Five insider tips to save money when buying a car

(BPT) – As the weather warms, car buying season gets into full swing. Even though interest rates are still at or near record lows, there are additional ways smart buyers are saving even more cash on their next vehicle and staying within their budgets.

“Purchasing power is crucial when it comes to buying a vehicle and it’s important to make sure you’re spending within your financial means,” says Joe Pendergast, assistant vice president of Consumer Lending at Navy Federal Credit Union. “Along with conducting research before choosing a make and model, there are steps you can take to ensure you’re getting the best possible deal.”

Here are five tips from Pendergast to get the most car for your money with a payment you can live with:

Step 1: Know what you can afford

Your first step when making any large purchase should be to assess your current financial situation. Review your monthly income, subtract all anticipated expenses, and make sure there’s money left to not only afford a car payment, but also to contribute to your savings. Adding a car payment to your monthly budget shouldn’t leave you without money remaining for things like groceries or unexpected expenses.

Step 2: Review your credit inventory

Take a comprehensive look at your current debt. Are you in good-standing on all prior loan commitments and credit cards? If not, it may be difficult to obtain financing at a low interest rate, which will result in a higher monthly payment. So, if you’re behind on other loans, take the steps now to get in good shape to purchase a car. Go back to step 1 if need be. Once you’ve made sure all your debts are in good-standing and that you’re financially able to take on a car payment, you’re ready for the next step.

Step 3: Check your credit report and score

Getting a car loan at the best possible rate requires a good credit score. Before applying for an auto loan, it’s best to get a copy of your credit report. Although financial institutions will check your credit when applying for a loan, having your report in advance gives you the chance to correct any discrepancies before applying. This leads to a quicker application process and prevents denial because of a credit report error unbeknownst to you.

Step 4: Shop around for the best rate

Rates are low right now – as low as 1.49 percent at Navy Federal Credit Union. Before walking into a dealership, check interest rates at different lenders and read the fine print for any hidden fees. The key to a good auto loan is striking the right balance between the rate and how long to finance the loan. New vehicles will have a lower interest rate, but the monthly payments will be larger. Look for the shortest term you can afford without breaking your budget.

Step 5: Get pre-approved

Once you’ve shopped around, increase your buying power by visiting your chosen lender and getting a quick, pre-approved loan. A salesperson will be more willing to bargain if how much you’ve been approved for and what are willing to pay has already been determined. Keep your payment threshold in mind and allow your pre-approval to lead discussions at the negotiating table. It will result in purchasing a car at a price that’s right for your budget.

If you’re looking to purchase a vehicle this spring, follow these five steps to ensure you’re buying within your means and getting the best possible deal. By doing your homework and talking with a lender, you’ll save as much as possible.

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