Advertiser Disclosure

Auto Loan

What Car Should I Buy? 5 Questions to Ask Yourself

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

iStock

Have you ever seen a piece of furniture you really wanted to buy and then realized, dang, that won’t fit in my car? Have you ever stood at the pump watching the numbers go up and wished you had a car that was better on gas? Vehicles have different purposes and strengths — but while it may be an enticing idea to have a different vehicle for every function, few people can afford it, so getting one vehicle that’ll accomplish most of what you need is the goal.

Whether you spend your weekends transporting construction lumber or half a soccer team, or you want a vehicle that’ll haul butt down the road, we list the major vehicle types and their primary objectives, plus the questions you’ll need to ask yourself when looking for a new car.

What car should I buy?

What kind of driver are you?

Vehicle type

Example

Prioritizes transporting people over things

Hyundai Sonata, Audi S3

Needs to haul large things

Ford F-150, Toyota Tacoma

Only needs to transport self and one other adult

Honda Civic Coupe, Ford Mustang

Needs room for multiple adults and some stuff

Subaru Outback, Volkswagen Golf

Transports multiple adults and is eco-conscious

Toyota Prius, Chevy Volt

Keeps vehicles for a long time and drives a lot

Land Rover Discovery, BMW 328d

May face bad weather and needs room for five adults

Nissan Rogue, Infiniti QX50

Needs room for five adults and some stuff

Audi Q7, Chevy Tahoe

Transports seven people or large things

Chrysler Town & Country, Nissan Quest

Likes to feel the wind in their hair

Mazda Miata, Fiat 214 Spider

Transports multiple adults

Kia Soul, Honda Fit

Wants sporty looks and performance to match

Acura NSX, Ferrari Portofino

Wants to impress people with a smooth ride

Cadillac Escalade, Porsche Cayenne

Eco-conscious

Tesla Model 3, Nissan Leaf

Before you choose a car, ask these five questions:

When you step on the car lot and see all those glittering vehicles, you’re probably asking two questions: what looks the coolest and what can I afford? While these are perfectly legitimate questions, you don’t necessarily want to end up with a 12-year-old Maserati; there are other things to take into account.

How do you intend to use the vehicle?

What do you transport — people, pizzas, packages or just your awesome self? If you only need to transport yourself (and maybe some pizza) for short commutes in the suburbs, then a small, zippy car might suit you best. If you help take the whole team to a game or have a bunch of stuff for work, a minivan or truck would work better. But if your job involves impressing clients with your ride’s smoothness, power or price tag, a luxury vehicle might be your style.

Distance. If you travel for work, or even just for pleasure, you may want a larger vehicle with room to stretch. You’ll probably also want a gasoline-powered vehicle, as gas stations don’t always sell diesel and electric vehicle charging stations are relatively sparse. And if you’re planning to travel at high speeds, make sure that the car is well-insulated for sound — especially if you’re looking at a convertible — so you won’t hear the wind and the road.

Passengers. If you need to take five kids to sports practice every other day, a coupe is obviously not going to cut it. But if you don’t anticipate transporting lots of people (or animals) very often, going small could not only be convenient, but also economical — smaller cars generally cost less and usually have better fuel mileage.

Young passengers will need safety seats no matter the type of car; larger cars make it easier to not only install them, but to take the child in and out without gymnastic contortions. And if you’re transporting teenagers, adults or large animals in the backseat, a larger vehicle might be more comfortable for all involved.

Stuff. Real estate agents who need to transport yard signs, contractors who need to transport tools and artists who need to transport supplies may need vehicles to fit not only the amount of stuff they have, but the size and weight of it. A framed painting canvas might not be voluminous, but it may be 6 feet long.

Awe factor. Impressing others can be a legitimate vehicle purpose. You may want to impress (prospective) clients when you pick them up from the airport in a luxury car, or impress (upon) your friends (and frenemies) by leaving them in the dust in a performance car or a jacked-up truck.

What’s the weather?

The type of weather you face should have a large input on the type of vehicle you get. However, it shouldn’t make you overly confident in adverse conditions. Just because you have all-wheel drive, doesn’t mean you should go down an icy freeway without caution.

Rain

If you expect slippery roads, consider a vehicle that’s more physically balanced, like a sedan or an SUV. A coupe, which is heavy in the front from the engine and light in the back, could make you more prone to loose steering control on turns or curves and have you fishtailing across the lanes. “Fishtailing” is when your back wheels have little to no traction and the rear of the vehicle swings uncontrollably, either side-to-side or to an extreme on one side. The same thing can happen with a performance car or a pickup (with an empty bed) for the same reasons.

Snow and ice

Colder climates probably mean your car will be exposed to snow, ice and all of the downsides that come with them — slippery and bumpier roads due to expanding and contracting pavement creating potholes. You might consider a vehicle with all-wheel drive (AWD) or four-wheel drive (4WD).

  • Four-wheel drive (4WD): This is also called 4×4 and is usually offered on SUVs, trucks and wagons. It is the best type of drivetrain to handle the worst conditions, on- and off-road through deep snow, water or mud. The Jeeps you may see in videos climbing near vertical cliffs have 4WD, although we don’t recommend you getting one and trying it out immediately. The driver usually turns the 4WD on and off, according to road conditions.
  • All-wheel drive (AWD): This is usually found on crossovers and luxury vehicles. It is designed to help the vehicle keep traction in light to moderate conditions without the driver turning it off and on.

In addition, consider getting a car that’s not white or gray, especially if you have to park on the street at home or for work instead of in a driveway or parking lot. The color might make your car blend into the wintery environment, so it’s harder for other drivers, including snowplow drivers, to see it. The ice from the salty roads will also be harder for you to see on your vehicle. And if you can’t see it, you might be less inclined to wash your vehicle as often, leaving the salt to eat away at the car’s clear coat and paint.

Hot and cold

If the summer heat is considerable in your area, look at cars with colors that reflect heat (mostly light colors) instead of absorb it (mostly dark colors).

But it doesn’t necessarily have to snow and ice for it to be cold where you live — if temperatures often drop, you might not want a cloth-top convertible or select trims of Jeep Wranglers, as they may not be well insulated to keep you warm in the winter.

