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Shopping for a New Car? Use the 20/4/10 Rule

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

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Imagine you’re in the market for a new vehicle. Where do you begin your car-buying process? Do you already have a dream make and model in mind? What’s your budget? Are you already browsing the interwebs for the car you want? If you are, you’re already starting off on the wrong foot — at least according to the 20/4/10 rule.

What is the 20/4/10 rule?

The 20/4/10 rule helps car shoppers figure out how much car they can actually fit into their budget before falling in love with a vehicle they can’t afford. It emphasizes calculating what you can afford before you set out shopping.

The rule might seem obvious — before you buy something, you should make sure you can afford it, right? — but it gets tricky when it comes to financing, and many don’t take the time to include annual ownership costs. If you don’t, you could end up with monthly transportation costs that could force you to live paycheck to paycheck or take on more debt.

Follow the 20/4/10 rule, and you might avoid accidentally biting off more than you can chew.

Rule #1: Put down at least 20%

A vehicle is a depreciating asset. The experts at Carfax estimate a new car loses 10% of its value the moment you drive off the lot. And the depreciation continues from there. Edmunds.com estimates a new vehicle loses over one-fourth of its value in the first year alone. For that reason, you should be prepared to put down at least 20% of the purchase price. If you do this, you’ll finance payments for the vehicle’s actual estimated value when you leave the lot instead of the full purchase price, which the vehicle isn’t worth anymore.

Take this example: You finance a new car for its full purchase price of $34,000, then lose your job the next day. Now, you might need to sell your new car, but you can sell it for only $30,600 — because the car already lost 10% of its value once it left the lot. Since you put $0 down at financing, you’ll still owe $34,000 after the sale. On the other hand, if you’d put down at least $6,800, you could sell the car that day for its estimated value and only lose out on half your down payment.

You might not be able to estimate exactly how much car you can afford, but if you are able to put down at least 20% of the purchase price, you should be in an OK financial position. On top of that, you’ll have smaller payments and possibly finance it for a shorter period.

Rule #2: Finance the vehicle for no more than four years

The longer your financing agreement is, the more you’ll pay in interest over time. So don’t be swayed by dealers or lenders who try to sell you on a lower monthly car payment — chances are your payment is so low because the term of your loan is long.

You can use the MagnifyMoney loan calculator to see this rule at work. If you borrow $25,000 to purchase a car (at a 4% APR) and agree to a six-year financing deal, you’ll wind up paying $3,161 in additional interest charges by the time you pay off the loan.

If you agree to a four-year loan instead, you’ll pay just $2,095 in interest — a savings of over $1,000. Of course, that shorter term loan also comes with a higher monthly payment — $564 versus $391 — but you are saving more over the long term.

Think of it this way: If you can’t afford the monthly payment required to pay off the car in four years or fewer, it’s probably outside of your budget.

Rule #3: Keep your total transportation costs under 10% of your monthly income

This last part is where it gets easy to overspend. You should try to keep your total transportation costs — your car payment, insurance, gas, and maintenance — under 10% of your monthly income.

So, if you earn $5,000 per month, your total transportation costs shouldn’t cost more than $500.

How to save on the cost of a new car

Try these tips to keep your overall transportation costs low.

Get pre-approved for financing

Avoid financing your vehicle through the dealer, and get pre-approved for financing at a lower rate before you show up at a dealership. Financing your auto loan at a lower rate can reduce your monthly loan payment. If you walk onto the lot with a pre-approved auto loan rate from a bank or credit union, you can use that as leverage for negotiation.

However, if you let the dealer find the loan for you instead, you’ll lose negotiating power, and there won’t be a way for you to tell if the dealer’s loan rate is the best offer you can get. Avoid making these other common mistakes when searching for a car loan.

Buy used

More people are purchasing used cars than ever before and saving a bundle in the process, according to Edmunds. Over 38 million vehicles sold in 2015 were used, a year-over-year increase of 5.6%.

When you buy used or certified pre-owned vehicles, you avoid financing a larger balance, and could even skip financing altogether if you’ve got enough cash on hand. If you buy used, avoid engine trouble by having the vehicle inspected by an independent mechanic before you sign off. You can use a resource like Car Talk to find a mechanic in your area.

Buy a car that holds its value

Depreciation is a car owner’s largest transportation expense during the first five years of ownership, more than fuel, maintenance, and even insurance.

