What You’ll Need for an Auto Loan

Make sure you have these things before you go into an office for a car loan

Car keys, calculator, and loan paperwork on a deskWhen buying a new car, getting a loan to cover the cost is an increasingly popular option chosen by new drivers. In fact, data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and reported by CNN Money shows that a record 107 million Americans currently have auto loan debt, a number which has been growing rapidly over the past 5 years.

If you plan to take out your own loan for your next vehicle, you are definitely in good company. However, first-time buyers may be surprised that getting an auto loan requires bringing along a certain number of items.

Proof of income
According to CarsDirect, proof of income is the first document that the lender will want to see, and the reasoning for it is fairly self-explanatory: whether the lender is a bank or an automaker, it wants to know that you are employed and therefore capable of paying back the loan. CarsDirect adds that proof of income generally would take the form of your last two pay stubs, or your direct deposit receipts if your employer prefers that payment method.

These pay stubs offer a good deal of information about your employment history, including how much money you have made to date, how much you pay in taxes, how long you have been with this employer and whether you have any wage garnishments.

If you are self-employed, you will need to provide at least a year’s tax returns, although it’s a good idea to bring more just in case.

Credit and banking history
According to LendingTree, the next thing a lender will want to see is your credit history. This may include mortgage or lease agreements, statements from credit cards or banks and records from any alimony or child support payments.

This also means that a lender will be looking at your credit score. This three-digit number encompasses the above information, plus other factors, to show how much risk would be involved in giving you a loan. As such, a good credit score would show a potential lender that you are trustworthy, and you’ll have a better chance of securing a loan and setting better terms for that loan.

Since holding a good credit score is so important to this process, the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) offers a few rules for doing so.

First, pay your bills and loans on time and take care of any missed payments as quickly as possible to stay current. Then make sure you’re not too close to your credit limits, since credit scoring models check to see if you are close to maxing out. On a related note, you should only apply for credit that you need. Many credit applications in a short amount of time signal that you are in dire economic straits and may not be able to pay back a loan.

In general, the CFPB adds, a long, consistent credit history is the end goal to achieving a strong credit score. The longer you continue paying on time (and catching any mistakes), the better the effect will be.

Proof of residence
According to CarsDirect, proof of residence confirms to the lender that you live where you say you do. This information is needed so you can be contacted by mail or, in a worst case scenario, so your vehicle can be located for repossession. This document can be a bill or driver’s license, showing both your name and the address given on the loan application.

Vehicle information
This refers to the vehicle you want to buy, not any trade-in that may be involved. For a new car, LendingTree says that you will need the dealer’s sheet or buyer’s order for the vehicle, including purchase price and vehicle identification number, as well as its year, make and model. If buying a used car, you will need the same information from the seller, along with the mileage, original title and disclosures of any loans currently on the car, called liens.

Proof of insurance
According to CarsDirect, you need to prove that the vehicle has current, valid insurance. This should take the form of a document showing the specific vehicle is insured, and not simply proof that you have insurance with a particular company.

With these documents (and a good credit score) in hand, securing an auto loan can be turned into a streamlined and easy process. However, LendingTree explains that all lenders are different, so it pays to call ahead to see what specific information they want you to bring to help speed up the process.

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How to Find the Best Loan for Your Next Car

Here are the best tips on how to get the best loan for your new carYoung man and young woman  applying for an auto loan
Purchasing a vehicle is one of the largest and most important financial investments that any individual will ever make during their lifetime, excluding the purchase of a home. But the process of acquiring loans for a vehicle can often be confusing. There are many questions to ask leading up to the purchase of a new vehicle and customers need to determine whether they want to buy new or used, whether they want to buy outright or lease and which type of vehicle that they wish to purchase.

However, before any of these decisions can be made, customers need to determine how they will pay for the vehicle. While paying in cash is an option for a select group of new car buyers, most people will have to rely on an auto loan. Determining from where this money will come from can be the trickiest part of the process. Fortunately, there are ways to make the search for the best loan a little bit easier.

