Take a down payment with you

Hand holding car key next to car with open door

It can be cash or a trade-in worth a grand or two more than you owe on it.

Either way, you'll have a much better chance of landing a loan and one with a great interest rate.

A few years ago, it was pretty easy to buy a car or truck without a down payment.

But the banking crisis and too many borrowers defaulting on too many auto loans have made it much harder to get 100% financing at any price.

So the smart thing to do is bring some money to the showroom and turn that to your advantage.

With auto sales coming back from 20-year lows, dealers are looking for customers who have a little cash and aren't drowning in debt. And nothing says you're a serious, creditworthy buyer liking having a modest down payment.

Financing experts say that will give you more leverage to negotiate everything from the price of the car to the terms of the loan.

Despite what you may have heard, auto loans are cheap and affordable if you have average credit and, yes, a down payment.

Our auto loan calculator will help you find the best loan and see just how much the monthly payments will be.

Putting something down also will make it less likely that you'll be driving around in a car or truck that's worth less than you owe on your loan for the next three or four years, making it difficult to sell and pay off the note.

Lenders used to let consumers trade a car or truck with negative equity and add that debt to the loan for their new vehicle. But those days are over.

Now buyers who are upside down on their loans are often stuck with their ride -- and their car payments.