Student Stories

This is How I Got My First Car While Studying in USA

Believe it or not, sometime during your stay in United States, you will buy a car. You can get away without a car in major cities, but other places, you will need a car.

Till date, I have owned 4 cars and today I’m going to share my first used car buying experience. Along with my roommate we decided to buy a car in my first semester at Grad School. Our used car budged was around $3000.

Decision: Which Car to Buy

When you are getting settled in US, you have to get help from your seniors. From course registration, apartment, shopping, car buying, internet, phone connection, etc you have ask your seniors for help. So, we asked our seniors who had car with them.  They gave a list of cars to look and offered to drive us to test drive the car.

Used Car Search

We you decide to buy your first car, you will have all the adrenalin to buy the first car. It’s just the excitement, that you are going to own a car (at least 50% in my case). I was looking for sale car ads at, to find Toyota, Honda or Nissan.

I created a list based on cars I find within our budget. We didn’t have long distance  (STD) calling facility in our land line phone. So, I would wait for my roommates who had cell phone. I would be able to make phone calls and find about the car listed for sale. There are few standard set of questions you have to ask when talking to the seller.

We found few cars and scheduled to test drive them. Then we will ask our friends to drive us to seller’s place to test drive the car. This went on for 3 to 4 weeks before I came across a car listed for $1800. Since our budget was around $3000, I was hesitant to call the seller to check on the car.

But, for that price and condition listed, it seemed to be a good deal.  After debating for couple of hours, I decided to call the number listed and he asked us to come and take a look at the car.

Test Drive

Couple of seniors who took us for previous test drives were busy, so we had to call another friend, who was doing PhD in Industrial Engineering. We drove about 25 miles on a Sunday afternoon and we saw the car – green color, clear windows with fends and worn out paint.

We asked our friend to drive the car, since we didn’t’ have driving license yet. Car was in good running condition and we decided to buy the 11 year old car with 102,000 miles on it.

Then we started the negotiation process (car was listed for $1800). Seller is an alumni from the same university and apparently he did his Masters several years back in Industrial Engineering. So, my PhD friend and the seller started talking about the department and professors.

Apparently the seller got a new BMW 5 series and decided to sell this car. We’re like you have brand new BMW and you could give away this $1800 car for free to your cash strapped juniors. So, finally we decided to buy it for $1200. We went a couple of days later with the cash and drove the car.

Returning the Favor

While in college, I went on to help several others with car buying process and got to know which car is the good for various price range and what sort of problems you can expect in the used car.

When my friends used to take us to see and test drive the car, they are paid for the gas (petrol) expense. We went to look at several cars and they never allowed us to pay for the gas. So, I took my juniors to test drive the car, they used to ask the same. But, I have always said, my seniors helped me with car selection and you guys can return the favor, when your juniors come to you for help.

Also, helping juniors doesn’t have to stop here. Take them to walmart, grocery shopping when they don’t have the car. If you see someone walking far from the campus, slow down and ask if they need a ride.  Small things like this gives satisfaction to me and of course I just got a brand new friend for life.

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  1. Which course better to study Aeronautical Engg. For which entrance exam I have to apply? Do I need to apply only particular course to study in India or SAT OR AP course only for studying abroad? Can I give any entrance exam test and join any engg. college?
    Please guide me and thank you very much for your service.

  2. Wants to join SAT OR AP entrance exam. Now I am studying in 11th Grade in science. My aim to become a Aeronautical engr. After 12th grade I wish to study either in UK or US.
    Please guide me, how can I contact which university is good and how much is the fees? How can I find the accommodation as I have never left my Mom and stayed anywhere accept only during picnic days. Who will give milk at night? and breakfast in the morning?

    1. yes….u can….

      as you already know that validity of gre is for 5 complete years….

      so u can….yar,,,

      be cool….and all the best for ur xam

    2. ya you can as GRE is valid for 5 years you can apply for fall 2011……………..
      I too wrote GRE on Oct 25 2010 and applied for fall 2011 and got my admissions also………………….

  3. Yah we shud help our juniors and it makes lifetime friendship. I am also going to buy a car and this article will help me a lot.

    Thanks HSB


  4. Hi All,

    You are lucky to have seniors like who mostly help on those crucial situations. Even I am about to buy a car and my budget is 2000 bucks. Any idea on what car to buy (or) any reliable website where they will not fake on material and good enough to go.

    I would greatly appreciate if there anyone can advice on the cars? SOS……

    1. Go to to find the private party value of the car. So look for a range between GOOD and BAD.

      Mostly people will go with for searching cars.

      Also check (cost $40 for 1 month) to check if the vehicle using VIN if it had any (reported) accidents, repairs, no. of owners, speedometer change, etc.

