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The First Step of Buying Any Vehicle

If you’re ready to buy your next vehicle, your first step needs to be assessing your situation. Before you look at a single car, take an hour or so to write down and prioritize your needs. Because most people skip this step, they make a poor decision when they get to the dealership by purchasing the “sexy” car rather than the one that’s best for them. As a result, they either end up selling the vehicle much too soon or spending far too much money on it.

Use

What will be the primary use of your vehicle? Are you going to be taking the kids to and from school every day? Will you be carrying tools to work? Do you have a long commute? Use is the most important thing to consider when you’re buying a vehicle. While an SUV may be a necessity for a large family or a construction worker, it could be a gas-guzzling headache for a businessman with a long commute. 

When considering the uses for your next car, make sure you also take into consideration future needs. Are you planning on having children in the next several years? If so, you may want to rethink that coupe. Getting married soon? What does your significant other think about your plan to buy a new sports car? Thinking about your vehicle’s present and future uses can save you from making a shortsighted purchase.

Factors to consider that may depend on usage:

  • Size
  • Gas mileage
  • Body type
  • Features

Budget

Your next vehicle purchase can either put you in a great financial position or dig you into a hole that you may not recover from for years to come. Because of this, knowing where you stand financially is crucial to making a wise purchase. You should not only take a hard look at your current income and expenses, but also the stability of your job and future purchases you’ll make. Also remember there are always hidden expenses like taxes and insurance associated with buying a vehicle. Make a realistic decision on how much you can spend and stay firm to that decision, no matter how much you want to buy a car that’s just outside your budget.

Factors to consider that may depend on budget:

  • Sticker price
  • Insurance cost
  • New/Used/Lease
  • Financing

Risk

Because nobody likes to dwell on the worst possible scenario, many people purchase a car destined to fail them when they need it most.  Have you considered how safe you will be if you get into an accident? What are the chances that you’ll be stranded on the side of the road with a mechanical problem? Instead of ignoring risk, face it head on. If you’re buying a car to transport your family every day, you may want to consider only vehicles that rate highly for safety. If, on the other hand, you’re handy under the hood, you may be able to tolerate an older car that has a tendency to break down.

Factors to consider that may depend on risk:

  • Safety features
  • Age
  • Mileage
  • Reliability

Preferences

Let’s face it, part of buying a car is choosing something we actually want to drive. There’s nothing wrong with making personal preferences a part of your decision as long as you know your priorities. Is a sunroof and leather seats important to you? As long as these features fit into your budget, there’s no reason not to choose these luxuries. Where many consumers falter is placing too much of an emphasis on personal preferences that don’t actually matter. Too many people purchase a car that’s wrong for them because it has an iPod connection. Or speakers that light up when music plays. Or eight cup holders. Or blue paint. Make a list of preferences, but know where these preferences fit into your overall decision.

Factors to consider that may depend on preferences:

  • Features
  • Style
  • Color
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Get the Best Deal on Your Next Car by Shopping Around

“We will not be beat!”

“Lowest prices guaranteed!”

If you’ve seen a car dealership commercial on TV, you’ve heard one of these phrases. While it seems that these lowest price guarantees should encourage consumers to shop around for the best deal, most buyers just take them at face value. After all, if the dealership you’re at guarantees that they have the best prices, why go through the trouble of shopping anywhere else?

Because car prices can be negotiated, low price guarantees come in especially handy for consumers buying a vehicle from a dealer. If you’re willing to do a little extra legwork, you may be able to save thousands on your next car. Follow these four steps to get dealerships to bid against each other for your business.

Use the Internet

Test driving a car is an emotional experience. It handles nicely, the seats feel good, and that new car smell is amazing. Unfortunately, many people don’t shop around like they should because they get emotionally attached to one car after test driving it. Keep your emotional involvement to a minimum by doing most of your initial research online. With all the online resources available today, you should be able to get a good idea of the used cars you want and the best local prices on those models before you even set foot into a dealership. Compare reviews from consumer groups and safety organizations to find the two or three vehicles that best fit into your lifestyle. 

