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How to Find a Good Cheap Reliable Car

We hear the question all the time, “Where can I find a good cheap reliable car?”

The people who ask this question obviously have limited funds but are looking for the best car that can be purchased with the least amount of money. Unfortunately, finding a car that’s inexpensive AND good AND reliable can be very difficult. Although not impossible, it’ll take a lot of looking, test driving, and inspecting before the right car is found, at the right price.

Cars with prices in the $1000-$3000 price range (cheap) will nearly always be cars that are at least 10-15 years old, with lots of miles, considerable wear-and-tear, and may have been damaged at some time in its life. Again, this doesn’t necessarily make them bad cars, but it’ll take some effort to prove otherwise.

We also often see questions about which vehicles are the most reliable. Although some vehicle brands such as Honda and Toyota have exhibited outstanding reliability over many years, it doesn’t mean that every Honda and Toyota is reliable, especially those with lots of miles, accident damage, and those that have been driven hard and maintained poorly. It’s not wise to assume that an old Honda or Toyota, or any other brand, is going to be a good (or bad) buy based on the brand’s reliability reputation.

Continue reading How to Find a Good Cheap Reliable Car

How to Drive a Manual Transmission Car

stickshiftOne of the questions we see pop up often from young drivers is “How to drive a stick shift (manual transmission) car?”

The question arises for a number of reasons. Some people who are driving for the first time know they’ll be driving a “stick shift” car and are concerned that it might be difficult to learn. Others who have been driving automatic transmissions for years may be looking to buy a manual shift vehicle for the first time.

Manual transmissions (often called “standard transmissions”) were around a long time before automatics. It wasn’t that long ago that most cars had manual shifts although now it’s the other way around.  Manual shift is popular with car enthusiasts who enjoy the feeling of greater control over the operation of their cars. Some car owners feel that a manual is more fuel-efficient and provides better performance, although that’s not necessarily so with today’s much improved automatics.

Continue reading How to Drive a Manual Transmission Car

Your First Car Guide

Buying a first car, or even a second or third, can be a perplexing and stressful experience. There’s so much to know and understand.

Which is the best first car? Which cars are most reliable? Which is safest? What should I pay for my car? Where is the best place to buy a car?

Where can I find cheap cars? How do I get a car loan?  What if I have no credit, or bad credit? How does the car buying process work? How will I know if I’m being cheated?

What about auto insurance? Which company has the best rates?

Should I buy a new car, or used? Buy from dealer or individual seller?

Can I sell/trade my car if I still owe money? How about buying versus leasing?

These are all common questions asked by first car buyers — or any car buyer.

We give you the the answers you need, the expert advice, and the specific knowledge you need so that you can go into your car buying experience with confidence that you’ll make the right decisions, get the best deals, and not get cheated.

Welcome to FirstCarGuide.com

 

Certified Used Cars – What is the Catch?

Are certified used cars good deals or not for first car buyers?

Many car dealers sell “certified” pre-owned cars. How are these cars different from other used cars? Are they more expensive? Are they worth considering as a first car?

Most major automobile manufacturer’s dealers now offer “certified” used cars. A certified car has been inspected and repaired according to detailed manufacturer specifications before being placed on a dealer’s used car lot. Although manufacturer’s programs vary in details, all are fundamentally the same in concept.

Why is it important? Certified cars can significantly reduce one of the largest worries of used car buyers: that used cars can have hidden problems that cause problems and expensive repairs after the sale.  Continue reading Certified Used Cars – What is the Catch?

Can I Afford This Car?

How do I know how much car I can afford?

Assuming you’ll buy with a loan, you will want to have a monthly car payment that will fit within your current income, after considering all your other expenses. Don’t make the mistake of buying based on future expectations — a forthcoming raise, a new job, or other potential improvements in your finances. Your expectations might not come to reality and you’ll be stuck with a car you can’t afford. Base your purchase only on current, stable finances. Continue reading Can I Afford This Car?

How Are Car Payments Calculated?

Figuring car payments is easy if you have the right calculator — it’s not easy math otherwise

car payment calculatorCar payment calculation is not simple math. It requires a rather complex business math formula that is not easily done by hand and most people are not capable, or not willing, to take it on. It’s not as simple as dividing loan amount by the number of months in the loan. Finance charges (interest), which change every month, must be accounted for.

