Finance Series, Part 2: Purchasing a car with bad credit

Sub-prime. If you have less-than-stellar credit and have tried to finance a car, then you may have been labeled as “sub-prime.” While this may sound like a condemnation that will forever brand you as being somehow deficient to lenders, it is not the end-all, be-all of car shopping. A sub-prime borrower is simply one with bad credit. Each lender has its own definition of what constitutes sub-prime status, but typically a credit score of less than 620 lands you this distinction. Fortunately for millions of car shoppers, sub-prime is not a disqualifier. You can finance a car with bad credit. Here is some advice we can offer to purchase a car with bad credit.

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1.) Assess your credit situation beforehand to eliminate surprises. Order your credit report from one of the three major credit bureaus: TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. Verify the information on your credit reports is accurate. It is not unusual for credit-reporting agencies to make mistakes that could wrongly lower your credit rating. Sometimes, improving your credit score is as simple as disputing inaccuracies on your credit report.

2.) Set realistic expectations. Be prepared to have to accept a high interest rate and to have to put down a large down payment.

3.) Prepare a budget. List all of your expenses and compare them to your income. That way, you will know exactly what you can afford to pay per month and you can avoid getting yourself into a situation that could further worsen your credit.

4.) Save money for a down payment, title, tags, taxes, and fees. As mentioned above, if you have bad credit, then you can expect to have to put down a relatively sizable down payment in comparison to scenarios involving good credit. A good ballpark estimate is roughly 10 percent of the car’s value.

5.) Negotiate the sales price. Once you find a used car you are interested in buying, sit down with the salesperson or manager and negotiate the lowest purchase price you can.

6.) Complete the credit application. You will need to prove employment, income and residence, and provide whatever documentation the finance professional requires of you.

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Finance Series, Part 1: Credit score fact vs fiction

Quick—what’s your credit score? Surprisingly, a vast majority of people would not be able to answer this question. What these people also may not know is that this information can be freely obtained from one of the three major credit agencies—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—each calendar year. If you strategically space these reports out, then you can track your score every quarter or so.

Unfortunately, this data may not be too helpful if you don’t know fact from fiction when it comes to your credit score. Recently, Quizzle—a site dedicated to credit scores—published a list of the top credit score misconceptions, and there are some interesting myths on the list. Here are some facts you might not know—or wrongly know—about your credit:

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Settled debts do not get dropped from your credit report. Many people think late payments and bad debts get dropped promptly from their credit report once the problem is resolved. Unfortunately, this is not the case. These missed payments and debts linger for 7 years, and bankruptcies may stay on reports for 10 years.

Paying with cash does not help your credit score. This doesn’t factor into your credit at all; credit reports (and credit scores) care only about what you buy on credit; if you stop using your credit cards in favor of cash, then it doesn’t really factor into your equation at all. It’s more important to use credit responsibly than to stop using it entirely.

Closing credit cards does not improve your score. This is a close cousin of the myth about paying in cash, though it is a little more complicated. Closing out credit cards is unlikely to improve your credit rating; in fact, it can hurt. Agencies want to see a low credit utilization—that is, the ratio between the credit you’re using and the credit you have available. Ideally, you’re keeping that number under about 30%. As you can see, closing credit card accounts can drop your available credit without affecting your outstanding balance, and that can be bad.

Making credit inquiries won’t necessarily hurt your credit. Many people think that just looking at your credit will harm it, but that’s not always true. Soft inquiries, such as when you request your credit report for personal reasons, generally have no effect on your rating. Hard inquiries from banks, credit cards, and loan companies definitely do have a small but measurable impact on your score.

A high income will not improve your credit rating. Many young folks fresh out of school think that their credit score will go up as a natural consequence of getting better-paying jobs. That’s not the case; again, your credit rating is only a measure of how you manage your credit, so income is irrelevant to the equation (though it might help you pay down your credit).

From the Experts: AutoTrader ranks the top 10 must test drive trucks and SUVs of 2014

AutoTrader.com recently made a list of the top 10 must test drive trucks and SUVs of 2014. While it’s no surprise to us, two of our vehicles landed on the list. Check out what the experts think about some of our offerings:

Jeep Cherokee

2014 Jeep Cherokee. “This is definitely not your father’s Cherokee. Based on a carlike platform derived from the compact Dodge Dart, the reinvented 2014 Cherokee boasts slick handling and ultra-modern styling to match. Inside, high-quality materials complement the available 8.4-inch touchscreen, which is one of the best at any price. Don’t let those Dart roots mislead you; the Cherokee feels substantial on the road, reminding us more of a luxury vehicle than a typical compact crossover. We recommend the hearty 3.2-liter, 271-hp V6 engine, and if you want real off-road ability, check out the Trailhawk package with its unique hardware and appearance.”

