Vehicles represent a major purchase for most households and an important one. Understanding all the aspects of borrowing money to purchase an automobile or truck is crucial to ensuring you get the best deal. Below you’ll find a concise overview of how car loans work, how to compare your options, and some strategies for getting the best deal.
Car Loans Are “Secured Loans”
A secured loan is a loan for which the borrower puts up collateral to guarantee repayment. In most car loans, the vehicle itself is generally the collateral. If you miss enough payments, the lender will repossess the car. As a result, you’ll lose your vehicle and the amount you’ve invested in it.
Apart from that, auto loans are much like any other loan. A set fee schedule and a fixed number of payments consisting of interest and principle. Typically, car and truck loans have been 36 to 60 months, although 72-month and 84-month terms are becoming more common.
Types of Financing
Most auto loans are offered by one of two sources. First, direct lenders are financial institutions such as banks, auto loan agencies, credit unions, and the like. You may approach direct lenders for an auto loan after you’ve chosen a vehicle, or you might get pre-approved for a loan before you begin your search for a car.
The other common situation is to get financing directly through the car dealership. Dealership financing is very similar and, in some ways, easier since the dealership handles all the paperwork.
Lenders associated with the auto manufacturer usually service dealership financing. The dealer retains the contract, but a lender working with the manufacturer handles the loan.
Which is an advantage for you?
Direct lending gives you more leverage since you can walk into the dealership knowing you are approved and how much you can spend on a vehicle. In addition, you have the freedom to visit several dealerships looking for the best deal and the most suitable vehicle.
This may be your best bet in some cases. For example, you may have a long history with your banking institution and may have taken out loans and paid them off in the past. Your bank may offer you very generous terms in such cases.
On the other hand, sometimes, getting a loan through a dealership may be most advantageous. For instance, dealers occasionally offer extremely low or even 0% financing as an incentive, especially for new cars. They can do this because they make their money elsewhere in the buying process, which direct lenders cannot do. So if you want to buy a new car, it might make sense to start at your local dealer.
Also, the dealership wants to sell the car, so there is a bit more pressure on them to see if they can get you financed because that means a sale. So if you are having trouble getting approved with a direct lender, getting a loan at the dealership may be an easier path.
Of course, getting loan approval from a dealership will not transfer elsewhere, so you must buy from them if you want that loan.
As you can see, there are several advantages and disadvantages to either way of getting a loan, so consider your situation and weigh out the differences.
Should You Pay Cash?
Buying a vehicle with cash may not be feasible for some people or specific vehicles. Still, if you have the means, there are some significant advantages:
- Credit isn’t an issue: No worries about credit scores or financial history if you pay cash. Once the money changes hands, the car is yours.
- No monthly payment: This can significantly benefit those whose income may be limited or vary from month to month. You’ll never pay a late fee or penalty.
- No interest: Since there is no financing, you save all the money that would have gone to pay interest. This can mean thousands of dollars saved.
- Paying cash may prevent you from over-extending yourself financially. It’s easy to buy a more expensive vehicle when you finance it since you pay for it over many years. So self-discipline is needed to avoid buying more than you can afford. By paying cash, you limit yourself to what money you have on hand.
- There are no restrictions on selling or trading in the car. The car becomes yours at the time of the transaction. When financing, the lender owns the vehicle for the length of the loan, so there may be restrictions on selling.
- Insurance requirements: Most lenders will require full coverage on the vehicle while you are making payments. This protects them from loss if you are in an accident. However, if you own the car outright, you may choose to have less coverage and save money on insurance. Of course, you should carefully consider the financial risk if you do so.
- Depreciation concerns: One thing to remember about vehicle purchases is that cars and trucks depreciate almost immediately after the sale. It’s just an economic fact. A car is no longer “new” once you drive it home. Therefore, there is always a danger of your loan going “underwater”. That means more is owed on the car than it is worth. The more of the purchase price you finance, the greater the chances of this happening. You completely avoid this possibility when you pay cash.
As you can see, paying cash for your car can be a smart move, but it isn’t always the best way. It may benefit you to take out a loan even if you have the cash to buy the car outright. For instance, if you can get 0% financing or another extremely low rate, it may make sense to take the loan and put your money in a high-yield investment instead. Then, you’ll earn profit with the money rather than losing value through depreciation.
