Money

Buying A Used Car

Perhaps one of the most exciting but also most miserable jobs we encounter in life is buying a used car! Getting a vehicle is great but it seems like everyone you deal with is out to take advantage of you. We hope that this article will help you avoid some of the most common pitfalls involved in buying a used car.

What Used Car Should You Buy?

You definitely want to choose a vehicle that you will be happy with for a while. That cute little sports car may look great but will it last? An SUV may make you a hit with the guys but can you afford to fill the gas tank? A sunroof is nice but on an older car it’s very likely to leak. Before you even begin shopping for a used car it might be wise to consider which of the following things are most important to you:

1. Price
2. Make and model or type of vehicle
3. Optional equipment
4. Dependability
5. How well the car has been maintained
6. Can you trust the seller
7. What extra fees will I have to pay

Price:

For most of us, price is the primary factor we must consider when buying a used car. It’s very common to start looking at lower-priced cars and then slowly transition to more expensive vehicles. Probably the best thing you can do is determine what the maximum amount is that you can possibly afford so you know what your absolute limit is. After all, it makes no sense to look at twelve thousand dollar cars if you simply can’t afford them. Then determine what you would like to spend and start looking there. Keep in mind that the more you ask for the more expensive the cars will become. Do you really need power windows? Does your car absolutely have to be less than five years old?

Selecting a Make and Model:

Try to pick out more than one make and model of car to consider. You don’t want to limit your options too much if you are looking for a good deal. You might want to consider checking whether a particular type of vehicle tends to be dependable before making this decision. No matter how much you love a particular model, do you really want a car that encounters massive breakdowns? We will cover how to tell whether a particular automobile tends to be dependable shortly.

Optional Equipment:

This blogger simply loves optional equipment. One great thing about buying a used car is that you don’t pay anywhere near as much for options as you do on a new car. This is especially true for cars more than a few years old. So if like myself, you simply love heated and air-conditioned seats, back up warning sensors, power windows/door locks/seats, leather seats, sunroofs, etc.; the good news is that those things may not add all that much to the cost. The bad news is that unless the car has been well taken care of, those things add many more opportunities for big money repairs.

Dependability:

Dependability is probably the most often overlooked issue with most used car buyers. If money was no object you would probably be purchasing a new car. So why is the prospect of numerous future maintenance costs so often overlooked? Well, most of us zero in on one particular type of car and color and that’s where we stop thinking. If you can expand your selection a bit and do your homework you will enjoy your used car much more. Visiting the shop is a hassle we all want to avoid. So how do you tell which used cars might be money pits? The way that this blogger does it is by visiting this Car Complaints Site and clicking on “Search Complaints”. Just enter the year, make and model into the search box, pass any ads until you get to a result that ends in “Complaints, Problems & Defects Information” and click on that. I’ve bought several used cars that I checked out there and have had really good luck with all of them. People report problems they’ve had with there cars so if you check one out there that has had tons of blown engines, you might want to reconsider your choice. Of course, nothing is perfect. If you are checking for a car that was fairly rare it obviously won’t have many people reporting on it. With most makes and models it works pretty well though. Check it out by going there and comparing a search for my car, a “2004 Cadillac Deville” which has one little insignificant problem reported and the “2004 Chevrolet Impala” which has about 500 problems reported. I could probably have purchased the Impala for a bit less but oh how many trips to the shop I would have made.

How Well The Car Has Been Maintained:

A used car is more likely to last if the previous owner(s) took good care of it. One way you might get some evidence of this is by running a Carfax report on the vehicle. If the previous owner(s) got the car serviced at dealerships it will show up there. Unfortunately, most other service centers don’t report to them so if you see no evidence of service it doesn’t necessarily mean that the vehicle wasn’t properly maintained. A Carfax or similar report may also tell you whether the car has been involved in accidents, how many owners the car has had and whether the number of miles on the car is true.

