Buying a car is almost a rite of passage. Making that first car purchase, negotiating with the seller, and arranging financing (if you need an auto loan) all require a certain amount of savvy.
And, once you successfully achieve the car-buying milestone, another signpost looms in the distance: Refinancing.
Whether youâre getting an auto loan for the first time, or you want to refinance your existing car debt, itâs important to be an informed consumer. Hereâs what you need to know.
Get your finances in order
Before beginning your car search, you need your finances in order, according to Joe Pendergast, the vice president of consumer lending for Navy Federal Credit Union.
âKnow your budget, check your credit score, and review your existing credit accounts to ensure they are reported accurately,â Pendergast said. Your credit situation can directly impact the interest you pay on your auto loan.
Emily Shutt, a certified financial coach who works closely with millennial women to help them manage a variety of money issues, suggested calling around to different dealers and banks or credit unions to see what credit bureau they use to check your score. Then you can check your report for errors and have them fixed before you talk to someone about financing your car purchase.
âHaving errors on a credit report can negatively impact score, which can put you at a huge disadvantage when youâre negotiating for an auto loan interest rate,â Shutt said.
You should also know ahead of time where you stand with your budget. Use an online loan calculator to determine what you can afford in terms of a monthly payment. For example, if you think you can handle a $305 monthly payment, and you have the credit to get an interest rate of 2.9% for a five-year loan, you might feel you can afford to borrow up to $17,000 for a car.
Save up for a down payment
Just because you might be able to borrow so much for a car doesnât mean you necessarily should. In fact, saving for a down payment makes a lot of sense, Shutt said. Not only does having a down payment help you to better negotiate your loan rate, but it also can allow you a shorter loan term and save you money in the long run.
Play around with the numbers a little with an online calculator. If you can put $7,000 down, so that you borrow only $10,000 of that $17,000 car, you could maybe get an interest rate of 2.5% and a loan term of three years. Even better, your monthly payment would only be $289 â and youâd save $1,494 in interest.
The less you borrow, the more money you have in the end. And thatâs money you can put toward investing in your future, rather than paying interest to someone else.
Know what you want â and what it costs
Once your finances are in order and maybe you have a down payment saved up, itâs time to figure out what you can actually buy. Avoid over-borrowing by knowing what you want in a car and having an idea of what it costs, Shutt suggested.
âEverything should already be online so you can get a sense of what all the options are,â said Shutt. A little research can go a long way toward helping you get a sense for which cars will fit into your budget.
Shutt pointed out that the job of salespeople is to get you to spend as much money as possible. The more you spend, the more you have to borrow â and the more youâll pay in interest. âConfidently stand your ground when a salesperson tries to upsell you or steer you in another direction,â she said.
Pendergast agreed on the need to research your car choices ahead of time. âKnow the price other dealerships in the area are offering so you can make an informed purchase,â he said.
Itâs even okay to play one sellerâs price off anotherâs to get the best deal. Donât be afraid to let the other dealerships know youâre shopping around. Theyâll be more inclined to negotiate with you, potentially resulting in a better deal.
Get an auto loan quote from a bank or credit union
Before you ask for dealer financing, suggested Pendergast, talk to a bank or credit union.
âYou should see what type of loans your financial institution has to offer,â said Pendergast. âThis will give you guidance for your budget, but will also increase your purchasing power to help you in negotiations, regardless of the dealerâs proposition being on par with the lenderâs.â
Donald E. Peterson, a consumer lawyer with almost 30 years of experience, warned that dealer financing still often requires the involvement of a bank or credit union. Dealers submit your information to lenders and get interest rates quotes back.
âSometimes dealers mark up the interest rate above the rate banks would buy the loan at,â Peterson said. âThe bank and the car dealer split the excess interest, usually 50-50.â
This practice isnât just limited to banks, either. âSome credit unions have entered into interest-rate kickback agreements with car dealerships,â Peterson said. âYou must apply to the credit union yourself to get the best rate.â
Starting with a financial institution allows you to get an idea of whatâs available to you. Then, youâre in a position where a dealer who wants to finance you has to match the rate youâve already been offered, rather than steer you toward an alternative arrangement.
