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Guide to PLUS Loans

August 18th, 2011 at 09:51 pm

If your child is going to college and needs financial assistance you may want to look into the possibility of getting a Direct PLUS Loan. Loans of this type are provided through the federal government if certain criteria are met. A Direct PLUS Loan is different from a student loan because it is taken out by the parents, not by the student. Following is a guide to PLUS loans.

Dependent Children

One of the main components of a Direct PLUS Loan is the fact that the parents take out the loan for a dependent child. A dependent child is defined as a child less than 24 years of age who does not have any dependents of their own. The child canít be married. They also can not be a veteran, or have a graduate or professional degree. The dependent child must not be a ward of the court. If these conditions are met you should be able to qualify for a Direct PLUS Loan--depending on your financial situation. Graduate and professional students may apply for PLUS loans on their own.

Additional Qualifications

A few additional qualifications apply. You must be the studentís real or adoptive parent. In some cases you may qualify if youíre a stepparent. The child must go to a school that participates in the Direct Loan Program, and they must attend classes at least half-time. This may include traditional schools that award a campus-based degree or web-based schools that award an online degree. Your credit rating canít be in question. If you fail a credit check, the only way to qualify--unless there are extenuating circumstances--is if someone who does pass the credit check is willing to cosign the loan. Other qualifications are U.S. citizenship--noncitizens may be accepted provided they are eligible--and not being in arrears on a federal student loan.

How to Get a Direct PLUS Loan

You must fill out a Direct PLUS Loan application and a Master Promissory Note (MPN), which is a legal document stating that you will repay the loan, including interest and applicable fees, according to agreed upon criteria. Usually one MPN will suffice for your childís academic career. Instructions on filling out the forms are available through the financial aid office at your childís school. You may also be able to fill out the applicable forms online by visiting the Internet website,

Loan Details

There are no definite limits on the amount of money you can borrow in a Direct PLUS Loan. The only limitation is the fact that you can only borrow an amount equal to the difference between actual costs and the amount of any other sort of financial aid. For instance, if the annual cost for your childís high education comes to $20,000, and they receive aid in other forms, such as student loans, of $15,000, then, if youíre eligible, you are allowed to borrow the remaining $5,000 through a Direct PLUS Loan. The money will go to the school to be applied to the studentís costs, such as tuition, room and board, and other related expenses. The money will usually be given to the school in two payments. If any money is left over it goes to you unless you specify it for release to the student, or to be applied by the school toward future expenses.


You must begin repaying a Direct PLUS Loan within 60 days of the time the last of the loan money has been handed out. In certain cases a deferment may be granted. Repayment of the loan includes accrued interest and a 4% fee. At the time the loan is approved you will be put in touch with a loan servicer. Details of the loan will be discussed with the loan servicer, and you will have to agree to the stipulations before the loan is approved. A payment schedule will be provided by the loan servicer, and you will be provided with regular updates on the status of the loan. You can access details of your account by visiting the Internet website, The details of your loan will be determined by your financial status. A Direct PLUS Loan offers three payment plans, standard, extended, and graduated, and will usually need to be repaid between 10 and 25 years from the time the loan is granted.

How to Find a College with Reasonable Tuition

August 11th, 2011 at 12:13 am

A college education is almost a Ďmust haveí these days. The time of walking in off the street with only a high school diploma and being hired at a decent pay rate, with benefits, is pretty much a thing of the past. Instead you need to have a degree in something useful to be assured of being hired at anything more than a subsistence wage. Unfortunately college is expensive, so most people need to find a way of going to school on the cheap without sacrificing the quality of their education. Following are a few tips that may help you find a college with reasonable tuition.


The first, best way of paying for a college education, with the exception of being financially independent, is to get a full-ride scholarship. Sadly those are few and far between. Only very gifted athletes and brainiacs get those. Partial scholarships are different. Many charitable organizations contribute scholarship money to chosen individuals every year. Some scholarships go unclaimed because no one applies. If you spend some time researching scholarships you may run across something youíre qualified to receive.

