How Much Can I Afford for a Car?

Car Shopping

It doesn’t matter if you’re a first-time buyer or you’re getting another dependable used car to add to your collection. Having a budget doesn’t just help you narrow down your options; it can also make driving off in your new-to-you set of wheels more affordable.

If you’re in the market for a used car, here are a few helpful tips to help you find out how much you can afford for a car.

Car Affordability: Budgeting Basics

Creating a Car Budget

There are tons of tips that can help you afford a car, but creating a budget is key. Again, having a budget is going to make it easier to find the right vehicle for your lifestyle and financial needs.

Budget for a Car Using the 20% Rule

The first thing you need to do when creating a budget is to consider your income and how much you want to spend on your car. Whether you’re buying new or used, it’s recommended that you spend no more than 15% to 20% of your annual income on a vehicle.

If you’re thinking about financing a used car, try to spend less than 10% of your income on the monthly payments.

Consider Other Automotive Costs

The amount you can afford shouldn’t just include the price of the vehicle or its monthly finance payments. You also need to factor in insurance costs as well as gas and other routine expenses to get a more accurate number of what you could be spending on it once you get behind the wheel. It’ll also need maintenance and repairs throughout its life to preserve its condition and performance, so you’ll want to keep those costs in mind too.

As soon as you calculate your income and an estimate for your car-related expenses, you’ll have a better idea as to which options are going to work best for you. From there, you can start narrowing down your list until you find the one that’s a perfect fit financially.

Consider Your Other Debts

When creating a budget and deciding just how much you can afford for a car, it’s important to factor in any other debts you have. It’s best to stick to the 36% rule here; meaning that you’ll want to keep your total debts down to about 36% of your total income.

Whether you have a mortgage payment, credit card debt, student loans, or anything in between, you can start by itemizing your monthly or yearly payments. Do they take up 36% of your income? If not, then you should be able to afford a car payment as well.

Remember to Have Fun

When budgeting and deciding how much you can afford for a car, it’s important to leave room for fun. When you’re behind the wheel of your very own car, you have the freedom to go wherever you want. You can visit exciting places and participate in lots of special events. Due to this, it’s important to factor entertainment into your budget.

Are you thinking about taking a road trip with your new ride? Plan it out when creating your budget. You will have all your financial information right at your fingertips, so you can make sure that it fits into your future goals. Leaving a little wiggle room will also give you more confidence when it’s time to splurge.

How to Make Buying a Car More Affordable

Make Down Payment on a Car

In addition to creating a budget and sticking to it, there are a few other things you can do to make buying a car more affordable. Here are some of the most common tips to consider:

Trade in Your Current Car

If you’re looking to upgrade or replace your current vehicle, a good way to make the process more affordable is to trade it in. The value of your trade-in can be applied to the price of the car you want, so you can save a bit more on your purchase. It can also help reduce monthly payments if you’re planning on financing.

Trading in your current ride might even give you a break on the sales tax. When you trade in, the tax is only applied to the difference between the overall cost of the vehicle and the value of your trade.

Make a Down Payment

Are you a first-time car buyer? If so, consider making a down payment to help you save on a vehicle. Like trade-ins, a down payment can help reduce the overall price and monthly payments of a new or used car. It can also be helpful if you’re looking to buy but don’t want to get rid of your current vehicle just yet.

How much should you put down on a car? Good question! If possible, it’s best to put at least 20% of the vehicle’s overall value into a down payment. For example, if you’re buying a car for $14,000, you should put at least $2,800 down.

Boost Your Credit

Financing is a great option for many car buyers, but if you have no credit or low credit, you’ll want to take the steps needed to improve it. While it is possible to get good financing with bad credit, it’s best to improve it, especially if you’d like to upgrade to another model in the future.

A few easy ways to boost your credit can include limiting the number of credit accounts you open in two years, paying the full statement balance of your credit accounts on time, and keeping low balances (less than 30% of your credit limit) on your accounts.

Get a Cosigner for Your Loan

Getting a cosigner with a solid credit score may or may not make the car you have your eye on more affordable. What it will do is make you look even better to banks and lenders, regardless of your credit score.

A cosigner could help you secure more financing options, so you can choose the most affordable route that makes sense for your lifestyle.

Find an Affordable Used Car Today!

There are tons of tips to help you afford a dependable vehicle. However, going to a dealership with a huge selection of quality, affordable cars can make things even easier!

If you’re in the market for a cheap used car, visit any one of Val-U-Line®’s nationwide used car dealerships! With hundreds of options all priced at or below $14,999, you can hit the streets in a pre-owned vehicle that fits perfectly with your lifestyle and budget.

Contact us to learn more about our affordable used car inventory today!