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Buying a Car

An automobile can improve your quality of life by adding more ease and convenience; yet, it’s also a major purchase that requires regular maintenance. Because of this, you’ll want to choose a car that won’t send your budget into overdrive. 

Before you begin shopping, look at your budget and determine how much you can afford to spend on a vehicle. Use the “How Much Car Can You Afford” calculator at the bottom of this page to help you determine a price range that is within your budget. As you plan how much you’ll spend on your future car, there are a few expenses that you can expect beyond buying the car itself, including: auto insurance, vehicle registration, maintenance, emission fees and fuel.

Auto Insurance - Every state requires drivers to purchase some form of liability coverage, which is intended to cover damage caused to other insured drivers. Beyond liability coverage, there are several other types of coverage that protect against damages incurred from fire, theft, natural disaster, bodily injury and more. Purchasing more types of coverage will increase your premium, but they also protect against potentially costly incidents. Insurance rates vary from state to state. Find your state’s minimum coverage requirements by checking your state’s vehicle registry website.

Vehicle Registration and Title - A title is proof of ownership that allows you to register your vehicle, which permits you to drive on public roads. You’ll need both the title and registration in order to get a vehicle license plate. Vehicle registration is managed by each state’s Department of Motor Vehicles or other agency that handles vehicle regulations. You can search for area agencies here

Maintenance - The best way to avoid the high costs of major repairs is with general vehicle maintenance. Catching a problem early on is better than waiting to fix it, as car issues can become more expensive to repair the longer they’re ignored. Overall, car care helps your car retain more of its value over time. You can follow these guidelines for basic car maintenance:

  • Keep a record of all your car’s maintenance and repairs, including date, mileage and amount paid.
  • If a repair is covered under your car’s warranty agreement, have it done at the dealership where you bought your vehicle rather than at an independent repair shop.
  • Avoid over-maintaining your car with extra or frequent repairs that you don’t need by following the maintenance guide in your car owner’s manual.
  • For repairs not covered by your car’s warranty, find an auto repair shop that you trust. Typically, dealerships charge higher prices than an independent auto repair shop when the necessary repair isn’t covered under your warranty.
  • On every repair job, get a second—or even third—opinion. Price and repair suggestions may vary.

Emission Fees and Gas - To minimize air pollution, many states require emissions testing and smog checks. Alternative fuel engine cars, such as hybrid, fully electric and diesel-powered vehicles, are exempt from emissions testing in some states.

Some makes and models of cars are more high maintenance than others and vary in type of fuel that they require—regular, mid-grade or supreme. Cars also vary widely in their gas mileage—how many miles you can drive for each gallon of gas, which is also called a car’s “fuel economy.” Mileage can be an important factor to consider, as cars with poor mileage that require more frequent fueling can prove costlier in the long run than cars that can be refueled less often.

Vehicle Warranty - New cars typically come with manufacturer warranties. But if you’re buying a used vehicle, it’s crucial to check if there’s some sort of warranty and what it might cover. If your car does not come with a warranty upon purchase, shop around to find a plan that’s right for your specific vehicle. You’ll want to examine any warranty closely to see whether it’s worth the extra cost, if it’s one you’d have to purchase separately.

Extended Warranty Plans from USSFCU

Explore USSFCU’s extended warranty options. Every plan includes: zero dollar deductible, nationwide coverage, 24/7/365 emergency roadside service and more. Learn More

Guaranteed Asset Protection (GAP) - In the event that your vehicle is stolen or totaled in an accident, GAP insurance will help cover the difference between your primary insurance settlement and the balance you still owe on your loan. GAP is not intended to replace your automobile insurance. It does not provide bodily injury, property damage, liability or collision insurance, and it does not comply with any financial responsibility or any other law mandating motor vehicle insurance.

Many dealerships sell GAP insurance coverage for an average of $500 to $1,000, and they often require a large payment upfront. Therefore, you’re likely to save a lot by purchasing GAP coverage through your car insurance company or another entity. For example, GAP Plus coverage from USSFCU costs only $299 and comes with unique benefits other plans just don’t include. 

The content on this page provides general consumer information. It is not legal advice or regulatory guidance. We do not endorse or guarantee the accuracy of third-party information.

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