Consider a cosigner
With my own first auto loan experience, I had to deal with the fact that I had a thin credit file. I didnât have enough credit established to get a car loan without an unacceptably high interest rate.
I went through the steps of creating a budget and deciding how much I could afford, including factoring in my car insurance costs. However, after checking my credit report, I realized that having a credit card for six months wasnât enough for me to establish much of a credit history.
After compiling research about the types of used cars I could afford, and how my earnings from my job were enough to cover an auto loan payment, I approached my parents. My dad was willing to cosign on a modest car loan through his credit union.
My interest rate â and my monthly payment â were lower because I had cosigner with good credit. I made all my payments on time, helping build my credit history so that the next time I bought a car, I was able to get a good interest rate without the need for a cosigner.
As you research your options, donât forget about the possibility of using a cosigner. If you donât have the credit history to get a good auto loan rate on your own, borrowing someone elseâs good name can help you save money â while at the same time allowing you a way to establish your own credit for the future.
Donât fall for the monthly payment scheme
While you do want to figure out what monthly payment youâre comfortable with, you donât want to get caught up in it at the dealership, cautioned Shutt.
âFocus on the all-in price of the car,â said Shutt. âIf the salesperson can get you to verbalize a monthly payment target, theyâll just manipulate other factors like the duration of the loan.â
When that happens, Shutt pointed out, you might end up hitting your targeted monthly payment, but long-term interest charges and other factors could mean that your car ends up being a lot more expensive. She said you should figure out about how much youâll pay each month over a loan term youâre comfortable with, and then buy a car with a final price that fits those parameters.
âTake your time, and donât be manipulated,â Shutt said. âIf youâre not comfortable negotiating, bring a friend or family member who can support you in sticking to your budget.â
What about refinancing?
In some cases, you might discover that you qualify for a lower auto loan interest rate than you currently pay.
âMaybe youâve been making timely payments for a year or two and your credit score has gone up,â said Shutt. âNow you can consider refinancing the loan.â
However, itâs important to be careful moving forward. Just as you shop around for the best auto loan rates on a new loan, it makes sense to shop for refinancing rates. Check with a few banks and credit unions to see if you can get a few quotes for refinancing.
When you refinance, watch out for lengthening the loan term. If you only have three years on your term, it might not make sense to refinance to a five year loan. Instead, only refinance what you have left. You could save on interest charges and still get rid of your car debt in the original time frame.
Shutt also recommended looking online for car loans. Compare the rates you find with online auto loan refinancing platforms to what your local financial institutions offer. By playing different lenders off each other, you could strike a better bargain â especially if you have good credit.
Know your finances and be ready to negotiate
Auto loans are a massive industry, with more than $1 trillion owed to U.S. lenders. Rather than being just another statistic, consider how you can come out on top.
Know your finances and understand what you can expect, Pendergast said. When you know where you stand, and when you research ahead of time, you can call dealers and lenders out. Shop around for the best auto loan rates and terms, and let dealers know youâve done your homework, so that negotiations will go much better, saving you time and, importantly, money.
If you want to be sure your credit is good enough to purchase a car, you can check your three credit reports for free once a year. To track your credit more regularly, Credit.comâs free Credit Report Card is an easy-to-understand breakdown of your credit report information that uses letter gradesâplus you get two free credit scores updated every 14 days.
The post A Millennial’s Guide to Getting Your First Car Loan appeared first on Credit.com.
If a fire happens, will your important documents stay safe?
Apartment dwellers need to be proactive about protecting critical information in case of a fire. Plenty of us have gone digital when it comes to storage of personal information, but certain items still need to come in hard copies. And some things, other than papers, also need a tangible safe place.
The safety deposit box at the local bank is still an option. However, bank hours aren’t always aligned with yours. If you want to go the digital route, look for companies that specialize in the storage of critical data. You can access your info directly from your phone, tablet or Amazon’s Alexa device. But if you prefer to go more old school â you need to think about protecting your valuables that are difficult to replace.
What will you need easy access to when you’re in an emergency fire crisis? Your list will probably look like this: an original birth certificate, social security card, insurance papers and car titles and other original docs. You could also include spare keys, passports and irreplaceable items like heirloom jewelry. A fireproof safe box will give you peace of mind. And, it will act as a security measure should a fire occur.
