Tag: Auto

Should You Refinance Your Student Loans?

by Phillip Warren

Due to financial consequences of COVID-19 — and the broader impact on our economy — now is an excellent time to consider refinancing most loans you have. This can include mortgage debt you have that may be converted to a new loan with a lower interest rate, as well as auto loans, personal loans, and more.

Refinancing student loans can also make sense if you’re willing to transition student loans you currently have into a new loan with a private lender. Make sure to take time to compare rates to see how you could save money on interest, potentially pay down student loans faster, or even both if you took the steps to refinance.

Get Started and Compare Rates Now

Still, it’s important to keep a close eye on policies and changes from the federal government that have already taken place, as well as changes that might come to fruition in the next weeks or months. Currently, all federal student loans are locked in at a 0% APR and payments are suspended during that time. This change started on March 13, 2020 and lasts for 60 days, so borrowers with federal loans can skip payments and avoid interest charges until the middle of May 2020.

It’s hard to say what will happen after that, but it’s smart to start figuring out your next steps and determining if student loan refinancing makes sense for your situation. Note that, in addition to lower interest rates than you can get with federal student loans, many private student lenders offer signup bonuses as well. With the help of a lower rate and an initial bonus, you could end up far “ahead” by refinancing in a financial sense.

Still, there are definitely some negatives to consider when it comes to refinancing your student loans, and we’ll go over those disadvantages below.

Should You Refinance Now?

Do you have student loan debt at a higher APR than you want to pay?

  • If no: You shouldn’t refinance.
  • If yes: Go to next question.

Do you have good credit or a cosigner? 

  • If no: You shouldn’t refinance.
  • If yes:  Go to next question.

Do you have federal student loans?

  • If no: You can consider refinancing
  • If yes: Go to next question

Are you willing to give up federal protections like deferment, forbearance, and income-driven repayment plans?

  • If no: You shouldn’t refinance
  • If yes: Consider refinancing your loans.

Reasons to Refinance

There are many reasons student borrowers ultimately refinance their student loans, although they can vary from person to person. Here are the main situations where it can make sense to refinance along with the benefits you can expect to receive:

  • Secure a lower monthly payment on your student loans.
    You may want to consider refinancing your student loans if your ultimate goal is reducing your monthly payment so it fits in better with your budget and your goals. A lower interest rate could help you lower your payment each month, but so could extending your repayment timeline.
  • Save money on interest over the long haul.
    If you plan to refinance your loans into a similar repayment timeline with a lower APR, you will definitely save money on interest over the life of your loan.
  • Change up your repayment timeline.
    Most private lenders let you refinance your student loans into a new loan product that lasts 5 to 20 years. If you want to expedite your loan repayment or extend your repayment timeline, private lenders offer that option.
  • Pay down debt faster.
    Also, keep in mind that reducing your interest rate or repayment timeline can help you get out of student loan debt considerably faster. If you’re someone who wants to get out of debt as soon as you can, this is one of the best reasons to refinance with a private lender.

Why You Might Not Want to Refinance Right Now

While the reasons to refinance above are good ones, there are plenty of reasons you may want to pause on your refinancing plans. Here are the most common:

  • You want to wait and see if the federal government will offer 0% APR or forbearance beyond May 2020 due to COVID-19.
    The federal government has only extended forbearance through the middle of May right now, but they might lengthen the timeline of this benefit if you wait it out. Since this perk only applies to federal student loans, you would likely want to keep those loans at 0% APR for as long as the federal government allows.
  • You may want to take advantage of income-driven repayment plans.
    Income-driven repayment plans like Pay As You Earn (PAYE) and Income-Based Repayment let you pay a percentage of your discretionary income each month then have your loans forgiven after 20 to 25 years. These plans only apply to federal student loans, so you shouldn’t refinance with a private lender if you are hoping to sign up.
  • You’re worried you won’t be able to keep up with your student loan payments due to your job or economic conditions.
    Federal student loans come with deferment and forbearance that can buy you time if you’re struggling to make the payments on your student loans. With that in mind, you may not want to give up these protections if you’re unsure about your future and how your finances might be.
  • Your credit score is low and you don’t have a cosigner.
    Finally, you should probably stick with federal student loans if your credit score is poor and you don’t have a cosigner. Federal student loans come with fairly low rates and most don’t require a credit check, so they’re a great deal if your credit is imperfect.

Important Things to Note

Before you move forward with student loan refinancing, there are some details you should know and understand. Here are our top tips and some important factors to keep in mind.

Compare Rates and Loan Terms

Because student loan refinancing is such a competitive industry, shopping around for loans based on their rates and terms can help you find out which lenders are offering the most lucrative refinancing options for someone with your credit profile and income.