You can also take the car to a mechanic to have it checked out. The charge for this is usually under $50. I just payed $20 to have one checked at “Tires Plus”. In order to get the seller to let you take the car in you will most likely need to show proof of insurance coverage and sign some papers. It’s a bad sign if a car dealer absolutely refuses to allow this or if they insist you go to a mechanic of their choosing. Be sure to ask the mechanic what items are in serious need of repair and which ones would just be nice to repair. Remember that you are buying a “used” car. It’s not going to be perfect, especially if it’s more than five years old.

You can always simply decide to check the car out yourself. Obviously you will check the tire wear, look for body damage and inspect all the other common things. Also, look under the car at the muffler and tail pipe. This is especially important where it snows a lot. The salt put on the slick roads deteriorates the exhaust system. If the muffler and/or tail pipe are corroded, you may find yourself with an expensive repair soon. Test drive the car and get it up to at least 60 miles per hour. Is there a vibration in the steering wheel? Does the car pull to the right or left if you let go of the steering wheel? Do all of the power options work correctly? Seats, windows and locks? Do the windows go up or down very slowly? If so, you could be looking at a $300 plus repair per window soon. Pop open the hood and look at the engine. Is it relatively clean for its age? A filthy engine might indicate that the previous owner didn’t take very good care of it. Oil or antifreeze leaks could indicate another expensive impending repair. Any strange noises? Do hoses and belts look like they are in decent condition? Is the color of the car consistent everywhere including inside the door wells? If not, the car may have been in an accident. Are the driver’s seat and the trunk liner in good condition? People who abuse their cars often neglect those areas badly. A well worn driver’s seat can also indicate that a car has more miles on it than the odometer indicates.

Can You Trust The Seller?

Be sure that you trust the seller. If you can’t tell when someone is lying to you, take someone along who is good at that. Shady dealers will tell you that every car is a one-owner or they will try to lead you away from the car you are interested in towards a more expensive car or one that’s more profitable for them. Let’s face it. Most 10-year-old cars for example, have been owned by more than one owner. If they say that they have two other people interested in the car don’t believe them. Ask them if the others are so interested, why didn’t they buy the car. Personally, if I think that a salesman is lying to me, I’m out the door. I don’t do business with scoundrels. You can check Google Maps or other ratings sites to see if others have left any feedback about their experiences with them. An honest dealer will want you to get the car you want. A private seller who won’t let you test drive the car or wants you to pay them before you get the title just might be a crook or at least dishonest. With private sellers, get a certified check, money order or cash and go with them to the motor vehicle department. It might be wise to take a friend along, especially if you are carrying a large amount of cash. At least have them show you their driver’s license and then tell someone who they are before you go with them. At the DMV they should transfer the title to you at the same time you pay them. That way no one can con the other one. Again, be careful to avoid being robbed!

What Extra Fees Will I Have To Pay?

Beware of extra fees that will be added to the price after you’ve wasted hours test driving the car, applying for financing, etc. The most common of these when buying a used car is the “dealer’s fee”. Dealer’s fees can range from zero to a thousand dollars. Surprise! That car you thought would cost $3500 is now $4500! The first thing you should do when you arrive on a car lot is ask, “How much is your dealer fee?” and then follow up with “What other fees will you add that aren’t included in the sticker price?”. Then tell the salesman that if any other fees turn up during your negotiations you will get in your car and leave. Nothing personal but you need to know what the deal is before you spend any time on their lot. Business is business after all. You should be aware that you will have to pay sales tax on your purchase (unless your in a tax free state). You will also have to pay to have the title transferred, your car registered with the state and for a license plate and/or sticker if you aren’t transferring a plate from another car (laws vary from state-to-state in this regard). Those costs can add up to a lot of money and you shouldn’t hold the dealer responsible for explaining that to you until the end of the negotiations. They don’t get that money, your state does. And don’t forget to consider any work that you will have to get done right away.

If you follow these procedures you should have a much more pleasant experience buying a used car! Happy driving!

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Posted by admin - May 31, 2012 at 9:59 am

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How To Get A Mortgage Loan Modification

 

 

how to get a mortgage loan modification

 

Are you one of the many Americans having financial difficulties due to a drop in income? Have you lost a large percentage of equity in your home? If so you may want to know how to get a mortgage loan modification.

