Tag Archives: first car

Your First Car – What’s Important?

buy first carBuying a car for the first time can be an overwhelming experience.

There’s so much to know and how to know what’s important.

With this article, we’ll take some of the mystery away from the car buying process.

We’ll focus on the car itself in this article because we’ve already covered topics such as new versus used, financing, loans, best first cars, and more. Many new car buyers don’t completely understand how things like engine power, miles per gallon, safety equipment, and reliability factor into making decisions about what to buy. Incredibly, some novice buyers put more importance on color as a decision factor than almost everything else.

When buying a car, the old adage that “you get what you pay for” usually applies. A less expensive car will more than likely have lower engine power, fewer safety features, and lower reliability than cars that cost more. But how important are those things?

Continue reading Your First Car – What’s Important?

Do I Need a Down Payment on a Car?

How much down payment do I need for my car loan?

how much down payment on car loanUntil recent times, it was standard for car dealers and finance companies to require at least 20% down payment on the purchase of a car. It was for a good reason.

Because cars depreciate in value from the moment they are driven off a dealer’s lot, a down payment helps offset that rapid decrease in value, which may keep the loan from becoming “upside down.”  It also protects the loan company or bank because, if they have to repossess the vehicle, they have a smaller risk of losing money. It also protects the car buyer from financial loss if the car is stolen or totaled and the insurance money isn’t sufficient to cover the loan.

Things are different now
Auto manufacturers and dealers are now very competitive and business must be fought for. They are willing to take risks that were unheard of just a few years ago. In many cases, down payment requirements have been reduced or eliminated altogether, primarily for customers with good credit. Continue reading Do I Need a Down Payment on a Car?

Cheap Cars – Where to Find Cheap Cars

Cheap cars can be found in many places — if you know where to look. Following are just some of the places you might find cheap cars:

Independent Used-Car Dealers – Independent used-car lots are a potential source of affordable cheap second hand cars. Many lots have older vehicles that can be real bargains, but might require a little work. You should take care to determine if the price is fair and that the vehicle has no hidden problems. Most used cars are sold “as-is” and come without any kind of warranty or return policy. Check out local used-car lots in your area but also consider large national or regional used-car dealers such as CarMax.

New-Car Dealer Used Car Lots – Many new-car dealers also sell pre-owned cars. Most new-car dealers only offer relatively late model used vehicles that have been taken in trade or are off-lease, and are in good condition — and are relatively expensive. But bargains can be found. Therefore, it doesn’t hurt to check out local new-car dealers but also look at other sources listed below. Some new-car dealers sell “certified” used cars — at a higher price. These cars have been inspected thoroughly and come with a short guarantee.

Buy-Here-Pay-Here (BHPH) Dealers – BHPH dealers are a different kind of used-car dealer that provides in-house financing, usually with no credit check, to people who are unable to get a conventional car loan. Most BHPH dealers are local and can be recognized by their “we finance anyone” or “no credit check” banners. Be aware that interest rates are usually very high and payment terms are strict. See “Should I Buy From a Buy-Here-Pay-Dealer Car Dealer” for more details.

Continue reading Cheap Cars – Where to Find Cheap Cars

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 your parents are buying and have set a price limit, or that you have your own budget and a 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.

Continue reading Deciding on Your First Car

What Car Should I Buy?

What Are the Best Cars to Buy?

which car should I buy?There are literally thousands of combinations of different automobile types, makes, models, styles, and prices, which can make it difficult to choose which to buy. However, we will help you determine the perfect car for your needs.

What is a good first car?  Which car is the best buy? Which is more reliable?

Which gets the best gas mileage? Should I buy a SUV or pickup? Which car is safer? Which is more economical?

Which is cheaper to insure?

What car should I buy as my first car?

If you were to ask this question and you gave no other information about yourself or what you wanted, we would suggest you buy either a Honda Accord or Toyota Camry, two of the most popular and most purchased cars in America. Both cars come in either a sporty 2-door coupe version or a 4-door sedan, and with a variety of engines, luxury features, and safety options. Both also offer gas-saving hybrid versions.

Continue reading What Car Should I Buy?

How Car Loan Payments Work

how car loans workAbout principal and interest

If you purchase a new or used car with a loan, you agree to pay off the loan amount (principal) over a specified number of months. But you also agree to pay a finance charge, or interest, for the privilege of using the bank’s (or finance company’s) money for your purchase.

The amount of finance charge that you pay is the interest rate, which is set by the bank or finance company based generally on national lending rates and more specifically on your credit score. Interest rate is expressed as a annual percentage rate (APR), such as 5.5%.

Interest rates can be different for the same loan amount

Wholesale lending rates are lower now than in recent years but banks and finance companies, as well as dealers, can boost these rates (called reserve) for their customers. You can check current national average auto loan rates at Bankrate.com. At the time of this writing, the average 36 month new-car loan rate was 3.93% — very low. But automotive consumers may pay higher rates depending on the lender, dealer reserve, and the customer’s credit score.

Auto buyers should always know their most recent credit score before going car shopping. Otherwise, dealers know more about you than you know about yourself, which could lead to some unpleasant surprises. Getting your credit score is easy enough online. What’s your FICO score? Find out now when you check your credit report for $1 at Experian.com!

Continue reading How Car Loan Payments Work

First Car – Lease a Car?

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.

Continue reading First Car – Lease a Car?

Cars for Teens – Top 10 Questions

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.

Continue reading Cars for Teens – Top 10 Questions

Your First Car – New or Used?

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 Continue reading Your First Car – New or Used?

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?

Continue reading Quick Guide to Buying a Car

How to Buy a New Car

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. Continue reading How to Buy a New Car

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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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 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?

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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What’s a Good First Car?

first carI frequently visit the popular web site, Yahoo Answers, and answer questions about cars there. Many of the questions are from teens and other young people who are buying their first car.

One of the most common questions is, “What is a good first car?” or simply, “What is a good car?”

Sometimes the asker has already narrowed down his or her choices to a few makes and models but, more often, they simply don’t know and want some advice or suggestions.

It’s difficult to recommend a specific car to someone when you have no idea of their needs or preferences. But I usually suggest the popular Honda Civic as a good first car because it has a great combination of most of the things that buyers are looking for. It offers a lot of car for a relatively low price, whether it’s used or new. It’s very reliable and won’t be expensive to maintain.  It has good gas mileage which makes it relatively inexpensive to drive. Insurance costs are low, compared to many other cars. It’s safe and comfortable. And its 4-cylinder engine provides peppy performance.

Although the Civic is a great car for a great price, it doesn’t fit everyone’s needs.

Continue reading What’s a Good First Car?