We suggest using Credible to shop for student loan refinancing since this loan platform lets you compare offers from multiple lenders in one place. You can even get prequalified for student loan refinancing and “check your rate” without a hard inquiry on your credit score.

Check for Signup Bonuses

Some student loan refinancing companies let you score a bonus of $100 to $750 just for clicking through a specific link to start the process. This money is free money if you’re able to take advantage, and you can still qualify for low rates and fair loan terms that can help you get ahead.

We definitely suggest checking with lenders that offer bonuses provided you can also score the most competitive rates and terms.

Consider Your Personal Eligibility

Also keep your personal eligibility in mind, including factors beyond your credit score. Most applicants who are turned down for student loan refinancing are turned away based on their debt-to-income ratio and not their credit score. Generally speaking, this means they owe too much money on all their debts when you compare their liabilities to their income.

Credible also notes that adding a creditworthy cosigner can improve your chances of prequalifying for a loan. They also state that “many lenders offer cosigner release once borrowers have made a minimum number of on-time payments and can demonstrate they are ready to assume full responsibility for repayment of the loan on their own.”

It’s Not “All or Nothing”

Also, remember that you don’t have to refinance all of your student loans. You can just refinance the loans at the highest interest rates, or any particular loans you believe could benefit from a different repayment term.

4 Steps to Refinance Your Student Loans

Once you’re ready to pull the trigger, there are four simple steps involved in refinancing your student loans.

Step 1: Gather all your loan information.

Before you start the refinancing process, it helps to have all your loan information, including your student loan pay stubs, in one place. This can help you determine the total amount you want to refinance as well as the interest rates and payments you currently have on your loans.

Step 2: Compare lenders and the rates they offer.

From there, take the time to compare lenders in terms of the rates they can offer. You can use this tool to get the process started.

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Step 3: Choose the best loan offer you can qualify for.

Once you’ve filled out basic information, you can choose among multiple loan offers. Make sure to check for signup bonus offers as well as interest rates, loan repayment terms, and interest rates you can qualify for.

Step 4: Complete your loan application.

Once you decide on a lender that offers the best rates and terms, you can move forward with your full student loan refinancing application. Your student loan company will ask for more personal information and details on your existing student loans, which they will combine into your new loan with a new repayment term and monthly payment.

The Bottom Line

Whether it makes sense to refinance your student loans is a huge question that only you can answer after careful thought and consideration. Make sure you weigh all the pros and cons, including what you may be giving up if you’re refinancing federal loans with a private lender.

Refinancing your student loans can make sense if you have a plan to pay them off, but this strategy works best if you create a debt repayment plan you can stick with for the long-term.

The post Should You Refinance Your Student Loans? appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.


Source: goodfinancialcents.com

The Half Payment Budget Method Explained

by Phillip Warren

The post The Half Payment Budget Method Explained appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.

The half payment budget method might be what you need.  If traditional budgets do not work, you really might want to consider this method instead.

 

half payment budget method

 

If you do any research, you will find many ways to budget.  However, many times, the options you find do not work for you.  That is why it is important to find the right budget for your needs.  A new one you may not have tried is the the half-payment budget method.

This system helps many people stop living paycheck to paycheck.  Simply explained, it is where you take your regular, recurring payments and divide them in half.  Each payday, you set aside the necessary money out of each check so that you have the full payment available when it is due.  The half payment is not paid at that time, but rather you hang onto it and pay it on the due date.

If you are just learning about budgeting, you will want to check out our page — How to Budget. There, you will learn everything you want to know about budgets and budgeting.

HOW TO USE THE HALF-PAYMENT BUDGET METHOD

In order to explain this in a simple manner, here is how this system might look for you:

Monthly income: $2,500 (paid $1,250 every other week)

Recurring monthly payments (other than utilities):

Mortgage/Rent: $900
Vehicle Payments: $450
Auto insurance: $100

When you apply the half-payment method, your weekly budget would look something like this:

Paycheck #1 – $1,250

Set aside $450 for rent/mortgage
Set aside $225 for vehicle payments
Set aside $50 for insurance

Leaves $525 out of your paycheck for other expenses

Paycheck #2 – $1,250

Take $450 from previous paycheck and add $450 and pay $900
Take $225 from previous paycheck and add $225 and make full $450 payment
Take $50 from previous paycheck and add $50 to make $100 payment

Leaves $525 out of your paycheck for other expenses from each check

 

Now, let’s compare this to the method that many use – to just pay when the bill is due:

Paycheck #1 – $1,250  

Rent – $900

Leaves $350 for all expenses

Paycheck #2 – $1,250

Vehicle payments – $450
Insurance – $100

Leaves $700 for additional expenses

If you do the math, you will notice that you still have the same to spend over the course of a month, however, you will see a difference in the amount from each paycheck.  You might show that you have more money left after your 2nd paycheck of the month, but will you really save that?  Most people do not. If they have extra month to spend, they just spend it.

