Table of contents
Chapter 1: Getting started
Chapter 2: Shop till you drop
Chapter 3: The buying experience
Chapter 4: The leasing experience
Chapter 5: Financing the deal
Chapter 6: Insuring your vehicle
It's surprising. Most people have only a vague idea of what they can afford when it comes to getting a new or used car. Some people think in terms of the basic cash price, while others think only of what the monthly payment will be.
Both approaches have flaws.
There's more to buying a vehicle than the initial cost, even if you pay cash. There are car insurance, fuel and maintenance costs. Buying almost any vehicle -- whether it's fresh from the showroom or new to you -- will mean higher insurance rates. Maintenance on a used car, even one just three years old, may be required sooner than you think. And going from that small sedan in your driveway to a flashy new SUV will mean shelling out more per month at the gas station.
Setting out to buy a car with just a ballpark monthly payment in mind -- whether leasing or financing -- is a surefire way to pay more than you might otherwise.
Need a rule of thumb? If you're devoting more than 15 to 20 percent of your household income to transportation, you should probably scale back.
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We still have a collective interest in conserving gasoline, but so far it hasn't overcome our love of wide, spacious vehicles that can haul a bunch of stuff.
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