College Payment Options

Barring a scholarship of some sort, or a college fund supplied by forward-thinking family members, you may be forced to foot the entire bill for your education yourself. There are many ways of doing this. The history books are filled with cases of people working their way through school. While this is an option that shouldnít be overlooked studying for a college degree can be extremely draining, both physically and emotionally, and it is also time consuming. Finding time to work and keep your grades up at the same time may be difficult. Taking out a student loan or joining a Federal Work Study Program are viable options. Another way of doing it is to look for a college with somewhat more affordable tuition.

Choose a Smaller School

Instead of opting for a large prestigious school you may want to consider going to a community college for the first two years. If you go this route be sure you select courses that earn credits that can be transferred to a state school. The tuition rates at community colleges are significantly lower than larger schools. You will also have save money because associated costs, such as housing, may be lower--you may even be able to live at home or in a small apartment close to the school. Travel expenses should also be minimal if you choose a school close to home.

Go to a State School

Whether or not you choose to go to a community college for the first couple of years you can still save money by attending a state school in the state in which you reside. Residents of any given state usually receive lower tuition rates than out-of-state students. As with a community college you can also save money by living at home if you choose a state school near your home.

Decide on a Major Later

By delaying your choice of major you can save money by attending a Liberal Arts college in order to satisfy your core course requirements. Depending on what major you select you can transfer to a school later on that specializes in your field of choice--just make sure the courses you choose offer credits that can be transferred.

Location Is Important

Geographical location may also have an effect on tuition rates. Generally speaking, schools in the South and Southwest have somewhat lower tuition. You may find the cost of living to be a little lower, as well. Schools in urban areas also carry higher tuition rates. Suburban schools are somewhat cheaper, but for the lowest tuition rates, generally speaking, seek out small colleges in more out-of-the-way areas. The cost of living will also be less in a rural area than in an urban environment.

Online Schools

In order to find the schools that have the best tuition rates it would be a good idea to do some research. The Internet is a good place to begin your search. While youíre online you may want to look into the possibility of getting your college degree online. Your research should include the

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best online colleges because many online colleges have significantly less expensive tuition rates. By perusing the websites of different schools you can compare the price of their courses, which will help you decide on which school is best for you.

How to Apply for a Student Loan

August 5th, 2011 at 06:41 pm

Attending school to further your education is admirable, but itís not free and a lot of people simply canít afford it. Fortunately, by requesting a student loan you may be able to overcome your lack of funds and get a college degree. Student loans can be used to pay for courses at campus-based schools and

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accredited online colleges. Following are a few tips on how to apply for a student loan.

Financial Aid Counseling

It may be a good idea to seek financial aid counseling before taking out a student loan. In some cases, it may even be mandatory. The counseling process will help you understand your commitment and provide you with help in the application process. Since itís possible that this will be the first loan youíve taken out, you will need to be apprised of your duties and responsibilities before and after the process. Taking out a loan is not a small matter. Loans are expected to be paid back, and financial aid counseling will help you understand the process.

Get Organized

Prior to filling out an application, you need to gather all the pertinent information youíll need. Organize the information so it will be readily at hand when you begin the application process. You will need your tax return information from the previous year as well as the tax information of your parents. You will need to know your driverís license number, social security number, and have access to all pertinent bank account information, including recent bank statements. If you or your parents have a mortgage or investments that information will also be needed. By getting organized in advance the application process will go much more smoothly.

Fill Out the Form

The first step in the application process is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. You can access this form by going to the Internet website, By following the instruction on the website you can begin filling out the form. You must fill out the FAFSA each and every year you expect to receive help; it doesnít carry over from year to year. Your qualifications for receiving student loans are reevaluated each year, because your financial situation may have changed. The application must be filled out line by line, which is why itís important to have your documents at hand. You will be assigned a PIN number, which is how you can access the form. This number is important, so memorize it, or keep it somewhere close by.

