One of the first big purchases many people make is an automobile. Of course, those just starting out in the world aren’t liable to have much credit history. So how exactly do you go about getting yourself a good car loan?
Well, if you can’t cough up the cash (and most of us can’t, if you’re considering a fairly new vehicle, that is), the smartest thing you can do is to prepare yourself early. Get ready to line up your credit at least a year before you’re ready for that auto loan.
This doesn’t mean run out and get several credit cards and start charging. It does mean establishing yourself with a good solid history of being a financially responsible adult. When you go in for a loan on a new or used vehicle, you should know what kind of credit history the dealers will be looking for. This isn’t to say that if you don’t have good history, you won’t get a car loan. There are plenty of lenders more than ready to take advantage of those with poor credit by not turning them down, but instead slapping them with huge finance charges and impossibly tiny monthly payments that will let them collect interest on you for years.
Don’t let it happen. Do some pre-planning.
If you don’t have a checking account, get one. Savings accounts are fine, but checking accounts require that you keep an eye on the balance and don’t bounce checks or overdraw the account, and that alone establishes some financial credibility. It also ensures a safe route for your auto payments, which you can have deducted straight from your bank account. Set up direct deposit of your paychecks with your employer if possible (it goes without saying that you must have a steady job), so that your bank records show a consistent flow of cash coming in every two weeks. Direct deposit also keeps the money out of your hands and safe in the bank, which leads to the other big point:
Save for your down payment!
Not only will a good down payment knock down the amount you’re required to finance on your new car; it will also make you look like a safer financial bet and will most likely result in a better financing plan. Those with at least a quarter of the purchase price in hand will be riding much more smoothly when it comes time to finance.
Finally, it might be a good idea to take out a small bank loan about a year in advance of your first car purchase. Make the loan small enough so that you know you won’t get into trouble trying to pay it back; and then, most importantly, pay it back. On time, with regular monthly installments.
Trust us: It’s important to make yourself look like a good financial investment for the car lenders. When it comes time to set up payments on that new set of wheels, you’ll be glad you did. Nobody wants to be paying off a car loan long after the car has gone to the junkyard.