This post is a part of our weekly International Voices column, writing by UT students, for UT students. Enjoy!
Thanks to the bike-friendly roads and widespread Capital Metro network, having a car is not a must to commute in Austin. That being said, road infrastructure is the number one thing that I like about the US. So I would say, without driving experience, a stay in the US wouldn’t be complete. Also, just due to the culture of this country, learning to drive and carrying a driver’s license is very helpful, particularly if you go out of the Austin for conference, sightseeing, etc. Having a car is definitely not required to learn how to drive, but it is always convenient if you own one. This blog is meant to be a pointer to the things you should think about before/after buying one.
*Please note the following opinions are based on my experiences buying a car, they are my opinions and may not reflect the opinion of ISSS.*
New or Used?
The first and foremost thing in this regard is your budget. If you can’t spend more than 3-4k, buying a used one is a practical option. However, if you can budget more than 5k and/or if you plan to stay in the states after you graduate, a new car may be more appropriate for your situation. You should think about budgeting: Could you afford a 5k as down payment and at least $200 for the monthly installments? Some things to also consider: the cost of maintaining a used vehicle, gas mileage, and the cost of parking.
Dealer or Owner?
If you are thinking about a new car, you could start your search by looking for the offers from your local dealers. For used cars you can start looking through for advertisements by the owner. Either way, try to know the market price first. There are several websites that provide evaluation for new/used cars, such as Kelley Blue Book. From your market research, decide on a car (make/model/mileage) that suits your budget. Take a friend, and visit the nearest dealers to find out the deals they can offer. The best way to negotiate with dealer is to tell your budget and expectations upfront. Many people use craigslist for buying used car. However, never respond or visit a craigslist seller alone. Also, always have a third party mechanic inspect the car before you purchase it.
Do’s/Don’ts in buying a car:
1. Evaluate your situation. Don’t buy it if you don’t need it (again, you don’t need a car to commute to school)
2. Don’t decide to buy a new car if your credit score is low (improve your credit first, this will save you a lot of money)
3. Do your own research before you start looking for cars (also, get learner’s permit)
4. Tell your friends/classmate/colleagues that you’re planning to buy a car (sometimes the best car deals often come through personal network)
5. Don’t think you need to do everything on your own (seek help from an experienced driver who knows cars, engines, etc.)
6. Never buy a car without a test drive (including driving on the highway)
7. Never go for a test drive unless you checked the VIN using websites like Carfax.com (ask if the owner/dealer has such report ready )
8. Get the insurance before you bring the car home (you never know what happens on the way)
9. If you contact a seller and inquire about a used car, don’t go alone to see the car in person
10. Make sure you have insurance! Liability insurance is required if you own a car (however, consider keeping full comprehensive and collision coverage for at least 6 months after you get your Texas Driver’s License)