Cary buying tips help you get on the road affordably

Car buying tips that help ensure you can buy car you want with the right auto loan financing for your budget.

Car buying can be tricky. Often people aren’t comfortable with negotiating with the dealership or seller to get the right price. In addition, most consumers don’t know how to map out the total cost of a vehicle to compare financing offers. As a result, you can end up with more car that you can afford, risking credit damage and repossession.

The articles below can help make the car buying process easier. Our finance writers offer tips and tricks to help you navigate today’s auto market. You can learn common traps to avoid that lead to debt and get the best terms on your next vehicle. Below the articles, you can also find general tips that can help you become the auto expert you need to be when buying a car.

Why we pay more for cars with bad credit

Most Lemons Come from Car Dealerships

August 30, 2017 | Dori Zinn

Two-thirds of lemons were purchased at new and used car dealerships, and most of those duds were discovered after only a month of ownership.

New cars lined up on an auto dealership showroom floor, waiting for car buying financed through auto loans

Am I An Idiot For Wanting To Lease A Car?

August 23, 2017 | Howard Dvorkin, CPA

A reader’s girlfriend says he should buy instead of lease.

Used cars lined up on an auto dealership car lot, waiting for car buying financed through auto loans

Older Used Cars Are Stolen More Than Newer Models

August 15, 2017 | Ryan Lynch

Hondas, plus Ford and Chevy pickups are the favorite vehicles of thieves

Miami sunshine's on new cars

Need a New Car? Hope You Don’t Live in Miami

August 14, 2017 | Dori Zinn

Most American households can’t afford new cars in all but one of the largest metro areas in the country.

Illustration of three Americans who made financial mistakes because of spending habits and budgeting

What’s Your Dumbest Debt Mistake?

August 4, 2017 | Michael Koretzky

Our favorite answer: Marrying the wrong person.

You can put the brakes on overspending and save money on auto insurance by allowing your insurer to track your driving

We’re Driving Less But Paying More

August 3, 2017 | Dori Zinn

Three years ago, 8.5 percent of drivers were letting companies track their driving habits. Now, that number is at 6 percent. You can save on insurance without letting companies track your driving.

Woman happily driving convertible on a sunny day after she was able to refinance her car loan

Need a New Car? Head to Florida

July 31, 2017 | Dori Zinn

Fly from your city to another city, buy a car and drive home and you will still pay less than if you had bought that car locally.

You can buy a car from a dealership even if you recently declared bankruptcy

Will Bankruptcy Keep Me From Buying A Car?

June 28, 2017 | Howard Dvorkin, CPA

A reader went bankrupt, and now years later, she needs a new set of wheels.

car driving on road during sunset

How to Refinance Your Car Loan for Long-Haul Savings

April 28, 2017 | Money Talks News

In spite of recent interest rates hikes, you may still be able to save money by refinancing.

Man with broken down car calls his auto insurance company

Your Auto Insurance Premiums Are Going Up

March 21, 2017 | Dori Zinn

Depending on where you live, your costs could be up by more than 60 percent.

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Top 10 Cities To Live Car-Free

March 3, 2017 | Joe Pye

If you don’t mind public transportation or walking, you can live here much cheaper.

Why we pay more for cars with bad credit

Need Car Insurance? Your Choice Could Cost You More Than You Think

February 20, 2017 | Dori Zinn

How much are you paying for your new car? Is it worth it? Turns out you should factor in a few more things to determine the true cost of that new car.

You can buy a car from a dealership even if you recently declared bankruptcy

What’s The Difference Between “Used” And “Pre-Owned”?

February 15, 2017 | Howard Dvorkin, CPA

This week: A couple isn’t sure how to replace their two broken-down cars.

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Car Buying? These Brands Last

January 31, 2017 | Joe Pye

Japanese models top the list of least frequent repairs.

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Dvorkin On Debt: Blowing Up The Auto Bubble

September 26, 2016 | Howard Dvorkin, CPA

Remember this summer, when everyone predicted the next big financial crash? It might not happen.

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Dvorkin On Debt: The Most Important News Of The Summer

September 12, 2016 | Howard Dvorkin, CPA

Something happened last month that I just loved, but no one reported it.

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4 Simple Steps To Get The Very Best Car Loan​

August 30, 2016 | Money Talks News

Many people shop backwards for a vehicle — and that’s costly. Here’s how to get the best deal.

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7 Secrets Car Dealers Hope You Don’t Know

August 9, 2016 | Money Talks News

Knowing how dealerships work — and what the dealers cannot do — is key to getting the best price.

