Car’s are money suckers.
Yay, you have to have one.
Yes, everyone knows someone who managed in LA without a car, riding the bus or a bike or bumming rides. But I would bet the farm they sure as hell wished they had a car every damn day.
So. I came to LA with Charlie. My 2008 Chevy Cobalt with crank windows and manual locks. He was a gem and got me through 10 years (almost 6 of which were in LA). I put 103,000 miles on that baby. And then after my first ever series regular audition in March (I did a great job btw) I hit a large rock on Mullholland Drive and took out the oil pan and part of the engine.
And the process began. My first car-buying in LA. Actually my first solo car buying in my life.
Here is what I learned.
First the big question: Lease or Buy.
I had a lot of opinions thrown my way and after some number crunching I decided leasing was better for me.
Because cars in LA are pretty much driven to their death. And instead of paying a large interest rate for a car that was depreciating quickly, I could pay a standard monthly payment for a set period of time and not owe anyone anything come the end of the lease agreement. And I could earn interest on my current lump sum of money instead of putting it all in a down payment.
Hold on a sec, let’s break this down a little because I think there are people out there who don’t know what a lease is and will be embarrassed to ask….also Google doesn’t answer it quite well because I was one of them.
When you buy a car, unless you happen to have $20,000 cash (in which case why are you reading this, you should be writing this) you will end up with an interest rate on a loan. But you can pay it off in larger increments over time and pay it off sooner if you’d like!
With a lease you are basically paying a monthly payment to use the car.
The restrictions include:
-the car itself: you have to take care of it or else they could hit you with fees at the end (I bought an extra package for $20 a month that covers any physical damage the car may incurred over the 3 year lease term because I am a hot mess of a human and will undoubtedly need it.)
-milage: there are different amounts depending on the car and the agreement you sign up for. For example I did the standard 36,000 meaning 12,000 miles each year.
Here is the cool part about these “restrictions”, on the whole, dealerships are pretty forgiving if you are a repeat customer. Meaning if I go to the dealership a few months before my lease ends because I am approaching my milage, they will probably eat the rest of the contract and let me start a new one with a fresh car. This is by no means guaranteed…it’s just a negotiation point.
The deal itself.
I was an asshole.
I didn’t like playing dealerships against each other but that’s the game.
So I test drove 3-4 cars at the Keyes dealerships (a line of almost every brand you can imagine) on a weekend. I got estimates and business cards from each person I worked with.
And then I left.
And then I called a car broker.
It’s ok I hadn’t heard of it either.
A car broker is basically a middle man between people and dealerships. They don’t take a fee from you because they move so much product for car dealers they get paid that way. The woman I called (Zina at Okuma) got me a few quotes on different cars and they were BY FAR the best deals.
*And then I did the asshole part.*
I called the dealerships I had test driven at and a few I hadn’t. And I told them I would come in that day and sign a lease if they could beat the deal Zina told me.
*I waited till the last day of the “quarter” also, meaning it was March 31st and the final reports of that financial quarter were about due. So they were ready to push some things perhaps more than usual.*
I ended up with a man named Freddy from Honda of Hollywood (fantastically short driving distance as well, win-win!). He got me a deal.
I know it’s “uncouth” to talk about money but ugh I’m so sick of that not being ok.
So heres my breakdown:
$230 a month + $20 coverage package (all the fixings listed above), ZERO down.
All in all this process took me about 2 weeks. But you can certainly expedite the time between the calls.
I also forgot to mention calling your insurance carrier first before you go car shopping and getting quotes on the different make/models you’re considering.
This made a huge difference to me as one of the cars I was looking at was over $25 more a month to insure.
The Honda Civic I chose was actually cheaper to insure than my last car, thus I can bank that extra money for my car payments.