Advice & Planning


MCU’s Six Things to Know: Negotiating a Car’s Sale Price

In the market for your next car? Sitting down to negotiate the terms of your purchase with a seller or dealership can be tough to navigate. Luckily, there are a few easy steps every auto shopper can take to make sure that they’re getting a fair deal for the right car.

Check out our tips below on how to get started!

1. Come Prepared

To successfully negotiate any purchase, a buyer has to be confident about two important things: their budget and a fair purchase price. That means that you’ve got a lot of homework to do before you can sit down and talk turkey with a salesperson.

Whether you’ve decided on a used or new car, researching the make and model will not only help you to understand its fair market value, you’ll also be able to learn more about ongoing offers for similar cars in your area, and understand potential expenses down the road. To get started, check out auto buying apps and online resources such as TrueCar, Enterprise and Kelley Blue Book that can help you stay focused, narrow down your search, and feel confident in your price point when it comes time to make an offer.

Not sure what your budget should look like? It’s generally recommended to keep the total cost of all cars at or under 25 percent of your household’s total income. However, as the old saying goes –less is more. The less you spend on your car, the more opportunities you’ll have to meet financial obligations and work toward long-term goals. Consider these financial obligations carefully when building your budget. Once you have your price range in mind – stick to it!

2. Don’t Shop with your Emotions

The car-buying process can be an emotional experience that can leave you feeling excited, nervous, and frustrated all at the same time. Auto dealerships and salespeople aren’t just aware of this emotional rollercoaster, they’re pros at using it to their advantage. They may try to pressure you into a sale by telling you that an offer is expiring or call frequently with exciting promotions to entice you into believing that you’re getting a great deal, even when the price is still over your price point.

Don’t take the bait! Stretching your finances to make a purchase work may feel great in the moment but will only cause stress down the road. Negotiate carefully and be ready to walk away if the numbers don’t match. With a little bit of patience, you’ll be sure to find the right car.

3. Discuss Each Aspect of the Sale

Buying a car is a long-term investment that can come with an expensive price tag. To help navigate this expense, many buyers will explore financing and other programs. Don’t forget to discuss each of these options carefully! As you negotiate a deal for your new car, ask about interest rates, seasonal rebates, extended warranties and maintenance coverage, and the trade-in value of your current vehicle. Each of these conversations should be a negotiation that will help to shape your car-buying process into a positive financial decision.

4. Negotiate the Total Price

As mentioned above, there are a lot of figures, percentages, and financial considerations that go into an auto purchase. As you begin to discuss these expenses with a dealership or salesperson, the actual total cost of a vehicle can start to become ambiguous. Don’t stay confused out of politeness. Instead, ask the seller or salesperson to only discuss the “out-the-door” cost of the vehicle, including all of the fees and taxes you’ll be responsible for when it comes time to sign on the dotted line. Gaining clarity early on is a great way to stay focused during your search and confident in your purchase.

5. Know the Best Times to Follow Up

The truth is that negotiations can go on for a while. If you can’t negotiate a price you feel comfortable with initially, it’s best to walk away. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t follow up to see if there are any new deals you can take advantage of. The most effective times to do this include:

• On Saturday and Sunday evening. Dealerships rely heavily on these days to make the most sales. If they’re having a slow weekend, they may feel more willing to take your offer.

• The end of the month.
Salespeople and managers are often under pressure to meet sales quotas each month. If it doesn’t look like they’re going to meet their goals, they may be willing to let a vehicle go at a more competitive price.

• The fall months. Next year’s models tend to arrive in the early fall, which means that dealers are going to have to move their old inventory. That means great deals of brand new cars that just so happen to be last year’s model!

6. Remember to Keep Your Options Open

There are a lot of cars out there that can fit your needs and your budget. There are also a lot of dealerships in your area that are looking to make a deal. As you shop for your next car, remember to keep an open mind and to work with multiple dealerships. The wider your search, the sooner you’re sure to make a deal.

A Beginner’s Guide to Car-Buying

So, you’re getting ready to buy a car for the first time – congratulations! While there’s a lot to be excited about, we’re the first to admit that the process can be overwhelming. Don’t be discouraged! Check out our tips below and you’ll be on your way in no time.

1. Start with creating a budget.

Forget rush hour traffic – nothing can cause stress like taking on a financial obligation you can’t really afford. If you’ve been daydreaming about the extravagant auto options you could be driving off with (we’ve all been there), it’s time to pause and get down to the business of creating a realistic budget.

Take time to chart out all of your income and expenses that not only appear every week or month, but throughout the entire year (such as utility bills and tax returns). This will help you understand how much disposable income you can reasonably put towards a car, while also reaching your other goals.

And don’t forget to budget for extra expenses! A monthly car payment is only the first of many bills you’ll face. The cost of taxes on the vehicle, auto insurance, fuel, warranties and regular maintenance (oil changes, brake changes, new tires, etc.) may vary depending on a vehicle’s make and model. However, it’s safe to assume that these costs will amount to thousands of dollars a year.

2. Narrow down your search.

Remember that a car should complement your lifestyle as much as your finances. Extra storage or fuel efficiency? Four-wheel drive or city-friendly features? Doing your homework to figure out how a vehicle can meet your needs will save you both time and disappointment down the road.

