Automobiles are vital to the financial well-being of both businesses and individuals in Utah County. Cars allow us to get up and down I-15, to transport kids to school and to get us away from the office and down to St. George for a vacation.
Here are five financial considerations to help you through the process of putting a car in your garage.
Never buy (or trade in) a car without knowing its book value
Check with Kelley Blue Book (www.kbb.com) or the National Automobile Dealers Association (www.nada.com) to find out what the industry says your vehicle is worth. Your lending institution can also assist with finding a specific car’s book value. Remember to adjust book values based on mileage, condition and optional accessories.
It’s important to review book value not only for the car you might purchase, but also for the automobile you will be trading in. Make sure you don’t pay more than book value for a car, and make sure you receive what you deserve on a trade-in.
“So many consumers just drive a car and fall in love with it and they end up just paying whatever the seller asks for it,” says Karrie Wight, senior loan officer for Utah Community Credit Union. “Buying a car is such an emotional decision. People often end up paying a lot more than they need to. If you know what a car is worth when you go in, it will help.”
Like other things, the more educated you can be, the better prepared you will be.
Research which vehicle would be best for you
Know what you need in a vehicle and understand why you’re buying a new vehicle. If you are buying a car to transport a large family, look for vehicles that have the desired seating while still being reliable, safe and economical. Other considerations may include gas mileage, style, available accessories, performance and potential longevity.
“If you know beforehand what type of car you need and what items you’re looking for, you won’t be as likely to get more car than you need or can afford,” Karrie says. “Doing research beforehand also takes some of the emotion out of the car-buying process.”
Be willing to negotiate on price
Many automobile dealers understand that people often don’t enjoy haggling over price. To make the most of this, they often price vehicles higher than their lowest acceptable price. Be willing to offer less than the sticker price.
Get pre-approved for financing
This saves time and hassle when the time comes to actually make a purchase. Many top-quality lenders offer fast pre-approvals, tips and advice on buying a new car, and will calculate an estimated payment schedule.
Being pre-approved also helps plan for what type of car you can realistically afford. Having the approval ready also makes it easier to negotiate and feel comfortable with the purchase.
“When you obtain a pre-approval, you work with a financial institution you’re comfortable with, that you’ve done business with before and that gives you the best possible interest rate on the loan,” Karrie says.
Being pre-approved can protect consumers from paying too much for a car, but the financial institution can do little after an agreement with a seller has been reached.
“If you do go into a dealership and find a car that you absolutely love and sign something with the dealer that says you’re going to buy the car and then go into the financial institution for a loan and find that it is more than you are approved for, then you are pretty much stuck with financing through the dealership,” she says.
Look at your budget
Understanding what you can afford is an important part of the process. And even if your budget allows for a more expensive car, take a hard look at your needs vs. wants.
This is particularly important if you’re not sure how much you can spend and what type of car you can realistically get. Work with your lender, if needed.
Not only is it important to make sure the purchase fits into your current budget, but that it will fit into your future budget.
“Look at things that might come into your life in the next year or two,” Karrie says. “This helps to make sure you have a payment you’re comfortable with. If you’re planning on having another child or adding a mortgage you should take that information into account as well.”
Buyers should also consider car-related expenses such as insurance, gasoline and maintenance as well as monthly loan payments. Make sure to get an insurance estimate from your insurance company before buying a car.
Bret VanAusdal, chief operating officer and vice president of lending for Utah Community Credit Union, contributed to this post.