A weak economy is making it easier to get great deals for a new set of wheels, but the bargain may mask hidden costs buried in your auto loan. Follow these tips to make sure you don't bring home a carload of unnecessary expenses.

Most importantly, before you roll dealer options into your auto loan, make sure you need them and that the price is right. Dealers are using the low interest rates offered by automakers to push add-ons like gap insurance, VIN etching and fabric protection. While a few of these extras can be enticing, they may end up costing you thousands more on your auto loan. Consider the cost and worth of the dealer options before stuffing them into your auto loan.

Gap Insurance

If you're leasing or financing an auto loan for 60 months or more, gap insurance may be useful. Gap insurance makes up the difference between your car's worth and the total that you owe. Gather different offers from a selection of dealers before purchasing gap insurance to ensure the best deal.

Theft protection in your auto loan

Dealer options like stolen vehicle recovery and VIN etching as extra theft security are often offered. You may benefit from these if you're purchasing a car that's likely to be stolen or if you consistently drive through high-theft areas. Otherwise, the price of these extras in your auto loan simply isn't worth the cost.

Consider the extended warranty

Purchasing an extended warranty might be worth the extra cost if you plan to keep the car long after the manufacturer's warranty expires. The manufacturer's warranty covers a great deal of repairs, which lowers the value of extra service plans. Read over the manufacturer's warranty and research the cost of services before rolling these dealer options into your auto loan.

To find an auto loan in your area, use Bankrate's auto loan comparison tool.

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