I received this email earlier today:
I’ve been subscribing to AFM for quite some time now and I really appreciate almost all of your blog posts. My room mate just bought a car yesterday and because he has little to no credit (and may have been an easy target) got a 24.99% 6 year loan (his payments are around $380/month making the $13,000 car actually cost close to $30k!). He says he’s going to refinance in a year and hopefully will get a better interest rate after establishing more credit. The salesman said that he could pay extra towards the loan to pay it off early, etc. Let’s say he could afford to pay $480/month, would it be better to pay the extra $100 every month on this higher interest rate, or pay an extra $1200 once he gets on the lower interest rate? I hope my question makes sense! You always do a great job explaining things with your spreadsheets!
Your room mate made a really bad decision for a couple of reasons:
1. Running the numbers, I come up with a principal and interest payment of around $350 per month. R says his room mate is paying around $380 per month. This means that the sales guy either talked the room mate into buying insurance or he slipped it in under the radar. Regardless, it’s some expensive insurance that will cost him over $2,100 over the life of the loan. Your friend would be wise to go back into the dealership and DEMAND that they take the insurance off. UPDATE: It was a warranty.
2. He most likely will NOT be able to refinance his loan because the car will depreciate in value very quickly. It’s hard to refinance a loan on an asset that is worth less than what is owed on the loan. Due to the high interest rate on the loan, your friend will be upside down on this loan unless he pays substantially more towards the loan than his payment. That said, given how crappy the financing is, I wouldn’t be surprised to find that this loan has some sort of prepayment penalty.
Your friend would have been smart to have done some homework BEFORE he made such a commitment. It sounds like he made a decision with his heart and ignored his head.
Now, concerning your question:
Let’s say he could afford to pay $480/month, would it be better to pay the extra $100 every month on this higher interest rate, or pay an extra $1200 once he gets on the lower interest rate?
Here is a look at your friend’s car loan amortization summary:
Assuming there’s no prepayment penalty, your friend would be wise to pay as much extra towards this loan as possible. I’m skeptical that he will be allowed to refinance this loan. I ran some numbers and found that if he paid an extra $100 per month towards the principal, he could pay the car off in less than 4 years, saving himself over $5,200 in interest.
I just hope that his decision hasn’t started him down the path of one bad decision after another. Usually people who get upside down on a car, stay that way for A LOOOOOONG time.