How to Pay for a Car | The Motley Fool

about 90 % of american households own a fomite, according to Pew surveys — which is one of the highest rates of vehicle possession in the earth. many american households do n’t own these vehicles outright, though. rather, the majority of all newly and secondhand cars in the United States are financed .
if you ‘re getting ready to buy a cable car, either now or in the future, it ‘s crucial to be smart about how you ‘ll pay for it. While most people default to a cable car loanword, this is not necessarily the best approach for everyone. And those who do finance a car much make common car loan mistakes, such as borrowing besides much or for besides long a time .
This guide will provide insight into each of your payment options, so you can make the most inform choice about what ‘s best for your position. You ‘ll besides learn some caveats about car finance to keep in mind so that you do n’t end up with a car lend that compromises your fiscal security .
Paper reading "Car loan application form" with pen and key sitting on top.

Ways to pay for a car

When it comes fourth dimension to buy a vehicle, you have a count of options, including :

  • Paying cash
  • Paying for some or all of the car with a credit card
  • Taking out a car loan

There are pros and cons to each of these options. And if you decide you want to charge a cable car on a credit tease or take out a cable car loanword, be smart about where and how you secure financing. Let ‘s take a closer expect at each of these options .

Paying cash for a vehicle

Paying cash is the best means to pay for a cable car. That ‘s because cars are not investments that go up in value — they are depreciating assets that lose value vitamin a soon as you drive them off the set. And they continue to lose prize the integral clock you drive them. If you take out a car loanword, you ‘re now paying concern on an asset that is already worth less than what you paid for it. This concern increases your cost of ownership of the vehicle .
In 2018, the average matter to rate on a car loan for the purchase of a new vehicle was 6.13 %, and the average interest rate on a car lend for the leverage of a secondhand vehicle was 9.59 %, according to Experian. The average amount borrowed for a new vehicle was $ 31,722, and the average amount borrowed for a use vehicle was $ 20,077. If you borrow $ 31,722 at 6.13 % for 68 months ( around the average lend terminus for a new car ), you ‘d pay back a entire of $ 37,630. That ‘s about $ 6,000 in interest cost over 5 1/2 years .
The only downside of paying cash for a fomite is that doing therefore ties up money that could otherwise be invested or used for early purposes. For example, if you have high-interest debt, such as credit card debt, you are better off paying off that debt beginning ahead trying to buy a car in cash. Since the concern rate on cable car loans tends to be lower than sake paid on credit rating cards, personal loans, and certain other types of consumer loans, it would n’t make sense to pay cash for a car while carrying a balance wheel on other loans at a higher rate .
You besides do n’t want to pay cash for a car if you are n’t contributing at least enough money to a 401 ( thousand ) to maximize your employer match. After all, doing sol would be passing up free money .
But outside of situations in which you have high-interest debt or are n’t contributing adequate to retirement savings, it normally does n’t make sense to put extra money into investing quite than paying cash for a car — unless you can qualify for a car lend at a identical low sake rate. If you ‘d be paying 6.13 % or more in interest to borrow for your vehicle, you ‘re getting a guarantee come back on investment of 6.13 % or greater when you pay cash. While you might be able to do a little better investing in the malcolm stock market, there ‘s no undertake of that. And cable car loan interest — unlike mortgage and scholar loanword sake — is not tax deductible .

How to pay cash for a vehicle

unfortunately, there ‘s one obvious reason most people do n’t pay cash for a fomite : They do n’t have the money to do sol. It can be hard to save up a solid sum of money to buy a car outright. But there are ways to do it .
beginning and first, start by keeping your current car longer. The average distance of ownership of a modern fomite is 79.3 months, according to IHS Markit — which is about 6.6 years. But the average old age of faint vehicles in operation in the U.S. is 11.8 years. That means many modern car owners get rid of their cars when their vehicles even have considerable life left in them .
If you keep your car for several years after you ‘ve paid off your current car loanword, you can keep making the monthly payments to yourself rather of to the lender. Put that money into a deliver bill earmarked to buy your future fomite. In our above example of a $ 31,722 car loan at 6.13 %, your monthly requital on the car would be $ 553 per calendar month. If you drive your car for four years after your loanword has been paid off but keep making this $ 553 monthly payment into a salvage report, this would give you $ 26,544 in savings by the time you ‘re quick to buy your following car. You could afford to buy a reasonably nice used car for this amount of money — paying with cash .
If you keep this cycle up, making car payments to yourself until you ‘ve saved up enough to pay for a fomite in cash, you ‘ll never have to borrow for a car again. And you should have some extra money to put into savings, excessively, particularly if you drive that car you bought with cash for arsenic long as you can .