Are all fire safe boxes the same?
Did you know that not all fire safe boxes are alike? For example, standard fireproof safes protect your valuables against intense heat and smoke damage for periods of up to 120 minutes, according to Western Safe, while others can withstand the heat for longer. So, what’s the best type of fireproof box? Experts say it all depends on what you intend to store.
You should look for a fire safe box that has emergency override keys so you can open it up even if you forget the passcode. The keys are also good if the batteries run out on the keypad.
To help you know what things to keep in a fire safe box in your apartment, we’ve organized a list. These items make good sense to safeguard against fire:
- Critical documents: Store your checking and savings account bank books, birth certificates, social security cards, wills and passports in a fire safe box. If you need to get out at a moment’s notice, these important documents will be safe and accessible.
- Digital media: Your digital must-haves include USB sticks, memory cards and CDs. These items are your physical back-up. And this is especially true if you don’t want your most private data to live on remote servers.
- Insurance policies: Talk to your insurance company about your renters insurance following the fire. Having access right away to your policy will help you to take action post-fire.
- Cash: Life today is debit and credit card-driven. But it’s also smart to keep a stash of small bills on hand. If an emergency calls for quick cash, you’ll be glad you thought ahead and put some aside.
- Other valuables: Remember to organize a file with essential information. Include emergency numbers of family members. Have your prescriptions, who your family doctor is and contact info for your pet’s vet, too.
Do your homework
Before purchasing a fire safe box, be sure to research what’s on the market. You’ll be surprised to find a range of choices. You can even select from fireproof safes that you can bolt to the ground or wall. Is the fire safe box waterproof? If not, be sure to protect all contents by storing them in plastic.
An official fire rating from the Underwriters Laboratory comes with all safes, according to Haven Life. The rating lets you know what temperature the fire safe box will stay inside during a fire. It will also let you know how long it will stay at that temperature.
Look for fire safe boxes that are either 125 degrees Fahrenheit or 325-degrees safe. They typically come with up to three hours’ worth of protection. Spruce reports that some fire safe boxes can withstand fires with temperatures up to 1,550 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes.
Does size matter?
Fire safe boxes are compact to mid-size and come in a range to meet your needs. You can find options with a capacity of 0.17 cubic feet and weighing in at just 14 pounds. Or, one that weighs a little less than 28 pounds and can store flat 8-1/2-by-11-inch, letter-sized documents.
Extra-large capacity fire boxes can hold much more. They can weigh more than 100 pounds and measure more than 1-1/2-feet on each side. But the size is worth it because it gives your stuff a greater chance of surviving a disaster, according to Wirecutter. The site recommends a fire safe box the size of a mini-fridge that weighs in at 56 pounds.
Choose a fire safe box that has all the protective features and benefits to keep your important documents safe. In the long run, the investment could prove to be a wise one.
The post What Items Should You Put in a Fire Safe Box appeared first on Apartment Living Tips – Apartment Tips from ApartmentGuide.com.
Even Americans who havenât visited know that New York City never sleeps. Endless streams of people on the street and taxi cabs clogging the roadways are just part of the ceaseless movement in the city. With a population nearing nine million people, New York City always has something going on within its five boroughs.
With all the commotion, itâs safe to say that New York City could be one of the loudest cities on earth. However, it seems that New Yorkers are getting tired of the noise more than usual this year. From COVID-19 lockdowns to widespread protests, New York City has become quite chaotic lately â is this the cause of the increase in noise complaints?
We analyzed data from NYC OpenData, which includes a database of 311 calls placed within the city. We looked at noise complaint calls placed from February 1, 2020, to June 30, 2020, and from February 1, 2019, to June 30, 2019.
We also used available population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau to weigh noise complaint call data in relation to the population of each New York borough: The Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island.
Noise complaints rise 106% in one year
Itâs no secret that New York City is a noisy place ââ the bustling streets and never-ending traffic jams create quite the cacophony of sound. However, it seems like residents are complaining about noise more than ever, especially since last year. Total complaints more than doubled from this time last year, increasing by 106 percent.Â
Hereâs a breakdown of the data between 2019 and 2020:Â
Noise complaints increased by over 106 percent from 2019 to 2020 (within the measured time period). The city also saw a 97 percent increase in complaints from the beginning of April to the end of May 2020, marking the largest jump in noise complaints so far this year. These increases paint a striking picture of the considerable changes in city life over the last several months.
