Savings Talk: The Costs of Buying and Maintaining a Car

The Costs of Buying and Maintaining a Car

Shopping for a car is a major event in any saver’s life. There’s the exciting thrill that goes along with picking out a new set of wheels, but then there are the financial responsibilities that everyone should be aware of. These range from choosing how to save for the purchase to deciding where to get oil changes.

Steve Lang, an editor at the site The Truth About Cars, tells us that the financial considerations should begin before you even set foot on a car lot.

“If you haven’t done your homework before, you’re going to have a very difficult time doing your homework at the dealership,” Lang says. “One huge mistake is not securing your financing beforehand. If you don’t do this – or at least get a grip on what your actual percentage rate should be – don’t go buy a car.”

Lang believes that paying cash for a car, and driving it until it doesn’t run anymore, makes the most financial sense. But if you plan on getting financing, CBS News recommends putting down at least 20 percent in order to cover the first year’s value depreciation.

Whether you’re saving up to pay cash for a car, or simply saving for a down payment, a high-interest savings product – like a CD or savings account – will allow you to earn interest on that money.

Even after you’ve purchased your car, there are additional costs to consider. A recent study by AAA (via Autoblog) found the annual cost of car ownership is $8,946 – and if you’re driving a four-wheel drive SUV or a luxury sedan, that number goes up to just over $11,300. (AAA included fuel, insurance, maintenance and a monthly car payment in its calculations.)

Consider setting aside part of your annual tax refund or performance bonus into a high-interest savings product to cover these costs.

Lang says to hold on to all service records for when it’s time to sell or trade in the car. “If you keep all your records for your vehicle, you will get a much more substantial return,” he says. “Simply figure out where you want to take your vehicle [for maintenance] and just keep a file of everything in the glove box.”

How did you ensure that your finances and credit scores were in order before you purchased a car? What type of account do you think is best when saving for a car?

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