It’s much easier to use a hand-held business calculator, such as the HP 12c or HP 17b, or, even better, use an easy online auto loan calculator which does the math for you.

To use a car loan calculator, you must know the amount being financed, the number of months you want to finance, and the interest rate. You’ll also need to know the down payment amount, if any, and the value of your trade-in vehicle, if any. You also need to know the sales tax rate that applies to your home location, not where you buy your car. Continue reading How Are Car Payments Calculated?

Why Do I Need Car Insurance?

Is auto insurance really necessary? Why do I need it?

Since car insurance is so expensive, partiularly for teenagers and other young drivers, it’s natural that this question should come up frequently for first time car buyers.

You need insurance on your car to protect you from the risk of disasterous financial problems resulting from accidents,  personal injury and property damage, and loss by theft, fire, or natural disasters. It may seem pointless to spend so much money on something you may never need. But if you ever need it, you’ll be really happy you have it.

It’s tempting to believe that you don’t need insurance because you are a safe driver and will never cause an accident. However, other people can involve you in an accident that is not your fault. If the other driver doesn’t have sufficient car insurance, your own insurance will take over and pay your repair bills and medical expenses.

You might avoid insurance if you had enough money to cover such problems on your own.  This is called “self-insurance.” However, self-insurance is not legally sufficient in most states and is not practical for most people. Continue reading Why Do I Need Car Insurance?

Should I Buy From a Buy-Here-Pay-Here Dealer?

buy here pay here dealersBuy-here-pay-here car dealers provide auto loans to people with bad credit.

Most car dealers do not directly finance loans on cars they sell. They work with outside banks and finance companies to provide loans for their customers. It’s up to those banks and finance companies, not the dealer, to approve and provide customers car loans.

However, a different breed of used car dealer, called  “buy-here-pay-here” dealers,  do provide their own financing without an outside bank or loan company. They primarily function to sell used cars to people who have bad credit and cannot get approved for loans from conventional sources.

Buy-here-pay-here (BHPH) dealers can be recognized by their promotional ads or storefront signs. They use the terms “easy finance” or “no credit checks” or “we finance anybody” or “in-house financing” or “fast loan approval” or “we approve you regardless of your credit.”  They are sometimes called “tote the note” dealers. Continue reading Should I Buy From a Buy-Here-Pay-Here Dealer?

Best First Car for Teenagers

best car for teensOf all the cars available to teenagers, which are the best first cars?

If you simply want the fastest answer to that question, without explanation, we would say the Honda Civic is the best all-around car for teens. The Toyota Corolla would be a close second.

If you don’t like the Civic or Corolla there are other cars with similar characteristics and different styling that might suit you better.

But what is it about the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, and similar models that make them great as a first car for teenage drivers?

First, they are economical — relatively inexpensive to buy, inexpensive to insure, and inexpensive to drive.

It doesn’t cost much to buy a new or relatively new Civic. Used models might be a little higher priced that other brands but that works in your favor too. When you get ready to sell or trade, Honda and Toyota vehicles hold their resale value better than most. Continue reading Best First Car for Teenagers

Cheap First Cars – Find Secret Rebates

factory-to-dealer cash for first carsEven many experienced car buyers don’t know about the “secret” factory-to-dealer rebates given to dealers by car manufacturers.

Car companies often select certain models and styles for these rebates, and the selection can change from month to month.

Dealers can use factory-to-dealer cash (sometimes called “marketing support”) in almost any way they choose but most pass it along to customers in the form of price discounts. Some dealers might advertise the low prices (not the rebates themselves) or simply offer a discount to customers during the buying process. He may choose to give all or just some of the total rebate.

Most customers are not aware of which vehicles have factory-to-dealer rebates, or the amounts. Therefore, it is difficult to factor in those discounts in the negotiating process. However, our sister web site, Best Car Deals, provides such information.  Some of these rebates are very large and represent a significant discount off of sticker price. This is particularly true for last year’s leftover models that dealers must sell in order to make room for this year’s incoming models.

If a dealer gets a factory rebate on a particular model and gives it to customers as a price discount, he still makes his usual profit on that car, even though customers may be getting a great deal. Smart customers will expect the dealer to contribute some of his usual profit as an additional discount — which makes an even better deal. In many cases, customers can buy a car for less than dealer invoice price, which is only possible if the car manufacturer is helping with the deal.

