How Does a Car Loan Work?

There are essentially two ways to buy a car. You can pay cash, or if you don’t have the necessary cash, you can get a loan. Actually there’s another way — leasing — that we won’t discuss here, but is discussed in a number of other articles on this web site.

When you get a loan, you are borrowing money from a bank, credit union, or finance company and promising to repay that money, with interest, over a specified period of time. You use that money to pay the dealer for your car. Although car buyers can arrange their own car loans with local banks or credit unions, many choose to let their car dealer arrange the loan for them.  Dealers don’t provide loans themselves but work with banks or finance companies on customers’ behalf.

So if you buy a brand new Ford, and need a loan, the Ford dealer will send our loan application to Ford Credit Corporation, who will provide the loan (assuming you are approved). Ford Credit pays the dealer for the car and begins sending you bills for each monthly payment. From now on, until the loan has been paid off, you will be dealing with Ford Credit, not the car dealer. It often takes a few days for the approval to come through.

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How Are Car Leasing and Renting Different?

Uninformed automotive consumers often confuse car leasing and car renting. They sometimes think the two are the same. They would be very wrong.

The confusion is somewhat understandable because of the similarity of terms to that of apartment leasing and renting. Many of us can remember our parents telling us that renting or leasing an apartment was “throwing our money away” and that we should buy a house instead. Until the recent recession, it was true that you could invest in a house and get all your money back, plus more, when you decided to sell the house later. The house “appreciated” in value and was a smart use of your money.

Cars are not houses or apartments, and don’t act the same. All cars, unlike houses, “depreciate” in value over time and miles. They never appreciate in value — except possibly if they turn out to be classics 30 years from now. You always lose money with a car, whether you buy with cash, finance, lease, or rent. Cars are never good investments (except for some old classics). The average new car will lose half its value in three years, and even more in the following years, regardless of what was paid for it.

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How to Buy a Car from an Individual Seller

How do I buy a car from an individual private seller — not a dealer?

When you buy a car from an individual, you pay with cash, a money order, or a bank cashiers check. The money can come from savings, a checking account, a family loan, or a loan from a bank or financial company. Most sellers do not like personal checks.

Buyers sometimes expect a private seller to “take payments” but any smart seller will not agree to such a plan. It is too risky. As a buyer, it’s better to get your own loan.

Requirements for a car loan

Loans from banks or finance companies require that you have a not-so-bad credit score, have an income sufficient to repay the loan, and have no excessive debts that might interfer with your ability to repay the loan. Loan companies do not want to give money to people who are unable to repay a loan.

Buying a car with bad credit – or no credit

People who have a bad credit history — a history of not making payments on time or of missing payments on other loans – will have problems getting a car loan. The lender will assume that if you have had problems in the past, there is a good chance that you’ll have problems again.

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Zero Down Car Lease

zero down car leaseLeasing can provide an affordable option to anyone needing car financing at minimum monthly cost. Upfront cost can also be minimized by paying no money down — $0 down payment.

Lease payments are 60% – 110% lower than loan payments for the same car. And most leases can be obtained with zero money down— $0 down.

So what’s the catch?

First, leasing is a bit more complicated than buying a car with a loan. If you don’t understand how leasing works, or how to determine if it’s right for you, you should skip it until you take the time to learn about leasing — from LeaseGuide.com.

Second, in order to get a zero down car lease, you need a good credit score. In fact, you may need a better score than you would need if you were buying with a loan. You should always know your current credit score before going car shopping. Actually you have three scores, from the three major credit bureaus, all of which will be a little different. Furthermore, you can’t know which of the three your car dealer and finance company will use to check your credit. Therefore, it’s recommended that you know all three ahead of time. Get your free credit score and $1 credit report from TransUnion.

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Cheapest Car Leases – $199 or Less

best car lease dealsMany car companies offer special lease deals on selected models and styles each month. Some are very affordable at less than $200 a month.

This month, we list over 50 leases for $199 or less. The list gets larger every month as car manufacturers increasingly work to attract new customers by offering low monthly car costs.

These are usually genuinely good deals that are worth considering as long as you like the models and styles being promoted. The deals usually only last for one month, require a down payment, and have a specific mileage allowance — usually 1000 miles per month, average. Be aware that these deals may vary by region of the country.

Most lease deals are for 24 or 36 month terms. At the end of the lease you can simply return the car, or you can purchase it for the guaranteed purchase price stated in your lease contract. In some cases, you may have equity in the car (it’s worth more than the purchase price) such that it makes sense to buy it and sell it for a profit, or use it as a trade-in for another new vehicle.

