i've purchased 3 cars in my life -- all new -- and i'll never buy a new car again. my first car, i bought after about a year at my first job. the car that i had been driving wasn't in great shape -- it had some body damage, the a/c didn't work, it burned all sorts of fluids -- but it drove pretty well. i just 'needed' a new car.
well, i bought one. it was pretty reasonably priced and i put quite a bit down. i financed it over 3 years at 5% and the payments were somewhere around 200-300 a month. i drove that car for 3 years and got into another new one. this time, i had some better reasons, my family needed a car and i could afford to help out.
well, i found another new car to buy. i put nothing down on that, financed it over 4 years at 7% and the payments were around 750 a month. i liked the car, but i didn't like it 750 a month worth. i had serious buyers remorse, but i kept plugging along and am still driving that car today, 8 years later. i love that car now. the best thing about it is there's no payment.
my next new car was an suv that i bought 2 years ago. similar situation -- my family (or actually my wife's family in this case) was in need of a car. so, we bought a new one and gave them her old car. this time, we put quite a bit down and are currently financing it over 4 years at around 4%. payments are around 300 a month.
the next time i have to buy a car it is going to be used. i used to think that there was no way to buy a reasonable used car -- there'd always be mechanical problems, you can't trust a guy selling a used car (why would he be selling it?), etc. but, i've come around -- that 750 a month payment taught me a lesson. 750 bucks a month can be much better spent (or saved) other ways.
i came across a posting by dave ramsey about how to get into a car you want. it basically starts with you buying a beater for cash and putting the money that you would be spending on a new car into savings. a year later, you can trade the car you bought and add the savings for a better beater. rinse and repeat.