1. Focus on the Monthly Payment
It's good to know your monthly budget. It's a bad idea to shop for your auto loan based on the monthly payment alone. There are several ingredients to a loan, and all can be manipulated to make the monthly payment appear low. Meanwhile, you're still getting a bum deal. Negotiate the purchase price first, then figure out the financing later.
2. Stretch Out the Payments
Along the lines of #1, a longer auto loan term can keep monthly payments low. However, you'll pay more in interest over time. It also takes longer to eliminate the auto loan, which could last longer than your affection for the car. Sometimes you end up owing more on the car than it's worth if you go for long loan terms (called "upside-down" auto loans). Keep the term to 5 years or less.
3. Avoid Shopping Around
You can get your auto loan from a number of places. Don't just take what the dealer offers, although the dealer may have a competitive deal. Check with local credit unions for auto loan deals, ask your banker, and see if peer to peer lending is a good choice. You can save thousands in interest costs by getting your auto loan from the best place.
4. Ignore Your Credit
Your credit will affect your ability to lease a car or get an auto loan. If it's bad enough, you'll get turned away. If it's just OK, you'll probably pay more than you have to. If you've got excellent credit, you will have more options available and you'll pay less in interest. Make sure you keep your credit in good shape.as soon as your scores rise.