Weekly auto rail, with car-buying tips, Car Q&A with Junior Damato and more.
Tip of the Week
It's likely you'll need to finance your vehicle purchase, especially if you're buying new. A good credit score can help reassure potential lenders that you'll be a good credit risk - and make them more inclined to offer you a lower interest rate for your auto loan. Here are some ways to help ensure your credit is in the best possible shape before you buy a car:
- Check your score: While you may take advantage of your annual free credit report, that report doesn't include a credit score. Since a credit score will have an impact on how lenders perceive your credit worthiness, it is a good idea to understand where you stand. So, before you set foot on a car lot, you can learn about your credit score with enrollment in a site like freecreditscore.com. If you have a good credit score, you'll likely have a leg up on negotiating better loan terms. If your score is low, you may want to make some adjustments and decisions before applying for an auto loan.
- Take action: Pay off credit card bills, set up automatic payments for recurring debts so you're never late and never miss a payment, keep paid up credit cards open (this improves your ratio of credit available to credit used) and avoid opening any new credit accounts in the months leading up to your car purchase.
- Shop around for the best loan deal: You can find many sources of vehicle financing, from your neighborhood bank or credit union to online lenders and even dealer financing. Explore your options before you go car shopping. Never rely on the dealer to give you the best loan terms. Instead, secure your own financing before you go shopping, and then give the dealer the opportunity to match or beat those terms.
Once your credit is in shape, follow these simple steps to find the car that's right for you:
- Decide what car you want. You can narrow this down to a couple of options or even just one. Think about how you'll use the car and the features it absolutely must have. Do you need an automatic transmission and a third row? Next, consider the features you would like to have, but could live without if you had to. Do you dream of a sunroof or a sporty spoiler?
- Research pricing information. You can find ample information online about vehicle pricing from resources like Kelly Blue Book or Edmunds. Learn the difference between the sticker price and the invoice price, and how dealers get from the lower invoice figure to the higher one on the sticker.
- Test drive the car more than once and at more than one dealership. Don't be afraid to ask dealers to beat each other's offers. Competition can be healthy - for you and the dealers.
- When it's time to close the deal, be prepared to negotiate. You and the dealer have the same objective in mind - to get the best price for the car. Of course, your best price and his are likely two different numbers, so you'll need to negotiate toward a number you can both be happy about.
According to The Street, here are the top convertibles for this summer:
2013 Jeep Wrangler
2013 Porsche 911 Cabriolet
2013 Fiat 500C
2013 Mini Cooper
Mazda MX5 Miata
2012 Audi R8 Spyder
2012 Chevrolet Camaro/2013 Ford Mustang
2012 BMW 3 Series
2012 Volkswsagen Eos
Did You Know
Lamborghini plans to release an SUV sometime in the near future. It will be called Urus.
Q: I own a 1998 Ford Windstar limited edition that has been great so far. Recently I’ve been having what I think is a shifting problem. Three times when trying to enter the highway, the car would go but barely broke 20 mph and once I had to drive home doing 35 mph. If I tried to go faster the car would buck and shake and get noisy. About five blocks from home the car acted normal and has been ever since, even getting 70 mph recently. The mechanic couldn’t find any computer codes. The transmission shop did a compression test that was normal, the fluid is clean. This has us baffled. Do you think this is a transmission problem or mechanical or even a computer problem? The van has 125,000 miles and runs great except for this intermittent problem. I really enjoy this car and would like to keep it. Thank you for any help.
A: With no fault codes present, did the technician check for any history or pending codes? The noise you mention does sound mechanical not electronic. Check a dragging brake, especially a rear brake shoe. Without more information there is no way anybody can pinpoint your problem. Have the technician check the free wheel spinning of all four wheels.
- Junior Damato, Talking Cars columnist
GateHouse News Service