3 Important Car Buying Tips

Are you looking to buy a new ride before the end of the year?  Here are three important factors to consider before you sign your name on the dotted line.

Needs vs. wants: What do you plan to use your new ride for – commuting, weekend trips? These are just a few questions you should consider.  A smart car might get incredible gas mileage during your long commute, but really lacks in terms of cargo space. You may be able to get a bag of groceries home, but what about that 6-foot ladder you need? Don’t forget about things like Bluetooth connectivity and heated seats also. Weigh all your options before getting too excited about what car looks the coolest.

Monthly payments vs. total price: You love the lower monthly payments, but are you really considering how much a new car is going to cost you by the time you’ve paid it off in six years? Maybe you’re a big fan of the total price you’re getting, but you know the monthly payments are going to take some sacrifice in your budget. Is that something you really want to endure? Have you also factored in other costs like insurance, gas, oil changes, tires, and preventative maintenance? Take your time and make a list so you get a better idea of the true cost of your new vehicle.

Know your car before you buy: Do some research and see how other owners are feeling about their purchase.  Always take a test drive, and try riding through parking lots. How does it ride? Is it only smooth on smooth roads? What’s it like going over a speed bump? When it comes time to buy, it shouldn’t be a mystery and you should feel comfortable with your decision – this is a big purchase you will be using daily over at least the next several years.

In the market for a vehicle? If you’re just starting to shop, get preapproved and if you’re ready to make the purchase – apply for an auto loan online 24/7. We have quick approval decisions and same day closings!

APR = Annual Percentage Rate. Not all applicants will qualify, subject to credit approval. Additional terms & conditions may apply. Actual rate may vary based on credit worthiness and term. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a First Financial auto loan and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. See credit union for details. A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account/loan.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

5 Ways to Get a New Car for Less

Premium styling. Flawless paint. Glistening tires. That unmistakable new car smell. Everything about a new vehicle practically begs you to buy it. When you close your eyes and think about driving your brand new set of wheels off the lot, it quickens your pulse a little, doesn’t it? Shopping for your next vehicle is a uniquely exciting experience. Usually until you look at the price tag, that is.

If you haven’t priced cars recently, you may be surprised by the figures you find. According to a recent report by Edmunds, the average loan amount for a new car jumped to more than $32,000, and the average monthly payment rose to $558. Sure, the latest models may be nice, but facts are facts—that’s a lot of money to pay for a car.

Now, before we go any further, if you’ve been saving up for your dream car and figured out how to buy it without demolishing your budget, then by all means – go for it! But if you find yourself in the market for a new vehicle and you want to avoid overspending, we’ve got five tips to help you hang onto more of your hard earned money.

5 Ways to Save Money When Buying a Car

Do your research.

The last thing you want to do is show up to a car lot with no idea what you’re looking for. Lack of preparation puts you at the mercy of the salesperson. And while they may be genuinely nice people, sales professionals make their living by getting you to buy a product at the highest price possible. So, before you head to a dealership, narrow down your choices by doing your research. Thanks to the Internet, companies like NADA, Car and Driver, and CarsDirect can help you sort thousands of options by everything from location to price to trim packages.

Get preapproved. ​​

Once you’ve determined which vehicle fits your preferences and meets your needs, it’s smart to get preapproved for financing. There’s a good chance you’ll find better financing rates through your local credit union than through another lender. Once you’re preapproved, you’ll know how much you can afford, what interest rate you’ll pay, and what your monthly payments will be. This information gives you the upper hand in price negotiations and keeps you from getting distracted by dealer tactics that focus strictly on monthly payments. Preapproval lets you negotiate based on the most important aspect—price.

Shop for incentives.

When sales are lower than expected, automakers will often extend money saving incentives to encourage buyers to purchase their vehicles. This is an instance where the manufacturer’s loss can be your gain. If you’re not already loyal to a particular make or model, you may be able to take advantage of dealer incentives such as discounts, rebates, and lower APR on financing. If you are loyal to a specific type of car, that can work in your favor as well, as some car companies will offer customer loyalty incentives to encourage you to keep driving their cars.

Ask for a lower rate. 

There are plenty of books, websites, and podcasts that offer tips and tricks on negotiating more effectively. While most of their ideas have merit, there’s one suggestion that may seem a little too simple and straightforward—ask for a better deal. In most cases, a dealer or salesperson will start negotiations with an offer that benefits them the most. Asking them to do better is part of the game. To give yourself the best chance of success, be polite and be prepared to walk away. Some dealers will play hardball, but when they have an interested buyer (especially one with preapproved financing), most would rather sell a car for a little less than let it sit on the lot and hope another buyer comes along.

Choose a used car instead.