Paying for a car with a credit card

Another option that may be available to you is to charge some or all of the cost of a car on a accredit card. Charging the car on a credit menu has a big benefit if you pay off the batting order in entire when the statement comes. You can earn substantial rewards points or cash back if your credit tease is a honor circuit board. If you get 1.5 % cash back on your circuit board and charge a $ 30,000 car, you ‘d get $ 450 in cash back .
unfortunately, buying a car with a credit poster is n’t constantly possible. Some dealers place caps on the total you can charge, such as limiting you to putting $ 5,000 of your car ‘s cost on your calling card. Others allow you to charge the stallion measure, particularly if you have a credit card with a principal mark — but you ‘d need to shop around to find a trader that allows that. You ‘ll besides be limited by your line of credit. If you have just a $ 5,000 credit limit on your tease, you are n’t going to be able to charge the full amount you ‘d owe on the car .
however, even if you can only charge separate of the car ‘s cost on your credit tease, the points or rewards you could earn are inactive a nice fringe benefit — provided you can pay off the bill in full. You should not charge any part of your car on a credit card if you do not have the cash to pay off what you ‘ve charged before you start incurring interest costs. Interest on credit cards far exceeds any rewards earned, and the concern rate on a credit card is normally well above the rate you ‘d be charged on an car loan or a personal lend .
unfortunately, it ‘s besides important to note that paying for a car with a citation card could be bad for your citation score, specially if you max out a credit card by doing so. One of the most authoritative components of your credit score is your credit utilization ratio, which compares your card balance to credit available. If you have a $ 20,000 credit specify and put $ 10,000 toward your car on your credit card, your credit rating use ratio would be calculated as $ 10,000 divided by $ 20,000 — or 50 %. A credit utilization ratio above 30 % will lower your credit score. Getting an car loan, on the other handwriting, could raise your mark if you pay it responsibly, because you ‘ll have a broader mix of different kinds of credit on your composition .

Paying for a car with a credit card balance transfer check

Another way you could pay for a car using your credit card is if your credit card offers you symmetry transfer checks. Balance transfer checks are checks your menu issuer provides that are intended for practice in paying off high-interest debt by transferring it to your calling card. But some calling card issuers actually just give you a check you can deposit in your bank bill. If that ‘s the case with your card, you may be able to write yourself a check for several thousand dollars — up to your libra transfer limit — and use that money to pay for some or all of your fomite .
One benefit of doing this is that there ‘s frequently a special low promotional sake rate attached to these balance transfer checks. typically, you ‘ll be charged 0 % for a sealed numeral of months, such as 12 or 15 months. If you ‘re able to get a poise transfer check with a special 0 % promotional pace for 15 months, you could pay off your car over that time without incurring any interest at all .
often, there ‘s a tip for balance wheel transfers, though. For case, you may be charged a 3 % fee or 4 % fee, so you ‘d pay 3 % or 4 % of the come you write the check for. inactive, paying 3 % or 4 % in exchange for a 15-month interest-free loan could even be a cheaper way to borrow than getting an car loan .
The caveat, though, is that you need to make sure you can pay off the debt by the time the 0 % rate expires. differently, you could end up owing a lot of money at the standard interest rate on your credit card — which, again, is well above typical car lend or personal lend rates. Do n’t count on being able to transfer the balance wheel again at the goal of the promotional menstruation, as this is n’t constantly a guarantee .
It ‘s besides significant not to confuse balance transfers with cash advances. You could get a cash advance check from your credit card company, but cash advances typically charge up-front fees and have a very high interest rate. Avoid them, and never pay for a cable car with a cash advance .

Taking out a car loan to buy a car

One of the most park ways to finance a car is to take out a cable car loan. In fact, according to Experian, 85.1 % of modern cars and 53.6 % of use cars in 2018 were financed. There are some benefits to taking out car loans, including the fact that cable car loans typically have lower interest rates than credit cards or personal loans .
cable car loans are procure loans, which means the loans are backed by collateral, and there ‘s less risk for the lender. The car is the collateral when you take out a car loanword. If you do n’t make payments, the lender has the correct to repossess, or take back, the vehicle. The lender has a legal possession interest in the cable car until the loan is paid off in full. Repossessing a fomite in most states is agile and childlike for the lender. In fact, it may be possible for a lender to repossess the car without going to woo and with little comment to the owner .
While car loans are coarse, it ‘s important to be ache about how you borrow with a loan. That means choosing the right loanword condition, not borrowing more than you can afford to pay back, making a goodly toss off payment, and making certain you have sufficient policy to cover you in subject the car is totaled before your loan is paid off .

How much should you borrow for a car?

