Category Archives: Tips & Insights

Basic DIY Car Maintenance You Can Learn to Do at Home

Struggling with a streaky windshield? A heater that smells stinky or dim headlight bulbs? You got this. We’ll walk you through easy DIY car maintenance you can do at home in the comfort of your own driveway or garage–and mostly without tools. You’ll save money on simple auto repairs and drive into the sunset feeling accomplished!

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Replace windshield wipers.

Replacing your windshield wipers is one of the easiest DIY car maintenance activities you can do. There’s no way you can accidently render your car inoperable. Plus, wiper systems don’t involve a lot of pieces or technology and no special tools are required.

When your view starts to get streaky, head to your local auto parts store and tell the associate your car’s make and model. They’ll show you the wiper options for your car. You can also find this information in your owner’s manual.

To replace your windshield wipers:

  1. Consult your owner’s manual to learn how to remove the old wipers. You’ll likely need to lift the wiper arm away from the windshield, and then press down on a small tab on the underside of the wiper. The wiper blade should slide off the arm when the tab is pressed.
  2. Slide on the new wipers. Slide the new wiper blade onto the arm. You’ll hear a clicking sound when the new blade locks into place. Gently lower the arm back on the windshield and repeat this process on the other wiper.
  3. Double check your wipers. Once you’ve replaced both wipers, turn them on! Test that they’re securely installed and working properly. You don’t want to try your wipers for the first time in a downpour, only to find out that they’re loose or the wrong size.

Change your car battery.

Most of us have experienced the dreaded “click” of a dead battery on a cold morning. Avoid getting stranded by replacing your battery before it’s DOA. You’ll need pliers or a wrench for this bit of DIY car maintenance.

To change your car battery:

  1. Buy a new car battery. Consult your owner’s manual to learn which battery size and type is best for your vehicle.
  2. With the engine off, pop your hood. Detach the black (negative) battery cable from the old battery. You might need a wrench or pliers to loosen the nut.  
  3. Detach the red (positive) battery cable using the same method.
  4. Remove the battery “hold-down” clamp with a wrench.
  5. Remove the old battery. This will likely be the hardest part of the process, says Pep Boys, as batteries can be heavy.
  6. Place the new battery in the battery tray. Secure it with the “hold-down” clamp.
  7. Attach and tighten the red cable.
  8. Attach and tighten the black cable.
  9. Check that the new battery is securely attached. Does the new battery jiggle or move around? If so, you might need to tighten the “hold-down” clamp or cables.

Do not throw your old car battery in the trash. Batteries are loaded with chemicals that can harm both you and the environment. Instead, bring your old car battery to a recycling center near you. Turn to Pep Boys for an in-depth explanation of how to replace your battery.

Replace the cabin air filter.

Your cabin air filter helps keep the air inside your car clean. Its job is to filter all of the air that comes through the car’s HVAC system to prevent pollutants, such as dust, pollen, smog and mold spores from entering, says Angie’s List.

The air filter is an easily accessible part, too. You can usually access it through the glove box or just under the hood of the car.

To replace your cabin air filter:

  1. Buy a new air filter. Consult your owners manual or ask an associate at a local auto parts store. They’ll direct you to your air filter options. Cabin air filters cost about $15 to $25.
  2. Again, turn to your owner’s manual to find out how to access your air filter. You can also search online for “how to replace cabin air filter” + your car’s make and model. DIY car maintenance videos and instructions with pictures are widely available.

NAPA Filters has a great general step-by-step guide for replacing cabin air filters.

Replace headlight or tail light bulbs.

Bulbs only cost about $15 to $20, but you can expect to pay upwards of $50 if you have your headlight or tail light bulbs replaced by a mechanic. Replacing a bulb is a simple DIY car maintenance item you can take care of in 20 minutes! It’s just a matter of buying the right bulb and consulting your owners manual.

Note that on some vehicles, like various Subaru Outbacks, you have to remove the wheel to get to the headlight. If this is the case for your car, you might want to take it to a professional.

Take advantage of free car repairs and services!

If there’s a particular check or repair that you’re not comfortable doing solo, go online and start researching where you may be able to have it completed for free. Many part shops and nationwide service centers offer free inspections, tests, and repairs.