What’s the geography?

Where will you use the vehicle? The type of landscape in your town can help determine the type of vehicle you want. Whether you live in the mountains, the jungle or even just a concrete jungle, you’ll want a vehicle that can best handle the terrain you face daily.

City. If you often drive in a city, you may want a compact sedan, a coupe, a Mini or a small electric vehicle — you’ll be better able to squeeze into parking spots, navigate sharp city corners and save on gas with all of the stop-and-go driving you’ll probably do. Most cities manage their urban roads with infrastructure to handle rain and snow, so you might not need a large AWD or 4WD vehicle to help you plow through the weather.

Country. If you have to go long distances to get anywhere, you probably want to be able to take all of your stuff with you, and the roads you face may be less well maintained. A larger vehicle with AWD or 4WD might be the most useful.

Mountains. A lot of cars can handle going up, down and around mountain roads. However, it especially takes a toll on electric vehicles. Using power to climb a mountain, to brake descending a mountain and to brake and accelerate on twists and turns drains a battery, greatly reducing your expected driving range.

What is most important to you?

People value different things depending on their lifestyle. Maybe you just totaled your car and you’re really interested in safety features for your next one; perhaps you go on long trips and a cushy seat and top-notch sound system are important. We broke out some categories to help guide you when you’re asking yourself what you care about in a vehicle.

Safety. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests vehicles each year to see which brands are the safest. Kia had the most 2018 award winners with nine models — 32 models were named as “top picks” over the last five years. Volvo and Lexus do well in the luxury categories, having won 23 and 20 top picks, respectively, over the past five years.

Luxury. If you want your car to feel like a 5-star hotel room on wheels, you’ve got plenty of choices, from BMW to Rolls Royce. Many luxury cars also cross into other categories with extremely good safety ratings (Volvo), performance (Porsche) and off-roading (Land Rover).

Speed. Enzo Ferrari once said that he designed engines; the rest of the car just happened to be attached. If you like to do autocross on the weekends to get your blood pumping, or you just like to know you’ve got the ability to go faster than anyone and everyone on the street, performance cars will cost you a pretty penny, but some people believe they’re worth every cent.

Off-roading. If the thrill of crashing through brush in the backwoods, carefully gunning up a sheer cliff face or getting neck-deep in muddy water interests you, off-roading might be your thing. Serious off-roading requires 4WD (not just AWD) and some vehicles have special off-road designations. Jeep has Trailhawk trims and “trail rated” badges, and some Land Rover models have specific settings for sand, mud, rocks, gravel, snow/ice and wading through water.

Technology. You can still get a brand new Kia Rio with windows you have to roll up and down by hand, but you could also get a Tesla that can largely drive itself and has a touchscreen that takes up the whole center of the dashboard — most people, though, get something in between. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration takes particular interest in crash avoidance technology, such as automatic braking and blind spot sensor warnings, and says this type of technology may offer significant promise for increasing safety.

Reliability and value. Kelley Blue Book, Consumer Reports, J.D. Power and Edmunds are some of the top industry experts on the subject. Spoiler alert: Toyota consistently ranks at or near the top of the rankings across these four sites.

How much can you afford?

When comparing cars to your budget, the easiest thing to look at is the price of the car. But don’t forget that taxes will add to that monthly payment, plus you’ll also be paying for fuel, insurance and maintenance, and parking if you live in a big city.

Figure out your budget before looking at cars. Most people know how much they make each month, but fewer know how much they spend. Do not head straight to a dealership — you don’t want to fall in love with a car that’s way out of your budget and then become disappointed, or worse, find out after the purchase that you can only really afford it if you lived under a bridge.

Look at how much you spend versus how much you make. Do this to figure out how much you can afford. If you spend everything except that $5 needed to keep your bank account open, then you’re going to have to take a closer look at your spending. You’ll have to decide if getting a car is worth giving up something, such as going out for food and drinks often. If you don’t spend everything, how much do you have left over? And out of that amount, how much do you want to spend each month on everything that a car costs?

Determine how much of your car budget will go to the car. So now you’ve got your monthly budget amount of what you can spend on having a car — but how much of that is for the car versus the car insurance versus taxes and everything else? Admittedly, this is trickier to answer. However, here’s a handy rule of thumb: the more expensive the car, the more expensive everything else will be, taking a bigger the bite out of your budget and leaving less for the car payment itself. The reverse is generally true, too: the cheaper the car, the cheaper everything else will be.

  • See what car insurance will cost. If you’ve never had car insurance before — or if you have a long history of speeding — your insurance will be more expensive. Ask the insurance company for quotes on different cars to get an idea if auto insurance will cost you $50 a month, or $200, so you can plan accordingly.
  • Think about taxes and fees. Depending on your state and the dealership you go to, taxes and fees can vary. According to Nicolas Ortiz, a San Antonio-based insurance professional who formerly worked as a dealership finance manager, the total of most taxes and fees for almost every state range between 8% and 10% of the car’s price tag.
  • Maintenance and gas cost. Be aware gas prices are on the rise and you’ll need to change your car’s oil about every four months, which can cost $20 (regular oil for a low-mileage, mass market car) to $300 (top synthetic oil for a luxury car). 4WD vehicles also require extra maintenance.
  • APR loan cost. The APR on a loan is how much it costs you to borrow money. If you would have to take out a payday loan with 200% APR in order to get a car, don’t do it. That means you’ll pay double the price of the car. Most states limit car loan APRs to below 25% — and that’s still considered high. To see what type of APR you qualify for, you could fill out an online form at LendingTree and potentially get up to five auto loan preapprovals, including APR offers.

What’s left over is the amount of your budget that can go toward paying for the car itself. For an example, let’s say you have a total of $340 to spend on a car each month. You did your research and found out auto insurance will be about $80 a month, taxes are 9%, maintenance/gas costs average out to $30 a month and you have an auto loan preapproval with 5% APR. That means you’ll probably spend about $140 to pay for the things you need for the car, which leaves about $200 for your monthly car payment.

