show you a couple of good pictures of the car and even provide the VIN number.

So, what’s the problem.

The problem is that the picture of the car and the VIN were snagged somewhere on the Internet and it’s not the “seller’s” car. In fact, the “seller” is only trying to get your attention so that he can separate you from your money.

You won’t find out enough details to determine it’s a scam until you contact the “seller.” At that time you’ll get an email from him much like this one:

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0% Car Loans – Zero Interest

Car manufacturers are constantly offering low-interest loans and other incentives to help sell cars.

With “normal” interest rates around 3.0% at the time of this writing, it’s not much of a stretch for car companies to offer 1.9%, 0.9%, or even 0% loan rates.

A zero-percent (0%) loan means no interest at allno finance charges for the life of the loan. Some car company deals limit no-interest loans to 36 months but some extend it all the way to 60 or even 72 months.

Understand that no-interest loans are not something you can get by negotiating with a dealer. These promotional loan deals are only offered by car manufacturers on selected models and styles for a limited amount of time.

How much money do you save with a 0% loan?

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Quick Guide to Buying a Car

guide for first car buyersFirst-time car buyers are often unaware of everything that’s involved in the process. It’s not surprising because it’s not simple and not like buying anything else that we normally buy, even a house.

We’ll explain it all in this quick guide to buying a car. Further details can be found in the various articles posted on this web site.

1. Decide on a Car

Choosing a car for the first time can be a bewildering experience because there so many choices — old cars with lots of miles on them, newer cars with better safety and tech equipment, small cars, compact cars, sedans, coupes, large cars and SUVs, sports cars , fast cars, fuel-efficient cars — not to mention all the different makes, models, and styles that are available.

Decide what kind of car you want or need and what’s important to you. Do you want good looks, safety, good gas mileage or high performance, automatic or manual transmission, 2-wheel drive or 4-wheel (for winter weather), sporty 2-door coupe or 4-door sedan or convertible, passenger car or roomy SUV or minivan? Do you want good reliability and dependability, and low insurance cost? What is is your budget and how much can you afford, either as a cash purchase or as monthly loan payments?

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Copyright FirstCarGuide.com 2008-2013. All rights reserved. Author: Al Hearn