Can a Poor Credit Report Be Fixed?
You may have heard about the benefits of refinancing your car loan—with just a little bit of effort, you could end up saving hundreds or even thousands over the life of your loan. But what if you have tried to refinance but have gotten turned down because of your less-than-stellar credit score?
It’s easy to despair over a downturn in your credit, but it’s much more productive to do something about it! Having ups and downs in your score is not that unusual, frustrating as it may be. However, it’s a mistake to just accept this truth as gospel and give up on your hopes of refinancing.
The first step is to make sure these credit reports are even accurate. Every U.S. citizen is legally entitled to review their credit report for free each year at each of the major credit bureaus—Experian, Equifax and Transunion. The report lists your previous addresses, phone numbers and payment status on your credit cards, home mortgages, home equity lines of credits and other debts.
There are dozens of ways a mistake could be made, so it’s a good idea for everyone to check their credit report quarterly, whether you are applying for credit or not—better find problems early than let them catch you by surprise down the road. The list of mistakes or problems could include:
If you find inaccurate information on your credit report, the next step is to report these issues to the credit bureaus so they can correct them. The company is required by law to investigate disputes and update you and the other major credit bureaus. Though the process may seem like a lot of bureaucratic effort, it’s important to fight any impulse you may have to let things slide. It’s well worth your while to spend time working through these errors now and checking your credit frequently to follow up. Ongoing credit monitoring services are available for this purpose.
Those who don’t have the time or ability to work through these issues on their own can turn to an outside credit repair service for help. These services can communicate with credit bureaus on your behalf and work to remove incorrect items—but their role is not to remove unfavorable information that is actually correct.
The most important thing you can do to repair your credit is to change your habits. Be sure to start paying your bills on time, every time—even if you are only paying the minimum amount due. At some point in time—seven years for most items—the time limit for posting these negative items will pass and they eventually will be removed from your report automatically, providing you with much more financial freedom.
Driving for the Long Haul
When you’re looking to purchase a new car, its value 10 or 15 years down the road may be the last thing on your mind! You may be thinking more about the car’s appearance, features and performance first and foremost. But wouldn’t it be nice to purchase a vehicle that’s also likely to last a long time?
What the Research Says
We took a deep dive into the research and were amazed at the number of studies you can find online related to car longevity and value. One great resource is the industry research firm iSeeCars.com, which was co-founded by tech veterans from TripAdvisor and SAP. The firm just released a study that ranked the top 15 cars that were kept by their owners for 15 years or more. Their methodology involved analyzing ownership records of 750,000 cars from the model years 1981-2003 that were sold in 2018. The results of their research may surprise you.
Incredibly, out of the 15 spots, a full 10 were occupied by Toyota models! And every other car on the list was also Japanese-made. For the top four spots, owners were at least twice as likely as other owners, on average, to hold on to their cars for 15 years or more. The full list contains a mix of SUVs of all sizes, one luxury vehicle, two minivans, three sedans and a lone hybrid—the Toyota Prius. The report also contains more specialized analysis of top SUVs, light-duty pickup trucks, sports cars and luxury cars.
Top Cars Owners Kept for 15 Years or Longer*
Average for all cars (7.5%)
*iSeeCars.com data 1/19
Be Diligent About Service
If you purchase a nameplate with a strong single-ownership track record, and regularly maintain your car as recommended by the manufacturer, your car may safely last a decade or more. For added peace of mind, you may also want to consider an extended warranty that would kick in after your original warranty expires. These service contracts can vary widely in what they provide—whether offered by the vehicle manufacturer or a third party—so be sure to look carefully at the coverage it offers for the price, as well as exclusions, deductibles, term length and other factors.
If you are a numbers geek—or just want to be really sure you are buying a car that holds its value well—there is plenty more research you can do online. Here are a few of the reports we recommend:
Our final recommendation? Once you choose your new vehicle, be sure to put away the numbers and focus on just enjoying it!
Should You Buyout Your Lease?
Are you one of those people who gets very attached to your car? If so, you are not alone! When leasing a car, most people’s first question is whether they can opt to purchase the car at the end of the lease term. As with many complex things, the answer is “it depends.”
There may be specific reasons to consider buying out your lease. Perhaps you have driven well over your mileage allowance and will owe mileage fees at the end of your contract. Maybe some minor body damage has been done that you don’t want to pay for. Maybe you are too busy to shop for something new and just want to go with the simplest solution.
Step 1. Read your contract.
Whatever the reason you may want to move forward with a buy-out, the first step is to read through your lease agreement to understand its buy-out provisions. What is the residual value of the car as stated in your contract? Is there also an additional purchase-option fee? Will there be added fees you can expect due to your car’s mileage or condition? Lease contracts vary, so be sure to take the time to read the “fine print.”
Step 2. Research your car’s value.
Don’t make the mistake of interpreting the residual amount listed in your contract as the true value of your car. For that, you will need to conduct some research to see if your car is actually worth the amount they are asking. Look at what a similar vehicle—matched by model, year, condition and mileage—would cost you through industry sites, such as Kelley Blue Book, Cars.com or Edmunds. You can also check the car’s estimated wholesale value to get a sense of what a dealer might pay to buy your car at auction. The true market value of your car typically falls somewhere between those two numbers.
Step 3. Negotiate.
Like with most good things in life, patience is a virtue. As the potential buyer, you can maintain more leverage in negotiating a lease buy-out price if you don’t play your hand too early. In most situations, there’s no need to consider a buy-out before the end of your lease. When the right time comes, you can talk to your leasing company and ask for purchase price discounts, financing incentives or fee waivers. Some lease companies are not open to negotiation, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to ask.
Step 4. Be Ready to walk
As attached as you may be to your car, it’s actually quite simple to determine its true value, so you can have a clear-headed approach when you talk to your lease company. If you have already determined that the car is worth significantly less than the purchase price, and you cannot negotiate with them, don’t be afraid to walk away. There are plenty of other cars out there waiting for you.