 

How to Start

I would not recommend that you jump in and change all of your bills so that they are paid using this method.  That may be too much and you might quit before you even really get started!  Instead, select one bill, such as a car payment, and try using the half payment method for a few months.  Once you see it works, you can transition other bills into this same payment method.

 

Why it Works

So, why would you use the half payment method?  For many it works better because you have around the same income to spend out of every check, rather than cutting your spending in half like you see in the second example.  For many, there is always that paycheck that makes spending tough.  When you have to pay a few larger bills all out of one check, it often leaves little to no money left for other purchases.

By changing to the half method, you are still paying your bills, but you are just earmarking money to pay a bill due later in the month.  You still have the same income.  You still pay your bills on time. However, you have more disposable income every two weeks by doing it in this way.

What is great about this method is that it works no matter how you are paid.  If you are paid monthly or weekly you might try using a quarter payment method every week (breaking out your check to leave spending weekly).

 

If you want to learn more about understanding your money attitude, change your spending habits and get out of debt once and for all, check out the Financial Rebook eBook.

The post The Half Payment Budget Method Explained appeared first on Penny Pinchin' Mom.


Source: pennypinchinmom.com

What Is the Average Used Car Loan Rate?

by Phillip Warren

average-used-car-loan-rate

Article originally published July 13th, 2016. Updated October 30th, 2018.

More people are opting to lease their new set of wheels instead of purchasing them, according to Q2 2018 data from Experian.

The number of auto loans grew to an all-time high, with leasing surpassed 30% of all new consumer vehicle sales. But the interest rates consumers are getting on these loans has stayed low, especially for used cars. In fact, Experian reported that average loan rates saw some increases, but still remain historically low.

Loan rates for a new car in Q2 of 2018 were 5.76%, up from 5.20% a year prior. Franchise used rates are 8.28% (down from 7.88% in Q2 2017), while independently used rates are 11.87% (down only 0.17% from Q2 2018).

The Experian Automotive scoring deems prime consumers as those with scores of 661 to 850, nonprime users with scores of 601 to 660, and subprime users as those with scores of 300 to 600. Consumers on all risk tiers are increasingly choosing to lease over purchasing cars, according to the report.

The number of prime consumers choosing used vehicles increased from 55.61% in Q2 2016 to 55.79% in Q2 2018. The number of nonprime and subprime consumers also saw increases, from 21.75% to 22.05% and decreases of 25.71% to 25.05%, respectively.

Experian reported that the increased number of prime consumers choosing used vehicles resulted in “score increases, greater percentages of used financing in the prime risk tier and lower average used rates.”

Getting a Car Loan

If you’re thinking about buying a used car and taking out an auto loan to do it, it’s a good idea to review your credit first. Having a good credit score can help you qualify for better terms and conditions on your financing. (To find out where your credit stands, you can see two of your credit scores for free, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.)

And when you’re figuring out how much you can afford, remember to consider not only how much your monthly car payment will be but also how much the loan will cost you in the end, by considering the interest rate and length of the loan term. (The longer the loan term, the more interest you will pay.)

If you aren’t happy with what you see, don’t worry — you may be able to improve your credit scores by paying down any big credit card balances, disputing errors and limiting credit inquiries until your score has had time to rebound.

Gather All Documentation

When attempting to get a used car loan, you will want to gather all the necessary documentation including the following:

  • Your Driver’s License
  • Proof of all of your income- this can be a paycheck stub or even a tax return
  • A utility or phone bill to prove your residency
  • Your social security number so they can run your credit check

These days, you can often apply for the used car loan right online or even by phone which makes it the process that much easier and accessible.

Start With Your Own Banking Institution

It is always a good idea to start with your own bank or credit union for financing because you have already established history and relationship with them. Typically, you will be able to find the absolute best rates and more favorable terms if you go through your own bank.

They will also be able to advise you on all the options that are available to you as you begin the journey toward car ownership.

Shop for the Best Rates

You never want to settle on the first rate you are given; don’t be afraid to shop around to see if you can find something better than the typical auto loan rates. You will find the best auto loan rates if you have good credit. Additionally, if you apply for multiple loans within a 14 day period, it will only count as one hard inquiry so that you can find the best rate possible.

What is the Average Used Car Loan Rate?

Typically, you will find that the car loan rate on a used car is going to be a bit higher than the rates you would find with a newer car. For example, good credit car loans can see an interest rate as low as 3.9% for a newer model and a little more than 5% for its older version.

Average Auto Loan Rates by Credit Score

The following are the average rates you may find for a used car loan that carries a 60-month repayment term based on a range of different FICO Scores.

With a credit score between 500 and 589, you may be looking at interest rates on the loan as high as 16%. A bad credit score also makes it a lot harder to get approved for the car loan initially as well.