Our advice: Don’t venture into a dealership without knowing the car makes and models you really want to see. Salespeople trying to close deals and earn commission can often persuade buyers into vehicles they don’t really need or want. Using online resources like TrueCar, Kelley Blue Book and Carmax can help you identify and compare auto styles, makes, models and competitive pricing so you can be prepared to shop with confidence.

3. Pay careful attention during your test drive.

Test driving vehicles can be fun…maybe even too fun. As you go for a test spin, don’t lose sight of why you’re there – to find a car that’s a great fit for years to come, not just the next 15 minutes.

Take this experience seriously. A car may look ideal online but you won’t know if there’s a troublesome blind spot or uncomfortably low headroom until you’ve actually gotten behind the wheel and on the road.

Pay careful attention to the car’s features and how it handles. You may not have gone for a test drive before, but at the end of the day, a car is just like most purchases – If something bothers you even slightly early on, it will definitely become a problem later on.

4. Research your financing options.

If you’re planning to finance your vehicle, you’re in good company. According to a recent survey conducted by the information service Finder, 44 percent of Americans have an active car loan. However, as you begin to consider your financing options, remember that not all loans are created equal and choosing the wrong one could cost you hundred or even thousands of dollars later on.

A dealership may work with you to offer a competitive interest rate, but don’t take the bait on an impulse. Consider all of the aspects of the loan offered and how it compares to options that may be offered by your financial institution and other competitors. This includes the terms of the agreement, length of the loan and down payment. Learn more about MCU’s auto financing here.

5. Remember that it’s okay to say no.

Dealerships and salespeople can put a lot of pressure on buyers to make a snap purchase. They may even call and follow up with you multiple times with new perks and promotions. The upgrades may be tempting but follow your gut instinct. If a car doesn’t feel like a great fit for your needs or if you think the expense may be unmanageable in the long run, just say no.

Don’t let your emotions get the better of you. Shop carefully, do your research and be patient - you’ll be sure to find the right car.

Looking for more information? We’ve got you covered. Check out our MCU Car-Buying Checklist, guide to shopping for auto insurance and tips for a buying used car.

MCU’s Five Things to Know: Improving Fuel Efficiency

Drivers know that filling their gas tank can be pricey. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average family spends more than five percent of their monthly budget on engine fuel. Yikes.

However, there’s good news! Taking just a few simple steps and considerations throughout the year can improve and optimize your vehicle’s fuel efficiency to save you money and stay environmentally friendly. Check them out below!

1. Follow the Speed Limit

A heavy foot on the road won’t just mean potential (and expensive) speeding tickets – you’ll also find yourself burning fuel quickly. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), a car’s fuel efficiency typically peaks at speeds ranging from 35 to 60 miles per hour. After that, fuel efficiency will drop significantly – for every five miles per hour you drive above 60 mph, drivers will find themselves paying approximately 24 cents more per gallon for gas.

To stretch your dollar further (and ensure a safer journey), ease up on the pedal.

2. Consider Your Cargo

As the old saying goes: the more you tow, the more you owe. If you’ve been lugging unnecessary and heavy cargo around in your car, you’re likely burning fuel at a faster rate. In fact, according to the DOE, an extra 100 pounds in your vehicle could reduce your fuel efficiency by about one percent.

In addition to the extra weight, hauling cargo on your roof increases wind resistance and lowers fuel economy. To help keep your fuel economy optimal, remove any roof-mounted storage when you don’t need it or opt for a rear-mount cargo box when necessary.

3. Avoid Idling

Idling refers to running a vehicle’s engine while it’s parked. While we’re all guilty of this practice from time-to-time, it can quickly affect your fuel efficiency and, consequentially, your budget. In fact, idling can use a quarter to a half gallon of fuel per hour, depending on engine size and if the air conditioner is being used. Avoiding this wasteful habit is easy and effective. Just turn off your engine when your vehicle is parked – it only takes about 10 seconds worth of fuel to restart your vehicle.

4. Keep Tires Inflated

According to the DOE, drivers can improve their gas mileage by as much as three percent just by keeping their tires properly inflated. If you’re not sure what the appropriate tire pressure is for your car, you can check for a sticker on the inside of the driver-side door or in the glove box.

The information is also available in the owner’s manual. Drivers should not fill their tires to the maximum pressure listed on side of the tire.

As a rule of thumb – check your tires at least once a month. Keeping them well inflated and maintained will also help them last longer and ensure a safer journey.

5. Maintain Your Engine

It’s no secret that keeping up with auto maintenance is an important step in preventing expensive engine damage and ensuring the reliability of your vehicle. However, while these steps help your vehicle to run better, they’re also great for improving fuel efficiency. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, having your car properly tuned can improve gas mileage by up to four percent.

Some basic maintenance tasks that can make a big difference include wheel alignment, changing filters and spark plugs and consistently changing engine oil. It’s also important to note that using the recommended engine oil for your vehicle will increase your fuel efficiency by up to two percent.

MCU’s Five Things to Know: Buying a Used Car

Buying a used car is an opportunity to get behind the wheel of a great deal. However, if you’re not careful, you could be driving off with an expensive mistake. To make sure you’re getting the best bang for your buck and a vehicle that will last you for as long as you need, check out our tips below!

1. Shop around. Falling in love with a car can make you want to sign on the dotted line pretty quickly but comparing similar makes and models can help ensure that's you're getting a fair deal. Taking this time will also help you really think about your purchase, opposed to buying with your emotions. To help ensure you’re not overpaying, you can use car buying website like TRUECar and Enterprise.