 

A mortgage loan modification is where your lender agrees to change the terms of your loan in order to reduce your monthly payments. This might be accomplished by reducing the amount you owe but more commonly either results in a reduction in your interest rate or extending the amount of time you have to pay off your home.

 

A reduction from a 6% loan to a 4% loan on a loan balance of $200,000 for example would reduce your interest by $333.33 per month. Extending the remaining length of your mortgage from say 18 years to 30 years would reduce your monthly payment by several hundred dollars more!

 

So why would a lender be willing to make these changes? Well first of all, if your interest rate is higher than the current going rate your lender knows that you could go refinance elsewhere. Secondly, if your financial situation is bad enough that the loan might end out in foreclosure, the lender could lose a lot of money.

 

In order to get a mortgage loan modification you will need to convince your lender that it is in their best interest to give you one. You will need to prove that your finances are such that you can’t continue paying the same amount monthly. It is unlikely that they will take your word for it so you will need to bring proof. You will also need to show that if they modify your loan you will be able to make the new lower payments. Otherwise, why should they bother?

 

You should be able to show evidence of your current family income and all of your regular monthly expenses. Lenders typically want to see at least one month of income so don’t just bring your last pay stub. If you have copies of your old tax returns bring them. Two or three years worth is not excessive. If you recently changed jobs and that resulted in a significantly lower income, bring pay stubs or 1040 forms showing your old income. If the lender sees that you lost a higher paying job but got another shortly thereafter they are more likely to modify your loan. It shows that you are doing your best.

 

Don’t forget to bring proof of every single regular monthly expense. That $40 cell phone bill might be what gets you over the fence for approval. Remember that the lender will be less likely to do a loan modification if they feel that you can continue making your current payments. If you have any other big bills that aren’t billed monthly bring proof of them too. For example, if someone in your family has an ongoing health problem and that results in large medical expenses several times per year the lender needs to know about it.

 

If you have not been paying other creditors in order to continue making your mortgage payments bring proof. The lender may see that in the year since you lost your higher paying job you’ve continued making mortgage payments so why should they modify your mortgage? Showing that you have not been able to pay other creditors is proof that you need a lower house payment. Any proof of why you fell behind on any payments, mortgage or otherwise, is important especially if the reason is something beyond your control such as being laid off from work or unexpected expenses such as a medical problem.

 

So be sure to bring information for auto payments, credit cards, furniture payments, insurance payments, medical bills, student loans, utilities and any others. Don’t forget to bring proof of other income either such as child support payments, rental income, dividends, 401K balances, etc. Loan officers are experienced at what they do and will be asking you for such things.

 

When you contact your lender you may get forwarded to a collection person. Their job is to get you to continue paying your current payment or to send in money to get back up to date with your current payments. They have no power to modify you mortgage so you will need to insist on speaking to someone who has that power. Typically this is called the “Loss Mitigation” department. Unfortunately, it is sometimes necessary to hire an attorney before those people will speak to you. Also unfortunate is the fact that if you have struggled to continue making payments, you are less likely to get to one of them. Be insistent that you can no longer make your current payment and if you still can’t get someone in loss mitigation then you may have to get a lawyer.

 

If the lender won’t consider modifying your loan and you truly can’t make your current payment don’t give up! After you have missed a payment call again and attempt to convince them to modify your loan. They may be more willing to listen if you are behind on payments. Don’t stop making payment simply to get the lender to listen to reason but if you can’t make payments keep trying to get your loan modified.

 

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Posted by admin - April 17, 2012 at 10:29 am

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Why Are Gas Prices So High?

Why Are Gas Prices So High

There are many factors that contribute to why gas prices are so high but there are four main reasons.