There Is a Deadline

The FAFSA form must be completed and sent in before the end of June for the upcoming school period. This deadline may vary depending on the state you live in, but usually the funds are dispersed between the middle of February and the 1st of July. In order to be sure youíll receive your allotted funds, providing you qualify, it would be a good idea to find out what the deadline is in your state. You can verify the deadline on the FAFSA website.

You Must Meet the Eligibility Requirements

There are a lot of things that are taken into consideration before you are deemed eligible to receive a student loan. The amount of the loan, if you are qualified to receive one, also varies depending on how much money you or your family can contribute to your education. While youíre waiting to hear whether or not you meet the eligibility requirements you can get an idea of how much you could receive by visiting the Internet website, On that website there is an EFC (Expected Family Contribution) calculator which will help you determine the extent of your potential financial aid. Enter the information youíre asked for and the calculator will give you an estimated total. Among the factors the government checks on while determining whether or not you qualify for a federal student loan is the amount of tuition youíll be paying as well as how much money your parents have available to them.

Hurry Up and Wait

After youíve filled out the FAFSA form youíll be anxious to find out the results and see if you qualify for financial assistance. Be patient. The average wait time is somewhere between four and six weeks. If you meet the eligibility requirements, you will receive a check before the school year begins.

How to Do a Background Check on Your Bank

July 13th, 2011 at 06:11 pm

In the wake of the recent economic crisis, many banks and other financial institutions are finding themselves barely treading water or simply going under. Trust in your bank and its financial strength is essential--the last thing you want to do is put your hard-earned money at risk. If you have concerns about your bank or are wondering if it would be a good time to switch, why not do a

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background check and find out for yourself? It may be worth your peace of mind to find out exactly where your bank stands, and how they're doing amidst the struggles of our economy.

Do Your Own Online Investigation

Make a checklist of information you want to find out about your bank. Important things to look for include whether or not your bank is FDIC insured, FDIC enforcements actions taken, total assets, and growth rate--in other words, are your bank's assets growing at an alarming speed, a snail's pace, or at a normal, average pace. Some of this information can be verified by visiting the FDIC website. The O.C.C. (Office of the Comptroller of the Currency) site is another resource that can be used to track your bank's past and current situations including merges, closings, relocations, and more. There are also several sites that you can use to find out how your bank rates completely free of charge. The information that you get from a free bank rating site may be minimal, but if your bank has a poor rating, that may be all you need to see to place your money elsewhere.

Get a Detailed Bank Report

If you don't have the time to do some investigative work yourself, there are plenty of sites that will do the work for you. The cost of a detailed report varies from site to site, and may be calculated based on the amount of in-depth information you seek. The average detailed bank report will compare your bank to other financial institutions and give you a thorough analysis on whether or not it has sufficient capital, its profitability, how much money it has available, and more.

Keep Yourself Informed

Another way to continually keep an eye on your bank is to stay on top of the latest bank news. You can gather a lot of valuable information from financial news reports, journals, websites, and bank-related blogs. Also, periodically check your bank's website so you're aware of any changes or news that might be relevant to you. You can always cross-check information you find by re-visiting the FDIC site for verification.

To find out what's going on with your current financial institution, it's very easy to slip into the role of an investigator and conduct a bank-background check. There are plenty of online resources to help you find out everything you need to know so that you can either restore your faith in your bank, or find a better place to safeguard your treasure.

How to Protect Your Child from Identity Theft

July 11th, 2011 at 05:36 pm

With the constant rise of identity theft, it was only a matter of time before our children became the target. As a parent we do everything we possibly can to protect our children, but how many of us think about someone trying to steal our child's identity? To an identity thief, stealing a child's identity is perfectly safe and will usually go unnoticed for years.

What Information Should Be Protected

You need to exercise caution when it comes to your child's social security number and their birth certificate. You should never carry these items in your purse; they should be kept in either a fire proof safe in your home or in a bank safe deposit box. Of course, there will be instances when you will need these documents, but make sure that they are absolutely necessary before handing them over to anyone.