COVID-19, lockdowns and protests in NYC
The beginning of March marked the start of quarantines, lockdowns and panic over the COVID-19 pandemic. With such a huge population density (27,000 people per square mile), New York City quickly fell into chaos as the virus spread through the city ââ as of June 30, there were over 212,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New York City alone.
Quarantines and lockdowns within the city meant millions of people began working from home. With so many now at home from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., itâs no surprise that New Yorkers had more to complain about when it comes to noisy neighbors and the sounds of city traffic. The data reflects this timeline perfectly, showing a difference of nearly 10,000 additional complaints logged in March (compared to February).
The end of May 2020 came with a new noise in New York City: protests. This unrest was widespread across New York City, with protests in all five boroughs. The sheer volume of these protests can be seen clearly in the data we analyzed. From the beginning of May to the end of June, noise complaints increased by 79 percent. Additionally, complaints of âloud talkingâ more than doubled from the beginning of April to the end of May, about the time when the protests began.
Battle of the boroughs: Who complains the most in NYC?
Despite having a smaller population than other boroughs, The Bronx has logged the most noise complaints in 2020 so far ââ a total of 81,869 complaints logged from February to June.
Because populations differ across the five boroughs, we divided each boroughâs total complaints by its respective total population to find comparable percentages.
Borough-specific data is below:
- The Bronx: 81,869 total complaints (6 percent of the population)
- Manhattan: 74,661 total complaints (5 percent of the population)
- Brooklyn: 73,899 total complaints (3 percent of the population)
- Queens: 49,469 total complaints (2 percent of the population)
- Staten Island: 6,635 total complaints (1 percent of the population)
A borough rich in local culture, The Bronx has been called the birthplace of hip-hop and salsa, is home to Yankee Stadium and boasts one of the most diverse populations in the city. This diversity could be related to a higher volume of noise complaints, especially since a 2017 study published in the Environmental Health Perspectives Journal determined that neighborhoods with higher poverty rates and larger minority populations experience more noise pollution than other neighborhoods.
New York City explodes with fireworks
From the beginning of April to the end of June this year, complaints about illegal fireworks increased by a staggering 283,595 percent ââÂ only 19 complaints were logged in April, while complaints in June totaled 53,902. Brooklyn is seeing the majority of complaints about fireworks, with approximately one in three complaints originating from the largest of the boroughs.
Fireworks are the second most complained-about noise in New York City from February to June, with loud music and parties taking the first place prize for the most complained-about noise (157,823 total complaints during this time period). With this in mind, itâs important to note that 311 OpenData categorizes these complaints in their own section, rather than grouping them with other noise complaints.
Here is a breakdown of the noises New Yorkers complained about the most in June 2020:Â
- Loud music and parties: 73,238 complaints
- Fireworks: 53,902 complaints
- Traffic: 10,795 complaints
- Loud talking: 7,213 complaints
- Construction: 2,014 complaints
While summer fireworks in New York City have always been present, this year is definitely unique. The unusual volume of fireworks has raised many conspiracy theories among New Yorkers, with some claiming the government is using the fireworks to desensitize the public to âwar-like sounds.â Others claim the police are using the fireworks as a punishment for the recent protests, while some say New Yorkers are simply bored in quarantine.
Whatever the cause of the fireworks, they are wreaking havoc across the city. Countless residents have been hospitalized with firework-related injuries and the city government has created a police taskforce to curb illegal firework activity, with police donning riot gear and arresting anyone believed to be involved.
New York City has always been loud, but 2020 seems to have turned up the volume in the city. Noise complaints are at an all-time high with no end in sight. If youâre living in New York City this summer, there are easy ways to soundproof your home.
U.S. Census Bureau | New York City OpenData: 1, 2 | Gothamist | The Atlantic
The post NYC Noise Complaints Increase 279% in Just 4 Months appeared first on Apartment Living Tips – Apartment Tips from ApartmentGuide.com.
