I recently read a newspaper article that car loans are stretching to 7 years and longer. Why is this? Because most car shoppers want to get into the car they want and have a monthly payment in their budget. The dealer knows you are a payment buyer and will do anything to sell you that car.
When you walk onto the car dealers lot the salesperson after making small talk will ask, what type of monthly payment are you looking for. In view of the fact that most car shoppers are payment oriented the salesperson needs a number to work with. He will never discuss the actual selling price of the car because that does not allow him to work the payment numbers in his favor. When he comes back with the payment you agree on, check the length of the loan. If you need a 6+ year loan to get the payment you need, you are probably getting in over your head. A lot of things can happen in six years, marriage, children, divorce, job transfers, layoffs, promotions, injuries. Try to purchase something that allows 2-4 years on the loan. DO NOT TEST DRIVE VEHICLES YOU CAN’T AFFORD AND THEN STRETCH OUT THE LOAN TERM SO YOU CAN! Stretching out the years will lower the payment but it will cost you more over the long run. You are buying a car not a house, so 3-4 years later when you are ready for another vehicle you will still owe 2-3 more years on your 4 year old vehicle. Scary thought, isn’t it? Look at it this way. After the third or fourth year you may want to trade it in for another car and still owe more on it than it is worth.
Here is the reality. Cars depreciate fast, usually about half their price in three years. If you take out a 2-4 year loan and trade it in after 3-4 years you probably have a little equity in your car for a down payment on another one. If you are buried in a 6-8 year loan you still owe a lot more than it is worth and must roll the balance into a new loan and you now have no equity in your new car. According to the Power Information Network a unit of J.D. Powers and Associates, nearly 82 percent of car loans made in 2007 were 5-6.5 years. That is quite a large number of people buried in their car. If you are one of the very few people that will actually keep your car that long you still must consider the excess interest you will pay over the course of the loan.
Here are some numbers
A loan for 25,000 dollars at 6 percent over 48 months will cost you 28,176 dollars. The same loan stretched out to 84 months will cost you 30,660 dollars. The payment went from 587 dollars to 306 dollars, but it cost you more over the long haul.
If you are upside-down in your car meaning you owe more on it than it is worth, be careful. The options are simple; try to sell it yourself and avoid the wholesale price at the dealer. To do this you must have cash available to pay off the lien. Or you can put a larger down payment on your new car to offset the imbalance. Another way is to look for large cash rebates that can offset the purchase price of your new car. If none of the above will work you should consider keeping the car longer until the negative balance disappears. If you allow the dealer to pay off your loan and put the negative equity on the selling price of your new car you will be even further upside down on your new car and the next time you buy it will be worse. Whenever a dealer advertises that he will pay off your loan no matter what you owe, he will but you will pay the difference. Don’t be fooled into thinking he is doing you a big favor. To avoid being upside down on a new car purchase you should always try to put at least 20 percent down.
It is plan and simple! Do not get sucked into a long term car loan to keep your payment low. When the dealer brings you the loan papers at the payment you want, check the length of the loan. If it is higher than 48 months don’t sign it. When the dealer asks you what payment you are looking for, tell him the number, but also tell him you do not want a loan over 48 months. Focus on the selling price of the vehicle and if it is too high, consider a less expensive new car or a slightly used car that fits your budget. Another option is to increase your down payment on the vehicle to bring the payment down.