My husband and I love driving our used cars.  They’re reliable, super safe and just keep going and going with basic maintenance.  For all of our TLC however, it became clear a few months ago that one of our cars (owned for over 15 years) was ready to go to pasture.  When I put the word out on social media that we were shopping for a car, we got loads of feedback from others that they too were searching for a new set of wheels.  And why not?  The economy is skyrocketing, and many people who put car purchases on hold for the last few years now feel that the budget can handle a car purchase.

What you want to avoid at all costs, however, is paying too much.   J.D. Power states that the average price of a car is now $32,200, much more if you want some bells and whistles. With simple strategies, you can slash that number by over 90%, like we did.  Read on for the easy, proven tactics that made it happen!

First, stay sane when it comes to your expectations – do you want a car that looks like it belongs in a James Bond movie?  Uh yeah, we all do!  But do you need it – no.  Simple as that.

Next, keep the budget firmly grounded in reality – Bankrate.com advises a car payment should equal no more than 15% of your pretax monthly pay.  So if you make $50,000 a year, your monthly car payment could go as high as $625 a month.  In my opinion, shelling out over $600 a month is nuts – that’s $7200 for the first year alone, much more for a standard 4-5 year loan.  No thanks.  Honestly, your best bet is to go much lower – ideally, paying cash for your new car.  If you currently don’t have a savings account devoted to your new car, start one.  Have that same $600 automatically deposited into your car account, and by year’s end you’ll have $7200 cash to play with.  Inside tip – car sellers adore people paying with cash.  Best of all, you get a new car without a monthly car payment.  Everyone’s a winner.

Next step, finding the best pool of used cars – there are loads of websites that list used cars.  The top four seem to be Craigslist, AutoTrader, AutoList and CarMax.  We bought ours on Craigslist, and I’ve heard from readers who used the other three sites with great success.

One of the most important tips of all – Be patient.  Don’t be surprised if you’re scouring the sites for a few weeks, even months, before you find the perfect car.  Be picky, know exactly what you’re looking for, and don’t be afraid to wait for it.

After several weeks of searching, we found a gorgeous car, test drove it, had it checked out thoroughly by a professional, negotiated fearlessly on the price (Okay, Victor did most of that), and when all was said and done, in this era of families spending $30,000+ for a new car, we drove home in a gorgeous “new” car for just $3000 cash.  If we can do it, you can do it – frugal on!

Kristen Hagopian is a Syndicated Radio Talk Show Host, Columnist & Author of Brilliant Frugal Living.  “The Kristen Hagopian Show” airs on over 80 Stations Nationwide via the BizTalk Radio Network, find your local station at www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com.
She lives with her husband & kids in their fabulous fixer upper Victorian in Chester County, PA.  She is honored to be connected with the crew at the Detox Treatment Help Line (800-287-7891) and Elite Rehab (800-932-4082) to help get the word out about their proven strategies to steer the ones you love away from drug abuse. You can find her online at
www.BrilliantFrugalLiving.com