Environmental advocates maintain that plastics are largely single-use: A 2020 Greenpeace USA survey found that plastics with resin codes #3–7 are virtually impossible to recycle, because of limited facility processing capabilities and insufficient market demand. Lawsuits are currently ongoing against Walmart and Keurig Green Mountain, arguing that those companies have violated Federal Trade Commission guidance by presenting plastic items as recyclable. The corporate giants have defended themselves against the allegations and emphasized their commitment to sustainability. (Walmart said in a statement that the company is “a strong advocate for the environment” and recycling, while Keurig has maintained in court that its labels advise consumers to “check locally” regarding recycling options.)
One one end, there’s nothing more delightful than watching my nearly two year old dance to Shakira each morning, enthralled by the recent Super Bowl Half Time show.
On the other, I go to sleep wondering if I will wake up with a hard, dry cough or another of the COVID-19 symptoms. I know that if I do, that will almost surely mean my wife and son have it too. Any time I go outside and can just see another person from a distance, even though no one I’ve encountered “seems” sick, I wonder is this the interaction that proves my gamble foolhardy. If I sneeze or have a slightly runny nose, I wonder if other people see me and freak out. In my mind, I protest “it’s just allergies” and “I have this all the time” but reversing the situation, I understand the feeling – I’m thinking the same thing.
So you’ve earned your MBA and now it’s time to start working. Especially if you’re an international MBA, you probably don’t have a car and want to get good value for your dollar. After all, you need to look good, but you have to pay off your student loans too.
That’s what I’m here for: I’ll show you how to buy a certified pre-owned car and get the most bang for your buck.
Why Certified Pre-Owned (CPO)?
Manufacturer CPO vehicles are fairly new (within last 3-4 years) and in very good condition. Manufacturers will add additional warranty on top of what a car may currently have, and because of this, they are incentivized to carefully inspect a car before they certify it in order to end up profiting from the extra fee the customer is charged for this peace of mind. For you the customer, you want peace of mind because you’re going to be working so many hours in your new job, you don’t have time to be worrying if your car is going die out on you as you are stuck in rush hour traffic. Thus, unless you consider yourself a car expert who feels he can rate the internals of a car himself, CPO is a great way to go.
Start with CarGurus. CarGurus can tell you how good the price of a car is relative to the area and similar vehicles. It’s a very good starting point for understanding whether something is a good deal. The only thing where it may lead you astray is if the listing on CarGurus is different from the official dealer listing – for example, CarGurus thinks there are a couple of options that are not in fact, in the car. Just double check. Also double check that the car is in fact manufacturer CPO – dealer listing is the official listing. A used BMW car cannot be sold by a Mazda dealer as CPO. It may be CPO by the individual dealer, but you only want manufacturer-CPO. A BMW manufacturer CPO means that warranty is covered by BMW as a whole and you can go to any BMW dealer for repairs.
Here’s an example search I made for a friend who was looking for Mazda and Subaru crossovers. Here’s a starting link for you to enter in your own information. Remember to select “Dealer” as Seller Type and “Certified” under Condition. All cars that are filtered should be manufacturer-CPO.
Before you begin, filter out (check the box) all the options under Photos in the left column. You do not want to see listings with frame damage or simply don’t have a photo.
You want to focus on the Good and Great Deals. I pay attention to anything $1,500 below Market Value. Depending on urgency and how picky you are in terms of options, you may have to be more amenable to lesser deals.
If you like what the car offers, call the dealer and book a time (ASAP) to see the car. Research the car in advance just so you know what you’re getting in terms of reliability, CPO terms, etc. A test drive really isn’t about seeing if you like the car – it’s pretty hard to judge a car on a 5 mile drive that you will probably drive conservatively. If you see a car you love and it’s a Great Deal, don’t waste time and put it off until a convenient time (weekend, holiday). Odds are it will sell quickly. There’s less dealer foot traffic in the middle of a week, so there’s an advantage.
