Buying a Car to Take to College? Don't Make These 4 Mistakes

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  • You may need a car once you go away to college.
  • It's important to make sound decisions at a time when money might be tight.
  • Be sure to evaluate your budget for a decent car as well as shop around for the best auto loan you can get. 

These are some big blunders you might sorely regret.

Owning a car can be a tough thing financially at any stage of life. But if you're a college student, you may be even more restricted on what you can spend, what with not having a full-time job. And so if you're in the process of purchasing a vehicle to take with you to college, it's important to approach that process judiciously. Here are four mistakes to avoid in the course of buying a car. 

1. Assuming you need a new car

You may like the idea of showing up on campus with a brand new vehicle. But new cars can cost a lot more money than used ones, and they also tend to lose value pretty quickly. If money is tight, then it pays to explore your options for getting a used car before springing for a new vehicle. And if you are going to buy new, now's probably not the time to load up on features that add to the cost of your purchase.

2. Buying the cheapest used car you can find

If you're on a serious budget for buying a car, you may be inclined to purchase the cheapest used model you can find. But that mistake could come back to haunt you. You might save thousands of dollars on your car purchase itself by buying a used car in not-so-great shape. But if that car then starts bailing on you, you could end up having to sink the thousands you saved into repair costs. 

Plus, a car that isn't in the best shape may not be reliable. And the last thing you need is to risk being late to your classes or a part-time job you're holding down because your vehicle wouldn't start.

3. Not shopping around for an auto loan

If you'll be financing your car purchase, it's important to do your research when seeking out an auto loan. Shopping around could help you snag a lower interest rate on your debt, so don't just accept the first loan offer you get. You should also check your credit score before applying for an auto loan to see what rate you might qualify for -- and also, to make sure you actually have enough of a credit history to get financing. 

4. Underestimating the cost of insurance

You might assume a new car won't cost much to insure because it's in good shape. But remember, your auto insurance premiums will partially be based on how much your insurer thinks it will cost to replace your vehicle should that need arise. So in that case, you may be better off with a used car, provided it's in good condition. 

But don't assume you'll get a bargain in the course of insuring a used car, either. If you're a college student, it means you may be a fairly new driver. And that could translate into higher premiums rates. 

You may need a car to take to college, but be careful in the course of buying one. The last thing you want is to make the wrong purchase or misjudge your costs of ownership and struggle to keep up with them after the fact.

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