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Consumer Writer: Don't Go to Car Dealership Without Financing Plan

Potential car buyers should have a financing plan in place, one Northwest consumer advice writer says. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Potential car buyers should have a financing plan in place, one Northwest consumer advice writer says. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
June 5, 2017

BOISE, Idaho -- It's nearly summertime, and that means deals for buying a car are rolling in.

U.S. News and World Report consumer advice writer John Vincent is based in the Northwest and said this is a great year to invest in a car. Several years of solid car sales are starting to peak, and manufacturers are throwing in incentives to keep the momentum going. Vincent also said people should be prepared before they head to a dealer, and they should consider more than just the kind of car they want to buy.

"One huge thing that everybody forgets is you need to put as much effort into learning about financing as you do into learning about your car,” Vincent said. "The last thing you want to do is step foot in a car dealership without having a finance deal in place."

One source of financing gaining steam in the Northwest is credit unions. Vincent, who is on the board of an Oregon credit union, said these institutions have become a valuable way to finance auto loans. In 2016, Idaho credit union members collectively saved more than $25 million on new and used car loans, according to a report from the Credit Union National Association.

Vincent said people should break down the car buying process into three separate transactions: the cost of the car, the cost of financing and the value of the trade-in. He said dealerships often try to bundle these items up, making the transaction more confusing.

"A bank or a car dealer will tell you, 'Hey, you know, we can get you into this car for that payment, we're just going to extend this payment out to eight or nine years,’” Vincent explained. "Well, you don't want to have a mortgage on a car. You don't want that car to be out of warranty and have to be paying for repairs at the same time you're still paying a lot on car payments every month."

Vincent said credit unions' member-owned cooperative model helps save members money because they aren’t beholden to stockholders like other financial institutions.

Nearly half of Idahoans are members of a credit union.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ID