Nov 27, 2010

Top 10 Auto Loan Mistakes

Auto financing can come from one of several sources, including banks, credit unions, and auto dealerships. If you're serious about buying a car, you need to investigate the various possibilities. Here are the top mistakes some people make when seeking and securing an automobile loan.
  1. Not investigating all your options. Many people use credit unions for automobile loans, while others find good deals from their local banks. The key is to investigate all potential lending options, including the dealership. Several sites, such as,, or will help you make financing comparisons, and in some cases, secure loans.
  2. Going by rate alone. The rate is only part of the equation. You need to know how much you'll be putting down and the terms of the loan before making a decision.
  3. Following your emotions. Make sure that you have done your research up front, and you know which car you want and what you are prepared to pay. Do not cave in if the dealer pushes another color or model, for instance, or will not waver on price.
  4. Not reviewing your credit ratings first. You should access your credit report and know what your FICO score is. This way you'll know exactly what the dealer is looking at, so that he or she cannot tell you your number is lower than it actually is. Additionally, if there are any errors, you can inquire about them beforehand.
  5. Being quick to accept the dealership financing offer. Dealerships typically offer higher rates because they buy financing from banks and other sources, and raise the rate to make a profit. Shop around.
  6. Focusing on payments over price. If you are focused more on low monthly payments than on the price of the car, you may be paying more in the end. Know the overall price of the car and consider the APR, terms, and length of the loan.
  7. Looking for the car first. If you are serious about buying a car, you will want to look at financing rates first and determine how much you can afford.
  8. Not being able to walk away. Once you begin negotiating, especially at a dealership, you are not obliged to stay. If you do not like the offer or the manner in which the negotiations are headed, walk away.
  9. Not taking the shortest term loan. Keep in mind that cars depreciate quickly, so you'll want to pay off the loan in a short time period. While the monthly payment will be higher in the short term, the interest payment will be lower.
  10. Not determining what you can comfortably afford. Unlike a home mortgage, in which people look long and hard at what they will be able to pay over the next 10 to 30 years, car buyers do not always take such payments into careful consideration. "It is only for three years" is a familiar excuse for not evaluating the impact of such payments on your budget. Before buying a car, you need to consider how much money you can put down, and how much you can afford to pay on a monthly basis. 
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