Tips for car buyers -- poor credit especially

Experts say you should shop for a car loan before you shop for the car, so congratulations, you're ahead of the curve.

When it comes to poor credit car loans, lenders are most comfortable with loans in the $10,000 range. That number comes up a lot because the optimum monthly payment is based on a ratio of your income versus your debts.

There are plenty of sweet cars in that price range. The trick is to find award-winning cars from a few years back and see how they've held their value.

For instance, if you're looking for a sport utility vehicle, the Suzuki Grand Vitara has great crash ratings and has held up reliably over time. If you're looking for a mid-size sedan, everybody wants a Camry or Accord, but you can find very comparable Nissans and Mitsubishis for thousands less. (More research.)

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