Because cars are depreciating assets that go down in value, you should n’t borrow more than necessary to fund a safe, dependable fomite. Keeping your car loanword cost a low as potential allows you to reduce full sake you pay and leaves you more money for other fiscal goals .
Most fiscal experts recommend that transportation system costs, in total, take up no more than 15 % of your income. But transportation costs do n’t barely include your car lend — you besides have to factor in accelerator, maintenance, repairs, and adjustment costs. therefore your car lend requital should take up absolutely no more than 10 % of your monthly income at most. This is 10 % of your take-home pay, or after-tax income.

Another way to determine how much you can borrow is to make a detail budget. component in spend on essentials, such as housing and food, ampere well as spend on entertainment. And budget to save at least 15 % of your income ( ideally closer to 20 % ). once you ‘ve made a budget to see how your spend and saving match up with your income, see how much you have left over to put toward a car payment .
If putting 10 % of your monthly take-home pay toward a car would mean you could alone save 12 % of your income, alternatively, try to keep your car payment to no more than 7 % of monthly take-home pay up so you can put the recommend 15 % minimum toward savings .

How long should your car loan term be?

While you need to know how much you can afford to spend each month on a car, focusing lone on monthly payments is a problem. That ‘s because many people end up stretching out the length of meter they repay their car lend so their loanword payments seem more low-cost. The trouble with this is, if you take a very long car loan, your monthly payment is lower but your total costs are higher, since you end up paying more sake over time .
Taking a long-run car lend besides has another big downside besides higher pastime cost : A long-run lend increases the chances you ‘ll end up submerged or with negative fairness. negative fairness means you owe more than your car is worth. If you take a long-run car loanword and pay only a little sum each month, chances are good your car will depreciate or decline in respect faster than you ‘re paying it off. This can pose a big trouble if you need to sell or trade in the car, because your car wo n’t be worth ampere much as you owe on it. You ‘d need the cash to pay off the remaining lend libra, above and beyond what the car could sell for, or else you ‘d need to borrow this money to sell or trade in the car .
You do n’t want to end up subaqueous or paying a fortune in sake, so choose the shortest loanword condition you can afford. If you can afford to buy a reliable car by paying no more than 10 % of your monthly income on a biennial car loan, you should do that. If you can not afford to get a sanely safe and reliable cable car with this short a loan, you may need to take out a lend with a longer condition. But a good rule of thumb is to borrow for absolutely no more than four years. If you have to borrow for longer, scale down your expectations and shop for a lower-priced vehicle .
Taking out a shorter-term lend will besides help you if you want to try to save up to pay for your future car in cash. if you ‘ve taken out a four-year loanword but can drive your car for eight years, you could keep making payments to yourself during that four years you ‘re driving your vehicle after your loanword has been paid off. This should give you enough money to pay for your next car in full, or close to it .

How much of a down payment on a car should you make?

When you get a car loan, you ‘ll normally be required to put at least some money down on the vehicle. Most reputable lenders want you to put at least 10 % devour. While you can find car loans that do n’t require any down requital, these tend to come with higher interest rates or other fees, or they may come from lenders you ca n’t in full trust to treat you right .
Whether you ‘re required to have a depressed payment or not, make the largest down requital you can afford — and aim to put a minimal of 20 % down on the vehicle. Making at least a 20 % toss off payment is important so you reduce the chances of ending up subaqueous. As explained above, if you end up submerged, you have negative fairness or owe more than the cable car is actually worth .
When you borrow for the broad price of the car, the fomite loses respect immediately due to disparagement, so you ‘re immediately subaqueous. In fact, if you buy a brand-new car, it will typically be worth about 20 % less than you paid for it after a year. If you put anything less than 20 % down, you ‘re credibly going to end up with negative equity .
This devour requital should be cash you ‘ve saved — do n’t put it on a credit wag ( unless you pay it second in wide when the bill comes ) or borrow it from another source. It can besides come in the form of trade in your old vehicle, provided you owe less than the early car is worth .

Where should you get your car loan?

When you ‘ve got an idea of how much you want to borrow and have a down payment saved up, it ‘s time to start shop for a car lend. While many people just secure financing from the trader, this is n’t always the best approach. In fact, it ‘s a good idea to shop for a loanword before you go to the dealer so you can compare rates you get on your own with what the dealer offers .
You can shop for a car loanword with on-line lenders, banks, and credit unions. Most lenders allow you to get a quote on-line by inputting some basic information, including the come you want to borrow and details about your fiscal position. Get several different quotes and bring them with you to the dealer. See if the dealer can beat the offers you get independently .
Some car lend lenders do a easy credit check to provide preapproval and give you an theme of the loanword terms you ‘d be eligible for. Ideally, restrict your search to these lenders. Soft credit checks mean no inquiry goes on your credit rating composition, while a unvoiced credit check goes on your report when you actually apply for credit. Too many inquiries in excessively short a time hurts your credit rating score, and inquiries stay on your credit report for adenine long as two years .
While you will finally need a hard credit check from whichever lender you get your loanword through, there ‘s no reason to get a bunch together of inquiries when you ‘re equitable shopping around and comparing rates .

