When it comes time to buy a new car, most people get an idea of what kind of car they want and go looking for it at local dealers. If the dealer doesn't have the car you want, you may have to compromise on price, options, or other factors just because it's what's there. I think that's the wrong way to go about getting a new car. A new car should be exactly what you want. If you're spending a good chunk of change, why settle? Take a road trip to find your perfect car and have a blast while doing it.
On my latest car purchase, I drove a couple hundred miles north to a dealer in Detroit to find my perfect car, a 2013 Dodge Charger R/T. (You can read more about it in my Living with My Ride Article). My city, Cincinnati, has one of the higher priced used markets in the area. So buying a car long distance was a better option for me. I saved around $3,000 and got a car with fewer miles than what my options were here locally. The drive up to Detroit was fairly uneventful, with the main goal just being to get my new ride. When I took ownership of it was when I really got to enjoy that day. It was around 1:00 PM when the car was mine and I finally pulled off the lot. Before leaving Detroit, I decided to drive through Downtown and stop at the riverfront by the Renaissance Center. Being behind the wheel of a large American muscle car, with a big V8, and RWD, and passing some of the Detroit landmarks like the Mariner’s Church and the Monument to Joe Louis (aka the Fist) made me feel like a proper American.
From there I headed back to my home state of Ohio, and took a detour over to the Marblehead Lighthouse, relaxed by the lake for a minute, grabbed some pictures and just soaked up the reality I was living in. I just got the keys to my new car, and I was able to spend a day exploring with it, not just driving home. I was able to make memories with the car and create an attachment with it from the start. From the lighthouse I backtracked to Port Clinton to board a ferry out to Put-In-Bay. After that I spent the rest of my evening and trip out on the Island, relaxing, and wishing I could stay. Unfortunately, I had a car to get back to and another 200 miles to get home. The rest of the drive was easy, just cruising down the highway at night. I walked away from that night with such an excitement for my new car.
Now, it's not always going to be amazing sunshine and rainbows but for the most part a trip like this is what you make of it. Unfortunately, if the car that matches your needs is in the middle of nowhere you might have to dig a little deeper to find interesting things to do on your road trip. If it's a longer trip you'll have to consider the possibility of getting a hotel and factor it into your costs. Then there are a few worst case scenarios. What if the car isn't as nice as it is advertised, or what if it gets sold out from under you.
In either scenario you're left miles from home and empty handed which can be extremely discouraging and upsetting. Just remember in most cases there are other cars out there, and at least you can still make the best of it. Sure you don't have your new car but you can still go out and explore the new city, or follow through with other plans.
There are things you can do beforehand to make sure your experience goes smoothly and avoid some issue. If you're financing, secure your loan ahead of time so there's one less speed bump you could have to deal with. Research the dealership you are attempting to purchase the car from. Make sure to buy from a reputable dealer, with a history in that area. Personally, I would prefer a dealer that has some extra knowledge of the car depending on what I am buying. There are thousands of small “buy here, pay here” dealerships out there that may not be honest with what they are selling. I would also suggest looking into your state’s policy on registering an out of state car if you happen to cross a border. Knowing what paperwork needs to go to what office, if you need to have an inspection, and any weird office hours will help make sure you have a smooth transition when you get back home.
Taking a road trip to purchase a car may not be for everyone, however, if you have the opportunity or the need I highly recommend it. There are many ways to make the trip something special. A trip like this gives you the chance to bond not only with your new car, but a friend or significant other. You can come away with a story to share, much like I have. Just remember don’t be afraid to walk away from a deal if it’s not what you want. Buying a car is a big deal, and sometimes stressful, so why not do something to make it a bit more fun.