I will be 18 in 2 weeks and I need a new car before I start college (in about 6 months). I make around $1200 a month right now and I have $1050 saved. After I start college I will have to get a new job because I’m moving out of state. Can I afford to do payments at a buy here pay here car lot (~$10,000 + full coverage insurance) or should I save up to buy one that is about $7,000.
(You absolutely cannot get a car currently - just totally forget that idea.)
Your plan would be:
Achieve $12,000 in solid savings
Achieve separately, $1,000 saved in a distinct account for emergencies.
If you own a car (a starter car), you need to set $50 a week aside automatically as a "sinking fund" to pay for everything (tires, inevitable repairs, etc). You need a separate account for this. It must be paid $50 a week automatically. (Obviously old people with more expensive cars and many cars, set aside much more than that per week automatically in such a sinking fund.) You must setup the $50/week automatic transfer at your bank and...
You must let the sinking fund run for 10 weeks, for two critical reasons. (A) load it up and (B) prepare for the cost of the sinking fund every week, get used to it.
Once you have achieved 1, 2, 3 and 4, purchase a fine car. For $3500 you can easily buy a car that runs as if new from the factory and has all comforts.
(I recently had to buy a "spare car" and we found an absolutely incredible one for $5,000. For a starter car, $3,500 is in the "magnificent" realm, it would be like me buying a Veyron.)
You MUST achieve 1, 2, 3 and 4 before purchase.
NOTE: obviously, once you have done 1, 2, 3, 4, only buy a car if you truly and profoundly need one. If there's a way to do without, do without.
Remember auto insurance, fuel and maintenance, plus whatever you spend on food and enjoyment: go for a $5-6000 car, and bank the rest for unforeseen events and the time it takes to get a job.
- Money in the bank gives you options -- freedom to choose -- you don't have when there's no money in the bank.
- Make a budget. It's grammar school math, and a simple equation: what goes out must equal what goes in.
In this case, "what goes out" includes saving for deferred spending:
- the oil's going to need changing,
- the tires will need replacing,
- the state makes you re-register the car,
- it's a used car, so things might break,
- if you're in an accident, you'll need money for a different car.
As a parent and Old Geezer: IMO, embrace the notion of "poor college student". When you graduate, you'll have more money and less debt when you graduate.