Financial Well-Being Blog
two female friends smiling in car on a road trip at sunset
November 16, 2023

Streamline Your Next Car Purchase

This article was recently published in CommunityAmerica's "Let's Talk Money" section of the Kansas City Star.


Buying a car can be exciting and with so many options, features and financing terms to consider, it may quickly become overwhelming. But your next auto purchase doesn’t have to be a stressful ordeal. Buckle up and get ready to drive off in your dream car without the usual hassle and stress. Read on for tips to help navigate the car buying journey with ease and confidence.

Set a Budget

Finding out what you can comfortably afford to spend on a monthly auto loan payment should be your first step in deciding on a new car purchase. To get an idea of how an auto loan payment will fit into your monthly budget, start by determining your budgeting strategy.


It's also important to keep in mind the other costs associated with your purchase beyond the monthly auto loan payment, such as gas, auto insurance, licensing, warranties, and maintenance. A good rule of thumb is to aim to spend no more than 15-20% of your gross monthly income on your car payment.


You'll want to look at your full financial picture to determine your ideal price range. To simplify this process, we offer a couple of handy calculators that can help you estimate what your monthly payment might be and how much car you can afford.

Search Smart

Once you have a price point in mind, you can start looking for the right vehicle. A great place to start is with the car currently sitting in your driveway. What do you like and dislike about it? Make a list of priorities to help you narrow your search. Perhaps you're looking for something fun, so a sunroof and heated seats would be top of mind. Or, maybe you're in need of the new family road trip hauler, where safety features and backseat and storage space would matter most. Whatever you're looking for, you can use those particulars as key words or check boxes while browsing online to help eliminate distractions and view only the vehicles that would be the best fit for your needs and lifestyle.


Our AutoSMART tool is a great way to see all your options by browsing local dealer inventory and checking availability in your area. Plus, you can search by specifications, purchase price or even monthly payment amount.

Know Your Numbers

Before you get too far in the car-buying process, it's also a good idea to check your credit report. Checking before you're ready to walk into the dealership will give you time to work on correcting any reporting errors, which could boost your score and positively affect the rates and payment plans you might qualify for. You can request a free copy of your credit report at Annual Credit Report[JB1] . If you need a boost on your credit score, CommunityAmerica’s Financial Well-Being Coaches offer free services on how to budget and improve your credit score.


The next thing you'll want to do before hitting the lot is apply for pre-approval for an auto loan. Doing so provides a few advantages. Having an offer in hand will give you more power to be informed and potentially negotiate with the dealer, which could help save you money. CommunityAmerica has some of the most competitive auto loan rates in town, and we make it easy to apply for pre-approval with us and then complete your purchase at one of our more than 150 preferred dealers. By locking in a lower interest rate, you can save money over the life of your loan.

Carefully Consider Any Add-Ons

Once you've made it through the initial purchasing decision at the dealership, you'll be led back to the financing office to complete the transaction. This is where you're likely to be offered a variety of specialty add-ons and services from maintenance packages to protection plans. Pay attention to the options available to you and what they cost to help make sure you get what you need, at the best price.


If you get into an accident and your car is considered a total loss, but you still owe more on the auto loan than the car is actually worth, GAP Coverage can help make up the difference. Vehicle Service Contracts are commonly used to help cover the cost of certain vehicle repairs after the manufacturer’s warranty expires. Before you hit the highway, make sure your new ride is covered by an auto insurance policy. Our friendly, local Insurance Advisors would be more than happy to assist you in finding the coverage that best fits your needs.


Whether you’re looking to buy a new car or needing an upgrade, buying a car doesn’t need to be stressful. CommunityAmerica is here to help during your car buying journey.

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About the Author
Meet Kat Hnatyshyn
Kat Hnatyshyn

Indirect Lending Program Director

Kat Hnatyshyn currently serves as the Indirect Lending Program Director at CommunityAmerica Credit Union, overseeing the program and our partnership with approximately 160 auto and Harley Davidson dealerships throughout the Kansas City metro. This partnership gives CommunityAmerica members a smooth auto buying experience by allowing them to finance their vehicle through us, directly from the dealership.