1. Know your credit options. As a first-time car buyer, you may have little to no credit history. So you'll likely pay more than the rock-bottom rates you've seen advertised at dealerships. You can get better deals when you take some extra time to build up your credit, before shopping for a car. You can also find deals by making finance companies compete for your business. Compare sample interest rates online. You can use Auto Blog for this, and get actual quotes from banks and dealerships. Then, see who can beat the lowest rate.
2. Keep your loan term short. A longer-term loan will make your monthly payments low, but it could cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars more in interest. You could also get stuck paying off a car that's worth less than what you owe on it. Try to keep your loan term short. No more than 60 months, preferably less. You'll save money in the long run. Of course, one way to avoid high monthly payments is to buy a less expensive car.
3. Know your budget. To figure out what you can afford, work backward from your desired monthly payment, and see the total car price. And, if you're purchasing a used car in order to save some dough, be sure to budget for more than the price. Used cars may have maintenance needs, and little to no warranty left. So you want to be covered.
4.Put at least 20% down. There are many benefits to putting more money down at purchase. You'll pay less in interest on the loan, you'll have lower monthly payments overall, you'll qualify for financing more easily, so the lender is assuming less risk. You'll offset depreciation on the vehicle, which is even more important with used cars. And if the car gets totaled in an accident, you'll owe less to pay it off. You can also save money by paying off all taxes and fees at the time of purchase, instead of rolling them into your monthly payments, and paying interest on them.
5. Find someone willing to co-sign your loan. You'll have an easier time getting financing if you can find someone with good credit to co-sign your loan, meaning they agree to pay it off if you can't. Keep in mind that your co-signer will be on the hook for payments if you default.
Follow these tips for financing your first car purchase, and you'll be on your way to some shiny new wheels