From stolen Honda Accords to relaxation guilt

Don’t Drive an Old Honda in California

August 1, 2016 | Dori Zinn

California has the most stolen cars in the entire nation

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Ask The Expert: Can I Just Stop My Car Payments And Buy Another Car?

July 27, 2016 | Howard Dvorkin, CPA

A reader thinks she can switch cars with no black mark on her credit. The answer is even simpler than she thinks.

Why we pay more for cars with bad credit

Can You Afford a New Car? Depends on Where You Live

July 7, 2016 | Dori Zinn

How much car can you afford? This map shows where cars are most and least affordable in the U.S.

best tips for buying a car in 2015

Dvorkin On Debt: The Impending Auto Bubble

July 4, 2016 | Howard Dvorkin, CPA

Remember the housing bubble? Are car loans the next mortgage crisis?

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Ask The Expert: Should I Buy The Car I’ve Been Leasing?

April 20, 2016 | Howard Dvorkin, CPA

A reader got into a bad lease but wonders: Will buying the car make it better?

buy a new car

Ask The Expert: Should I Buy A New Car?

December 2, 2015 | Howard Dvorkin, CPA

A teen reader wants to convince her father to let her buy a new car, but Howard isn’t being helpful.

man exchanging keys to car for cash

Ask The Expert: Can I Really Give My Car Back to The Dealer?

August 12, 2015 | Howard Dvorkin, CPA

A reader wants to give up his car and his loan by just driving it to the dealership and leaving it there. Can he?

best tips for buying a car in 2015

Ask The Expert: How New Cars Can Become Old Headaches

August 5, 2015 | Howard Dvorkin, CPA

A reader’s husband wants a new car. She wants a used car. Who should win this argument?

car driving on road during sunset

There’s An 84 Percent Chance Your Car Is About To Break Down

April 9, 2015 | Jess Miller

But if you make these 5 car repairs yourself, you can prevent that from happening.

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Financial Illiteracy Month Part II: 5 Money Myths Exposed

April 8, 2015 | Brian Bienkowski

These myths could lower your credit score and cause you to spend more money.

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Will Auto Loans Drive Us Into Another Recession?

March 26, 2015 | Jess Miller

The “housing bubble” sparked the Great Recession. Some experts worry an impending “auto bubble” will do the same.'s founder and CPA Howard Dvorkin

13 Percent Of Americans Will Make This Stupid Mistake With Their Tax Refund

March 9, 2015 | Howard Dvorkin, CPA

While most of us will do the right things, these otherwise intelligent adults will do this.

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By The Numbers: Millennial Madness

March 6, 2015 | Michael Koretzky

This week: No question is too big, small, or weird for a millennial opinion poll.

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By The Numbers: Auto-Erotic Fascination

February 27, 2015 | Michael Koretzky

This week: Quantifying how much we care about cars.

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January 30, 2015 | Michael Koretzky

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Why Low Gas Prices Might Not Help You Get Out Of Debt

January 26, 2015 | Howard Dvorkin, CPA

In fact, in my experience, low prices can actually drive you further into debt.

best tips for buying a car in 2015

How a Credit Card Can Save You Big Bucks On A Lexus

October 29, 2014 | Jason Steele

We’re not really recommending it, we’re just saying it’s possible to save thousands.

Do you believe these car buying statistics?

Car races: What your ethnicity says about your vehicle purchases

May 22, 2014 | Michael Koretzky

Do African Americans, Hispanics, and Asian Americans really prefer different vehicles?

Want to keep your car longer? Heed this advice.

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May 20, 2014 | Michael Koretzky

Here’s a quick and handy guide to cheap and easy maintenance anyone can handle.

Here are the best cars for bad credit buyers.

The best cars for bad credit buyers

April 11, 2014 | Brandon Ballenger

Here are the cars people with below-average credit buy when they’re broke, and how to get them.

Top shot looking under the hood of a well used vehicle; if you can't work under the hood yourself, car repairs can be expensive

Why you should learn about your car

March 31, 2014 | Brandon Ballenger

The more you understand about what happens under the hood, the more you can save.

7 Things to Consider When Car Buying

#1: Don’t ignore your Truth in Lending Disclosure

Anytime you sign a loan or lease for a vehicle, the lender should provide a Truth in Lending Disclosure. This is a legally required document that all lenders must give a borrower before they sign a loan agreement.