In summary, factory-to-dealer rebates can be a large factor in making new cars — especially first cars — more affordable. Look for vehicles with the largest factory-to-dealer rebates.

You can get free price quotes for any vehicle at Edmunds.com. The prices you get will contain any current price discounts and manufacturer incentives that are available.

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Where to Find 0% APR Car Deals

zero percent 0% car loan financingCar manufacturers offer special sales incentives every month on particular vehicle makes, models, and styles. Incentives vary from month to month.

Incentives come in the form of direct-to-customer rebates, special lease deals, and low-interest loans, including 0% APR loan deals. See Best Car Deals for current new-car incentives, including 0% loans.

Zero percent financing, when offered, means that the customer pays no interest or finance charges on his car loan. This saves money. Monthly payments are smaller and total costs are reduced.

Calculating payments for a zero percent loan is easy. Simply divide the cost of the car by the number of months in the loan. Non-zero-percent loans are much more difficult to calculate and require a car loan calculator.

Are 0% loans good deals?

Maybe.

Continue reading Where to Find 0% APR Car Deals

Good Time to Buy Car for Best Deals

best car dealsAs this is being written, this year, 2011, has become the best time to buy a new car in years. And 2012 looks to be even better.

In normal years, we would tell you that the best time to buy a car is when sales are slow at the end of the month, end or the year, or during vacation season. We would tell you that you might still have to negotiate your prices because dealers aren’t just going to give you a good deal because they like you.

BUT……..things are much different now. Sales have been slow for over a year and are still slow right now. As a result, we are now seeing some of the biggest and best car incentives on new cars that we’ve seen in years. Nearly every car manufacturer is now offering a combination of large factory-to-customer rebates, low-interest loan deals, 0% APR loans (even on long 72 month loans), special lease deals, free maintenance, and “secret” factory-to-dealer rebates that dealers usually give to customers.

Why has 2011 become such a good time to buy a car? Continue reading Good Time to Buy Car for Best Deals

Car Loan Basics for First Time Car Buyers

A Car Loan Story

David, 17, recently graduated from high school, landed a good paying job, and wanted to buy a new car.

His thought was that he would go to his neighborhood Ford dealer where he had been admiring a bright red Focus model that he felt he could afford, and arrange for a convenient loan to pay for it. He could easily get approved for the loan because his father knows the owner of the dealership.

The car cost $12,000 with discounts and rebates. He thought a 5 year (60 months) loan would be about right because he figured payments to be $200 a month ($12,000 divided by 60 months), which he could easily afford.

David was wrong — in many ways. Let’s see why. Continue reading Car Loan Basics for First Time Car Buyers

Rebates for Cheap New Cars

new car rebatesCar manufacturers use incentives to make their new cars more affordable during limited-time promotions.

The most common incentive is a direct to customer rebate, although there can also be other incentives such as low-interest loans, 0% APR loans, special car lease deals, and “hidden” factory-to-dealer cash.

Incentive programs vary from month to month depending on which models and styles manufacturers feel need sales “help”. Slow selling models or last-year’s leftover vehicles typically get the best rebates and incentives. However, it not ususual for a brand new model to get good rebates or other incentives.

A rebate is a credit that you receive when you buy a new car during the promotional period. It shows up on your paperwork the same as a down payment, although the money comes from the manufacturer’s pocket, not the dealer’s, and is like a gift to you that reduces the amount you pay for your car.

However, a rebate is not a price discount. It doesn’t change the selling price of the car (although it changes what you pay).  Rebates and discounts are NOT the same, although both reduce the amount you pay for a car. Let’s explain. Continue reading Rebates for Cheap New Cars

How to Buy a Car With No Credit?

Is it possible to get a car loan and buy a car with no credit?

The answer? Yes, under some conditions. Let’s explain.

It is a common situation, especially with young people who have never had a loan, never had credit cards, or never borrowed money for a car. Without a history of prior loans and payments, there is no credit history and no credit score, which is the number that represents credit rating.

In fact it is not quite sufficient to simply have a good credit score to get a car loan — or any loan. You may also need to have an established steady income (a job) and no excessive debts. You should have no recent bankruptcies or auto repossessions, which you wouldn’t be likely to have anyway if you have no credit.