      Good cars don't stay for long. So once you look at the car, drive and see there are no scratches, interiors are good, steering wheel is good, no sound from the engine, drives smooth, go up the hill and down the hill, go on highway, check all the lights, check the front dashboard – no symbol should show once the engine is started, check the wheels, open the trunk and the hood, check if some part is replaced or very old. See that u r getting a well maintained car also.

      Beware that some put polish on the old car to look new, some put shine on tires. You need to check on the net to find the timing belt replacement times. (Normally around 60k – 90k this should b changed..but it depends on the car and model).

      My suggestion is once everything looks good then take to some mechanic to show. Every car how good it is will have some problems to be fixed. I went to firestone for checkup, it costed $20 for me, but I can bargain on the price once the data from the mechanic is with me. Sometimes bargain doesn't work so you shuld be ready to loose that $20. But it is a worthy tool for bargains.

      Once everything looks good, purchase the car and have the car. Sometimes u look and go..ready to purchase the next day..but the seller used it that night and broke or did something. So beware of the seller. Get the car as soon as u r satisfied and bargain is good enough. Also note that "AS IS" means that u r now responsible for the whole car what ever condition it is and the seller is not going to repair anything.

      Have to put some money if u want to buy something worth otherwise u end up in spending more for repairs and insurance.

  5. You have just filled courage in the souls who dream to go abroad and study, which forces them to live on their own, far from parents. especially girls…..

    Greatness first in Helping juniors and secondly sharing it with the US all and filling courage ….

  6. I have always enjoyed reading your blog.They are so well written and most importantly so helpful.I bet you have a very hectic schedule with your job,family,but still then the way you help guys like us here,heart warming.And speaking about the issue that seniors should help juniors,I firmly believe in it.Its a kind of legacy that should be continued.I got it when I went to college and I have returned the favor to my juniors.I hope this legacy continues.One doesn't know when you get a "REAL FRIEND".It's worth the bargain…what say?

  7. Thanks for writing this article. I have been pondering about the same since a few days. Could we still get a decent used car with a budget of $3000?

  8. Thanks HSB ! This was good one . I can already sense why seniors must help. One of my mates just reached Texas 2 weeks back and he feels at times, that its troublesome. And he complains of some regional favoritism by Indians there . So sad … Ppl, come on, be one atleast in foreign countries, let how much ever we fight here !

    1. It happens in almost all universities. In my university the majority of Indians were either from Gujrat or Andhra Pradesh, and the same trend was followed here. I really had a tough time getting my things done over here.

    2. That’s I stay away from Indians and I have Whites and Latino friends… lol
      Even Persians are also very friendly…

      1. Hey, I did the same when I was in US last semester as Exchange student from IIT.

        I preferred to make local American friends and believe me that they are the best people to have friendship with.

        It is weird as well as narrow minded if you make only friends from Indian background.Doesn't make any sense to me! All US people are very friendly and kind contrary to rude Indians.( no offense !)

        I have many incidences to share, but the simplest one was asking an unknown address to a local person.He literally walked with me for half an hour to find the address.When I offered him Coffee, He politely denied.

        Also US girls are more welcoming and open.You can approach any girl even if you don't know her and start having good conversation.If you become close friends, You can ask her out on same day for Dinner and she won't deny.The best part is the concept of split in Bills.I remember, very vividly that whenever I had gone out with local girls either for drinks or dinner, they paid their part of food or drinks.

        In India, if you happen to talk to unknown girl, she returns " Excuse me, DO I KNOW YOU?". This attitude is not seen at all in US girls!Also one more funny things about Indian girls is that if you are going out with a girl, you(boy) are supposed to pay all expenses and she just carries purse with her but never pays!

        Also Indians become more orthodox when they arrive in US. I have seen people eating DEEP brand frozen Puran poli(its a Indian desert) but denying to have a delicious lunch in Church on the occasion of Easter.

        So, HSB please advise students to mix with local community as much as possible.

    3. Indian mentality is like this. Once u land in US u r a NRI. So they have to show some attitude. Want to let out their inner feelings as they r free and away. They learn all the bad habits from others. At this point of, the mind is out of control. And now they want to show regional, caste, religion feelings, etc.

      I once went to a temple in US. There was some program organized by South Indians. And this was to be followed by program by North Indians. In both the programs it is about GOD. And the South Indians sitting there were such that they want to continue their program. They were showing enthusiasm in extending the program and postpone the North Indian program deliberately. Where is Bhakthi here when u came for some peace and do meditation in the Temple? Similarly North Indians were ready to fight for this delay. Did u come to worship or fight? Very sad that this thing happened. At least they did not fight that was the good part.

      Attitude should be right!!!

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