4 Essential Tips to Buying A Car Post-College

Graduate College image

To me, going to college and buying a vehicle are pretty similar in a sense.  They’re both an exciting experience and represent a huge accomplishment. They’re also pretty nerve-racking and, not to mention, cost a TON of money.

My Story

I remember the feeling of being fresh out of school in May 2010 with a job lined up that would actually allow me to make some money while utilizing my degree. I felt like I was on top of the world, so how did I celebrate? I went out and decided to buy a new 2011 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, in addition to many other unnecessary items I wanted to blow my graduation money on like a plasma TV, MacBook, and the coolest wardrobe EVER. Seriously. Not only did I go and buy a new car, I went all out and splurged on the Sahara model, adding every option to it.  Go big or go home, right?

Before you even ask, I already know what’s going through your mind: “How can a 20-something-year-old who has more than $15,000 in student loan debt and earns around $30,000 a year afford any new car, let alone one that costs nearly $40,000?” (I know I just threw a lot of numerical figures in here, so hopefully you’re a bit better at math than I was in college and can bear through.)

That is a good question. Sometimes, I’m not sure how I manage to pull this off either. I guess I’m pretty crafty. Except not really. I just played my cards right and did a ton of research before I took another leap into that giant black hole of debt.

Purchasing a vehicle after graduating college really isn’t as hard as you’d think, though. Trust me. I’ve been there, done that, and honestly feel that the semester of Calc 2 I took my sophomore year at St. Louis University was much more difficult.

A ton of college grads, including a majority of my friends who are in a similar position as me, think buying a vehicle — new or used — is completely unrealistic. I’m sure this probably has something to do with the massive amount of student loans we have all managed to rack up in our names over the last four years to attend a four-year university, but no matter the reason, buying a car post-college is feasible. Here’s how I managed to do so:

Do Research

Before going out and buying a car that you’re most likely going to be stuck with for a while, find something you like. Be informed and shop around — not just for the car you like, but also for a financing plan that fits your lifestyle. Don’t settle; you don’t have to. There are plenty of ways available for you to afford the (realistic) vehicle you want to purchase. If you want to go out and buy a Lamborghini or a Bentley after graduating college, I’m not sure if I have any advice for you other than good luck!

Check Your Credit

You get one free credit report a year, so use it. Checking your credit score will allow you to weed through your prospective vehicles by giving you an idea of how much money a bank will loan you. Buying an affordable car and making payments on time is an excellent way to build credit, too. This is an important benchmark that will help make buying a house, a more expensive car, starting a business, or anything else that requires borrowing money easier. If you’d like additional explanation I highly recommend listening to our Finance Director, Zack Funkhouser explain how credit score affects car buying.

Set a Budget

Post-college car buyers should come up with a budget before setting foot in a dealership. This is extremely helpful and the main reason why I can afford my vehicle. Sure, I don’t make as much money as I’d like (I can only think of a handful of people who make hundreds of millions of dollars), but allocating my funds properly allows me to afford a car that I enjoy driving and want to own.  Having a budget also gives me the opportunity to pay for my Jeep and do plenty of other things I like, such as going to St. Louis Cardinal Baseball games, adding to my super-cool wardrobe, and hanging out with friends. I never feel like I’m bogged down with car payments because I made a budget and factored EVERYTHING that’s associated with owning a vehicle into it.

Keep An Eye Out for Incentives

Often times there are special deals aimed at college grads or auto manufacturers and dealerships have great offers happening for you to take advantage of.  These sales and promotions may help change that unrealistic thought of ever buying a vehicle after college.

Taking an approach similar to what I mentioned above will help you, recent college grads, buy a car. Just be sure to surround yourself with the right information. Hopefully my story inspires you and makes you feel a bit at ease about purchasing any vehicle after graduation because like I said, I know this whole process seems far fetched. I was in your shoes and know how you feel when it comes to having to take on even more debt. Just like college, I managed to survive the post-grad-car-buying experience and I am pretty confident that you will, too.

Contact Us

If you’d like to learn more or discuss any of this information above check out our Top 5 Most Practical and Desired Ford Cars for College Graduates or, contact our team toll-free at (855) 367-9095.

About Brittney French

Brittney is a journalist and media relations specialist who lives in St. Louis, Mo. When she's not blogging for Lebanon Ford, she is the author of a women's column and also writes about music, events, and St. Louis sports. Having little knowledge in the automotive industry, Brittney provides valuable insight on cars for those who may be in the same boat. She can be found on Facebook and Twitter @brittfrancois.