Going Topless: Feeling Kinda Used


The list of convertibles on Amy Tokic’s list gets shorter and she considers the benefits of buying a used car. Catch up on Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5 of the series as Amy navigates the world of car buying as a single woman.

After test driving the new convertibles and crunching the numbers, I came to a sobering conclusion. Sure, I could manage the monthly payments for five to six years, but do I want to? I’d have to give up a few things – brand-name macaroni and cheese, vacations to warm destinations and new shoes (perhaps the sweetest morsel of them all). I really like all of those things and I’m not willing to give them up for a few years. I have a shoe fetish that must be fed. And for these reasons (along with many more), I’ve decided to go with a used convertible.

It all comes down to wants versus needs. I have decided that I’m going with a convertible, and as such, should expect a higher price tag. But what other factors do I really need? Is it all that important that my car is a 2012 or 2013 model? Nah, not really. How about that it’ll come with a few thousand miles on the odometer? Again, I can live with it. And on the plus side, a few of the older models may come with features that are available as options. So heated seats aren’t out of the question – sweet.

I bought these shoes to go with my new convertible. They’ll match no matter what color car I go with

I spoke with Anne Fleming, President and Car Buying Advocate of, who gave me some awesome advice for used car shopping. You can say that she’s an advocate of used cars – that’s all she ever buys. And even though there’s risk when buying a used car, she reminds us that there’s always a risk, no matter what you do.“Look at what you feel comfortable with,” says Fleming. “It’s a personal thing, it’s your money. There’s no right or wrong answer.” And this bit of advice really helps make my decision to buy used easier.

She advises to look at the difference between the models to determine what you think is a reasonable and affordable option. For me, I’ve narrowed down the years of the models from 2007 to 2010. And breaking it down by miles, features and the car’s history, I’m better able to determine where I’ll get the most bang for my buck.

With my initial research, I have the choice to go with a Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) or Non-Certified Pre-Owned. A CPO vehicle is offered by an automaker’s official dealership. It comes with a complete inspection to get it up to as-new condition. It may come with an extended warranty that goes over and above the original warranty that came with the new car. This also means that a CPO will cost more than a Non CPO, which are offered by your neighborhood used car dealer or a private seller.

At first, I was convinced that I should go with a CPO, but after speaking with Fleming, now I’m not so sure. She says that a CPO isn’t always worth the extra cash involved. But if I don’t go with a CPO, I’d better have some “just in case” money to cover repairs needed for my used car. Fleming recommends saving $1,000 per year. And by adding this repair money against the cost difference of a CPO, it will be a useful factor when decided which type of used car to go with.

This is now another factor I have to add into my budget to ensure I have enough to cover my new addition. Some people like the peace of mind that CPO offers, and I was one of them. But now – not so much, especially after comparing prices.

My next step is taking out some used cars for a test drive. I’m going to hit the big three: the brand dealership, the average used car dealership and the private seller. Now, I know I said that I wasn’t going to bring anyone along for the test drive, but for the test drives that involve a private seller, I’m bringing back up. This isn’t to give me an edge in any way – it’s for safety purposes only. Fleming suggested bringing along a warm body because I won’t know the private seller, so I’m bending the rules for this instance.

I’ve also cut my list of four down to two – the Mazda Miata and the Volkswagen Eos. Both of these cars come with the hard top retractable roof, which for my purposes, is a need, not a want. Because of the cold winters, I need a convertible that offers more protection from the elements. As well, it gives me an added sense of security – you can’t slice open this top to get inside these cars. But in the end, there can be only one (who thought I’d be able to drop a Highlander quote into an article about convertibles – but I made it happen). So before I go on my used car journey, I’m going to have to cut it to one choice.

Lessons Learned:

  • Don’t let anyone bring you down. After you purchase, you’re going to want to share your exciting news with people around you. How much you love your purchase, what you paid for it, what features it comes with – you’re the proud parent of a revving bundle of joy. But there are people who will try to bring you down by telling you that you were ripped off, that your car is missing important aspects or you should have done something differently. When these people cross your path, ignore them. Don’t let them grind your happy times into the ground with their bitter boots. Everybody has a different way of doing things. The way you purchased your car is the right way. If it works for you and you’re happy with the results, then dagnabbit, you did it right. The process is all about you and what you believe is the best deal for your buck.
  • Don’t commit to something you can’t reasonably afford. I so wanted to buy a new car, but I can’t fathom paying a huge monthly cost for the next six years. In order to drive the type of car I want without having to switch to a constant diet of Mr. Noodles, I’m going to have to compromise. And I’m okay with that, because I want the convertible and the new shoes to go along with it.

Next Up:

And the next top convertible is…