Loan pros and cons
While automotive loans can carry several benefits, they are not without their drawbacks. The most obvious benefit is that by using a loan, customers don’t have to pay for their new vehicle in its entirety, all at once. Another benefit is that automotive loans can help build credit. While you need good credit to qualify for most loans, paying for those loans will only improve your credit score. Auto loans, of course, do add another monthly payment to your pile of bills. Keeping up with those payments will be a necessity for many months ahead.

Who provides loans?
Automotive loans are offered to customers through a number of financial institutions. According to Consumer Reports, banks and credit unions are often the most common sources. If you have a good credit standing, then you will be able to attain some of the best loan rates from these institutions. But if your credit score is less than desirable, you may not qualify. Another very common source for auto loans is the dealerships themselves.

Determining which loan is best
Once you determine where you want to apply for a loan, the next step is looking for the best rates across the board. It’s important to pay careful attention, as some loans may look good on the surface, but could spell financial trouble in the future. As vehicle prices increase with each passing year, longer loans become available. However, Herb Weisbaum at CNBC suggests that drivers choose the shortest loan that they can afford. Not only will longer loans cost drivers more in the long run, but paying off a loan sooner removes one more payment each month.

If you happen to find the loan that works best for you before you are ready to purchase your vehicle, then this can be used to your advantage. The DMV says that getting pre-approved for a loan can carry several benefits. If you are pre-approved, this removes a lot of uncertainty during the entire financing process when it comes time to pick up your next set of wheels.

There is no such thing as a perfect automotive loan, as each driver has specific wants and needs. Still, there are processes and guidelines set in place to help you find the right loan for you.

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Do You Need a Co-signer for Your Auto Loan?

If you don’t have enough income or good enough credit, you may need a co-signer

As with any type of loan, your income and credit history will be major determinants of whether you are approved for an auto loan application. If you’ve been denied for an auto loan, you may want to consider using a co-signer.

Understanding how a lender determines loan approval
According to a January 2016 article in The Balance by author of “The Everything Improve Your Credit Book” Justin Pritchard, the lending company or financial institution must have reason to believe you will pay back the loan in order for you to be deemed worthy to receive the auto loan. A financial institution looks at two factors to determine whether you are credible: your credit score and your income.

Your credit history is a true indicator of how well you repay your loans; if you’ve borrowed money through loans previously and have successfully paid them off, or are making on-time payments, the lender will be more likely to believe you are a safe bet and will approve your loan application. On the other hand, if you have a poor credit score from defaulting on loan repayments, or don’t have any borrowing history, the financial institution may not want to approve you for a loan, explains Pritchard. To the financial institution, such a person is a bad investment, as the likelihood of the financial institution being repaid decreases.

Lenders also consider the income of the individual in deciding on a loan application, says Pritchard. In fact, the financial institution often calculates a debt to income ratio to determine if you make enough income to cover the expense of the loan payment each month.

Larger vehicles are generally more expensive than smaller ones, but smaller cars can also be more costly depending on the make and the engine build. The price of the vehicle and its calculated monthly payments under a loan in comparison to your monthly income will determine whether you have a low enough debt to income ratio to afford the monthly payments.

When to bring in a co-signer on your auto loan
If you have poor or no credit history, or your debt to income ratio is deemed too high by the lender, you will likely not be approved for a loan. In essence, the financial institution has determined you are too risky and will likely struggle to repay the loan, so it is unwilling to work with you.

A co-signer can help you meet the income and credit score requirements of the financial institution, as the financial institution considers the added income and credit history of the co-signer to the loan terms, explains Pritchard.

“Co-signing happens when somebody promises to pay a loan for somebody else. This happens when a [financial institution] won’t approve a loan (or it won’t approve the original application, but it’s willing to lend if a co-signer is involved),” says Pritchard in an October 2016 article in The Balance.

To the financial institution, the co-signer acts as a backup plan to collect payment if you default on the loan repayment. And if the co-signer has good credit history, the financial institution knows that at least one person on the loan has experience borrowing and repaying loans on time, adds Pritchard.

“The co-signer (who presumably has strong credit and income) promises to ensure that the loan gets repaid by signing the loan agreement with you. In other words, the cosigner takes full responsibility for the debt — if you don’t pay off the loan, your co-signer will have to do it.