Credit Checks

All three major credit bureaus offer parents the opportunity to check if their child has an open credit file. This is free to parents, but you will have to provide documentation proving that you are the legal guardian. You will generally have to send a copy of your driver's license, social security card, and a copy of their birth certificate. You may also want to contact the social security administration and request an earnings statement for your child's social security number. You should contact these companies at least every other year. You may also use a credit monitoring service; for a fee, they will watch your child's social security number and alert you if there is any activity.

Identity Theft Education

As your children grow into young adults, it is very important to teach them the responsibility of keeping certain information private. Social networking sites have become a breeding ground for identity theft. The thieves offer what appears to be a fun survey, but in reality it is a questionnaire that exposes private information.

Danger Signs

If your child starts receiving pre-approved credit offers in the mail or if telemarketers begin calling and asking for your child by their name, that should be seen as a warning. You should contact the credit bureaus and request a credit file check as soon as possible. If you receive a collection notice in your child's name, then you know someone has stolen their identity and you will have to begin to restore it.

Take Action

Your child's identity has been stolen, so what do you do about it? Restoring your child's credit will be a daunting task, but the sooner you begin repairs the better off your child will be. The first step will be to notify the credit bureaus--each bureau should be notified individually as they may different protocols that need to be taken. You will need to notify the police and have a report written up. You will probably need this report when you start contacting the creditors. This is a big part of

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identity theft prevention and will help prevent further theft.

How to Report and Repair Credit Report Errors

July 6th, 2011 at 07:00 pm

Having a good credit rating is important. If you're in the market for a new home or a new car you want to be able to get a low-interest loan quickly, without a lot of fanfare or turmoil. A good credit score can make that happen. But what if your latest credit report says you have had some difficulties making your payments on time, and you know that's not true? How do you go about fixing it? Following are a few tips on how to report and repair credit report errors.

Disputing an Error

If you believe your credit report contains an error, or more than one, you can try and have it removed so your credit score will go up. The first step is to let the credit reporting agency know you want to dispute their report. There are three major credit reporting bureaus. They are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Although each agency calculates your credit history a bit differently, they all use the same basic formula to reach their conclusion and assign you a credit score. The information they base their findings on is submitted by lending institutions throughout the country. This information is complied, formulated statistics are applied, and then your credit score is assigned. You are entitled to get a copy of your credit report, and if you feel an error has been made you have the right to dispute the score.

Reporting the Error

In order to dispute a portion of your credit report, it is your obligation to inform the credit reporting agency of your claim. You must submit your dispute in writing, and the claim must be detailed and provide documentation to back up your claim. Make sure you submit copies of the documents and not the originals. Hang on to the originals for your own security. If you are claiming that there are multiple errors, you must submit similar documentation for each claim. You don't have to make two separate claims, simply submit one claim and clearly define each item you wish to dispute, along with the documentation to support your point of view. In your letter you must explain clearly and concisely the matters you believe to be in error, and why you think they are wrong. You should send the package containing your letter and documents to the credit reporting agency by certified mail, with a return receipt requested. This will provide documentation that the claim was filed. Make a copy of the letter you send, along with copies of the documents and the returned mail receipt, and keep them in your files for future reference.

Inform the Creditor

The second step in the process of disputing an item in a credit report is to inform the creditor who supplied the information to the credit reporting agency of the fact that you disagree with their assessment and want it removed. You must do this in writing, the same as you did with the credit reporting agency. Your letter should be similar to the previous one, and you should also provide documentation to back up your claim. This letter should be sent to the creditor by certified mail, return receipt requested, the same as you did with the package you sent to the credit reporting agency. You should make copies of everything you send to them, and keep those copies on record.

Repairing Your Credit Score

The whole idea behind disputing an item in your credit report is that the item in question is keeping your credit score lower than it should be, and as a result your loan, if it is approved, will carry a significantly higher interest rate. Knowing that a higher credit score will entitle you to a lower interest rate, it is a good idea to study your credit report carefully. If you see something that you believe to be in error, and report it, you credit score will improve if your claim is upheld. If that happens the creditor cannot report that item again.

