By Julie Fishman
Unless you live in a public transportation-friendly city, having a whip could be the only thing that saves you from losing your job and spending your Saturday nights stuck at home watching Skinemax. But before you start thinking about balling out with a Bentley or settling for a rusted-out jalopy, you should figure out what fits in your budget . The monthly
payment should not exceed 12-15% of your after-tax income. Use this calculator to figure out how much car you can afford . Narrow down the field by examining your needs (good gas mileage, 4W drive) versus your wants (DVD player, captain's seats). From there, you can think more practically about whether to opt for a new or used vehicle.
If you go the used route, there are a number of places you can look: used car dealerships, new car dealerships, websites like Carmax and ConsumerGuide , and print and online classifieds . In addition to accident history, you should research the number of previous owners, past mechanical problems, maintenance history, and if it has ever failed inspection. Run a vehicle history report using the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), which can be found on a previous driver’s insurance card, the registration, the VIN plate on the driver’s side dashboard and the certificate label on the driver’s door jamb. Check out the Kelly Blue Book Used Car Guide for appropriate prices, but note that the estimates are based on a car in good condition that has put on about 12,000 miles per year. Try to look for cars that are Certified Pre-Owned (CPO), which means they were subject to an inspection more rigorous than an elementary school lice exam and are usually covered by a warranty from the manufacturer. CPO cars cost a bit more, but the added warranty and sanity may be worth it.
If you opt for new wheels, you need to do your research before heading to the lot. You don’t want to be sold a car by a slimy salesman you’ve known for two hours; instead, you should purchase a vehicle you’ve already picked out in the comfort of your own home. As a starting point, check out this list of good cars for recent grads . Go to manufacturer’s websites to check out cars and options. Once settling on a few, check out pricing at Autoweb , Car.com , or ConsumerGu...
By Arielle Sachar
My first love took me places I had never been, had a solid rear end, and gave me lovin’ despite being a little temperamental. So maybe at sixteen, my first love was a 1987 Nissan Stanza that never started, was covered in grease stains, and always smelled like exhaust, but what can you do. After three turbulent years
with Co-Stanza (as I christened her), she broke down and I forced myself to make a decision. Should I buy or lease my next relationship—I mean, car? It’s just one more daunting question in our somewhat adult lives. To make it as easy as possible, here is a guide to buying or leasing a car.
Why Should You Buy a New/Used Car
If you are a monogamist, buy a car. Besides the pride of knowing you have exclusive ownership over your vehicle (and thus can pimp it out to your heart's content), buying is often the best long-run financial option. As far as monthly expenses go, buying a new car is the most expensive option (~$600/month assuming a $20k car and a 6% loan), followed by leasing a car ($350 for the same car/loan), and finally buying a used car (~$280/month assuming a $10k purchase price and an 8% loan). But here’s the kicker: at the end of a lease, you can’t sell the car, thus you can’t recoup any money—all the dough spent leasing it goes down the drain. After you’re finished with a new or used car (5-10 years), however, you can resell it to earn a cash back bonus. Theoretically, if you purchased a car and then sold it at the end of your loan period, the total expense may be cheaper than the aggregate of the monthly lease payments on multiple vehicles over the same time period (but we urge you to do the math on this one before assuming it to be true in all cases).
More benefits: unlike leases, there are no mileage restrictions and no penalties if you rack up 100,000 miles from monthly road trips to Vegas. However, since buying a car means owning it for at least five years, you should carefully analyze your financial stability. Only if you have solid job prospects and expect to be able to pay the monthly loan payments should you think about buying. There’s no reason to go into shock just to own.
Bottom Line: You should buy a car if you can afford it, want your car for a long time, drive a lot of miles, and want the flexibility of knowing you own your car and can sell it at anytime. If you do choose to buy, check out our survival guide on buying a car .
Why Should You Lease a Car
If you like to play the field, you should lease . Some people love that new car smell and always wan...
By David Pekema
Many of us made it through four years of college without a four-wheeled parasite sucking at our financial lifeblood. And those of us who did have a car usually didn’t have to pay for it. But what about now that you’re a big-shot post-grad with money to burn and
homies to roll with? Well let’s break it down . A typical month can easily cost over $1000: car loan or lease payment ($350), four gas fill-ups ($200), insurance payment ($150), oil-change and maintenance (boatload). In many popular cities for recent grads, it’s $1000 you can easily save while still participating in our favorite activities.
Whether you’re commuting to work or trolling the strip mall for fro-yo, you have a wide array of transportation options to get you out of this environment-killing, wallet-thinning hell. So throw a “For Sale” sign on that Jetta and read our suggestions on how to navigate a car-free life.
Commuting to Work
Take a Hike
The easiest, and most obvious, way to get around without a car is under your own power—via walking, cycling, rollerblading, or human-pulled rickshaw. All these options will not only get you from point A to point B, but also provide a little exercise and produce zero pollution. Whatever mode of transportation you choose, it’s important to get the right gear. Walkers will need a good umbrella, comfortable shoes, and maybe an old-school handcart for taking home big loads from the grocery store. Cyclists will benefit from a practical messenger bag, safety lights, and a well-fitting helmet. Transit riders may want a can of mace for the lunatic claiming to be “Mahatma Jesus.”
Unfortunately, there is more to it than just rolling up your pant leg and hopping on a ten-speed. If you want to get to work under your own power, you probably have to live within a few miles from work—Lance Armstrong, Floyd Landis, and Jake Gyllenhaal excepted. Also, you’ll need a backup plan for when the heavens open and walking to work will actually make you look like you swam there. Find some valuable tips on bicycle commuting here. Ride the City maps out bike-friendly routes in NYC.
Zipping around in diamond lanes, reading the paper, sipping lattes—talk about the life. Websites like iCarpool and CarpoolConnect , match commuters with compatible routes and schedules with one another. Less official but still viable are Casual Carpools, an intriguing idea that is becoming more common in the Un...