Friday, July 1, 2011

Moving Update: Buying a Car

Peanut and I are officially car owners, so it's time to figure out what that's costing us. Here's a rundown of our 'start-up' costs.

$8,700 2005 Silver Mazda 6
$565.60 Sales Tax
$30 Assorted registration fees
$223.84 Insurance policy
$56.12 Gas

$9, 575.46 Total

We paid cash for the car. Well, technically, it was a cashier's check from the bank, but same difference. Here's how my week arriving in Minnesota went:
Tuesday - arrive at midnight
Wednesday - search Craigslist all day for cars to test drive. Go to bank to get my name put on Peanut's local account. Drive two cars. Decide we like the second one and make an offer over the phone that night. Offer accepted!
Thursday - Go to the bank and get $8,700 cashier's check, after being on the account for less than 24 hours. At lunch, go pick up our new car! Learn to parallel park very quickly. Check email and find out the movers will be arriving tomorrow. Back to the bank for ANOTHER cashier's check for $3,000 and change for final moving fees. I've only been on the account for a DAY and I've now basically cleared it out. I wonder what they must've thought.

PF confession time:
Something you'll notice missing from that list - we didn't get the car inspected by a mechanic before we bought it, and it was a private sale, so no warranty for us. Yeah. Exactly what you're not supposed to do, right?

Oh, well. I've taken auto mechanics classes and I'm fairly knowledgeable about how cars run and what kinds of things cause problems and when. This one had all the maintenance it was supposed to have had, with bills/receipts to prove it. The guy who sold it to us was the only owner, and he was upgrading to a car his parents gave him - he wasn't looking to make a ton of money so that he could replace the car. He priced it fairly, actually under Blue Book value due to some cosmetic wear and tear on the inside, and he was forthright about everything. The car drives fantastically, has slightly-lower-than-average mileage for its age, and, well - I'm confident in it. We even found a service that will send a mechanic over to look at a car that you're considering and give you a report - but we still felt comfortable going without.

Other things to note:
Minnesota charges 6.5% sales tax on private sale vehicle purchases. WHAT?! That was a fun surprise. The other fees were minimal - $8 for this and $4 for that, but sales tax - ouch.

Our car insurance costs went up from our non-owner's policy to an owner's policy (and also when we changed states). We have liability but not comprehensive or collision. Our emergency fund allows us to self-insure to the point that, if we needed to go out and replace this car entirely with one of equal value, we can afford to do so. Let's hope it doesn't come to that!

And lastly, on gas mileage - we've had the car three weeks and have had to fill up only once. That's including what I expect will be fairly average driving - my daily commute, some in-town errands or visits, and a couple of trips out to the suburbs to see Peanut's family. We'll probably spend $85-100 on gas per month if prices stay where they're at for now. I found a free app on my phone that allows me to find the cheapest gas near me, so that's useful.

On parking - well, I included the parking permit deposit ($10) on the other post and maybe it should've gone here. Our parking space at our apartment costs us $55 per month and is GREAT - parking in our neighborhood is a nightmare, and our spot on the waiting list opened up the day after we bought the car. Good timing! Peanut's downtown parking spot is free (for now) and parking at my job is free, and so far I've managed to find free parking everywhere I've driven in town. I have a roll of quarters in the car for metered parking, and I'm not sure how I'll keep track of that because we don't include coins in our spending tracker, but maybe I'll jot a note down in the notepad we're using to keep track of mileage.

It's weird being a car owner again. I have a lot more freedom to come and go, and I enjoy driving. But it's a lot of responsibility as well, and it's cut into my reading time - no more sitting on the subway and reading for a half hour each way! Another unexpected financial impact: I find that I need to drink my coffee at home, before I drive on the freeway, so I will have to start buying coffee most likely. Previously I drank it at home sparingly enough that I could make it off of free samples and what people have given me as gifts. No more, I think.

We had budgeted enough to spend up to $13,000 on a car, but I'm happy that we came in well under that amount, even with all the other costs included.


  1. Nice job on finding a good car! I bought a used car a few years ago, and it's still going great. Auto mechanics class - what an excellent idea! I'd really like to learn more about keeping my car running for as loooooong as possible.

  2. Confession: we've never had a proper mechanic check either! T knows a little about cars and the Dog and Lemon guide not only provides a great deal of info about various years, makes and models, but a good buying-checklist. Even professional auto checks can't pick up everything.

  3. I also just bought a used car via private sale and skipped the inspection. I was a little embarassed to blog about it, but nice to see I'm not the only one!


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