The answers to all of your car-buying questions are just a click away. There is, quite literally, a treasure trove of free tools online to help you buy a car.
A quick Google search will result in hundreds upon hundreds of websites offering calculators, comparisons and checklists for car shoppers. If filtering through all those hits sounds overwhelming, don’t worry — we’ve already done the digging and the best tools on the internet are listed below.
- Car Loan Calculator
- Budgeting Tools
- True Cost to Own Calculator
- Car Value Calculator
- Fuel Economy Calculator
- Free Credit Reporting
Car Loan Calculator
We didn’t have to go far for this one. Birchwood Credit Solutions’ Car Loan Calculator estimates your monthly car loan payments based on your vehicle budget, ideal loan term and credit standing. The latter is an important feature because it shows how your credit score can affect your monthly payments. That said, the credit feature works in general terms so you don’t need to know your exact credit score to use our calculator.
A car loan calculator should be your first online stop when you’re thinking about buying a car. While some people have the savings to pay for a car in-full, the vast majority of shoppers will need to get a loan to afford the purchase. A calculator will help you understand how the cost of your car (also called the principle), the length of your loan (or term), and interest rate all have a role in how much you pay each month.
A car loan calculator is also an invaluable tool in creating a budget and sticking to it while you’re shopping for a vehicle.
On that note, let’s get into some simple ways you make a personal budget that includes all your car-related expenses. If Excel sheets aren’t your forte, there are some great free, pre-made templates available online.
One option that we really like is the interactive personal budget spreadsheet offered by myMoneyCoach. The worksheet is available for free and can be downloaded for Mac or Windows computers. It has a bunch of customizable options with built-in budgeting tips and guidelines. The 10 budgeting categories are broken down in great detail and you can add personal expenses that aren’t on the list already. The section on transportation includes a section on savings for a new vehicle, which is perfect for car shoppers.
If you’d like a tool that’s a little more mobile (pun intended), you should consider downloading a budgeting app. Mint is a free mobile app and desktop budgeting tool that connects to your bank accounts and tracks your spending automatically. You can also schedule up bill alerts so you never miss a payment. The interface is easy to understand and you can set up saving goals — like buying a new car — that track your progress each month. Mint is available for Android and iOS users.
True Cost to Own Calculator
Unfortunately, the sticker price of a new vehicle doesn’t tell the whole story. Beyond the initial price of your new car and your monthly loan payments, you’ll also be on the hook for insurance, gas, regular maintenance and any major repairs that come up.
If you’re interested in finding out how much a specific car will really cost, check out Edmunds True Cost to Own calculator. Based on data Edmunds has collected on thousands of different vehicles, the calculator breaks down the costs associated with a specific model over five years. The program estimates how much your car will depreciate and how much you’ll spend on things like financing, fuel and maintenance during the first few years of ownership.
This calculator is helpful because it gives you a better idea of how much money you can expect to spend on a car. The only downside is that Edmunds uses American industry data so some of the categories, like taxes, won’t be applicable to Canadian users.
Car Value Calculator
Before jumping at the first listing you see, you should find out the average asking price of the car you’re interested in. This is particularly important if you’re buying a used vehicle directly from the owner. Many people will list their vehicles higher than they should because they’re banking on a buyer that doesn’t know any better. Check out Canadian Black Book’s Car Value Calculator for all your value-related car questions.
The CBB has three online tools to help prospective car buyers:
Average Asking Price
The average asking price calculator is possibly one of the best tools you can use while shopping. All you need to do is plug in the make, model, year and style of the vehicle you’re interested in and the calculator will give you an idea of how much similar cars are selling for.
If you’re car shopping to upgrade your current vehicle you should find out how much you will get from a trade-in. As with the calculator above, you’ll have to enter the details of your old vehicle as well as the number of kilometers it has and the kind of new vehicle you’re in the market for. The calculator will give you a high and low trade-in value estimate.
The future value calculator shows you how much the car you’re thinking of buying will depreciate over time. If you’re buying a car with plans of upgrading in a few years you want to choose a car with a low depreciation value so you don’t end up owing more on your loan than your car is worth.
Fuel Economy Calculator
With the price of gas constantly on the rise these days, the fuel economy of your next vehicle is an important data point. CAA has a Driving Costs Calculator that will tally up the amount you are likely to spend on gas based on the vehicle’s fuel economy (or the number of litres of gas it uses for every 100 kilometres travelled).
A car with a good fuel economy rating can save you a lot of money at the gas station. It can also help you rest easier knowing that your new car is better for the environment than most.
Free Credit Reporting
Most Canadians don’t realize that they’re entitled to one free credit report from Equifax and TransUnion each year. While these free reports don’t include your credit score, they will give you a thorough understanding of the kinds of habits that impact the health of your credit.
Your credit standing will have an impact on your ability to get approved for a car loan. If you have a poor credit score, you will probably have a harder time getting a loan and will likely pay a higher interest rate on that loan. Unfortunately, many people applying for loans don’t understand how credit works.
The Government of Canada has a bunch of free online resources about credit reports and scores. The website includes information on how to order a credit report, how to read the report once you get it and how to improve your credit score. One valuable section is all about checking for reporting errors and how to fix them — mistakes are all too common on credit reports and some misinformation can actually affect your score.
At Birchwood Credit Solutions, we specialize in helping people in various financial situations. Whether you’re new to Canada, haven’t yet developed your credit or have recently applied for bankruptcy — our team can help get you driving. Learn more about our unique process here.
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