How Much Do Cars Cost You? 3 Years of Your Working Life

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By Gerri Detweiler

That car that's supposed to provide you with the freedom to get you where you want to go may also be one of the many chains tying you down to a job you'd rather ditch. That's because -- over the course of a lifetime -- the average person will spend more than three years at work just to pay for their various sets of wheels.

The folks at eBay Deals recently released a "Trading Time" calculator that lets you figure out how long you have to work to pay for various expenses. It's an eye-opener.

Over a 50-year working lifetime, the typical person will work 157 weeks to generate the cash needed to pay for his or her cars. Then, add in another 50 weeks of work to cover car insurance. Those figures are based on the weekly median gross income. Yours may be higher or lower, of course.

%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%If that doesn't seem like a lot to you, then think about this: You work even longer to pay for your vehicles because you need to figure in taxes and the interest on your car loans. And don't forget all the time in that vehicle commuting or shuttling your kids around.

According to the Trading Time calculator, other major expenses that keep you chained to your desk may include shoes (17 weeks), phone bills (60 weeks) and even toilet paper (two weeks).

Whether you love your job, hate it or or fall somewhere in between, it's helpful to think about the things you spend money on in terms of the amount of time you have to spend working to pay for them. Only you can decide what's really worth it.

Can You Get Back Some of Your Time?

Of course you may have no choice but to drive, and in that case, you may want to look for ways to try to reduce your costs. For example, can you drive a slightly used car instead of a new one? Keep your vehicle longer? Settle for a more economical model?

Another way to cut costs is to improve your credit. With a better credit score, you will qualify for a lower interest rate, which can mean significant savings over the life of the loan. You can see your credit scores for free at Credit.com to determine whether your credit is good. Ideally, you want to review it at least a month before you plan to shop for a vehicle in order to address any issues you uncover. (Give yourself more lead time if your credit isn't great. Here's a guide to help you rebuild your credit. )

Here's an example of the savings you may achieve by boosting your credit. As of June 4, the lowest quoted rate for a $20,000 50-month auto loan with excellent credit on Credit.com is 1.99 percent. That translates into a monthly payment of $411. But for someone with poor credit, the rate jumps to 14.99 percent or a monthly payment of $540.

Gerri Detweiler is Credit.com's director of consumer education.

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