The first main factor is the supply of crude oil. There are many different opinions about how much crude oil remains to be extracted from the Earth. One thing that everyone agrees on, however, is that the supply is finite. When supply decreases, prices rise. It is therefore inarguable that gas prices will rise as time goes by due to increased scarcity. One common argument to this is that we are constantly finding new places to drill for oil but that doesn’t change the fact that the total amount to be found is finite. In addition, the oil fields that were the easiest and cheapest to access are either dried up or drying up. Future oil will be much more expensive due to increased costs. Also, new oil discoveries have been less than the oil consumed since 1980 so supply is decreasing despite the discovery of new, more expensive supplies.

The second factor for why gas prices are so high is the accelerating increase of demand. As nations with huge populations like China and India increase their technological infrastructure, they will be consuming more and more gas. The combined populations of those two nations alone is eight times that of the United States! The vast majority of those people are or soon will be disposing of their bicycles and buying automobiles. They will junk their wood stoves when they purchase homes with central heating and air-conditioning. So with supplies of gasoline decreasing and demand increasing, gas prices will certainly continue to get higher.

A lesser but important third factor that can cause higher gas prices is the trading of oil futures. Commodity traders know that crude oil prices are destined to rise so they buy oil futures. This creates an increase in current oil prices. Why should oil companies sell oil at prices that should be lower than what they will definitely get for them in the future?

The final factor that determines the price of oil is the declining value of the U.S. dollar. As the dollar becomes less valuable, crude oil sellers want more dollars for their oil. The dollar has lost nearly 50% of its value over the last decade due to many factors including the balance of trade deficit and the budget deficit. When the government spends more money than it receives in taxes, it prints more money. That decreases the value of all U.S. currency. When consumers purchase more goods and services from other nations than we sell to them, the supply of dollars in foreign banks goes up. That also reduces the value of the dollar.

In simpler terms, the reason why gas prices are so high is because:

1. There is less crude oil available every day and what is left costs more to get out of the ground.

2. More people are “bidding against us” for that oil every day.

3. Investors make money betting on future oil prices and their profits are added to the price.

4. We Americans and our government spend more than we earn and that devalues our money.

While we can temporarily somewhat decrease gas prices by driving less, recycling waste, spending less on foreign goods, selling more to foreign markets, and regulating futures traders, the best answer to decreasing oil prices is by developing alternative energy sources. Every dollar spent on solar, wind, nuclear, and other alternative energy technologies is one less dollar of demand for crude oil. And eventually, we won’t need gas at all!

Thank you for visiting our Why Are Gas Prices So High post!

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Posted by admin - January 7, 2012 at 10:25 am

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How Old Do You Have to be to Work at McDonalds?

How Old Do You Have to be to Work at McDonalds

The Federal government has passed the “Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)” that sets the minimum age to work at most jobs (including McDonalds and Wal-Mart) at 14-years-old. It also limits the number of hours that employees under the age of 16 are allowed to work.

Because of the hour limitations for 14 and 15-year-olds, a large number of companies require a minimum age of 16 for their employees. Another factor companies might not hire employees under 16 is that the older teens tend to be more mature and, therefore, more reliable. Of course, no one is suggesting that no 14 or 15-year-olds are reliable, only that the percentage of 16-year-olds that are mature enough to make good employees is higher. The message here is that the younger you are, the more important it becomes to impress upon the prospective employer that you are a very responsible teenager.

So what if you’re under 14-years-old or older but finding it hard to get a job due to your age? Well, there are many jobs that aren’t covered by the “Fair Labor Standards Act”. Most states limit the amount of time you can work each week at these jobs and/or limit the conditions under which you can work. Some states also limit these jobs by age but in most states you can earn money in many ways including but not limited to:

  • Babysitting
  • Walk Dogs or Pettsitting For People Out-of-Town
  • Delivering Newspapers
  • Mow Lawns, Weed Wack, Trim Hedges, and Otherwise Landscape
  • Shovel Snow
  • Work for a Business Owned by Your Parents (Except Dangerous Jobs)
  • Be a Performer on the Radio, TV, in the Movies, or on Stage
  • Tutor Younger Children or Your Fellow Classmates
  • Teach People How To Use Their Computers
  • Make Jewelry and Sell it on Ebay
  • Do Chores for Your Neighbors (Senior Citizens Especially Need Help)
  • Wash or even Detail Cars For Neighbors at Their Homes
  •  

    Whatever you do, be inventive! What things are you good at? Are there other people who might need that service or good? Always remember that you have to prove yourself. We all do! When you’re young it’s just a bit harder because you don’t have a “track record” and older employers have had many bad experiences with unreliable young people.

