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How to Buy Your Car Without Going into Debt

Updated on January 30, 2012

Cars play a huge role in one's life, so it comes naturally that they would be somewhat large investments, but it is a shame that so many people assume that they must go into debt in order to purchase a car of their own.  Auto loans do not have to be the default option for all people buying cars.  It is perfectly possible to buy your car without one.  

"How, gentle author, might I do this?" you ask.

Well, gentle reader, you can do this by saving your money.  There are some other options too, but the most important, responsible, and empowering option involves saving, so I shall expound on that first.

Saving - The Ultimate Way to Avoid Debt

Though debt may seem to be an inevitability in life, there is an antidote - a shield from the ever looming mortgage. This antidote, of course, is the concept of saving one's money.

The logical argumentative response to this claim would be that it is simply impossible to save when one is living from paycheck to paycheck, as a very high percentage of us do. This is a very tough issue, but sometimes this precarious financial situation is preventable.

The sad truth is that some (obviously not all, but some) of those living from paycheck to paycheck are doing so because they are living beyond their means. If, for example, you are considering purchasing a car, but you already have one that works well enough, buying a new car with borrowed money technically constitutes living beyond your means.

Spending beyond one's limits to cover expenses is a slippery slope. Before long, everything is done on credit, and one's hole becomes a rather horrid abyss of financial doom. For a while, one can maintain the standard of living (or spending) to which one aspires (or assumes is normal), but that spending is not sustainable, and the stress and discomfort one experiences along the road makes the incremental "comforts" rendered possible by borrowed money hardly worth the trouble.

Methinks it much better to scale down one's expenses and live a more spare life that is nonetheless financially sound. This life might not seem as fancy, and one might feel positively embarrassed when compared to the Joneses, but at least it is a life of greater financial security and independence. What's more, someone who builds a life on a spare, but sound financial foundation is much more likely to be able to find greater wealth in the future compared to one who builds a more extravagant life using borrowed funds.

I therefore recommend that you take the time to save up for your car.  To the right, I have shared two additional resources to help you do so.


Yes, I promised to share you other ways in which you can purchase a car without going into debt, and below, I will share them.  While some of these methods seem fantastical to you, these methods and alternatives are utilized by people to buy cars every day.  Not all of these alternatives will be a possibility to you, but perhaps one or two are within reach.  If not, do consider saving for your car instead!

Become a Driving Advertisement

As Analana pointed out in the comments below, you always have the option to become a driving advertisement. You've seen them around - cars wrapped in advertisements driving around your local neighborhood. As it happens, these drivers have actually been paid to have advertisements plastered on their cars, and if you like, you can join their ranks!

Advertisements that are installed on cars are known as car skins, and several different companies (see the links to the right) offer them (Note: I have not dealt with any of these companies personally so cannot vouch for their service, friendliness, or even legitimacy - all have come into question in this Google Answer thread).

To qualify as a candidate for car skins, you need to have a clean driving record, as well as your own auto insurance (so don't think you can skimp on monthly expenses by leaving that out - though you should not be driving around without car insurance anyway).

Having car skins installed on your car may not cover the cost for your entire vehicle, but it could be the difference between purchasing a car with your own money and going into debt.

Ask Mom and Dad for a Birthday Present

The Car-As-16th-Birthday-Present tradition is an honored one - at least in the United States.  If you are fortunate enough to be the child of a financially stable parent or parents, are generally well-behaved and well-liked, start expressing your heartfelt desire for a car right now - you might just be surprised when your 16th birthday rolls around!

Even if the date has passed and you are still car-less, do not despair.  Many parents buy their kids cars when they graduate from high school, go off to college, or just do something fabulous, like get good grades or take the Glee team to nationals.  Find out what kind of behavior is necessary to warrant this precious gift.  Then PLAY IT UP TO THE NINES.

Marry Rich

If you cannot buy a car this very moment without going into debt, and if you do not feel like working more or saving up cash, consider marrying rich! A nice, wealthy husband or wife could probably give you a car easily, plus I imagine you'd get some great vacations and a nice house out of the deal.

Get on the Good Side of Rich Old Aunt Arrabella

Do you have a financially endowed older relative who is due to kick the bucket sometime soon?  Well... I hope you're good friends, because you might stand to inherit decent money from said individual!  Many a person has purchased a car using inherited money - you could be next!

Win the Lottery

Hey, it happens to people every day, does it not?  Though you are far more likely to be struck by lightening twice than you are to win the lottery, you could still increase your chances by standing in the middle of a field with a flagpole-er... buying a couple of tickets, no?

Roadtrip to Vegas!

If you have enough money to fly out to Vegas, eat there for a couple of days, stay in a hotel, and gamble, you probably have enough money to buy a car without going into debt (a paired down, used car, but still...).  That said, you might have set your eyes for something a bit showier, and in that case, you just might see if Lady Luck has an eye for you!

Go on a game show!

While game shows used to be one's only opportunity of earning money on television without being an actor, you now have the option of not only making your way onto one of these telecast scenarios, but also one of the many reality shows out there!

Do your research, find some high-paying shows you think you might have a shot at winning, send in a ton of creative audition tapes, and you're half way there.  Who knows - you might even win a car outright over the course of the taping!

How shall YOU be purchasing your car?

See results

Enter every contest you can find

People are giving away cars left and right in contests - why not apply for every car giveaway for which you could possibly qualify?  You might not win, and even if you do, you might not win the exact car you wanted, but you would still get it without having to pay.

Good luck!

As I expressed at the opening of this article, it is my humble opinion that saving for large purchases is the best way to go.  But obviously there are many options.  

Whatever you do to buy your car, I hope it is in line with your personal beliefs, is relatively enjoyable, and is ultimately successful!


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    • Simone Smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      9 years ago from San Francisco

      Oh, right! That's an excellent tip! I suppose it wouldn't be all that bad if one liked the thing that one's car is advertising :D

    • Analana profile image


      9 years ago

      I've got another one for you--sign up to be a driving advertisement! You have a car to drive and no debt. Of course, you have to be willing to drive around with an ad plastered all over your car.

    • Simone Smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      9 years ago from San Francisco

      Hahaa, the odds might be better, but we seem to have a huge cultural barrier... it "feels" so much easier to do ANYTHING more impractical than saving sometimes. Which is kind of insane when you think about it @_@

    • Julie McM profile image

      Julie McM 

      9 years ago from Southern California

      Saving makes the most sense. Not as fun as Vegas or a game show, but your odds are better.

    • s.carver profile image


      9 years ago from San Francisco

      Game show...

    • Simone Smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      9 years ago from San Francisco

      Eh- that's *my* plan, at least! I can't get out of the house without 90 minutes of shiatsu, a mani-pedi, and a steaming cup of Kopi Luwak... and SOMEBODY has to pay for it ^_^

    • jobister profile image


      9 years ago from Anaheim, California

      Haha @ Marry rich, pretty funny idea.


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