Giles, 22, of Hampton, Va., put $4,000 down and secured a loan for $21,000. To save the money, she said, she avoided using her credit card.
"It's so easy to just swipe it and get in debt," she said. "So I write checks. Then I don't spend more than I have."
When Sara Boehm, 21, of St. Charles, Ill., shopped for a used car in 2008, she found the equivalent to the legendary car "only used by a little old lady to drive to church on Sundays." Her 1993 Chevrolet Lumina was purportedly driven only to the grocery by an older gentleman, so it had just 38,000 miles. She struck the deal for $3,000, which she had saved from an insurance claim. After combing ads online, Boehm shopped dealers until she found her "Louie" at a dealership.
"It doesn't have air conditioning, which is no fun this summer, but it gets good mileage," said Boehm. A college senior, Boehm looks forward to the day she can replace Louie with the car of her dreams — "a silver VW Beetle with air conditioning."
"If I had all the money in the world, I'd get an Aston Martin Vanquish like James Bond has," said Jim Schreiber, 24, of Lisle, Ill. Meantime, his first car had to cost a bit less and have enough room to lug supplies for his new tea distributorship.
After researching online and driving friends' cars, Schreiber chose a 2010 black Ford Fusion. He paid $7,000 down and financed the rest through a bank loan. His savings strategy was to set aside a monthly amount that totaled what he would pay for his car payment, insurance and maintenance, until he had enough for a down payment. "Then, once I got the car, it wasn't such a huge shock to have that money taken away each month."
Rebecca Fleischmann, of Coral Springs, Fla., praises her parents for raising her to be a saver, not a spender. So in July, at age 19, she bought her first car from CarMax.
The red 2004 Toyota Matrix (nicknamed Ruby) has been around the block a few times, but Fleischmann learned from her online research that Toyotas have a reputation for surviving well into six-digit odometer readings.
Fleischmann paid $2,500 down from the car account she had funded with part-time jobs since she was 15. She financed the remaining $10,000. "The payment plan is for six years, but I plan to pay it off early," said the nursing student.
Fleischmann's advice to other young buyers: "Driving your first car means you are not only responsible for yourself but for other people on the road too. So take your time. And breathe."
Study up for your 1st car
Consider personal finances, check vehicle history, sale details
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