A car that holds value well will depreciate less over time compared to the average vehicle, so you may not lose out on as much in depreciation costs if you sell the vehicle after a few years. Carmakers like Honda and Porsche are known for building vehicles that hold their value well over time according to Kelley Blue Book.

Lease instead

Leasing a car will usually result in a lower monthly payment, and you’ll likely save money with a lower down payment and lower tax fees over time. However, you could be subject to extra charges if you ding up the vehicle, or drive more miles than stated on the lease agreement. It doesn’t always work for everyone, so consider your personal needs first.

On the plus side, you’ll upgrade to a new vehicle every few years and won’t need to deal with the hassle of selling a car.

Look for gas savings

Gas isn’t always an unavoidable expense. You can make a few changes to your fueling habits like filling up before you hit “E” or signing up for a gas rewards credit card to save money. You could also cut down transportation costs by cutting back how often you drive or by carpooling some days to school or work. Learn more ways to reduce your gas spend here.

Comparison shop

Don’t get lazy with must-haves like maintenance and insurance for your vehicle. Comparison shopping is the best way to save on costs like these that may differ from provider to provider. Insurance companies have made it easier to compare quotes with online comparison portals like this one from Progressive. You could also try going through your bank or credit union for discounted rates with select companies.

Don’t just take the first estimate you get for a repair. Mechanics are known to pad the bill with unnecessary repairs from time to time. After you figure out what’s wrong with you vehicle, get an estimate from a few different mechanics in your area. That way you’ll make sure you’re getting the best value before paying for maintenance and repairs.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be 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 financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Brittney Laryea
Brittney Laryea |

Brittney Laryea is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brittney at [email protected]

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How to Get Out From Under a Bad Car Loan

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

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We all make mistakes. Maybe you’re struggling to pay your bills, especially your car loan, and are looking for a way to get out from under that burden. Or perhaps you’re doing better financially than when you purchased your car and it’s time to refinance into a better loan. No matter how you got into a bad car loan or why you want out of it, you always have options.Understanding those options is the first step to improving your financial situation. Here’s what you should know:

How do I know if I have a bad car loan?

If you have a bad car loan, you probably know it. A bad car loan is one that you can’t afford, or that costs you too much money in interest expense every month. If you are struggling to make car payments or are falling behind on your loan, you’re likely in a bad car loan.

What’s important to realize is that circumstances change. You could have taken out a loan on a new pickup truck while you had a good job and could easily make the payments. When you’re unemployed, however, the truck payments become a huge burden. You may even fall behind.

Another possibility is that you could buy a car when you have a thin or damaged credit history, at a high interest rate. A year or two later, when you have a decent credit score, you could do a lot better. A good car loan when you bought the car is a bad car loan now.

If you think you’re in a bad car loan or one that no longer fits your needs, it’s time to start finding ways out of that loan.

What’s a good interest rate for a car loan?

The interest rate level you should consider to be “bad” depends on your situation, primarily your credit score. “The interest rate you pay should not be higher than what you would pay on a credit card,” said Bruce McClary, vice president of public relations and communications at the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) in Washington, DC. “Check your credit score and see where you are. Could you qualify for a lower interest rate loan? If you have a credit score in the 700s or 800s, you’ll get a good loan. If it’s in the 500s or 600s, you’ll probably still have to pay a higher interest rate.”

Generally speaking, the higher the interest rate, the more important it is to try to find another solution. “I would say any auto loan that carries an interest rate in the 20% range is something you would want to get out of quickly,” said McClary. “In the teens, in the high end, you should consider refinancing.”

6 ways to get out of a bad car loan

Before you decide how you should get out of a bad car loan, you should decide exactly what you hope to accomplish by doing so. Are you trying to get a lower interest rate, keep your car or not have car payments at all? If you don’t set clear goals, you could get out of one bad loan only to make your financial situation worse.

Once you know what you want to achieve, you can decide which of these options is best for you:

1. Refinance a car loan

If your only car problem is that you took out a loan with a too-high interest rate, either because your credit score was lower or because you didn’t shop around as well as you could have, you should probably refinance your car. In fact, if you have a car loan, it pays to occasionally check that you are still getting the best deal possible on your car loan.

Refinancing with a new lender can help your credit history if you have missed payments on your car loan. “You can get creative, refinancing the amount you owe and flipping it into a new loan,” said McClary. “Then, you’re starting with an account that is healthy.” Bear in mind that if you have missed payments, your current lender has probably already reported negative information to the credit bureaus. That information will stay on your credit history for up to seven years, even after you close the account.

