The Best Cars for Stages of Your Life

Like a photo collection tracking you over the years, the cars that suit you will change with different stages of your life.

Here are the best vehicles for beginning drivers, young professionals, families, and empty nesters:

* Beginning drivers—Safety is a paramount concern with cars for young drivers. But young drivers may be most interested in exciting tech features like connectivity for cellphone and music players. Look at cars with both high safety scores and a good array of tech features, such as the Kia Soul or Honda Fit.

* Young workers—Young shoppers want a stylish ride, still with plenty of tech features. Good choices among compact cars have greatly expanded, with convenience, comfort, and tech equipment now available that once came only with much more expensive cars. Consider the Volkswagen GTI, Chevrolet Cruze, or Ford Focus.

* Families—For families with more than one child, hauling children, their children’s friends, and toys or sports gear quickly becomes an issue. For parents who want a vehicle that is not boring to drive, the best answer is the Honda Odyssey. For those who just can’t cope with the image of owning a minivan, the next-best answer is the Chevrolet Traverse.

* Empty nesters—Parents who no longer have kids at home to ferry around often want to try something entirely different. Depending on how affluent they are, that might run to a stylish coupe from a luxury brand. The Audi A5 and Ford Mustang are good choices.

Whatever your stage of life and car choice, make sure you work out carefully the affordability of your choice. And for your best financing options, come to Hopewell Federal Credit Union.

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Car Buyers’ Worst Mistakes

How much money do you think educated car buyers can save over uneducated buyers when buying the same car? Would $5,000 get your attention?

While you may not save as much as $5,000, you’ll save a bunch if you avoid these classic car-buying errors.

1. Showing enthusiasm. If you act excited, the sellers know they have a unique product you want. The price goes up instantly. Keep that enthusiasm in check until you’ve driven home. Sneer a little if you like the car.

2. Buying in a hurry. If you buy on your first visit to a dealership, you don’t have time to compare. Take your time. Be willing to walk away. The price at most dealerships falls quickly if you move slowly.

3. Giving deposits before the dealer approves your offer on a vehicle. Feel free to give a deposit, if you really want a vehicle. But don’t give it until the boss has said “yes.” Some dealerships use deposits to keep you there while they try to convince you to pay more. And you can’t leave if they have your deposit–money, a credit card, a driver’s license, or your kids.

4. Being switched to leasing without doing your homework. Because dealerships make a much larger profit if they lease rather than sell, even the best dealership is going to try to “switch” you. They’ll try to convince you leasing is cheaper than buying. In most instances, it isn’t. If you want to lease, fine. Just don’t do it on the spur of the moment.

5. Trading in your old car without knowing its value in advance. A dealership has the right to give you the least you will take for your old car. But you have a right to get the most your car is worth. To know that value, simply clean it up, and try to sell it to several used car departments. The highest amount you’re offered for it is your car’s real value right now. Don’t accept less than that in trade.

6. Financing automatically at the dealership. Dealerships may be the cheapest place to finance. To find out, simply bring a copy of the filled-out dealer contract to your credit union and compare contracts. If the dealership won’t give you a copy, they’re probably telling you they’re not really the cheapest.

Big mistakes, big bucks out the window. We like to help you preserve your money–that’s what credit unions are all about. Avoid these mistakes, and put that money to work rather than throwing it away.

Copyright 2008 Credit Union National Association Inc. Information subject to change without notice. For use with members of a single credit union. All other rights reserved.