Kia Soul

2014 Kia Soul. “We’re big fans of the redesigned second-generation Soul, which adds a thick layer of refinement and maturity to this hatchback’s playful character. The original Soul traded more on style and attitude than anything else, but the new one has all the bases covered. The cabin is genuinely nice now, highlighted by upscale soft-touch materials and plenty of available tech. We’ve noted major improvements in ride quality, too, with the new model letting in noticeably less noise and vibration than its predecessor. If that’s not enough, there’s even a Soul EV in the works for 2015 with a projected range of 80-100 miles. If Kia can keep the price down, the Soul EV could be a great solution for urbanites or others with modest commutes and/or charging stations at work.”

Introducing: The 2015 Jeep Renegade

Officially unveiled at the Geneva auto show last month, the 2015 Jeep Renegade is not your typical Jeep. It’s the automaker’s first subcompact crossover with a smaller and less expensive stature than other models. Set to compete against the likes of the Nissan Juke and Buick Encore among others, the Renegade’s hipster looks and everyday efficiency, paired with the rugged capabilities for which Jeep is well known, will power this vehicle past its competition.

Getting down to it, the 2015 model will come standard with a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder with 160-horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque with a six-speed manual transmission. It also features an option for drivers to step up to a 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 184-hp and 177 lb-ft of torque.

Both engines can be ordered with front- or all-wheel drive, with Trailhawk models adding a low 20:1 crawl ratio, low-speed pedal mapping, and low-gear shift strategy for more serious rock-hopping. Full fuel economy figures have yet to be released, but Jeep promises more than 30 mpg with the more powerful 2.4-liter engine.

Boasting copious amounts of character, there are two removable roof panels to let the sunshine in over front and rear passengers, or alternatively, a power sunroof can be installed in its place. Jeep also hid so-called “easter eggs,” that owners get to discover when they own the car. We won’t give away all of them but if, say, you were to look for a Jeep silhouette on the wheels or Jeep’s trademark face on the inside of the tailgate, you’ll see the kind of stuff we’re talking about.

On the outside, the Renegade has the necessary ground clearance—6.7 inches standard, up to 8.7 inches for Trailhawk models—as well as Koni shocks and an independent front and rear suspension that affords comfortable wheel articulation. It’s also available with Jeep’s fantastic Selec-Terrain electronic off-road powertrain system that has turned other Jeeps, like the Cherokee and Grand Cherokee, into credible off-roaders.

But let’s get to the fun part—the pictures:

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2015 Will Be a Good Year for the Kia Sedona

As we blogged about last week, Kia Motors has been keeping the doors locked on the announcement of their redesign for the 2015 Sedona—until now. The automaker that was recently voted Kelley Blue Book’s Best Value Brand in 2014 has released images and information regarding the minivan on the cusp of its official unveiling at the 2014 New York Auto Show later this week.

2015-Kia-Sedona _12_ 2015-Kia-Sedona _11_

Power for this game-changing minivan now comes from a 3.3-liter V6 that makes 276 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque, hooked up to a six-speed automatic transmission.

On the outside, the Sedona adopts the “tiger-nose” grille that has become a staple of Kia design up front, while the back end adopts some square haunches. The van’s wheelbase grows by 1.6 inches compared to the previous version, while a rear-spoiler and LED taillights are standard. On the inside, Kia has done a full revamp of the van, which now offers more room for all of its passengers, either 7 or 8 depending on how the van is configured. Second row leg room grows to 41.1 inches, while third row passengers are treated to 34.8 inches. Up front, 43.1 inches of legroom is available, along with 39.8 inches of headroom.

A new system Kia calls ‘Slide-n-Stow’ has been designed for the second row of seating, allowing passengers to easily enter the third row or to create more storage space. The seat bottom folds up and the entire seat slides forward to maximize space in the back, while the third row seats retract into the floor offering a flat space in the back.

Power hookups are found throughout the Sedona, including a new 2.1-amp USB charging port and a 115-volt AC outlet. Other technology includes the latest generation of UVO infotainment, a surround view monitor that allows the driver to see all the way around the vehicle using cameras, and an auto-opening tailgate that opens when the key fob is detected for more than three seconds.

When it comes to driving this people mover, Kia claims that the Sedona has 36-percent more torsional stiffness than its closest competitor. It also packs electronic stability control, a brake assist system, hill-start assist, electronic brake force distribution and ABS.