Understanding the Fees Associated With Loans
When you purchase a car, there are various taxes and fees in addition to the actual price. You should understand these fees associated with the transaction so that you can budget for them.
All vehicles purchased in Canada are subject to the federal Goods and Services Tax (GST) of 5%, based on the final bid price. In addition, each province levies a sales tax. These secondary taxes vary by region and range from 6% to 10%.
Besides taxes, you will have other fees at the dealership, such as the freight delivery fee to have the car transported from the factory to the dealership. Many manufacturers also charge an inspection fee.
Finally, you’ll face a title fee to register the car, likely a documentation fee, an emissions testing fee, and perhaps others from the dealership. Bear in mind that some of the administrative fees may be negotiable when discussing the car’s final price.
Strategies for Getting the Best Loan
Having a clear plan before starting the whole process makes good sense. It’s the best way to get the vehicle you need at the most affordable price. Here are some strategies.
Good Preparation: It is crucial to stick to your budget to avoid stress or regret after buying your car. Having a hefty payment that you can scarcely afford each month is extremely stressful. Set a top figure for what you can afford to pay and stick to it.
Avoid Distractions: When shopping, it is easy to get distracted by a shiny sports car, even though you’re looking for an SUV. Don’t let that happen. Yeah, that newer 2-seater looks great, but if it’s not what you really need, you might quickly regret the purchase. Better to precisely decide the vehicle you need and aim for the best deal on that one.
Negotiate: That seemingly set price may not be so solid. Auto dealers must make sales to stay in business, so don’t hesitate to negotiate. They may be willing to accept a price substantially lower than the one on the window. This is especially true if you look up the car’s book value ahead of time. You can find the trade-in and direct sales values of all models of vehicles online. Having a pre-approved loan might help you as well. In a way, it turns the tables on the dealership because you can say, “Here’s what I can offer, take it or leave it.”
Credit Score: You gain a lot of negotiating power and set yourself up for much better interest rates if you maintain a good credit score. The credit bureaus determine credit scores based on your history of making payments on time and being financially responsible. Therefore, it makes sense to check your score ahead of time to know how you’ll be received when applying for a loan. The most important thing you can do to keep your credit score high is to pay all your bills on time, so make this a habit.
Income Level: Another thing that lenders will look at when deciding whether to approve you for a loan is your income level and income history. Make sure you have proof of income handy, and don’t forget to include side businesses and investment income if you want these to be considered.
Do the Math: Sometimes, a dealer will offer you incentives such as a certain amount of money paid back immediately after the loan closes or a reduced interest rate. The choice may not be easy since you are comparing two different things. Take a few minutes to do the math and see which way you’ll come out ahead. Cash-back offers are very tempting (who doesn’t like to have some money handed to them?), but sometimes you’ll make out better in the long run with the lower interest.
Early Payoff Penalty: Another negotiating point that may be relevant to you is whether you are allowed to pay the loan off early without a penalty. Paying off early can save you a decent amount of money on interest, so some lenders will penalize you for it, while others won’t. Make sure you know the terms before you sign if you think you may want to pay them off early.
Compare values: New or pre-owned? There’s definitely an allure to a brand-new car. However, if that price tag is just a little out of reach, consider a low-mileage pre-owned vehicle. Many are available in nearly new condition but may be thousands less than one just off the assembly line. Virtually all cars depreciate by 20% to 30% in the first year. Keep this in mind when making your decision.
How to Handle Trade-Ins
It’s more convenient to trade in your old car at the dealership when buying a new one, but you’ll not likely get the best price. Instead, you’ll often come out ahead by selling the old car privately and using the money towards the new vehicle.
You won’t know the lowest price the dealer will accept when you walk in. Many factors are involved. Although they make money either way, a dealer will consider if you’re financing through the dealership or trading in a used car. So even when the dealer claims to be giving you top dollar for your used car, they are often making up for it by only accepting a higher bid on the new car.
A Strategy that Will Save You a Lot of Stress…
If all of this sounds like a lot to take in, you should know that help is available that won’t cost you anything. Let the experts at Consumer Auto help you get the best financing for your next vehicle, and we’ll do a lot of the work for you. The lender pays our commission, so there is no charge to you.
Our network of lenders means we have many potential loan arrangements to choose from and will match you with the one most beneficial to you, the buyer. So fill out our form below, and we’ll get back to you with more details.