  • AutoZone offers free battery charging, oil and battery recycling, and loaner tools to complete DIY repairs.
  • Pep Boys offers free battery testing and installation, tire pressure checks, code retrieval, brake inspection, windshield wiper installation, and free tire rotation.
  • Discount Tire offers free tire rotations, flat tire repairs, and air checks–even if you purchased your tires elsewhere.
  • Firestone Complete Auto Careoffers free tire pressure checks and refills, brake checks, battery checks, and code scans.

Big or small, car repairs can quickly get annoying. Please consult a professional if you’re uncomfortable performing any of these fixes at home. And remember, nothing lasts forever… including your car. If all signs are pointing you in the direction of a new car, check out today’s new car loan rates and apply for a car loan today. myAutoloan will connect you with multiple auto loan offers in just minutes.

Shopping for Used Cars? Consider Buying a Rental

If you’re in the market for a used car, don’t discount buying a rental car. One of the biggest perks of buying a rental car is that you can get a newer model for less than you would at a typical dealership, plus transparent (and complete) maintenance records and zero haggling. While buying a rental car is a lot like buying a used car from a dealership, there are still some benefits you might not be aware of.

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Rental cars are like new

Rental cars aren’t brand new, but they’re pretty close to it. Rental companies buy brand new cars to rent out to consumers and then sell the vehicles when they’re about a year old. Enterprise vehicles spend an average of 12 months in the fleet. Some rental cars are so new that they’re still under manufacturer warranty.

To keep inventory up-to-date, rental companies will auction off some cars or sell directly to dealerships and consumers every year. If you shop at a used car dealership, you might test drive a former rental car and not even know it!

Yes, rental cars tend to clock more mileage than a similar used car of the same age. But with many cars lasting well over 200,000 miles nowadays, mileage shouldn’t be your biggest concern if the vehicle has been cared for properly. It’s all about maintenance over mileage!

Rental cars are well maintained

If you buy a rental car from a big company like Enterprise, Hertz, or Avis, you can count on a transparent track record of preventative maintenance and regular service.

At Enterprise, each vehicle receives regular maintenance and scheduled service while it’s in the fleet. Before heading to a Car Sales dealership, a vehicle must pass a rigorous inspection – all performed by an ASE-certified technician.

Avis vehicles for sale receive the same treatment. They undergo factory-recommended preventative maintenance and must pass a thorough multi-point inspection process completed by certified mechanics, including ASE-Certified and ASE Master Technicians. Avis won’t sell a vehicle with an open recall or safety campaign, which is a benefit you won’t typically find if you buy a used car at a local lot or from a private seller.

Rental cars are priced low, with no haggle pricing

Not looking forward to playing the “hurry up and wait” game at your local dealership? Forget about negotiating tricks and tips when buying a rental car. Rental car companies offer no-haggle pricing and generally price their vehicles below market value.

For example, a 2017 Hyundai Sonata 2.4L with 41,557 miles is priced at $14,198 at Enterprise.* That’s $543 below Blue Book value. Even popular cars like the Nissan Rogue are priced below Blue Book value.

A 2017 Nissan Rogue FWD S with 49,751 miles is priced at $15,698 at Enterprise, which is $1,599 below Blue Book value. That’s over $1k in savings, and all without negotiating!

Rental cars are easy to buy

With the biggest rental companies, you can shop rental cars for sale online or in-person. Enterprise, Aviz, and Hertz all have intuitive online platforms that make it easy to view prices, pictures, and vehicle details, and to schedule a test drive. Purchases can sometimes be made by mail or completely online.

Avis even offers an “Ultimate Test Drive.” You get to drive the car for up to two hours for free. If you want the test drive to last longer, you can keep the car for up to three days for a small fee.

Smaller rental car companies, like Fox, also offer an online inventory, but their technology is out-of-date. Fox lists little more than the car’s make, model, color, year, and price – no pictures. For this reason, you might want to stick with the larger, more well-known rental companies.

Ready to buy a rental car?

While car rental companies usually provide financing options, it’s a good idea to shop around and compare loan options (just like you do when shopping for cars). Rental companies will only provide you with one financing offer. myAutoloan, however, can provide you with up to four financing offers at one time. You compare at your leisure and pick the best one for your needs.

Buying a rental car is a great move when it comes to saving money. Using myAutoloan for auto financing is a great move when it comes to saving time. Apply for a used car loan today and compare your financing options!

*Prices may vary based on zip code and time of search.

4 Ways for Getting Out of a Car Lease (Plus One to Avoid!)

Life is full of changes… and surprises. Maybe the spacious, gas-guzzling SUV you’re currently leasing isn’t well suited for the long commute to your new job. Or, your slick two-seater sports car doesn’t have room for a car seat. While leasing a car can come with plenty of rewards, it’s not the most flexible way to have a vehicle.