2. Research the vehicle's history. It may appear practically new but it’s important to look past the car’s paint job and into its history. This includes past owners, use, maintenance and if the car has been involved in any accidents or natural disasters. Running the vehicle identification number (VIN) will help confirm the car's history.

3. Check the warranty. In most cases, auto warranties transfer to the new owner after purchase. In other words, if you buy a car and sell it to a new owner, the warranty will still remain valid for the new owner until the end of the original warranty period. However, it’s important to contact the manufacturer to confirm that you can use the coverage.

4. Have your car inspected by a mechanic. A car may be advertised as being in good condition by a dealership or private owner but getting a second opinion is recommended so you can be sure to make your purchase with confidence. If you take the car to a garage for an inspection, the mechanic will put it on a lift and look for evidence of fluid leaks under the vehicle. Mobile inspectors can't provide this service.

5. Know your financing options! If you’re planning to finance your vehicle, choosing the right option could save hundreds or even thousands of dollars down the road. And while a dealership can sometimes work with you to offer a competitive interest rate, it’s important consider the other aspects of your loan and how they compare to options offered by your financial institution. These include the terms of the agreement, length of the loan and down payment.

When it comes time to make your purchase, MCU members have access to exceptionally competitive auto loans, including:

  • • Up to 125% financing available

  • • Low interest rates

  • • Flexible terms
MCU’s Seven-Step Auto-Buying Checklist

Whether you’re ready to upgrade to a new set of wheels or are shopping for your very first car, navigating the process of purchasing a new vehicle can be a confusing one. For many potential buyers, choosing the right car, financing options and even shopping method can leave them feeling overwhelmed.

Not sure where to start? Check out our MCU Auto-Buying Checklist below!

1. Determine your budget and get preapproved.

There’s no point in getting attached to a car that you can’t afford. Before you begin your search, start by reviewing your income, expenses and how a car may fit into your financial circumstances. As you begin to do your research, remember a car isn’t just an initial price tag or even a monthly payment – be sure to consider fees, taxes, the cost of fuel, insurance and repairs down the line.

If you’re planning to finance your car, getting preapproved has its advantages, including reinforcing your budget. While you may have already had an idea of how much you afford, getting preapproved for an auto loan will keep your budget in the black. It will also give you the best idea about what your financing options will be in the near future.

To get preapproved, you’ll likely need to provide employment and salary information as well as any other debts you may have.

2. Research, research, research!

Your car isn’t just a large financial purchase, it’s an investment in your lifestyle.

Extra storage or fuel efficiency? Four-wheel drive or city-friendly features? Taking time to do your homework to figure out which vehicle will meet your needs and compliment your budget will not save you time at the dealer but will also help to avoid disappointment down the road.

Auto buying apps and online resources such as TrueCar, Enterprise and Kelly Blue Book can help you to narrow your search, stay focused and feel confident about pricing when you visit dealerships.

3. Go for a test drive.

You’ve done your homework to narrow down your options and understand your financing options. Now, you’re ready to visit local dealerships and car-buying events to evaluate your top picks in person, make note of their details and take them for a spin.

Test driving vehicles may sound like a lot of fun (it can be!), but shopping in person can be an emotional experience too. As you test drive vehicles, it’s important to keep your excitement from taking over and to avoid distractions – i.e. cars that won’t work for your lifestyle or budget.

Remember, a car may look nice online but you won’t know if there’s a troublesome blind or uncomfortably low headroom until you’ve actually taken it for a test drive. Take careful inventory of the car’s features and how it handles. If something bothers you even slightly early on, it’ll certainly become an annoyance (or even a safety hazard) in the future.

4. Compare pricing and warranties to get the best deal.

Buyers may be surprised to learn that different dealerships will offer varied prices, complimentary service packages and warranties for the make and model you’re interested in purchasing. And while you may be tempted to jump at the opportunity to drive a car off the lot as soon as possible, you could be making an expensive (but common) mistake in your haste.

Before you even start shopping in person, digital car-buying tools like TrueCar can help you to easily compare prices that other customers paid for the same or similar vehicles in your area. You can use this information to get an idea of which dealerships you should work with, and also negotiate the best deal with confidence.

You can also get these details by working directly with dealerships in your area. Be sure to ask about the total sale price, including any additional accessories that may have already been installed on the car; maintenance plans; warranties and any upcoming dealership sales.

5. Decide how you’ll finance your vehicle

Now is the time to compare the financing and loan options offered by the dealership, compared to the auto loan preapproval you received from your credit union or other lender.

To do this, you’ll likely have to let the dealership run a credit report and assess your credit. And while a dealership can sometimes work with you to offer a competitive interest rate, it’s important consider the other aspects of your loan. These include the terms of the agreement, length of the loan and down payment.

This may sound like a lot of back-and-forth between yourself, the dealership and your lender. The good news is that many dealerships have relationships with credit unions, banks and private lenders, which means if you want to go the route of financing through one of these options, the dealership can work with you to secure the financing right onsite.

6. Close the deal.

Most buyers will finalize their purchases at a dealership. Once you've agreed on a deal, the salesperson will take you to the finance and insurance office. This is where you’ll sign the contract and make decisions to add any of the additional products discussed earlier, such as an extended warranty.

