Find a Car That Fits Your Budget

The car you want and the car you can afford are often very different things. Not everyone has the kind of income to buy a new vehicle at a moment's notice. In fact, most people don’t have the luxury (or budget) for such purchases.

Regardless, you can still get into the best possible vehicle to fit your budget. I'll share a few tips and strategies for determining how much you can afford to put toward a vehicle purchase. This will help you narrow your options when working with a dealership or independent seller.

Understanding the difference between a car you want and a car you can afford is, however, one of the most important aspects in shopping around. Learning more about what financial factors go into the car buying process can ensure a successful purchase without breaking your budget. By doing so, you'll learn exactly how much car you can afford. Here are five cost considerations.

What’s Your Income?

Your income is the driving factor in how much car you can afford. Start your search by determining how much you make each month, and multiply this amount by 10 percent to get a baseline idea of what you can put towards a vehicle payment on a monthly basis. This amount is not absolute, however; your other expenses will also play a role.

If for example, you spend half of your income on rent, a quarter on utilities, and the rest on food and other living expenses with nothing left over, your car budget may be much smaller than you think. And, now is not the time for generalizing or guessing. Do the math - the real math.

Do You Know Your Credit Score?

Income is only part of the equation; your credit score plays a big role as well. Many 0 percent financing offers car dealerships tout only apply to those few shoppers with excellent credit, so if that isn't you, you may end up paying more each month than you expected. Do a little research on what your credit score qualifies you for so you aren't surprised when you sit down to apply for financing. The last thing you want is to be faced with high-interest offers that make the car you have in mind unrealistic.

What All Goes Into Ownership?

The vehicle itself is only one part of the equation of car ownership, so if you're budgeting for a car and a car alone, you may be overlooking some serious costs down the road. In many areas around the country, car insurance can be $100 or more per month, and potentially several hundred if you have a family or are insuring multiple vehicles. In addition, gas, annual inspections, and repairs and maintenance can add up, in turn adding additional expenses to your monthly payment.

Also, leasing or financing your vehicle purchase changes the costs associated with ownership. While both options have benefits and drawbacks, uncovering which is better depends on your preferences. Find out if it is better to lease or finance a car by asking the dealership what that option entails for you specifically.

What’s the Rule of Thumb With Down Payments?

A down payment is one of the best ways to reduce the amount of your monthly auto payments, provided you have the savings to do so, or are trading in another vehicle with enough value attached to make a difference. For a used car, your down payment should be 10 percent or more of the car's value. For new cars, many dealers will require 20 percent or more due to the added expenses of buying new. If you're erring on the side of caution, however, more is typically better; after all, the more you pay up front, the less you'll have to pay interest on later.

What’s Actually Affordable?

So you've determined the factors that go into a car purchase, but what do they mean for you? Well, that depends on who you are and what you want.

The total amount your car costs should not exceed 10 percent - 20 percent of your annual income. This includes all associated costs, like financing charges, insurance, fees, gas, and repair bills. Get an idea of what this sum means for you, and break it down accordingly.

For example, ff you make $3,000 per month, no more than $300 to $600 should go into your car in that scenario. If you find a great financing option for $350 a month, but insurance is $200 and gas is $100, this car is likely not in your budget, even if the opportunity sounds too good to pass up.

In order to answer the question "How much car can you afford?", you need to look at many factors, including your income, credit score, down payment, and geographic location. By determining what goes into the car buying process, you'll be better able to identify how much you can afford, making a stressful process just a little bit easier.

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Categories: New Inventory, Finance

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