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So, when life throws you a curveball, can you terminate your car lease? You have options for getting out of a car lease, including paying the penalty to cut the lease outright, buying out your lease, finding someone to take over your lease payments, and transfering the lease to a new vehicle. We’ll walk you through the pros and cons of each.

Option 1: Pay the penalty and cut your car lease short.

Every lease agreement includes an early termination clause. The clause outlines how you can terminate your car lease on the leasing company’s terms. Contracts vary, but in general, the termination clause outlines:

  • Fees for early termination, mileage, and wear and tear
  • How your security deposit will be applied to the termination
  • How you’ll need to satisfy payments still owed on the vehicle

On the upside, terminating a car lease early by following this process is less damaging to your credit than defaulting (when you stop making payments altogether). If a financial hardship is the reason you need to get out of your car lease early, however, paying all of the car lease termination fees is going to be hard.

Option 2: Get a car lease buyout loan and then sell the car.

Most lease agreements include a buyout amount in case you want to buy your leased car. The buyout amount decreases as you make payments.

A lease buyout can help save you money and protect your credit. Contact your leasing company to find out the buyout amount and ensure that it includes any additional fees, if applicable. With this amount in mind, you can get a car lease buyout loan and pay off the leasing company. You now own the vehicle and can sell the car at or near the payoff amount. After you sell the car, you can turn around and pay off your loan.

This option for getting out of a car lease requires some elbow grease and a little financial finagling. It’s not a quick fix, but it will help safeguard your credit.

Option 3: Find someone else to take over your lease.

If your lease agreement allows for it, you can transfer your leased car and its payments to someone who’s looking to lease a car. This process is called a lease assumption or lease swap. The process is simple, but requires some work on your end.

First, check your leasing paperwork to ensure lease assumptions are allowed. Some contracts forbid it. If your lease agreement says lease swaps are A-OK, then check out a website like SwapALease.com or LeaseTrader.com.

You’ll pay a fee to list your vehicle on the site. You’ll then build an ad just like you would if you were selling your car. Add pictures, a description of the vehicle, and information about the mileage and usage. Be enticing! If someone wants to take over your lease, you’ll pay a fee to the website to facilitate the transaction. You may also have to pay a lease transfer fee to your leasing company.

Option 4: Transfer your lease to a new vehicle.

Transferring your lease to a different vehicle can be a smart move if you’re not dealing with a financial hardship—for example, you originally leased a luxury convertible but would now prefer a 4WD SUV or truck.

Contact your leasing company to learn more about rolling your current lease into another one. You’ll still pay early termination fees, but they’ll be added to your monthly payments for the new car.

Option 5: Stop making car lease payments. (Avoid this one!)

Do your best to avoid this option for getting out of a car lease. If you stop making your car lease payments—which is called defaulting—your credit will take a nosedive, the car will be repossessed, and you could be sued. Yikes. Contact your leasing company if you can’t afford to make your payments anymore. They may be able to work with you to lower your monthly payments by extending the lease.

As you evaluate these options for getting out of a car lease, consider how much longer you have left on your contract. Are the fees and finagling worth it? You may be better off finishing out your lease if it’s only a matter of months.

How to Safely Wash Your Car in Winter

Temperatures are dropping but spirits are high. Don’t let the last thing on your New Year’s resolution list be washing the car. If left untouched, road salt, snow, and mud can do serious damage to your car’s appearance and resale value. Moisture and road salt mix together to speed up corrosion! Keep your car in fighting shape and help protect its resale value. Learn how to safely wash away winter grime in cold temperatures.

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8 Steps to Wash Your Car in Cold Weather

Step 1: Watch the forecast.

Avoid washing your car when the temperature is below freezing. If you wash your car at home, the water will immediately freeze in your driveway and create a dangerous slip ‘n slide. Your doors, locks, and windows will freeze shut. If you drive through a car wash, the water will quickly freeze on your car and you’ll be driving around in an icicle on wheels.

Wait for the temperature to rise above 32 degrees F, preferably to the high 30s or 40s. This will help prevent pieces and parts of your car from freezing when wet, and save you from slipping and sliding away.

Step 2: Assemble your materials.

Let’s say it’s 40 degrees outside. Snow worries! If you’re headed to a touchfree car wash, all you’ll need is a microfiber towel or two to dry your car before getting back on the road. If you plan on washing your car at home, read on.