How to Protect Yourself from Auto Insurance Fraud

March 25th, 2011 at 04:50 pm

With auto insurance fraud on the rise itís important to know how to spot a staged accident. Itís also important to know that staged accidents arenít the only type of fraud. If youíre involved in a fender bender it may be truly an accident but fraud could still be perpetrated by the other person. If they had previous damage to their car this could be a perfect opportunity to get you to pay to have it fixed. Another form of insurance fraud is policies that promise far more than they ever intend to deliver. These are usually sold door-to-door or by unsolicited telephone calls. You think youíre protected until it comes time to file a claim, then the agent is nowhere to be found or you discover that virtually every conceivable reason is given to deny the claim. Here are a few tips on how to protect yourself from auto insurance fraud.

Basic Types of Fraud

There are two basic types of fraud, with a myriad of variations on each. The first is called hard fraud, which usually involves some sort of staged accident. The second is called soft fraud, and it consists of things like including extra body work from a previous accident into a claim or saying a vehicle is worth more than it actually is in order to receive more money.

Deliberate Accidents

There are a lot of ways crooks can stage an accident and make the authorities and your insurance company believe itís for real. Some involve more than one vehicle, or even an "innocent bystander" who just happens to witness the collision. These types of deliberate accidents can be avoided, but scammers can be very sophisticated. As a result, these "accidents" have occurred often enough to be given a title.


When there are multiple turn lanes be prepared for the sideswipe artist who will deliberately but slowly move into your lane and then claim it was you who drifted into them.

The Drive Down

This scam involves a driver that is waiting to pull into traffic. They notice an oncoming driver wave them into the lane. As they pull out that driver speeds up and hits their car. Of course, that driver claims not to have waved and the one who pulled out is considered at fault.

Swoop and Squat

This is where a vehicle with a number of passengers will suddenly stop in front of you while a partner in another vehicle blocks your way so you canít avoid hitting the first car. The blocking car will quickly leave and it will appear youíre at fault. The passengers in the car you rear ended will all claim injuries.

The T-Bone

A very dangerous scam, the t-bone involves a car that waits at a crossroads, like a four way stop, until another vehicle goes through the intersection. They pull out quickly and hit that car in the side, and then claim the car never stopped at the corner. Frequently these scammers will be accompanied by a witness or two who just happened to see the whole thing take place and will back up the perpetrator.

What You Can Do

The best thing you can do to protect yourself from a hard scammer is to drive defensively. Make sure you donít tailgate and are aware of your surroundings. Give yourself plenty of distance between vehicles and focus on your driving. Donít be distracted by cell phones or CD players. If youíre in an accident get as much information as possible from everyone involved, and call the police immediately. Report the accident to your insurance company as soon as you can, and try and get as much visual evidence as possible by using a digital camera or camcorder.

Soft Fraud

These types of deceptions may be more difficult to spot, but they end up inflating the claim and ultimately costing you money because your insurance rates will probably go up. In order to protect yourself itís important to get visual evidence of any damage as quickly as possible. If there were any bystanders try and get a statement from them. Call the police immediately and donít settle on the spot, always contact your insurance company. You can also avoid fraud by dealing with a reputable insurance company and not buying insurance from someone you donít know and trust simply because itís cheap. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. There is no sure way to avoid a scammer, but by simply being observant and alert you can increase your chances of not falling victim to fraud.

Guest post from Bailey Harris. Bailey writes about online car insurance quotes.

Life Insurance 101

March 21st, 2011 at 05:41 pm

Making sure your loved ones are taken care when you pass away is something that most people consider necessary. Having a life insurance policy in effect that will meet the needs of your family is the most important method of making that come about. But all life insurance policies are not the same, the varieties are almost limitless. You can tailor your policy in nearly any way you choose, including a way to get a return on your money while youíre still alive. Grasping the intricacies of life insurance isnít difficult; it just takes a bit of study to comprehend. Following is a primer on the subject, a sort of life insurance 101.

What Is Life Insurance?