Here are the cheapest car lease deals being offered at this time:

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Auto Loan Rates – How to Get the Best Rates

car loan rateWhen you buy a car with a loan, you not only pay back the amount borrowed but you also pay finance charges (interest).  Each month’s loan payment consists partly of principle and partly of interest. Actually, the amount of principle and interest changes each month, although the total remains the same. In the beginning, you pay more interest and less principle. Near the end of the loan, you are paying nearly all principle.

The amount of finance charges you pay depends on the interest rate and the length (term) of your loan. Interest rates can vary between different lenders. The interest rate you pay also depends on your credit score. Someone with poor credit will pay a higher rate than someone with outstanding credit. More about credit later.

Interest rates are generally higher for used cars than for new cars. And longer loan terms have higher interest rates than shorter loans.

At the time of this writing the national average new-car interest rate is about 3.0% for a 4-year car loan and a bit higher for used car loans. Dealers sometimes add a percentage point or two for additional profit. This is called “reserve.”

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5 Tips for Getting an Auto Loan

tips for getting auto loansFor many people, an auto loan is the most significant and largest financial transaction they make in their lives — at least until they get a home mortgage. Because it is so significant, it makes sense to take the right steps and avoid mistakes in the process.

1. First, shop around for auto loans at your local banks, credit unions, and financial companies. You don’t have to finance through your car dealer. In fact, by shopping around first, you’ll know if your dealer’s loan offer is good or not. When you talk to a bank or credit union, you may also be able to get pre-approved at a guaranteed interest rate and for a given amount. That way, you’ll know what price car you can afford when you go to your dealer. You are not obligated to accept any loan offer you receive, even those for which you are pre-approved.

2. Know your credit score. Your credit can make the difference between getting approved for a car loan or not. If you are approved, your credit score will determine the interest rate you pay and the down payment amount you’ll have to make. Car companies offer special promotional deals each month, such as 0% APR loans and low-payment leases, which require good credit. To get the best rates and best deals you’ll need a credit score of 700 or above. Get your free credit score and $1 credit report from TransUnion.

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0% Car Loans – Zero Interest

Car manufacturers are constantly offering low-interest loans and other incentives to help sell cars.

With “normal” interest rates around 3.0% at the time of this writing, it’s not much of a stretch for car companies to offer 1.9%, 0.9%, or even 0% loan rates.

A zero-percent (0%) loan means no interest at allno finance charges for the life of the loan. Some car company deals limit no-interest loans to 36 months but some extend it all the way to 60 or even 72 months.

Understand that no-interest loans are not something you can get by negotiating with a dealer. These promotional loan deals are only offered by car manufacturers on selected models and styles for a limited amount of time.

How much money do you save with a 0% loan?

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Quick Guide to Buying a Car

guide for first car buyersFirst-time car buyers are often unaware of everything that’s involved in the process. It’s not surprising because it’s not simple and not like buying anything else that we normally buy, even a house.

We’ll explain it all in this quick guide to buying a car. Further details can be found in the various articles posted on this web site.

1. Decide on a Car

Choosing a car for the first time can be a bewildering experience because there so many choices — old cars with lots of miles on them, newer cars with better safety and tech equipment, small cars, compact cars, sedans, coupes, large cars and SUVs, sports cars , fast cars, fuel-efficient cars — not to mention all the different makes, models, and styles that are available.

Decide what kind of car you want or need and what’s important to you. Do you want good looks, safety, good gas mileage or high performance, automatic or manual transmission, 2-wheel drive or 4-wheel (for winter weather), sporty 2-door coupe or 4-door sedan or convertible, passenger car or roomy SUV or minivan? Do you want good reliability and dependability, and low insurance cost? What is is your budget and how much can you afford, either as a cash purchase or as monthly loan payments?

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Low Interest Rate Car Deals

Car manufacturers and dealers often have special loan rates available for limited-time promotions. Are these deals worth considering? Do you save money by accepting low-interest loan deals?

We see a lot of variations of low-interest loan rates from car manufacturers. Some are 3.9%, some, 1.9%, some 0.9%, and even 0%. What’s the difference? Is a 0% APR deal much better than a 1.9% APR deal?

First of all, low-interest loan rates are almost always limited-time promotional deals being offered by finance companies associated with a car manufacturers, such as Ford’s Ford Credit or Honda’s Honda Financial Services. Dealers do not set loan rates. Customers sometimes incorrectly think that, with a high credit score, they should be able to get a 0% or super-low interest rate at any time.

Let’s take a look at how low-interest new-car loans stack up.

