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How to Pay Cash for a Vehicle

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Let’s face it: vehicles are expensive, but usually a necessity. Unless you live and work in the same small town and are able to walk or bike everywhere, at some point you will need to own a vehicle. When possible, it is best to pay cash so you can avoid accruing unnecessary debt. Having now purchased three vehicles with cash, here are my best tips for saving money on your next vehicle purchase:

How to pay cash for a vehicle - Splendry

Save aggressively

This sounds so much easier than it is. Saving aggressively means not only saving a set amount each month, but also finding money in “hidden” places. Take a long, hard look at your monthly expenses and find places to cut back. For starters, limit your splurges: make coffee at home, stay away from the Target dollar bin, and participate in a Eat From Your Pantry challenge to limit trips to the grocery store and drive-thru line.

Sell unnecessary items

Is it time to declutter? Look around your house for unused items. Share on your local buy/sell/trade sites, Craigslist, or host a garage sale. You can also check in with your local consignment shops, as they can do the hard work for you! Be sure to look all over your house, don’t just stop at the closets! Check your jewelry box, toy chest, book shelves, and home décor.

Barter for other items

Are you in need of goods or services while you are aggressively saving? Check with friends to see if you are able to barter for these! Often, people are more than happy to trade, since that means they don’t have to pay for the things they need either. I have traded items for meat, clothes, and even a toy box. Bartering is my favorite creative way to save money.

Eat cheaply

When you’re saving for a vehicle, eating out is an expense that should be avoided if possible. Always make sure you are eating a balanced diet, but make it simple. Banana muffins and oatmeal are my favorite breakfast options, and lunches are typically leftovers. Thankfully, it is completely possible to have healthy, cheap, and flavorful suppers. There are plenty of options on Pinterest that are customizable for any health restrictions or preferences.

Allocate tax return if possible

If you happen to be looking for a new car around tax return time, allocating all or part of your tax return towards your new car can make a huge difference in reaching your savings goals. However, if you are doing well on your car savings and have other outstanding debts, it might be wise to budget that money towards paying down those other debts.

Buy used

It is a well-known fact that cars immediately drop in value when you drive them off a car lot. Thus, it makes financial sense to purchase used and limit the value loss. Look for cars that have been well-maintained and have lower mileage, so it will last you a long time. Unfortunately, purchasing a higher-mileage vehicle increases your chances of having to pay for costly repairs like getting the transmission replaced. If at all possible, have a trusted mechanic look over the car you are considering before signing any paperwork.

Shop around

Don’t limit yourself to one car lot, be open to driving a little further for a better deal. Check out websites like for listings of all available vehicles near you. Know what you need, but be flexible. If you limit your car search to a particular brand and model, you might end up spending more money than you wanted to, when a different model might be just as reliable but less expensive.

It is completely realistic to purchase a new-to-you vehicle in cash. Good luck on your car search!

Do you have any more tips for how to pay cash for a car? Leave a comment below!

Originally published May 4, 2017

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