Basically a life insurance policy is an agreement between two entities; you, the insured, and the provider, the insurance company. The purpose of the contract is to supply the insured with the monetary peace of mind that their designated beneficiaryís needs are met when theyíre no longer around to look after them. In return you consent to make periodic payments to the provider over the course of the contract. In the event you pass away the provider releases the agreed upon financial remuneration to the previously named beneficiaries.

Types of Life Insurance

There are two fundamental types of life insurance; term and whole life. Although they both accomplish the same purpose, to make sure your loved ones are provided for, they go about it in vastly different ways. Whichever you choose the peace of mind provided by life insurance coverage is well worth the cost.

Term Insurance

Term insurance covers the insured for a predetermined period of time. When that time is up, the coverage ends. If you want to be protected, you must either take out a policy with different terms than the one that just ended, with either the same company or a different one, or renew the old policy. One of the major advantages of term life insurance is the relatively low premiums, which make it a popular form of insurance for single people or those just beginning a family. Itís a reasonably inexpensive way to make sure their dependents will be provided for. Another advantage of term insurance is that the choices are limited, which makes deciding on the details of the policy much easier to make. The downside of term insurance is that the older you are the more your premiums will cost you, and if youíve suffered a medical problem that may continue to affect your health, you could be denied coverage.

Whole Life Insurance

A whole life insurance policy is different in a lot of ways. For one thing, a whole life policy generally remains in effect from the time you sign the papers until you either pass away or cash in the policy. The reason you have the option of receiving cash back is that the money you pay in premiums is invested and the value of the policy increases as the investments pay off. You can borrow against the value of the policy, or take all the cash out and terminate the policy. There is a caveat, however; because there is the opportunity to see a very good return on your investment your periodic premiums will be significantly higher than with term insurance, and of course, if you drop the policy entirely you wonít be protected. It can also be difficult to decide on the details of a whole life policy because there are so many options.

Combination Policies

It is possible to combine whole life insurance with term insurance resulting in a policy that is customized to meet your specific needs. Whichever option you choose it is a good idea to consult with an insurance agent and have them explain the details of their companyís life insurance plans. Once youíve determined the choice thatís right for your present situation youíll be able to relax knowing your loved ones will be provided for.

Guest post from Jessie Mars. Jessie

A Guide to High Deductible Health Plans

March 21st, 2011 at 05:31 pm

People who want to make sure theyíre completely covered in case of a medical emergency may want to check into a high deductible health plan (HDHP.) Commonly referred to as catastrophic health insurance, high deductible health plans are intended to take care of the financial problems associated with medical expenses beyond what a normal health care plan would normally cover. Following is a guide to high deductible health plans.

Starting Out

A high deductible health plan goes hand in hand with a health savings account. They work in tandem. Basically a HDHP will cover you and your family in the case of a medical emergency. By definition you will be required to pay a rather substantial portion out-of-pocket. Having a health savings account (HSA) can help meet the cost of the high deductible. Because the money in a HSA is tax deductible the system is attractive to those who can put enough money in their health savings account to ensure theyíre protected against the high deductible in the HDHP. This type of plan is only good for major medical expenses and doesnít apply to certain types of medical care. One of the major benefits of a high deductible health plan is that the premiums are significantly lower than with a more traditional health care plan.

Tax Advantages

One of the major attractions of a HDHP is the tax advantage of a HSA. You can place more than $6,000.00 for a family or over $3,000.00 for an individual into a health savings account per year and 100% of that money is tax deductible. The money can then be used to pay the deductible for any emergency medical expenses that may be incurred. There is no limit on how much you can place in a health savings account, only on what is tax deductible. One caveat is that the money needed to be deposited before December 1, 2010 to qualify for a tax deduction in 2011. Consult your insurance agent, a tax attorney or an accountant to find out the deadline for 2012. Be aware the deadlines and amounts that are tax deductible may vary from state to state.


A high deductible health plan will cover all major medical expenses and some routine medical costs. Preventative care, which includes such things as regular checkups for children or adults, weight loss programs, or plans designed to help a person quit smoking, are not included. There is usually a cap on the annual deductible. Once the cap is reached, the policy may cover all or part of routine medical expenses. The idea behind this type of plan is to protect you in case of a high-cost medical emergency. The HSA helps defer the out-of-pocket expenses caused by the high deductible. Itís a wonderful two-tiered system that can provide ample protection at reasonable rates.