Be sure to review the agreement carefully and make sure the pricing matches the itemized expenses. There can be a lot of paperwork so it’s important to be assertive and to ask questions about any discrepancies.

Once you sign on the dotted line, the car is legally yours!

7. Receive your vehicle!

Whether your car is ready and waiting for you on the lot or is delivered from the manufacturer within a few days, receiving your vehicle isn’t just an exciting moment, it’s also an important step.

Be sure the gas tank is full and carefully look for any damage to the interior or exterior of the car. This is includes scratches, dings and scuffmarks. If everything looks to be in order, let the salesperson give you a tour of your new car and walk you through important features and safety devices.

MCU’s Guide to Shopping for Auto Insurance

Drivers know that insuring their vehicles is a responsibility that comes with getting on the road. However, it can also be an expensive bill to pay. In fact, the average driver in New York State pays more than $1,170 per year for their insurance. That’s nearly $100 per month! Luckily, drivers aren’t married to their insurance companies and shopping around for an insurance policy could lead you to better deals and lower monthly bills. Check out how to get started here!

1. Get quoted.

Most auto insurance policies are issued to drivers every six or 12 months. While getting a quote a month or two prior to when your policy is up for renewal, drivers are also recommended to shop for rate quotes if they move, purchase a new car, have seen a significant improvement to their credit score, or are looking to change the kind of coverage their insurance would offer.

It’s recommended to request quotes from at least three insurance providers but don’t let the policy price be the end all be all to your search. Not all policies are created equally and it’s important to make sure you understand what’s covered and how much protection you’d have from a new policy.

Be sure to do your homework on each of these new insurance providers and to note the details of the policies offered. This includes liability protection, collision coverage, bodily injury protection and the kind of coverage provided if you’re hit by an uninsured or underinsured driver.

2. Contact your current insurance provider.

Your insurance provider may be more willing to keep your business than you think. By bringing your new rate quotes to the attention of your provided, the company may offer to match or even beat your best offer.

Your circumstances may have also changed since your last policy with your current insurance provider. Be sure to let your insurance provider know if you now qualify for bundled policies (with renters insurance, home insurance, etc.) or if there are steps you can take, such as a driver safety course, that will improve your current rate. You could be missing out on discounts and financial opportunities.

3. Beware of penalties.

Auto insurance companies will typically give you the right to cancel your policy at any time. And as long as you give them the required noticed outlined in your contract, they will also typically refund your premium.

However, if you decide to switch insurance providers before your current policy has expired, you might be responsible for an early cancelation penalty. Be sure to understand if you’re responsible for any penalty fees before you go ahead and cancel your current policy. It’s important to weigh any potential fee against the savings you’ll experience with your new insurance policy. You may even find that it’s cheaper to stick with your current insurance provider.

4. Don’t leave a gap in your insurance.

A lapse in insurance coverage is a legal and financial liability, especially if you have an accident during that time. Because of this, it’s important not to cancel your insurance before you have the new policy in place. To do this, make sure you have something in writing from your new insurance provider before canceling your old policy.

5. Cancel your old insurance policy.

This may seem like a no-brainer but you’ll need to formally let your insurance provider know that you are canceling your coverage. Be sure to call or write to notify the company that you’re ending your policy and are going with someone else. It’s important to follow up to make sure you get written confirmation that you’ve canceled.

If you don’t formally cancel your premium, your old provider will continue to bill you. Even if you didn’t realize this bill wasn’t cancelled, not making payments will hurt your credit score.

6. Drive carefully!

Most insurance providers can drop you easily and quickly if you file a claim within 90 days. The same goes for if you receive a speeding ticket or earn points on your license.

Five Things to Know: Spring Auto Maintenance Tips

There are a lot of things to love about our cars but pricy auto repairs definitely isn’t one of them. Luckily, by periodically taking care of your vehicle with inexpensive maintenance tasks, you’ll not only keep your car running efficiently and safely, but will also prevent expensive repairs down the road. As spring approaches, now is the time to get your car ready for the warmer temperatures, spring showers and notorious potholes plaguing the streets.

Check out these easy vehicle maintenance checks that can help keep your car running smoothly, your passengers safe and your wallet happy.

1. Check tire pressure

Due to cold temperatures, your car’s tires will likely have lost pressure over the winter, leaving them partially deflated. Driving with low tire pressure for an extended period of time can reduce your car’s efficiency (costing you more in gas) and even weaken your tires, which could result in tire blowouts. This means that checking the pressure won’t just save you money down the road, but is also an important safety precaution.

If you don't feel comfortable checking your car's tire pressures and filling your tires by yourself, take it to an auto parts store or gas station, which will usually perform the check at little to no cost.

2. Maintain visibility

More than 23 percent of car accidents in the United States are caused by the combination of hazardous weather and poor visibility. This means keeping your windshield wiper blades up to snuff is important for any car owner. Snow and ice throughout the winter months can crack, wear and damage your wiper blades, leaving them less effective when you need them most. This upgrade is easy and inexpensive but can go a long way in keeping you safe on the road.

In addition, always be mindful of any chips (even small ones) in your windshield. If you spot one, have it repaired as soon as possible. If left unattended, sudden temperature changes (such as defrosting a freezing windshield) can cause these chips to become large cracks, which means you’ll have to make the expensive repair of replacing your entire windshield.

