Dear Doug: Learning New Tricks in Old Age
Q: For as long as I've been alive, I've never bought a car. My husband always took care of it, but he passed away several years ago.
My current car has lasted me a long time but is on its last legs.
I'm afraid to even go into a car dealership. I don't know a lot about cars and know that some dealerships are very aggressive when trying to sell.
How should I go about buying a car?
A. Stress about buying a car knows no gender. There are so many car models and pricing options that it's confusing and hard to know where to start.
First, decide on your budget. That will narrow your field of choices significantly. Also, research your car's value, and then check with the dealer to see if you can trade in your current car. Some will give you an offer, which helps with the cost of a new one.
While price is a major factor, most seniors' main worry is whether or not their car is safe. New cars have more safety features like automatic emergency braking and other accident-avoidance systems. Kelley Blue Book and many other sources report the best safety ratings for current models.
Other factors include reliability, dealership reputation, service options, loaners, insurance cost and mileage.
One of the most stressful things about buying a car is how variable the pricing seems. Different dealerships often list the same car at different prices. But you might be able to work the system to your advantage.
When you've figured out your ideal car, shop around at local dealerships if possible. Ask the dealers what they're offering, and don't be afraid to say no! Doing your research before going will help you avoid being sold on something you don't want.