How to get a total price based on monthly budget. This is the easy part! There are tons of auto loan calculators that help you figure this out. This LendingTree auto affordability calculator lets you put in your monthly payment, APR and how long the loan is, and tells you the car price you can afford. This will be the car price tag you should be seeking.

If you want to learn more about budgeting for the car that suits you best, you can check out other MagnifyMoney stories: How Much Car Can I Afford, The 20/4/10 Rule and The Best Auto Loans: 2018 New & Used Car Loan Rates.

Disclaimer: This article may contain links to LendingTree, which is the parent company of MagnifyMoney.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Jenn Jones
Jenn Jones |

Jenn Jones is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Jenn at jennifer@magnifymoney.com

TAGS:

Advertiser Disclosure

Auto Loan

How Much Car Can I Afford?

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

From “Krazy Kevin” selling used cars on radio commercials to the fancy video ads from the car manufacturers, we’re surrounded by people telling us beautiful cars are available to buy and they can help us get into one.

But you don’t want to buy a car and then only eat ramen until it’s paid off — or have it repossessed. So, when and how do you figure out what you can afford?

Setting a car budget you can afford

When?

Figuring out your budget before you go car shopping is important, so you know under what price range to be looking. Having a number in mind before looking at vehicles could save you a lot of stress.

“If you don’t know what you can afford, that would be dangerous,” said Patrick Holmes, a financial services officer at State Employees Credit Union and a member of the National Association of Personal Finance Advisors in Charlotte, N.C. “I would not go to the dealership first thing because you’ll probably walk out with a $20,000 car when you could only afford $12,000.”

How?

In order to figure out what you can buy, first look at what you’re already buying. “Figure out your month-to-month expenses first.” Holmes said. Almost everyone knows how much they make each month, but few people really know how much they spend in the same time period.
When you get your check, you have two basic options on what to do with the money: Spend it or save it.

See how much you spend by adding up your fixed expenses, like rent, insurance, phone, internet and credit card bills. Then figure out how much you spend on more variable expenses, like food, clothing, entertainment, etc. Try keeping a spending journal, using a budgeting app or reviewing your bank and credit card account statements to get a sense of what you do with your spending money on a monthly basis.

Based on how much you have left over (and how much you want to continue saving), you’ll know how much you have available to spend on a car payment. If you don’t have much left over, you’ll need to make some changes to your spending (or find ways to earn more money) before trying to fit in a car payment.

How much?

Just because you can spend money, doesn’t mean you should spend it all. Once you decide what you can spend on a car, look at what you should spend. After all, you want to be able to have extra cash on hand in case something on the car breaks or you want to take a vacation. The classic rule is to keep your total transportation costs to under 10% of your monthly income. If that’s not possible, it should definitely be under 20%.

Know the 20/4/10 rule

This is the classic and more frugal guideline for car buying. The 20/4/10 rule is to put 20% down, have an auto loan for 4 years maximum and keep total transportation costs under 10% of your income.

Based on this rule, if the car you want is $20,000, you should give $4,000 as a down payment. If you only have $2,000 as a down payment, you should be looking at a $10,000 car. What’s left over after your down payment, the 80%, is what you get an auto loan for, which, according to this guideline, shouldn’t be more than four years (48 months) long. Whatever you do, it definitely should be under seven years (84 months) long. The last part of the rule is that the total monthly cost of the car (including using the car) should be no more than 10% of your income. You can read more about the 20/4/10 rule here and play around with an auto payment calculator here. Disclaimer: This post contains links to LendingTree, the parent company of MagnifyMoney.

Budgeting beyond the sticker price

So you figured out what you should spend monthly for a vehicle. That amount will need to cover not just the car, but gas, auto insurance, taxes and more. A vehicle is likely to cost more than the neon numbers plastered to its windshield. In this section, we’ll tell you the other costs that come into play with buying and owning a car that often aren’t posted upfront.

Government and dealership fees

When you buy a vehicle, you generally have to pay government fees, including license and registration. A dealer will usually go pay this for you, which is a great convenience because you won’t have to go to the DMV or tax assessor’s office during normal business hours to fill out paperwork and wait in line to submit it. However, the dealer does not do this for free — it charges administrative and processing fees to do this for you. They often are several hundred dollars and non-negotiable.

State and local taxes

Most states charge a sales tax, and your municipality might have one, too. And you probably won’t get away with going to a sales tax-free state to buy your car. Nicolas Ortiz is an auto adjuster and insurance agent for USAA in San Antonio where he also worked in two auto dealerships as a finance manager. He explained that when you buy a car from a different state, you have to pay the taxes for the vehicle based on the state in which you live. “You pay all applicable taxes and fees to the state where you’re registering the car.” Ortiz said.

Most of these charges are percentages, meaning the lower the price of the car, the less you’ll pay. Still, don’t expect to get off lightly. Ortiz explained to MagnifyMoney, “In my experience, if a state has lower fees, it will have a higher sales tax and vice versa. Expect to pay 8% – 10% of the [vehicle’s] sales price in taxes and fees.”

Recurring costs

Gas, car insurance and oil changes are all types of recurring costs. These costs highly depend on which type of car you have and how you use it. If you have an older car and a long work commute, you may have to budget a lot for gas, but it may be cheap to insure. A newer car with great gas mileage will probably cost you less in gas and maintenance, but more in taxes and insurance.

Don’t forget that if you work in a city, you may have to pay to park your car in a lot or a garage close to work. Remember to also account for anything you might add to your loan that you’ll also be paying for monthly, such as GAP insurance or an extended warranty.

Other potential costs

It’s a good idea to set aside money each month for an unexpected car expense, like repairs or traffic tickets (though you should do your best to avoid those). Keep in mind repairs aren’t limited to old cars. For example, the car’s age doesn’t matter much if you run over a nail and need a new tire. Even if a repair is covered by insurance, you may still have to pay a deductible.

Looking at more than just the monthly payment

When you add all of these monthly costs up, it could be tempting to wash your hands of it and say your budget is done. But when you go to actually pick out and buy the vehicle, the best way to stick to your budget is not to focus on the monthly payment.

