BOSTON (CBS) – Buying a new car can be a significant burden on the family budget. That’s why more people are taking on longer term loans to keep their monthly payments low. Longer loans do have a downside, so it’s a decision to weigh carefully.
Veronica Viveros is in the market for a new car and will soon have new demands on her monthly budget. “I am expecting and we do have a lot of bills,” she said. She wants to keep her payments under $350 a month.
If she’s looking at a $23,000 car and wants to keep her payments under $350, she’ll have to look at a 72-month loan. That means her new baby will be six years old and going into first grade by the time she pays off that car.
“The consumer that’s opting for a $25,000 new car loan can save around $200 per month by opting for a 72-month loan as opposed to a 48-month loan,” explained Alec Gutierrez of Edmunds.com
A low monthly car payment can be enticing for many people, but it also could be risky according Gutierrez. “The longer you extend your term, the longer it is going to take you to get out of a negative equity position,” he said. That doesn’t take into account what could happen over all those years. An accident or a blown engine can devalue the car, putting consumers into a deeper financial hole.
On the upside, consumers are holding onto their cars longer these days. “The trend in the last 10 years is people have kept their cars longer. The cars have been built better,” said car dealer Steve Foresta.
Gutierrez says not all long term loans are bad. “A general rule of thumb is that consumers should try and keep their monthly payments within 20% of their gross income. So if you have to opt for a five or six year loan, that generally makes sense,” he said.
Most experts do not recommend 96-month loans, which are also now available. Whatever you decide to do, figure out what you can comfortably afford for a new car before you go to the dealer.