And now for your viewing pleasure:

2015-Kia-Sedona _15_ 2015-Kia-Sedona _14_ 2015-Kia-Sedona _2_ 2015-Kia-Sedona _19_ 2015-Kia-Sedona _20_ 2015-Kia-Sedona _1_2015-Kia-Sedona _22_ 2015-Kia-Sedona _4_ 2015-Kia-Sedona _3_2015-Kia-Sedona _7_2015-Kia-Sedona _6_ 2015-Kia-Sedona _5_

April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month

Most drivers understand the dangers associated with texting and driving, and yet a large number of those drivers ignore these perils or otherwise believe they belong to a nonexistent elite cavalry that can text, drive, and still pay attention to the road.

April 2014 is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month and the US Department of Transportation has launched a “U Drive, U Text, U Pay” campaign that runs until April 15 to combat distracted driving. This 30-second video, which has seen immersion in both television and online outlets, shows a woman looking down at her phone and driving through a stop sign before she is hit from the side by a tractor trailer.

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According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,328 people were killed and an estimated 421,000 were injured in distracted driving crashes in 2012.

THE LAW IN PENNSYLVANIA

In the Keystone State, using your cell phone while driving to send or receive texts, emails, or messages of any kind is illegal. If you are caught using a mobile device for any of the above purposes, the PA Department of Transportation will issue you a $50 fine. It is not illegal to make phone calls while driving.

However, if you must make or receive a call while driving, you should:

  • Pull off the road whenever possible.
  • Use a hands-free device.
  • Never participate in emotionally heated conversations.

We would like to ask our readers:

Sneak Peak: Kia unveils new car with single photo

Is it a minivan? Station wagon? SUV? Superman?

Kia offered a teaser photo this week of their “all-new midsize multiple-purpose vehicle.” Kia will unveil the highly suspenseful vehicle at the New York Auto Show later this month.

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The description appears to be code for “minivan.” If you scour the photo closely, you can see the rear door handle for a slider just behind the front handle. Further, as the Sedona (Kia’s current minivan offering) aged, Kia kept saying there would be a successor—that it was not going to just kill it and get out of the segment. With overall Sedona sales down from last year, we suspect this is its shiny new replacement.

In a statement, Kia has said, “This global debut will challenge the segment and will offer the functionality to transport as many as eight passengers and their belongings while also serving as a purposeful offering for adventure seekers,” Kia says in a statement.

It appears to be going for a sportier look in front with a big version of the Kia signature grille shape and LED running lights. It’s also a more upscale look than the Sedona.

Ram Outsells Chevrolet

We’ve been blog-happy about our Ram trucks lately, but as it turns out, there is a great reason for it—

After sweeping several awards, including Motor Trends’ Truck of the Year for an unprecedented 2years in a row, the Ram truck is now also defeating their competition in the showroom.

For the first time since 1999—when Ram was still under the Dodge brand—Ram outsold Chevrolet during March to take second place in monthly pickup sales. A breakdown of the numbers includes 42,532 Ram pickups sold in March for a 26 percent increase; its highest March total since 2007. Chevrolet sold 42,247 Silverados last month, up only 7 percent.

ram vs chevy

GM spokesman Jim Cain tried to play down Ram’s recent success by telling Automotive News that the success in March was all driven by incentives. “The 1980s called. They want their marketing strategy back,” Cain said in response to the Silverado’s third place finish. “It’s really easy to deeply discount your truck, mine the subprime market and offer cheap lease deals to buy market share.”

What Cain failed to mention was that Chevrolet offered incentives of its own last month. The redesigned 2014 Silverado has been well received by critics since it launched last summer. But it hasn’t sold as GM would have liked.

Which points to what we think the real reason Ram had such a huge March: diesel.

March was the first full month of sales for the 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel—the only half-ton pickup with a diesel engine currently on the market. That 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6 engine gets 28 miles per gallon on the highway and 20 mpg in the city makes it the most fuel efficient pickup ever. Game on, truck world.

Riders on the Storm: How to drive in the rain

It was heard countless times during weather conversations this brutal winter— “I’ll never complain about the rain again.” It looks as though Mother Nature is putting Pittsburghers to the test, as thunderstorms have rolled into the region and look to remain a temporary fixture for the next couple of days.

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However, the unfortunate reality of the situation is that driving in thunderstorms and other inclement weather can be just as challenging as driving in the snowy, icy stuff. Here are some tips to make sure you’re safe going from point A to point B in the midst of April showers.

First and foremost, you never know when bad weather will strike. It’s important to keep a mental inventory on your vehicle at all times—ensuring that all headlights, tail lights, brake lights, and turn signals are in working order. Also, check your tires on a regular basis. Bald tires significantly reduce your traction on wet roadways and offer little resistance to hydroplaning. When your tires run over water, the water is displaced and it needs somewhere to go quickly. The best place is between the treads of your tires. If your tires are bald, the water has no place to go and you end up riding on a layer of water, like a boat. Additionally, when you begin your journey in the rain, it may sound silly but we suggest scuffing the soles of your shoes on the rubber matting or carpeting of the car before you start the engine. Your shoes will most likely be wet and are liable to slip off the pedals.

