How to buy a new car without wrecking your finances
Buying a new car is a big decision. Not so much the make and model, but more about the financial responsibility that comes with it. Unfortunately, what we want and what we need are often at odds with each other, and car buyers end up purchasing a vehicle with a price tag that exceeds their budget…and then some.
Here are a few tips that can help keep your next car purchase in line with what you need, want, and can afford:
All purchases are not created equal
You may have purchased a pair of Manolo Blahnik shoes that were more than a month’s rent, or a new, state-of-the-art gaming system that set you back a few bills, but those splurges can be contained and could be considered short-term lapses in smart financial judgment. They busted your budget, but over the next few grueling months, you can probably get back on track by skipping your daily Starbuck’s run, clearing your calendar, and eating ramen noodles.
Purchasing a car that’s too expensive for your wallet could possibly tie-up your finances for the next 60 months. That’s five years of monthly payments that you may or may not be able to consistently afford. The golden rule of car buying is to NEVER ignore the total price of the car. Regardless of how they package the financing, it won’t change the actual cost. Consider purchasing a vehicle that’s below your means, unless of course, what you’re driving means more to you than your financial sanity.
Down payments are smart…and rare
Ask most car salespeople and they’re likely to say that the percentage of buyers who put down a substantial down payment is pretty low. Whether you fund it with a trade-in or cash that you’ve been saving, a down payment will lower the amount of money you’ll have to pay over time. It’ll decrease your monthly loan payment and hopefully, bring it in line with your budget.
What do you really need?
Make a list of your “must have” and “nice to have” options before you visit the dealership. Everyone wants the newest and coolest features, and for just a few hundred or a couple thousand more dollars, you can have it all…heated seats, parking assist, wi-fi, keyless entry, and a navigation system. Yeah, they’re nice to have, but here’s where you have to determine what you need and what you want because it all leads back to the golden rule.
Rolling over debt is not a solution
Don’t trade one financial problem for another. For the people who get tired of their cars after a few years or feel the need to upgrade their ride every other model year, the idea of holding onto their vehicle until the loan is repaid seems preposterous. To keep themselves in a new car and avoid any down payment, they simply roll one purchase into the next. The deficiency on their current car, because it was worth less than they owed, is added to the new car loan. It’s an ugly cycle that is truly detrimental to your financial health.
Watch for hidden costs
Another thing to consider beyond the price of the car is insurance, repair, and maintenance costs. Generally, the more pricey the car, the more expensive it is to insure and take care of. Talk with your insurance agent to determine how much your monthly insurance premium will increase. Research costs so you’re able to plan for routine maintenance and repairs. Some of the results might lead you away from certain makes and models and toward more reasonably priced alternatives.
Hopefully, these tips will keep your next car purchase from wreaking havoc on your finances. Do your research, consider your budget, and keep your emotions in check. Remember, the decision to buy a car isn’t a “one day and it’s done” choice. It’ll impact the way you manage your financial life for years…and that’s a long time to eat ramen noodles.