If you’re stuck driving a gas-guzzling SUV, you may find yourself eyeing the fuel-efficient Toyota ( TM) Prius, or maybe the Mercedes-Benz ( DAI) Smart Car.
You’re not alone.The price of oil has passed the $120 mark, and many industry analysts believe that consumers will soon be paying $4 a gallon for gas. Many Americans are considering shifting away from big gas-guzzlers to smaller cars that won’t have as big an impact on their wallets.The economic slowdown has hurt car sales, with sales of trucks and SUVs suffering much worse than sales of more efficient small cars. General Motors ( GM) reported in April that its first-quarter truck deliveries were down 15% in 2007 compared to a 6% drop in car deliveries.Chrysler reported a similar trend in April, with a 22% decline in truck sales, year to date, although their car sales were up 6% over the same period.Before you decide to swap your gas-guzzler for a small car to reduce your fuel bills, consider how the trade will affect your finances in other ways.If you bought a new car just a few years ago, you may be stuck with an upside-down loan — that is, you may owe more money than your car is worth in resale.Also, consider how much you’ll get for your old vehicle. Less fuel-efficient cars and trucks are commanding lower prices on the second-hand market than they did before gas prices soared.”Year over year in April, there’s been a 17.5% decline in the price for SUVs,” says Tom Webb, chief economist for Manheim, an automotive auction company. “Compact cars, on the other hand, are up 2% — this even though the overall market is down 5%.”
If you do decide that a new car is right for you, you may want to consider financing the purchase with an auto loan. To get you started, here are some of the lowest rates available on car loans across the nation (all loans are based on $25,000 of financing):
- In Miami, Fla., the Navy Federal Credit Union is offering a 36-month, 3.5% rate loan with 100% financing.
- In Atlanta, Ga., the Bank of America, National Association is offering 36-month and 60-month loans at 4.34% with 90% financing.
- In Houston, Texas, the Members Choice Credit Union is offering a 36-month, 4.25% rate loan with 100% financing.
- In Detroit, Mich., the EDS Credit Union is offering a 36-month, 4.74% rate loan with 100% financing.
- In Chicago, Ill., the Suburban Bank and Trust is offering 36-month and 48-month loans at 4.99% with 80% financing.
- In Dallas, Texas, the Resource One Credit Union is offering a 36-month, 4.85% rate loan with 100% financing.