If there’s one thing I don’t appreciate about the US is the state of public transportation, which sucks, especially for someone like me who enjoys commuting a LOT. When you live here, you really NEED, NEED, NEED a car, unless you end up living in public transportation friendly cities like New York or Chicago or San Francisco. We obviously don’t live in any of those cities, so after months of using a rental car, which cost us an arm and a leg (est. $800/month vs. the $400/month we pay in Dubai), we did get a car on long-term lease.
But before you speed up to the nearest dealership of choice, here are some things you need to keep in mind:
#1 You have 3 options when getting a car:
- You can buy a second hand car – The downside of this one is that you are not 100% assured of the quality of the car, especially if you buy dirt cheap one.
- You can buy a brand new car – The thing is, you need to be sure you’d stay long enough in the US to actually finish paying up the car AND more on this below.
- You can lease a brand new car – This was the option we took. It is a little more expensive than buying a brand new car and then some, which you will see below. Read on.
#2 You need cash
- In all 3 options, you will need cash for down payment UNLESS you get into a deal that does not require down payment. But usually, the dealers will need some thousands of dollars of down payment. So please make sure you are loaded with cash.
- And by cash, I don’t mean cold hard cash as I’ve learned that people prefer to pay using credit card or cheque. Why? Maybe because cash entails that it is un-taxed / illegal money?
#3 You need good credit score
- Don’t be so cocky that you’re loaded with money enough to pay for the car because you actually need a credit score to start with. What’s a credit score? I’m no US finance expert, but its this number that gives an indication if you are a good “borrower”. Institutions like the bank, retail stores, real estate agents and car dealerships look at this number as a basis, whether or not they will “loan” you money to be used on your purchase.
- If you have not established a credit score like us new comers, you can approach agencies like International Auto Source (Oh look they’ve got a Facebook page too!) to help you. They specialize in helping international expats (Yes, we’re expats and not green card holders or US citizens.), who do not have a good credit score yet, to purchase or lease a car in the US.
#4 You need a US driving license
- Check your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles / DMV (It’s the Department of Public Safety for Texas and Department of Driver Services for Georgia) for the driver’s license requirements, which usually include the following:
- Identification documents like passport, visa, etc.
- Proof of residence
- Driver’s knowledge test
- Actual driving test
#5 You need car insurance
- Last and definitely not the least, you do need car insurance before you purchase your drive (as you do need all kinds of insurance in the Land of Insurance. Really.). It is relatively easy to find car insurance over the Internet. It is just uber important to read your car purchase / lease contract AND your state DMV to check their car insurance minimum requirements.
Whew! I didn’t realize that would be a lot. I hope I did not miss anything. Any other car buying tips you could add?
Delirious about delicious,