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Finance 101

Auto Buying 101

Posted on June 06, 2018 by Jake Ward, CMSE – VP of Marketing

Who doesn’t love the smell of a new car? It’s a little intoxicating! And if you’re like me, it can cause you to make some rash decisions when buying a car. Before you head out to the car lot, it pays to be prepared. We’re hosting an Auto Buying 101 workshop at our Bettendorf location on July 19th at 5:30 pm to help you out. The event is open to members and non-members, and we’re providing dinner. So bring a friend! You can RSVP to before July 17th. If you can’t make it to our workshop, here are some things we recommend for you:

Get a pre-approval. You can stop in at any of our branches to apply, or apply online, or even using our mobile app. Getting a pre-approval auto loan lets you know exactly how much you can spend, which will put you in a more secure spot to negotiate. Also, as you think about how much you can afford, remember to consider the cost of insurance and repairs and maintenance.

Consider your credit score. If you know there’s room for improvement, try to work on it for a few months to raise your score. Ultimately, that could save you quite a bit of money when you qualify for a better interest rate. If you’re not sure how to improve your score, ask us! We can help with that. If your score is great but you’re worried that having a number of dealers running your credit in a short of amount of time will "ding" your credit score (see what I did there?), worry no more. Credit reporting agencies know that people usually go to several locations before they make their final decision, so if you do all your car shopping in a few weeks time, your score should be just fine.

Do your research online. Think about the cars that you like, then check them out at the manufacturer’s website,, or That may help you narrow down your decision further. In this day and age, there are tons of resources literally at your fingertips.

Make a list. Before you go look at cars, think about your "must haves" and write them down to refer to when you’re at the dealer. That will help keep you focused on those things that are really important to you. Heated seats, anyone? (Raises hand.)

Test drive. That test drive can sometimes be a little intimidating. But make sure you drive the car on all sorts of roads, and that you’re comfortable with the position of the indicators and controls. If you’re considering a used car, pay special attention to the tires and alignment. Think about having a mechanic check out the engine, and do some research on the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) at sites like

Good luck, and have fun looking for the car that’s perfect for you! If you need any help, don’t forget your friends at R.I.A. Federal Credit Union. We’re here to help!, 800-742-2848