Image: morguefile.comBy Frank Ling

Not very many people can walk into a car dealership and plunk down the purchase price for a new or used car. The usual route for this transaction is to secure a loan for the car from the dealer and pay off the amount in installments, plus interest.

Sounds simple enough but you can also get a loan outside of dealership financing. If you shop around, you may wind up saving hundreds if not thousands of dollars, with a lower annual percentage rate than what is offered by the car dealer.

You want to try to avoid loans from dealerships because some of them play the “the numbers game.” They’ll offer you a great price on the car, but the end result of this is you'll be paying much more for the car in the long run.

You Gotta Shop Around

There’s an oldies song with the title “You gotta shop around,” which is about a mother giving his son some advice about choosing a suitable companion. This sage advice goes for car loans too.

It may be convenient to get the loan from the car dealer, but this convenience often carries a price, literally, with higher interest rates and long payment schedules. In some cases auto dealerships have special incentives which offer “zero interest” loans. If you consider these, make sure you get a good price that is near the dealer's invoice cost.

Dealer invoices are some of the best kept secrets in the auto industry, but going online to find out what their approximate costs are is easy to do.

If you have reasonably good credit, banks are eager to get your business for a loan. Try several banks to see what the rates are.

You can also do comparative loan shopping by going online to All you need to do is to enter the amount of the loan and your zip code. The website will list a number of loan possibilities for you.

Do the Math

No matter where you get your car loan from, be absolutely certain to do the math and find out what the total cost is. Find out what the APR (annual percentage rate) of the loan is, how long the loan is for, and whether there are penalty fees for paying off the entire loan early or making payments early.

Buying a car is the easy part; making sure you don’t overpay on the loan takes some real work and attention to detail. Just remember, even if you get a very good price on the car you want, this can end up costing you more than retail price if you aren’t aware of the conditions of the loan.


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