Narrow down your choices

Once you’ve settled on the best vehicles for you, test drive them at the nearest dealership. At this point, you don’t need to worry about negotiating with the dealer, just walk in, drive the cars you’re interested in, and walk out. By now, you should also decide on the features that matter most to you. The goal is to narrow down the exact car and features you want, so you’ll be able to compare apples to apples when you shop around. 

Get quotes

Now, you can contact dealers both online and over the phone to narrow your choices down the two or three offering the best price. While this should be relatively simple for new cars, used car buyers may have to do a little extra work to make sure the cars they’re comparing are as similar as possible.   

Compare quotes

Go to the first dealer on your list and negotiate the best price you can on the car you want. Make sure you’ve discussed every part of the deal, including financing. Once you’ve gotten the seller’s price, go to the next dealer on your list. Show them the previous dealer’s offer and ask if they can beat it. If you find a dealer that will beat the price, return to the original seller and ask them if they’ll beat the new price. If they do, buy the vehicle on the spot. If not, return to the seller with the best offer. Be aware that many dealers try to negotiate on extras and features rather than price. Take these extras into consideration, but always give price the highest priority. 

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How Will My Credit Score Affect My Ability to Buy a Car?

When most people walk into a dealership to buy a car, they are focused on the vehicle itself. With all the research they’ve done on prices, features and ratings, they’ve ignored their credit score. Because of this, they are blindsided by the dealer’s financing offer once they’re ready to actually buy the car. If you’re interested in getting the best deal possible on your next car, you need to not only know your credit score, but also how to use it to your advantage. 

Your credit score comes from one of three reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian or TransUnion), and ranges from 300 to 850. Your score determines not only your interest rate, but also whether or not you’re even eligible for a loan. Typically, scores over 720 are eligible for good interest rates, while scores under 630 may have a tough time getting a loan at all. 

Do you know what your credit score is? If it’s not the best, do you know what you can do to give yourself the best chance of walking out of the dealership with a great deal?

 

Know your credit score before walking into the dealer

The most empowering thing you can do before buying your next car is purchasing a credit report. This report will not only tell you your credit score, but will also list actions you’ve taken that have affected that score. You should be aware that your credit score varies slightly among the three different reporting agencies, so the number you’re looking at may not be exactly what the dealer sees.

Fixing your credit

As soon as you obtain your credit report, examine it for wrong information and contact the reporting agency to fix it. Then, if possible, boost your credit by working on the five areas that reporting agencies look at. These areas are:

  • Payment history (35%)
  • Amounts owed (30%)
  • Length of history (15%)
  • New credit (10%)
  • Types of credit (10%)

Some ideas for fixing your credit are stop making late payments, pay back as much debt as you can afford, avoid closing old cards and don’t open up new credit.  Remember that just a few points added to your score can help you get into a lender’s next tier, potentially saving you thousands of dollars.

Research your options

Getting an auto loan from the dealer may be convenient, but it’s not your only option. Once you know your credit score, find out what type of loans you’d be approved for by contacting your bank as well as online lenders like Up2Drive.com. You don’t have to take these loans, but just being approved can give you leverage at the dealership. 

At the dealership

When you arrive at the dealership, you should have your credit score and lending offers in hand. Do not offer this information before the dealer checks your credit; you just want it in case you need it for leverage. If the dealer tells you that your score is higher than you thought or offers you a better deal than the one you got, you’re good to go. However, if the dealer offers you a worse deal, you can use your documentation to negotiate a lower interest rate or go with a different lender. 

One final thing to consider is that some dealers might offer zero percent financing or cash back. If you’re offered this choice, consider taking the cash back and going with a different lender that has a low interest rate.  

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Roadside Assistance 101-How to Change a Flat Tire

Flat tires never happen unless it’s raining, you’re late for a meeting or you have 100 pounds of luggage covering your spare tire. While flat tires are always an inconvenience, they don’t have to be a disaster. If you don’t know how to change your own flat tire, don’t be ashamed. Instead, take a few minutes to read this short guide, and you can feel confident anytime, even when you hear that dreaded thump-thump-thump.

Be prepared

The ability to fix a flat in under five minutes won’t do any good if the spare tire is flat as a pancake. Every once in a while, check your spare tire to make sure it still has pressure. You’ll also want to make sure that your lug wrench and jack are still in your trunk. Because many auto shops tighten lugs too tight, it’s also a good idea to keep a pipe in your car. A pipe that snugly fits over your lug wrench can give you the leverage you need to loosen even the tightest lugs.