“As a borrower,” Pritchard explains, “you need to have sufficient income and good credit to qualify for a loan. Using a co-signer therefore boosts your appeal as a borrower to the financial institution if you can’t meet the loan application requirements on your own.”

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Vehicle Details: Top Vehicles That Are Affordable and Cool

A cool ride doesn’t need to break the bank

There are so many choices if you’re looking for a new vehicle that it can be difficult to know where to start. But if your priorities are on coolness and affordability, here are some great options.

Kia Soul – The Soul is frequently awarded for its value and coolness, and the new 2017 model starts at an MSRP of $15,990 while delivering the same charm that has won over many buyers. The Soul continues to find ways to improve, with the newest model adding a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 201 hp and 195 lb/ft of torque through a seven-speed dual clutch transmission, and estimated fuel ratings up to 26 mpg city and 31 mpg highway. The Soul is easily spotted in a crowd thanks to its unique design, and some of its impressive features include the UVO infotainment system with eight-inch touchscreen display, navigation, and Apple CarPlay or Android Auto connectivity. You can also add a Harman Kardon audio system, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, and plenty of advanced safety features like the Blind Spot Detection System, Lane Departure Warning System, Forward Collision Warning System and Rear-Cross Traffic Alert.

Consumer Guide summarizes it nicely: “The competitively priced Soul is a very compelling mix of personality and practicality.”

Honda Fit – Named to Kelley2017_fit_yellow Blue Book’s KBB.com’s “10 Coolest Cars Under $18,000,” and currently ranked as the No. 1 subcompact and hatchback by U.S. News & World Report, the Fit has plenty to love. All Fit models have a 130 hp 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that gets up to 37 mpg highway, but the versatility of the Fit is arguably its biggest strength. A maximum cargo capacity of 52.7 cubic feet is more expected from a small SUV, and clever features like the second row Magic Seat allow buyers to haul larger items. There are also plenty of standard features including Bluetooth wireless connectivity, a multi-angle rearview camera and a five-inch color LCD touchscreen.

Edmunds adds, “If there’s one thing this Honda is known for, after all, it’s the incredible amount of stuff you can fit inside its pint-sized hatchback body. Today’s Fit also has more rear legroom than ever, and it’s got a respectable roster of standard and optional technology too.”

Chevrolet Sonic – Also named tofebruaryfeatured_coolcars Kelley Blue Book’s KBB.com’s “10 Coolest Cars Under $18,000,” the 2017 Sonic is an affordable compact that offers excellent value (a starting MSRP of $15,145), two engines (a 1.8-liter four-cylinder and a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder) and plenty of technology, including a new Chevrolet MyLink infotainment system bundled with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility as well as OnStar 4G LTE with Wi-Fi hotspot. Safety is provided by 10 standard airbags and you can also add Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Warning and the new Rear Park Assist.

Autotrader says, “If you’re in the market for an affordable pint-sized champ that won’t make you feel second class for driving it, the Chevrolet Sonic may have your number.”

Other vehicles to consider include the Toyota Yaris iA, Honda Civic, MAZDA3 sedan and hatchback, Nissan Versa Note, Hyundai Elantra and Kia Rio.

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Questions You Should Ask the Dealer When Car Shopping

Five answers to know before you sign on the dotted line

No matter whetherfebruaryfeatured_dealerquesitons you are shopping for a new or used vehicle, there are certain questions you will always want to know the answers to. The answers the dealer provides will tell you whether you are getting the most car for your money.

What are the additional fees?
Legitimate costs include sales tax, registry costs and a documentation fee. However, the amount dealers charge for filling out the contract (the doc fee) is not universal. According to the trusted automotive resource Edmunds.com, some states regulate these fees and cap them below $100, so before you seal any deals, check the paperwork and negotiate down an outrageous doc fee. Another questionable fee you may encounter, in an effort for the dealer to build a potential profit back into the deal, is a “vehicle preparation fee.” This means, for example, they are charging you for making sure there is oil in the vehicle and for performing other menial tasks that one would expect to be done inevitably before a car is rolled off the lot.

