Auto Loan & Car Financing: Top Tips to Get Started

When you buy a car, the price only partially determines how much you’ll spend. The interest rate and length of an auto loan also affect the total cost. These tips can help motorists find affordable financing:

Look at your credit record and consider paying a fee to check your current score.

This will give you a better idea of what to expect. Carfax reports that borrowers with scores under 600 often pay at least 6 percent interest.

Apply for auto loans during a 14-day time span.

This will reduce the negative impact on your credit score. Keep in mind that a credit score slightly decreases when lenders check your history.

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Compare both the monthly and overall costs of different financing options.

For example, a five-year loan for $8,000 will cost almost $8,625 if you pay 3 percent interest. A six-year term reduces the monthly payment by $22.20 but raises the total expense to $8,752.

Find a lender before you select a vehicle.

Apply for loans from reputable banks, credit unions and Internet lenders. Local and online banks tend to offer lower rates. The same goes for credit unions.

Don't buy without finalizing the details of a car loan, such as the term, down payment and rate.

When motorists agree to accept contingent financing, lenders may make undesirable changes to their loans.

You might save money by directly communicating with a bank rather than obtaining the loan through a dealer.

The average car dealership marks up auto financing rates by almost 2.5 percent, according to Consumer Reports.

If you can choose between rebates or a low interest rate, carefully calculate the savings that either decision would yield.

Rebates frequently represent the more advantageous option.

Before borrowing money, take the time to research the lender's reputation.

Federal and state agencies, the Better Business Bureau and online reviews can provide helpful information. Use a variety of resources; beware of fake reviews from lenders and their competitors.

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Read the entire financing agreement. Don't let anyone pressure you to sign it immediately.

Watch out for prepayment penalties, binding arbitration clauses and adjustable rates. The printed terms supersede all verbal statements.

Confirm that the bank's monthly payment amount matches the term and interest rate.

You may use an online calculator, specialized computer software or a smartphone app. If a lender’s calculations don’t make sense, it may be trying to deceive you.

To sum it up, always exercise caution and take your time when you look for a car loan. You can save a considerable amount of cash by carefully comparing a wide range of car financing options.

Best Auto Loan Services

Auto Loan Reviews

CarsDirect is best for drivers who need a small-dollar car loan or are okay with buying an older used car.

MyAutoLoan

MyAutoLoan is best for first-time buyers or drivers who want to work with lenders to purchase their leased vehicle.

US Bank

U.S. Bank is best for drivers who want a loan to buy a vehicle from a private seller.

Bank of America

Bank of America is best for drivers who value the company’s huge network of branches and/or want to buy a slightly older and higher-mileage vehicle.

Auto Credit Express

Auto Credit Express is best for bad-credit buyers who need a lot of options.

Capital One

Capital One is best for drivers in the mid-Atlantic and Southern regions who have bad credit.

Auto loans can be confusing. However, that doesn’t change the fact that you need a car. That’s why we’ve put together this guide. It has the basic information you need to know when you’re thinking about financing a car or refinancing your current auto loan.

Understanding Auto Loans

Auto loans deal with a lot of different concepts. Financing, credit, and contracts are all hard to understand. Auto loans involve all of these things, and more. Here’s a list of things you need to know when you’re applying for auto finance.

Interest Rates

The first thing you need to understand if you’re going to get the best car loan is how interest rates work. Interest rates are the way that the lender makes money on your loan. The lower the interest rate, the less you’ll pay for the loan.

That means that you want the lowest interest rate possible. This will save you money over the course of the loan. Your interest rates are based on the amount of risk the lender is taking.

People with a good credit score are more likely to repay their loans. That means they aren’t as risky for lenders. As a result, they get better interest rates.

However, when it comes to car finance, things are always more complicated. Another important factor in your interest rate is what kind of car you want to buy. Remember, interest rates are based on risk. Usually, the car acts as collateral for the loan. That means if you don’t pay your loan, the lender can take your car. They’ll sell your car to get back the money they loaned you.

This means that you’ll usually get better interest rates for newer models of cars. That’s because these cars will sell for more money than older cars will. The exception to this is brand new cars. Brand new cars lose their value very quickly. As a result, you’ll usually get the best rates on cars that are one to two years old.

Fees

You always want to be aware of any fees when you’re thinking about any kind of loan. Different banks and lenders charge different fees. That means there’s no one complete list of fees that we can cover. It also explains why you need to carefully read the terms of your loan.

Fees increase the amount of money the loan costs you. That means finding a loan with few or zero fees can help you save money on your car loan. Be on the lookout for things like disbursement fees, when the lender charges you for giving you the money they’re loaning you.

Additionally, you’re more likely to pay fees if you get car financing through the dealership. That’s one of the many reasons that you should try and get a loan from a bank or a dedicated lender. They don’t need to charge as many fees to generate a profit.

Credit Checks

Anytime you apply for a loan, your lender will check your credit score and history. Your credit score is a number between 300 and 850. The higher your score, the better your interest rates will be.

However, checking your credit causes it to go down. That’s because it shows that you’re looking to obtain a loan. However, there are several things you can do to help this situation. First, you can use credit repair services to improve your credit score. Additionally, you should know that your score won’t go down for every loan you apply for. That’s because credit agencies recognize that you’re “rate shopping”. Therefore, they will treat multiple credit checks for the same kind of loan as one inquiry, instead of several.

Finally, you can take advantage of pre-qualification. This process doesn’t use a “hard” credit check, which shows up on your credit report. Instead, it uses a soft credit check. It uses the information from the credit check, as well as the information you provide, to give you an approximate rate. We’ll cover prequalification more in a later section. However, it is one of the best ways to get car financing, even with bad credit.

