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If you would have told me a year ago that I’d be sitting down to write a post about car buying tips for single moms in just 365 days, I would have looked at you sideways.
This post is written in collaboration with Beaverton Toyota however all opinions made are mine alone.
The Truth Behind Buying a Car as a Single Mom
I am a newly single mom. And my gosh is it a weird feeling. On one hand, I am relieved and ready for this new chapter. But on the other, I am devastated and spiraling through the memories I made with my kid’s father over the last ten years.
It’s a lot. And it’s heavy. But we’re moving forward.
After leaving and filing for divorce earlier this year, I had not a clue what life would look like for me in the coming months. I was (and am) staying with my mom so I left all of mine and my kid’s father’s belongings to him since I didn’t need them right away. My car broke down and I was driving my best friend’s car. Work was pretty much non-existent given the events that have taken place over the course of 2020. I was applying for everything under the sun, caring for my toddler twins on my own for the most part, and honestly did not have much hope for the future.
Thankfully, though, I started seeing a new therapist who quite literally changed my life and helped me find hope and excitement for the future. She helped me discover what had been holding me back and clear my mind in order to make for a solid plan for the coming months.
First on the list was saving the money for a down payment on my first car as a single woman.
With that I hammered down work and took on clients in order to make my monthly income goal and was finally able to save a chunk of change to put down on the car I have literally had my eyes on for years now.
Buying a Car as a Single Mom Experience
Before I had my twins I had a love for Subarus. I drove my favorite Impreza Hatchback model at the time and was so heartbroken when I had to trade it in for a bigger “mommy missile” to be able to pack around the 100 pounds of gear you need for baby twins.
I told myself that I’d get her back after the twins could get in and out of the car on their own. So once I had the down payment ready, I started browsing dealerships in my area for any available. I decided to check out Beaverton Toyota first because my kid’s father and I had purchased a car from them in the past and had a great experience. I watched their inventory for a while until one day a 2018 Subaru Impreza Hatchback popped up on their site and y’all when I tell you I jumped for joy- I am SERIOUS. The car was a great deal and everything I wanted & more. Plus, Beaverton Toyota believes in a simple and transparent purchase experience called CLEAR. You work with one person from start to finish, they price their vehicles upfront so there is no negotiating and you get CLEAR Care a suite of complementary offerings (I’ll explain later).
I sent a message right then through their chat feature on beavertontoyota.com & was instantly matched with a salesperson and set up an appointment to check out and test drive the car.
I was so giddy all week while waiting for that appointment!
I decided to go to the dealership with my mom to have the extra set of hands for my twins. You might think “okay, why didn’t you leave them at home then?” But hear me out. You NEED to bring your kids with you when you’re checking out a new car to purchase. For the test drive part that is and especially if they are still in car seats.
You are going to want to make sure their car seats fit well in the new car and that everyone can pile in for a comfortable ride. I promise you, the last thing you want to do is get home with your new car and find out that the car seats don’t fit or the car is way too packed with everyone and their things inside of it.
Anyway, when my mom and I got to Beaverton Toyota we were pleasantly surprised to see everyone on the lot wearing masks & keeping distance from one another. Inside the main building they even offered a hand sanitizer station & extra masks if you forgot yours.
Since I had made an appointment, I already had a salesperson ready to grab the car I was checking out and brought it up to the front quickly before letting us hop in and take it for a solo extended test drive. I really appreciated them letting us take the car on a solo test drive, not only to be able to experience the car on my own, but to keep more distance given current health risks.
As for the test drive- everything went smoothly and no one rushed us back to the dealership. I was thinking they might, but instead they let us truly try out the car and do so on our own time.
They also encouraged getting the car seats into the car to test them out!
At this point I was absolutely sold on the car and ready to begin the buying process. Now I had already applied for financing through their online application which made for an even quicker purchasing experience. Highly recommend since it allows them to see what you’re eligible for beforehand and give you more accurate rate/payment numbers.
Since I had already completed the financing application, my salesperson dove right into sharing with me the many options they offer with purchasing a used vehicle from them. Beaverton Toyota is known for its CLEAR Brand Promise (I mentioned this was a huge selling point for deciding on Beaverton Toyota at the beginning of my car buying experience!) but I didn’t realize how easy this makes the car buying process.
CLEAR Brand Promise from Beaverton Toyota
- Complete transparency (aka everything about the car, financing, and more is right at your fingertips with their iPad technology!)
- Lowest price (they respect your research and offer the lowest price on their vehicles and offer the same price guarantee both online and on the lot)
- Experience (they tailor everything they do with each individual in mind which was super helpful given my twins being with me & wanting to test drive with the car seats!)
- After sale care (y’all, they have Oregon’s #1 service center & are going to take great care of you)
- Respect (yep, they show respect for everyone’s budget, time, and preference)
One thing that also really sold me about Beaverton Toyota was that their salespeople are paid the same whether you buy a brand new 2021 4Runner or a 2005 Camry. They are here for YOU.
I think all of that is what really played a role in what made the buying experience as a single mom so simple. I know I was for sure intimidated going into buying a new car all on my own thinking they’d take advantage of me to some degree- but honestly I felt really taken care of!
The buying process took a bit longer than usual (still pretty quick since I applied for financing beforehand!) but only because I am self employed and recently moved out of state. It made paperwork a bit tricky, but it all ended up working out!