Maybe this tip isn’t exactly a way to “get a new car for less,” but it is an excellent way to save money on your next vehicle purchase. Since most new cars depreciate an average of 20% in the first year and nearly 50% after five years, buying a preowned vehicle is a smart way to steer clear of that depreciation. It’s also worth mentioning that in addition to their lower upfront prices, used cars usually cost less to insure. Save now. Save later. That’s a pretty convincing sales pitch, isn’t it?

When you’re ready to start shopping for your next car, we’re confident that you can handle the research portion. But when it comes to the financing and preapproval, do yourself a favor and contact us here at First Financial. We may be able to offer you a lower rate and more flexible terms than a traditional bank or lender.* Give us a call today. You’ve got nothing to lose — except months of unnecessary interest payments!

*APR = Annual Percentage Rate. Not all applicants will qualify, subject to credit approval. Additional terms & conditions may apply. Actual rate may vary based on credit worthiness and term. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a First Financial auto loan and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. See credit union for details. A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account/loan. 

 

How to Choose the Right Preowned Vehicle for You

Shopping for any vehicle can be intimidating. And making a big purchase that has about 30,000 parts which need to be in safe working order is not a small feat, but here are a few important pointers on how to pick the right new-to-you vehicle.

First, before you hit the lot – understand your needs. To do this, think about your current car and why you are looking to give it up. What bothers you about it – is it too small, would you prefer a smoother ride? It’s also helpful to think about the next few years in the vehicle you are about to purchase. Are you going to be starting a family in the near future, do you have pets you transport to the dog park? Do you have a long commute? You want to make sure you will be buying a reliable vehicle that meets your personal needs. It might be a good idea to shop online prior to visiting the dealership. Be sure you are getting exactly what you want – this is a big purchase that you will need to live with for a number of years to come.

Get a friend. Or a family member who knows cars. Or does a coworker currently drive a car you like? If so, talk to them about their vehicle. Find out what they love (or don’t). See if they’ll let you test drive their vehicle. This is a big help when trying to find the right car for you.

Find a car that looks good. It’s hard to tell if an engine is in top condition, but a decent way to tell is by looking at the rest of the car. How has it been treated? If the previous owner cared for the paint, they probably cared for the bigger things as well. A used car should be as close to showroom condition as possible. A car never has to be damaged – regardless of its age. If it is, make an offer accordingly.

Fewer miles doesn’t necessarily mean fewer problems. Fewer miles is generally a good thing. Although city miles are much harder on a car than highway miles. This means a car with 10,000 miles that has lived its life in a big city may be in worse shape than a 20,000 mile car whose owner had a long highway commute each day. Miles are a good indicator of how many years are left in the car – but it’s also important to note how they may have been tallied, if possible.

Should you get an inspection? An inspection is always best if you’re serious about buying the car. It can save you thousands and give you great peace of mind. If you’re considering a used vehicle from a dealership, check out the Carfax report on the vehicle before you buy.

Always be ready to walk away. Do not fall in love with the car before you get to see it, because you may talk it up in your mind, instead of seeing the vehicle for what it truly is. Walk away if the car isn’t great. If it’s good but not as you expected, make a lower offer than what you were prepared to give. Price is always negotiable.

Price. Do you research beforehand, and make sure the dealership or private seller is in the ballpark. Most sellers are going to try to price the car higher and expect you to negotiate. Kelley Blue Book is a great resource for comparison.

Don’t be persuaded. Don’t let a pushy salesperson change your mind. Be sure you end up with the vehicle you want and are comfortable with. In the end, you’ll be the one who will be driving this car on a daily basis – so be sure you are 100% secure in your decision to purchase.

Some final pointers to consider:

  • Not all cosmetics matter. Minor dents/scratches on the exterior, a missing hub cap, a small upholstery stain – these can be easy negotiating points to lower the sticker price and simple (and inexpensive) enough for you to have fixed on your own later on.
  • Don’t get too caught up on mileage. A well maintained car can easily log 200,000 miles (maybe even more if it was a great, reliable car to begin with). Engines run for a very long time if they were properly maintained. You’ll need to do your research on the history of the used vehicle and weigh the following – is it better to buy a car that has been well taken care of with 150,000 miles or one that has only 75,000 miles but was poorly maintained?
  • Tires – another negotiation tool. It’s important to note how the tires are worn. If they are evenly worn, that’s a better sign. But if the treads are irregular, this could mean neglect or a mechanical issue. If the vehicle you are looking at needs new tires, this is another point you could try to negotiate off the sticker price.
  • Properly repaired accident damage isn’t always a deal breaker. This goes along with researching the vehicle’s history. Maybe the vehicle was in a small fender bender years ago and there’s a little dent in the body that doesn’t affect the safety or use of the car in any way. Or maybe the car had some body repairs made from a previous accident and it’s as good as new now. Just because the vehicle was in an accident, doesn’t always mean it’s damaged goods. Again, do your research and have the vehicle inspected by a trusted mechanic if it will make you feel better.

