Improving “the customer experience” is the name of the game in business these days. Companies are falling all over each other to stand out from the competition, say, by offering shorter delivery times, hot deals, stellar customer service, and buying incentives. They are getting much better at seeing things from the customer’s point of view and that’s great for all of us!
Auto refinancing is no different. RefiJet, for example, does the work of researching refinancing options and comparing loan products to pinpoint the ones that best suit our customers’ needs and then guides them through the entire process. Everything—from the first glimpse of our website through the close of each deal, has been carefully considered to take the pain points out of the refinancing process.
The RefiJet website has just two simple intake forms—essentially capturing contact information and birth date—and then uses a “personal concierge” to walk customers through the loan process. By having a single source to represent multiple lenders, customers can avoid the tedious task of calling all over to gather information and compare refinancing options on their own.
When getting started with your refinancing, you will need to have a few documents on hand so the lender can verify your qualifications. To make things flow as smoothly as possible, it’s a good idea to start gathering this information:
You may also want to take a look at your credit report before submitting a refinancing application to make sure it is accurate. Everyone is entitled to review their credit report for free each year at each of the major credit bureaus—Experian, Equifax and Transunion—and draw their attention to any errors. You can be sure that any lender will be checking it carefully and the last thing you want is for them to make decisions on your credit when it looks worse than it really is!
With all your documents in hand, the process just flows from there. You can be busy at work or at home, knowing that someone else is out there looking after your best interests. And especially when it comes to your hard-earned money, it’s nice to know that someone has your back.
There will come a time when you need to know the value of your car. Say you are looking to trade in your car, refinance for a better rate or sell your car on your own. How will you know if you are getting a fair deal without knowing the base value others are using to calculate your costs? Also, if you have the misfortune of totaling your car in an accident, it’s helpful to know how the car would have been valued pre-accident to compare it to the pay-out from the insurance company.
In industry-speak, this number is called the car’s “book value” because it is derived mainly from three bibles of valuation in the automotive industry: the Kelley Blue Book, Black Book, and the NADA guide. Fortunately, like most everything else these days, these books offer online tools that can help you determine your own car’s value for free.
I decided to give these tools a “test drive” (excuse the pun) by visiting the two sites. First, I tried Kelley Blue Book at www.kbb.com. After filling in a simple questionnaire about the type of car I own, its specific features—down to the color and condition—the computer worked its magic, yielding a current value of between $12,257 and $14,128 for my 2014 Infiniti Q50, based on my geographic location. My results sheet included an overall consumer rating for the car, with customer reviews, a link to car comparisons and shopping options, and an offer to begin the trade-in process.
When valuing your car on the Black Book site, you are automatically redirected to www.newcars.com. Once you enter your make, model, mileage, option information and a few other criteria, you reach the results page—in my case a range between $12,800 and $15,170, pretty close to the Kelley Blue Book range above. Be sure to click on the option at the top of the page for determining your Black Book used car value, or the app will assume you are looking to purchase a car and immediately try to capture your contact information, including your mailing and email addresses!
The NADA site offers a wealth of information also, but it is a little more general. On its site, you can research car values in your area, get free dealer quotes and car history reports for specific vehicles. There is plenty of information that can help you make decisions about particular makes and models you are considering.
You may have heard the old aphorism “knowledge is power,” and in this case it’s absolutely true.
It’s one of those rare quiet days today at the office. Seems like the perfect time to talk about car loans and simple interest. Armed with this knowledge, you can be a far more informed customer when you speak to your lender.
You probably already know that when you borrow money from a bank or finance company, you need to compensate them for the privilege. The bank is viewing an investment in financing or refinancing your car strictly through a business lens: they lend you the money for your car purchase, and you repay the loan plus interest in monthly installments over a set time frame. For your lender, a loan to you is an opportunity to earn income in the form of interest payments. For you, the benefit lies in owning a car you can rely on for both transportation and enjoyment over the next several years.
In making a loan to you, how does the lender decide what to charge you for the use of its funds? Most auto loans use a simple interest formula to calculate your payment schedule. Let’s say you borrow $20,000 to refinance your car over a 48-month period at five percent interest. You can use an online “amortization calculator,” such as the one at www.amortization-calc.com, to get an idea of what your monthly payments would be—in this case, $460.59.