A credit score in between 590 and 619 will typically see the 15% mark, and the percentages get lower from here with the lowest coming in at 4.39% with a credit score between a 720 and 850.

A longer loan term will usually mean you will have a lower monthly payment, but you will also accrue more in interest with a longer loan term.

Bottom Line

When determining the average used car loan rate and the amount of interest you may have to pay on a loan, you will want to check all three of your credit reports, examine your credit score and credit history and determine what steps you can take to improve your credit, so you can qualify for a lower interest rate.

Again, if you bank with a credit union, always start there first because the lender will already be able to see if you are high risk or not. Car buyers should always take their time, do their research, and tackle the work of fixing their credit prior to obtaining a loan for a car. It is always best to shop smarter and save money in the long run.

The post What Is the Average Used Car Loan Rate? appeared first on Credit.com.


Source: credit.com

When Should you Drop Full Coverage on your Car?

by Phillip Warren

Full coverage car insurance covers you for most eventualities, but it is also expensive. You get what you pay for, and in this case, what you pay for is liability coverage, collision coverage, and comprehensive coverage.

The question is, how essential are all of these coverage options and at what point do they become surplus to requirements?

Your insurance coverage is never set in stone. You can increase your coverage as needed and drop coverage when it is no longer needed. Staying on top of everything is just a case of making the right choices at the right time.

What is Full Coverage Auto Insurance?

There are several different types of auto insurance, each covering you for something different. The most important cover is something known as liability insurance, which spans bodily injury and property damage and covers you when you injure another driver or their property.

Liability insurance is required in nearly all states and there are minimum coverage limits in all of them. To make sure you are legal, you need to meet these limits. If you want additional liability cover to protect your personal assets, you can pay more and aim higher.

Collision coverage and comprehensive coverage are also required if you want full coverage car insurance. With collision insurance, you are protected against damage caused to your own property, whether that damage is the result of a road traffic accident or a collision with a wall or guardrail. As for comprehensive insurance, it protects you against vandalism, theft, weather damage, and most of the things not covered by collision insurance.

A full coverage policy should also include some personal injury protection (PIP) cover, whether in the form of medical payments coverage or personal injury protection coverage. Both are designed to help you with medical bills and other expenses resulting from personal injury, while PIP goes one step further and covers you for transportation costs, childcare expenses, and loss of work.

All of these options are part of a full coverage insurance policy. There are also many additional coverage options and add-ons, but these aren’t necessarily part of a full coverage policy and, in most cases, need to be added for an extra cost. These options include:

  • Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage: Minimum cover car insurance won’t protect you if you are hit by an uninsured driver. It has been estimated that as many as 13% of all drivers on US roads are not insured and, in some states, this climbs as high as 25%. With uninsured motorist coverage, you will be protected for such eventualities.
  • Gap Insurance: When you purchase a brand new car on finance, the lender will often insist on gap insurance. A car depreciates rapidly and if that depreciation drops the value below the balance of the loan, the lender stands to lose out. Gap insurance protects them against such an outcome and covers the difference to make sure they get their money back if the car is written off.
  • New Car Replacement: A new car replacement policy will do exactly what the name suggests, providing you with a new vehicle in the event your current one is written off. Depending on the insurer, there will be limits concerning the age of the vehicle and the number of miles on the clock.
  • Roadside Assistance: With roadside assistance, you will be covered for essential services if you break down by the side of the road. It typically includes tire changes, fuel delivery, towing, lost key replacement, and more.
  • Pet Injury: What happens when your pet gets injured during a road traffic accident? If you have pet insurance, they will be covered through that. If not, many providers will give you a pet injury insurance add-on.
  • Rental Car Reimbursement: If your car is stolen or getting repaired, rental car reimbursement coverage will help you to cover the costs of a short term rental. This insurance option is often fixed at a daily sum of between $50 and $100 and lasts for no more than 30 days.
  • Accidental Death: A type of life insurance that focuses on accidents, paying a death benefit to a beneficiary when a loved one dies in an accident.

When to Drop Full Car Insurance Coverage

The value of the car you drive, along with your insurance rates and your driving record, will impact whether or not you should drop full coverage auto insurance. Take a look at the following examples to discover when this might be the right option for you:

1. Your Insurance Premiums are too High

If your car insurance rates are higher than the size of a payout following an accident, it might be time to trim the fat. Insurance is a gamble, a form of protection. You pay a small sum of money in the knowledge that you’ll be covered for a large sum if something untoward happens. But if you reach a point when your premiums begin to exceed the potential payout, it’s no longer useful.

2. You Have an Old Car

The lower your car’s value, the less you need full coverage car insurance. If you’re driving around in a car that costs less than $1,000 and you’re paying $2,000 for the pleasure, you may as well be throwing your money down a wishing well.