Further, replace your wiper blades regularly—at least once a year. Wiper blades in poor condition don’t clear water from the windshield very well and can distort your view. Older vehicles may need to have the whole wiper arm replaced. The arms can bend over time and sometimes can’t keep enough downward pressure to clear the windshield, even with new wiper blades installed. Wiper blades will often clear light rain from the windshield with a few sweeps, then run on an almost-dry screen and leave smears of drying dirt. Don’t be afraid to use your windshield washers liberally: the fluid is cheap, and the safety benefit is high.

cars in the rain

When you’re on the road, slow down! This should be obvious to most experienced drivers, but it is also very important. People are so used to driving certain speeds on certain roads that sometimes they forget the need to slow down when inclement weather presents itself. Also, don’t follow large trucks or buses closely. Splash and spray from these vehicles can obscure your vision, creating a potentially disastrous driving situation. Keep your distance and your windshield wipers on when other traffic is in front of you. If the rain becomes too heavy, consider pulling over (ideally at rest areas or other protected areas) and waiting for the rain to ease up. If the roadside is your only option, pull off as far as possible, preferably past the end of a guard rail, and wait until the storm passes, seldom more than a few minutes. Keep your headlights on and turn on emergency flashers to alert other drivers.

Additionally, rain or high humidity can quickly cause windows to mist up inside your car. In a car equipped with air conditioning, turn up the heat and direct the airflow to your defrosters with the AC switch engaged. In a car without AC, the procedure is the same, but you may need to open your side windows to get the air moving. Most modern cars have a built-in rear window defroster that easily clears a misted rear windshield by heating up electrodes embedded in the glass. If you don’t have one, put your defroster on high and its hot air will eventually follow the inside of the roof down to the rear window. If the car has swiveling dashboard vents, adjust them so that the airflow strikes the upper edge of the side windows. The airflow will clear the side windows first, finally traveling to the rear of the car. If all else fails, a rag or article of clothing will work as well; you’ll just need to clear the window more often.

driving-in-the-rain

Finally, losing control of your car on wet pavement is a frightening experience. You can prevent skids by driving slowly and carefully, especially on curves. Brake before entering the curve. Steer and brake with a light touch. If you find yourself in a skid, remain calm, ease your foot off the gas, and carefully steer in the direction you want the front of the car to go. This procedure, known as “steering into the skid,” will bring the back end of your car in line with the front. For cars without anti-lock brakes, avoid using your brakes. If your car has ABS, brake firmly as you “steer into the skid.”

Why the Ram 1500 Is More Useful Than You Think

By now, everyone knows the award-winning Ram 1500 is the proverbial who’s who of trucks on the market. Named Motor Trend’s Truck of the Year for an unprecedented 2 years in a row, the Ram 1500 is featured in countless articles, reports, and online reviews (including this blog!)—all of which tout its class-exclusive features and functionalities that make it the loveable beast on the road that is. But what people may not know about this vehicle is what it can do when it’s parked. Here are some non-driving uses of this special truck.

Red Ram 1500 (1)

More food, please. Does food really taste better when you eat it outside? Around a campfire? Ram 1500 drivers can field test this theory—multiple times if necessary—by grilling a smorgasbord of food and serving it to a hungry group. Simply flip down the tailgate, pile up the food, and form a line. Watch as your group of friends, err scientists, try to prove/disprove this theory.

Turn it up. Whether you’re being outdoorsy, creating a smorgasbord (see above), or sitting by a campfire with a couple of friends, any activity instantly shoots up the fun scale when music is involved—especially when it’s delivered through crystal-clear Alpine speakers on your Ram 1500. Just don’t forget to fire up the engine now and then.

Premium seating for 2+. Nothing screams “summertime” more than fireworks. Unfortunately, it can be less than ideal to sit on the ground while watching said fireworks. So rather than fight the crowds for a slightly muddy, slightly questionable slice of dirt, why not claim premium seating on the back of your Ram 1500 in a nearby, ultra-convenient locale?

 

Red Ram 1500 (3)

Look at that. When the summer sun sets, the Ram 1500 Dual Halo LED Projector Headlights illuminate any scene—be it tents that need built or a rousing neighborhood game of kickball that needs completed in its last inning.

Make your bed. How picturesque do warm nights, clear skies, and a million stars sounds? With the Ram 1500, you don’t have to picture them—you can actually experience them! Do yourself a favor and spend at least one night in the back of your Ram this summer. Sure you might need an air mattress or at least some comfy blankets, but the huge 8-foot bed is more than enough room to sleep comfortably under the stars.

What are some other non-driving uses you get out of your Ram 1500? Let us know, or send us a picture!