As a mobile Notary, traveling to your appointments is your business, and in addition to a Notary seal and a journal, a safe and reliable automobile is your most important tool. Without it, you’re out of business.
What works for one person, though, might not fit the needs of another. Whether you’re just daydreaming about your next set of wheels or you’re already comparison shopping, consider these essential factors suggested by veteran car consultants.
What’s your car personality?
Instead of mileage and safety features, most experts say you should initially consider what characteristics you want to project.
“Discovering your own car personality makes sense,” says Linda Lee Goldberg, founder of CarQ.com and chair of the National Association of Buyer’s Agents, an industry group for consultants who help people buy cars. “Just like a real estate agent, the mobile Notary needs to project a certain persona.”
If your real estate agent drives a luxury car that screams, “I live in a mansion and you should too,” then a Notary signing agent’s compact may communicate that “you are dedicated and trustworthy” Goldberg suggests, and you do not overspend. Your auto can look efficient and competent because that’s exactly what clients are looking for.
Goldberg suggests a couple “outside-the-box” choices for projecting a reliable personality: Any Smart Car or a lower-cost Mercedes, such as the CLA 250 (starting at $31,500).
Check the safety ratings
“Purchase a vehicle that has a superior safety rating,” says Tim McCarthy, owner of CarSense auto consulting in Leesburg, Virginia. To get an unbiased view, experts suggest examining the safety ratings calculated by the National Highway Transportation Agency or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
One of McCarthy’s personal favorites for safer Notary vehicles is the whole Volvo line.
What about low mileage?
If you’re the kind of Notary who tracks every mpg down to the tenth of a mile, smaller cars are definitely for you, says Tony Langenderfer, owner of Expert Auto Consultants.
For the best numbers, he says, think compact or even sub-compact. He praises Kia vehicles which he says have steadily improved. Kia compact models include the Rio (starting at $13,990) and Forte (starting at $15,890) which claim 31 combined miles per gallon.
Besides great gas mileage, Kia has added another carrot, Langenderfer says. Newer warranties are not your typical three-year, 36,000 miles bumper-to-bumper but run five years and 60,000 miles.
Compact city cars vs. country wagons
If you drive in a city, your car may spend considerable time idling in traffic. Consider a diesel engine, says Langenderfer, because idling is easier with diesel. While diesels have traditionally been expensive, Volkswagen now offers two lower-cost alternatives, he says. Both the Jetta (starting at $21,640) and the Passat (starting at $27,095) come in models that are turbo diesel injected.
If you’re often hunting for a space to park in a crowded urban mecca, a smaller car is much easier to navigate, say our car experts.
If you drive in the suburbs or more rural areas, consider purchasing an SUV, McCarthy says, giving up some gas mileage for the sturdier all-wheel drive. His pick for mobile Notaries who need to be ready to take on all terrain and stormy weather: any new or used Subaru including the smaller, affordable Impreza.
Reliability and responsibility
Both newer Honda and Toyota compact models have great reputations for car dependability, McCarthy says. He recalls seeing a Honda with 300,000 miles and still going strong.
Some Notaries, however, prefer buying American vehicles. For them, Langenderfer recommends the Ford Focus or Fiesta or the Chevy Cruze or Sonic. However, he also points out that it’s difficult to determine if an American car is actually made in the U.S. these days. Foreign car makers own manufacturing plants here, while American automakers ship some production out of the country.
To lease or to buy?
Most mobile Notaries rack up the miles, so it’s a better bet to purchase a car rather than lease, Goldberg says. That way, you avoid that big “overage” charge at the end of the lease for driving excess miles. His quick leasing rule: Do not put any money down and focus on getting as many miles per year as you can instead of paying the overage later.
You have to crunch some numbers to decide if you want to spring for a brand-new set of wheels. Check the values of new and used cars at sites like Edmunds and Kelley Blue Book. You can also check a used car’s vehicle history, using services like AutoCheck or Carfax.
Kathleen Doheny is a Los Angeles-based journalist and business writer who specializes in cars, travel and healthcare journalism.