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First Car Questions

We answer questions from first-car buyers almost every day when we participate on the Yahoo! Answers web site in the Car Buying and Selling section. The majority of those questions come from teens and young adults who have little or no experience in buying, trading, or selling cars.

In the few years that we’ve been doing it, we have seen certain common questions come up over and over again. Some come up numerous times in a single day.

We thought we would post some of the most frequent questions here, and answer them just as we do on Yahoo! Answers.

Here goes.

Q.  How many miles are too much for a used car?  How many miles will I get from this used car?

A. All used cars are different. It’s not possible to say that a certain car of a certain age and of a certain brand that has 150,000 miles is a good car. It depends on how it has been driven and cared for. Some cars with only 50,000 miles are ready for the junk yard, while others with 150,000 miles are good for another 150,000.  Even brands such as Honda and Toyota, that are known to be very reliable, can have serious high-mileage problems. Therefore, don’t make a purchase decision based on mileage alone. Get a professional mechanic to inspect your car before you buy. It’s the actual condition of the car, not mileage, that is important.

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Do I Need A Co-Signer?

Who needs a co-signer for a car loan? How does it work?

need a co-signer for car loanNew or first-time car buyers are often surprised at being turned down for a car loan because they have no credit history, which unfortunately has about the same effect as having bad credit. Getting a co-signer might be the answer.

Lenders want to see that a borrower has a good record with previous loans and credit cards. Without a history of credit, a borrower represents a risk to lenders. If they don’t know a borrower’s history, they take the low road and assume the worst.

It’s a familiar “catch-22″ situation in that you can’t get a loan to establish credit without already having credit. So what is the answer?

What is the answer?

The most common solution is to have someone “co-sign” your loan contract. Typically, it’s family member who has a good credit score. A co-signer plays no part in the loan unless the primary borrower fails to make payments. In that case, the loan company would have the right to seek payment from the co-signer.

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How Do Car Notes Work?

car leaseCar notes, or car loan payments, are the monthly payments made after a car is purchased with a loan from a bank, credit union, or finance company. Some dealers provide financing directly, in which case car notes are made directly to the dealer, but in most cases dealers simply arrange financing with a bank or finance company that he partners with. In that case, car note payments are made to the bank or finance company.

Car buyers who need a loan can apply at a bank or credit union prior to looking for a car. In this way, they can be pre-approved and will know exactly how much they can borrow and what their loan finance rate (interest rate) will be. When they finally decide on a car and are buying from a dealer, they can compare the dealer’s financing with the bank’s financing and go with the best deal.

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Car Loan – In Plain Language

car loan explainedYou, the car buyer, wish to purchase a car but you don’t have the necessary cash.

You need a car loan.

A bank or credit union can provide you the loan you need, or your car dealer can arrange the loan for you with a bank or finance company that he works with. Understand that dealers generally don’t make loans nor approve them.

The bank or finance company explains the loan to you in this way:

“We are willing to loan you our money to pay the dealer for your new car, assuming we check your credit history and find that there is not a risk that you won’t pay us back our money. If you have no credit history or your credit is poor, we may decide to turn you down. We might also turn you down if you do not have a steady source of income that will allow you to repay the loan. If you can get a co-signer with good credit and a good income who is willing to sign with you, we may reconsider”.

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What is a Credit Report?

credit reportHow do I get my credit reports and my credit score?

Whenever you apply for any type of credit or financing, a credit report is pulled from at least one of the three major credit bureaus. While there are hundreds of smaller credit bureaus around the country, virtually every credit bureau is affiliated with Trans Union, Experian, or Equifax.

These credit bureaus collect and maintain information on the vast majority of Americans, but they are not affiliated with the government in any way. The credit bureaus are for-profit corporations that sell your personal information for money.

The credit bureaus receive your personal information through the same lenders who grant you credit. They have agreements with each of these credit grantors that require the credit grantor to inform the credit bureaus of everything that occurs in your relationship with the credit grantor. If you make a payment late, the negative credit listing is quickly reported to at least one of the three major credit bureaus and is added to your credit history.
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How Much Should I Pay for a Car?

What to Pay for a Car — What’s a Good Price?

what should I pay for my new carHere’s how to determine a fair price for brand new cars (see below for used-car pricing).

What to Pay For a New Car

All new cars have a window sticker that displays the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP). It may also include destination charges, dealer-installed option prices, and other miscellaneous charges. The total of these charges is the price you would pay for that vehicle, less sales tax, without any discounts or rebates.

All these charges but destination charge can be negotiated. Manaufacturers charge dealers this fee for vehicle delivery, and dealers simply pass it along to customers without markup. It cannot be eliminated from the cost of a car.