It’s really easy to justify increases in monthly payments: you may think of a $40 payment increase being equivalent to a nice meal once a month, and you can afford that, can’t you? Turns out, $40 a month for four years, even without interest, is almost $2,000. (To avoid costly errors like this, you could read up on the common car loan mistakes many people make.)

Look at the totals of what things add up to, take the time to shop around for cars, car loans and even car warranties, and don’t be afraid to negotiate. You can shop around for your auto loan on sites like LendingTree to make sure you’re not paying more than you have to in interest.

LendingTree
APR

As low as 2.19%

Terms

24 To 84

months

Fees

Varies

LEARN MORE Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

LendingTree is our parent company. LendingTree is unique in that they allow you to compare multiple, auto loan offers within minutes. Everything is done online. LendingTree is not a lender, but their service connects you with up to five offers from auto loan lenders.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Jenn Jones
Jenn Jones |

Jenn Jones is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Jenn at jennifer@magnifymoney.com

TAGS: , ,

Advertiser Disclosure

Featured

3 Mistakes People Make When They Need a Car Loan

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Car Loan

Does your heart drop into your stomach at the thought of buying a car? The stress of making such a major purchase and, dare I say, negotiating, can tire people out so much, they’re ready to say yes to anything at the dealership in order to get their new car and get out. Knowing the common mistakes people make can help you avoid them — the mistakes, not necessarily the salespeople. So here are the major ones.

Not doing your homework on vehicle value

Don’t just check out the closest place to you when searching for the car you want. Look around for prices, and don’t forget to look up what your trade-in is worth, if you have one. Here we’ll talk about the mistakes people make in not looking up prices for new, used and trade-in vehicles.

Not comparing price on new cars

While it might be tempting to go to that one dealership down the street instead of hopping online to check out the prices of a few dealerships around town, you could lose money doing so.

If you know the car you want, look up what dealers in your area are selling it for. Dealers everywhere advertise how far below MSRP they price their vehicles. MSRP stands for manufacturer suggested retail price, which is largely based on production costs.

The window stickers on cars have to show the MSRP and break down the costs that go into it, including all optional equipment (and how much it costs) that comes with the car. So if you find a model you really like, you can check out the window sticker to see the price variations on different trims for that model. The same type of car may be a few hundred dollars cheaper in a different color.

Once you find an ad for a low price on the vehicle you want in your area, you could either go to the dealership with the lowest price, or take the ad showing the lowest price to the dealership that’s most convenient for you, and ask them to meet or beat it.

Not checking auto guides on used cars

While used cars don’t have an MSRP, there are three industry standards you can use to determine their value: the automotive guides Kelley Blue Book (KBB), Edmunds and the National Automobile Dealers Association’s guide (NADA). Dealers and lenders use them to determine vehicle price and worth.

If the price listed in one of the guides is below the car’s sticker price, then the car is overpriced. Show the dealer or seller that you did your research. The car should be priced around what the guide states is the fair market price based on location and condition. If the seller doesn’t agree to offer you a price near that figure, find another vehicle or another seller.

Not looking up the value of your trade-in

Similar to a used car, you can find the value for your trade-in on an automotive guide. Most guides have a range of values that tell you what you can reasonably expect to get for the car depending on the car’s condition and to whom you sell it. You can usually get more for your trade-in if you sell it yourself.

If you’re up to selling it, you could post it for sale on sites like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist and Autotrader. Of course, you then have the hassle of replying to prospective buyers and arranging times to meet so they can see and test-drive the vehicle.

Most people prefer to trade in their old vehicle at the dealership, which often offers you a price that is less than what the car is actually worth. In effect, you’re paying the dealership to handle the hassle of selling your car for you.

Just make sure you don’t pay them a whole lot. Look up the value of your trade-in before you go, so you’ll know what it’s worth and the person or dealer buying it won’t get away with underpricing it.

Focusing on the car over the car loan

As shiny and pretty and good-smelling as a new or new-to-you car may be, remember, you’re not just paying for the vehicle, you’re paying for the loan on it. Here are mistakes people make in financing their cars.

Only talking to one lender

Know what APR you can get before you go kick some tires. Having multiple loan offers before you shop around for a car has a couple of advantages.

The first advantage is that you’ll be able to pick the best loan offer. If you just get one loan offer and go with it, you won’t know if you could have received a much better APR with a different lender. Each lender has its own requirements. You may qualify for different APRs depending on the lender.

With an online marketplace like LendingTree, MagnifyMoney’s parent company, you can fill out a short online form and compare rates from up to five auto lenders. It’s important to note that some lenders will do a hard pull on your credit and that this is normal in the auto lending space. Remember that multiple hard pulls will only count as one, so it is wise to have all of your hard pulls done at one time.

LendingTree
APR

As low as 2.29%

Terms

24 To 84

months

Fees

Varies

LEARN MORE Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

LendingTree is our parent company. LendingTree is unique in that they allow you to compare multiple, auto loan offers within minutes. Everything is done online. LendingTree is not a lender, but their service connects you with up to five offers from auto loan lenders.

By shopping around, you can easily avoid a major way dealerships make money. Dealers can often increase the APR on a loan you get through them. For example, the dealer might be able to charge you 7% APR, with 5% going to the lender and the 2% on top going to the dealer. If you don’t talk to multiple lenders and see what you can get, you won’t know you actually qualify for 5% APR and you’re likely to say yes to the 7% APR.

The second advantage of comparing offers is that you’re able to plan your budget more accurately. With a loan offer in hand, you’ll know how much you can borrow, what your APR is and thus what price range you can consider when looking at vehicles.

If you do have poor credit, your APR will probably be a significant part of what it costs for you to get a car. There are ways to find a car loan with bad credit, so plan and budget for it, so it doesn’t surprise you. No matter what you think your credit is, you should check it before you apply for loans, which you can do for free on LendingTree.

Refusing to talk finance with the dealer

Some people will bring a loan offer to a dealership and refuse to talk with the dealership financing office. This is mistake. Not asking the dealership to beat a loan offer means you could be leaving money on the table.

