Should I Lease my First Car?

lease a car first carMany people who are looking for an economical way to drive a new car, perhaps their first car, will look at leasing as a possible solution.

The consideration of leasing is often based on a mistaken belief that leasing is like renting and doesn’t require good credit as does buying with a loan. It isn’t renting and it does require good credit.

But is leasing a car a good solution for first-time car buyers?

The answer is — it depends.

If the first-time buyer is a teenager, less than 18 years old, leasing is not an answer.

Since leasing is a form of financing, similar to a loan, it requires that the customer be of legal age and have a good credit history. Furthermore, even if the teen’s parent leases a car to be driven by the teen, it’s still not a good idea.

A teen may not be able to stick with the requirements of a lease — an annual mileage limit of 10,000-12,000 miles, no customization of the vehicle, and minimal wear-and-tear. Insurance may be more expensive than anticipated due to the higher coverage requirements of a lease.

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Don’t Buy Dealer Products and Services You Don’t Need

credit life insurance from car dealersOnce you’ve made a deal on a new car, dealers have more products to try to sell you once you get into the F&I (Finance and Insurance) manager’s office to sign papers.

Backend products offered by car dealers

You may be offered security systems, corrosion protection, paint sealant, window etchings, fabric guard, extended warranties, and credit life insurance.

These are called “backend” products and are designed to make dealers extra profit on car deals. In fact, some dealers make as much or more money on backend sales as on vehicle sales.

The products are all high-priced and are generally poor values for customers. In most cases, the products are not needed or can be acquired elsewhere for much less cost. For example, fabric guard is nothing more than Scotchguard™ in a spray can. And VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) etchings on windows provide no more security protection than the VIN plates that are already in several locations on your vehicle, including on the dash and on the engine block.

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We have been an expert participant on the Yahoo! Answers web site for many years, particularly in the Cars and Transportation section, Buying & Selling sub-section. We answer questions and provide advice about a wide variety of topics related to automobile buying, selling, insurance, maintenance, and car brands.

Although the Answers site is open to anyone, we have found that most visitors and questioners are teenagers and young adults who have had little or no experience in buying, selling, or owning cars. Their questions are natural and appropriate for someone who is doing some of these things for the first time.

The web site is quite popular and is very active. Thousands of questions are asked — and answered — each day. However, in our years of participation we have seen many of the same questions being asked over and over — and over — and over again.

We have compiled what we think are the top 10 questions that teens and young adults want to know about cars. Here they are.

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Better to Buy Pre-Owned Car, or New Car?

First time car buyers have a choice of buying a brand new car, or buying a used car. Which is better?

There are advantages and disadvantages to either choice. Most people would rather have a brand new car with its new-car smell and latest style, but there are reasons that a new car might not be the best choice. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of buying new and buying used.

Advantages of Buying New Car

  • You get a brand new car with new-car feel and smell
  • You get the latest style and technology
  • You get the latest safety equipment
  • You get a full manufacturer’s warranty
  • You get Lemon Law protection
  • You get lowest loan interest rates, if you qualify
  • You get the option to lease
  • You may get special manufacturer-sponsored pricing and financing Read the rest of this entry »

Owning and Driving a Car is a Legal Thing

Licensing

In the U.S., drivers must be licensed to legally operate motor vehicles. Each state has its own licensing laws that set requirements, terms, and procedures. Minimum age is typically 16 years old, but can vary by state. Most states have special learner driving permits that serve as temporary licenses. Young drivers have have restrictions that restrict time of day for driving, who must be in the car with the driver, how many passengers can be in the car, and certain other conditions. Failure to follow the laws can result in license suspension.

The state agency that provides driver’s licenses is the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). In some states, the agency may have a different name, such as Department of Driver Services (DDS). Licensing laws and procedures for each state can be found at DMV.org.

In order to obtain a driver’s license, certain tests must be passed — a vision test, a written test, and a driving test. Some states provide sample test questions either in a license test study manual or on the state’s DMV web site.

License holders are provided with a photo ID card that serves as legal proof of being licensed. The license must be in the driver’s possession when driving.

