If you think about it, the most grueling part of the car-buying process, after agreeing on a price, is acquiring the right kind of loan for your new or used car. Most consumers enter the car dealership completely unprepared for the loan application process, and that lack of knowledge and planning is costing them millions of dollars every year.
If you want to create a win-win situation for you and the car dealership you purchase your car from, there are five steps to take before you sit down at the negotiation table: get your credit report, surf before buying, go local, speak the language and be prepared to negotiate.
1.) Get Your Credit Report
You can’t pick up a personal finance article, magazine or book that does not refer to the importance of knowing what is on your credit report. Despite the fact that modern media has been beating us over the head with this advice for the past couple of decades, most people do not know their credit score or check their credit report on a regular basis. You can get a copy of your report by directly contacting the three credit bureaus: Equifax, TransUnion and Experian (formerly TRW).
Not knowing your credit score and the details of your credit report before applying for a car loan is a monumental mistake. You want to have any blemishes on your report resolved before you apply for a car loan, because the results of your lender’s credit inquiry directly impact your interest rate.
Your credit report includes: basic information about you – name, address, social security number, etc.; your late payments, any outstanding debts you have, the amount of credit available to you; any public records on you such as judgments and bankruptcies; and inquiries into your credit from potential employers or lenders.
And just because you have caught up late payments, cleared outstanding debts or cleared up any judgments does not mean these blemishes are automatically removed from your credit report. Sometimes, you need to follow up with the creditors to make sure they report your reconciliation of debt to all three credit bureaus.
In addition, identity theft and/or fraud can result in false, unfavorable records on your credit report. In January 2006, the Federal Trade Commission reported that more than 686,000 people reported identity theft and fraud complaints in 2005. Stolen identity and fraud can result in major credit report issues.
2.) Surf Before Buying
You’ll be far less tempted to impulse buy, driving away from the car dealership with a car you can’t afford if you have established boundaries in your mind before you begin.
You can save big money on your car loan if you have a budget and type of car in mind before you go shopping. One easy way to accomplish this is to go online and check out different car dealership websites.
You can compare and contrast vehicle makes, models, styles, features and pricing.
3.) Go Local
There are many national auto websites, but did you know that many local car dealerships are now online as well? The advantage of working with a local car dealership can outweigh working with the manufacturer or a national website when you want the best in quality customer service, a relationship for the lifetime of your car and the best deal on your auto loan.
The advantages of getting a loan through a local dealership is similar to the reason every town in America has a locally-owned restaurant that has regulars: local businesses have a sincere investment in the community. That interest often leads to better customer service, a more customized approach to selling, and the ability to get you a better loan than you will receive from a lender who doesn’t know – or care – who you are.
Lastly, the local dealership may have more than one location, increasing your options for finding the car you need but offering the same uniform auto financing options. For example, Conklin Cars Salina, a car dealer in Kansas, is also a Hutchinson car dealer and a Newton car dealer. So, if a customer goes to one dealership and does not find what they need, they can visit another location and expect the same quality customer service.
4.) Speak the Language
There’s nothing more frustrating than going through the entire car-buying process, thinking you have a good deal, and learning down the road that you were taken advantage of – simply because you had no idea what your sales rep was talking about.
From dealer holdback to Rule of 78s , make sure you have an understanding of some of the basic industry terms that could be thrown at you during your transaction. With this knowledge, you won’t misunderstand the details or find yourself being signing a contract or paperwork that you don’t understand.
5.) Be Prepared to Negotiate
If you’ve followed the four previous steps in this article, you will be armed with the necessary tools to negotiate the best rate possible for your car loan. There’s nothing wrong with shopping around and checking with other lenders to see what kind of rate they can offer you, but you must remember that numerous inquiries into your credit report may go against you.
And, when you go through the dealer for your auto loan, the sales rep wants a long-term relationship with you. This motivates them to work harder to get the best rate possible for you. In contrast, an online or off-site lender’s interests begin and end with the loan – but the car dealer wants you to: come back and have your car serviced, return when you want to purchase your next car, and tell your friends about them, further strengthening the dealership’s reputation in the community and increasing business.
Before you sit down to get your next auto loan, take the time to do a little homework so that you can feel confident about securing the best deal for your auto loan. Investing a little time and effort before making the deal can go a long way in creating a win-win situation for you and the car dealership.