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Driving Articles

By Diane Lochner
MoneyMix Contributor 

You can't run, and you can't hide.  

They're on TV, the radio, and take up pages of newsprint. We're talking about ads for cars, for trucks, new or used, from dealers big and small. 

The more you've got, the less you'll have to borrow, which can mean lower payments down the roadThey come at you from all angles and appeal to all of your senses: See yourself in a new car today; touch the soft leather seats; hear the engine purr; smell that new-car aroma; and taste...? Ok, so maybe not all your senses. 

If you're like most people our age, you'll probably have to get a loan to buy a car. And believe me, a lot of places are more than happy to help you - for a price. Let's look at the basics of buying a car, starting miles from the dealer's lot. 

dollar decisions 

First, look at what you have for a down payment. The more you've got, the less you'll have to borrow, which can mean lower payments down the road. What do you have saved up, and how much do you get each paycheck? Maybe you have money from graduation gifts, or your parents are able to kick-in some cash. Don't forget, you can always use MoneyMixTM's Easy Budget and Save-to-Buy to help with some of the math.  

stick to the plan

Did your mom ever tell you not to go grocery shopping on an empty stomach? When you're hungry, everything looks good, and you might end up spending more than you wanted. If you shop with a list, you can stick to it, and not end up with a cartful of impulse buys. The same thing can apply to car buying.  

Prioritize, come up with a list of your basic car needs, your budget, and stick to it. If you know what you want - and what you don't - you can avoid paying more for the dealer's specials, add-ons, or extras. And if you don't get the deal you want - or you feel you're being jerked around - walk out the door! Remember no one can rip you off without your cooperation.

look at what you can afford   

What exactly do you need from your car?  When I got my first car, I was like Goldilocks - I wanted something not too big or too small, not too expensive, but also reliable.  It's no use to buy a cheaper used car but then end up with huge repair bills.  Gas prices are high and it's always nice to protect the environment, so maybe you'll want something fuel efficient.  Don't forget you'll need to pay for insurance, too.  The type of car and your age both affect how much insurance will cost.  The important part is to think about your short-term and long-term needs -  buying a car can be a big investment, and you'll probably want to hold on to it for a while!   


Published January 31, 2008

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