You want a car, and you want it now. But the fact of the matter is, it's worth spending a little time considering your car financing options. On paper, a loan may seem like it will solve all of your problems, but if you don't read the fine print or be realistic about the terms you'll have to stick with, an auto loan can cause you even more financial stress.
Studies show that many people across the country are optimistically biting off more than they can chew. According to credit bureau Experian, in June 2015 the average length of new auto loans reached a record 67 months, or a little more than 5.5 years, reported USA Today. Some 29.5 percent of loans had terms between 73 and 84 months, which is also a record high and a jump from 24.9 percent the year prior.
Don't get stuck in a loan that seems to never end and that you can't afford. Fortunately, knowledge is power, so here are a few common car loan mistakes that you should watch out for.
Consider comprehensive costs
The amount of the monthly payments isn't the only thing you should pay attention to during the loan-negotiating process – you also need to factor in other costs like interest, noted Money Talks News. Failing to see the whole picture and little hidden costs causes many buyers to sign up for a loan that they really can't afford. The source recommended following the 20/4/10 rule when considering a loan plan. Your down payment should be at least 20 percent, you should agree to finance the car for a maximum of four years and monthly vehicle expenses – these include interest, insurance and principle – shouldn't be more than 10 percent of your gross income. By approaching a loan with this strategy, you can make sure the plan is more comfortably within your means.
Think about cheaper alternatives
Don't run from cheaper vehicles because they don't have the glitz and glamour of fancier late models – the important thing is that you need a car to get around, not show off, and besides, there are many stylish options that can still fit in your price range. If the car you're drooling over is only affordable for you if you pay it off over six or seven years, then you should probably readjust your expectations and go down a level on the price range you're searching in, explained Time magazine. Go back to basics and think about the most important features you need in your vehicle – a cheaper car with four-wheel drive in a snowy climate should win out over a late-model SUV with a built-in DVD player and surround sound system.
Get your add-ons elsewhere
When your making a final agreement on a car loan, it can be tempting to just say yes to every little add-on that seemed to worm its way in there, like paint sealant or an extended warranty. However, think carefully before giving the green light to these extras, since they can disproportionately inflate your loan payments, according to Bankrate. The source notes that a National Automobile Dealers Association study found that 37 percent of the average gross profits made in new and used car sales came from the finance and insurance office by way of "aftermarket add-ons." While there are good deals to be had with these add-ons, it's worth taking the time to research what the out-of-market price would be for each item, since sometimes you can find items priced at a discount compared to what they would be worth as part of your financing plan.