The dealership wants you to finance through them. Lenders often give dealerships a finder’s fee for each customer who gets a loan from them through the dealership. Unlike the first way dealers can make money on a loan (by increasing your APR), this way works to your advantage, as the dealer will want to beat the loan offer you have, because the lender they partner with will often pay them for it.

Overall, the dealer might not be able to beat your loan offer. But whether they can or can’t, by asking them to beat it, you’ll know you got the best deal.

Focusing on monthly price

Many people’s main considerations when buying a vehicle is down payment and monthly payment. Those are the two biggest factors because it’s the easiest way to understand how the loan and the car impacts their financials directly. However, if you focus on monthly price instead of total price, you’re giving the dealer the opportunity to hide extra products in there.

For example, if you tell the dealer you want a monthly payment of $321, and it turns out the loan with the car you want comes to $290 a month, the dealer can turn around and say, ‘Hey, I have great news, you can have a $321 car payment that includes an extended warranty! Sign here.’

All of a sudden, you just spent $1,500 on an extended warranty, which you may not know much about or even want.

There are many “add-ons” available at dealerships, including extended warranties and insurances such as GAP, life and disability. All of these things can be useful depending on the person and the vehicle. But don’t simply accept them. A monthly payment increase of $20 might not sound like much, but over six years, plus the APR you’re paying to finance it, certainly adds up. You can negotiate these products prices, so talk about how much each costs overall, not monthly.

Rolling over negative equity

If you have a trade-in car, the first thing you should do after consulting an automotive guide to find how much the car is worth is to find out how much you owe. If the car is worth less than what you owe, you have negative equity.

The most popular way to handle this is to add the difference, or “roll over” the negative equity, to your new loan. Financially, this isn’t a great idea. You’re less likely to get a good deal on your new loan because the loan is for more money than what the new car is worth. This can also get you stuck in a trap in which every time you want a new car, you’re stuck with the negative equity from the car before it.

There are a few ways to take care of negative equity, and here are some recommendations on what to do if you’re trapped in a bad car loan.

Ignoring your budget or not having one

If you know you can only afford $321 a month in a car payment (not including car insurance), don’t let someone persuade you to take on a $400 a month payment. If the loan you qualify for on the car you like can only be as low as $400 a month, that means you need to find a different car to like. You don’t want to be skipping meals in order to pay for it, or not be able to make the payments and have it repossessed.

In order to confidently decide what you can afford, you first need to figure out your budget. A good rule is that all of your bills (rent, insurance, car payment, etc.) should be about 50% of your income. So look at your income and the bills you already have to see the margin between what all your bills add up to and the 50% amount of your income. That difference is a car payment you could comfortably afford.

The common rule of thumb about auto finance is that for every $1,000 you finance, your monthly payment goes up by $15, depending on your interest rate. Say the car you like costs $20,000, and taxes bring the cost up to $22,000 (taxes, tag and license fees can add up to 10% of sticker price, depending on the state). That rule of thumb would tell you to budget roughly $330 for a monthly payment ($15 x 22 = $330). Or you could do the longer math: Most car loans are for 72 months (6 years), and if you figure your loan APR will be 5%, then your monthly payment would be $355. Obviously, the rule of thumb is just that — a guideline. Doing the exact calculation or using a loan calculator can help you budget more precisely.

Doing things too quickly

Car buying can be a large and stressful event, so it’s understandable why you would want it over with quickly. However, you shouldn’t treat the process as you would ripping off a bandage.

Not walking away

If you’re unsure about a car or an auto loan and want time to think on it, take the time to think on it. Leave the dealership and take a break. Make sure you’re making the right decision for yourself, and don’t feel terribly pressured into making one quickly.

A salesperson might tell you the car want today could be gone tomorrow if you leave without buying it. That’s true, that specific car could be sold. Yet manufacturers make thousands of vehicles a day and people trade in used cars all the time. You can always find another to suit your needs, which would be better than getting stuck in something you don’t completely like or can’t afford.

Being rude to salespeople

Ultimately, the people at the dealership are the people you’re relying on to provide a service. This article has covered what some of the more unsavory people at dealerships can do, but it does not account for the hard work and true customer care many dealership employees do put into helping car buyers.

Many of the veteran salespeople in the car business are there because they enjoy and specialize in helping you make one of the largest financial decisions in your life. If you’re uncommonly rude to them, you might discover that it takes longer to do everything, and that it may be harder to negotiate on price — basically, it’s in everyone’s best interest to practice common courtesy. Take advantage of a good salesperson’s expertise, and don’t allow the others to take advantage of you.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Jenn Jones
Jenn Jones |

Jenn Jones is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Jenn at jennifer@magnifymoney.com

TAGS: ,

Advertiser Disclosure

Auto Loan

The Best Places to Look for Auto Refinance Companies

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

When you’re looking to refinance your auto loan, it’s best to check around at multiple lenders for the best rates. Because many lenders today offer online loan options, you can check out the most current offers without putting in the actual legwork of shuffling from bank to bank in person.

See what rates your bank or credit union advertises. Check their websites or call them by phone. Often they’ll give rate discounts when you make automatic payments using one of their checking accounts, which is an easy bar to meet if you’re already a member.

Look at competing lender offers. Whatever your current bank or lender says, compare them to other deals by shopping online. There are dozens of auto loan options out there, but don’t be intimidated. We’ll help you find the best places in this guide. It won’t hurt your credit if you apply to a few different lenders for the same type of loan within 14 days, so don’t let that stop you from applying to one of the best car refinance companies if something looks good.

Look at what your current lender advertises. Not all companies refinance their own loans, but, for those that do, you might be able to refinance with the same company if you qualify for a lower rate or different term.

In this guide, we’ll show you the best places to start shopping for an auto loan refinance, as well as provide tips on how to decide when refinancing is the best move for you.

The best places to shop for an auto loan refinance

To help you choose the right ender for your refinance, we picked out some of the best places to refinance a car online. We started by analyzing more than 450,000 auto refinance applications for 17 lenders submitted through the LendingTree marketplace over a six-month period (September 2017 to February 2018). We then compared and selected the top four lenders that 1. consumers were choosing most often and 2. offered the lowest average APR.

