After rent or a mortgage, car payments are the largest recurring monthly expense most of us have to deal with. Considering how expensive even lower-end cars are, the expense makes sense, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a pain when it comes time to pay each month – especially because transportation is such a basic and integral portion of our lives. It’s hard to think of life without your car, whether it’s the ability to drive anywhere you want or take out a title loan on it during an emergency.
Luckily, not all car loans are created equal and there are a variety of ways of making sure your monthly payments don’t cost you an arm and a leg. Here are a few of our favorites.
The single biggest factor (beside the cost of the car) when it comes to how much your monthly payment will be is your credit score. A good credit score means that you’ll be charged at a lower interest rate than if your score was worse. The rationale behind this is that you’ve proven you’re reliable, so there’s less of a risk attached to loaning you money in the first place.
While there isn’t a lot you can do to improve your credit in the short-term, in the long-term, never missing a credit card payment, mortgage check, or even car payment itself will eventually rehabilitate your credit rating so banks see that you can be trusted. For now though, it’s always a good idea to check your credit to know what kind of a surprise you’ll be in for.
Just like your house, a car loan can be refinanced multiple times throughout its lifespan. Refinancing your car will lower the monthly payments in the short term, and in the long term lower the overall cost of the loan. Just like with a house though, you’ll have to be smart about when and how you refinance, but for the most part you reliably shave off 5-10% interest points. While at first glance that may not seem like a lot, when you’re looking at a 10k loan, that’s no small chunk of change.
Often a car dealership or lot will offer a loan with a bank they’re affiliated or work with. And while it’s tempting because of the convenience to just sign with whatever bank they recommend, resist the urge and instead shop around to see if you can get a lower interest rate anywhere else. Like we mentioned above, just a few percentage points can really add up when you’re dealing with such large numbers!
A little effort before you take the plunge into buying a car can save you a lot of pain and cash down the road. So, while you may be tired from car shopping already, just grit your teeth and push forward to make sure you get a good loan rate. You’ll be glad you did later.