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Is car-buying the same in Portland, Maine as it is in Hilo, Hawaii? Tom and Ray help Natalia go shopping.

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Dear Tom and Ray:



I'm a big fan of your show and column, and sure can use your advice. I've applied to nursing schools in both Portland, Maine, and Hilo, Hawaii. I currently live in Seattle and have been carless since 2000. I am required to own a car in nursing school and am a little nervous about purchasing the wrong car and ending up with a lemon (I will be on a VERY tight budget, and my mechanical expertise ends at changing the oil). I'm hoping you can help provide some car-related pros and cons for both locations, and help me decide where to go to school. Any general car-buying advice for both locations would be greatly appreciated too (e.g., wait to get there before purchasing the car, don't buy a convertible, etc.). Thanks very much! -- Natalia

RAY: This is an easy one, Natalia. If you buy a used car in Portland, Maine, it's probably going to be beat up and rusted from having suffered through a lifetime of winters and road salt. And if it breaks down, you may have to walk miles in the snow, sleet or ice to get help. So, make sure you pay attention during frostbite class!

TOM: Whereas if you buy an old car in Hawaii, it will have been perfectly preserved by the Pacific sunshine, and might even come with a surfboard rack.

RAY: And if your car breaks down in Hawaii, what do you care? It'll inevitably be a nice day for a walk. You might meet some interesting people, get invited to a luau and learn to dance the hula.

TOM: But regardless of where you go to nursing school (go to Hawaii, Natalia), wait until you get there to buy a car. Maybe some nursing student who's graduating will have a car he or she wants to unload. Or maybe someone connected to the school will know someone with a good used car to sell.

RAY: You also can use our database of mechanics who have been personally recommended by our readers and listeners. It's called the Mechanics Files, and it's on our Web site, www.cartalk.com.

TOM: You put in your new ZIP code (96720 is Hilo, by the way), and you'll get a list of mechanics who our listeners and readers say they trust. Call one or two of them, tell them you're moving there, and ask them to keep an eye out for an older Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla in good condition for you.

RAY: Even if the mechanic doesn't find you a car, you'll still want to know a mechanic when you get there so you can have any car that interests you checked out before you buy it.

TOM: Well, I hope I've made my opinion on this matter perfectly clear, Natalia.

RAY: I'd think twice about specializing in geriatric nursing if I were you, Natalia, because it sounds like my brother's getting ready to move to Hilo and join you!
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