In the event of an accident, you’ll have a deductible to pay and that deductible could be near the value of the car. In such cases, it will nearly always make more sense to stick with minimum insurance and to just scrap your car if anything serious happens.

3. You Have a Large Emergency Fund

An emergency fund is a sum of money you keep to one side to cover you for emergencies, including job issues, medical bills, broken appliances, and car troubles. If you have such a fund available, you have a few more options at your disposal and can consider dropping full coverage.

It will save you money in the long term and if anything happens in the short term, you still have options and won’t be completely financially destitute.

Bottom Line: When It’s Needed

While there are times when full coverage is unnecessary and excessive, there are also times when it is essential. If you have a new car, for instance, you should get all of the cover you can afford, otherwise, you could be seriously out of pocket following an accident or theft.

 

When Should you Drop Full Coverage on your Car? is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.


Source: pocketyourdollars.com

The Worst Cities to Own a Car

by Phillip Warren

The Worst Cities to Own a Car

The number of Americans driving to work alone is on the rise, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. With the increase in drivers comes traffic, which means more time and money spent idling in cars. Some cities are better equipped to deal with the mass of drivers, managing to keep traffic delays and congestion to a minimum. Other cities are equipped with walkable streets and reliable mass transit options, making car ownership less necessary.

Check out mortgage rates in your area.

We considered these and other factors to find the worst cities to own a car. Specifically, we looked at hours spent in traffic per year for the average driver, the annual cost of traffic for the average driver, the rate of motor vehicle theft, the number of repair shops and parking garages per driver, the commuter stress index and the non-driving options a resident has for getting around. To understand where we got our data and how we put it together to create our final ranking, see the data and methodology section below.

Key Findings
  • Cities on the coasts â€“ The entire top 10 is comprised of cities on or close to the coasts. This makes sense as many of the largest cities in the country are located on the coasts. Plus, on the East Coast in particular, these cities tend to be older which means they were not built to handle car traffic.
  • Grin and bear it – Traffic can get pretty bad. However, in some cities getting around by car is just about the only option you have if you want to leave your house. Thus some cities with really bad traffic like Los Angeles or Long Beach didn’t quite crack the top 10.

The Worst Cities to Own a Car

1. Newark, New Jersey

Brick City tops our ranking of the worst cities to own a car. What’s tough about being a car owner in Newark is the traffic. It’s part of the New York City metro area which has 19 million people, 5 million of whom drive to work. Newark is stuck right in the middle of this bumper-to-bumper traffic. Plus, if you’re a car owner in Newark, the risk of having your car stolen is much higher than it is in other cities. Newark ranks eighth in the country for motor vehicle thefts per 1,000 residents.

Related Article: The States With the Worst Drivers

2. San Francisco, California

The City in the Bay grabs the second spot for worst places to own a car. Being stuck in traffic costs the average commuter in San Francisco $1,600 per year. That cost includes both the value of the time spent in traffic and the cost of gas. SF is also one of the 10 worst cities for motor vehicle thefts per resident, another reason to forgo car ownership.

3. Washington, D.C.

The District and the surrounding metro area sees some of the worst traffic in the country. The average D.C. commuter spends 82 hours per year in traffic. Depending on how you slice it, that’s either two working weeks or almost three-and-a-half days of doing nothing but shaking your fist at your fellow drivers. That traffic is equal to an annual cost of $1,834 per commuter.

4. Oakland, California

One argument against car ownership in Oakland is the crime. There were almost 6,400 motor vehicle thefts in the city of Oakland or 15 auto thefts per 1,000 residents. That’s the highest rate in the country. The average Oakland driver can also expect to spend 78 hours per year in traffic. On the plus side, if something goes wrong with your wheels in Oakland, it shouldn’t be too difficult to get it fixed. There are more than six repair shops per 10,000 drivers in Oakland – the highest rate in the top 10.

5. Arlington, Virginia

As previously mentioned, the Washington, D.C. metro area has the worst traffic in the country. Unfortunately for the residents of Arlington, they are a part of that metro area. They face the same brutal 82 hours per year spent in traffic, on average. It costs Arlington residents $1,834 per year, on average, waiting in that traffic. For residents of Arlington, a car is more of a necessity than it is for people living in D.C., which is why it ranks lower in our study.

6. Portland, Oregon

Of all the cities in our top 10, Portland is the least onerous for the driving commuter. Commuters driving around the Portland metro area can be thankful that, on average, they spent only 52 hours per year in traffic. That traffic still costs each driver about $1,200. However, drivers in Portland looking for a parking garage may be out of luck. Portland has the second-lowest number of parking garages per driver in our study, and if you are looking to get your car fixed, Portland ranks in the bottom 13 for repair shops per capita.

