It’s been a really rough month for me. Two weeks ago, I was traveling down the road near our home when my car experienced mechanical failure and would not turn right. As hard as I tried to turn the steering wheel to the right, it would not budge. It resulted in me drifting into oncoming traffic and crossing the yellow center line. I sideswiped the first vehicle and hit the second vehicle head-on before coming to a complete stop.
In 2001, Progressive Insurance did a study of 11,000 drivers and found that 52% of motorists had an accident within five minutes of their home and 77% had accidents within 15 miles of where they lived. Newer research continues to support this claim that most accidents occur within miles of your home.
As a result, I am now without a car. Had I still been a work-at-home mom this would not be a huge dilemma. As it is, since I started a job in May 2022 across town, it has become a looming difficulty on how to arrange transportation to and from work.
As you can imagine, this is one of those life emergencies that you never really plan for. I knew that I would be needing a new car sometime this year, but it was not something I was expecting to have to deal with this month. I knew I would need a down payment on a vehicle, so the plan was to have about $1,000 to $1,500 set aside before I went car shopping this summer. As it happens, I only had $250 set aside.
So I’ve been searching the used car dealerships in our area, Carvana, CarGurus, etc. trying to find a decent reliable car at an affordable price that would keep my car payments within the $200 to $275 per month range. Factoring in insurance costs as well, that would be a monthly payment of roughly $300 to $325 a month, still within my budget.
Finding a Car
The search has not been easy. I am leaning towards one of the following – Nissan Altima, Chevy Malibu, Kia Optima, Honda Accord, and Toyota Camry. I need something with great city/highway gas mileage and would ideally like a hybrid but that’s not a necessity at the moment. The necessity is coming up with a decent downpayment and getting a replacement vehicle as quickly as possible.
Knowing what you want helps to narrow down the search. Once you know that, then you can narrow the process down further by finding available options in your area with the lowest down payment and/or monthly payment amount.
Getting Auto Financing
Unless you choose to purchase your vehicle at a used car lot that does their own financing, your credit score is going to be taken into consideration along with your debt-to-income ratio. As I have stated before, my credit score is ‘challenged’ in that I spent a good 18-20 years as a stay-at-home mom with no income other than what I earned blogging so therefore I had no credit cards, no store credit cards, nothing to help build my credit and keep it on track. So now when I need a good credit score, I’m caught between a rock and a hard place. My husband can’t co-sign for me as he’s just purchased a vehicle a few months ago. My sons both have their own vehicles to make payments on and are not in a position to co-sign either. So that leaves the burden squarely on my shoulders.
I’m always suspect of car dealerships because of past experiences when I’ve gone to purchase a vehicle I’ve always felt taken advantage of simply because I was a woman and didn’t have the mechanical knowledge to know if the car I was getting was a good deal or not. The same goes for financing – I’ve always felt as though I was taken advantage of in that department; especially with the vehicle I purchased after moving to Virginia turning out to be a complete lemon after I paid cash for it at a used car dealership. When things started to break within a week and I took it back to the dealership, the owner said he would be more than happy to make the necessary repairs if I’d go out with him and perform sexual favors. Needless to say, his car dealership was shut down within a few months.
So I was thrilled to find a auto loan calculator that I could use to determine what my down payment needed to be for any of the cars that I am interested in by adding in the total sales price, the state taxes and the amount of financing that would be required to find out where exactly that would put me.
The Moral of the Story
Owning a vehicle is a big responsibility. Not only do you need to worry about car repairs, maintenance, insurance, licensing, and tags, but if you’re trying to buy a new or used car, there’s the added stress of having a down payment and knowing what you can reasonably afford for a monthly car payment. The higher your deposit, the lower your car payment, but life doesn’t always happen the way that you want it to.
So to determine what you can reasonably afford and will fit in your budget, use the auto loan calculator that I found and go from there. You’ll have the numbers in front of you to set your goals and get the car of your dreams.