So how is it possible to buy a car with a loan when you have no credit record and no credit score? Continue reading How to Buy a Car With No Credit?

What’s a Good Car To Buy?

It’s difficult to recommend cars since there are so many choices, and so many types of people and personalities who buy them. We all have different likes, dislikes, needs, and finances. If we were all the same, there would probably only be one car brand, in one model, and at one price.

There are many differences in cars. They are far from being the same. Although they all can get us from Point A to Point B well enough, that’s where the similarity ends. There are different types of vehicles to meet different needs: 4-door sedans, coupes, sports cars, SUVs, trucks, minivans, to name a few. There are differences in size, style, safety, riding comfort, reliability, performance, color, technology, and of course, price.

One of the most important things that automotive consumers can do now to make sure they select the best vehicle for their needs — that wasn’t available until about the last 15 years — is to do research online, on the Internet. 

Continue reading What’s a Good Car To Buy?

Car Leasing – Pros and Cons

What are the advantages and disadvantages of car leasing?

Car leasing has it’s advantages and disadvantages. Here is a summary:

Pros:
– Get new car every 2-4 years, with latest features and safety equipment
– Lower monthly payments
– Usually no down payment
– Car is always under warranty
– Lower sales tax (in most states)
– Avoids used car selling/trading hassles
– Automatic GAP insurance included (most leases) Continue reading Car Leasing – Pros and Cons

Do I Need a Car Warranty?

Do you need an extended car warranty — car repair insurance?

All new cars come with a new-car warranty from the car manufacturer. There is typcially a general “bumper-to-bumper” warranty that covers just about everything that is not a wear-and-tear item, and a powertrain warranty that covers the engine, transmission, and drivetrain components.

For most new cars, the general warranty is good for 36 month or 36,000 miles, and the powertrain warranty for 60 months or 60,000 miles. Some car brands have higher mileage warranties, as high as 10 years and 100,000 miles.

There are also separate warranties on tires, batteries, and a few other components.

That’s about warranties on brand new cars. What about used car warranties? Do used cars come with warranties? Continue reading Do I Need a Car Warranty?

Is THIS a Good First Car?

cheap auto insuranceI regularly answer people’s car buying and selling questions on Yahoo Answers (My user name is TiggyWiggy, my cat’s name) and one of the most frequent questions that comes up several times a day is, “Is this a good first car for a teen?”  And in the details, they’ll state what car they are talking about. It might be anything from a 1980s Oldsmobile with 200,000 miles, to a brand new high priced luxury car, to a big SUV, a high-powered sports car, or a 1960s muscle car.

More often than not, the car they like is NOT a good first car. I sometimes think they know that, but they are looking for some opinions otherwise. Often, they are in disagreement with sensible parents who are opposing their poor choice.

Here are some of the kinds of vehicles asked about:

Old inexpensive used car, unknown condition, high mileage

Many old cars, even with high mileage, can be in excellent first cars. However, most old cars have problems, some serious (and expensive), some not so serious.  And no car, even a reliable brand such as Honda and Toyota, are exempt from problems when they begin to age. The only way to know whether such a car is a good first car is to have a professional mechanic inspect it before the purchase. It’s not a good practice to rely on the word of a seller in determining a car’s condition. Not that sellers are all dishonest, but sellers and dealers often don’t know the real condition of the cars they sell.

Continue reading Is THIS a Good First Car?

Are You a Car Salesman’s Dream Customer?

There’s one kind of car buying customer that sales people just love. They are “payment buyers.” 

A car salesperson’s job is to sell cars — and make maximum profit for his dealership. The way to make maximum profit is by selling at the highest possible prices and including as many “add-on” extra items or services as possible.

Some customers are an easy sale but are difficult to make a big profit from. Others are easy on both counts. The latter of these two types are the kind of customers that car salespeople love.

A salesperson’s dream customer is one who has done little or no research about cars they might be interested in, understands almost nothing about the car buying process, knows little about car pricing, has few negotiating skills, but most of all, wants to negotiate monthly payments, and only monthly payments. These customers are called “payment buyers.”

Continue reading Are You a Car Salesman’s Dream Customer?