- Research your vehicle ahead of time so you know what it's worth before you buy. Most car lots want you to pay more (duh). Don't take out a loan for more than 48 months. If you can't pay the vehicle off in 48 months or less, you can't afford it.
- Drive your car for at least two years after it's been paid off, Continue making "car payments" to a savings account during that time; it will help cover the cost of repairs if needed and provide for a substantial down payment.
- Alternately, keep a $500 "repair fund" savings account for those unexpected repairs.
- Consider the cost of major repairs vs. the cost of the car payments. For instance, if you pay $300/month, that's $3600 that you pay in a year just to own the vehicle. If you pay less than that in repair bills, you're still ahead of the game.
One thing that they recommended was to pay cash for your vehicle instead of financing it. In other words, bite the bullet for a boatload of time and save up the cash. I don't know if I can do that-- if I have the fortitude to do that kind of thing. That takes a lot of strength that I don't think I have.
It has made me rethink the immediacy of a new vehicle though. What I've laid out in repairs in the last year doesn't come close to $3600, even considering a new alternator/battery that I haven't bought yet, and the 'Sploder has some good years left in the engine. And hopefully the transmission. Besides, after seeing what I could get for a trade-in, it's probably worth it to drive it into the ground and eat the expense of gas.
Gah. Maybe. If nothing else, I should probably start socking away a chunk of change every month.
If I can ever get out of the hole that I'm currently in.