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Car Finance & Borrowing Advice

Balancing your finances can be tricky and knowing how much you can really afford is essential before you decide to borrow. Many monthly expenses often get overlooked when calculating expendable income which could land you in trouble. Read our borrowing guide to help you get started.

How much do you need to borow? We offer some ways to decide your budget.
Although it makes sense to have some flexibility built into your plans (to make sure you take advantage of a bargain) itís a good idea to have a fixed upper and lower limit on your budget before you begin looking for a car. That will help you resist harmful temptation, and quickly narrow your choices down to a realistic shortlist.

Budgeting: overall price, or monthly payment?
There are two basic approaches to deciding your spending limit. The most obvious one is to have a maximum car price in mind; for example £12,000. If youíre paying cash, this is pretty easy, because you know how much money you have. Itís worth remembering, though, that even if you could afford to buy £12,000 car outright, a £20,000 car might be better value based on your needs and wants. Consider whether itís worth taking out a loan for the difference.

Calculating your monthly limit
Most people do plan to borrow some money to help finance their car. In that case, the more meaningful measure is the monthly payment: for example, you may have a target of a £250 monthly payment. Exactly what you can buy with this will depend on interest rates, the type of financing you choose, and how long youíre willing to spend repaying the money (weíd recommend making it no longer than you plan to keep the car, or four years at the most).

To figure out how much you can afford to part with each month, do a quick calculation. List down your mortgage or rent payment, the amount you spend on groceries, utilities, insurance, council tax, other loans, pensions or savings and any other regular payments. Total up these and take the total away from your net monthly income. Then, take away your proposed monthly car payment. Whatís left is your spending money: for clothes, emergencies, eating out, holidays, and so on: make sure thereís enough to cover these expenses.

Finally, if you're borrowing money, think about contingencies. Suppose that you lost your income: how long would you be able to keep up your car payments: and thereby keep your car? (You can often take insurance against loss-of-income with your loan, but check the small print, because they rarely cover every circumstance, and thereís usually a delay of one or more months before it begins to pay out. Also, this will increase your monthly outgoings for a given price of car.)

So, however you're paying for it, deciding how much you can afford to spend on a car is a very personal decision. The trick is to make sure you get a car youíre happy with, but donít end up regretting what you have to forgo in order to pay for it.

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