I’m 28 and I Finally Got My Driver’s License: Car-Buying Advice, Anyone?

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.

The Backups

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.

Car-Buying Advice—Anyone?

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!

Amica Car Insurance Quote 1300 Plus.png

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92 thoughts on “I’m 28 and I Finally Got My Driver’s License: Car-Buying Advice, Anyone?

  1. I say pick an insurance company/agent & get talking with them about what you’re doing, and get quotes on the different cars you’re looking at. That way, you’ll know what car will be too expensive for insurance, and you’ll have a relationship with an agent that you can call from the car lot when you make your choice. I like Allstate, but you go with who you trust.

    1. Allstate rejected me! So did Liberty Mutual and American National. 😂

      I have called and spoken to an agent at esurance about how the insurance works and I used their online system to check quotes for different cars. This week I’ll be test driving, starting with the 2013 Juke!

      1. Thank you. Hopefully by next week I’ll have excellent news to share! 🙃

  2. I would avoid hundai and kia just from experience and horror stories I’ve heard. Nissan is great as well as Honda and Toyota for starter cars. I had an old civic as my first car and loved it til it got totaled by the second person who rear-ended me, but my second car was a Kia Rio and I absolutely hated the thing. It was a year newer than the Honda but seemed way older as far as mechanics. It was a junker and eventually I got tired of pouring money into it and just gave it to my dad when I got my new Subaru. Subaru is by far the best car to go with, but it’s not necessarily a starter haha I’m paying quite a pretty penny (but this thing is gonna last me 20 years)! Good luck (:

    1. The Totoya CHR is pretty sexy to me! It looks like a transformer!

      My dad generally sings praises of Japanese brands, especially Totoya. I considered the Yaris but learned it didn’t hold up too well even in minor accidents. I also considered the Matrix but haven’t seen any yet in my price range.

      1. I’m still pretty set on that Juke. I’m specifically eyeing the 2013 SV model. Provided no one beats me to purchasing it, I’ll be picking it up on Monday =D

      2. Having had no idea of the Juke, I have now driven behind two of them in the past two days. They are very cute. My very tall daughter wanted to make sure that you weren’t very tall so that you would be comfortable in one.

      3. Hahahaha, I’m glad I opened your eyes to see my cute little schmookumz on the road! I am actually quite tall at 5’9, but I fit comfortably in it when I test drove it earlier this week. In fact, I scooted the seat up! I think newer drivers sit closer to the steering wheel than more experienced drivers though 😂

      4. I have no idea since I will never be a tiny little old lady, just a pleasantly plump little old lady who needs room between herself and the steering wheel!

  3. Congratulations!! I was 21 when I got my license and was the most amazing feeling 🙂 My first car was 1987 Nissan Pathfinder that had 389,000 miles on it. But it was the best thing in the world at that point. I love that old jalopy…lol!!
    The insurance and the tags are usually the worse. But as the age goes up on your car the insurance will come down as will the tag. For my current car, when we first bought it my insurance was $289 for 6 months. I had full coverage on it. Now I am paying around $160 for full coverage. I keep full coverage on it just in case.
    As far as car buying you actually picked a great time of year to car shop because there are so many options now with the dealers wanting to clear their lots. You will more than likely will find what you want at a great price. I noticed as you said you are looking at compact SUVs but you didn’t mention Mitsubishi. They have a great little crossover called the Outlander Sport. I myself have been driving one for the last 5 years and I have no complaint. It gets great gas mileage and a smooth ride. I have actually taken it on several long trips around the southeast. Might want to have a look at it. Whatever you decide on make sure to post some pics…can’t wait to see it 🙂

    1. Thank you! I didn’t know a car could have so many miles on it! Goodness! I think the highest I’ve seen so far is about 280k. How many miles did you have on it when you gave it up?

      I’ve been wondering if it might be better to wait until next month to buy a car since that’s the end of the quarter, which tends to be even better with sales. However, since a lot of other people have that idea I may lose out on the car I actually want. Ideas?

      I knew of the Outlander but not the Outlander Sport. I checked Capital One and there was none in my budget range, unfortunately. I’ll keep an eye out though. The Juke still gets better MPG but I could live with a 25/30.

      Thanks for the advice!

      1. I put another 15000 on it and traded it for a low miles Chevy S10. Even with all those miles on it still cranked with no issues…lol

        It usually is a good idea to wait but usually next month they start to push the newest model. If you are buying new it’s a good idea. If you’re buying used low miles wait till the end of any month because they will have an overstock of used vehicles, a lot that have low miles and you might get a better deal

        Yeah the juke does get a little better mpg then the Outlander Sport but I think it sits up a little higher then the Juke.

      2. Wow! I doubt my Juke will get a lot of added miles. Still working on my driving confidence, so I probably won’t venture too far from the house.

        I guess in the interim there’s no harm in making an offer. The worst they can say is no and if the car isn’t sold, they know how to find me or I can go back if I haven’t found something else. I’m not getting anything outside the budget I set, but I also won’t rush to give up the Juke if they say no and I might be able to bargain again the following month.

