Before You Buy or Lease a Vehicle

Consider Federal and State Laws
Review the federal and state laws that affect the vehicle financing and leasing process. These laws offer important information that can help you negotiate a better deal or better understand the process. They also give you certain rights.

Determine How Much You Can Afford
Before you finance or lease a vehicle, take a look at your financial situation to make sure you have enough income to cover your monthly living expenses. Then, if you want to finance a vehicle, know that the total amount you will pay will depend on several factors, including the price you negotiate for the vehicle, the Annual Percentage Rate (APR), which may be negotiable, and the length of the credit contract.

Finance or lease a vehicle only when you can afford to take on a new obligation. Check the overall costs for the purchase or lease. Consider the monthly payment in finance or lease negotiations. You may want to use the “Monthly Spending Plan” worksheet as a guide.

The only time to consider taking on additional debt is when you are spending less than you take home. The additional debt load should not cut into any amount you have committed to saving for emergencies and other top priorities or life goals. Saving for a down payment or trading in a vehicle can reduce the amount you need to finance and reduce your financing costs. In some cases, your trade-in vehicle will take care of the down payment on your new vehicle.

If you owe more on your vehicle than its market value, you have negative equity in your vehicle. This is a consideration if you plan to use your vehicle as a trade-in. The longer your new credit contract, the longer it will be before you have positive equity in the new vehicle — that is, before it is worth more than you owe. If you have negative equity, you may need to make a bigger down payment. Or the dealer may offer to include the negative equity in your new finance contract by increasing the amount financed to include the amount you still owe on your current vehicle. This will increase your monthly payments on the new contract in two ways: it adds to the amount financed and increases the finance charge. If you have negative equity in your vehicle, consider paying down the debt before you buy another vehicle. If you use the vehicle for a trade-in, ask how the negative equity affects your new credit obligation.

For more information, see Auto Trade-ins and Negative Equity.

Source:  https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0056-understanding-vehicle-financing#fin