5 Tips for Buying Your First Vehicle

Purchasing your first vehicle is always exciting; this milestone often serves as affirmation that you’ve achieved freedom and independence. At Cascade Community Credit Union, we have a few tips to make sure you’re ready to put the pedal to the medal when it comes to buying your first vehicle.

1) Know Your Budget

Before you start shopping, it helps to know what price range you should be looking at. This way, you won’t set your sights on a vehicle, start the loan process, and then find out that you won’t qualify for what has become your dream ride.

The easiest way to know what you can afford is to get pre-approved by your lender. Getting pre-approved for a loan will let you know how much you can take out a loan for, and also provide valuable information like your credit score.

If you are already in the process of looking for your vehicle, you can talk to someone on our team today to start the pre-approval process. They’ll also fill you in on the ins-and-outs of what to expect with your first vehicle loan.

When considering how much you can afford, it’s also a good idea to break down the additional monthly expenses that come with vehicle-ownership, like insurance, gas, and maintenance costs. Consider these costs when looking at what you think your monthly payment should be.


2) Do your Research

Purchasing a sweet pickup with an 18” lift might sound like a good idea at first, but how much money will it take to keep it running? Are there additional maintenance costs? If it costs $30 to fill up a small car once a week, it might cost $60+ to fill up a large pickup that’s been driven the same amount of miles.

Make a list of things you need in a vehicle and research reliability, safety features, and gas economy for different makes and models of vehicles.


3) Only Buy what you can afford

As a rule of thumb, it’s wise to have at least 20% of the purchase price as a down payment. If you’re not prepared to put down 20% of the vehicle’s value, you may end up paying more than the vehicle is worth over the life of your loan.

If you can’t afford to put 20% down for a vehicle, look at less expensive options or wait until you’ve saved more money.

Need inspiration for saving? Check out this article on Building a Better Budgetkeyboard_backspace


4) Read the fine print

If you finance a vehicle, know what you’re committing to. Sometimes a payment plan can look good on paper and lead you to believe you can afford more than you can. Don’t jump into anything you’re not ready for.


5) Take a trusted individual with you to the dealership

If you have a peer or family member that knows vehicles inside and out, and has even purchased a few of their own, take them with you! Benefiting from the experience of someone you know and trust is a great way to help yourself make a better purchasing decision.

Buying your first vehicle is an empowering milestone and marks a step closer to financial independence. By following these tips, we hope you can make an informed decision that will keep any buyer’s remorse at bay.


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Worried about not having a strong credit score? Check out CCCU’s Credit Builder loan—This is a great option to build your credit score and develop good financial habits.

What is a Credit Builder Loan? 

A Credit Builder Loan holds the amount borrowed in an account while you make payments, building credit. Once you’ve paid off your loan, the money is yours.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Apply for the loan amount you need: $500 to $5,000
  2. Funds are deposited and held in your savings account until the loan is paid in full
  3. Make monthly payments on time to build credit history
  4. Each monthly payment builds credit history & adds to your savings
  5. Your savings is unlocked when your loan is paid off!

Take advantage of building a positive payment history today!

Visit a branch, apply online or give us a call to get started.