Park on a flat surface

While it is possible to change a flat on a hill, it is very dangerous and not recommended. To keep the car from moving while you change the tire, coast to a flat area, shift it in park, set the hand brake and put something behind the tire diagonally opposite of the flat tire. 

Get everything you’ll need

If you’ve already prepared for a flat tire, you should know where to find everything you’ll need. Most cars have the spare tire, lug wrench and jack under the carpet in the trunk. Some other items that might be helpful are a flashlight, pipe, paper towels and extra clothes.

Loosen the lug nuts

The hardest part of changing a flat tire for most people is loosening the lug nuts. Many cars have lug nuts that are so tight that they seem almost impossible to unscrew without a torque wrench. This is where your pipe comes in handy. If you brought your pipe, simply slip it over the lug wrench, and you should have more than enough leverage to loosen even the tightest lugs. At this point, you don’t want to take the lugs all the way off, just loosen them enough to make them easy to remove when the car is jacked up. Remember, righty tightie, lefty loosey.

Jack the car

Put the jack in the designated jack spot underneath your car. This spot will probably be marked with two indentations near the wheel. If you’re not sure where your vehicle’s jack spot is, consult your owner’s manual. The jack that comes with your vehicle should have no trouble raising it from the ground. Jack your car enough to let the tire spin freely.

Remove the flat and put on the spare

Remove the flat tire, making sure you don’t let the tire, hub cap or lug nuts roll away. Now, put the spare tire on with the air valves facing out. Hand tighten the nuts, then lower the car. When tightening the lug nuts for the final time, work in a star pattern, attacking the nut opposite the one you just tightened. This will help you make sure the tire won’t fall off once you start driving. 

Clean up

When you clean up, make sure everything’s back in your car the way it was when you started. That way, your tools will be there when you need them, and they won’t clunk around in your trunk. When you drive on your spare tire, make sure you stay under the recommended maximum speed and travel distance. These details will be in your owner’s manual, and sometimes on the tire itself.

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How to Void Your Cars Warranty

Few things are as reassuring to a new car buyer than a long warranty. It’s great to know that even if your car isn’t as reliable you thought it would be, you won’t be held responsible for the repairs for the next several years. While the warranty can be a source of reassurance at the time of purchase, however, it can turn into a point of contention when the dealer claims it has been voided.  

To help you avoid the costly mistake of voiding your warranty, this article discusses several of the most common reasons manufacturers cite for not honoring warranties.

Salvage title

When a vehicle has been declared as a total loss by an insurance company, it gets a salvage title and is no longer eligible for a warranty. Even if the vehicle is repaired to work as good as new, it will no longer be eligible for warranty repairs.

Reckless driving

Reckless driving includes racing, off-roading and overloading the vehicle. Even vehicles designed to be driven fast or off-road can be denied warranty coverage, so think twice before taking part in any risky activities with your car.

Aftermarket modifications

This condition of the warranty is often confusing for consumers. While many people think that it means they cannot make any alterations to their vehicle at all, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act of 1975 says that the dealer must prove the aftermarket part led to the car problem in order for it to void the warranty. If it’s not clear whether or not the aftermarket part caused the failure, the dealer has to run a diagnosis. Also, it’s worth noting that performance aftermarket parts can cause a dealer to become suspicious of racing and possibly void the warranty on grounds of reckless driving.

Maintenance

Most warranties require the vehicle to be serviced regularly. This means that if the engine failed because of dirty oil buildup, for example, the repair wouldn’t be covered by the warranty. While your vehicle is under warranty, get the oil changed every 3,000 to 4,000 miles. You don’t have to have it maintained at the dealer, but make sure you keep all maintenance receipts with careful records.

Environmental damage

No warranty will cover damage done by nature. This includes environmental disasters like fire, flood and earthquakes.

Not reading the fine print

The most important thing you can do to keep the warranty of your car is reading all of the fine print. Many warranties contain conditions not listed in this article, and you’ll be out of luck even if you accidentally violate them.