        I found an article that compared the Juke and the Outlander today. Here’s what it said:

        Which Is Better: 2013 Nissan Juke or 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport?

        The Outlander Sport only holds one notable advantage over the Juke: its roomier back seat. Other than that, the Juke has the edge with a better reliability rating, sharper driving dynamics, and a stronger engine.

      3. Sounds like you found what you wanted,,.,go for it! 🙂 Nissan has 0% for 60 months now I believe…not sure if the Juke is one of them though. You probably can get a great deal any way you look at it. Happy car shopping 🙂

      4. Well there’s what I want, what I can afford, what Capital One will fund and which car is close enough for me to drive home without dying from anxiety. I’ve never driven alone in a car before! 🤣

        So we’ll see what happens. For now, I’m trying to book 3 Jukes to test drive this week and also have those defensive driving classes. Have you ever done those before?

      5. I’m sure you will enjoy it and the more you drive the more the anxiety will go away. I still get a little anxious when driving in larger cities. Birmingham was a big one for me. It took me 2 years before I would drive it by myself. I have only driven through Atlanta once by myself.

        I’ve thought bout taking them but I never did. My brother told me I should but I never got around to them. I hear they are really good teaching you how to handle yourself behind the wheel.

      6. I thought I had replied to this, but looks like it didn’t go through! I was saying I hope the anxiety does go away as I have to drive at least 45 miles to take it home! And I’m not sure I’ll have company to do it.

        I had my first defensive driving class last night and it was good. I have the second and last tonight. The test is no joke though and I don’t really think they cover enough material before they test or quiz you, based on the quiz we got last night. I have learned a lot though and I do feel more confident about driving on the road. When I have the money, I will probably purchase an hour or 2 here or there of their regular driving classes in my own car, to build my confidence. We’ll see!

        Thanks again. 🙂

      7. It is well worth it if it helps your anxiety. Once it passes and you get used to driving more, you’ll enjoy it to 🙂

        Best of luck!! 🙂

      8. But those are for brand new Jukes and I have traveller’s poverty 😂 I wish they would extend that to their used cars, but that’s wishful thinking!

  4. Congratulations once again. My first ever car was a Ford Fiesta and I had it for a few years until I had my baby and needed something bigger and for many years afterwards we owned estate cars with big boots for camping, carrying furniture, etc. Now that my ‘baby’ is grown, left the nest and we don’t need a big car any more, I intend to buy another small car. When we returned to the UK in May, I hired a Ford Fiesta again, but this time is was brand new with satnav, etc: I loved it and I am looking to buy something similar again. We are also thinking about WV Golf, Vauxhall Corsa or Renault Clio. I like the look of your Nissan Juke, although I fear it might be a bit too sporty for me. However, I did own a Nissan Almera, which was quite fast and I loved it too: very easy to handle and to park.

    As for insurance, once you know what car you are going to buy, most insurance companies will put you on an ’emergency’ 24 hour cover just to get you home and then you can extend it to full insurance: I used to work for Lloyds Bank Insurance many years ago and that’s what we did then; I am sure that is still happening. If not, you can choose the car, get the insurance and go back for the car when it is all sorted. They also shopped around for you to give you the cheapest quote available. I hope this helps with your conundrum. Yes, and I fear that insurance for first timers is very high in the UK too and it tends to put people off unless they can rely on a kind relative to help them out. May I suggest requesting your dear ones that instead of buying you birthday or Christmas presents they help you out with this very important issue? Maybe you can sell something of value you don’t need any more. All the best and I look forward to hearing about your happy outcome and your adventures on the road. Safe and happy driving!

    1. Thank you! I have one Ford Fiesta on my list of 7 available cars right now, but it is the most expensive one to insure. Any idea why?

      I will definitely call esurance before going to the dealership to ask about that 24 hour emergency insurance. It would be ridiculous to insure a car I’m not even sure I’m getting lol. There has to be a workaround.

      My husband is a student so he’s insured under his mom’s policy, so I can’t bundle with him. My Dad uses the address for his other house, so his insurance won’t add me. And my mom has her license but isn’t buying her car until next year. So basically I’m on my own with this one! For my birthday, all I want is money. That will help offset all these costs! 😂

      The Juke is very sporty. They’re turbocharged haha. That’s kind of hilarious to me considering it’s an SUV, even if it’s a tiny one.

      Thanks again for the advice! I’ll keep you guys updated! 😁

      1. I don’t know why the the Fiesta is 5 he most expensive to insure. It doesn’t make sense, as it is fairly cheap and not very powerful. I am surprised by this.

      2. As am I! Maybe I can ask them the next time I give them a call. Someone suggested they might be more likely to be stolen than a Juke.

  5. I’m sure you’ll get used to driving on the wrong side of the road. I live in the UK where we drive on the left and I have got a hire car in Greece three times where they drive on the right. I’ve never got confused and driven on the left while there but I understand some tourists do it.