In the market for a preowned vehicle? First Financial’s auto loan rates are the same whether you buy new or used! If you’re just starting to shop, get preapproved and if you’re ready to make the purchase – apply for an auto loan online 24/7. We have quick approval decisions and same day closings!

APR = Annual Percentage Rate. Not all applicants will qualify, subject to credit approval. Additional terms & conditions may apply. Actual rate may vary based on credit worthiness and term. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a First Financial auto loan and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. See credit union for details. A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account/loan.

Article Source: Will Lipovsky for Moneyning.com

6 Things to Do Before You Buy Your Next Car

1. Figure Out What You Need

It’s not always about what you want, but what you need. If it’s your first car, you may only need something that will get you from point A to point B and around town – and won’t need to spend a huge chunk of change.

2. Acknowledge What’s Practical

This is about tempering expectations. Before you buy, be realistic about your situation. Is your family growing? You may want to think about a larger vehicle like an SUV or mini van.

3. Check Into Your Credit

Do you know where you stand with your financial reputation? You’ll get better loan terms and be in a better position to negotiate if you have good credit. Look at your credit report to see if there are errors that could drag you down. Also, have a look at your consumer credit scores from free sites like Credit Karma and Credit Sesame. While they aren’t “official,” they can give you a good idea of where you stand.

4. Know Your Budget

You can use car loan calculators to figure out monthly payments versus total loan amounts ahead of time. Know your budget, and be prepared to stand firm. Once you get to the dealer, there’s a good chance they will try to nudge you a bit by focusing on a monthly payment and convincing you to get a 60-month or 72-month loan. Figure out a total price you want to pay for the car, and stick to that.

5. Research the Options

Do your homework.  Look into cost and vehicle reliability. Figure out what works best for you in terms of safety, fuel economy, and so on. Consider Certified Pre-Owned or a lease return if you’d like a newer “used” car. These are lower cost, but still come with warranties and other perks.

6. Look for Incentives and Sales

Look for deals like year-end clearance events and manufacturer incentives. Check to see what’s available before you get out there, then use that information to negotiate the best terms.

For more advice on buying a car – check out our guidebook: Buying a car in 5 easy steps and video. If you live, work, worship, volunteer, or attend school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties in New Jersey – we can help you finance your next vehicle.* Learn more and get started here!

*APR = Annual Percentage Rate. Not all applicants will qualify, subject to credit approval. Additional terms & conditions may apply. Actual rate may vary based on credit worthiness and term. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a First Financial auto loan and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. See credit union for details. A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account/loan. Federally insured by NCUA.

Article Source: Miranda Marquit for Moneyning.com 

Mind the GAP: Understanding the Value of GAP Coverage

Picture the following scenario: After months of research and planning, you take the plunge and buy a new car. Once the financing is secured and your auto insurance is in place, you’re ready to hit the road. You’re so excited about your sparkling new ride that you’re not even worried about the fact that most new cars depreciate by as much as 10% the moment you drive them off the lot—and up to 20% in the first year.

Now, imagine that after just a few weeks, you’re involved in an accident that badly damages, or worse yet, totals your car. (Don’t worry—unlike your car, you emerge from this imaginary situation without a scratch). Fortunately, you did the responsible thing and secured good auto insurance. Once all the proper claims have been filed, you find out that insurance will only cover your car’s market value—which, due to the depreciation, is several thousand dollars less than the amount you actually owe on your auto loan. If only there were a type of loan protection that would help you make up that difference. Fortunately, there is. It’s called Guaranteed Asset Protection—or GAP, for short.

What is GAP?

GAP coverage is an optional protection plan offered with auto loans or leases, and depending on the plan coverage limits, it effectively waives most of, if not all, the remaining balance on your loan. While your auto insurance plan’s comprehensive and collision policies cover your vehicle’s value in the event that it is totaled or stolen, GAP coverage is designed to ensure you don’t get stuck making payments on a car you no longer own.

How do I know if I need GAP coverage?

While the product makes good financial sense for some, not everybody needs to get a GAP policy. According to the financial experts at NerdWallet, there are a few basic guidelines that will help you decide whether GAP coverage is right for you. You should strongly consider adding a GAP policy to your auto loan if you:

  • Made a small down payment on a new car, or none at all.
  • Agreed to a loan term longer than 48 months.
  • Drive a lot, which reduces a car’s value more quickly.
  • Lease your car.
  • Bought a car that depreciates faster than average.

Where do you get GAP coverage?