3. Check alignment and suspension

With potholes, rocks, sand and salt, the winter roads can be tough on your vehicle’s alignment or damage its suspension. Over time, parts such as suspension springs can become worn and slack, leading to a shift in the wheel alignment, which can affect tire performance and safety. In this case, prevention is more effective than repairs so regular service checks are recommended to car owners looking to stay ahead of the damage.

4. Change the oil

If you let basic auto maintenance like changing your oil go by the wayside this winter, you’re definitely not alone. According to a recent Car Care Report, nearly 22 percent of cars on the road have dirty oil. Proactively changing a vehicles’ oil and filter won’t just help your engine continue to work at its best it’s also an inexpensive and highly effective way to prevent thousands of dollars in engine damage. We think that’s definitely worth a trip to your local automotive shop.

5. Check fluid levels

In addition to oil, drivers need to pay attention to transmission fluid, power steering fluid, brake fluid, air conditioning coolant, radiator fluid and washer fluid levels. Experts recommend checking these fluids every few months. Each of these fluids serve different functions but work together to keep you engine running smoothly and your transportation safe.

Selling your Car when you have an Auto Loan

According to the Federal Reserve of New York, a record 107 million Americans had an auto loan in 2017. That's nearly 43 percent of the entire adult population in the US!

If you have a current auto loan on a car you’re looking to sell or trade in, you’ll need to take a few extra considerations into account before starting the process. This is because when you have an auto loan, the lender is technically a partial owner of the vehicle. Their name may be listed on the car title and they could even hold the title. This is to ensure you can’t sell your car and transfer the title without the lender receiving the current balance of the loan.

1. Talk to your Lender

You may not know where to start when it comes to selling your car but consulting with your lender is a great way to get started and gain important insights on the steps you’ll have to take. It’s important to remember that no two lenders are the same and they’ll each have different requirements and processes when it comes to helping car owners through the selling process. Your lender might even have a local office where you and the buyer can meet, which would make the process easier.

2. Determine your Car’s True Value

It’s important to remember that it’s illegal for a car to transfer owners if there are still liens on it. This means that in order for your lender to sign off on the title of your vehicle, your auto loan must be paid off completely first. This aspect of selling your car highlights the importance of knowing the value of your car before selling it. In some situations, the sale price won’t cover the remainder of the loan.

By using resources like Kelley Blue Book or, car owners will be able to determine both the sale and trade-in value of their vehicle. As a general rule of thumb, you’ll get a better deal from a sale compared to a trade-in.

Once you know your vehicle’s standard value, you’ll then have to subtract the payoff amount, or the dollar amount outstanding on your loan, from the value of the vehicle. Knowing your car’s value, compared to the amount you owe on it, will help you decide if selling your car is right for you.

3. If your Car has Positive Equity…

If your car has positive equity, meaning it is worth more than the loan you have on your vehicle, the process of selling your car can be quite simple. The buyer will either pay the total amount to the lender and the lender will then pay the difference to you, or the buyer will pay your remaining loan balance to the lender and then make a separate payment to you.

For example, if you still owe $7,000 on your auto loan and a private buyer pays $15,000 for your car, you will receive $8,000 for the sale.

4. If your Auto Loan is more than your Car is Worth…

If you’re underwater on your auto loan, meaning you owe more on your auto loan than your vehicle is worth, selling your car could become more complicated. This is because you’ll have to somehow give the lender the difference between the sale price and what you owe. For example, if you still owe $8,000 on your auto loan and a private buyer is only paying $6,000 for your car, you would have to pay the lender $2,000.

To do this, you can pay cash or you might have to take out another loan. The private buyer will pay the sale amount to the lender and then you will have to pay the difference.

Finally, you and a representative of the lender will sign and hand off the title to the buyer.

5. If you’re Trading in your Vehicle

If you’re trading in your vehicle, the auto dealership can be a big help in handling all of the paperwork surrounding the purchase of your car and paying off the remainder of your auto loan. This is because unlike privately selling your car, you can trade your vehicle in before all of the loans have been officially cleared.

If you're trading in a car that’s worth more than the balance on your auto loan, the dealer will give you a credit for the difference to use toward the purchase of your next car.

However, if you’re underwater on your auto loan, the dealer could add the negative equity amount into the loan on your new car. This means you’ll actually be taking out a bigger loan for the next car. In situations like these, you may end up paying more than your new car is actually worth or worse, biting off more than you can chew financially.

Sellers should always be wary of trade-ins, as a dealership will likely not give you the same amount of money you may get from a private sale. If they do give you the retail market value of your car, some of that cost could be tacked onto the vehicle you are buying or leasing from the dealership.

Finally, as a seller, it is your responsibility to follow up with the dealership to ensure that they’ve worked with your lender to pay off the debt on the car.

Budget-Friendly Car Maintenance Tips for the Cold Weather

For drivers, the quickly approaching fall and winter seasons mean that freezing temperatures; inclement weather and salted streets will be sure to worsen driving conditions and cause vehicle wear and tear. To prepare your car for the cold weather, regular maintenance is an easy way to help to mitigate damage, improve safety and prevent expensive breakdowns in the future.

Starting early is key. Check out our tips below on how to keep your car in good working order without breaking the bank this winter!

