This may come as a shock to you, but I know pretty much nothing about cars. I know how to drive one (but only if it’s an automatic) and that’s about it. I tend to think of cars the same way I think of most technology, as a magical creature who works in ways I don’t understand and possesses the free will to decide not to work if I anger it. Your car might be a mechanical, inanimate object, but car definitely has a mind of its own. Needless to say, this approach makes me somewhat clueless when it comes to knowing what features I want in a car, what a good price is, etc.
Right after college I bought a 2003 Jeep Liberty with help from my parents. To give the Liberty credit, it got me where I needed to go (most of the time). But it also once broke down three times in the same week so my Jeep and I were not exactly what I would call best friends. And after spending over $3,000 last year fixing brakes, sensors, tires, and everything else that can possibly go wrong in a vehicle, I decided 2014 was officially the year of a new car for Kelsey!
Although I won’t bore you with my whole car-buying story, I do want to share one super-helpful tip for you to use the next time you are in the market for a new vehicle – ASK YOUR FINANCIAL INSTITUTION FOR HELP!
I’m lucky enough to work at a financial institution, so I was already familiar with the services our credit union has to offer members who are shopping for a car. Before I even started looking, a loan officer at our credit union sat down with me and walked me through through the pre-approval process. She helped me find out what my credit score was, what interest rate I would qualify for, the price range of cars I should look at, about what my monthly payments would be, and approximately what I could get for trade-in value on my Jeep. Additionally, loan officers tend to know a little (or in some cases a lot) about cars because they finance so many of them! In just a few minutes of chatting, our loan officer was able to recommend a few cars to me that she thought would be in my price range, offer similar features to my Jeep, and that she had heard good things about from other members. Although maybe not all loan officers are as knowledgeable as her, it’s worth asking. If your financial institution can’t give you any advice on car-shopping, they may be able to refer you to someone who can like an auto-buying consultant. Many people never think to ask their financial institution for advice when buying a car, but your credit union or bank can be an excellent resource.
All of that information from my pre-approval was invaluable once I actually visited the dealership. Without the help I got from a loan officer, my guidelines for the kind of vehicle I wanted would have been much more vague. Instead, I went into the dealership with a solid idea of what I was looking for. I was super lucky because my loan officer even accompanied me to the dealership and helped me navigate additional steps in the car-buying process like what kind of warranty to purchase, etc. Although your financial institution might not come right to the dealership with you, you can always give them a call and ask what their advice is on additional coverage for your new vehicle.
Long story short, with help from my credit union I was able to drive away from the dealership yesterday in a 2012 Chevy Malibu. I felt confident that I got a good price on a quality car because I had assistance from my financial institution. Lesson learned – don’t be shy! Ask your bank or credit union for help finding your new ride.
P.S. Want to know the best thing about my new car? I found $4.25 in a secret compartment next to the steering wheel!!! Someone clearly forgot it was there before they traded it in. And now that $4.25 is mine 🙂 I’m rich.