Here are tips for affording your own car as a new college student

You’re about to go to college, but you need transportation while you’re there. How do you afford the expense of a car when you’re already facing the massive costs of schooling? There are a few ways you can make this happen.

Pay Cash

Whether you’ve got money saved up from summer jobs or you still have extra cash from student loans in the bank, you might be in a position to pay cash for the vehicle. If you can, this will mean significant savings in the long run. Interest rates, no matter how low, can add hundreds or thousands of extra dollars over time versus the original price tag.

Paying cash is a way to forego that added cost. Moreover, owning the car outright will mean that you won’t be at risk of defaulting on a loan and seeing the vehicle repossessed. Gas, insurance and maintenance are costs you can adjust pretty readily based on usage and what you can afford, but loan payments are expected like clockwork.

Buy a Used Vehicle

What easier way to pay cash is there than to buy something cheaper? Buying a brand-new car comes with a hefty price tag, but the vehicle will begin to depreciate as soon as you take it home. Unlike real estate, such as housing, cars do not generally retain or increase their values as they age. An exception to this can sometimes be vintage vehicles, but that isn’t exactly the ideal kind of ride suited for a new college student. Depending on your budget and goals, you may be able to find something with low mileage and still on the newer side, such as under 5 years old, for a far cry cheaper than the same would have gone for when it was new.

Test Drive a Lot of Vehicles

Even if you get to the lot and, within minutes, land on the exact vehicle you think you want, don’t buy it yet. If you haven’t already, go see a number of vehicles and test drive every one of them. Get a feel for what’s out there and what the costs are. You may find that the same vehicle you loved at one lot is cheaper somewhere else, especially if you decide to work with private sellers and forego the dealers. The savings on buying directly from the vehicle’s prior owner could be up to thousands of dollars.

Have a Checkup Done

Whether you decide to buy from a dealer or a private seller, taking the car to a trusted mechanic before purchasing is a must. Even if the car seems like a fantastic deal, there may be hidden problems lurking under the surface waiting to drive your costs up tremendously. Get it thoroughly checked out for any signs of problems, such as undisclosed water damage.

Another way to check up on the vehicle is to purchase a copy of its history report. You can review the history for any red flags, such as past accidents that totaled the vehicle. You don’t want to inadvertently buy a dud with a bad record.

Consider the Long-Term Costs

Often, when someone is in the market to buy a vehicle, the main focus is on what the price tag says the car itself will cost. If finances are tight for you, you may want to also take the future costs into account. Besides any loan payments you may owe, maintenance, gas mileage and insurance are also worthy of your scrutiny before finalizing the purchase.

Some higher end brands come with higher maintenance costs as well. Some vehicles have poor enough gas mileage that you might find using the vehicle is unsustainable over time. Finally, some vehicles are more expensive to insure due considerations such as the costs of fixing or replacing them and the probability that they’ll be targeted for theft.

Doing some due diligence in advance could help you land an excellent ride for an affordable cost, both upfront and long-term. While a better cost might be a must for people in general, when you’re up against mounting college debts it becomes only more important.

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