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Smart Car Tips to Help Keep Your Credit Tuned Up

This weekend is the unofficial start of summer and it provides the perfect time for road trips and vacation getaways with family and friends. But with the cost of gasoline and the price of car maintenance, the cost of keeping your car on the road can add up. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) recommends several preventative automotive care measures to keep your credit and your car tuned up:

  • Be smart about buying gasoline.
    • There are many web sites and phone apps (like GasBuddy.com) and local media that track gas station prices, but don’t drive the extra miles to get the lower price – that’s like throwing money out the window. Also, don’t waste your money buying premium fuel if your engine calls for regular.
    • You also can use grocery shopping to get a discount on your fuel.  Certain places, like Kroger, offer 10 cents off per gallon per $100 spent on groceries.  This can add up and make a difference in your total gas bill.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule.Maintaining your car will help keep repair costs down, prolong the life of the automobile and allow the vehicle to continue to use fuel efficiently.
  • Analyze your current auto expenses.Gather monthly operating and ownership costs including gas, repairs and other auto maintenance, as well as, the amount for the car loan, insurance, taxes and finance charges, respectively. Also, calculate your average daily mileage for the week and weekends. Auto Web sites such as AAA.com have worksheets for assistance. How does your car stack up?
  • Buy smart, so you can save later.Not everyone can afford a hybrid vehicle, but with proper research and planning, everyone does have the potential to save big bucks.
    • Check out a car’s city and highway miles per gallon. Does the car get good gas mileage? Can you use regular unleaded gasoline or does it need premium fuel?
    • Read all the fine print and check the seller’s reputation. If you’re buying a used car, verify the car’s history. Reputable dealerships will offer a free Carfax.
  • Finance the right way. Even if you have bad credit, shop around for the lowest interest rate.
    • Places that appeal to buyers “regardless of credit” often will saddle you with a vehicle a more reputable dealer would have scrapped.
    • Be sure to negotiate based on the price of the vehicle, not the monthly payment.
    • As a general rule, don’t sign up for a car loan longer than four to five years. Don’t sign up for a payment that will make wreck your budget.  Even if you are approved for a high amount, it doesn’t mean you have to spend it.

If your budget is stretched thin, saving every little bit will help get you on the right track. Sometimes, it can help to have a certified financial counselor do a comprehensive budget review, especially if you are having a hard time making ends meet. Get in touch with a certified counselor at one of our member agencies to get started!