Something I really enjoyed was that while I was working with my salesperson, my mom could take my twins into the kid’s room where they got to watch a movie & hang out without disturbing others. They also offer a pet station & plenty of working stations if you decide to bring your pet or work a bit when you buy or head back for service on your car (their service station is rated #1 in Oregon, so you can bet I’ll be back!).
Once the purchase was complete I was met outside by my salesperson who had the car detailed while I was signing paperwork and we were off! Seriously SO simple and I feel completely confident in the purchase I made. Plus I have my dream car!! Well, one of them. My other dream car is a new 4Runner. But we’ll get there in time.
Thanks to the ease of buying at Beaverton Toyota & being able to get on my feet a bit, I was able to drop off my best friend’s car back in her driveway and head home in my own car!
Now that I’ve shared a bit of my own experience, let me share with you my best car buying tips for single moms.
Car Buying Tips for Single Moms
1. What are your needs + wants?
The very first step when it comes to looking to buy a car on your own is evaluating your needs vs. wants. I know we all want all of the new bells and whistles of a brand new car- but will those be the deciding factor for you when it comes to making a purchase?
Instead I’d suggest jotting down a list of what you need in a vehicle like how many seats you’ll need or type of vehicle (car, crossover, van, truck or SUV). Then move over to wants like a backup camera, sensors, push to start, or even color!
The key here is being realistic. Think about your daily life and how your car plays a role in that. For me- a must have when I was looking was a built in version of Apple Car Play & steering wheel controls because I drive about 250+ miles a week exchanging my kids with their father and feel safer with steering wheel controls.
2. What is your budget?
Now for the budget. You’ve laid out what you need in a vehicle- but what can you realistically afford as far as a monthly payment goes? Aside from the payment itself, make sure to take into consideration how much gas will be and what upkeep might cost. I decided I could afford a bit more for a car payment because I was about to cut my monthly gas expense by just under $200.
3. Research time
Okay now that you know what your needs are & how much you can afford, it’s time to look around for a car that fits inside of that. This is probably my most important out of the ten car buying tips for single moms. Look at cars themselves online and not what is currently available at local dealerships. Another tip here would be to research various makes & models to see what makes the most sense for you.
Then after you have an idea of what you’re looking for, check out the dealerships in your area. If you’re around me, you know I suggest Beaverton Toyota! But when you’re researching dealerships, make sure to read plenty of reviews and check out their site to learn what they’re about and what they offer. This would be a good time to check out the service plans & such they offer as well. If they have anything near the CLEAR Brand Promise- HOP ON THAT!
Also, remember that the dealership doesn’t HAVE to have what you’re looking for currently on the lot. We can wait for that.
4. More research
Sorry, but you have a bit more research to do! But this time it’s car lingo. You need to know how to ask for what you need, right? So take some time looking around for what all you need to ask about at the dealership and about the car itself.
5. Send an inquiry
Now that you’ve decided on what you’re looking for as far as a new vehicle goes & which dealership(s) you want to check out, shoot out some inquiries! You never know what they have coming in or what they have access to on sister lots. If they have what you’re looking for on the lot, schedule a test drive. Weekdays are the best for that I hear!
But if they don’t currently have what you’re looking for available, let them know what you’re in the market for and ask for them to keep you updated with anything that comes in! They might just let you know before the car even gets put on the open lot or website meaning first pick for you!
When you find a vehicle that you are interested in, make sure to ask for the CARFAX before anything else. It’ll give you all of the important info about the vehicle and helps you decide if the vehicle is priced appropriately before you spend time at a dealership.
7. Schedule your visit
If you feel good about this car go ahead and get that test drive scheduled! Again, I hear weekdays are the way to go. But I opted for an early bird Saturday morning appointment and that went well! Make sure to request an extended test drive and let them know you’re bringing the family and planning on testing out car seats (if you are).
8. Don’t get attached
Unless you’re already at the lot when you find the car you want, it is fair game. Someone could be at the lot test driving what you’re looking at online or have scheduled to test drive in a few days before you have a chance to get down to the dealership. I know it’s hard to not get attached when everything feels so right, but you gotta keep that guard up until you’re actually next to the vehicle.
9. Get pre-approved
Make sure you have your valid Drivers License, Insurance ID and if you have a trade in make sure to bring the current registration or if you own it bring the title with you.
The next step is filling out a credit application with the Dealership you plan to purchase from, this is the final step in getting your financing approved with the lender. You can always get pre-approved too.
Now I would suggest waiting to do this until you are about to get to the Dealership because it will show up on your credit report as a hard inquiry and if the only car that you’re interested in sells, you will be at a loss. Even though I learned you have 30 days to purchase after pulling your credit before having to pull another report. But if you go ahead with it like I did, it could seriously make the process so much easier for both you and the salesperson helping you out!
10. Take your time
Seriously, don’t rush into this. Especially on your own. I didn’t write this post about car buying tips for single moms for you to waste them away! Make sure you’re able to afford the car you’re looking at, that it is a good car that will fit well with your lifestyle, and that you do trust where you are buying the car from.
All in all, comfort is what matters most. Not only inside of the vehicle, but with who you’re purchasing from. If you feel any weird vibes or unsure about anything- WALK. Buying a car is a huge investment and if the person you’re talking to doesn’t respect that and is pushing you in any way, remember there will always be another car. Another time. Another place. Find a dealership that makes you feel comfortable and well taken care of.
If you’re in the Portland Metro Area, or even close by it, I’d recommend checking out Beaverton Toyota and seeing how they might be able to help you get into a new or used car. they might also be able to share a few more car buying tips for single moms to help you out! They will have your back and treat you right, mama!