Written by: Dan Honsberger
I really get excited when people ask me if I know how to drive “stick” – it’s the set up for one of my favorite stories about life lessons.
In 2008 my Honda had recently lost its muffler, and I decided to be rid of the vehicle. I stepped into a dealership, and it was love at first sight – a brand new two-door Accord with white paint and (oops) manual transmission. My salesperson kindly taught me ten minutes’ worth of manual shifting, then I drove the brand new car off the lot. I stalled a number of times, but made it home in one piece – I got good quickly because I had to. In my head, this is a story about how I’m a fast learner and enjoy learning by doing. I tend to ignore the fact that I created the problem by buying a car I didn’t know how to drive when I walked in the front door.
One of the downsides of “learning by doing” is that you make mistakes that can sometimes be a little painful. In this scenario, I knew that I wanted a replacement car… and that was about it. I’d done almost no research into key considerations like “What car do I want?”, “Should I buy new or used?”, and “How am I going to pay for this thing?” While it’s a fun memory in many respects, it was in hindsight a teachable moment that I continue to draw lessons from.
LESSON #1 – Be as informed (if not more) than your car salesperson. Know what you want to buy, how much you can afford to pay, and how much you want to pay. One good resource is Kelley Blue Book, which offers new and used car values as well as car reviews. Learn what other people are paying, and what pricing is offered by competitors. Shop around and ask a seller to beat the competitor’s price.
LESSON #2 – Line up financing ahead of the purchase. Figure out what loan terms you want (length, amount, interest rate). Compare your options to find a lender that is offering both a competitive rate and the level of service you need. Even in the olden days of the mid-2000s, when it was normal to send letters through the mail, I found it annoying to mail in a coupon and check every month for my car loan. You have a lot of options between dealer financing, credit unions, and national banks.
Sounds like a lot of work, huh? Here’s a shortcut…
LESSON #3 – Work with someone who knows how to get a great deal.
The expert in your life may be a parent or relative – someone you can call to talk through the steps and help you learn from their experience.
Sometimes, though, your time is better spent elsewhere – furthering your career, enjoying your family, or relaxing at your river house. As our clients’ Personal CFO, our job is to identify those places where we can add value by being a ready-to-serve expert. Whether our clients are looking to buy a car, buy or sell a home, refinance a mortgage, or even just check insurance policy pricing, we are ready to step in to serve; thereby, ensuring our clients spend their valuable time on what is most meaningful to them.
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