While a variety of companies provide GAP coverage for consumers, it often makes the most sense to obtain the protection plan from the same financial institution that will be financing your vehicle purchase in the first place (which is hopefully your local credit union). If you already financed your vehicle through a dealership, keep in mind that many GAP programs are refundable up to a certain number of days. This means that should you decide to refinance your auto loan through a credit union, they may be able to help you get a refund on your original GAP plan and secure a new plan at a lower cost.

Not only are credit union GAP plans traditionally less expensive than those available through finance companies, they can typically only be added to your loan at the time of closing (vehicle age and mileage limits also apply). Securing coverage through the financial institution that services your loan reduces the need to coordinate communication between multiple parties. It also increases the likelihood that you can put a frustrating accident experience behind you sooner rather than later—and that peace of mind is priceless.

If you have questions about Guaranteed Asset Protection or want to know how to add it to your auto loan before you close, contact a financial representative at First Financial. They can help you review your current financing situation and determine whether GAP coverage is right for you.*

*Enrollment in Loan Payment Protection is voluntary and not required to obtain a loan. Loan Payment Protection is a debt cancellation product available through CUNA Mutual Group. Please contact your First Financial loan representative, or refer to your Member Agreement for additional information on benefit maximums, eligibility, and limitations. Certain eligibility requirements, conditions, and exclusions may apply. You may cancel the protection at any time. If you cancel protection within 30 days you will receive a full refund of any fee paid. Loan Payment Protection can only be added on at the time of loan closing and coverage cannot be added to an existing loan.

How to Decide When It’s Time to Buy Another Car

At a national average of $479 a month, car payments can take a big chunk out of the monthly budget. Even if you avoid car loans, the high cost of a vehicle can delay other savings goals. Either way, it’s rewarding when a vehicle costs nothing more than fuel and routine maintenance. In fact, it’s such a rewarding feeling that you might miss important signs it’s time to start car shopping again.

Being frugal is a great quality when it comes to vehicle purchases – while the average consumer purchases a new one every 3 to 5 years, today’s vehicles are designed to last 10 or more. Still, it’s possible to be too frugal and end up costing yourself more money in the long run. If you have any doubts about whether it’s time to buy a newer vehicle, consider these four signs.

1. Your Vehicle’s Safety is Questionable

Aesthetic qualities and luxury features are one thing, but safety is quite another. If there’s any question whether your vehicle can get you safely from Point A to Point B, it’s time to consider an upgrade. Here are a few examples of what might constitute a safety concern:

  • Your vehicle sometimes has mobility problems. If this happens on the road, it could cause an accident.
  • Your vehicle lacks important safety features. Newer vehicles are equipped with advanced safety features, but we’re talking about the basics — seatbelts, curtain air bags, traction control, etc.
  • Your vehicle has been in an accident or has extensive rust that could compromise its structural integrity. The appearance of rust might not bother you, but the damage it does to internal parts could.

If you have an older vehicle and you aren’t sure if it’s safe, check with a trusted mechanic or vehicle safety inspector.

2. Your Vehicle Needed a Major Repair in the Last Year

Ditto for cars that frequent the auto repair shop. Occasional out-of-pocket repairs are less costly than a car payment, but if repairs exceed that $479-per-month average car payment, you might want to consider a newer vehicle. It’s easy to lose track of expenses that spread out over time, so get out the receipts and do the math.

3. Your Vehicle is Costing You in Other Ways

Maybe you work further away from home now and that gas-guzzler is jacking up your fuel budget and eating into other categories. If your car frequently fails to start in the morning, it might be costing lost hours of work or putting your job in danger. Be sure to consider these and other hidden ways your vehicle is costing you that might be grounds for trading it in.

4. Your Vehicle No Longer Fits Your Lifestyle

We tend to choose the size and style of vehicle that best fits our lifestyle, but preferences and lifestyles can change. Maybe you’ve become a new parent, sent your last child to college, or spend more time in your vehicle than in the past. All these changes can affect which vehicle is best for your needs. Just because you haven’t run your vehicle into the ground, doesn’t mean it’s wrong to trade the car in for something else that’s a better fit for you and your family.

Figuring out when to change vehicles is tricky. Use these four tips, and make the decision that’s ultimately best for you. If you live, work, worship, volunteer, or attend school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties in NJ – First Financial has some of the best auto loan rates and incentives in town!* Let us help you buy your new ride.

*APR = Annual Percentage Rate. Not all applicants will qualify, subject to credit approval. Additional terms & conditions may apply. Actual rate may vary based on credit worthiness and term. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a First Financial auto loan and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. See credit union for details. A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account/loan. Federally insured by NCUA.

Article Source: Jessica Sommerfield for moneyning.com