You know your college diploma is so much more than a simple piece of paper. It represents the culmination of a lot of hard work, a lot of long hours at the library, and a lot of checks written to the registrar. But that’s not all: your diploma can also act as your ticket to a wide spectrum of special deals on new cars.
Before you seal it in a frame and hang it over the mantelpiece, make sure you check out all the money-saving options being offered by car dealerships to recent graduates and soon-to-graduate first-time buyers.
Having a diploma (or being well on your way towards getting one) can benefit you in a few different ways: some manufacturers offer a rebate right off the price of a car, some offer special financing terms, and some offer a combination of both.
Toyota’s College Grad program, for example, offers a $400 rebate off the purchase price of any new Toyota or Scion that is financed through Toyota Financial Services, plus no money down and no payments for 90 days. They even throw in a year’s worth of complimentary roadside assistance.
Kerry Riviera at Toyota Financial Services says the program’s been a hit since April 2001, especially in the summer months: "We’ve seen increased interest and use of the program year over year. Last summer we were booking about 2,100 plus college grad deals in June, July and August."
Other manufacturers currently offering rebates and cash bonuses include Ford, Hyundai, Kia, and Nissan, some of which also allow for no money down and deferred payments.
Graduate programs also give students and recent grads the chance to take advantage of easy financing terms even without established credit. Volkswagen has offered incentives to grads for over eight years, and they currently advertise a college grad program for buying or leasing a new or Certified Pre-Owned Volkswagen that allows for a flexible down payment, simplified credit requirements, no first month’s payment, and no security deposit on leases – even for scholars without any previous credit history.
Other financing deals are currently offered by Mitsubishi, Volvo, Audi, Honda/Acura, and BMW. One thing to keep in mind: in order to take advantage of these deals, you will have to finance your purchase through the manufacturer’s financial services company.
Many of these programs apply only to new cars; however, a lot of manufacturers are starting to include certified used vehicles as well. One more piece of good news: these diploma deals may also be combined with other manufacturer incentives, so your car’s price tag may be lowered by multiple rebates and discounts.
What You’ll Need
These deals vary slightly from manufacturer to manufacturer, but they generally require three things from you:
FIRST, you must have graduated from an accredited four- or two-years college in the past two years or be set up to graduate within the next six months (four months for Volkswagen and Audi). To prove it, have a copy of that diploma in hand, or a final transcript, or a letter from your registrar.
SECOND, you’ll need to have proof of current or upcoming future employment. You can either bring a letter from your employer or paycheck stubs. The financial company will check out your salary to determine that you can handle the car payments and won’t be overextending yourself debt-wise.
THIRD, while most of these deals require little to no established credit, if you do have any credit history, it has to be good. Minor lapses may be OK, but you can’t have any major credit problems haunting you from your past.
Don’t assume that any dealer you visit will automatically offer you these discounts. The more information you have before walking into the dealership, the better deal you’re going to be able to negotiate.
Recent UCLA grad Rick Cooper walked into a Kia dealership in February and negotiated his purchase price on a new Kia Spectra. "First I got the price, then I mentioned that I wanted to take advantage of the $400 graduate program rebate. They then took the rebate off my negotiated price."
Your first step should be narrowing down the type of car you’d like to buy and then checking on the manufacturer’s website for details on deals for college grads. Offers are not necessarily valid in all regions of the country, so make sure you find a local participating dealer by calling ahead. Also, some higher-priced or very popular models may be excluded from these rebates and financing terms. But you never know what you might find out there: for example, BMW is now out to tempt new grads into leasing a brand-new motorcycle.
You’ve worked hard to earn that diploma. Take advantage of these opportunities to make it work for you.
Cars for Grads offers a free clearinghouse of information on current deals being offered by all manufacturers to recent or soon-to-be graduates. Check their website at www.carsforgrads.com.
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