LendingTree

If you are looking to explore your options, LendingTree is a good starting place. Its online auto lender marketplace lets you compare up to five lenders side by side. You can find lenders that offer loans with APRs starting at 2.09%. Motorcycle and RV financing and refinancing are available as well. People of all credit scores may apply. After completing a short online form, you may be able to see real interest rates and find out if you prequalify for any offers instantly.

Pros:

  • LendingTree partners with dozens of financial institutions that compete for your business. Depending on your circumstances, you may be matched with one or more lenders at one time, allowing you to potentially compare several offers and choose the lender that has the best rate and loan terms for you.

Cons:

  • Some of the lenders on LendingTree don’t offer prequalifications. You may or may not be matched to one that does a preapproval, not a prequalification, which would require a credit pull.

A prequalification is a not an automatic approval. Some auto lenders may not offer a prequalification at all and they may require you to submit an application for approval.

How to apply
Go to the LendingTree website and fill out the prequalification form. You’ll need the vehicle information, your information, including contact, loan, employment and income details on hand.

LEARN MORE Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website


Disclosure: LendingTree is the parent company of MagnifyMoney.

iLendingDIRECT

Like LendingTree, iLendingDIRECT is an online marketplace where you can potentially be directed to multiple auto lenders. Once you submit an application, the company will shop around for the best loan offers for you. It works with more than 20 financial institutions to offer a wide range of refinancing options, cash back loans, lease buyouts, and more. APRs start at 1.99%. Cars, trucks, motorcycles, boats and RVs can be refinanced; maximum terms and amounts depend on the type of vehicle.

Pros:

  • In some cases, you can skip the first month’s payment to give your wallet a break. If you don’t qualify for refinancing because of poor credit, iLendingDirect will work with you to help you improve your credit so you can qualify.

Cons:

  • Compared to other refinance marketplaces, iLendingDirect has relatively few financial institutions as partners.

To apply
Either call them or fill out a short contact form online and they’ll reply to you. You should have your personal contact information, your vehicle’s year, make and model, and your loan information at hand. With this information, they’ll find the best offers you’re pre qualified for, and you can choose from those which loan you’d like to apply for.

rateGenius

rateGenius is another online loan marketplace, but this one specifically works with borrowers seeking to refinance. They have a network of 150 lenders around the country. APRs start at 1.99% and loan amounts and maximum and minimum loan terms will vary depending on the type of vehicle.

The original loan term may be shortened or lengthened, though usually rateGenius will match the term of your new refinanced loan to the amount of time left on your original loan.

Pros:

  • The application takes a few minutes and refinance offers are ready within 48 hours. rateGenius itself doesn’t charge any fees to you for using their marketplace.

Cons:

  • rateGenius doesn’t refinance specialty vehicles. This plan also might not be the best fit for you if your income ebbs and flows from month to month.

To apply
Give them a call or fill out an online application form. You should have the following information ready.

  • Current loan information (lien holder name, monthly payment)
  • Vehicle information (make, model and style; VIN; mileage)
  • Employment information (along with a phone number for employment verification)
  • Personal information (SSN, name and contact details)

Autopay

The online loan marketplace AutoPay works to provide refinancing to people at different levels of credit. The minimum loan term is 24 months, while the maximum goes up to 84 months. You have to have at least $5,000 remaining on your loan and no more than $100,000. APRs start at 1.99%.

Pros:

  • This would be one of the best refinancing companies to go with if you have a small amount remaining on your loan or less-than-great credit.

Cons:

  • Depending on its lending partners at the time, Autopay doesn’t refinance specialty vehicles other than motorcycles.

To apply
Visit its website to fill out an online prequalification form. You’ll need your driver’s license, a payoff letter from your current lender, proof of insurance on the vehicle, proof of income and proof of residence. Autopay then works to find the best refinancing offers for which you’re pre-approved, and you can choose which to apply to.

Benefits of refinancing your auto loan

There are different ways to ditch a bad auto loan, or simply improve your payments to suit your current cash flow, and refinancing is a great way to do it.

Nicolas Ortiz, an auto insurance agent and adjuster at USAA headquarters in San Antonio, Texas, has worked in the industry since 2011 and did a stint as a finance manager at a car dealership for over a year.

“Most people look to refinance in order to lower their payment,” he said, “and you can get other benefits that come with it.”

Here’s more about the benefits of refinancing:

Get a better interest rate. If your credit has improved from when you first signed for the loan, you may qualify for a lower APR. “If you apply to refinance and get a lower APR, not only will your monthly payments be lower, but the overall interest that you pay will be lower, too, if you keep the same term.” Ortiz explained.

Decrease your monthly payment. If you’re strapped for cash, a lower car payment can make a big difference. It could give you some breathing room or prevent a repossession. To get a lower monthly payment, you may refinance with a lower APR, refinance for a longer term or both. Keep in mind your total interest cost may be higher over time when lengthening the term of the loan even if the APR is low.

Decrease your loan term to reduce interest payments. The less time you spend paying back a loan, the less you are likely to pay in interest payments. “To lenders, a greater length of time means a greater amount of risk; greater risk means more interest.” Ortiz told MagnifyMoney. Decreasing your loan term when you refinance will likely decrease your APR, but increase your monthly payment.

If you don’t want to commit to a bigger monthly payment when you refinance, one way to get a similar result is to simply refinance to get a better APR, then make monthly payments that are larger than the required monthly payment. This way you’re going to pay the loan off faster and pay less interest, but you have the option to make the lower required monthly payment if funds are tight.

Double-dip. If you have excellent credit and finance through a manufacturer when buying a new car, you usually have a choice of either getting a low APR, or getting large rebates from the manufacturer. “What you can do is if you qualify for manufacturer financing, take the rebates, sign up with them, and then turn around in a month and refinance with a credit union or bank that will give you a lower APR.” Ortiz said. You get the rebates from signing up with the manufacturer and the low rate from refinancing.