According to Meinke, you’ll need the following items to properly wash your car:

  • Multiple buckets filled with warm water; one for plain water and one for soapy water
  • Car wash soap (NOT dishwashing soap)
  • Sponge or washing mitt made of sheepskin or microfiber
  • Wheel cleaner
  • Microfiber drying towel
  • Bug and tar remover
  • Wax, either spray or rub-on (optional)
  • Polish (optional)

Read the instructions on the bug and tar remover, wax, and polish. These solutions may not work properly at certain temperatures.

Step 3: Wash the wheels first.

Your wheels will require the most scrubbing. Wash behind the mud flaps and clean between the spokes. Refill your buckets with fresh soap and water after you wash the wheels.

Step 4: Wet the entire car.

Rinse off the entire car to remove surface debris. This is a great time to use your garden hose if it’s warm enough to do so. You can spray the hose into the wheel wells and underneath the vehicle to loosen grime.

Step 5: Soap the car one side at a time.

Turn to your bucket of soapy water and get out the washing mitt! Work on one side of the car at a time. Rinse off the mitt in the clean water bucket every now and then to avoid accumulating dirt. Move the mitt in straight lines, not in a circular motion. Circular movement can creates swirl marks in your car’s paint job.

Rinse off the side you’re working on before soaping up another side. Once all four sides have been soaped up, scrubbed, and rinsed, it’s time to dry!

Step 6: Dry the car.

Properly drying your car can help prevent frost and water spots from forming. Move your microfiber drying towel in straight lines, not circular motions, to dry the car. Remember, circular movement can leave swirl marks on your car! Angie’s List even recommends leaving the doors open so that any trapped water can dry out and moisture won’t pool.

Step 7: Clean the interior.

Stepping in and out of your car is one of the most common ways to track in salt, dirt, and grime. Pull out your rubber mats and hose them off. At a minimum, wipe down rubber mats with a rag. Vacuum cloth floor mats, as well as your seats, upholstery, dash, and trunk. If your cloth mats are moist, let them dry before putting them back in the car. Doing so can help prevent mold growth.

Step 8: Keep it smelling fresh!

Want your car to smell as good as it looks? Once the interior of your car is clean, keep it smelling great with laundry scent boosters or your own fabric refresher spray. Sprinkling baking soda on upholstery and vacuuming it up can help get rid of tough pet, baby, or smoke odors.

Washing your car in winter is important, as it can help protect your car’s resale value by preventing rust and body damage. However, it’s not more important than your safety. Curl up with a cup of hot cocoa and wait for the temperature to rise if it’s simply too cold to wash your car. And if you find yourself daydreaming more about a new car than achieving your New Year’s resolutions, check out myAutoloan. Shine your ride and get it sold, then compare new car loan offers online at your convenience.

Getting a Car Loan?

Here are a few ideas to help you save money!

When you are looking to purchase a car, the one of the first things to do is apply for and get pre-approved.  That means looking at financing before you step on the dealers’ lot.  The loan process can seem challenging but it’s really much easier than you think. Here are a few ideas to assist you to get pre-approved for a car loan.

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1. Check Your Credit

When shopping for a car loan, check your credit report. The better your credit, the cheaper it is to borrow money.  With a higher credit score, you may be entitled to lower loan interest rates and APR%, and you may also qualify for lower auto insurance as well.  There are now free credit reports available just by going to any of the credit bureau’s online site and requesting one.  It is just that easy!

Review your credit report to look for unusual activity.  There are a number of companies that provide your credit score for free in addition to the bureaus – many credit card companies now provide them so just be aware.  Dispute errors such as incorrect balances or late payments on your credit report.  If you have a lower credit score and would like to give it a bit of a boost before car shopping, pay off credit card balances or smaller loans.  Be sure to make on time payments for all you credit balances.

If you have a low credit score don’t worry about it.  A low score won’t prevent you from getting car loan financing.  But depending on your score, you may end up paying a bit higher interest rate but it’s certainly not a deal breaker.  You do what you need to do to get your credit back in line.  If you have a low credit score and want to shoot for lower interest rates, take some time to improve your credit score, and make sure you have on time payments before you apply for the car loan.  You might also read a guide on auto financing – it can really help you understand the process and things that are important in obtaining a car loan.

