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While I am all for helping the economy and the environment, the awesome thing about a clunker is that is (hopefully!) paid for in full. If you are one of the more than six hundred thousand who got cash for your clunker, you are the proud owner of a new car… and possibly some new debt.
Cash for Clunkers, or the $1 billion government funded program officially named Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS), looks to be getting an extension. Congress is planning to invest an additional $2 billion into the program in the form of government stimulus rebates of up to $4,500 per clunker. The first phase of the program was wildly successful wiping out the initial $1 billion investment more than four months ahead of schedule. The success of this program will do a lot for the auto industry, but ask yourself – what will it do for your bottom line.
Buying a new, more gas efficient car, means less money for gas, but more money for monthly car payment and insurance. People who own clunkers are more than likely not locked into a car loan. Going from zero monthly payments to paying more than $300 a month on average, could make a huge impact on your family’s budget.
When shopping for a car, using the Cash for Clunkers incentive, the same fundamentals of buying still apply. The key is to do your homework:
Determine what you can afford. Review your spending plan and determine how much you can allocate each month for the car payment, gas, insurance, registration and maintenance.
Get the best deal. Shop around for the best offers. With new car sales at a 27 year low, car dealerships are offering amazing rebates and incentives. In addition to the government rebate on fuel efficient cars, you may also qualify for thousands of dollars in dealer incentives.
Consider new vs. used. Carefully weigh your options and consider the loan terms on a new car vs. a used car. According to Bankrate.com, the average used car rate is 7.5 percent and the average on a new car is 2.9 percent, which means you could save more over time on a new car.
Finally, shop around for the best rate. Credit unions and smaller finance companies may offer better loan terms than larger lenders.
What you should know about the Cash for Clunkers program:
• The purchased vehicles, which must be new (2008, 2009, 2010 models). • The vehicle can not cost more than $45,000. • Motorcycles are not part of the trade-in or sales process. • Your clunker has to be in driveable condition. • You must have a clear title to present to the dealer; no liens. • The person on the title of the clunker has to be the same person who is buying the new car.
Rental car prices vary a lot. The price you pay depends on a number of factors including the rental agency you choose, the type of car you want to drive, your location, the time of year, and even the time of day. According to USA Today, the price of a rental car can change several times a day. In fact, they can increase 50 percent or more within 24 hours. While it can be hard to hit such a constantly moving target, the following tips should help you get the best deal possible.
-Don’t rent more car than you need. If you only need a standard compact car, don’t pay for a specialty SUV.
-Make a commitment. The weekly rate might work out to be cheaper than the per day rate (you can always return the car early, but you'll pay if you return the car even a little bit late). Many travel experts also advise you to make your reservations at least a week in advance, although I am personally a big fan of last-minute deals.
-Shop around. You can call or surf around on your own or use a Web site like Sidestep.com to compare prices. Don’t overlook coupons—I found one in the “e-book” sold at my daughter’s school.
-Name your price (or try to anyway). Sites like Hotwire.com and Priceline.com allow you to negotiate on the price. My dad’s best vacation memory was time he paid only $32 a day to drive a red convertible. (Note: he did not follow the first tip!)
-Flash your membership card. You probably already belong to an organization with rental car benefits. AAA, Union Privilege, and AARP are just a few examples of organizations whose members enjoy rental car discounts.
-Join their club. Many rental car companies have their own loyalty programs with discounts for frequent renters. If it is free to sign up, you’ve got nothing to lose.
-Don’t pay for add-ons you don’t need. When you rent a car, you will be offered insurance products. Before you agree to pay more, check to see if your existing car insurance policy covers the rental.
-Know the cost of convenience. Try to avoid renting at the airport; most airports charge convenience fees and many add rental taxes in addition to sales tax. If you have a child who needs a car seat, bring it (‘it’ meaning the car seat) along. And don’t forget to fill up the gas tank at the end of your trip to avoid facing high refueling charges.
Finally, don’t forget to look into alternatives. Research other methods of transportation including traveling by bike, bus, hotel shuttle, or taxi.
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