Shop Around

As with any other type of insurance itís advisable to shop around before signing any papers. The amount of the deductible in a HDHP has an upper and lower range stipulated by law, but individual plans may vary. The minimum and maximum amounts may change from year to year, based on the cost of living. Talk to your insurance agent about the potential benefits of a high deductible health plan. Have them explain how a high deductible health plan works, and what your advantages or disadvantages may be. It might even be worth your time to consult a tax attorney or accountant before making a decision.

Guest post from Jessie Mars. Jessie writes for

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5 Things to Think About Before Buying a New Car

March 8th, 2011 at 08:09 pm

The old clunker has finally had it, and youíve decided to shell out the money and get a new car. The prospect of tooling down the highway in a brand new vehicle is invigorating, but there are a lot of things to consider before you sign the papers. Doing your homework before rushing off to visit a car dealer is a wise course of action. Following are five things to think about before buying a new car.

Trade or Private Sale

One of the first things you need to think about is what to do with your old car. Hopefully you have a little set aside in savings so you donít actually need to use whatever the old car will bring toward a down payment, but it will help lower the monthly payments if you do. Your old car may not be worth a lot, but it does have value. You need to decide whether to sell it yourself or trade it in. Most sources agree that a private sale will bring a better price than a trade in. That is a consideration, but you have to realize that selling the car yourself may take time. If youíre in a hurry, a trade-in is probably best. It may all come down to how much you think the old car is actually worth--to you.

Type of Vehicle

Before you set foot inside a car dealership, you need to be certain what type of vehicle you need. If you carry a lot of large, heavy loads then a pickup truck, cargo van, or large SUV may be called for. Or, maybe a smaller truck would do the job. Stay-at-home moms generally car pool their kids, and their kidís friends, to school, soccer practice, karate meets, or band rehearsals. They need comfortable seating for multiple people. Business men and women may have to play host to out-of-town clients so a two-seater convertible is out of the question--theyíll need a full-size four-door vehicle. Living in a rural environment, or someplace that gets lots of snow may have you leaning towards 4-wheel drive. If you drive a lot but donít like spending half your income on gas then a fuel efficient car may be your choice. The point is that you should base your decision of what type of vehicle to buy on what you need and not necessarily on what you want. Knowing this ahead of time can save a lot of frustration when you begin actually looking at vehicles.

Lease or Buy

Another consideration is whether to lease or buy your new car. There is no definitive consensus about this issue. It seems like half the people you talk to swear that leasing is the most economical choice, while the other half contends that buying is the only way to go. The only thing you can do is research the deals offered by various car dealerships and determine which would fit your personality and pocketbook. A leased vehicle will generally cost less per month for the duration of the lease, but then you have to turn that car in and make the same choice again. Buying a car outright means you own it, as long as you make the payments. After itís paid off you still have the vehicle, but without payments.


Financing goes hand in hand with the decision to buy or lease because there is usually a disparity between the amounts you will pay per month--frequently less with a leased vehicle. If you lean heavily toward one side of the fence or the other then the next consideration is where to get your car financed. Whatever you choose, it is best to have financing arranged before you actually begin shopping. Borrowing the money for the car from a bank or credit union is usually cheaper than getting the loan through a car dealership--generally lower interest rates. There are exceptions, however, because lenders affiliated with brands, such as Ford Motor Credit or GMAC, frequently offer low interest loans.


Another consideration before hitting the road is insurance. If you are making payments on your new vehicle, your lender will more than likely require you to carry full coverage for the duration of the loan. But that doesnít mean you donít have decisions to make. Before choosing an insurer you need to compare rates. Shop around and get quotes from a variety of insurance companies before signing any papers. If you have your home and health insurance with a certain company, they may offer discounts if you get your car insurance through them, too.

Guest post from Bailey Harris who writes about car insurance rates and related topics for the Car Insurance Blog.