We’ve been a three-car family for a long time now. The husband and I each have our own vehicle, and we also have an SUV that is used to tow the RV or transport the big dog to the vet. Last year, my husband’s car was showing signs of age and at 150k+ miles, we knew we were going to have to replace it soon. It had served us well, and was still going despite having transmission issues after a big rig backed over the front of it and pushed it back 50′ at an intersection. Thing was, we hadn’t had an auto loan in years. Buying a new car was appealing, but starting a new car payment was not.
Sometimes things have a way of forcing your hand though. We were driving to Century City for a screening of Captain America: Civil War and it had been raining on and off. We weren’t familiar with the area around the theater, and I pointed out where we needed to turn rather last-minute. The car didn’t respond and instead of slowing and turning, the brakes locked up; we skidded up over a curb and into a transformer box and a couple of poles. We weren’t hurt, but it was immediately obvious the car was totaled. (And it’s important to note: we still made it to the screening! Our AAA membership got it towed within 20 minutes and while we were shaky — and stranded — we weren’t letting it get in the way of seeing the movie. That’s some serious Marvel dedication.)
Having the spare vehicle saved us, as it gave us some time to research the car buying process. The last car we bought was my Dodge Charger, and we’d paid cash for it. This buying experience was our first in several years. While it was the husband’s car that was totaled, I was getting lucky: I was getting the new car. As a mom of four, I’d driven family vehicles for many years. I’d had a family sedan, a minivan, the SUV, then the Charger. Working from home, I don’t put a lot of miles on cars but I do spend a fair amount of time toting kids or football gear and sitting on the freeway in traffic while heading to press events. I wanted a fun car this time, something a little less practical yet completely functional for our needs. I ended up with my dream car, a Dodge Challenger SRT 392.
Car buying should be a process we look forward to but because we dread high-pressure salesmen or the back and forth negotiation, it’s less enjoyable. Buying a new car is a big deal, and something we need to have complete control over. We need to know how much we’re paying for the vehicle in total, how much per month, how many months we’ll pay, and what the cost breakdown is. Going into a dealership without preparation can put you at risk for paying more than you can afford or more than you should be paying. It’s important to learn about the loan process ahead of time. Find out what the interest rates are, what your credit score is, and have a down payment ready.
That’s where you can utilize the internet to help you find all the information you need to help you prepare for your biggest purchase outside of a home. You’ll learn the best types of auto loans in our current economy, websites to check for the best loans and their pros/cons, and there’s even help if you’re interested in refinancing an existing loan.
One of the best tools available is the auto loan calculator, so you can play with numbers before you’re sitting at a desk in front of a finance manager. Did you know that the rate for a new car is different from that of a used car? That’s good information to have when deciding if you want to buy a new or used vehicle. Rates will fluctuate and depend on your credit history as well.
And then when you’re ready to buy, which lender do you choose to go with? There are a lot of choices and some of them offer some extras, like the ability to have a credit union account. Walking into a dealership with all of this set up helps save you from all the “let me check with my manager” conversations, leaving you sweating it out and wondering if you made the right offer. Do the work at home, so you can focus on the right things: finding the right car for the loan you’re comfortable with.
Whatever you use your car for, you need to have a safe and reliable vehicle. If you’re considering buying a new car, do your homework and buy the car confidently! (And sometimes you just have to go for it and buy that dream car!)