Are there any aftermarket parts on the vehicle?
Inclusion of “add-ons”-from things as simple as tinted windows to things as complicated as car alarms-is another way dealers attempt to boost profits by raising prices.

“Mud flaps, rust-proofing and paint sealants make the dealer a lot of money, but you can get them for less-often much less-elsewhere,” writes David Muhlbaum, online editor of Kiplinger.com

Before saying yes to a vehicle purchase, you will want to double-check with the dealer and in the contract, and negotiate accordingly.

What special promotions are you running right now?
Manufacturers are always running sales events, and sometimes dealerships even tack on their own discounts and deals. Investigate up front what promos are going on so you can take a closer look at the vehicles with the best incentives.

“If you’re diligent-and a little bit lucky-you can use one of these events to knock a few thousand dollars off of your total cost or secure 0 percent APR financing for the first year or so of your loan,” says Business Insider personal finance writer Ben DeMeter in an article on Investopedia.

What is the lowest price you can give me?
Instead of telling the auto dealer the highest price you can afford to pay each month, take the reins by figuring out the lowest possible price you would pay on the vehicle in question. While it is smart to go into negotiations with financing options already lined up, the dealer may be able to offer you lower financing, so don’t show your cards too soon.

Can I see an accident history report and title history?
Most dealers these days automatically provide a CARFAX report for all vehicles, as well as an AutoCheck report to be thorough. These documents also report title history, which will disclose any previous problems with the vehicle such as odometer issues, a rebuilt engine or whether it was ever reported stolen. If you choose to proceed without checking one or both of these reports, or something like them, you are putting yourself at risk for a large devaluation of the vehicle.

Once you ask these questions and are satisfied with the responses provided, you can feel comfortable signing on the dotted line as an informed consumer.

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Understanding Lease Terminology

Motor vehicle financing terms to know before going to the dealership

Before steppingleaseterms_featured into a dealership to lease a car, it’s important to understand lease terminology to make sure you get the best deal possible and aren’t taken advantage of by a dealer.

Understanding the basics
Cars are often advertised with much lower payments for leases than for purchases. According to a February 2012 article from J.D. Power and Associates contributed by Jeff Youngs, this is because lease payments are based on the depreciation value of the vehicle during the contracted term of operation.

There are, however, additional terms and fees on top of the monthly lease payment. Some—like mileage allowance, purchasing options after the lease term ends and depreciation of the vehicle—are widely known, while others are not.

The following are those you should know that might fall in the latter category:

Acquisition/termination fee
Also known as the bank fee, this covers administration costs and is paid either at the beginning of the lease (acquisition) or at the end (termination), according to Youngs.

Capitalized cost
This is the negotiated total cost of the vehicle. “When leasing a model that is in high demand and low supply, the capitalized cost may be the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) or higher,” Youngs said in an April 2013 article from J.D. Power and Associates.

Capitalized reduction payment
Also known as the cap-reduction payment, this is the down payment made on a lease term to help reduce the monthly payment amounts. It is nonrefundable, Youngs said.

Destination charge
This is the nonrefundable cost for the vehicle to be delivered to the dealership.

Drive-off fee
This is the total amount due at signing. Just as when purchasing a car, there will be title fees, registration fees and sales tax to account for, though leased vehicles incur sales tax on monthly payments only, said Tony Quiroga, Car and Driver magazine senior editor, in a February 2015 article.

Money factor
Also known as the finance factor or finance charge, this number is used to calculate your interest rate by multiplying the money factor by 2,400, Young said. For example, a money factor of .00350 would be an 8.4 percent interest rate.

Rent charge
“This is the amount of the lease payment that comes from interest charges,” Quiroga explained. “To calculate the rent charge, add the adjusted cap cost to the depreciation and multiply by the finance factor,” and then multiply by the total number of months in the lease term.

Residual value
According to Youngs, this is the “predicted value of the vehicle at the end of the lease.” Quiroga pointed out that with residual value, “the less it’s worth, the higher the lease payments.”

Subsidized lease
“Many advertised lease deals are subsidized leases, meaning that the auto manufacturer determines, in advance, the financial variables used to calculate the lease payment and takes on a certain degree of risk in order to create an attractive or class-competitive payment,” Youngs warned. He added that subsidized lease terms are nonnegotiable and often require a cap-reduction payment.