What to look for in a car loan

When shopping about for a car lend, there are some key things to compare to make certain you ‘re getting the best finance. You ‘ll want to look at :

  • Annual percentage rate (APR): This is the cost you’ll pay to borrow, including interest and fees. A lower APR means the loan is more affordable.
  • Fixed- or variable-rate loan: With a fixed-rate loan, your interest rate and payment remain the same for the entire time you have the loan. With a variable-rate loan, your interest rate is tied to a financial index and could go up or down. Variable-rate loans often start out at a lower rate than fixed-rate loans, but you lack certainty because your rate and payment could rise, and your loan could become more expensive. It’s often best to choose a fixed-rate loan to make sure your payment is predictable.
  • Loan term: Make sure the lender offers the loan term you’re interested in. Remember, try to keep the repayment term to four years or less. And be sure when comparing loans that each has the same repayment term so you can do a fair comparison.
  • Down payment requirements: You must be able to afford to make the down payment the lender requires.
  • Qualifying requirements: Some lenders only lend to people with excellent credit, while others are more forgiving of past missteps. There’s no sense applying for a loan you can’t qualify for.
  • Vehicle restrictions: Many auto loan lenders have restrictions on the age of the vehicle or the miles a used vehicle can have when you borrow to buy a car. And some lenders require you to purchase directly from a car dealer rather than buying from an individual seller.

Consider all of these factors so you can find a loanword from a lender you ‘re probable to get approved for, at a reasonable rate, to buy the vehicle you prefer .

Do you need gap insurance?

Gap insurance is an addition to your car indemnity policy that pays the difference between what you get from your insurance company and what ‘s owed on your fomite when something happens to your car .
Taking out a car lend always puts you at risk of ending up with veto equity — although those risks can be minimized by choosing a loan with a short repayment timeline and making a boastful down payment. If you do end up subaqueous, you could have a big trouble if your car is stolen or is involved in an accident and declared a entire loss. If this happens, your car policy will normally pay the bonny marketplace rate of the car — which may not give you enough to pay off your car lend .
Buying break policy ensures you have the money to actually pay off what you owe alternatively of owing money on a car you nobelium retentive have. Your lender may besides require you to buy this insurance, but even if you ‘re not required to, you should buy this coverage unless you have spare cash to repay your lend and do n’t mind getting lodge paying bills for a car that ‘s been totaled .

What about your trade-in?

If you have a car to trade in, the rate of the trade-in can reduce the sum you have to borrow or the come you must pay for the fomite on your card or with cash. The money you get for your trade-in could be used toward your car down payment, excessively, if you ‘re borrowing .
But if you owe more than the trade-in is worth, you have a trouble. You ‘ll have to come up with the cash to pay off the existing loan or else increase your modern car loanword total so you borrow enough to pay off the old loan and buy your fresh car. You do n’t want to do this, so invalidate trade in a car until you ‘ve paid down the loanword enough that you no longer owe more than the car is worth .
besides consider whether it makes sense to try to sell the car yourself preferably than trading it in. You may get more money if you sell the cable car privately than if you trade it in with a principal — although this can be more hassle than many people want to deal with. If you do plan to trade in your cable car with the principal, do your research in promote so you know what ‘s a fair price and can negotiate with the dealer about your trade-in ‘s value .
You should always negotiate the value of your trade-in individually before you start haggling on the price of a new car .

Planning for all costs when you pay for a car

When you ‘re making plans to pay for a cable car, remember that there are extra costs to pay besides merely the price of the vehicle. Some other costs you may incur include :

  • Sales tax
  • Car registration
  • Document fees
  • Title fees
  • Emissions inspections
  • Dealer fees

Fees can vary by state and depend where you buy your car. If you trade in a vehicle with the dealer, you can besides get credit for the value of your trade-in so you wo n’t pay sales tax on that sum. so if you buy a $ 30,000 car with a $ 10,000 trade-in, you ‘d be taxed entirely on $ 20,000 in prize .
Ask the dealer for a dispatch breakdown of the costs you ‘ll have to pay sol you can make sure you have the money for a down payment a well as these up-front expenses.

Now you know how to pay for a car

now you know your options for paying for a car : cash, credit menu, or car loan. You besides know how to find an low-cost car loanword and some pitfalls to watch out for to make sure you do n’t pay more for a cable car than you should. You can shop responsibly for your next newfangled or used fomite and make smart choices therefore buying a car does n’t cost more than necessary .

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