1. Check Your Tire Pressure

Snow, ice and sand can cause roads to become dangerous so it’s especially important for drivers to make sure their tires are in good working condition before the winter season starts. This includes tire pressure, which can decrease quickly in cold temperatures. Driving on underinflated tires can cause premature wear and make your car handle less predictably. If you check your tire pressure and find that one or more of your tires are low on air, you can fill them at a gas station air pump for little to no cost.

2. Maintain Visibility

More than 23 percent of car accidents in the United States are caused by hazardous weather and poor visibility. As we enter the season of sleet and snow, drivers should strongly consider replacing worn out windshield wipers and topping off windshield wiper fluid as an easy and affordable ways to make sure they maintain optimal visibility on the road.

In addition, always be mindful of any chips (even small ones) in your windshield. If you spot one, have it repaired as soon as possible. If left unattended, sudden temperature changes (such as defrosting a freezing windshield) can cause these chips to become large cracks, which means you’ll have to make the expensive repair of replacing your entire windshield.

3. Check Antifreeze Levels

Antifreeze is the fluid found in your radiator that helps to keep water from freezing or boiling in regular and extreme temperatures. As temperatures dip below freezing, keeping your vehicle’s antifreeze levels at a sufficient level is an affordable but important step to maintaining your engine and preventing repairs that could cost thousands of dollars.

4. Change Your Oil

According to a recent study by the Car Care Council of the Be Car Care Aware campaign, 22 percent of vehicles have low or dirty engine oil. No matter the season, consistently changing your oil every few thousand miles is one of the most cost efficient ways to maintain your car.

Just a few hundred dollars could save you from costly engine breakdowns and repairs. Because unpredictable weather can derail weekend plans to get your oil changed during the winter, being proactive and getting it done early this fall can help you know your car is set for the season.

5. Check Your Battery

Car battery failure is one of the most common reasons a driver finds themselves stranded and it can be especially dangerous in the cold weather. To help prevent unwelcome disasters, have your battery tested by a mechanic to find out if it needs replacing. It is also a good idea to keep a booster pack or jumper cables in your car just in case your battery does die while you’re out and about.

When Buying Your Leased Car is the Right Move

With lower monthly payments and the prospect of a new car every few years, it’s no wonder why vehicle leasing continues to be a popular option. However, the cycle of endless payments and fees, along with the restrictions and lack of equity that come with leasing, can leave many drivers frustrated.

If you’re a current leaser looking to become an owner, a buyout on your current lease can be a great way to do just that. It provides you the ownership you are looking for with the added benefits of already knowing the ins and outs of your car, including its accident and maintenance history.

Like any large purchase, potential buyers should consider important factors before signing on the dotted line. These considerations may include:

1. The Car’s Current Value

While you may love your current car, it’s always important to make a purchase with your head, and not your heart. Your goal as a leaser looking to buy your car should be to pay less than or near the private-party price. This means you’ll need to take time to do research.

To start, check for the residual price (also known as a buyout amount) on your lease agreement. This is the amount that the dealership will value your vehicle at the end of your lease. If you don't have your contract handy, you may be able to find this information on an online account you may have with the dealership.

Once you know your residual amount, you’ll need to know the value your car’s specific make and model. Taking the time to compare reputable resources, including TRUECar and Kelly Blue Book can help you gather as much information as possible and confidently make a decision about your purchase.

2. Condition and Maintenance

Most vehicles only have bumper-to-bumper warranties for three years, which means potential buyers should consider the condition of their leased car carefully before making the decision to buy. This may include:

  • Car maintenance
  • Tires
  • Mileage

You may find it beneficial to buy your car if it does have some wear and tear. While these damages may be small and even unnoticeable to a driver throughout your day-to-day life, they can become extremely expensive when the lease ends and the car is returned.

The good news? As a leaser, you do have significant advantages when it comes to evaluating your current car’s condition, as you already know the history of the vehicle’s maintenance history and how it’s been cared for. You can also take advantage of having it checked out for mechanical problems before its warranty expires. If anything does need to be fixed or maintained, you can arrange for the repairs of covered items at little or no cost.

All in all, if your car is in good overall condition and won't cost that much to keep up over the long haul, leasers can feel confident that their car would be a good purchase.

3. Your Budget

Like with any major purchases, you’ll need to figure out if buying the car will fit within the your budget. Unless you plan to pay for the car outright, the expenses may include:

  • A down payment
  • Monthly payments (with interest) to an auto loan
  • Insurance
  • General maintenance that will come with owning an older car

Loan calculator tools and other resources available online may be helpful in figuring out what expense may work with your monthly budget.

Finally, keep in mind that an important factor in determining the monthly expense of owning your car will be where you choose to finance it. The best financing deals are rarely found at auto dealerships. Shopping around for the most competitive auto loan and lowest interest rates may make all the difference when it comes to figuring out if your car can fit comfortably in your budget.

MCU Car Buying Tips

Summer is the season of go, go, go. It’s no surprise that it is also the time of year many find themselves in the market for a car that will get them on the way to their next adventure (or just up the road for groceries). As exciting as buying a new car can be, prospective buyers should proceed with caution. Cars are an expensive investment and it’s easy to become attached to a make and model that could later leave you feeling in over your head financially. Luckily, using a few simple guidelines, you can confidently get on the road with the right vehicle at a great price!

