MONEY Ask the Expert

Should I Pay Off Loans or Save for a Down Payment?

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Robert A. Di Ieso, Jr.

Q: Should I use savings to pay off car loans or make a down payment? — Carmella F., Pittsburgh

A: The first line of business is to make sure you have enough savings for an emergency fund, a minimum of four months if both spouses are working, six months if one isn’t, says Pittsburgh financial planner Diane Pearson.

Paying off the $30,000 in two car loans you told us you have would deplete your savings. Not only does that leave you vulnerable to unforeseen expenses, plowing money into assets that only lose value as they age doesn’t make sense, says Pearson. When applying for a mortgage, banks would prefer to see $30,000 in savings plus car loans over no savings and vehicles owned free and clear.

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