Finance

5 Car-Buying Tips Inspired By The Big Screen

You might like your cars Fast and Furious, but the decision to buy one shouldn’t be.

Sep 16, 2016

Next to buying a home, a car is one of the biggest purchases you will make. Whether you’re in the market for a sensible family vehicle a la The Brady Bunch’s station wagon or a flashy set of wheels fit for a Steve McQueen movie, following are five car-buying tips inspired by the big screen:

Begin with a budget

In Thelma and Louise, Louise’s 1966 T-Bird convertible symbolizes the freedom that the two women recklessly pursue. On the flip side, a budget-breaking car payment can shackle you in debt and eventually drive you off a financial cliff. Use a car loan calculator like this one to estimate monthly loan payments and see how various loan terms or down payments affect your bill. Before you begin shopping, secure financing from a financial institution so you can compare it to what the dealer offers.

Take your time

Unless your new car comes equipped with a flux capacitor like the DeLorean-turned-time-machine in Back to the Future, you probably won’t be able to turn the clock back on your purchase. That’s because cars are not subject to the federal “cooling-off” rule that allows consumers to cancel certain sales transactions within three days.  Before you sign the papers, make sure the vehicle is your destiny…at least for the next few years.

Take it for a spin (or two) on both the freeway and backroads, traversing your regular routes if possible. Test to see that the vehicle fits in your garage, seats your family comfortably and has adequate cargo space. Don’t be afraid to walk away from a high-pressure sales pitch and insist on more time to make a decision.

Consider the whole cost

Ghostbuster Ray Stantz snagged the Ecto-1 ambulance/hearse hybrid for the rock-bottom price of $4,800. But the old ambulance also needed some suspension work and shocks. Oh and new brakes, brake pads, lining, steering box, mufflers and transmission.

Remember that an attractive sticker price is only part of the cost equation. To get the whole picture, “Who you gonna call?” First off, your insurance agent. The type of car you choose impacts what you pay in auto insurance premiums. Also, be sure to factor in differences in trade-in values, expected repairs and fuel costs.

Chase a deal

No one chases after a speeding muscle car more masterfully than Frank Bullitt, played by Steve McQueen, in the 1968 classic Bullitt. For Bullitt that means navigating the hilly streets of San Francisco and dodging highway traffic in his Ford Mustang GT. For car buyers, chasing deals also requires a level of skill and maneuvering. Look for auto deals at the end of a month, quarter or model year. But remember, not every incentive is worth chasing.

An online calculator can help you determine whether you should take advantage of low-interest financing or a manufacturer rebate. A rebate will reduce your auto loan balance, while low-interest financing lowers your monthly payment. The best option depends on the price of the vehicle, the size of the rebate and the interest rates available for financing.

Newer isn't necessarily better

The anthropomorphic Volkswagen Beetle Herbie rode again, and again, and again — growing more beloved with time. Today’s cars live longer than ever, making used vehicles an attractive option. In 2015, the average age of vehicle was 11.4 years old. That’s up from an average age of about eight years in 1995, according to research by R.L. Polk. Modern car buyers also benefit from easily accessible vehicle history reports, a research essential when buying a used car.

 

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