Know Your Means
There’s no use buying an expensive luxury vehicle if you can’t afford it. Before you pick your dream automobile, study your income and expenses to determine how much money you can devote upfront and over time. As a general rule, if you finance your car, your monthly payments should be no more than 20% of your income. Account for the shortest payment plan you can and put down the difference. Though the rate may be cheaper on a 60- or 72-month loan, you’ll actually end up paying more for the vehicle over time. Another general rule: Put at least 20% of your car’s final purchase price down immediately. This will ensure you don’t end up paying back more in interest than your car is worth as the value depreciates.
There are other expenses associated with a new car. Depending on where you live, insurance, gas prices, maintenance, tolls and other less visible costs add up. Remember, it’s better to err on the safe side with your numbers. Once you have your budget and have assessed your driving needs, it’s time to start comparing vehicles.
A word on leasing: Don’t lease a car if you want to own it. A lease is essentially an extended car rental. Leasing may seem cheaper than buying initially, but over months and years as the car depreciates, costs will add up. You will not own the vehicle when your term is up and if you want to buy it later, you’ll likely pay an expensive price for it. Leasing requires as much of a commitment to research as buying.