7. Anaheim, California

Anaheim commuters are well-acquainted with traffic. Anaheim (and the rest of the Los Angeles metro area) ranks third in average hours per year spent in traffic, first for commuter stress index and fifth for annual cost of idling in traffic. Anaheim only ranks seventh because Walkability.com gives the city a 46 out of 100 for non-driving options. That’s the lowest score in our top 10 meaning, while owning a car here is a pain, not owning one makes getting around a true struggle.

8. New York, New York

New York is the rare American city where public transportation is usually your best bet for getting from point A to point B. All that accessibility makes car ownership unnecessary here. For New Yorkers who do drive, the traffic is not pleasant. New York drivers spend $1,700 per year, on average, waiting in traffic. That’s the third-highest cost in our study.

Not sure if you’re ready to buy in NYC? Check out our rent vs. buy calculator.

9. Seattle, Washington

Seattle has pretty bad traffic. Commuters here probably aren’t surprised to hear the average driver spends 63 hours per year in traffic. And coupled with the traffic is the high number of motor vehicle thefts. Seattle has the fourth-highest rate of motor vehicle thefts per 1,000 residents in the country.

10. Boston, Massachusetts

Boston ranked well in our study on the most livable cities in the U.S. partially based on how easy it is to get around without a car. After New York and San Francisco, Boston is the most walkable city in the country, making the cost of having a car one expense which Bostonians can possibly go without. Although occasionally maligned, the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority is a great option for commuters who want to avoid the 64 hours per year Boston drivers spend in traffic.

The Worst Cities to Own a Car

Data and Methodology

In order to rank the worst cities to own a car, we looked at data on the 100 largest cities in the country. Specifically we looked at these seven factors:

  • Average total hours commuters spend in traffic per year. Data comes from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute 2014 Mobility Score Card.
  • Cost of time spent in traffic per person. This measures the value of extra travel time and the extra fuel consumed by vehicles in traffic. Travel time is calculated at a value of $17.67 per hour per person. Fuel cost per gallon is the average price for each state. Data comes from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute 2014 Mobility Score Card.
  • Commuter stress index. This metric is developed by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute 2014 Mobility Score Card. It measures the difference in travel time during peak congestion and during no congestion. A higher ratio equals a larger difference.
  • Non-driving options. This metric measures the necessity of owning a car in each city by considering the city’s walk score, bike score and transit score. We found the average of those three scores for each city. Higher scores mean residents are less reliant on cars. Data comes from Walkability.com.
  • Motor vehicle thefts per 1,000 residents. Data on population and motor vehicle thefts comes from the FBI’s 2015 Uniform Crime Reporting Program and from local police department and city websites. We used the most up to date data available for cities where 2015 data was not available.
  • Number of repair shops per 10,000 drivers. Data on drivers comes from Texas A&M Transportation Institute 2014 Mobility Score Card. Data on repair shops comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2014 Business Patterns Survey.
  • Parking garages per 10,000 drivers. Data on drivers comes from Texas A&M Transportation Institute 2014 Mobility Score Card. Data on parking garages comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2014 Business Patterns Survey.

We ranked each city across each factor, giving double weight to non-driving options and half weight to motor vehicle thefts per driver, repair shops per driver and parking garages per driver. All other factors received single weight. We then found the average ranking across each city. Finally we gave each city a score based on their average ranking. The city with the highest average received a score of 100 and the city with the lowest average received a score of 0.

Questions about our study? Contact us at press@smartasset.com.

Photo credit: Â©iStock.com/seb_ra

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Source: smartasset.com

A Beginner’s Guide to Insurance Premiums

by Phillip Warren

What is a premium?

To benefit from insurance coverage, you’ll need to pay a premium. A premium is a payment to your insurer that keeps your coverage in place. Insurance companies determine your premium by deciding what the risk is to insure you. Here’s a breakdown of the basics to help you understand what a premium is, why you have to pay it, how it works and ways to reduce your costs.

What Is a Premium?

An insurance premium is effectively the cost of your insurance, whether for health, auto or life insurance. Most companies allow you to pay the annual premium via monthly installments. However, some companies may require you to pay your premium on an annual basis or a semi-annual basis. Some may even want the entire insurance premium up front. Companies often decide they want the insurance premium up front if you have previously had your insurance policy canceled for non-payment.

The price of a premium is usually decided by an actuary or underwriter who takes a base calculation. The base calculation determines what the risk is to insure you. After the base calculation, the company may discount it based on your health, driving record, location and other personal details. This is all based on the type of insurance you’re looking to secure, too.

Your premium may also be determined based on your insurance history. Every insurance company uses different criteria to determine premiums. Some companies use insurance scores based on personal factors like credit rating, car accident frequency, personal claims history and occupation. If your personal factors are attractive to certain companies, you may want to secure a plan with one of them. It could mean a lower cost premium.