The Truth in Lending Disclosure tells you:

  • The total amount financed – i.e. the how much money you borrow
  • APR (annual percentage rate) – this is the interest charged by year
  • Total finance charges – interest charges added up over the life of your loan
  • Monthly payment amount
  • Number of payments
  • How penalties may apply, including for late payments or pre-payment penalties

All these things matter greatly to your daily budget and overall financial health. You can also use this disclosure to execute some of the advice you’ll find below.

#2: Credit score matters for multiple costs

If you think the only thing your credit score affect in car buying is the interest rate, you’re wrong. A higher or lower interest rate changes the total cost of a car purchase. In addition, rate changes in auto loans affect the monthly payment amount, too. So, if your interest rate is low, you may want to put off purchasing until you can build credit.

Here’s a quick snapshot of cost differences between a prime and subprime $16,000 auto loan with a term of 60 months:

Prime score (661-780)Subprime score (500-600)
Interest rate5%15%
Monthly payment$301$381
Total interest charges$2,116$6,838
Total cost$18,116$22,828

#3: Pay attention to upfront, monthly and total costs

People often focus only on the upfront and monthly costs of an auto loan. But you need to consider the total cost of owning the vehicle, too. That means paying attention to things like:

  1. Gas mileage
  2. Maintenance and repair costs
  3. Dependability
  4. Depreciation and resale

If you buy a vehicle that doesn’t get good gas mileage, you may have a luxury car that sits in your driveway. Vehicles that wear out quickly and don’t have good resale value mean you won’t get much on the trade-in; you also may be back to purchase another car too quickly.

You also need to balance monthly costs and total costs on your auto loan:

  • A longer loan term means lower monthly payments, but higher total interest charges
  • A shorter term increase the monthly obligation, but helps you save money over the life of the loan

#4: Don’t take dealer offers at face value

Those no-money-down or 0% APR promotional offers that dealers advertised are meant to get you in the door. But they don’t always provide the best overall value. In most cases, you could get a better loan if you go to your bank, credit union or a preferred online lender.

Before you start to shop, hit up your favorite lender to find out what kind of auto loan you can qualify for through the; it’s basically the same as getting prequalified to buy a house. Then you go to the dealer in a much better position. Your lender will give you a lender-approved blank check or a coupon saying what you qualify to buy.

Now you can compare any dealership offers to the offer you have from your lender. Look at total costs and upfront costs, then choose the deal that works best for your finances.

Note that when shopping for auto loans, requesting multiple quotes within a short period won’t damage your credit. All the inquiries for that loan type will be consolidated into a single inquiry by the bureaus. This allows you to shop around for your loan without decreasing your credit score.

#5: Make sure to take the right steps to avoid lemons

When you buy a used car, there are steps you can take to avoid buying a lemon:

  1. Test drive the car
  2. Take it to your mechanic so they can inspect it
  3. Check the vehicle’s history

A car is officially considered a lemon if it’s purchased with unreported defects. If the car is new, you may be entitled to a refund or new car. For used cars, the laws vary by state. Check with your state Attorney General’s office to get Lemon Law information that applies to you. You should do this and review it before you buy.

#6: You can’t be afraid to negotiate

Car buying, like homebuying, is one of the few places left in U.S. marketplaces where you can’t afford to by shy about haggling. You never want to pay the asking price, whether it’s from a dealership or a private seller. You should know the value of the car you want to buy and how much other people pay these days.

If you aren’t comfortable negotiating on your own, take someone with you who is. Then learn from watching them. Failing that, make sure to check things like Kelly Blue Book or try apps like TrueCar. In the end, you can’t be afraid to walk away from a deal. That’s the number on rule in negotiating.

#7: Look carefully before you lease

Some people just assume that leasing a car is better than owning. In some cases, it is; but it really depends on your situation. If you like to get new cars every few years and you drive either a fixed or limited amount, leasing may be for you.

Here are some downsides to consider about car leasing:

  1. The car doesn’t belong to you, so it doesn’t count as an asset
  2. Insurance costs tend to be higher when you lease
  3. If you ever have trouble making the payments, it’s harder to get out of a lease and you can’t refinance
  4. There are mileage limitations and if you exceed them it leads to fees
  5. If you don’t maintain the car in good condition, there are also added fees for wear and tear

It’s important to note that a leased car doesn’t count as an asset. However, an auto lease often still counts as a debt. Unless you are within 10 months of full repayment, auto leases count against your debt-to-income ratio. So, getting a lease won’t help you avoid challenges caused by excessive debt.