You're an off to college, out of the nest, and on your own independent type who does what you want, when you want… as long as the bus is headed that way at that time. You realize the necessity of a car especially when looking to work off campus. However it's hard to justify the expense with this semester's tuition freshly withdrawn from your account.
Each situation is different and you have to decide what's best for you but here are some things to consider when car shopping as a college student.
Can I afford all the extras? I don't mean GPSs or butt warming seats, there's more expense to a car than just the cost. Every month you'll need to budget money for gas, insurance, on campus parking, maintenance and the inevitable repairs. Don't forget about yearly costs like inspection, registration, and property tax. If you don't buy the car outright can you afford a car payment on top of everything else?
Should I get a clunker or car payment? If you have a reliable income and room in your budget a car payment with a reputable lender is a great way to go. It helps build your credit when you make payments on time. Stick to 36 month loans with low interest rates. You don't want to be paying off your college car well into retirement. Be aware of the terms of your loan looking for balloon payments or what happens if you're late one month, or two.
A clunker is a good idea if you're on a low cash flow budget. The property tax and insurance are typically lower on a car a college student can afford outright. While you don't have regular car payments with clunkers you still have to plan ahead for repairs. If you have any mechanical ability you can always get a Chilton's manual and take care of minor maintenance on your own.
Can I get something I can live with? No one gets their dream car in college unless they have a trust fund or like me their dream car is a 1974 VW thing with no bumpers and a hole in the floor. Instead of style and status you have to think reliable and responsible. If you're planning on paying for your ride with a loan, go for the pre approval. Then you have the power of the salesperson about what you can or can't afford and you won't get roped into a loan with shady terms.
It might not be pretty but as long as it gets you from point A to point B and back you can call your car search a success. Here are some of the classic clinkers and junkers I drove from college to career…
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By Heather Fairchild - Heather is a multimedia developer, business owner, and work-from-home mom.