1. Set a budget

Before you begin seriously shopping for a new vehicle, setting a budget is an important first step to saving both time, resources and even disappointment during your shopping experience. To ensure you’re making the best financial decision, a good rule of thumb is to keep the cost of all of your cars at or below 25 percent of your total monthly household income. It’s important to remember the annual expense of a car isn’t simply limited to monthly loan payments, but also fuel and car insurance.

2. Consider new, used and pre-owned vehicles

Purchasing a used or pre-owned vehicle may mean getting the most for your money. However, these cars often also come with higher interest rates when financed and shorter warranty periods. The car’s full history, including accidents and repairs, may also be limited. On the other hand, purchasing a new car on the same budget may mean getting a more basic model with less features but you’ll also have a full warranty, pay a lower interest rate, and in some cases have access to free maintenance and roadside assistance.

3. Do your homework

Whether you’ve decided on a used or new car, research plays a critical role in getting the best possible deal for your purchase. A quick internet search of the make and model you are interested in will help you to understand the general weaknesses of any car type, as well as typical repair costs and reasonable price points.

If you are specifically looking to purchase a pre-owned vehicle, the history of these cars can also be researched easily with its vehicle identification number (VIN). This can be done with a Carfax Report. It’s also important to ask the dealer or private seller questions about the car’s history. These can include:

• Are there any dealer documentary fees or other dealer specific fees that I should know about before I begin my negotiation?
• Does the car have any recalls?
• Is the car under warranty?
• How many miles are on it?

4. Shop for the best deal

Many potential car buyers often fall in love with a car and feel the need to make an offer immediately, for fear of losing their purchase to another buyer. Always avoid shopping with your emotions. Taking your time to shop and compare prices is the only way to know for sure that you are getting the best deal possible. Luckily, digital tools and shopping platforms can help with your process. These tools include MCU’s Car Buying Service, powered by TRUECar, which can help shoppers research thousands of new and used vehicles, see what others have paid and enjoy guaranteed pricing.

Shopping around for your financing options is also an important step in the car buying process. In fact, many individuals make the mistake of financing their car through a dealership, which may seem convenient but could prove to be more expensive than alternative options.

When the time comes to making a decision about financing your vehicle, remember MCU is there to help! We offer:

• Up to 125% financing available
• Low interest rates
• Flexible terms

Whether you choose a new or just new-to-you car, visit today to learn more about how an MCU Auto Loan can help get you on the road!

The Four Financial Attitudes to Avoid

Financial insecurity is a growing problem faced by many Americans. In fact, nearly 40 percent of US workers have reported having less than $1,000 in savings and the average household debt is now more than $16,000.

In some instances, people may struggle to pay for unexpected expenses such as a medical emergency, job loss or divorce. Others may have been tempted by payday lending loans, uncontrolled use of credit cards or convenient payment plans, which all contributed to a gradual accumulation of debt.

As the old saying goes, attitude is everything. No matter what your situation is or your goals are, avoiding troublesome financial attitudes and habits can go a long way. Check them out below!

1. Spending Too Much
Overspending is one of the fastest and most common ways an individual can find themselves in financial trouble. Overspenders often have a hard time keeping track of where their money goes and spending money has often become a form of fun and recreation. They also have a hard time differentiating between wants and needs and thrive on immediate gratification.

How to Avoid It: If you’re an overspender, you probably have a difficult time visualizing how much money is going out, compared to your income. To help create a visual of your cash flow, it helps to try writing down a budget and making a list of your purchases. After setting a budget, using cash can be helpful to avoid wasteful or thoughtless purchases. Once the allocated funds are gone, you’ll have to wait until the next pay cycle to make another purchase. It may be tough, but it’ll help reign in spending.

2. Saving Too Little
It can be hard for individuals to realize they are saving too little. While they may recognize that there is no “cushion” in their savings to cover an emergency expense, many may feel like they can rely on their 401(k) if needed. However, unfortunately, the funds in a 401(k) are unavailable to help in an emergency situation without incurring penalties and fees.

How to Avoid it: To help build savings, always make it a practice to “pay yourself first”. Direct depositing a percentage of every paycheck into a separate account set-aside account for long term savings that can also cover unexpected expenses is a great way to start.

3. Carrying Too Much Debt
Individuals who carry too much debt tend to focus the cost of a minimum payment, or only consider their individual installments, opposed to the overall expense. They may also become fixated on deals that promise deferred payments or special deals without paying attention to the overall expense. Those carrying debt will often take actions to consolidate debt to maintain a standard of living.

How to Avoid it: If an individual finds themselves carrying too much debt, they can get back on track by focusing on the overall expense of a purchase including interest. If the overall expense is figured within the individual’s budget, it may become more clear that it is actually unaffordable. They must also not be easily taken by sales that appear to offer “great deals” and take time to read the fine print.

It is also important to note that while these practices can help change current attitudes towards debt, the only way to truly be free of debt is to begin paying it off. A spending plan can help an individual begin the process of allocating the needed funds for monthly debts.

4. Caring Too Little About the Future
Many people are surprised when their budget collapses under the strain of accumulated debt. They may have failed to pay attention to their spending, ignored bills and disregarded the cost of interest and fees. Because they’ve failed to plan ahead, these individuals are often caught off guard when they find themselves in financial emergencies and will delay their ability to reach financial milestones, such as buying a home. Sometimes, these individuals also believe that if there were to find themselves in financial trouble, a family member or friend will help them out.

