How to organize financial documents for your car

boxes - packing it all awayIf you’re like me, with every new car purchase you add to a cumbersome collection of financial documents.  When it comes time to find something, it can be intimidating to sift through the mess.  The best solution is to use a filing system and stick to it whenever you get new paperwork rather than letting it pile up.   If you’re ready to clean up the clutter, take a look at how I organize my own car financial documents and see if you can implement a similar system that works for you.

In my home office I keep three separate folders for each car: Maintenance, Ownership, and Legal.  For the most part, I hang onto everything until I get rid of a car with the exception of expired insurance policies.  Here’s the breakdown:

 Car Maintenance Documents

  • Documentation of all auto maintenance performed. This includes oil changes, tire purchases, replacing the brakes, service appointments, etc.  This can be handy to establish a good resale value when trading in.
  • Warranty agreements.  Hang onto any documents from the manufacturer or if you purchase an extended warranty.  Most warranties are very particular about how you go about servicing your car, so you'll need to refer to your agreement.

 Car Ownership Documents

  • Title. If you have a safe keep it there instead, otherwise filing it is fine.
  • Original purchase receipt. Trash all the extraneous brochures and flyers you receive from the dealer.
  • Loan or lease documents and payment book (or payment coupons).  Keep these until the loan is paid off and then keep the letter from your lender that confirms the loan has been fulfilled.
  • Monroney sticker (or window sticker) that contains all the options installed on your car.  I like to keep this handy for when I resell or trade-in the car.  It's easy to forget all the bells and whistles you originally paid for, and a high MSRP compared to your new price can make the next buyer feel like they are getting a good deal.

 Car Legal Documents

  • Registration. I file one copy and keep one in the car.
  • Receipts for state inspections and emissions tests
  • Tax documents. Some states require personal property taxes to be filed for vehicles.
  • Auto insurance policy. You only need to keep the latest copy.  When you get a new one, discard the old one.
  • Documentation of any repairs due to insurance claims (normal wear and tear goes under maintenance).
  • Rental cars agreements during repairs.

 And in my car I keep…

  • Registration. I keep one copy in the car and one in my files.
  • Insurance Card
  • Owner’s Manual
  • Disposable camera (unless your cell phone has a camera).  If you're in an accident, taking pictures can help you get more money from a claim and identify who was to blame.

When budgeting for a new car, an organized set of financial documents can be a real budget helper.  How do you store your car financial documents?

Photo by mcfarlandmo

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