You may also pay more money for higher amounts of coverage, whether you’re purchasing life insurance, car insurance, health insurance or any other kind of insurance.

The value and condition of what you are insuring can also change the amount of coverage you need. For example, if you’re a healthy 28-year-old with no kids, your life insurance premium may be very inexpensive because you might not need a large policy. However, the price could increase as you age and your health and family situations change because you may need more coverage.

How Can You Lower Your Rates?

What is a premium?

The type of coverage you purchase affects your premium. If you get more comprehensive coverage with your insurance policy, it may raise your insurance premium. For example, if you insure your vehicle for all risks, you may have to pay more than if you insured it with a policy that doesn’t include collision coverage.

Deductibles can reduce your insurance premiums, as well. An insurance deductible is the cost you pay before the insurance company pays anything. If your car is insured and you have a $1,000 deductible, you have to pay $1,000 before the insurance company will begin to cover any costs. If there are $3,000 in damages to your vehicle, you would have to pay $1,000 and the insurance company would pay the other $2,000. As a general rule, the higher your deductible, the lower your premiums.

In the case of health insurance, taking on a higher deductible, higher co-pays or longer waiting periods may lower your costs. However, if you can afford a plan with a lower deductible, you may want to take that. Lower deductible health plans offer customers more predictable prices for higher amounts of coverage.

Your homeowners insurance premium may be affected by the coverage limits you choose, your deductible amount, optional coverages you select, your home’s age and condition, your claims history and your credit rating.

Car insurance premiums may be affected by your age, your credit score, your driving record, the age of your car, the type of coverage you chose, coverage limits you select, where you live and drive, and how often you drive.

Your life insurance premium may be affected by the amount of life insurance coverage you buy, the type of life insurance policy you select, the length of your policy, and your age, health, and life expectancy.

Insurance Limits

Some companies, specific policies or types of coverage have insurance limits. An insurance limit is the maximum amount of money the company will pay. Typically, the higher your insurance limit, the higher your premium. It’s also the inverse of a deductible. You pay the part of the claim or claims that’s more than the limit on your policy.

Insurance limits can be on a per occurrence basis or on an aggregate basis. For example, a per occurrence basis could be a $20,000 insurance limit on bodily injuries per person, per car accident. An aggregate insurance limit might be a $100,000 limit on construction costs in the event of a natural disaster.

Car Insurance

Car insurance laws and policies typically list liabilities as a set of three numbers that stand for the coverage limits when you’re responsible for an accident. If your numbers were 22/66/15, your insurance would cover $22,000 for bodily injuries per person, $66,000 in total bodily injury coverage per accident and $15,000 for property damage per accident. For personal injury protection, collision and comprehensive coverage, the numbers are listed as a single amount for each type of coverage. Your state may have specific minimum limits for certain coverages, so make sure you’re getting a fair rate.

Health Insurance

Healthcare laws often change, and many lifetime and annual health insurance limits are illegal. However, some health insurance policies still list annual limits or limits on the number of times certain treatments will be covered, such as acupuncture, chiropractic services and orthotics. Companies may also place limits on prescription medication to keep costs down. There may be policies such as “step therapy,” which requires you to try less expensive drugs first, or quantity limits, such as only covering 30 pills in 30 days.

Homeowners Insurance

Your homeowners insurance policy will often list separate limit amounts for different types of coverage. The limit amounts for liability coverage – in case you’re sued by someone for property damage or injuries that occur on your property – may be different than the limit amount for damage to your home and personal property. Make sure you review all of your homeowners insurance coverage limits, such as the amount it may cost to rebuild your home (dwelling coverage), liability coverage and personal property coverage.

Shopping Around

What is a premium?

It’s important to shop around for insurance because different companies have different target clients. You may be the target client for one company, but not for another. That means your premium may be lower with one company than another. The price you pay for your insurance may include taxes or fees, as well. And these could differ from company to company. Before shopping around, call your insurance company and see if they’re willing to lower your premium.

In addition, insurance companies may decide to pursue a new market segment. That can lower rates on a temporary basis, or on a more permanent basis if that works for the company. In either case, you can get a better deal on your insurance if you are part of the demographic that insurance company wants to attract.

The best insurance company for you may not be the best insurance company for your parents or your best friend. It all depends on your age, location and many other factors.

The Bottom Line

Your insurance company will assess the financial risk of insuring you. The greater they perceive that risk to be, the more your premium will cost. It’s important to make sure you let your insurance company know all the ways in which you are a low-risk or lower risk client in order to get premium reductions. After shopping around, you’ll be able to find the insurance policies that are best for your financial situation.

