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I am a recent college grad living in Los Angeles with a current salary of $35,000 at one job and an internship at the other. I used to drive a great 93 Honda Accord, but after 365,000 miles (my dad bought it brand new), it finally died this week.

I'm now in weird position. I need a car to get to my jobs, as they are too far for public transportation (the problem most Angelenos face). The other thing is that my salary job is VERY unstable due to my boss' extreme temperament. I'm doing all I can to actually move away from it to something else, but I have a feeling if I do, I will suffer a serious pay cut in exchange for a better work environment. Yet I'd need a car to even interview (I missed out on an opportunity this week because I couldn't get there soon enough through public transpo) My parents are in no finical situation to help me either.

All that being said, what would someone recommend about getting a car? Should I go new or used? How could I go about getting something with a rocky job situation where I may move to something with less income? My credit history is not long. Credit card with the bank and I've always paid on time and a large sum above minimum, but never able to fully pay off card in one shot (had to buy bed, car repair, suits for work, etc.)

Any advice would be appreciated, and thank you!

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    How much cut can you get from $35K? And how can you even consider a new car with such an income? No offense, but LA is not a cheap place to live at to the best of my memory... – littleadv Dec 12 '13 at 7:58
  • (approximate) Credit score? Savings? How much of your budget do you currently spend on transportation and save? – ChuckCottrill Dec 20 '13 at 0:09
  • If you don't mind me asking, can you provide details about the car repairs you charged on your cc? I'm just trying to get an overall feel for the condition of the car. – emican May 23 '14 at 21:47
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Never buy a new car if cost is an issue. A big chunk of the price will disappear to depreciation as you drive it off the lot. If you want a shiny new car with the latest equipment (and if you can afford it!), buy a lightly-used car.

Normally I would recommend a 1-3 year old car. 95% of the value, with a big cost savings. But this depends on your financial situation.

Given that you just need a commuter car for mostly highway driving, in a place where the weather is easier on cars, you could be fine with a 5-6 year old import. Camry's, Accords, Civics, etc are all well-built, reliable, and affordable due to their numbers.

As for financing, shop around. Don't blindly use dealer financing. Check with banks and especially local credit unions and see what rate they can offer you. Then, when you are ready to go, get pre-approved (this is when they pull your credit) and get the car.

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    Great advice. You lose 30-40% of value in first 3 years, so buying a 3-5 year old car would save 30-50% of price. That said, a $5-10,000 used car is possible, and still likely in fairly good condition. Keep financing to 24-36 months, and pay a good bit down. The credit union advice is also good. You will pay a higher interest rate on a used car though. And I'm following this advice with a 9 year old Civic with 80,000 miles, paid off and worth $6-8,000. – ChuckCottrill Dec 20 '13 at 0:08
  • In my experience in Southern California, you can buy a cheaper used Toyota from a Honda dealer than from a Toyota dealer, and a cheaper used Honda from a Toyota dealer than from a Honda dealer. This is because people tend to trade in Toyotas at Toyota dealers; Toyota dealers want to impress new car buyers with the resale value of old Toyotas; and Toyota dealers sell trade-ins with problems at auction to other dealers. (Ditto for Hondas at Honda dealers.) I saved several thousand dollars buying a 4-year old Avalon at a Honda dealer, but I had to fix corrosion in the wheels and battery leads. – Jasper Jan 24 '17 at 19:23
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17.5 thousand miles/year is pretty high mileage. You could find an Accord or Civic of comparable age with much lower mileage than that, and it wouldn't be a stretch for someone (even with your limited credit history) to get a loan on an old car like that. You might try to have your parents cosign on a loan depending on their financial circumstances. That's how I bought my first car 13 years ago.

The biggest surprise you might want to consider is the cost of full collision auto coverage which will be required by whatever bank you finance through. Get quotes for that before signing any papers. (I spent $2000 more on a motorcycle because the more powerful one cost $2000 less/year to insure just a few years after I bought that first car.) Speaking of which, another thing to consider given the nice LA weather is a motorcycle. The total cost of ownership is much lower than a car. You will probably not want to pursue that option if you do not have medical insurance, and you may not want to anyway.

protected by Community Sep 23 '14 at 20:52

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