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Gird your loins. Don your resting bitch face.

Buying a Car with the Bitches, Part 2: How to Pay for Your Car

Previously, on “Buying a Car with the Bitches”: Part 1.

Before we discuss any part of the car buying process, there is one very important thing you need to remember:

You are a dragon and you breathe fire.

Do not let sellers push you around. Do not let them talk you into anything. Do not feel sorry for them. And do not forgive or excuse them for anything.

If they want your extremely valuable business, they are going to have to earn it by respecting you, your money, and your time. They are going to have to prove themselves with straightforward answers and solid customer service.

Don’t be nice. You can’t afford to be nice. Make those fuckers werk.

While this is good advice for any financial negotiation, it’s especially important for buying a car because the entire car buying industry seems to be predicated on a philosophy of shady sales tactics and manipulation.

And you have too much money at stake to put up with that shit.

Decide how to pay for the car

There are two basic ways to pay for a car: up front with cash, or financing with an auto loan. I’ve done both!

Buying a car with cash

From a dealership

If you’re paying with cash—you don’t borrow any money, but pay only with what you have in your bank account—then this part is relatively easy. You just don’t spend more money than you have on the car that you buy.

That said, most states require that you pay taxes and fees over and above the actual price of the car, and if you’re paying cash you’ll need to leave room for these taxes and fees.

Let’s say you have $10K saved to buy a car (I know, I know… humor me). Sales tax in your city is 5%. The state charges the consumer what’s called a dealership fee for every vehicle sold, and in your state that dealership fee is $500. So if you want to pay cash for your car, you can’t buy a car for the price of $10,000. If you did, you’d end up owing the dealership another $1,000 in taxes and fees.

Instead, you need to leave yourself some wiggle room. In this scenario with my nice round numbers, you can afford to buy a $9,000 car, plus the tax of $450 and the dealership fee of $500 for a total of $9,950 and still afford to buy groceries on your way home.

You’ll want to bring your personal checkbook or a cashier’s check from your bank to the negotiating table when it comes time to buy the car. In the end, paying with cash will be cheaper than getting an auto loan because you won’t have to pay interest.

From a private seller

Even if you’re one individual buying from another individual, with no business or dealership involved, you still probably owe taxes.

I know the question you’re about to ask: if a car is sold in the forest and nobody’s around to witness it, does the IRS really need to know? Congratulations, libertarians, we’re on your side on this one. No, the IRS does not need to know if you’re not compelled to tell them. Live free or die!

…But I gotta burst your revolutionary bubble. In most states, the bureaucracy is designed to getcha anyway. Either when acquiring insurance, or registration, or license plates, or parking permits, eventually you’ll have to verify that you paid Uncle Sam his due.

Between sales taxes, excise taxes, registration fees, and paying for a pre-purchase inspection, it’s good to add a 10% buffer to your budget overall.

Financing a car with an auto loan

Financing a car—or buying the vehicle with an auto loan—is a bit more tricky.

Remember that buying something with a loan, whether it’s a car, a house, or a college education, means two very important things:

  1. You are not buying The Thing. Your lender is buying The Thing for you. They own The Thing and you are slowly buying it from them by making regular repayments on the loan.
  2. You are paying more for The Thing than you would if you bought it outright, with cash. Because again: you’re not buying The Thing. You’re paying your lender to buy it for you. And that costs you money in the form of interest on your loan.
    • The Thing is a great movie. Perfect mix of creature horror, logic puzzle, and suspense.

Before you go to purchase your car—but after you’ve decided on your budget and picked out an approximate make and model (see Part 1)—you’ll want to get preapproved for an auto loan. All this means is you talk to a lender and they decide whether or not they’d be willing to loan you money in the event you follow through with the purchase.

Choosing your lender will depend on who is willing to make you the best offer. Often, this might even be the car dealership! But it could be your local credit union or a large national bank. Ask around—don’t just go with the first and easiest offer.

Armed with your wits and the paperwork indicating you’re preapproved for a loan, approach the field of battle!

Make an appointment with a dealership or the seller

Car dealers know that they’re more likely to close a sale if they can get you into the dealership. So they’ll do anything to get you in the door.

But again: you are a dragon and you breathe fire. So you’ll go to the dealership when you’re good and ready. Salespeople serve at your pleasure, not the other way around!

It’s time to make some calls (or send some emails if you, like most of Generations Y and Z, have an aversion to the phone). Contact the dealerships or private owners who are selling the used cars you identified in the Choosing a Car stage. Ask them three things:

  1. Is the price listed online your best offer or can you bring it down?
  2. Is the car ready for purchase right now?
  3. When can I make an appointment to come check out the car?

You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by asking them to drop the price for you before you even see the car. Even if it’s a few hundred dollars, it’s worth asking. Every dealership I asked dropped the price for me by $300-$1,000.

Set an appointment and ask if the car is ready so they know you’re serious. When you set this appointment, make sure you get the name of the salesperson you’ll be meeting with.

