One for the Money: Financing Your First Car

When it’s time to look for your first car purchase, some people turn first to family. This can mean a used car “hand-me-down” from another family member, buying something in cash you earned, or with an interest-free loan from parents.

But if none of these options are available to you, the next option is getting a loan. Just remember, this isn’t as easy as signing papers and getting car keys. There are a few steps you should be aware of before you jump into borrowing money.
Step 1: Save for a down payment
There are loans out there that offer 100% financing to certain individuals. While this may seem like the easy choice if you’re short on cash in the bank, it will end up costing you more over the long run.

If you instead save up some money to make a down payment, you borrow less. This means your monthly payment decreases, along with the total amount you pay in interest charges on your loan.

Step 2: Find a co-signer
Usually if you’re younger than 18 you will need to have a co-signer for the loan. Those over 18 you might still need a co-signer if they are just starting out on your own and don’t have an established credit history. A co-signer is someone who agrees to pay back the loan if you don’t. Not just anyone will be willing to do this for you, but often a parent or other family member will help out.

Step 3: Get the best loan
Put yourself in a strong position by doing your financing homework about available loans. Another great idea is to arrange your loan options, or get pre-approved for an amount, before you look for a car.

Arranging your financing in advance is like having the money in your pocket when you go car shopping. Dealers sit up and take notice. This gives you the upper hand when you start negotiating and it keeps you looking at vehicles in a budget you know you can afford.

Step 4: Have a plan
Work out a plan for making the loan payment, as well as the other car expenses. Routine expenses include things like insurance, gas, oil changes and routine maintenance. Ask your friends or family members how much they pay to keep their cars running. Ask different people will give you a better idea of what your car will cost you.

It’s also a good idea to set extra aside in case of unexpected repairs. Even if you can’t have a lot set aside in the beginning, you can decide on a set amount for each month going forward so that over time you’ll have enough.

Come to one of our locations to discuss any loan questions you may have. A loan officer can go through what you need to qualify for a loan, or what steps you may still need to review. We also have educational materials and members-only benefits that can help before, during and after your car purchase to make sure you’re getting the best deal possible.

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