    1. I have a friend from Greece who says even though America drives on the right too, he still had trouble when he goes home because the signs are on the opposite side of the road. 😂

  6. you might want to read what consumer reports has to say about the cars you are looking into. it may help. i think i would stay with the suv type as it may be more versatile like your life. nissan no, the kia or hyundai seem to be pretty good based on what i have read. if i was buying i would look at honda for the reliability. good luck

    1. You’re the second person to say nay on the Nissan! I do love subcompact SUVs because I think sitting high in a car is easiest for driving, and it’s what I’m used to. I drove the Suzuki Escudo and Samurai in Jamaica, and would have gone for the Jimny if they sold it here. I considered the Wrangler but way too expensive and terrible on gas.

      I didn’t see any Hyundai SUVs in my price range, but I am A-OK with their hatchbacks and the Veloster if my Juke doesn’t work out.

      Someone recommended the consumer reports to me earlier tonight on Twitter, too! I have been looking up some of the things said about the Juke. Kelley Blue book keeps consumer comments, too, and surprisingly enough, so does Capital One. When you click on “comments” under the car you pick, it shows you what buyers have to say about owning that brand and model.

      Thanks for the advice, Buddy!

  7. Ha! I got my license at 16 but didn’t really start driving until I was in my 30s, married and with kids (when it became totally necessary). I remember that very first new car. Mine turned out to be a dog, but new cars that followed were just as much fun. Enjoy the entire experience and pick whatever feels best during the test drive.

    For years, I drove a Ford Focus, but went up to an Escape a few years back (I now like sitting up high). However, my daughter also drives Focuses and just bought a 2018. She is very happy with it. The Fiesta is too small and not well made, I’d avoid it. Don’t even think about the new Ecosport – way overpriced and junky as hell.

    Hyundai’s Elantra is a good car – my oldest daughter drove one for many years, and it served her well. I considered the Elantra, but didn’t like the steering. I never drove an Accent, but my daughter did and said is was ok, just a little too small. A co-worker had a Veloster, and was very pleased with it.

    Personally, I don’t like Kias and Nissans. The interiors seem junky, and the sheet metal is too thin for my taste.

    Good luck!

    1. Oh wow! What made you wait so long to drive when you had your license?

      I also prefer sitting up high, which is why I went for the Juke. SUV without SUV price or SUV MPG. I used to drive the Suzuki Samurai and Suzuki Escudo in Jamaica, so I am much more used to subcompact SUVs. Had I remained in Jamaica, I would have gotten the Jimny, but it’s not sold in the US. I do agree that the material in the Juke isn’t top-notch for the lower trims, but it’s meant to be an affordable millennial car and that’s what I’m looking for. My Dad has the Altima though and the material is definitely not junky! Great car! My husband has a Kia sedan and loves it. I’m not a fan, but the Rio and Rio5 do look nice.

      The Ford Fiesta is ridiculously expensive to insure compared to everything else on my list, despite being the cheapest of them all (based on the specific cars I have available for sale in my list). I have no idea why!

      I hear the Accent isn’t a very fun car to drive, but I do like small, sporty cars, so the size won’t bother me much. I have heard great things about the Ford Focus.

      The Veloster I love the look of, but the lag in acceleration does concern me a little. I still have one on my list though, even if it is the most expensive car on there. Their resale value holds up pretty well, which is bad for me lol.

      Thanks again!

      1. I didn’t need to drive until after I had kids. There were plenty of buses, and we had my husband’s car.

        The Altima is a very nice car, as is the Ford Fusion, but probably not in the price range for a first car. BTW, I once had a Nissan Versa as a rental, and I was impressed with the handling and pep. The materials were a little flimsy, but it wasn’t a bad car. I think the reason the Fiesta insurance is so high is because the Fiesta is so junky. It wouldn’t hold up very well in an accident.

        Also, BTW, if you’re worried about transmission lags, do not buy a 2012-2016 Ford Focus (if you’re looking at pre-owned). Those cars had really bad transmissions. Mine was a 2012 and stalled constantly at lights. That’s the one I turned in early to buy my first Escape. However, Ford tweaked the transmissions in the 2017 and 2018 Focus, so they’re ok.

      2. That makes sense. The Altima is a good car for sure. Just not a huge fan of sedans. I have a Versa as my last resort car on the list. At around 5k I would have it paid off in months! They say the Juke is modelled after the Versa but I can’t see it.

        I’m getting an automatic, so do you think that would still be an issue for the Ford Focus? The Ford Fiesta looks pretty good on the outside, but I’ve never driven one or driven in one before. It’s the MPG that won me.

  8. I have a friend with a Nissan Juke, and she absolutely loves it. I think it’s a very cute car!

    1. Do you! Do you know what year and trim she has by chance? I am specifically looking at a 2013 SV trim. I really hope it’s still there when I’m ready to purchase. 3 of the 5 I had on my list have been bought!

  9. You have a good head on your shoulders and you already have a budget in place and back-up options. I have no doubt you will make the right decision. In the meantime, I will not be driving on the streets of Atlanta any time soon.

    1. LMAO—what are you trying to imply?? I live in the surburbs, so those should be the streets you avoid! I’m not brave enough for downtown Atlanta yet.

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