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Need a New Car on a Tight Budget?

With the economy not doing so well these days, many are living on a tight budget. Cars don't last forever so you're eventually going to have to replace or fix it at some point.

Many of us need our cars for work, school, or other activities, so it would be very difficult to go about our daily routines without one. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you need to replace your car, but you don't have the budget for it, here are a few things to consider.

Alternative Transportation

If you live in a big city, you could consider a combination of public transportation and short-term rentals such as:

This combination will allow you some flexibility while keeping your transportation costs to a minimum. In addition, you won't have to pay for car insurance and can start saving some money each month to put towards a replacement vehicle.

Fix Your Current Car

If your current car is less than 10 years old and doesn't have more than 100,000 miles, then it's usually cheaper to fix problems rather than replace it with a newer one.

If you don't have the funds to pay for a repair, you can try to get a small loan from your bank for a "fix it" loan, or try borrowing money from family or friends. If the repairs cost more than 40% of the value of the vehicle - and especially if the repairs aren't guaranteed to fix the problem - then you'll need to consider replacing it.

Buy a Reliable, Used Car

If you really need a replacement vehicle, your best option is to buy a compact, reliable, and fuel-efficient used car that is at least 4 years old (but not more than 7). Vehicles go through maximum depreciation in the first 5 years, so you'll basically be purchasing a vehicle in which the previous owner has paid the bulk of the depreciation cost.

At the same time, the car won't depreciate as quickly while you own it. There are several good, reliable used cars you can buy for less than $5,000.

Consider Leasing

Leasing can be a good choice IF you have a stable job and know for sure that you can make the payments. Breaking a lease is very expensive, so don't even consider this if you're unsure about your future income. However, if you are financially stable - and especially if you know you'll be doing better in a few years time, then leasing can be a decent choice.

Some manufacturers offer special lease deals as low as $199 per month and I've even seen Smart cars with leases as low as $99/month. These are on base-level sub-compact models, so don't expect anything nice, but they will give you reliable transportation at a very low price.

Make sure to read my Car Leasing Guide first.

3 Steps Every Car Buyer Needs to Take to Save Maximum Money

The key to getting the best deal is to gather price or lease bids from as many local dealers as possible. Then shop that best price around until no one can beat it. Here are the steps:

Step 1 Get Prices From My Trusted Network

Select the vehicle you're interested in to see if there are local dealers in my network who will provide you with their best upfront price. You will get direct access to an internet sales manager who you can further negotiate with online (no need to visit dealership).
Select Vehicle to Get Local Pricing

Step 2 Get Prices From TrueCar / CarsDirect

TrueCar, and CarsDirect are my top 2 online price quote recommendations. These services show you pre-negotiated prices from dealers closest to you - and the deals are usually pretty decent. But remember, you can still negotiate further.

Step 3 Complete my Checklist

Follow this up with my checklist to make sure you squeeze out every last bit of savings.
- Gregg Fidan

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About The Author

Gregg Fidan Gregg Fidan is the founder of RealCarTips. After being ripped off on his first car purchase, he devoted several years to figuring out the best ways to avoid scams and negotiate the best car deals. He has written hundreds of articles on the subject of car buying and taught thousands of car shoppers how to get the best deals.
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