Step 1, Part 3: What Can I Afford?

Page 4 of 17

Gauge your Credit

Family looking out the windows of their new car. Want to cruise off the lot with a deal you can feel good about? Buying a car from a dealership is a negotiation and you’ll never come out on top if you don’t have all the information.

Six months to a year before buying a car, be sure to check your credit. provides one free copy of your credit report per year as required by the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, will provide additional copies of your credit report and your credit score for a small fee.

Checking your credit this early in the process will give you time to correct any errors and allow you to rebound from delinquencies that lower your score and lead to higher interest rates.

Once you’ve corrected any mistakes, check your score again in 30 to 60 days to see if it has changed and if all errors have been corrected. Even a 50 point improvement in your credit score could lead to significant savings.

Knowing your credit score before you negotiate with a salesperson is one way to put yourself in the driver’s seat.

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