Buying a car should be straightforward–pick out a car you like, buy it, and drive it, right? But there’s a lot more to the process than just that. Today we are talking about the car ownership rules that no one tells you about, and what you need to know when it comes to buying, maintaining, refinancing, and selling that new ride of yours.
Here are the car ownership rules you should know.
What to Know About Buying a Car
While buying a car is an exciting time, it may not be as quick and straightforward as we wish it was. Here are some tips to keep in mind when buying a car.
Patience is Key
While shopping around can be fun at first, it quickly loses its luster after you have a few deals that don’t work out. This makes it easy to get panicky and jump the gun on what might not be a great deal, or what might not be the car that you truly want.
Try not to fall into the trap of impatience. It will lead you to either buy a car you don’t love or end up in a bad financing arrangement. It’s true that you can't sit around waiting to pull the trigger on a good deal (especially in today’s competitive car market), but you need to strike a balance. Wait to find a car that you will truly be happy with (you might have to compromise slightly re: that competitive car market), but don’t make any decisions out of panic or fear of missing out.
Use the 20/4/10 Rule to See What You Can Afford
When you are looking to buy a car, make sure you have a realistic idea about what you can afford. A good way to determine this is to use the 20/4/10 rule. This means you should make a 20% down payment on a four year car loan and pay no more than 10% of your monthly incomes on transportation (that includes the cost of gas). Using this rule can ensure that you don’t overextend yourself.
Leasing and Buying are Both Great Options
People tend to have a preference when it comes to leasing and buying. If you have always leased, the prospect of buying might seem overwhelming, and vice versa. But it might make sense for you to switch to the other side depending on your situation.
Leasing a car might make sense if:
- You want the lowest monthly payments
- You don’t drive a lot
- You don’t want to worry about maintenance
- You like getting a new car every few years
- You don’t want to worry about selling your car
- You want to maximize business tax deductions
Buying a car might make sense if:
- You want to have an asset at the end of the payment period
- You like to work on your own car
- You want to customize your car
- You drive a lot (and would exceed the mileage limits on a lease)
Look at your finances and your driving patterns to see what makes the most sense for you. And keep in mind that if you decide to lease, you can always purchase the car along the way with an auto lease purchase loan.
Make Sure Your Credit is in Good Shape Before Applying for Financing
Your credit score is the most important factor (that you can control) when it comes to the car loan APR you will be offered. So it is very important to make sure that your credit score is in the best shape possible before you look to buy.
To increase your credit score, commit to the following:
- Make full, consistent, on-time payments
- Set up auto pay on your bills
- Pay down debt
- Ask for higher credit limits
- Check your credit report for errors and inconsistencies
These simple things can increase your credit score dramatically, securing you a better car loan APR and saving you a lot of money in the long run.
What to Know About Owning a Car
You Need a Good Maintenance Schedule
Your car will perform at its best when it is well maintained. Creating (and sticking to) a reasonable maintenance schedule will help lengthen the life of your car. This will keep your car on the road longer and allow you to sell it for more money later on if you choose to do so.
Here are a few things you should include on your maintenance schedule:
- Change your oil every 5,000-10,000 miles (check your owners manual)
- Replace your cabin air filter once a year
- Replace your fuel-air filters once every two years
- Change your oil filter at every oil change
- Change your engine air filter every 15,000 to 45,000 miles (huge variance, we know, but this depends on where you live and how much you drive)
New Cars Usually Don’t Come With Spare Tires Anymore
There is a new trend with new cars to not include a spare tire. Instead they include a sealant and an inflator kit. Prepare for this by becoming familiar with how to use the sealant and inflator kit, and if your car does have a spare tire, consider a practice run in changing it.
You Can Refinance At Any Time
If your car is financed, there is a chance you are overpaying every month on your car payment. There are a number of reasons this may be the case:
- You got talked into a bad deal at the dealership
- You didn’t have great credit at the time of financing
- The market rates were high when you originally financed
Or maybe your monthly payments are overwhelming. Perhaps your income has decreased or your monthly expenses in general have increased.
Whatever the reason is, refinancing might be a good move for you. And the good news is that you can refinance your car at any time. While experts generally recommend waiting six months to pursue refinance (to give your credit score a chance to recover), you can refinance your car loan at any time.
What to Know About Selling a Car
Selling your car can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to feel that way. Here are some helpful tips to help you sell your car (safely).
Research Your Car’s Value
It can be difficult to value your car without letting your emotions or preferences get in the way. But using online valuation tools is a good place to start. Using websites such as Kelley Blue Book or Edmunds will help you gauge the value of your car and the condition. Try to assess your car honestly and categorize it following the guidelines below.
- Excellent Condition. Your car looks new and is in excellent mechanical shape. Cars in excellent condition are rare, making up about 5% of the used car market.
- Good Condition. Your car is free of major defects and problems. Most cars for sale will fall into this category.
- Fair Condition. Your car has some mechanical or cosmetic issues.
- Poor Condition. Your car isn’t in good shape and is running poorly.
Your car is most likely in good or fair condition depending on how old it is and how much you drove it. Consider how many miles the car has and if there are any recurring issues, then use the online tools to determine your vehicle’s market value.
Prepare For the Sale
To get the best price for your car you want to be prepared. Be sure to:
- Gather all of your service records.
- Give your car a good cleaning, both inside and out. Maybe even wax it and polish it before you take your pictures.
- Check that all lights are working.
- Check the oil and other fluids.
- Check the tires.
When you have done all of that, you are ready to list the car for sale.
List your car in a number of different places and use word of mouth as well. Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and Auto Trader are great places to start online. Tell your friends and family to spread the word as well. Also consider taking out an ad in your local paper.
Show Your Car
Potential buyers will more than likely want to test drive the car ahead of time. Here are some tips for staying safe while showing and selling your car:
- Do the test drive in a public place
- Bring a friend or family member along. If you choose not to, be sure to tell someone where you are going and who specifically you are meeting.
- Ask to see a photo ID and take a picture of it with your phone–they can watch you delete it when you are finished.
- Be sure to ride with them–never hand the keys to a stranger.
Those are some car ownership rules that you should know.
There is a lot to know when it comes to owning a car. From buying it to maintaining it to selling it, car ownership can feel a bit overwhelming. But we hope these tips help you to have the best experience with your new car as possible.
And if you're looking to refinance a car, look no further than Auto Approve. With great low rates and an A+ from the Better Business Bureau, Auto Approve is a great choice for a fast and easy refinance.