Checklist for buying your next vehicle

This content is sponsored by PenFed

Today, it’s easy to research different makes and models of cars without leaving the comfort of your home. But there are many other resources available to help you make an informed decision. Here are some items you’ll want to check off your list before you head out to the dealership.

Item 1: Check Your Credit Score

Checking your FICO credit score gives you a chance to correct errors in your credit history and have a better idea about the kind of rate you should be able to get on a loan. A better score will generally translate into a lower interest rate. Keep an eye on auto loan rates so you have a sense for the market and know a good deal when you see one. Remember, commercials will list the lowest rate possible — which is not necessarily the rate for which you’ll qualify.

Item 2: Think “Complete Cost”

The complete cost of a vehicle includes what you pay plus your interest, minus any trade in. Most car dealer web site have tools that allow you to see the difference that different interest rates will make on your monthly payment. Rather than adjusting the length of the loan to make your payments go down, consider a car that you can pay off the most quickly, maximizing its value.

Item 3: Consider Gap Insurance

You may want to include gap insurance in your complete cost estimate. Gap insurance is an optional product that covers you for the “gap” between the loan amount and the car’s value in the event the car is totaled or stolen. While you can purchase gap insurance from a dealership, you can often get a better deal through your local credit union.

Item 4: See the Big Picture

For a bigger range of options, consider using PenFed’s Car Buying Service, powered by TrueCar. Available to all PenFed members, the Car Buying Service allows you to sort through thousands of new and used cars in your area. You can view pricing from certified dealers and find out what other people paid for similar cars before you buy. Plus, if you use the Car Buying Service and finance with PenFed, you could qualify for an even lower loan rate than you would with financing alone. There’s no military service required to become a member of PenFed.

Item 5: Know Your Options

You don’t have to use dealer financing. If you get pre-approved for a loan by your credit union, you’ll know exactly what you can afford. And if you’re not getting what you want at a particular dealership, be ready to walk away. You can always go to another dealer or choose another type of car.

To learn more about PenFed auto loans and the PenFed Car Buying Service, contact PenFed Credit Union at 800-247-5626 or visit

To receive any advertised product, you must become a member of PenFed.

PenFed is federally insured by NCUA.

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