Flying Solo: The Used Car Lot

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I don’t have much knowledge when it comes to cars. If anyone starts rattling off stats about cars, I quickly seem to go comatose and my eyes slightly glass over, looking for a quick redirect to any other topic of conversation. For those of you who know me personally, it was time for my car of 13 years to be replaced. “Little purple” as I affectionately called her was a sad sight. Most of her clear coat was gone, paint was starting to rust through, her roof liner was dry rotted, and 3 out of the 4 interior door handles were broken.

When it comes to flying solo, there’s nothing quite like a visit to the used car lot to wrack you mentally. I don’t have the person to break out all of their car knowledge, do heavy negotiating, and know the stats on every car. Rather, I come in with my feeble carfax reports, comps, and hoping that a purchase will come in at my price point. To be honest, I can’t get out of my head the picture and stigma of a used car salesman. Whether it’s the greasy hair, thick combed mustache, Ron Swanson character, there’s something that is always stereotypically correct when you encounter the first character off the lot. But we’re all about facing fears, finding courage, and being the single lady that can handle most anything, so we headed to the car lot, knowing a car we had in mind.

Here’s a few tips when flying solo at the used car lot:

1.  Do your research.

Much like purchasing a home, a car is a major purchase. Do your research. By using, find specs on the make and model of your car. It’s always wise to show a seller that you know your stuff. By doing significant research, you’ll be prepared for a purchase and feel like a confident buyer.

2. Don’t allow yourself to be talked to death.

When sitting down to negotiate a price, know what your all-in number is. Start your negotiations lower, knowing that your initial offer will be countered. During this process, tension can start to run high. Don’t allow yourself to be talked to death. (A tactic often used by those in sales to complete a sale.) Know yourself, know when you need to take a minute away from the negotiating table, and come back with a level head. During my transaction, I might have even kindly said, “I can hear you and I have heard what you said. Continuing to talk isn’t going to close a sale any faster.” Stating your boundaries is always a good idea.

3.  If you can, purchase in cash.

I had saved up and worked ridiculously hard for my car for around a decade. That seems crazy and not something most people can do. However, if you can I highly recommend it. As much as would have loved to reenact a scene from Breaking Bad with briefcases of cash coming in, that takes a week’s lead time from the bank. Instead we went with a cashier’s check and enjoyed living debt-free.

3. Bring a friend.

You know the one that knows you, your mannerisms, and the ways you process information? Bring a friend, confidant, and someone to bounce ideas off of. I’m an external processor and speak things out as I make decisions.

4. Take a long(er) test drive.

I was buying a vehicle to meet my needs for both recreation and daily driving. A car where I could car camp and carry my kayak were an absolute must. I opted to take the car on a longer test drive through nearby mountains. At around 30 minutes out, it gave plenty of options for the car to truly show me what it could do.

5. Choose to be unemotional about the decision.

In hindsight, this is something I could have done much, much better. In the midst of a big decision, excitement and emotion can easily run high. I had the car of my dreams finally in my price point and within reach.

Any tips for flying solo at the car lot?

We’d love to hear from you! Let us know in the comments below.


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