Price can be negotiated for most vehicles. Unless the vehicle is a hot seller and in short demand, it’s usually possible to get dealers to discount the MSRP. But, how much? What’s the best price I can expect?

Here’s your strategy for negotiating price. Read more

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Lease or Buy – Which is Better?

Lease vs Buy? What’s the Difference?

One of the best ways to decide between car leasing and buying with a loan is to directly compare the attributes of each, which we will show you in this article. We’ll tell you about how payments compare, about how fees are different, about advantages, and disadvantages.

Another way to help make a decision between leasing and buying is to compare the cost of each for a specific lease vs. buy situation. For this, you’ll need a special Lease vs. Buy Calculator.

Now, let’s take a look at how car leasing compares with buying with a loan. Read more

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Basics of Car Leasing

How Does Car Leasing Work?

Car leasing is extremely popular because it offers a more affordable method of auto financing. It allows you to have lower monthly payments than with traditional auto loans. About one out of every five vehicles driven by automotive consumers in the United States are leased.

But car leasing is not for everyone. Is leasing good for a teen’s first car? What are the pros and cons of leasing?

Leasing is a little more complicated than buying with a loan, so you should take the time to learn about leasing, and be sure it’s right for you before making a decision.

What is a Lease?

Both leasing and buying a car with a loan are simply two different methods of financing. Where a purchase loan is a method of financing the ownership of a vehicle, leasing is financing the use of a vehicle for a specified number of months, similar to renting but not quite the same thing. Read more

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Lease vs Buy Calculator

How to use a Lease vs Buy Calculator

When you use a Lease vs Buy Calculator such as the one at LeaseGuide.com, you should understand how it works and how to get the results you want.

Car leasing is a little different than buying a car with a loan. The language is different, the process is different, and the way that payments are calculated is different. Let’s take a look at how you would use an online lease vs buy calculator to better understand the differences. Read more

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Negotiating Used Car Prices

How do I know what price to pay for a car?

Let’s say you see a nice used car that you like on a dealer’s lot that is priced at $14,000. Is it a good price? Can I talk the dealer down to, say, $12,000? How much discount can I expect to get?

These are all common questions when shopping for used cars, especially if it’s your first car.

Let’s look at the answers.

Used car prices can vary greatly – even for the same make, model, year, and condition. Prices tend to follow the laws of supply and demand. Large gas-guzzling SUVs are cheaper in times of high gas prices. Convertibles are more expensive in sunny Florida than in cold North Dakota. Used car prices are cheaper when dealers have too many on their lots.

Dealers are experts at knowing local car-buying customers, what they want, and what they are willing to pay. They set their used car prices accordingly. However, dealers make more profit on used cars than on brand new cars. This means there is a lot of “wiggle room” in used car prices – a relatively large difference between what the dealer has invested in his cars and the prices he sets for those cars. Unfortunately, there is no way for us as consumers to know what a dealer has paid for his used cars.

Check prices to know what is fair

The first step to getting a fair price on a used car is to find out how much the car is worth. Is the dealer’s asking price fair or not? If not, then it is time for some negotiation.

Some newcomers to car buying assume that there is some kind of “standard” price for used cars. It is not true. However, there are used-car pricing guides, such as Kelley Blue Book and NADA Guides, that compile data from a variety of sources to publish their version of suggested prices, based on make, model, year, equipment, mileage, condition, and region of the country.

These guides often differ significantly in prices for the same vehicle, same mileage, same everything. Confused car buyers often ask, “Which is right?” or “Which is more accurate?”  Neither is more right or more accurate. However, the guides serve as a good benchmark for determining a fair price for a car you may be considering to buy. For example, if a dealer is asking $14,000 for a car that the guides show as only being worth $10,000, he’s asking too much and it’s time to negotiate a fairer price.

If you don’t check prices

We’ve seen questions from car buyers who ask something like, “How much can I talk a dealer down on this $14,000 car?”  The answer to the question is really another question. It is not so much how much you can talk him down, as it is how much is the car worth?

For example, a dealer may put a $14,000 price on a car that is worth only $10,000. He hopes that he’ll get a customer who hasn’t done her price research and who will “talk him down” to $12,000. The customer is happy because she thinks she got a $2000 price discount, and the dealer is happy because he sold the car for $2000 more than it was worth.

Asking prices are not selling prices

Nearly all used cars are sold for a price that is less than the original “asking” price. Dealers post asking prices on used car window stickers. Individuals selling used cars advertise them with asking prices. Dealer asking prices may be 20% or more higher than selling prices. Individuals usually price their cars about 10% higher than the price they are willing to accept.