The Process of Amortization
Here’s where the concept of amortization factors in. When you make your first month’s payment of $460.59, you are paying five percent on the entire $20,000 you borrowed. As you make payments, however, a portion will be applied to interest and a portion to pay down principal. This ratio of interest/principal will vary as your loan is gradually paid off over the 48-month period. This is because as you make payments, your principal will decline by a bit each month so you will owe less in interest on the remaining amount.
Using the example above, www.amortization-calc.com shows the first and last two months of payments (see chart below). Your first month’s payment of $460.59 will include a higher component of interest than any other month. While the first month’s payment shows $83 applied to interest and $377 applied to principal, by the final payment of $460.59 four years later, only $2.00 is applied to interest and $459 is applied to principal. This is called an amortizing loan, based on simple interest.
Though the concept of amortization may sound complicated, don’t be concerned. You still are paying the same $460.59 each month. Your lender will do the allocation between interest and principal for you and apply your payments properly each account. And once your loan is paid off, the car is yours, free and clear!
You’ve successfully negotiated the purchase of your new car. Congratulations! Owning a car is a major source of pride and accomplishment for most Americans, and if you live in an area without reliable public transportation—a great convenience too.
Before you can lay claim to that shiny new (or new to you) car, however, there will be paperwork—especially if you are planning to seek financing. Mistakes can happen, and part of the responsibility for avoiding them lies with you. Make sure you understand everything that appears on your loan document, especially your monthly payment amount. Review the details carefully and be sure to ask for clear explanations that make sense to you before signing. Here’s a look at what to expect as part of your contract:
When reviewing your loan contract, don’t let high-pressure sales tactics dissuade you from asking questions! You should be clear on every line item listed and it should all fit together within the context of your discussions with the dealer. Also, keep in mind that it’s always a good idea to have a knowledgeable person with you when it comes to signing on the dotted line.
When you purchase a new car—and often a used one, for that matter—you will typically be asked whether you want to buy an extended service contract (ESC) to provide coverage for repairs needed after your manufacturer’s warranty expires. Good question. Should you go for that extra peace of mind an extended warranty provides or save your money and put it directly toward future repairs. There is no one “right way” to answer this question, but consider these four factors:
Be sure to speak with your dealer’s sales rep or finance manager with questions, or contact the policy provider directly. Understanding the detail is the key to getting maximum value!
Nothing is more harrowing for a parent than the first time you get in the car with your brand-new teenage driver. Our advice is to start in the very biggest parking lot you can find, bring plenty of tissues to wipe those sweaty palms, and try your best to stay calm. Oh, and you might just want to skip that second cup of caffeine—your heart will be racing enough on its own!
The sad fact is that teens are notorious for their poor driving records. According to research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 16- and 17-year old drivers are nearly ten times are likely to be involved in a crash than adults and six times more likely to be involved in a fatality than adults. The numbers are frightening, and parents have every right to worry.
The road to getting your teen driver licensed is not only stressful, but can be expensive too. Because teen accident and infraction rates are so high, the rates for insuring them are also high. Be prepared for a sharp increase in your insurance rates as you add new teen drivers to your policy.
Your job as a parent is both to help educate your new driver, and to protect your family’s assets in the event of an accident involving your teen. Aside from putting the time in working side-by-side with your teen to teach them the rules of the road, here are some additional tips to follow when insuring them:
You’ve just bought yourself a new car. Take some time to enjoy it! Chances are, it will drive just beautifully for a long time to come. But even if your car is still riding perfectly months from now, you can’t forget about routine maintenance! While on-board computers and other sophisticated electronics have made cars run better and last longer than ever before, there are still some items that will require regular attention throughout the life of your car.
The most important thing you can do to keep your car running smoothly is to read and follow the recommendations in your car manual. Many maintenance specifics will depend on the particular make and model of your car, so when in doubt—check your manual!
The internet is chock-full of car maintenance information on sites such as Edmunds.com, cargurus.com and AAA, as well as on user forums and chat sites. Also, find a local dealer or service advisor to answer questions and resolve problems—they are both “in the know” and ready to help.