How to Get a Car with No Money & Yes, It’s Possible

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by Erin Schollaert

Updated

Having a car can be the difference between being employed and having to walk from door to door to find work.

But, unfortunately, they’re expensive, and it’s hard to figure out how to get a car with no money if this is a skill you haven’t had to use before.

Cars are an integral part of modern life, and although it’s difficult to understand how you can buy a car with no money down: it’s not impossible.

Why Buying a Car With Credit Can Work

driving

The average American has less than $1,000 in savings and needs that money to get by. Unfortunately, part of getting by is driving to and from a job or using a vehicle for work.

The hardest part of buying a car when broke is convincing someone to let you have the car and that you’ll be able to afford monthly payments.

A good rule of thumb is to make sure that a car payment is no more than 10% of your monthly income, so this might mean getting a great second job.

This ensures you’ll have enough to pay your insurance every month and still afford everything else you need in daily life, avoiding having to move in with your in-laws to save money.

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Most dealerships that offer 0% down for buying a car are doing predatory lending.

They don’t care if you’ll be able to afford the vehicle in the long term, or if you’ll have to default on your loan or pay two to three times what the car is worth: they’ll agree to get you to sign so that they can turn around and enjoy the interest they’ll gain from the deal.

If you’re desperate enough, it can seem reasonable to buy the car anyways: but this is only an option for someone who has a job, a good credit history, and can get approved for a car loan.

Check out these articles about how to sell a car in NC or how to sell a car to a junkyard, to help you get a seller’s perspective on the car industry and improve your journey as a buyer.

buying-a-car-for-no-money-down-pros-and-cons

Trend on the Rise

Americans currently owe more than a trillion dollars on their cars: but the average credit score for borrowers is at an all-time high, at 710.

Free Car Programs for People in Need

If you’re a veteran, are physically disabled, or work in a role as a teacher, nurse, or another profession that helps the general public: there are programs and grants in most major cities to help you gain a vehicle.

Of course, you’ll still need to cover the insurance and other monthly fees, but some programs will even pay for the car’s registration.

Reach out to organizations like the Salvation Army, Cars for Kids, or Purple Heart Foundation, and let them know that you’re in need if you fit their criteria.

Make sure to write a letter detailing your situation, and let them know how much the vehicle would mean to you.

Although there’s far more competition for these programs if you live in a city, there’s also far more opportunity, allowing you to pick and choose which grant, organization, or group you want to receive a vehicle from.

Some of these groups may request to see proof of your situation, such as your income from the previous year or a current pay stub, so it’s a good idea to keep these available to hand over.

If you’re not eligible for any of these, it’s still okay! There are plenty of opportunities for you to find a car for free elsewhere.

Tactic for Success

Research niche grants that might not stick out to others. These will have fewer applicants, and as long as you’re convincing and can carry yourself well, you’ll have a good chance at the car.

Other Ways to Gain Free Vehicles

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There are plenty of other ways to gain a free vehicle!

It’s important that you get creative with this, and you make sure that people you’re talking to are aware that you have a drivers’ license, whether you can pay for your registration, and what help you would need getting to the vehicle.

If you can get a free one from family or friends, be clear about whether this means you owe them or if it’s just a gift.

Although sometimes family members may decide to give us something out of kindness, when they’re in need down the road, they may try and turn it around to say that you owe them money for that gift.

Set expectations and be clear about what you do or don’t owe.

If you’re trying to get a vehicle for a specific task, like delivering pizza, or hauling other vehicles, make sure you’re clear on that as early as possible.

Although a free smart car is nice, it will not do you any good if you are looking for a vehicle to use on your farm.

  • Ask family and friends – if any loved ones have an older car, they may be willing to give it up for free
  • Contact your church – many churches are given cars as donations or are willed them when a church member passes away
  • Find a job with a company vehicle – many companies have company vehicles they require you to drive; this can be a placeholder until you buy a car
  • Start a GoFundMe – a donation campaign can ask for others to help you buy a vehicle you can’t afford
  • Check Craigslist – occasionally, the ‘free’ section of Craigslist offers a free car, these aren’t always in great condition, but they’re helpful

There are plenty of other options that may not be listed here, so don’t worry. Although getting a car without money can seem unlikely, it’s perfectly possible.

It’s Okay to be Picky About Free

The saying ‘don’t look a gift horse in the mouth’ is supposed to tell people not to be rude and get picky about something you get for free: but a free car that doesn’t run isn’t something you can do anything about.

If an organization or individual is trying to give you a free vehicle, request to take it to a mechanic. Here are some tips to follow to save money on car repairs.

While it’s there, make sure that it’s in good condition and that it will do what you need it to be able to.

As the mechanic works, take the time to research online on multiple car forums to see if anyone has come across any issues with this vehicle or if it’s worked for them.

If you’re not careful, you could end up with a car that’s been recalled, or even worse, a vehicle that was stolen or went through a tragic incident.

Research the VIN as well, which will give you direct information on the car itself and help you paint a picture of the life it had before you.

If it’s a brand new car, you should still have a mechanic look at it and should still look at reviews online to protect yourself.

Just because it’s free now doesn’t mean that things won’t happen down the road.

Trend on the Rise

Over 30% of drivers were given their first cars for free as a hand-me-down from family members. The average cost of these cars are around $4,000, so it’s a large gift.

The Costs After Buying a Vehicle

Once you’ve purchased the car, you may think your journey is over!

Whether you paid in full in credit or you got it for free from one of the above sources, you may be tempted to assume your journey is over. Unfortunately, it isn’t.

The amount of money you’ll have to spend over the first year of owning a car is nearly five thousand dollars, and that’s not including any car payments or tax you may owe on it.

Unfortunately, if you’re not planning to spend this amount, it can be a shock to you that you have to sell it out.

The good news is this money is spread out over a year, and with items like gasoline, you can control exactly how much you’re paying.

This is a full breakdown of what you should expect to pay within your first year.

  • Car insurance – costs an average of $1,655 per year for full coverage
  • Yearly maintenance – on average, a vehicle will cost $1,186 each year to maintain and repair
  • Gasoline – the average American spends $1,837 a year on gas
  • Registration and taxes – registration is $30, and the sales tax is 6.25% of the total vehicle purchase price

Every city and car owner is different, though, so you could possibly pay less than this: or you could pay far more.

Therefore, it’s vital that you set aside a comfortable amount of money in case of emergencies or other spending needs when you have a vehicle.

Wrapping Up

Whether you’re a teenager trying to get your first car and you aren’t sure where you’ll find the right one, or you’re older and trying to turn your luck around: it’s not impossible to get a car without a cent in your pocket.

Follow some of these tips, and you’ll be on the road in no time.

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About the Author

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Erin is a business teacher and mother of three. When she’s not in the classroom or fulfilling her obligations as an A+ hockey and lacrosse mom, she’s working on her latest article.