Getting Right Side Up on Your Car Loan
Carrying over negative equity to another car loan might seem like the only option, and sometimes it is. But before you proceed, know that every thousand dollars you roll into the next loan can easily increase the monthly payment by $20. That means carrying $3,000 over to a new loan would result in a payment that is about $60 more per month than it would be if there was no negative equity tagging along. Instead of saddling yourself with more debt, try these three approaches:
1. Stick with the car you have: It might make more sense to make payments on a car you don't love for a few months (or even years) than to have extra-high payments for five, six or seven years. So if possible, stay in your current car with its current loan. Stick it out until you have equity, hit the break-even point on your balance, or come close to it. If you can make larger payments to your lender, that will help reduce your loan balance faster, letting you trade in sooner. If you're simply trying to get out of a high payment, it may make more sense to refinance your current loan than to get a new car. Make sure you compare interest rates among lenders before making a decision.
2. Buy a new car or truck with a big rebate: If you need to get out of your underwater car right away, consider buying a vehicle that has a hefty cash incentive offer. A cash rebate will help offset your negative equity. Some car companies offer extra loyalty rebates for shoppers who stay with the same brand of vehicle. Other companies offer "conquest" rebates. That means they will give you an extra discount if you're coming to their brand from a competitor. Making a stronger down payment will increase the chances the lender will approve you.
It's worth noting that vehicles with deep rebates often depreciate more quickly than average cars do. So although the rebate tactic will work, it is only advisable if you're confident you'll keep this new ride until it is paid off, or close to it. If you decide on an early trade-in for a vehicle with a fat rebate, chances are good you'll be in a worse financial position than when you started.
3. Lease a new car with a big rebate: Rolling over the negative equity into a lease might also make sense. Since lease payments tend to be lower than traditional car payments, you might not feel the sting of the negative equity penalty quite as much. And when the lease is over, your negative equity will be gone, too. Just as with a purchase, you should only go this route if you're confident you'll stick with the lease. If you should decide on an early trade-in, you'll still be in a bad spot. A larger down payment will be helpful in this scenario as well.