Once upon a time, you loved your car. You loved it so much that you agreed to the payment terms and drove it home from the dealer or, dare we say, a private seller. But now, that love has grown cold and you wish youâd never laid eyes on it. And to make matters worse, youâre bound to its existence and monetary depreciationâthanks to that sweet-little-pain-in-the-butt payment book. Or at least, thatâs what youâre afraid of.
If youâre wondering if you can return your unwanted car without any more financial obligation, read on. Weâll discuss whether itâs possible and what you can expect.
Can I Return My Car?
Readers have asked us if they can just âgive the keys backâ and get a car that is reliable and without unanticipated problemsâspecifically, a vehicle they can confidently drive with their family, friends, or pets in tow. The short answer is yes, but thereâs a variety of potential repercussions and unseen problems.
Before you do anything, find out the following:
- If you purchased your car through a private seller, does your state have a âlemon lawâ?
- If you purchased your car through a dealership, does the dealer have a return policy?
If you can answer âyesâ to either of these questions, look into these options further to see if your circumstances apply and what youâre entitled to.
However, if you have no recourse under your stateâs lemon law and your situation doesnât qualify for a dealershipâs return policy, returning the car is going to be a little tricky and could have credit implicationsâwhich youâll want to consider, especially if you plan to lease or purchase another car once you give the other one back.
Returning the Car to the Dealer
Despite how liberating and freeing a car return may feel, giving the vehicle back to the dealer wonât erase your debt. In fact, the consequences could be just as frustrating as the junk car itself.
âTechnically, if you give the car back, it is the same as a repossession,â Matt Briggs, co-founder and CEO of RentTrack, explains. âKeep in mind you have a legal obligation to pay the terms of the loan and the car dealer is typically not the finance company who holds the loan (unless they are âbuy here pay hereâ). Either way you cannot simply âgive backâ the vehicle to a dealer and walk away.â
So look at it this way: to simply give the car back is to consent to automobile repossessionâmeaning the car would be sold at auction, and you would be responsible for the difference in what the car brought at auction and the amount you still owe on the car.
Plus, youâd be on the hook for expenses involved in this process, such as repossession, towing, title and sale, and storage. So if you leave the car at the dealership, you still owe the debtâwhich could total to more than the dang clunker is worthâand youâre out a working vehicle.
Concerned about what could happen to your credit score? According to Experian, a car repossession stays on your credit report for seven yearsâeven after the original account goes delinquent. You can see how your debt has affected you by getting a free credit report summary on Credit.com, which will explain what factors influence your credit score.
Car Debt and Bankruptcy
There is a way, however, to force a dealer to âeat steel,â says Eugene Melchionnne, a Connecticut bankruptcy attorney. To do so, you can surrender the car and discharge the debt in bankruptcyâbut then youâd have to apply for bankruptcy. âThere is also a process for âcramming downâ the debt to the value of the car in bankruptcy, and in a Chapter 13 case, you can spread the balance owed over an extended period of time,â he says.
âFor example, if the car loan is for $20,000, but the car is worth $10,000, the loan can be reduced to $10,000, and if there are, say, four years left to pay at $500 per month, the payments can be spread out to a maximum of five years on the lowered balance, resulting in $330 or more a month savings,â Melchionne explains.
Selling or Trading the Car Instead
With all that said, it might be simpler and cheaper to sell the vehicle yourself or trade it in for something else, which is what Matt Briggs suggests you do.
â[At] most repossession auctions, the cars sell for a much lower price than the retail value, so you may end up owing more than you would if you sold it [as a] private party (using a website like AutoTrader, eBay, or Cars.com) or if you traded it in on a different vehicle.â
The Bottom Line
For most of us, simply driving the car back to the dealership and handing over the keys, however tempting, is not a workable strategy. So after you dig yourself out of this mess, do as much due diligence as possible before you buy next time.
âBottom line,â Briggs said, âyou have a legal obligation to pay the car loan in full, so make sure you are getting a good deal before you sign on the dotted line.â
The post My New Car Is a Piece of Junk. Can I Return It to the Dealer? appeared first on Credit.com.
