Year-end car sales are up ahead on the calendar, so now is a great time to get your finances ready and do the research to purchase a car. Here’s what you can do over the next few months to prepare:
Fix mistakes on your credit report. Mistakes on your credit report take time to correct, and you want to approach financial institutions and dealerships for financing when you have a clear, accurate record. A negative mistake can result in a higher interest rate, so if you check your reports now and resolve mistakes, you’ll be able to get the best rates available to you.
Ramp up your savings. Put away as much as you can for the down payment. You should also set aside funds for car insurance, registration fees, and future maintenance costs. Try to keep enough savings to cover your future car insurance deductible, so that you can cover out-of-pocket costs if your vehicle is damaged.
Pay down your revolving credit balances. High credit card balances will affect your credit score, which in turn will affect your loan application. If you have the funds to spare, try to pay them down in the months before you visit financial institutions about financing.
Compile a list of institutions to visit. When the time comes, you will want to visit several financial institutions to ask about car loan rates. When you visit several lenders in a short period of time to inquire about a car loan, your multiple credit inquiries are collectively considered as a single inquiry. This single inquiry is better for your credit score. Keep your eye out and talk to friends and family members about the service they’ve received.
Know your budget limits. Study your budget and settle on maximum amount that you can use toward your new car. Settling on a sustainable amount now will help you from feeling squeezed in your budget throughout your loan term. Don’t forget about the cost of insurance. This could affect your budget as well.
Focus on what you need. Different cars serve different purposes. Defining what you need from your car, before you start shopping, will help you stick to your budget. What will you be using your car for and how many people will you be transporting?
Start your research online. Year-end sales are intended to clear old inventory, in order to make room for new models for the upcoming year. You can gain a general sense of the inventory available on Guam by visiting websites for local car dealerships. When you’re familiar with the inventory, you can search manufacturer websites for more information, and you can also check car review websites and magazines to read more about your options.
Think about safety and fuel efficiency. Fuel efficiency will save you money throughout the year, while safety features will protect your family in an accident. In your research, you can check www.fueleconomy.gov and www.safercar.gov to find ratings and compare different vehicles.
Be open to different options. You can get the most out of your money by being open to the different options that become available during sales. Research several car models that you might be interested in purchasing. Some models may come with better deals than other vehicles with similar features, so some flexibility can help you when the time comes.
Michael Camacho is president and chief executive officer of Personal Finance Center. He has more than 20 years experience in retail banking and with financial institutions in Guam and Hawaii. If there is a topic you’d like Michael to cover, please email him at email@example.com.