What you need to know when buying a car

July 27, 2010 3:11:11 AM PDT
Buying a car? Well, crunch your numbers.

As Richard Cardenas and other customers are finding out, you got to know what works best for you.

"Particularly on the credit side of it. You really need to do your research before you go visit a dealership. Have an idea of your credit. And what those costs might be," John Giamalvo explained.

With a changing credit market, Giamalvo, with Edmunds.com, laid out several items customers need to seriously consider.

First, know whether you're buying or leasing.

"You have to really consider 'Where am I going to be in three years?' and 'Am I still going to be using this car?' and 'Am I able to afford it in three years?'" customer Daniel Powers said.

Next, focus on the purchase price and not just the monthly payment.

"It's a lot easier for me to sell you something that is $20 more a month, but over 60 months it actually is $1,200 difference," Giamalvo said.

Most importantly, though, know your credit score. It will affect your loan.

"There are credit services that can give you a pretty good idea of your target score ahead of time," Giamalvo said. "That will give you that much more control of your financing situation."

As Ford was unveiling its new Explorer on Monday, dealers like George Adamopoulos from Sea Breeze Ford in Wall, New Jersey, say customers have other choices to consider.

"A lot of leasing programs," Adamopoulos said. "The manufacturers are offering 0 percent financing programs. So there are definitely a lot of opportunities for customers."

Experts say to carefully consider between cash rebates and low interest loans.

To help you figure out how much that new car might cost you, edmunds.com and other sites offer calculators. All you do is fill in the blanks and hit calculate to learn what your monthly payment would be.

Add-ons can also affect your monthly cost. An extended warranty, for instance, could cost 50 cents a day.

"But on a six-year loan, that 50 cents a day translates into $15 a month or $900 over the term of that purchase," Giamalvo said.

Consider negative equity too, where you might owe more than your car is worth. John says there is the temptation to roll that into a new loan.

"That becomes a vicious cycle and, at some point, you're not going to be able to get out of it and you then have to pay the piper," he said.

He stresses know your purchasing power before you make the purchase.



Consumer Reports Car Buying Guide