When you show up for the appointment, the car should be parked near the entrance for you, cleaned, tuned up, and ready for you to buy and drive away immediately. And if it’s not, leave the dealership. They have not earned your business. Likewise, if you show up for an appointment and the person you’re supposed to meet with is unavailable, you walk.

They have failed at proper customer service, and as a fire-breathing eldritch horror, you do not have time for that shit.

I walked out of a dealership where I had made an appointment when they acted surprised to see me and didn’t know where the car was. They later called me begging to “earn my business” with a ridiculously generous deal while I was already signing the papers for a car at a dealership that had treated me like the goddamn queen I am from the beginning.

Your time is precious. And making a huge purchase like a car is a big fucking deal! The seller should acknowledge the seriousness of the situation by respecting you and your time.

Reward good behavior. Punish the bad with fire and blood.


Look under the hood

Pop the hood open. Look inside. What are you looking for? I have no fucking idea, and neither do you, and that is okay. Do it anyway! Squint like Clint Eastwood at the incomprehensible mess of car guts. It’s like doing that thing where you swirl the wine around inside the glass—it’s just A Thing You Do so that you look like you know what you’re doing. You are an actor. Enjoy your part in this passion play called car buying!

When buying a used car (and you are buying a used car goddammit), it’s important to watch out for mechanical defects and damage that can leave you regretting your purchase.

You should always get the vehicle’s history before finalizing the sale. You can do this by taking the vehicle identification number (VIN) to CARFAX. This will get you a full report on the car’s history: when it was made, when it has been sold before, and whether it has ever been involved in any accidents.

Many dealers will have the CARFAX vehicle history report ready for you when you show up for your appointment. But you can also do this online yourself ahead of time, or ask the seller to provide it for you.

An accident in the vehicle’s history isn’t necessarily a deal breaker! But it is good to know. Which leads me to this next part.

If you don’t know your hydrospanners from your hyperdrive, call in a professional! Have a mechanic you trust inspect the vehicle before you sign the papers. Such an inspection can reveal all kinds of problems. You can decide if a problem is a reason to pass on the car or even to negotiate the price down. You’ve got nothing to lose except a shitty car you shouldn’t be buying anyway.

Dealerships and sellers should allow you to take the car to be inspected, or have a mechanic come to their location to perform the inspection before finalizing the sale. Take it to someone who you can trust to give you honest neutral advice. Don’t rely on the seller’s recommendation, even if they have documentation.

And if they seem hesitant to allow such an inspection? Run—don’t walk—away.

Negotiate… for your life

According to Bitches Get Riches lore, I’m The Nice One™. Which means I’m slower to go Full Bitch when necessary. And when negotiating a large purchase, it’s fucking necessary.

Negotiating is mortal combat. It’s not for the faint of heart, nor is it a time to be compassionate and understanding of your opponent. Make no mistake: the seller is your opponent in this duel to the death. You may be polite and respectful all you want… but you didn’t come here to make friends.

Gird your loins. Don your resting bitch face. Store your heart in the back of the freezer and put on that lipstick that makes it look like you dine on the blood of the meek.

If you have trouble embracing your inner Ice Queen, bring along a more assertive friend when you buy your car! Being The Nice One™, I brought my husband, the appropriately named Bear. He is an extra large human with a deadpan voice and ice blue eyes that shoot lasers. Most people would rather melt into a puddle of quivering goo than cross him, which makes him ideal for intimidating salespeople!

Bear was instrumental in cutting through the bullshit at the negotiating table. His ice cold laser eyes pierced the veils of trickery and deceit. To whit:

  • Don’t let them try to tempt you by talking about how low your monthly payments will be. You’re a savvy financial savant and you know this is but a distraction from the true cost of the car.
  • Don’t let them dangle the carrot of free maintenance to get you to accept a higher price than you’ve budgeted. (Though sure, take the free maintenance too, you’re not made of money.)
  • Don’t let them waste your time by repeatedly going to “ask a manager” while they wait for you to grow impatient and desperate.

Be warned: the purchase of a car can be time-consuming. This is why it’s important to get all the research and as much of the negotiating out of the way as possible before you sit down to sign the papers. Exhausting the buyer is a classic element of the sales tactic, so bring a (figurative or literal) granola bar.

And there will be a lot of papers to sign. Like, a lot. Even the Devil doesn’t ask for the deed to your soul signed in triplicate at a crossroads on a moonlit night, but the Finance Manager at CarMax sure will!

Stay safe

One last thing. Going back to our earlier if a car is sold in a forest question… Don’t go into the forest to buy cars! You’re gonna get murdered! #stayoutoftheforest

Stay outta the forest!

Car sales—especially private car sales—are a juicy opportunity for thieves and scammers. Think about it: you’re showing up to hand several thousand dollars in cash over to a total stranger. That’s a fraught combination. It’s not so dangerous that it should keep you from doing it; private sales can be uncomplicated transactions with fabulous deals! You just need to thing things through and make a plan.

