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This item originally appeared in the Fall-2004 Bulldog Survival Guide issue of The Tech Talk.


Staff Writer

When Melynda Zangla's car broke down, she was faced with the unavoidable task of selecting and purchasing another vehicle.

"It wasn't an option," Zangla, a senior interior design major, said. "I had to get a car, and I didn't have a lot of time to make a decision."

Like many students confronting the responsibilities associated with college life, Zangla was forced to consider all of the factors involved in purchasing an automobile.

"I did look around, but it was sort of an impulse buy," Zangla said. "It definitely had to be a cute car. Price and gas mileage were also big factors. Gas has been going up and fluctuating a lot lately, so I had to consider that." Zangla said she looked at several options, including used cars and program cars, but finally chose a 2004 Toyota Camry.

Rob Neilson, the fleet manager at Ruston Ford Lincoln Mercury, located at 1001 N. Service Road E., said most of the college students he sees do not have a used car at the top of their lists.

"They're usually looking for new cars, something like a Mustang or a Taurus or a Focus," Neilson said. "In some instances it's not a bad decision to buy a factory car, a one-year-old car. They can get a good car that's still under new car warranty and still keep their payments low and get a good interest rate."

Dr. Dwight Anderson, department head of economics and finance and a professor of economics and finance, said used cars are another good option for college students.

"It's often better to buy a used car and let the previous owner pay for the most expensive miles on the car, which are the earliest miles," Anderson said. "You need to make sure you get a trustworthy mechanic to check the car out before you buy it."

Anderson said spending time comparing vehicles is always a good idea.

"Impulse buying means you may buy more car than you need, which means your cost is higher," Anderson said. "Students definitely need to consider the differences in insurance cost, which varies by the model. That is a function of the cost of replacement parts and the frequency at which that particular model is involved in accidents."

Anderson also said a vehicle's long-term maintenance costs should be considered.

"Different vehicles have different maintenance requirements," Anderson said. "Certain luxury type vehicles are difficult to maintain. On the other hand, some luxury vehicles are more readily maintained because of the way they are constructed."

Overall, when looking for a car, Neilson said, college students often overlook expenses such as insurance and maintenance costs and place the most importance on a vehicle's outer appearance.

"When it comes down to buying a vehicle, students are most concerned about style and color, and then they'll look at the additional features," Neilson said. "We're all concerned [as buyers] about the exterior first. Then we worry about the interior."

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