You could also refinance your car loan if you want to change the length of the loan. For example, say you originally took out a 3-year loan, but the payments are too high. You might refinance with a 4- or 5-year loan, instead.

Refinancing a car is almost always a better financial decision than getting a new car to get out of a loan. You generally pay a few fees to refinance, but you avoid paying sales tax on a new car, and you avoid the temptation to buy a more expensive car, just to get out of a bad loan.

Be sure to shop around for a car loan refinance. You can start your search at your local bank or credit union, or online at MagnifyMoney. Fill out an online form, and receive potential refinance auto loan offers from lenders at once, depending on your creditworthiness. Use the auto loan calculator to see how much a car loan should cost, and how much you can afford.

2. Renegotiate a car loan

If you just need help getting back on track, or need to make your payments more affordable, you can talk to your current lender. They may offer temporary hardship forbearance in certain circumstances, which means they can allow you a little more time to catch up.

Another way they may help is by extending the terms of your loan so your payments are lower. Be aware that the longer the term, the more total interest you will pay before your loan is paid off.

3. Pay off a car loan

If you want to keep your car, look for a way to pay off or pay down your car loan. You may have savings you could use, if you can do so without jeopardizing your emergency fund and other goals.

Avoid taking money out of your retirement account. For one thing, you could owe a hefty penalty and taxes to the Internal Revenue Service. For another, retirement funds are for retirement.

You could also sell investments or other vehicles to pay off your loan, or work extra hours. Even if all you can do is make extra payments on your principal every month, you will pay off your car loan more quickly, and save a significant amount of interest expense.

If you don’t want to keep your car; for example, if your household has two cars and can get along with one, you can sell your car to pay off the loan. You’ll get the best price if you sell your car yourself. Be aware that you need to gain enough from the sale to pay off the loan, or come up with the difference yourself.

4. Trade in a car to get rid of a bad loan

If you need a new car anyway, you could trade in your old car as a down payment on a new one. The advantage of getting out of your car loan and car ownership, this way is that it’s easy. The dealership is motivated to sell you another car, so they’re almost certain to take your old car. They may even take it if you’re underwater on your current loan — if you owe more than it’s worth — and roll the excess amount you owe into your new loan.

Trading in your car can be a good idea if you are hesitant to try and sell your car yourself, and you need a more reliable or different car.

It is not a good idea for people who might use a bad car loan as an excuse to trade up to a more expensive car that strains their budget and prevents them from ever paying off a car or reaching other financial goals.

If you trade in your car, make sure you get the best loan you can get. Check your credit score before you go car shopping, and make any improvements to your score before you shop for a loan. Don’t just take financing at the dealership without comparison shopping the loans first.

5. Surrender the car to the lender

If you’re in financial trouble and you can’t keep up your car payments, one option is to give up your car. You can drive your car to the lender, or wait for them to come and get it.

Either of these options should only be a last resort. “You can turn in the car,” said McClary. “They’re holding it as collateral. You can give them the keys and say, ‘Here. I can no longer afford it.’”

The problem with turning in your car is that it is a “voluntary repossession.” If you owe more on the car than the car is worth and you can’t pay the excess amount (which is likely if you can’t afford your payments), it may harm your credit history and score. You should also be prepared to keep making your car payments until they sell the car, if possible. “You need to talk to someone immediately about clearing it,” said McClary. “Your credit won’t get any better unless you continue to make payments until they sell the car.”

Whether you turn in your car voluntarily, or you miss payments and they tow it out of your driveway, the repossession will be reported on your credit report.

The lender can sue you for the deficiency, or the difference between the amount you owe and the amount the car is worth, less the expenses of selling the car. So it’s possible you can lose or turn in your car, and still have car payments. And now your credit report is damaged, so any car loan you get will likely carry a high interest rate.

6. File for bankruptcy

If your finances have reached a point where you cannot pay your bills and you don’t see any other way out of debt, you may need to consider bankruptcy.Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy can actually help you keep your car, which can be important if you need it to get to work and earn a living.

Filing for bankruptcy doesn’t get you out of a car loan, however. You must continue payments on your car loan to keep your car in bankruptcy. However, filing for bankruptcy can give you relief from collection efforts by other creditors, making it easier for you to keep up with your car payments.

If you are considering bankruptcy and you want to keep your car and car loan, you must indicate to the court that you want to “reaffirm” the debt. By reaffirming, you promise to pay your car loan as if you had not filed for bankruptcy, in exchange for keeping the car. You must show that you can afford to make the payments and that the vehicle is necessary. Your ability to keep your car may depend on your equity in it, and your state law. If you reaffirm the debt, but fail to make the payments, you can still lose the car.

