Here are five steps to becoming a savvier automobile buyer:
¢ Predetermine your payment. If you want to own a home some day, your car payment should be no more than 8 percent of your gross monthly income. Most mortgage lenders are reluctant to lend to people who spend more than 36 percent of their gross monthly income on debt. Fully 28 percent is expected to be put toward housing costs, leaving you with a margin of 8 percent.
¢ Factor in recurring expenses. You should budget in regular maintenance, roadside assistance coverage, fuel and insurance.
¢ Choose shorter loan terms. Stretching out your payments costs you more as time goes on. Not only does your principal accrue more interest, but also the value of your car begins to depreciate.
¢ Check theft rates. Visit NCBuy.com or Esurance.com to research which makes and models are least likely to get pinched.
¢ Shop around. Remember the best sticker price doesn't necessary equate with the best deal. Keep in mind that advertised prices generally run $150 to $300 above dealer cost.