Additional lease information
There are a few other details to note in regard to leasing, depending on the vehicle you choose and any additional services you purchase.

Gap insurance is often included in lease terms as an additional fee. According to Youngs, this automotive insurance helps meet the gap between your insurer’s paid amount and the total residual value due to the leasing company in the even that your vehicle is stolen or damaged beyond repair.

A service contract is also offered as part of a lease contract, in which the consumer agrees to pay a discounted price up front to the dealership to have the vehicle serviced by the dealership for all of its future repair and maintenance needs.

“Before buying a service contract, make sure the brand of vehicle selected does not offer free scheduled maintenance for a limited time,” Youngs said.

Finally, it’s important to note that your base monthly payment is not the total amount you have to pay each month within a lease. The base monthly payment is simply the depreciation value plus the rent charged, divided by the number of months in the lease term. Your total monthly payment—what you actually pay each month—is the base payment plus tax.

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How Much Should You Spend on a Car Based on Your Income?

Using your income as a base so you don’t overextend yourself

Buying a car is oftencarpricevsincome_featured one of the largest expenses an individual will incur, and most will finance such a purchase. It’s crucial to plan ahead so you don’t inadvertently buy a vehicle that you can’t afford.

“Because financing a car means committing to a monthly loan payment for a period of time, your monthly budget plays the biggest role in deciding how much to spend on a car,” explained Managing Editor Jamie Page Deaton in a July 2015 article in U.S. News.

Using your net income as a basis
Before you even start the car shopping process, you should know how much you can afford to spend each month. Then you’ll be able to narrow down your vehicle search to those that fit within your budget.

Start by getting out a piece of paper and writing down your monthly income.

“To calculate how much you have available to spend on your car payments, first take into account your essential monthly expenses. These can include mortgage or rent, utilities, phone, food and entertainment, savings, and other expenses,” reported an August 2014 CarFax article in its CarFox blog.

“The total from this [deducted calculation], your disposable income, is the amount you have left to cover the cost of your new car.” Note that this estimated number is meant to cover all car expenses including gas, insurance and maintenance, and not just the monthly payment for the car.

Calculations: example 1
CarFax suggested you spend 10 to 20 percent of your monthly disposable income on a car payment and expenses. As an example, CarFax shares calculations for an individual with a monthly income of $4,000.

“If your gross pay is $4,000 a month and you spend $2,165 on essentials like mortgage, food and utilities, your disposable income is $1,835 a month. Spending 10 percent of your disposable income would mean a $184 car payment. Twenty percent of this would give you a car payment of $368.”

Calculations: example 2
Deaton suggested a calculation model for spending ability at no more than 15 percent of your net monthly pay, as long as you don’t have major debt other than a mortgage.

As an example, Deaton posited that someone who makes $50,000 per year will likely take home an annual net income of $44,180 after taxes. He noted in a July 2015 article in U.S. News & World Report that other expenses, like health insurance and retirement saving, will likely lower this net amount and offered a monthly estimate of $3,681 in net pay for this example.

At 15 percent, this person should be able to afford, at most, $552 per month for all car-related expenses (not just the car payment). Taking into consideration the median U.S. insurance rate at $100 per month, and assuming this person spends $125 per month on gas and saves or uses $50 per month for repairs and maintenance; this hypothetical person will have $277 left over each month for a car payment.

“Plug this number into a car affordability calculator with a $2,000 down payment, 4 percent sales tax and a car loan lasting five years with no interest, and a car costing just under $18,000 makes financial sense for this person. Of course, this person may not qualify for a no-interest loan, and shortening the loan term will increase the payment. [He or she] could also lower the monthly payment by having a larger down payment,” noted Deaton.

If you do have more debt, such as from credit cards and student loans, Deaton advised you look at your total monthly debt as a whole in determining how much you can afford for a car. You’ll want to spend less than 36 percent of your monthly net income on your total monthly debt.

If you need more help calculating what you can afford, contact us and we’ll be happy to help.

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