Alternatively, you can surrender your car in bankruptcy. In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, this wipes out your debt. You may be able to keep your car until the bankruptcy is finalized.

Remember your long-term goals when getting out from under a bad car loan

It’s easy to think about short-term fixes to financial problems. And getting through this month and the next is important. Try to choose a path that lowers your interest expense and total debt, if possible. Avoid decisions that can harm your credit history. Your long-term financial health depends on taking a longer-term view as you decide on the best way to get out of your bad car loan.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be 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 financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Sally Herigstad
Sally Herigstad |

Sally Herigstad is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Sally here

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How Much Does a Tesla Cost?

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Tesla Roadster
Tesla

Teslas are the newest, spiffiest electric vehicles on the block. The first models were priced as luxury vehicles, but Elon Musk promised to make an EV affordable for most Americans by rolling out the Model 3 at an advertised price below $35,000. There is more to the price, however, as we’ll explain.

Musk’s fancier models will cost you a pretty penny — up to $250,000 — along with Tesla’s upgrades. Availability and price depend on the model and the trim you choose. For the whole picture, keep reading.

How much does each new Tesla model cost?

In order of price, Tesla offers five consumer car models: 3, S, X, Y and the upcoming second-generation Roadster, which you can reserve now. It speaks to company founder Elon Musk’s sense of humor that if you put the first models in the order they were produced you get “S3XY.”

*It’s important to note that the advertised prices don’t include a $1,200 destination and document fee, and they do include a $1,875 federal tax incentive and an estimated savings in gas over six years. Neither price includes taxes or registration fees.

What about the tax credit?

Time ran out on the full $7,500 federal tax credit that was available to the first 200,000 new Tesla owners. Customers who have their Teslas delivered from July 1 to Dec, 31, 2019 get a fourth of the tax credit amount, $1,875.  In 2020, there is no scheduled tax credit.

The good news? There are state tax credits you may be able to use for your new Tesla. The following states and Washington D.C. offer incentives like tax credits, tax exemptions and reduced rates for EV charging: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

How much does a Model 3 cost?

The Model 3 is Tesla’s least expensive car. You may be able to drive away in one for a minimum of $41,100. If that amount surprises you, then you know the Model 3 is often highlighted as costing less than $35,000. So why the discrepancy?

The quoted $33,725 price tag is after estimated savings, including the $1,875 tax credit and the fuel savings you would have over six years if you owned a gasoline-powered car. Add those back in and you get to the sticker price of $39,900. Then, tack on Tesla’s standard $1,200 delivery and document fee to get a price of $41,100, not including tax and registration fees.

How much does a Model S cost?

The sticker price for the Standard Range AWD of a Model S is $75,000. For a greater driving range by about 76 miles, the Long Range AWD trim comes in at a $85,000 sticker price. And for a greater performance, the Performance AWD goes from zero to 60 in 2.5 seconds, a 64% faster acceleration for $11,000 more than the Long Range AWD.

How much does a Model X cost?

While models 3 and S are sedans, the Model X is an SUV crossover with optional third-row seating. The lowest trim, the Standard Range AWD, has an $81,000 sticker price. The next trim up, the Long Range AWD has a sticker price of $91,000 and will get you 58 miles more in driving range. The top trim Performance AWD for $102,000 will get you from zero to 60 mph in 2.9 seconds, instead of 4.7 seconds that the Long Range AWD achieves.

How much does a Model Y cost?

A smaller crossover than Model X, Model Y doesn’t have a Standard Range option. Its least expensive trim is the Long Range at a price of $48,000. The Long Range AWD is $52,000 and the Performance AWD is $61,000.

How much does a Tesla Roadster cost?

The most expensive Tesla model is the second-generation Roadster. A Founders Series Roadster is $250,000; although you could get a base Roadster for $200,000. Given the $50,000 price difference between the Founders Series Roadster and the base Roadster, which is enough to buy a whole other Tesla, the Founders Series Roadster has got to offer something special — and it does. You can go from zero to 60 in 1.9 seconds and from zero to 100 in 4.2 seconds, which is pretty dang quick acceleration.

Can you negotiate?