What to watch out for

A refinancing company may offer you add ons like GAP insurance or a warranty, which is also called a vehicle service contract (VSC). Make sure you know exactly how much each costs you and what it does. Don’t just say yes to a monthly payment that includes it.

GAP insurance stands for Guaranteed Asset Protection and covers the debt on the car that your auto insurance company doesn’t. For example, if you get a new car, don’t give a down payment, and crash the car a month later, what you owe on the car will be more than what the car is worth. GAP insurance covers the “gap” between what you owe and what the insurance company pays.

An extended warranty, also called a vehicle service contract (VSC), is an insurance product that will cover certain repairs to the vehicle. It is not your regular car insurance and won’t cover car repairs if you’re in a crash. It will generally cover repairs if something breaks from wear and tear.

For example, if your AC goes out because you live in a hot climate and like to make your car an ice box in the summer, the VSC might cover it. It depends on what type you get. It can be complicated, so, if you’d like one, know that you can negotiate on it and make sure you know what you get for the price you pay.

Questions to ask before you refinance an auto loan

While you can refinance at anytime, some people try to refinance when it may not make much of a difference, or may make a difference in a worse way.

Here are some questions to help you figure out if refinancing your auto loan is right for your situation.

Has your credit changed significantly?
If your credit’s gone up enough to push you into a higher score band (from “fair” to “good” for example), you should definitely check out the best auto refinancing companies to see if you can get a deal. You can use LendingTree’s free credit score tool to check your credit status. Note: LendingTree is the parent company of MagnifyMoney.

If you have a high APR auto loan because of poor credit, has your credit improved?
Many people who have poor credit and little choice but to sign for a high APR auto loan might ask when their credit will improve to the point they’ll be able to refinance at a lower APR — but it really depends on your specific situation. There are steps to successfully improve your credit. Making monthly payments on-time and in-full should help improve your score. Just have patience — lenders typically report payment behavior to the credit bureaus once every 30 days, but that can vary by lender.

If your credit hasn’t increased, or it’s dropped into a lower category, refinancing at this time probably isn’t right for you.

Do you want to add or remove a co-signer?
By refinancing with a new lender, you may have the ability to remove a cosigner from the original loan. However, you may struggle to get approved for refinancing if your credit is poor, you are underwater on your loan (meaning you owe more than the car is worth) or if you have missed several payments.

If you are looking to add a cosigner to a loan in order to get approved for better loan terms, make sure they understand the pros and cons. Their credit history can be positively affected by you making payments, but they will also be accepting liability for the loan if you fail to make payments.

Are you underwater or upside down?
Do you owe more on the car than it’s worth? If you do, you might want to think about paying down the loan before refinancing. You’ll be able to get the best deal in refinancing if your loan is equal to or less than the value of the car. However, if you know you can get a better rate now, even if you’re underwater, it might be worth doing so. That way, more of what you do pay on the loan goes to the principal and you can pay down the loan faster. Then, once you’re no longer underwater, you can refinance again for an even better rate. You’re not limited on the amount of times you can refinance.

Are you in danger of a repossession?
If you lost your job, had a family emergency, or just have a lot of trouble making payments, refinancing can make the best of a bad situation. You may not be able to finance into a loan that has a lower APR, but you may get a loan with a longer loan term, which will lower your monthly payments and give you more room to catch up.

Have auto loan rates dropped recently?
National trends in loan interest rates change based on national policy, politics and demand. Rates are expected to continue to increase this year, and indeed, rates hit a five-year high in February 2018. This isn’t a good trend for the auto loan consumer, as auto loan rates increase with it. If there is a sudden jump in the national rate for the season, consider refinancing a little later. If there is a sudden dip, like there was in the fall of 2017, it’s a good time to shop around.

When to consider refinancing

When to avoid refinancing

If the car is worth more than you owe on the loan.
Positive equity in a vehicle is attractive to lenders and will put you in the best situation to get a great rate.

If your credit improved significantly from the time you signed the auto loan.
By paying your obligations in full and on time, your credit might have gone up since you first got your auto loan.

If you’re in danger of a repossession.
Skipping and missing payments can have a negative effect on your credit. Refinancing could help you get a lower monthly payment you can afford and help you avoid trashing your credit score.

If you want to change something with a cosigner.
You could add on or take off a cosigner to the benefit of your interest rate.

If your credit has worsened significantly from the time you signed the auto loan.
Lenders base the interest rate heavily on your credit history and your credit score. Getting an auto loan with bad credit is not necessarily impossible, just more expensive.

If you owe a lot more on the loan than the car is worth.
If the car is worth a lot less than what you’ve promised to pay, the loan is riskier, thus making it harder and more expensive for you to get a loan — but there are ways to handle this type of situation.

If national interest rates rise by a point or more.
Interest rates on auto loans change along with the flux of interest on the U.S. 10 Year Treasury Note, because the loan terms are similar. If it shoots up, the lowest APR you can get will go up as well. Depending on your situation, it might be better to wait to shop for the best refinancing deal — or, if you want to refinance as soon as possible, go ahead and refinance and then keep on eye on national rates to maybe refinance again if there’s a big change.

If the car is brand new or really old.
Cars depreciate the most in the first two years. If you didn’t give a down payment, odds are that you’re underwater on your auto loan during that time period. Really old cars also aren’t really valuable to lenders and most have limits on vehicle age and mileage.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Jenn Jones
Jenn Jones |

Jenn Jones is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Jenn at jennifer@magnifymoney.com

TAGS:

Advertiser Disclosure

Auto Loan

7 Reasons to Get a Preapproved Car Loan Before You Go to the Dealership

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

iStock
When you need a new car, most people start looking at car options online and then head to the dealership, thinking only of the vehicle itself. Then the salesperson shows up, and you go through the process of looking and test-driving and negotiating the price. When you finally get to the paperwork, you’re exhausted, right when you’re about to discuss the most important part of this whole transaction — the financing.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you had most of the auto loan part done before you even walked into the dealership? Not only is getting preapproved for auto financing the best way to ensure you’re getting the greatest possible deal on your loan, it’s also a simple way to expedite the entire car-buying process itself, helping you get in and out of the dealership and into your new ride faster.

