Skip to main content

Joining the military is a shock for the majority of new enlistees. After finishing boot camp and advanced training, an 18-year-old realizes that minimal personal expenses equate to money in their pocket. As a result, young enlisted personnel turn their attention to getting that sought-after set of wheels. Well, if you or someone you love is joining the military in 2024, check out these car-buying tips to avoid that cliche, high-interest Ford Mustang.

Enlistees joining the military should shop smart for their first car

A used car lot like this can prey on young military members.
A used car lot | jetcityimages via iStock
  • Avoid predatory sales groups near the base
  • Talk to your mentor or staff non-commissioned officer (NCO) before buying a car
  • Shop smart- don’t fall for high-interest cars outside of your means
  • Make sure you get a car with space for your gear
  • Paying cash for a vehicle with an independent PPI is your best bet

Car sales businesses open up just outside the gates of large military installations. This isn’t a coincidence. Many of these businesses prey on young people with no credit joining the military. They sell favorites among enlistees, like the Ford F-Series pickup, with in-house financing at bloated interest rates. Don’t fall victim to a salesperson trying to charge you upwards of 30% interest on a car. 

Your mentor or staff NCO isn’t there to make your life harder. They’re a resource, from proficiency in your military occupational specialty (MOS) to buying your first car. Consult your next step in the chain of command before you make a poor car-buying choice. 

After joining the military, young enlistees might want a flashy ride. Unfortunately, I’ve seen too many young servicemembers pay too much for too much car. An E-2 makes around $2,261 per month in 2024. Even with the chow hall and a uniform allowance, that’s simply not enough to cover a $700 car payment and save money. 

What’s more, if you use a car loan through your banking institution, set up autopay to avoid missing payments. It’s also a decent tactic for building your credit. 

Gear takes up space; a main pack, sea bag, and SL-3 kit will quickly turn a Mazda MX-5 into a clown car. While a barracks-bound enlistee doesn’t typically contend with a sizable commute, getting to and from advanced schools, special assignments, or even trips to the commissary could be a pain in the wrong ride. 

What’s more, you’ll find that your idea to head out for wings on a Wednesday night quickly turns into a five-person adventure. Consider a car large enough for gear– and a few friends.

Finally, while getting a low-interest car loan for a desirable ride is tempting, cash is king. If you don’t already have a car you drove before your time in the service, paying cash for an affordable, reliable car will save you money. Moreover, anytime you want to purchase a used car, a third-party pre-purchase inspection (PPI) can reveal potentially expensive problems. 

Keep up with MotorBIscuit for the latest consumer advice!

Source: The Military Wallet


Cliché or Commendable? 4 of the Most Popular Military Vehicle Choices Are Surprisingly Sensible