New to Civilian Life? Tips for Financing a Car

One of the biggest adjustments newly-minted veterans can face is getting approved for loans. Once you’re out of the service, you’ll probably want, if not need, a reliable car. Even if you already have a car, it’s a good bet it isn’t the one you see yourself in over the next few years.

With car loan interest rates at reasonable levels, this is a good time to think about getting a new car or truck, or a new late model. But if you have bad credit, or very little credit, it’s hard to take advantage of these rates. Here are some tips for getting a fair shot at car financing:

First, Determine What You Can Afford

This may sound like advice from Captain Obvious, but a car brings more than a loan to your financial picture. There’s insurance, which varies across the country. FastQuotesDirect tracks average yearly car insurance costs for each state, ranging from $2700 in Louisiana to less than $1000 in Maine.

You also need to set money aside for maintenance. Maybe you know how to change the oil and filter (and be sure that this is permitted where you live; many home owner associations and apartment complexes don’t allow car maintenance on their grounds!), but do you know how to rotate and balance tires, replace brake pads, and flush out the transmission?

Make a list of yearly car expenses outside the payment you’ll undertake. Call around or go on the Web find out local costs for each of these:

  • Insurance payments
  • Maintenance costs
  • Gas
  • New tires
  • Garage or parking fees
  • Car property tax
  • Registration fees

Add these costs to your budget and you’ll have a good idea of how much you really have for a car and its associated expenses.

If Your Credit is So-So, Don’t Panic

Look at your credit rating before you apply for car loans. As, points out, lenders will look at these and you should, too. You can request a free report from the three major credit bureaus each year at You may be a little relieved to see that these reports look at a few things, including how long you’ve had credit, your on-time rate for paying bills, and how much of the credit available to you is used.

If your first job was with the service, you may not have a lot of credit built up just yet. Or maybe your credit is less than sterling. If you aren’t satisfied with the rates you’re being offered, consider going to a lender that specializes in credit repair and working with so-called credit risks. Reputable lenders like Drive Time report to credit unions, which helps their customers, and has very high (4.5 stars) ratings, according to information at

Get Pre-Approved for a Loan Before You Go Car Shopping

Another benefit of working with dedicated car loan services is that you can get pre-approved for loans, learn how much you can borrow and finalize payment terms before your heart is set on a vehicle. Shopping within realistic boundaries is more rewarding and less frustrating. points out that it also makes it easier to negotiate with the salespeople: just ask “what’s the out-the-door price?” It also eliminates any delivery complications resulting from loan complications.


About Roger Young

Roger served with A Troop, 3/17th Air Cav "Silver Spurs" as a Scout Crew Chief in Vietnam from '69 - '70.
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