How to Avoid it: While this attitude can be found in anybody, it is common among adult children still living with their parents, as they often have both and income and relatively minimal expenses. This combination can be make it difficult to focus on properly managing money. If you find yourself struggling to focus on your financial future, setting both long and short-term goals is an effective motivator to begin planning and saving.

MCU’s Tips to Avoiding Common Home Buying Mistakes

For many, buying a home is more than a financial milestone, it’s the realization of a lifelong dream. As, the housing market continues to become increasingly competitive, potential homebuyers may be feeling the pressure in order to get in on a fair deal while they still can.

However, while the timing may be right to still get in on a great deal, the home-buying process can be a confusing one and common mistakes could end up costing you time and money. To get started and to make sure that your home-buying experience is as seamless as possible, check out some common mistakes how to avoid them below!

Mistake: Not knowing your credit score. Many potential homebuyers don’t know their credit scores or what their scores mean. In some cases, potential homebuyers may jump into the home-buying process without knowing that their credit score is too poor for them to obtain a mortgage or will only help them to qualify for a high-interest loan. In other instances, individuals may just assume they have poor credit and do not realize their credit is good enough for them to obtain a mortgage at a good rate.

Tip: According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, individuals should check their credit reports once every 12 months. This will not only let you know whether or not you’re ready to buy a home but will also let you check for mistakes that may hurt your score and affect your ability to get a loan. The only authorized site source under federal law that provides free credit reports is

Educational classes (such as MCU’s First-Time Homebuyers Seminar Series) are also a great way to better understand how your score affects you in the home-buying process. It will will also provide you with information on how you can begin to improve your credit and accelerate your home-buying process.

Mistake: Assuming your down payment is the only upfront cost associated with buying a home. There are many fees and closing costs that need to be paid along with the down payment.

Tip: Know your budget when shopping for your home, and make sure to include additional costs when budgeting for your home purchase. Taxes and fees like escrow, real estate taxes and attorneys fees must be paid during the purchase (or closing) of a real estate property.

To help curb these expenses, shop around when looking for your mortgage. In some instances, financial institutions will waive some closing costs and fees to help keep your initial payment low.

Mistake: Not knowing about all costs of home ownership in the neighborhood(s) where you are looking to buy. The cost of your home is more than just the price of your house.

Tip: Do research and find out the cost of property taxes, Homeowners Association Fee, Plan Unit development fees, homeowner’s insurance, and other costs that will affect how much you can actually afford.

Mistake: Underestimating the length of the mortgage process. The process usually takes 30-45 days to close after receiving necessary documentation, not 30-45 days from the initial contact with the loan officer. Homebuyers who don’t give themselves enough time may find their process is delayed.

Tip: Plan effectively. Know that the process is just that, a process. Understand that your financial activity, such as incurring a large amount of debt, during this time period can affect your credit, which can affect your capacity to be a homeowner in the lender’s eyes.

To help the home-buying process go smoothing, buyers are encouraged to get a mortgage preapproval from a lender. This is a formal estimation of how much you, as a potential homebuyer, are qualified to borrow. This preapproval, which will come in the form of a letter, can speed up the home-buying process by helping you to pinpoint your price range, secure a real estate agent, narrow down potential neighborhoods and motivate sellers.

Mistake: Choosing to delay the home buying process in anticipation of lower interest rates. While rates have increased slightly, buying a home is still financially attainable. However, experts agree that the Federal Reserve can be expected to raise rates further and waiting years or even just months could put you at risk of an even higher mortgage interest rate.

Tip: Start today! By locking in an interest rate before they inch up again, you could save yourself hundreds of dollars a month!

Five Helpful Tips: Buying a Used Car.

* Shop around. Comparing similar makes and models can help ensure that's you're getting a fair deal.

> Research the vehicle's history. This includes past owners, use, and maintenance and if the car has been involved in any accidents or natural disasters. Running the vehicle identification number (VIN) will help confirm the car's history.

> Check the warranty. Contact manufacturers to confirm that you can use the coverage.

> Ask about the dealer's return policy. Get it in writing and read it carefully.

> Have the car inspected by your mechanic.

And don't forget to know your financing options! When it comes time to make your purchase, MCU members have access to exceptionally competitive auto loans, including:

> Up to 125% financing available

> Low interest rates

> Flexible terms

> Auto Refinance loans

Today’s Rates

Rates As Low As:
Auto Loan*3.25%
Personal Loan**7.95%
30 Year Fixed6.03%
IRA 18-Month Variable2.27%
Share Certificate 36-Month3.04%

* This is a discounted rate. The APR for auto loans will increase by .50% after consummation if automatic transfer from your MCU primary share (savings)/share draft (checking)account is cancelled or the transfer is unsuccessful for 3 consecutive payments.

** The APR for personal loans will increase by .50% after consummation if automatic transfer from your MCU primary share (savings)/share draft (checking) account is cancelled or the transfer is unsuccessful for 3 consecutive payments.

*** Annual Percentage Yield
Visit our Rates page for more information

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Routing Number: 226078036

NMLS #:184286

  • ncua Federally insured by NCUA. Your savings federally insured to at least $250,000 and backed by the full faith and credit of the United States Government. National Credit Union Administration, a U.S. Government Agency.