Another key element is deciding what to do with the current car. As a general rule, it may be worth more to sell it yourself, to a private party, than to trade it in. But many people don't want to take the time and make the effort to do that. You should understand that if you trade it in you will probably not get as much for it as if you sell it yourself.
The biggest issue for most buyers is the price of the new car. Fortunately, determining the MSRP is easy, and figuring at least a range for a realistic transaction price is also not terribly difficult.
Calculating AffordabilityThe new-car buying process is greatly simplified when you discover the bottom-line vehicle price you can afford ahead of time. This is true whether you lease or buy. Here's an example of the kinds of details that may be involved in a typical new-car deal:
- "The trade-in value of the vehicle I currently own is $10,400."
- "I owe $2,200 on it." Meaning, you have about $8,200 equity in the car.
- "I've got $2,000 in savings I want to put down." Meaning, with the trade, you will be able to give the dealer a total of about $10,200.
- "I want to keep my payments under $400 per month for 60 months." That monthly payment schedule will finance, roughly, about $20,000, meaning the total price of the whole package can be the $20,000 plus the $10,200 you have handed the dealer, or $30,200.? That means a new car in the price range of roughly $27,000, because there will be, generally, about 10 percent added in taxes, license, fees and so forth.
- Furthermore, it means the whole deal, by the time you have paid it off in five years, will have cost you about $34,200 ($400 times 60 months is $24,000, plus the $10,200 you gave the dealer in the form of your trade and the $2,000 down.
This means the same as:
- "I can afford to buy a $27,000 vehicle." And it's going to cost you $34,200 and five years to do it.
There are many online tools available to help you determine affordability. Your Current Vehicle -- Trade In or Sell YourselfIf your car is in extremely good condition and you have impeccable service records, it may be well worth your while to sell it on your own. On the other hand, if your car needs a lot of work, you may end up putting more money into it than you can recover -- so take a realistic look before you decide. For trade-in, get the Blue Book® Trade-in Value of your current vehicle. This value -- based upon the condition of your vehicle -- is an accurate representation of what you may expect to be offered when trading in your vehicle at a dealership. If you decide to trade in your vehicle, keep in mind the dealer must assume the responsibility for preparing your trade-in for resale. This process usually includes mechanical and smog inspections as well as repairs to make the car ready to sell to the next owner. This will cost the dealer money, and the dealer will figure this into the deal.If you would prefer to sell your vehicle to a private party, check out the Blue Book® Private Party value first. This is the value you can expect to get when selling the vehicle to another consumer. In this case, you are solely responsible for preparing your vehicle for sale as well as setting and negotiating a fair price.Loan AmountTo discover the amount you need to borrow, calculate the monthly payment you can afford via the Kelley Blue Book payment calculator. This tool factors the interest rate and the term of your loan. Now add your available cash with the loan amount and you'll begin to arrive at a price that works for you. Also, check for any customer or dealer incentives that may be available on your new vehicle, adding to your available cash amount. Remember, you still need to add state tax, license and fees, which vary by state and can be obtained through your local DMV. New Car PricingThe best news is that new car pricing is now easily accessible online. Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com features three types of new car pricing:
- Invoice PriceThe new car pricing report details the invoice price on each trim level. Dealer Invoice is the dealer's cost for the vehicle only and doesn't include any of the dealer's costs for advertising, selling, preparing, displaying or financing the vehicle.
- MSRP PriceThe MSRP is the Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price, also known as the "sticker price." This price is required by law to be posted on every new vehicle and is usually -- but not always -- the highest market price. The exceptions occur when certain vehicles are in high demand or have low availability.
- Fair Purchase Price RangeAlso, check out an available price called Fair Purchase Price. Updated weekly, the experts at Kelley Blue Book have developed the most accurate pricing guidelines for new-car buyers based on purchase data collected across the country.
In addition, incentives may be available on the car of your choice and will bring down the overall price. Current incentives information is easily accessible on kbb.com as well.Pre-Owned Vehicle PricingYour dream car might not be a new car, so you may want to take a look at how a pre-owned model compares to new models within your price range. This unique and helpful feature is exclusive to Kelley Blue Book's Perfect Car Finder, which sorts both new and used vehicles by price range, giving you a complete list of the cars you can afford. You can also compare vehicles side-by-side to further your decision process. Your decision to stick to a budget will help provide peace-of-mind, both in the car-buying process and in the future. And remember, you're paying more than a dollar for every dollar you borrow, so making a substantial down payment toward the purchase price makes long-term sense. With these principles in place, you should be able to begin in-depth research on your new, shorter list of cars.[Continued in Part 2]