There sits the car of your dreams. You feel the desire to buy it and maybe you can, but the question is, “Is this purchase going to be a financially smart decision?”
“Next to buying a home, purchasing a vehicle can be the largest acquisition a consumer will make,” said Victoria Muniz, 56th Force Support Squadron Airman and Family Readiness Center community readiness specialist. “Therefore, it’s important to apply due diligence to your research.”
Before taking steps toward purchasing a car, one should check the reliability rating of the vehicle they want as well as the crash rating on websites such as www.consumerreports.org, www.iihs.org, www.nhtsa.gov, www.kbb.com and more, Muniz said.
Once the research is completed, it is best to plan out a monthly payment or a vehicle price one can afford.
“Go through your budget and decide what your monthly payment should be,” said Edwin Robinson, 56th FSS A&FRC community readiness specialist. “For example, if you can barely afford $450 per month then adjust your target payment to $400 and so forth. You should be able to easily afford your monthly payment.”
Other aspects to consider when calculating affordability is the cost of insurance, gas and maintenance, said Cory Carmichael, 56th FSS A&FRC community readiness specialist.
There are also many financial avenues one can take when thinking about how the vehicle will be financed.
Similar to shopping around for a car, buyers should also shop around for a bank loan prior to purchasing a car, Carmichael said.
“It is usually wise to be preapproved for a loan before car shopping,” he said. “It can put you in the driver’s seat during the negotiations and most banks will compete for your business depending on your credit score. A good loan would have an interest rate between zero to two percent. However, interest rates in the double digits should be avoided.”
After calculating what one can afford and depending on one’s budget, one may need to consider buying a used car.
“While the financial savings can be substantial, it is wise to have a professional inspect a used car before purchase,” Carmichael said. “This can help you avoid surprises and any unplanned expensive repairs.”
For most, buying a new car may be intriguing, but there are a few cons to doing so.
“Almost anything new will cost more than something used,” Carmichael said. “Plan on paying for some immediate depreciation once you drive off the lot.”
Once the decision of what type of new or used car one wants to buy is made, the negotiation process begins.
“Research your options before committing to the purchase,” Carmichael said. “Once a dealer knows that you ‘love’ that car, you have lost your leverage in the negotiations. Only buy once you are comfortable with the deal. It may be difficult but be willing to walk away. Ask questions.”
For any additional car buying questions or financial concerns the financial counselors at the A&FRC are here to help.
“In addition to having trained financial counselors, the A&FRC has publications, guides, classes and other resources to answer all your financial questions,” Carmichael said. “The A&FRC also provides one-on-one appointments. Take steps now to improve your financial fitness.”