For the most part, don’t expect to really negotiate unless you have leverage (exact same car within 50 miles, similar miles and options). Most dealers now are on automated pricing in which they have enough inventory in enough areas to understand what they can sell at. The system regulates the pricing.
If the car is listed as a Great Deal, it may already be under dealer cost, so no discount possible – also look up a car under NADAguides to better understand the value of a car. Another thing to look into is the Costco Auto Program. The program guarantees you an easy no-negotiation price for a new or used car. Costco will have partnerships with dealers in your local area. You may not get the absolute best price from Costco, but you will always get a very good price with no work or hassle – Costco is very emphatic about protecting its members from typical dealer BS.
You’ll need insurance, a copy of your job offer (or pay stubs), and a copy of your MBA degree to finalize the purchase assuming you want financing and the student discount. For F1 Visa MBAs, some car financing units may to offer financing to F1 Visas – check in advance. Toyota does, BMW does not.
You’re more than likely better off not buying any additional insurance / wheels / maintenance coverage. Those are always priced to be profitable (of course). You could negotiate it (there may be tips online) if you want to see how low they can go. Expect the car purchase to take 5 hours if everything goes smoothly – most of that is due to financing.
If you’re wondering, I followed these guidelines myself and purchased a 2013 BMW (F30) 328i sedan for $21,500 in the Spring.
Original MSRP: $42,000
Purchased with 25,000 miles, and with CPO Warranty, the car had warranty for nearly 3 more years or 75,000 miles at time of purchase. Free maintenance was active for an additional 10 months. For reference, a new BMW has a 4 year / 50,000 mile warranty.
$1,500 recent student graduate manufacturer rebate from BMW for CPO vehicles.
Price was listed at $22.9K. Before the student rebate, the car was shown as over $3,000 below market value, according to CarGurus.
Received 2% financing for 5 years, another BMW promotion.
No Costco discount – the salesman said, this is already below our dealer cost.
NADAguides listed the CPO pricing for a similar (mileage, condition, etc.) vehicle at $27,075, with the “Clean Trade-In” value, or what a dealer would pay if a customer traded in the car to buy another at, at $22,375. This latter value doesn’t include the cost for the dealer to actually inspect the vehicle, recondition any problem issues (for ex, my floor mats were replaced with new ones), and add warranty onto it.
I have been using the Fitbit Surge for the past couple of months after receiving one as a gift from my sister. Overall, the product works reasonably well, but its step counter isn’t so good if you play basketball or do crunches – dribbling with your left hand and doing crunches will increase the step counter, resulting in wildly inaccurate distance and possibly calorie measures.
Regardless, I like the heart rate function, and I assume this is something that can be counted on even if the pedometer is wrong – despite recent lawsuits on Fitbit’s heart rate tracking accuracy, I trust this Consumer Reports article, Taking the Pulse of Fitbit’s Contested Heart Rate Monitors, from January. After the first few weeks, my heart rate went down from 68 to 56, where it has remained so for almost a month.
However, I wanted to know what this actually meant, and how this compared to other people.
Real information on resting heart rate is difficult to find. There are many articles, but few that have actual sourcing (this is true of most food / nutrition articles as well) on why we can trust the information. Thus, I began to look into percentiles, and I found the following data (it would be nice if Fitbit allowed its community to share this information in aggregate for public comparison) from the Canadian government:
From this chart, I am at the 90th percentile (top 10% of all males my age group) in resting heart rate. I am not sure what this all means, but I am guessing that because my heart has to pump less on average, I have a combination of a stronger heart, more efficient lungs, and less excess fat that blood has to pump around.
Currently, I do not work out as much as I would like (my knees really swell up after basketball), but I do the following workouts per week, along with my lower carb diet. Ideally, I would like to add bicycling and swimming (once a week) for lower stress workouts later on.
2 basketball practice workouts (30 minutes dribbling, 1 hr shooting)