Negotiate based on car’s condition

If you find a car you like and the price seems fair for a car in good to excellent condition, make sure you get a mechanic’s inspection and have the mechanic document any problems he finds. Assuming the problems are not serious enough to stop you from buying the car, use the mechanic’s report to negotiate for a lower price.

Also get a Carfax vehicle history report and do the same thing. If the car has been in an accident, even if the repairs have been done expertly, use the information to try to get a better price.

Where to buy

Used-car dealers are an obvious source of  used cars but it takes time to visit and find out which ones have cars you might be interested in. One way to save time is use an online site such as UsedCars.com that lets you search for discounted cars from dealers in your area.

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Deciding on Your First Car

Your First Car – Making Your Decision

first carMost of us get our first car as teenagers. It’s the car we’ll always remember.

Let’s take a look at some of the important questions you’ll want to consider when deciding about what you’ll buy as your first car, how you’ll pay for it, and how to go about the purchase.

How much can you spend?

If cost is not important and you can choose practically any car you want, we’ll get to you later. However, most teens have restrictions on how much they can spend. It might be that parents are buying and have set a price limit, or that you have your own budget and limited income.

Since most teens start driving before they become of legal age to sign a car loan contract, it’s typical to pay cash for their first car. The cash can come from savings, gifts from relatives, or a loan from parents — or a combination. Usually, it’s not enough money for a brand new car, but possibly sufficient for a good used car.

The amount of money you have to spend on your first car will directly affect your choices. Lots of money, lots of choices. Little money, fewer choices. In general, the more money you spend, the better the car — better condition, better mileage, better performance, better safety, and better reliability.

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Car Buying Checklist – 50-Point Self-Inspection Guide

checkmarkUsed Car Inspection Checklist

Use this 50-point checklist when buying a used car
Print it and take it with you as you shop

 

Wheels and Tires

chkboxAre tires worn to unsafe level (less than 2/32″ tread depth at lowest point)?

Tires with less than 2/32″ tread depth at lowest point are unsafe and should be replaced immediately. Less than 4/32″ is unsafe in rain. Less than 6/32″ is unsafe in snow. Hint: Buy a cheap ($5) tire tread-depth gauge at any auto parts store, Wal-Mart, or Sears

chkboxAre left/right tires worn unevenly on front? On rear?

Unevenly worn left and right tires are unsafe and cause handling and steering problems. It might indicate a bent or twisted frame as a result of an accident. Always replace tires in pairs

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Used Car Values

used car valuesOne of the most frustrating things about buying a used car is knowing not how much it’s worth — its value — a fair price to pay.

Two cars of the same year, make, model, condition, and mileage can have two very different values, depending on who is making the valuation. Even the same car can have different values, again depending on who you ask.

Companies such as Kelley Blue Book (kbb.com) and Nadaguides (nadaguides.com) make it their business to publish used car value guides, where their values are based on a number of variables such as auction prices, mileage, condition, optional equipment, market supply and demand, regional differences, and past price history. With all their expertise and experience, the values they produce are nothing more than educated estimates. One company’s analysis of the data will nearly always produce a different result than another’s.

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Used Car Dealers

used car dealersThere essentially five kinds of used car dealers from which you might buy. There are advantages and disadvantages to each type. Let’s take a closer look now.

Large Chain Used Car Dealers

Carmax is the best known of all the large used car dealer chains. They have stores all around the U.S. and typically have hundreds of high-quality vehicles to choose from. They have a no-haggle price policy, which means the buying process is easy and stress-free, although you may pay a little higher price than you might elsewhere. But for the price, you get a good car that has been inspected, comes with a warranty, and a return policy — all things that you won’t get elsewhere.

Some Carmax locations also sell brand new cars of a particular brand.

There are other large chain dealers such as AutoNation that are similar to Carmax.

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What is the Best Car?

best car Honda CivicWe see this question being asked frequently: “What is the best car to buy?”

Of course, the real answer as to what is the best car can vary, depending on your own personal needs, preferences, and finances. Some people place a great deal of importance on reliability. Others might think safety or cost is more important. And others might feel that the best car should have great looks and high performance.

Many people believe that to get the best car, you must spend a lot of money — that the best cars are the most expensive one. Strangely, this is just not true. Actually, some of the best cars are the least expensive — and some of the most expensive cars are the least reliable and the least efficient.

One of the best automobiles, overall, is the Honda Civic. Why? Because it has the most perfect combination of all the factors that most car buyers look for — cost, fuel efficiency, reliability, cost of operation, cost of insurance, style, performance, resale value, riding comfort, luxury features, and handling.

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Copyright FirstCarGuide.com 2014. All rights reserved. Author: Al Hearn