When I moved to Atlanta, the idea of driving on what essentially felt like the “wrong” side of the road did not appeal to me. In Jamaica, like most Commonwealth nations, we drive on the left side of the road, so when people made left turns in America I would have a momentary panic.
Even now, I have to remind myself to stay out of the left lane when driving. I have never veered into the left lane by accident, but I would be lying if I said my instincts didn’t often send me there before good old common sense kicked in.
For this reason, coupled with the usual terror most non-Atlantans feel about driving in the city, I wasn’t too keen on getting my license or owning a car.
Car Note vs Plane Tickets
As the price of gas steadily climbed, the price of ridesharing soon followed. And as my social life took me more often away from home, I began to flirt with the idea of owning a car. Still, I could never seem to get past the fact that the cost of a car note, insurance, and gas was a plane ticket or a hotel booking.
It just wasn’t worth the sacrifice. It didn’t help that Uber showered me with special passes every few months, usually right after coming back from a big trip. When people and publications asked me, “How do you afford to travel to so many beautiful places?” I would answer, “If you don’t own a car, you can always afford to travel on a First World income and a minimalist budget”.
I did, however, promise myself that if at any point owning a car cost as much as ridesharing, it would be time to purchase a car. When Uber prices skyrocketed a few months ago, I knew that time had come. After deliberating for another or month or two, I finally booked my long overdue road test.
Nerves & Wheels
The day before the test I was so nervous I locked myself in my room and didn’t venture far from it for long. Why, you wonder?
For the whole month between booking the test and the actual test date, I had only been able to practice three or four times, for maybe 20 – 30 minutes each time. What made me even more anxious was that I couldn’t rent the tiny car I wanted and I would be forced to use Dad’s 192-inch sedan, which has the uncanny ability to make parallel parking feel like rocket science.
In short, I was sure I would fail and was already looking up driving classes in my area so I could guarantee more practice time for the second round. I hadn’t completely given up hope, though. I spent the night before watching videos of parallel parking, trying to re-learn the formula I had been taught years ago in driver’s ed.
Once you know that formula, you can parallel park anything. The problem was, it was so long ago, I had forgotten it and was out-of-practice. Dad refused to teach it to me as he’s one of those drivers who believe in “forget the formula—know the car”.
Well, apparently the formula was not too hard to relearn because not only did I manage to park his over-sized sedan using it, but I passed the test and was given my driver’s license for my pains. I then rushed into the city to meet hubby after school to share the news. He had known I was taking my driver’s test, but I never told him what day or time it was.
Financing the Car
After considering my options and having a long chat with him, I decided to finance my first car. The very next day, I got pre-qualified with Capital One and have now been looking for cars that suit my interest and my budget. I’ll be waiting until the end of the month to purchase though, since everyone claims car salesmen are more willing to cut a good deal at that time.
The car I have my heart set on is the same car that I have been drooling over since 2014. I think we all have two dream cars: the one we can afford now and the one we hope to afford later. My dream car of the future is the Range Rover Evoque. My dream car for the present is the Nissan Juke. I’m not picky about the year, but I am partial to the SL trims and would accept the SV without complaint.
The Nissan Juke
For those of you who have no idea what a Nissan Juke is, it has been described as a frog, a hippopotamus, an alien and an ugly duckling.
If you hate the car, you needn’t worry about sparing my feelings in the comments; you are not alone. It’s one of those cars you either really love, or can’t stand. My Dad is one of the latter and has already forewarned me that if he ever finds himself stranded and in need of help, and this is the car I intend to use to rescue him, let him die!
The Hyundai Veloster
The only thing that could persuade me not to buy a Nissan Juke is not being able to find one in my budget range. In that instance, I would take a Hyundai Veloster as a runner-up. That would be the same car I drove out west under Tristan’s watchful eye, down the winding mountain road of Arches National Park.
Other last resort options I’m willing to consider, but aren’t particularly excited about, include the:
- Hyundai Elantra GT
- Hyundai Accent
- Ford Fiesta
- Ford Focus
- Kia Rio
- Kia Rio5
You may notice all the cars I like are either compact SUVs or hatchbacks. I may have managed to pass my driving test with the only sedan I have ever driven, but I still hate driving them.
I know most of my readers are far more experienced than myself with buying and financing cars and welcome any and all advice you have to share.
I am especially curious about what my insurance will look like as a married 28-year-old woman who is nonetheless a new driver, and how on Earth one shops for car insurance without a car, since I can’t drive it off the lot without insurance. Negotiation tips are also especially helpful.
And, if you or someone you know owns a Nissan Juke, Hyundai Veloster, or any of the backups on my list, by all means, tell me all about it in the comments below!
Update 8/9/2018: I received insurance quotes as high as $380+ per month! My God, who invented insurance and is he sure we need it! Some insurance companies like Liberty Mutual and Allstate refused to insure me at all! Thankfully, eSurance gave me a quote at $999 for the Juke and with a general range of $1100 to $945 for the other car options I mentioned. I’ll be going with them and have signed up for 6 hours of defensive driving classes to help keep my rates low. May the car gods have mercy on me!
Update 8/9/2018: I figured you guys wouldn’t believe this unless you saw it for yourself. This is officially the most expensive quote I have received so far. I would love to meet the person who can actually afford this!