Checking | Auto Loans | Mortgage | HELOC | Personal Loans | Credit Cards | Membership

How To Save Up Money For A Car

Buying a car is a thrilling experience, especially if it's your first one. But even with all of the excitement, figuring out how to pay for that new or used vehicle can be a daunting task. With a thorough plan in place, though, saving up for a car isn't as complicated as you might think. We've gathered a few tips for saving up for a car that will ensure you stay on course to getting behind the wheel.

At Credit Union of Southern California (CU SoCal), we believe that people come before profits, which means your goal is our goal. We offer auto loans and recreational vehicle loans at competitive rates and specialize in quick pre-approvals. With flexible terms, low monthly payments, and a focus on character instead of credit score, Southern California drivers choose us for a reason.

Whether you're looking to purchase a daily driving vehicle or a weekend speedboat, we have you covered. If you're ready for an auto loan that won't get in the way of your overall financial goals, apply online for a CU SoCal auto loan so we can get you on the road and connected to more things you love.

Knowing how to save money for a car, house, or other large purchase to help our members is what we do. Aren't sure if an auto loan from CU SoCal is right for you? Call us today at 866.287.6225 for an expert, no-obligation consultation.

Get Started on Your Auto Loan!

1. Create A Timeline

Before you can start saving up for a car, you'll need to have a pretty good idea of when you want to have the keys in hand.

To create a proper timeline, you'll start at the end goal – purchase date – and work backward to now. If you need to break the time into chunks for easier management, create a few mini-milestones for yourself and note down when you reach them.

The clearer and more detailed your timeline, the more closely you can follow it and reach your goal.

2. Decide On The Type Of Car You Want

If you're asking yourself, "how much should I save up before buying a car?" you should first consider your vehicle goals and needs. There are several factors to consider when deciding which car you should purchase with an auto loan and personal savings.

If you know that you'll be using your vehicle for work in construction, for example, a pickup truck or SUV might serve you better than a two-door coupe.

If you have a long commute, you should consider gas mileage since this will affect the vehicle's lifetime cost, even after it's been paid off.

Another aspect you'll want to consider is whether you'll buy new or used. There are benefits for each, of course, but your specific situation and financial goals will determine which one is best for you in the long run.

3. Determine Your Down Payment Amount

The down payment on a vehicle is essentially a monetary promise that you will be paying for the remainder of the vehicle's cost every month. It is traditionally believed that buyers should aim for a 20% down payment, but more recent research indicates that the average down payment is actually closer to 12%.

The car-buying experts with Edmunds reveal that "the ideal down payment on an auto loan should be an amount you can reasonably save up, without emptying out your emergency savings accounts."

Ideally, you should offer the largest down payment that you can realistically afford. This will allow for a shorter finance term, so you'll be saving on interest and depreciation.

To determine your down payment amount, consider the type of car you want to purchase and the finance term. CU SoCal's loan calculator will help you identify other critical factors for your auto finances.

4. Calculate Your Monthly Payment

As you learn how to budget for a car, you'll need to pay close attention to how much you can afford every month. This will be based on the cost of the car and the down payment, and a couple of other factors, like the length of the loan term and the interest rate.

Calculating your monthly payment is easy with the CU SoCal Car Payment Loan Calculator. Playing around with the numbers on the calculator will help you find an achievable goal, but be ready to rethink your ideal vehicle or timeline if needed.

5. Create A Budget

You've probably heard all your life that you should budget, but you don't know how to budget for a car. As with any big purchase, creating a realistic budget that you will stick to is crucial for saving for anything. Unless you have a new income source, you'll likely have to make cuts from other parts of your regular expenses.

Here are a few tips for saving up for a car if you have to make cuts:
  • Learn to cook. Eating at home instead of a restaurant isn't how to save up for a car if you're spending that money on expensive prepackaged foods. Instead, learn to cook fresh, inexpensive meals.
  • Drink at home. A night out can be expensive with high drink prices and Uber or Lift home. Turn nights out into nights in, and tip your savings instead of your server.
  • Check your subscriptions. If you have accounts with multiple streaming sites, trim them down to just one or two.
  • Analyze your current expenditures. Where is most of your spending occurring? Are there any ways to reduce costs there?
These are just a few ways to save money for a car fast, but most of the cuts will come down to what you can personally afford to go with less of or without.

6. Open A Savings Account

There are many ways to save money for a car fast, but it's impossible to save if you don't have a place to do it. Opening a savings account is one of the first actionable steps you can take when saving up for a car.

Opening a savings account with CU SoCal is easy, with just a $10 minimum deposit. Plus, you can open up to ten accounts for different savings goals, so you can manage your car savings, vacation savings, and more.  And with our easy-to-use online and mobile banking, you can watch your savings grow from your phone.  

7. Automate Your Savings

The more work required to get something done, the less likely you are to do it. Make saving up for a car easier on yourself and automate it.

With CU SoCal's easy online banking, controlling where your money goes has never been simpler. Our platform allows you to set up automatic savings transfers, so you can keep saving even if you forget you're doing it. Plus, monitoring your savings account balance is simple and secure with the CU SoCal Mobile Banking App.

8. Pick Up A Side Gig

If you've had a look at your budget and made necessary cuts and still find that you need to save up more to get the car you want, you might consider picking up a side gig to make extra money. It's one of the best ways to save money for a car fast.

If you have a craft hobby like woodworking or jewelry-making, consider selling your items online. Marketable skills like coding and graphic design are always in demand for freelancers looking for extra cash. Whatever side gig you choose, make sure the income fits into your desired timeline. A regular part-time job might do just as well for saving.

9. Sell or Trade In Your Current Car

Unless you're saving up for an additional vehicle and not a replacement one, selling or trading in your current vehicle is an excellent solution for how to save money for a car. It's a high-value item already in your possession, and trading it in to the dealership takes away the hassle of trying to sell it yourself. Not to mention, trading in your car means you'll probably pay less sales tax on the purchase of the new vehicle.

Selling is another option, but keep in mind that selling privately could take longer than expected, and you might have to do some negotiating.

10. Stick to the Plan!

Knowing how to save money for a car is one thing, but doing it is another. A well-thought-out plan with a detailed timeline and budget means nothing if you don't stick to it.

Take time to regularly look at your timeline and calendar and compare it with your progress. Write down savings milestones you'd like to reach to keep you on track. Don't forget to acknowledge the hard work you've done.

CU SoCal Auto Loans

At CU SoCal, we recognize that the Southern California lifestyle is all about being on the move, so we know how important owning a car is. With more than 60 years of experience bringing the best auto loans to future drivers, we offer nothing less than the best.

Auto Loans

With rates as low as 2.89% APR, we don't mess around when it comes to auto loans. We offer up to 120% financing for both new and used vehicles and accommodate with extended terms if needed. Our personal auto-buying concierge service lets you enjoy the fun parts of buying a new car without dealing with the hassle of getting it done.  There are no application fees, and approval is fast and easy.

Recreational Vehicle Loans

The SoCal lifestyle all but requires some weekend fun on a recreational vehicle. Whether your transport of choice is a motorcycle, boat, or motorhome, a loan from UC SoCal will have you covered with up to 100% financing and a fixed interest rate. Terms are flexible and applicable to new and used vehicles. And no application fees means that your hard-earned savings are used how you want them to be.

Apply For A CU SoCal Auto Loan Today!

At CU SoCal, we believe that people are what matters, and that's why we’re proud to serve those who live, work, or attend school in Orange County, Los Angeles County, Riverside County, and San Bernardino County.

Please give us a call today at 866.287.6225 for an expert, no-obligation consultation.

Get Started on Your Auto Loan!

Help + Support


Co-Browsing Code

Building Better Lives

Credit Union of Southern California (CU SoCal) is a leading financial institution empowering those who live, work, worship, or attend school in Orange County, Los Angeles County, Riverside County, and San Bernardino County to reach their goals and build strong financial futures. CU SoCal provides access to convenient money management services and offers competitive rates and flexible terms on auto loans, mortgages, and VISA credit cards—turning wishing and waiting into achieving and doing.


562.698.8326 | 866 CU SoCal Se Habla Español