Vehicles, value, and your financial future - Los Angeles Post-ExaminerLos Angeles Post-Examiner

Vehicles, value, and your financial future

The economy may have been having a great run for the past several years, but not all Americans are feeling all that flush with cash. In fact, lots of typical Americans often struggle to make ends meet. We Americans are poorer and more overrun with debt than we have been in decades. Studies show that most of us would struggle to pay unexpected bills of just a few hundred dollars without having to take out dangerous short-term loans. Most Americans have little, if anything, invested in the stock market, and far too few Americans have saved properly for retirement.

But the financial struggles that we encounter in our everyday lives don’t give us a free pass on the major expenses and unhappy surprises of life. Those of us with too little cash in the bank still get sick and have to pay medical bills. We still have to pay taxes, and we still have to put food on our tables. And, in most cases, we still have to buy a car, truck, or another vehicle to get to and from work.

And the vehicles are very, very expensive. Many of us have to take out loans just to afford them, and many of us are behind on or defaulting on those loans. Worse, our expensive investments in these vehicles pretty much always mean losing money. Vehicles get less valuable as they get older and depreciate.

Still, we can do a lot of things to make our investments in our vehicles as sensible as possible to our long-term financial futures.

How to buy a vehicle without going broke

The value of your pricey vehicle is never more obvious than when you’re shopping for one. Cars, trucks, SUVs, motorcycles, ATVs, and all other vehicles, from daily drivers to recreational wheels, are just plain expensive.

And this is where you can easily make a costly mistake. Far too few people budget properly for their big vehicle purchase, which is why so many people end up with excessive car debt. Vehicle loans can be perfectly sensible, but they’re not exactly healthy debt in the way that a mortgage is, and you need to be smart about setting and sticking to a budget that keeps your total vehicle costs (including loan payments, gas, maintenance, and more) to a relatively minor chunk of your take-home salary.

With your budget set, your struggle will be to stick to it. That will be easier if you shop online, the experts at Auto Auction Mall say. The sorts of hidden fees and add-on packages that dealerships like to spring on you are less common online, and online shopping will give you a wide selection and plenty of resources to draw on to be an informed shopper. Plus, some online dealerships offer auto auctions as well as buy-it-now features. Auctions are your chance for some serious bargains.

Maintaining your investment

Virtually all vehicles depreciate over time (the extremely few exceptions are certain rare and classic cars, motorcycles, and other vehicles). But how much your investment depreciates relies, to a great extent, on you and your behavior. If you drive sensibly and care for your vehicle, you’ll be a lot happier when it comes time to trade in your ride for your next one — and that can have a very significant effect on your overall financial situation.

To make the most of your investment in your vehicle, you’ll want to get friendly with a talented, certified, and trustworthy mechanic. Be proactive about your vehicle’s maintenance. That will be more cost-effective than waiting until things go wrong to get them fixed, and it will also keep your vehicle in better shape (and at a higher resale value). Don’t skimp on parts, either: Look for brand names, whether you’re replacing motorcycle batteries or minivan tires. The well-made stuff will last longer and keep your vehicle in better shape. And when your vehicle is in better shape, your finances will be, too.

About the author

Claire Peters

Claire Peters is a contributor to the Los Angeles Post-Examiner and Baltimore Post-Examiner. Contact the author.

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