    Your first jobs are very important! Later when you’re looking for a really great job, being able to give that family you babysat for as a teenager as a reference to your character will be a great asset for you! The McDonalds Manager that says what a fantastic employee you were at 16 will impress the hiring manager at that Fortune 500 Corporation you want to work at when you’re 21-years-old.

    Thank you for visiting our How Old Do You Have To Be To Work At McDonalds post!

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    Posted by admin - January 6, 2012 at 12:18 pm

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    How Does Foreclosure Work?

    How Does Foreclosure Work

    Foreclosure is the legal process where an entity (usually a bank or savings & loan) that has a lien (mortgage) on a home or other type of real estate gets a court to terminate an owner’s rights after that owner has failed to make payments on that mortgage. It sounds pretty simple but, in most jurisdictions, it’s actually a reasonably involved and lengthy procedure. So how does foreclosure work?

    The foreclosure process starts when the property owner misses their first payment. The lender will send letters explaining that no payment was received and that it should be sent in immediately. In many cases, another letter just like that one (but perhaps more forceful) will be sent the second month with no payment.

    When the payments are two or three months overdue, the letters will become much more forceful and demand that everything be paid up to date. They will say that if you don’t do so, they will turn your account over to a lawyer to start foreclosure proceedings. They may not use the actual word “foreclosure” but the idea will be that they are going to take the property. They will also inform you that any expenses they incur including attorney fees will be added to your debt.

    The next letter you will receive will be from the attorney and will demand that you pay in full or they will file foreclosure charges with the court. It’s not surprising that this letter is called a “demand letter” as there will be no polite requests in the letter. It will definitely be in a “do this or else” tone.

    If you don’t respond to the demand letter, the mortgage holder’s attorney will file a “notice of default” with the court. The court will send you a notice that the notice of default has been filed and what the total amount of money is that you must pay. You will get another 3 or 4 weeks to respond to that notice.

    Next, the attorney will file a “notice of sale” that will notify the homeowner when their home will be sold and by what means. Usually this is done at a Sheriff’s auction or foreclosure auction.

    It’s important to note here that the mortgage holder rarely wants to foreclose on your home. They do want to believe that their chances of eventually being paid are high though. If you don’t respond to their letters, they will have no choice but to assume that you have no intention of every paying them again. If you lost your job and finding a new one is taking longer than you had hoped, the lender may accept reduced or even no payments for a while if they feel confident that you are employable. Regardless of the circumstances, keeping in close contact with the lender greatly increases your chances of staying in your home! Also, many states have laws that require a lender to give a homeowner a minimum amount of time to get current on their mortgage payments. Those laws vary from state to state.

    It is also likely that whoever purchases your home may want to rent it out as an investment. If your financial situation has improved during the foreclosure process, you may be able to stay in the home as a renter or even by making a deal with the new owner to rent the home with an option to (re)purchase it!

    Unfortunately, sometimes things really get bad. What will happen if there’s no way you will be able to stay in your home? Obviously from the information above, you will have a considerable amount of time to live in your home after stopping payments. That time will vary from several months to a year or more depending on numerous details. In states where trust deeds are used you will probably have about 90 days total during foreclosure. With a mortgage (the vast majority of the cases) you will get more time; perhaps much more.

    Disclaimer: Laws and procedures vary from one part of the country to another. The foreclosure procedure detailed above is what occurs in the vast majority of cases but exceptions do exist. The author of this article is not an attorney and readers should not use the information contained in this article in making legal decisions.

    Thank you for visiting our How Does Foreclosure Work post!

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    Posted by admin - January 6, 2012 at 10:19 am

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