The Two Biggest Mistakes You Can Make When Buying a Car


Car Buying, Car Loans, Personal Growth, Retirement, Saving


April 16, 2015

If you lack the cash to buy a car free and clear, you really need to hear me out on the two worst financing moves you can make. What I am about to tell you can save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. And trust me, this is exactly what car dealers and financing companies don’t want you to know:


A car loan longer than 36 months is a waste of money. I know, I know, there are all those great looking ads showing how “affordable” a payment will be with a 60 month or 72 month car loan. Don’t fall for it. For starters, we need to get on the same page: A car is the worst investment. Why? Because from the moment you drive it off the lot it loses value. You will never recoup what you paid for the car when you eventually sell it. Got it? Good.


So if you’re going to lose money on this deal, why would you agree to pay more interest on the loan? That’s exactly what you end up doing when you choose a longer repayment term.


The reason the car industry hawks five year (and longer) loans is because they want to entice you to buy a more expensive car. The longer the term, the lower your monthly payments. But what they don’t point out to you-and I do-is that because the payments go on for a longer time, you end up spending more over the life of the loan….for a crappy investment.


My advice: Shop for cars that you can pay off with a three-year loan. No more.


Leasing is the Worst Way to Build Financial Security. A shiny new car every three years seems so enticing. But have you every stopped to consider the cost? If you are leasing and trading in, and then leasing again, you never own the car free and clear. You will be making monthly payments forever. That is a colossal waste of money. If you instead follow my advice and take out a 3-year loan, you will own the car free and clear after 36 months. Given the dependability of cars these days, that could mean you could keep driving the car for five, seven or even more years (depends on your mileage ) without having a loan payment. That gives you years when you can be saving more for other important goals—such as retirement-rather than continuing to throw money at your depreciating car.

Suze's Financial Strength Test

Answer Yes or No to the follow statements.

I pay all my credit card bills in full each month.

I have an eight-month emergency savings fund separate from my checking or other bank accounts.

The car I am driving was paid for with cash, or a loan that was no more than three years, and I sure didn’t lease!

I am contributing at least 10% of my gross salary to a retirement plan at work, or I am saving at least that much in an IRA and/or regular taxable account.

I have a long-term asset allocation plan for my retirement investments, and once a year I check to see if I need to do any rebalancing to stay on target with my allocation goals.

I have term life insurance to provide protection to those who are dependent on my income.

I have a will, a trust, an advance directive (living will), and have appointed someone to be my health care proxy.

I have checked all the beneficiaries of every investment account and insurance policy within the past year.

So how did you do?

If you answered yes to every item, congratulations. If you are working on improving on a few items, I say congratulations as well.

As long as you are comitted to truly creating financial security, I applaud you. If that means you are paying down your credit card balances, or are building up your emergency fun with automated payments, that’s more than fine. You are on your way!

But if you found yourself saying No to any of those questions, and you’re not working on moving to Yes, then I want you to stand in your truth. No matter how good you feel, you have some work to do before you can honestly know what you are on solid financial ground.

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