In general, trust your gut. (Unless you are an extremely trusting person, then rent a bitchy friend and trust her gut.) If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Here are a few common scams to watch out for:

  • Never buy you aren’t able to physically see, touch, and drive
  • Avoid sellers who are unwilling or unable to meet you face-to-face
  • Don’t buy the car if the seller refuses to make it available for an inspection
  • Never wire money for a car
  • Never accept “overpayment” for a car
  • Avoid sellers who insist on holding funds in escrow
  • Don’t trust sellers or buyers who say their transaction is “guaranteed” by eBay, Craigslist, PayPal, etc (also common scam)
  • Be suspicious of extraordinary prices, complicated stories, communications that seem vague or scripted, and sellers who try to pressure you with emotional appeals, pushy logic, and ticking time clocks
  • Only meet in well-lit public places with foot traffic nearby, and remember that it’s okay to “be rude” and leave immediately if you feel weird vibes

When Kitty bought her car from a private sale, she point-blank refused to arrive with the agreed-upon $7,000 sale price sitting in cash in her purse. Her seller was equally skeptical, and refused to accept a check for fear it could bounce, or be fake. They compromised and agreed to finalize the sale at the bank. They went in together; she cut a cashier’s check, and the teller handed it directly to him. And they all lived happily ever after.


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5 thoughts to “Buying a Car with the Bitches, Part 2: How to Pay for Your Car”

  1. I have only purchased one car from a dealership and I’d like to add – Don’t let them convince you to buy the add on extended warranty for your used car. I am firmly against extended warranties but I am also easily swayed by giving in to something my spouse wants because I don’t want to ALWAYS be the bitchy, controlling one. This has however resulted in my buying a mattress from a mattress store for 30% more than I planned on spending and paying $3k for an extended warranty that was worthless and we never needed and extended warranties are not worth the money you’re paying.

    Regarding that paying taxes business, my one other car purchase was from a family member that gave us a screaming deal on their used car and when I took in the title to register the car the lady said I paid TOO LITTLE for the car and would have to pay tax on the market value of the vehicle!

    I am a terrible negotiator even though I know it will save me money. I love these new car sites that allow you to buy a car on the internet and literally pick it up from a vending machine never having to talk to a person. My dream.

  2. I definitely worry about being exhausted by the back and forth since I have chronic fatigue (which can bring brain fog on). So the next time I car shop I’m just going to have to store up some energy and stick to my guns. And leave and come back if necessary. Because brain fog/exhaustion did bite me in the ass once already when buying a car. We didn’t negotiate enough because my now-ex-husband really wanted it and was afraid that it wouldn’t be there if we came back. Sigh.

  3. Please help, I feel stupid for getting into a lease, as I am paying a lot of money per month for something I won’t own in a year. What’s your best advice? Thank you.

  4. My first experience with a dealership was…unpleasant.

    I had been in the US for 3 months – when I arrived, I bought a used car – but it had some major problems and needed thousands in repairs – I’d been stranded 50 miles from home (I had a long commute every day) – and I needed a reliable car and was feeling like I couldn’t deal with this and just was going to buy a New Car.

    I walked into the Honda dealership with my friend – I wanted to look at Accords and Civics. We got into a Civic – the most barebones car – it had manual windows even! Not enough leg room for me – so – the salesguy takes me to an Accord – it must have been the top of the line – it had ALL the bells and whistles – but according to him, this was the ONLY model that came with the 5 way seat adjustment – so we could get the seat back and down.

    Still not quite enough leg room – oh no problem, cries the sales dude – this car has CRUISE CONTROL – so you can take your foot off the gas and you can stretch it out beside the pedal!

    Me: that is nuts.

    Of course this is all dragging out forever – we get back to the dealership after the test drive, and I’m not convinced that this is working for me – I say to my friend “let’s go get lunch, I’m hungry”. Cue sales guy “I’m diabetic and have low blood sugar – but I cannot go get lunch while I have a customer! ” – is that supposed to make me feel sorry for him and immediately agree to buy the car? I demur – he is persistent – gives us the keys and says “go, take the car and get lunch!”.

    So – friend and I drive this 32k Accord in pearl white, with light tan leather seats – 3 blocks away to the KFC. We are barely out of school – and I am VASTLY uncomfortable in this car – it does not fit my life – nor is it in my budget – NOR do I have enough leg room. But I’m kind of unsure how to get OUT of this – the sales guy is not hearing me say no – AND – they had taken the keys to my car to “go get an estimate for the trade in” when I arrived – so I was kind of trapped.

    We got back to the dealership, and I said,, I really just want my car back? The sales guy ushers me into an office, and leaves. A few minutes later, another person walks in, and has a stack of paper, and starts explaining to me the terms of the loan – 60 months (gee the warranty is only 36 months) – and it was still going to be 400$ a month. I was DONE with all this nonsense – I interrupted the guy and said “I don’t know why I’m here with you – I’m NOT buying this car? I told the salesguy I wanted MY keys back for MY car and I’m leaving?”

    It took more talking – but within 10 minutes I had my keys and I was heading home – at this point I was just exhausted and PISSED OFF.

    The only funny part – 2 months later, I received a tin of cookies with a thank you card for Christmas and a note from the sales guy thanking me for my business – clearly he had marked me down as a “sale” and never followed up to see if i actually completed the transaction. The cookies were good though.

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