Tornadoes are no joke. With winds that can top 250 miles per hour, these storms can clear a path a mile wide and 50 miles long. Emerging from afternoon thunderstorms, tornadoes usually include hail and high winds. This is why you need to take cover when the warning siren goes off.
The average alert time for a tornado is 13 minutes, but there are environmental clues one is on its way. The sky transforms into a dark, greenish mass and begins to roar like an oncoming train.
Tornadoes can happen anywhere
Tornadoes occur all over the world, but, âIn terms of absolute tornado counts, the United States leads the list, with an average of over 1,000 tornadoes recorded each year,” according to the National Centers for Environmental Information.
The U.S. experiences tornadoes all over the country, but one particular area gets hit the hardest. Known as Tornado Alley, the area covers South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Northern Texas and Eastern Colorado.
Whether you live in an area where tornadoes are common or not, it’s important to know how to stay safe in your apartment. Just as you create a plan for many emergency situations, know where to go in your apartment during these destructive storms.
Staying safe in an apartment building
On average, tornadoes move at speeds of about 10-20 miles per hour. They rarely travel more than six miles, which means they can damage a whole section of town. For that reason, if a tornado is in your area, seek shelter.
While basements are not an option in all apartment buildings, get low if you can during a tornado. Heading to the basement or even the sub-level of a parking garage offers the most insulation against the weather.
If your building doesn’t have a basement, try to get to the lowest floor if you can, regardless of whether or not it’s underground.
The next safest option during a tornado is any area fully-inside the building. This means no outside walls. Under a stairwell, an interior hallway or even a room within your apartment can work. Make sure there are no windows.
Crouch down as low as you can get with your face down. Cover your head with your hands for extra protection or bring in a bike helmet to wear during the storm. Because of your location, there’s still a chance for debris to fall, so protecting your head is important.
Even if they have an exterior wall or windows, bathrooms are safe because the thick pipes inside the walls insulate you during a tornado. Climb into the bathtub if you have one and bring in your bed’s mattress to serve as a cover.
These are usually interior rooms by design, making closets a good choice to ride out a tornado. Pull your clothes off their hangers and grab any bedding from the shelves to insulate yourself. Don’t forget to close the closet door for even more protection.
Avoid dangerous areas
Tornadoes kill about 80 people each year, according to John Roach at AccuWeather. There was a decrease in tornado fatalities in 2018, with only 10 Americans dying. This is the lowest number since record-keeping started in 1875.
Yet, people still lose their lives to these dangerous storms. While knowing the safest places to be in your apartment during a tornado, you should also know what areas to avoid.
With gusting winds strong enough to shatter glass, windows become dangerous during a tornado. Even worse, once a window breaks, all kinds of debris can blow inside.
If you can’t stay completely clear from windows during a tornado, do your best to block them and protect yourself. If you can, duct tape a blanket over the window or slide a big piece of furniture in front to keep glass out of your apartment.
While it may seem like a good idea to slide under your bed or inch behind a heavy dresser for protection during a tornado, it’s not. These pieces of furniture can shift during a storm or even fall through the floor. You don’t want to get pinned under or against something so heavy you can’t move.
Preparing for a tornado
If you live in an area where tornado warnings are common, consider creating a tornado evacuation kit to have on hand. These can include items you’d need to safely and easily exit your apartment after a tornado passes, such as:
- Portable radio
- Extra batteries
- Cell phone charger
- Bottled water
- Spare set of car and apartment keys
- Photocopy of your driver’s license
Having these items ready can make it easier to evacuate your building after the storm.
Remaining safe after the tornado passes
Being safe doesn’t stop once a tornado passes. Dealing with the aftermath of this type of storm includes new dangers. Make sure to watch out for fallen or exposed utility lines, downed trees or limbs and debris.
Exercise extreme caution when leaving your apartment building. If enough damage occurs, you may have to stay out of your apartment. You may not see the dangers, so it’s important to wait for an official word before reentering. When you can, take pictures of any damage to your own property since you’ll most likely have to file an insurance claim.
Preparing for the unexpected such as weather, fire or even flood means having the right supplies and the best information on how to stay safe.
The post The Safest Place in Your Apartment During a Tornado appeared first on Apartment Living Tips – Apartment Tips from ApartmentGuide.com.