At some point in our lives we all find ourselves looking to buy a new car. Maybe this is your first time purchasing a vehicle, maybe it’s just time to trade the old one in, either way it is a necessity to own a reliable form of transportation these days. While other forms of transportation (like Uber) are on the rise, 85% of Americans still find that they need a car for the daily commute.

While some of us out there may be able to buy a new car outright, the majority of people rely on an auto loan to finance the new purchase. Sure, people aren’t always keen on high-interest rates and a few years worth of monthly payments, but what else can you do? What if there was a way to be more in control of the loans we take out? Well, it turns out there are a few ways.

Your Credit Matters

The first and most important step anyone looking to take out a loan can do is check their credit score. You can check yours for free at Credit Karma or a similar site, which will help you to know where you stand. A higher FICO score can greatly reduce the amount of APR you end up paying by allowing you to take out a better loan.

If your credit score isn’t perfect, that’s okay! There are a wide variety of factors that can affect someone’s credit, and there are plenty of ways to improve it as well. Paying off outstanding bills and loans will increase your score, opening up the possibility of finding better quality loans.

Skip the Dealership

While you will more than likely be purchasing your car from a dealership, you do not have to take the loan they offer. Choosing a credit union, local bank, or online bank will help you to find lower rates than any dealership can offer. In most cases, a dealership will mark up finance rates by at least 2.5%.

Skip the sales pitch altogether and find a different lender beforehand. It is also a great idea to communicate with your lender directly instead of letting the dealership do the work. Make sure to check their reputation first, which you can do through federal and state agencies, as well as the Better Business Bureau.

Comparing Options

This next step heavily depends on your budget. While opting for a longer term comes with lower monthly payments it also cause you to pay more interest. For instance, a five year loan for $8,000 will cost an additional $625 at 3% interest, but a six year term at the same interest rate will cost an additional $752.

If you can afford to pay more each month without going over your budget, it is highly recommended to do so. Not only will you pay off the loan faster, but you will incur less interest over time. It’s a win-win situation.

Help When You Need It

Now that you have the groundwork laid you can begin to look at your lending¬†options, but you won’t have to stumble through this process blindly. There are plenty of online tools available to help you locate and choose the best loan for you.

Loan calculators, side by side comparisons of lenders, explanations of lending jargon, and good advice are all at your fingertips. Take advantage of these tools and you will never find yourself stuck with a terrible loan again. Remember, you can have control over the type of loan you choose to take out and negotiate to take advantage of the best deals possible.