Funding

There are several ways your lender can give you the money you’re borrowing. Some companies will send a no-obligation check. Others might send the money directly to the dealer. Some lenders even directly deposit the money in your account.

It pays to know how your loan will be funded. That can save you valuable time when you’re at the dealership. Also, some dealerships require certain kinds of funding. Take note of this when receiving auto finance.

Terms

The next important thing you should know is the terms of your loan. The terms of a loan are the requirements that you and the lender have. They outline your payment requirements. They also explain how long you have to repay the loan. Finally, they’ll cover penalties for late or missed payments.

You need to carefully evaluate the terms of your loan. Sometimes it might be worth it to take a loan with a higher interest rate if the terms are better. Remember, the longer you have to repay the loan, the more the loan will cost over time. That’s why loans with longer terms generally have lower interest rates. You’ll have a lower monthly payment, but you will wind up paying more over the course of your loan.

Restrictions

Finally, you need to check for restrictions on the loan. Different lenders have different restrictions. Some lenders won’t provide a loan for private sales. Others only work with certain dealership networks. That means the lender that offers you the best terms might not provide car finance for the vehicle you want. You’ll need to match the car, seller, and lender and ensure everyone can work together to get the car you want.

The Value of Preapproval

Many people worry about trying to get a car loan with bad credit. After all, credit and credit scores are confusing and scary. It’s hard for a regular person to understand what their score means. That’s why getting preapproved for an auto loan is a good idea.

The Idea Behind Pre-approval

Pre-approval uses a soft credit check to determine a few things. If you’re pre-approved, then you get a range of possible interest rates. You’ll also get a minimum and maximum amount for the loan. This can help you narrow down your options. You can pick a car that gets you the best interest rate. You can also be confident that your loan will be approved. Finally, you’ll understand how much you can spend on your new car.

Because of these things, pre-approval makes finding a new car much easier. You don’t have to worry about getting a big enough loan for the car you want. You also won’t have to stress about your credit score while you’re trying to make an important decision.

Also, many companies that offer auto loan pre-approval also have car loan calculators. Other companies offer auto loan calculators as well. However, using a calculator with pre-approval gives you a very accurate idea of how much your loan will cost.

This happens because the lender can use the information about the different cars you’re looking at to show you a more accurate interest rate prediction. It will show you the different options for terms. This lets you customize your loan before you even get to the dealership.

It’s important to note that pre-approval is different from final approval. The company can still deny your loan. They’ll also do a hard credit pull before you get the loan. Finally, the interest rate they offer you might differ from the rate you pre-qualified for. However, the pre-qualification information is usually pretty accurate. It will only change a lot if your credit is much worse than you reported.

Refinancing Auto Loans: Key Information for Borrowers

People looking for a new car aren’t the only ones who can benefit from auto financing. If you already have a car and a car loan, then you might be able to save money by refinancing it.

Refinancing a loan is the process of taking out a new loan with better terms and using it to pay off your old loan. As a result, you’ll be able to lower your monthly payments. You also might be able to pay off your car faster than you could with your current loan.

When to Refinance

There are several situations which could lead you to refinance your car loan. If you had bad credit when you got your loan, and your credit has improved, then you can probably get better terms refinancing.

Also, you might want to refinance if your financial situation changes. For example, if your hours or pay are cut, then you might want to refinance to a loan with longer terms. This will mean you don’t pay your car off as quickly. However, it also means that you’ll be paying less each month. That can save valuable money for other necessities. You can always pay more than the minimum if your situation changes to pay your car off faster.

Some people might worry that their bad credit prevents them from refinancing their auto loan. However, many lenders specialize in refinancing car loans for people with bad credit. Don’t let one denial or bad offer prevent you from looking. After all, if you’ve already generated a hard credit pull, then you may as well take advantage of rate shopping. The multiple inquiries will only count as one inquiry. You can use rate shopping to find the best option for a car loan with bad credit.

Things to Know Before You Apply for an Auto Loan

There are a few things you should consider before you apply for an auto loan.

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Downpayment amount

The first thing you’ll need to know is how much money you have for a down payment. A down payment is the money that you can pay for the car up front. The more money you put down, the less you’ll need to borrow. That means you’ll pay less for the car over the course of your loan.
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Check your score

Another thing to consider when you’re applying for a loan is your credit score. There are lots of services that allow you to check your credit score. Also, every state allows you to check your credit scores for free at least once a year.

If you have a bad to fair credit score, then you might want to look into ways to improve it. Even a change of 10 points can make a huge difference in the interest rates you’re offered. Therefore, if you can wait to get a new car while you improve your credit score, you might save money in the end.

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Trade-in option

Additionally, if you already have a car, you’ll need to decide if you want to trade it in. You can put the value of your trade in toward your down payment. However, you usually won’t get as much for a trade in as you would if you sold your car in a private sale.

That means you need to decide if the hassle of trying to sell your car is worth the extra money you get. Thankfully, you can find out from the dealer how much they’ll offer you for your trade-in. You can even negotiate over the price. Most dealerships will come up a bit on the trade in if they think it’ll help make the sale.

However, most people can’t wait for their new car. That’s why it’s important to comparison shop for different loans. Make a list of car lenders with a minimum credit score you meet. That way you won’t need to worry about getting rejected for a loan. Instead, you can focus on finding the best terms on the loans you’re offered.

Everyone needs a car. Don’t let fear or lack of cash prevent you from getting the car of your dreams. Follow this advice and find the best possible loan when it comes to financing a car. Don’t be afraid to compare many different lenders. Just because you need a car doesn’t mean you need to overpay for it.