2. Establish a Budget

Having a budget and knowing how much car you can afford is essential.  You want to be sure your car payment fits in line with your other financial goals.  If you don’t already have a budget, start with your monthly income after taxes and subtract your usual monthly expenses.  It’s easy to jot the expenses down so that you can easily come up with a total.  For bills that don’t come every month, such a credit card fee, take the yearly charge and divide it by 12.  Then add the result to your monthly budget.  If you’re worried you spend too much each month, find simple ways to whittle your budget down.

You’ll also want to plan ahead for new car expenses, such as auto registration, auto insurance, and regular car maintenance, such as oil changes and basic repairs.  If you purchase a new car many dealerships now provide free maintenance for the first 2 years or 25,000 miles.  Be sure to check that out when you shop.  By knowing your budget and what to expect, you can easily see how much room you have for a car payment.

3. What Can You Afford

Once you understand where you are financially, you can decide on a reasonable monthly car payment.  A good rule of thumb is to not spend more than 10% of your take-home income on car loan financing.  In other words, if you make $50,000 after taxes a year, you shouldn’t spend more than $500 per month on a car.  But depending on your budget, you might be better off with a lower payment so consider extending the length of your loan term.  It might work out that 72 months is better for you than 60 months of payments.  It’s important to try and understand how the number changes if you can afford a higher down payment.

With a possible payment in mind, you can use an auto loan calculator to figure out the largest loan you can afford.  Simply enter in the monthly payment you’d like, the interest rate, and the loan period.  Again you must be aware that making a larger down payment can reduce your monthly payment.  You can also use an auto loan calculator to break down a total loan amount into monthly payments.

You’ll also want to think about how long you’d like to pay off your loan.  Using a car loan estimator might be beneficial to you.  Car loan terms are normally three, four, five, or six years long.  With a longer loan period, you’ll have lower monthly payments.  But beware—a lengthy car loan term can have a negative effect on your finances.  First, you’ll spend more on the total price of the vehicle by paying more interest.  Second, you may be upside down on the loan for a larger chunk of time, meaning you owe more than the car is actually worth.  Knowing this actually helps you in determining how much to borrow and what type of auto you can afford.

4. Get Pre-approved – Real Offers

Before you ever set foot on a car lot, you’ll want to be pre-approved for a car loan. This can be done by using an online lending platform that permits you to see real loan offers that you can choose from.  As you research potential loan options, compare the terms, lengths of time, and interest rates to find the best deal.  A great place to shop for a car loan is at myAutoloan.com where you have a choice.

The loan with the best terms, interest rate, and loan amount will be the one you want to get.  Just know that pre-approved loans only last for a certain amount of time, usually around 30 days, so it’s best to get pre-approved when you’re nearly ready to shop for a car.  Note that most lenders will run a credit check – but know that multiple credit checks for an auto loan only count as one if within 14 days.  That’s right, keep your process within a two week time frame as you shop for the best car loan provider – that way all inquiries count as one.  Smart people shop for the best rates and credit bureaus know that.

Let me say that differently – when you apply to get pre-approved, up to four lenders evaluate your application and it’s possible to get four offers.  Now you get to decide who of these lenders is making you the best deal on APR% and terms.  They’ll present to you what interest rate you qualify for, and the maximum amount they will lend so you’ll know what you have to work with before you even walk into a dealership.  Selecting an offer from the myAutoloan.com lending platform means you do not have to go through the penalty box of car financing.  You are already approved and you know for how much you can go when dealing with the salesman at the dealership.  Depending on the car you buy, your cost of the car loan could be less than what you were pre-approved for.  You don’t have to use it all so it actually reduces your payment each month.

In most cases, if you are pre-approved, you shouldn’t have any problems getting a final loan.  It’s never a deal until it’s a done deal.

5. Go Shopping

Now you’re ready to look for a new ride.  Put in a little time for research, and find cars that are known to be reliable and fit into your budget.  

You’ll also want to consider size, color, gas mileage, and extra features.  Use resources like Consumer Reports to read reviews and get an idea of which cars may be best for you.

Once you have narrowed down the car you are interested in, investigate how much it’s worth so you aren’t accidentally duped.  myAutoloan.com can help you figure out the going rate for your ideal car.  Check out the free tools for rate and payment calculations.   After you’re armed with this information, compare prices at different dealerships in your area.  And don’t forget to check dealer incentives and rebates to get the best possible price.

By following these steps, you’ll be ready to make the best financial decision when getting a car loan.  Even if you aren’t ready to buy a car right now, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared. Good luck and happy shopping!