Take these steps toward getting the right deal on an auto loan

Know before you owe.

That’s the overall advice of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

And while it sounds simple enough, a lot of thought should go into financing a car, truck or SUV if you don’t want to overpay – or overextend yourself financially.

Over the next four weeks, we’ll share with you some of the CFPB’s advice on financing a vehicle.

022717 SC Take these steps toward getting the right deal on an auto loan [Part 1]Four areas we’ll cover:

  • How to shop for your auto loan, not just your car [Part 2].
  • Exploring loan choices because hundreds, even thousands of dollars are at stake [Part 3].
  • Knowing what’s negotiable – and it’s not just the price of the vehicle or the interest rate [Part 4].
  • Understanding how to close the deal before you drive away [Part 5].

“Take control of your auto loan,” says the CFPB on its comprehensive website. “Whether you’re a first-time borrower or a pro, getting an auto loan can be complicated. Learn how to prepare so you can save money, reduce stress, and get the auto loan that’s right for you.”

Financing a car is the second-largest financial obligation for many Americans (after a home mortgage), so it makes sense to take the time to understand the process and get the right deal.

To help you along, the CFPB offers a 16-step auto loan shopping worksheet, Comparing auto loans, which also highlights seven factors that you can negotiate.

Those seven factors are (1) the price of the vehicle, (2) additional features, services or add-ons, (3) expenses such as delivery charges and origination, document and preparation fees, (4) down payment, (5) trade-in value, (6) interest rate, and (7) length of loan in months.

The CFPB also recommends taking the printable worksheet with you to the dealership to “show you are serious about getting the best loan” if you plan to finance the vehicle there.

Whether you follow that advice is up to you, of course, but determining your upfront costs, calculating how much you will need to borrow, knowing how much money you’ll pay over the life of your loan, and finding the total cost of your purchase should be a part of your process.

Then you can be more confident that your vehicle purchase will fit into your budget and that the monthly payments won’t cause financial problems in the future.

The vehicle you want may not be the one you can afford, so it pays to know before you owe.