Most car brands let you negotiate on prices. We even wrote about how to negotiate a car price. With Tesla, however, there is no price negotiation. James Wolf, a senior engineer at LendingTree, the parent company of MagnifyMoney, bought his Model 3 in October 2018. He explained, “There is no negotiation when it comes to the price, only your options [can] adjust the price.”

There are no back-and-forth, tit for tat price negotiations on a new Tesla. The price is the price, take it or leave it. The only negotiation on a new Tesla is the one you may have with yourself and your budget: there are plenty of drool-worthy option upgrades, the cheapest of which adds a cool $1,000 to the price tag. More on that later.

Tesla fees and options

As with any car purchase, there will be unavoidable fees and some enticing options you could add to the vehicle. Both will increase the final price.

Can you avoid the destination and document fees?
No. Of the $1,200 fee, $1,000 is the delivery fee, which is charged in the U.S. and Canada regardless of delivery method or location, even if you pick it up hot from the factory floor. Why? It’s government-mandated. The delivery fee, also known as the destination charge, has to be separate from the MSRP and clearly disclosed. The remaining $200 is the document fee.

How much do options cost?
The least expensive upgrade is getting a black and white interior in a Model 3, rather than the all black. The most expensive is adding autopilot after you buy the car for $7,000, instead of ordering it for $5,000 when you get the car new.

**For Models S and X the interior options of Black and White, and Cream are available for purchase on the two lower trims only. The Black and White option is available for no up-charge on the top trim, but the Cream is not available on the top trim.

How much is tax?

Property tax. Vehicle property tax depends on your state and your county or city of residence. It varies pretty wildly, so check your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles website for more information.

Sales tax. If you’re lucky enough to live in state without sales tax (Alaska, Delaware, Montana, Oregon, New Hampshire), you may not have to pay taxes on the car’s purchase.

For the rest of the country, state sales tax applies. You may also have local sales taxes to contend with. The highest average combined state and local sales tax rate is in Tennessee at 9.46% as of July 2018. The lowest is Alaska at 1.43%. And the average in California is 8.55%.

Is tax included in the final amount I pay for the Tesla? If you live in a state where Tesla has a sales license, the applicable taxes you’ll have to pay will be included in your total. If you live in a state where Tesla does not have a sales license, taxes will not be included in the total, but you will have to pay them when you register the car in your state.

Do I have to pay California sales tax? If you pick the car up in California and you live in a different state where Tesla does not have a sales license, Tesla, by law, has to charge California sales tax. For further information on this, see a tax professional or talk to a Tesla representative.

Where does Tesla have a sales license? Tesla has a sales license to directly sell vehicles in about half of U.S. states. Different states have different automotive sales laws. You could see a thread on the Tesla Motors Club website with a map on Tesla sales licensure.

Financing a Tesla

If you’re not paying cash, you may be able to get a loan through Tesla or another lender. It does not hurt your credit to apply to multiple lenders any more than it does to apply to one lender, as long as you do so within a 14-day window. It’s always good idea to shop around for a car loan just as you would for the car itself — only talking to one lender is one of the common mistakes people make when they need an auto loan.

Tesla financing and leasing. Once you create a Tesla account, which you may do here, you can submit a credit application online and hear back from Tesla within 48 hours. Tesla financing is only available in these states: California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and Washington.

Financing with your own lender. If you have your own lender, you’ll need to provide the name of the lender, the exact dollar amount of the loan and the lender’s address and phone number to Tesla. In turn, the lender will want the VIN, which you can find in your Tesla account.

How much does a used Tesla cost?

Despite it being a relatively new car company, there are used Teslas available for sale. Some models are almost 10 years old, as the first generation Roadster came out in 2008. It’s these older models that are the least expensive Teslas you’ll find, priced in the upper $30,000 range. Tesla itself offers used models that passed a rigorous inspection and come with a warranty. You can also find used Teslas for sale off third-party car buying sites, such as AutoTempest and CarGurus.

Because they are used, you won’t have to pay the $1,000 destination fee, which only applies to new cars; unless, of course, you’re getting the car shipped to you specially. If you buy the car from a dealership rather than a private person, you will still face all of the typical dealer fees. And no matter how you buy the car, you’ll need to pay the appropriate taxes.

The bottom line

The least expensive new Tesla will cost you $41,100 before taxes and before any available tax credits. You can’t negotiate on the price of a Tesla, but you can pick and choose options that suit you. If you’d like to see what else is out there without leaving your couch, you could look at the best online car buying sites for 2018.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be 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 financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Jenn Jones
Jenn Jones |

Jenn Jones is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Jenn at [email protected]