Car Loans

THE FEDERAL RESERVE’S Survey of Consumer Finances found that 86.6% of U.S. families own a car or other vehicle and that 34.7% have a car loan outstanding. Looking to buy a vehicle and need a loan? The major auto lenders include banks, credit unions, auto-finance companies, car manufacturers and car dealers.

It might be convenient to get financing through the dealership. But you will likely get a better rate if you shop for a low-cost loan before you head to the car dealer. With a preapproved loan in your back pocket, you will be in a stronger bargaining position with the dealership, and you could parlay that preapproved loan into an even better deal.

The dealership might offer you the choice of a rebate or a 0% loan. To figure out which is best, simply compare the monthly payments on the 0% loan with the payments on the alternative loan, which would be a smaller amount borrowed—thanks to the rebate—but at a higher interest rate. That higher rate might not be so high if you take the rebate, bypass the dealership’s financing department and get a low-cost loan elsewhere.

An auto loan won’t necessarily be your best bet. Also consider whether it would be cheaper to buy the car with a home equity line of credit, which might charge an interest rate that’s even lower. The downside: You put your home at risk if you fail to make the required payments on your home equity borrowing.

Next: Buy vs. Lease

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