Driving Responsibly

Your car exposes you to laws that you wouldn’t otherwise be concerned with.  At the low end are parking laws and speed limits. Some laws determine who is at fault in accidents. and how you should conduct yourself on the road. Other laws are more serious, such as those dealing with DUI and vehiclular homicide. Breaking driving laws can result in not only criminal charges but also personal liability charges.

Driving Laws

All states have rules of the road, the laws that determine what you can and cannot do while driving. Speed limits can vary, turn-right-on-red laws can be different. Since each state sets its own laws, the laws can differ considerably between states. If you move from one state to another, or travel to another state, you should become familiar with the new state’s laws.

Insurance

Most states have laws requiring automobile insurance. A minimum level of liability insuance is usually required, although comprehensive and collision coverage is not. Other states have financial responsibility laws that may not require insurance but you must prove you have the ability to pay in at-fault accidents. It is financially and legally irresponsible to drive without insurance.

Vehicle Registration and Tags

Motor vehicles must be registered to establish legal ownership and responsibility. Registration is typically handled at the state or county level. Metal tags are issued to be displayed on the vehicle. Registrations must be renewed each year. Fees and taxes are collected at the time of renewal. States have varying laws regarding how tags may be transfered between vehicles. Sales tax is usually paid at the time of vehicle registration.

Emissions Standards and Laws

State and Federal laws require that automobiles meet certain standards. California is particularly strict. All new cars must be built to meet Federal and state requirements. Many states and counties have annual inspection procedures to test emmissions and safety compliance.

Vehicle Sales Laws

When a vehicle is sold, it’s title must be signed by the owner and given to the buyer, who signs the title and takes it to his local DMV office to apply for a new title and new registration and tags. In some states, a notarized Bill of Sale is also required. If a vehicle is purchased without a title, the purchaser is not the legal owner even if money is exchanged.

Sales Tax

In most states, sales tax must be paid for new and used vehicle purchases. Vehicles moved from another state may also be taxed. Tax laws vary considerably between different states, especially regarding credits and refunds for taxes paid in another state. Some states also allow for sales tax credit on trade-ins at dealers.

Property Tax

Many states and counties impose an annual property tax on motor vehicles. The tax is generally based on the value and age of the vehicle. The owner of the vehicle is responsible for the tax. For leased vehicles, the tax is paid by the lessee (the party who is leasing and driving the vehicle).

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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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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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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.  What’s your FICO score? Find out now when you check your credit report for $1 at Experian.com!
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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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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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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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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.

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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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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New Car, First Car

If you’ve decided that your first car will be a brand new car, there are things you need to know about the buying and financing process that makes it different from buying a used car.

New cars – only from dealers
All new cars must  be purchased from state-licensed and manufacturer-authorized new-car dealers. It’s the law. It’s the only way you can buy a new car.

If a car has never been titled or registered, it’s considered to be a new car. Even if you initiate your purchase through an Internet car buying service, or through a buying service at warehouse stores such as Sam’s Club, the car actually comes from a local new-car dealer. Read the rest of this entry »

Guide to buying a first car for teensFor teens and young adults, buying that first car can be an overwhelming experience. There just seems to be so much you need to know in order to make the right decision and not make huge mistakes.

It’s true that buying a car— any car — can seem a bit complex at first, but if you take the time to learn the basics and understand how the process works, you’ll be doing it right in no time.

At FirstCarGuide.com we take you through how to choose the right car, how to inspect a used car, how to know what to pay, whether to pay cash or buy with a loan,  how your credit affects your ability to get a loan, how to buy insurance and what insurance is required, and what happens if you have an accident.

Learn how to buy a car from an individual seller and what to watch for. How buying from a used car dealer works, and potential problems. Whether to buy new or used. What’s too much mileage.

We also discuss whether it’s better to buy or lease, how leasing works, and how to calculate car lease payments and costs.  Who should lease and who shouldn’t. Which cars are best to lease.

checkmarkUsed Car Inspection Checklist

Use this handy 50-point checklist when buying and inspecting a used car. Print it and take it with you.

 

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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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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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 the rest of this entry »

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 the rest of this entry »