If it’s your first time buying a car, there are plenty of things to consider, but one of the main things you need to be aware of is the number of hidden costs that come with purchasing a used car. The FTC estimates that the average cost of a used car is right around $30,000. That number, however, doesn’t take into consideration a handful of other factors that you need to keep in mind when you’re getting ready to add a vehicle to your life.
Not to fret, though, we’re here to help. We’ll show you how to budget for and think about these costs in a way that will make you a smarter shopper and help get you the best deal.
The Budget Isn’t All That it Seems
Many times, new buyers get tunnel vision when it comes to buying a used car. They focus only on the monthly price they’ll pay to own the car and ignore all the other factors, but there are plenty of things to take into consideration when you are setting your budget.
The Down Payment
A common tactic of sales people at the dealership is to play with numbers. If you are financing a car, there are ways that dealers adjust numbers in order to get you to pay a specific monthly payment, but it may mean you’re paying more up front to get there. Here’s an example:
Say you want to pay no more than $300/month for a car. You head to a dealership and tell the sales person this. After a few minutes of furious calculations, the dealer shows you how you can pay $300 a month for a great car. Upon closer inspection, however, you may notice that they’ve reduced the monthly cost of the car by increasing the amount of money you have to put down when you first purchase it. This is called capital cost reduction or cap cost reduction. Essentially, you are paying down a larger portion of the principal cost on the car in order to pay less per month.
In some cases, this kind of transaction makes sense, but in others it can cost you far more than you intended to spend. The best way to head this off is to ensure that you take into account how much you want to put down on a car before talking about monthly payments. The benefit of putting more down on a new-to-you-vehicle is that you could get a better interest rate and you will likely pay less on a month-to-month basis.
Taxes, Title, and Registration Fees
It may seem like small potatoes when it comes to paying as much as $30,000 for a used car, but the truth is that taxes and fees can add significantly to the cost of the vehicle you’re looking to purchase. Taxes vary from state-to-state and are based on the price you end up paying for the car. To be on the safe side, you should plan to have to at least $1,000 or more in reserve to cover taxes and registration fees. Depending on the kind of car you are buying, these costs can be high. To get an idea of your title and registration fees, find your state on this list put together by the National Conference of State Legislatures and get a good idea of what you can pay just to register the car.
Another factor to consider when purchasing a new-to-you car is the dealership fees. These usually don’t come up until you get down to the actual documentation portion of the purchase, so it pays to ask ahead of time. Some dealerships charge prep fees and other fees to cover the cost of doing business and maintaining a brick-and-mortar shop. In some cases these fees are negotiable, while in others, they aren’t. Either way you slice it, these additional tack-ons can be infuriating and leave you wondering what exactly it is they’re charging you for.
Insurance and Maintenance
Regardless of what you decide to purchase, you are going to need to protect, maintain and insure your vehicle. All of these things cost money and you should take them into consideration before you purchase a vehicle.
Insurance rates vary from state-to-state (and even city-to-city), as well as from vehicle-to-vehicle. Luxury vehicles often cost more to insure because they cost more to fix. If you live in a big city where there’s higher incidents of theft, you will likely pay higher insurance premiums. The same is true if you purchase a car that is frequently stolen or easy to get parts for. For a list of the most frequently stolen cars, check out this story from Bankrate.
To estimate what your insurance might be, it pays to call your current insurance company (say if you have renter’s insurance or home insurance) and have them give you a quote. Give them the year, make, and model of the vehicle you’re considering buying and they’ll get back to you with a quote. Factor this into the cost of your vehicle when purchasing, as it can take a chunk of cash from your pocket.
Maintenance costs are a bit trickier to estimate. The cost of labor can vary from shop-to-shop and state-to-state. The costs also depend on what kind of car you purchase and how common parts for that car are. The best way to estimate the cost of maintenance is to check out Edmunds’ True Cost to Own calculator. You can put in the year, make, and model of vehicle you’re looking to purchase and the calculator will tell you what you can expect to spend on fixing it.
Fuel and Parking
If you live in a big city with limited parking, you know that it can become a major headache to find a safe place to keep your vehicle. For example, in places like New York City and San Francisco, having a parking spot in a garage can cost as much as rent! Upwards of $300 a month, in fact!
The other thing to think about before forking over that hard earned cash is the cost of fueling your new purchase. You can find out an estimated fuel cost by checking out the nationally-mandated window sticker on the car. If you want to learn more about how to read the window sticker, check out our recent story, here.
Look for the EPA estimated miles per gallon, as well as the estimated yearly fuel cost. Once you have that, factor it into your budget so it won’t be a surprise when you pull up to the pump.
Keep in mind, though, the cost of fuel changes almost daily and depends greatly on where you are in the country. A gallon of gas in California costs more than a gallon of gas in Texas or Florida due to a number of taxes and tariffs that the state adds to the transaction. The EPA estimates and cost estimate are just a jumping off point and not the final word in fuel costs, so be sure that you have some wiggle room in your budget for a potentially expensive fill-up.
The Carvana Difference
Being a first time car buyer can spark feelings of stress and trepidation, but the process of buying a car doesn’t have to be scary or nerve-wracking. With Carvana, you can easily bypass many of the pain points associating with buying a car. As it pertains to financing, Carvana enables you to easily personalize your financing terms to fit your life in minutes without having to engage in a back and forth with a dealership associate. To discover your terms and apply them to every vehicle in Carvana’s inventory, visit our soft pull financing page.
Additionally, when you buy online with Carvana, there are no hidden fees associated with your purchase of a vehicle, since we have no overhead costs associated with maintaining a physical dealership or sales personnel. The listed price is the price you can expect to pay. No hassle, no fine print.