Here, we’ll give you an overview of how to get preapproved for a car loan as well as all the benefits that come with it.

How does a preapproved car loan work?

When a lender gives a preapproval for an auto loan, it means the lender agrees to finance a car for you up to a certain amount, at a certain APR for a specific time.

Be aware that a pre-qualification and a preapproval are not the same thing. A pre-qualification is a soft offer in which most lenders do not pull your credit. If you have a pre-qualification and then do an official application, once you know the car you want, your actual loan offer might be very different, because lenders will do a hard pull on your credit and get a fuller picture of your credit history.

A preapproval, on the other hand, is a firm offer by a lender. Once you decide which car you want, the final loan offer should generally stay the same.

To apply for a preapproval, you can either go online directly to the lender’s website or go in person at a bank or credit union. You can request a preapproval from multiple lenders, which is a smart way to get the best deal possible. Some lenders, such as LightStream, even have a program where they’ll agree to beat any competitor’s rate you can find that’s lower than their rate.

If you are preapproved, the lender will tell you how much financing you qualify for, your loan APR and term. Now, you know exactly how much car you can afford before you start shopping for a particular model.

Why go through all that trouble before you head to the car lot? We’ll cover the benefits of approval next.

7 advantages of getting preapproved for a car loan

You know exactly how much car you can afford
You might try for a preapproved auto loan and find out you could actually borrow more than you thought, and get a better car than you planned. The reverse could be true, too. You could apply and find out you could only borrow some of what you thought. Either way, you’ll better know the vehicle price range you should be considering.

Remember the maximum loan amount the lender tells you that you’re preapproved for means just that — that’s how much the lender will give you to cover all the expenses of buying a car, not just the car’s sticker price. You have to account for the taxes and fees that will be charged as well. So if a lender tells you you can borrow a maximum $20,000, you should probably look for a car around $17,000, depending on your state’s taxes and fees.

You have the upper hand during negotiations
When you are preapproved for financing, you’ll know what you qualify for in terms of APR, so the dealership won’t be able to charge you a much higher APR. In fact, you’ll be able to tell the dealership you already have a loan preapproval, and challenge them to beat it and find a lower APR loan for you. This is a huge advantage over anyone who’s walking into a dealership without financing first.

You’ll know your rate and your monthly payment
If you know how much your loan will cost you, not just how much the car itself will cost, you can figure out your budget more accurately.

So if you think you’ll borrow $20,000 for 60 months, dividing it means your estimated monthly payment is $333. But that’s the monthly payment on the car; it doesn’t include the loan interest. If you know your APR is 5%, you can figure your actual monthly payment will be $350 by using an auto loan calculator like this one on LendingTree, the parent company of MagnifyMoney. (Note that some calculators have built-in assumptions with location and credit score that might give you a slightly higher payment than doing the straight math.)

A lot of the work can be done ahead of time
It’s hard to focus on paperwork and numbers when you’re tired from spending hours negotiating with a salesperson and test-driving cars at the dealership. By doing what is arguably the most difficult part of financing a car ahead of time, you’ve done your homework beforehand. All you’ve got to do is show the dealer your loan offer and see if they can beat that deal. Whether they can or not, you know you’re walking away with a good deal.

You’re not tied down to any one dealership
Getting preapproved for an auto loan gives you more freedom and time to check out different dealerships. By not being dependent on a dealership for financing, you can comfortably check out multiple dealerships if you want. With an auto loan preapproval, you know what your loan offer will be like without waiting for a dealership’s lender partners to respond.

You have a plan B
If the dealership isn’t able to beat your auto loan pre-approval or find a good offer, you shouldn’t be worried, because you already have an offer. Having a preapproved auto loan takes stress off you by serving as a fallback in case the dealership isn’t able to find a good loan offer for you or beat the one you have.

Less stress
Overall, having a preapproved car loan offer lessens the stress of making such a major purchase. You’re able to know what you qualify for, plan your budget and do the work ahead of time so you aren’t pressured to get everything done in one day. And you know you won’t be fooled into paying a higher APR than you deserve.

Where to find a preapproved auto loan

A lot of lenders offer preapprovals for auto loans, but not all. Check online to make sure the lender you want to apply to offers preapprovals. Banks, credit unions and online lenders could all be possible sources. You may want to start with your current bank to see what kind of deal they offer but typically, you can find the best rates at online lenders and credit unions. It won’t hurt your credit to apply to multiple lenders, as long as you do so within a 14-day window.

Here’s a list of the best auto loans in 2018 if you want to check them out. Most preapproved loan offers are good for one month, so don’t start applying if you’re not ready to buy a vehicle within a month from the time you complete an application.

It’s smart to apply to a few places so you can compare offers. Don’t just do one and think that’s the best you can get. If you would like to compare to multiple offers at once, you can check out LendingTree, where you could possibly be matched with up to five lenders.

Applying for auto loan preapproval

To get preapproved for an auto loan, you’ll need to have some information on hand for the application.

  • Personal details, such as address, date of birth and Social Security number
  • Employment information: where you work and how much you make each month
  • A basic idea of the vehicle you want, like if you want a new car or a used car
  • Loan information, such as how much you want to borrow and for how long
  • Account data: how much you have in your checking and savings account, and any other accounts, such as stocks, bonds and debts

What’s next? Buying a car with a preapproval

Take the preapproval with you when you go to officially pick out and buy your vehicle. Most preapprovals are good for 30 days. If you don’t use it to get a car by expiration date, you’ll have to apply again. Once you know exactly which car you want, you could do a couple of things.

The first is that you could tell the dealership about your preapproved auto loan and see if the dealer could beat what you already have. If the dealership can’t beat it, or if you already shopped around for your preapproval and know you want to go with that lender, then let your preapproval lender know exactly which car you want by contacting them on the phone or online. The lender will ask for a bunch of information on the car, such as the year, make, model, mileage and VIN.

Based on the car you want, the lender will tell you the final numbers with taxes and all, and guide you through finalizing the loan.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Jenn Jones
Jenn Jones |

Jenn Jones is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Jenn at jennifer@magnifymoney.com

TAGS: