For most of us, an auto loan is the biggest monthly expense after the mortgage or rent payment. That’s why, when you’re thinking about buying a car, it’s as important to research the auto’s loan as it is to check out sales prices and gas mileage. Here are some auto loan shopping strategies to consider before going to the dealership.

Think carefully about how much you can afford to pay for a car. Your monthly payment will depend on the term (length) of your loan, the interest rate and the amount you borrow. In most cases, what you borrow will be the price you pay for the car plus any options you select minus your down payment and the value of any trade-in. In addition, consider the charges for car insurance, property and sales taxes, as well as registration, inspection and title fees. Some of these are one time expenses, but others, such as insurance are continued and should be figured into the monthly (or quarterly, annual) cost. Don’t forget maintenance.

An alternative to buying a car is leasing one for a few years. Monthly lease payments can be lower than monthly loan payments, but at the end of the lease you won’t own the car.

Shop for a loan at your bank and several other lenders. Find out about the types of loans and the Annual Percentage Rate (APR) for which you qualify. The APR is generally included as part of the required disclosure showing the total cost of the loan, including interest charges and many fees, expressed as a yearly rate. Your banker may be greater options for you. At Peoples Bank, we can probably tailor a loan to suit your circumstances. We’d be happy to work with you. You can stop by any of our business centers or call our Customer Service Center at 877.802.1212, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Mon. – Fri. to locate a loan officer near to you.

If you are trading in a vehicle, research how much your car is worth. The more you know about the car’s current value before you go into the dealership, the more likely you will be to get a good deal on the trade-in.

There are more ways to make yourself a better-informed car buyer. Go to the FDIC Consumer News to get more information.

Peoples Bank is an Equal Opportunity Lender.