Tips for Reducing Insurance Costs
  • Consider all of the insurance options available based on your individual circumstances. This can help you save money. A comprehensive budget calculator can help you understand which option is best.
  • If you need extra help weighing your insurance options, you might want to consider working with an expert. Finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs can be easy. SmartAsset’s free tool will match you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If you’re ready to learn about local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/skynesher, ©iStock.com/kate_sept2004, ©iStock.com/AndreyPopov

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Source: smartasset.com

How Much Does It Cost to Refinance?

by Phillip Warren

For millions of American homeowners, their mortgage payment is one of their greatest financial commitments. With mortgage rates hitting record lows this year, it’s no wonder that people are interested in the possibility of refinancing their homes.

Instead of only focusing on the potential of saving hundreds per month, it’s essential to fully understand how much it costs to refinance. We wanted to outline the basics so you have a strong starting point in your refinancing decision-making process.

How Much Does It Cost to Refinance a Mortgage?

Mortgage refinancing is defined as replacing your existing mortgage with a new one. There are multiple types of mortgage financing loans that require different considerations, such as cash-out refinances. In any case, working with your mortgage lender is essential to figure out if refinancing will be worth it for you.

Below, we’ve listed the main types of fees you can expect when refinancing your mortgage. Depending on the situation, you could expect to pay anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 in fees upfront.

The cost of each fee varies greatly based on the type, size, and location of your home. You’ll also have to factor in your credit score and other aspects of your personal financial profile. Also, refinancing fees vary between states and lenders.

 

Refinancing Closing Costs
Type of fee Estimated cost
Loan origination fee 0.5% – 1% of loan amount
Appraisal fee $300 – $400
Credit report fee $30 – $50
Title insurance fee $500 – $1,000
Government recording fee $30 – $50
Property survey cost $300 – $800
Home inspection cost $300 – $600
Flood certification cost $15 – $20
Prepaid Interest Charges Varies based on the interest rate and when your loan closes
Tax service cost Varies
Attorney cost Varies
Mortgage points One point costs 1% of your mortgage amount
Loan reconveyance fee $50 – $65

 

By doing a cost-benefit analysis with your lender, you’ll determine if the short-term financial burden of refinancing is feasible. As with any financial endeavor, you’ll need to do your due diligence.

It’s worth noting that some refinancing costs are tax-deductible based on certain criteria. For example, you can usually receive tax deductions on mortgage interest and closing costs.

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Refinancing

Before you make your decision, examine your long-term goals to see if you can justify the cost to refinance a mortgage. Ask yourself key questions about how much you’ll actually benefit from refinancing your loan or not.

 

How-Much-Does-It-Cost-to-Refinance-1

 

1) Will the Investment Pay for Itself?

Ask yourself how long it will take you to earn back the cost of refinancing your home. Consider your ability to break even in a timely fashion. For example, it makes sense if you’re planning on staying in your home for the long haul and you can break even in a few years. If you might move in a year or two anyway, maybe you should reconsider refinancing.

2) Is Your Loan Seasoned?

Your loan is considered seasoned when it’s been out for at least a year and the borrower has a reliable payment history. If you’re five to ten years into paying off a 30-year mortgage, refinancing might not actually benefit you.

For example, if you’re losing your potential savings to additional interest costs, you’ll likely just lose more by refinancing. On the other hand, refinancing could be a great option if you can ensure you won’t be losing money to interest fees.

3) How Can I Lower my Refinancing Costs?

Focus on improving your credit score and debt-to-income ratio before refinancing your mortgage. You’ll be in a strong position for negotiation to get the best possible rate. It’s worth asking if you can waive the appraisal fee, which could save you hundreds.

If a property has been appraised fairly recently and prices have not significantly changed, your mortgage lender might be able to waive a new appraisal. Also, don’t hesitate to comparison shop to find discounted third-party fees.

 

How-Much-Does-It-Cost-to-Refinance-2

 

Will Refinancing Affect My Credit?

Refinancing a mortgage has the potential to impact your credit score, although not permanently. If refinancing makes sense for your situation, you shouldn’t be concerned about it hurting your credit in the long term. It might not be the most ideal situation, but it’s extremely common and typically relatively easy for your credit score to bounce back.

By consolidating your credit inquiries, you’ll prevent multiple hard inquiries from raising red flags. Also, you can work with your lenders to avoid having them all run your credit, which could risk lowering your credit score.

From a long-term financial planning standpoint, home refinancing can be a smart move. Even if you’re considering refinancing your car loan, it makes sense to look into refinancing your house first. After all, a mortgage refinance allows you to benefit from more cash in your pocket due to lower monthly payments.

Since financing decreases your monthly bills, you’ll want to be strategic about where you direct your additional funds. Are you saving for college tuition, a wedding, or retirement? Are you working towards becoming debt-free? Refinancing is a great time to get serious about budgeting and prioritizing your personal financial goals.

 

Sources:

Federal Reserve | Interest.com | The Nest | My Mortgage Insider | Freddie Mac

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Source: mint.intuit.com