What Credit Score Do I Need for a Car Loan?


Beware these car loan mistakes

Regardless of whether you have excellent credit, terrible credit, or you’re somewhere in between, there are a few potentially-costly mistakes that are important to avoid.

  1. Long-term loans. While the industry standard used to be 48- and 60-month loan options, 72-month and longer terms are now common. I’ve even seen 96-month (eight-year) loan terms. Auto dealers use these long terms to lower monthly payments and allow buyers to qualify for more expensive vehicles. The problem: Stretching a loan out can dramatically increase your interest cost. For example, a $30,000 car loan at 8% interest for 60 months will cost you $6,498 in total interest. The same size loan with the same interest rate for 84 months would cost $9,277 in interest. Long-term loans are helpful for borrowers who can’t afford the monthly payments of a short-term loan — but a long-term loan shouldn’t be your first choice.
  2. The “monthly payment trap.” Car salespeople like to ask you how much you’re looking to spend per month. Under no circumstances should you answer this question. This effectively gives permission to charge you as much as they want in interest (and for the car itself), as long as the monthly payment is within your limit. The price of the vehicle, price of your trade-in, and the interest rate on your loan should be three separate negotiations.
  3. Rolling your existing car loan into your new one. You may see advertisements that say something like “we’ll pay off your trade, no matter how much you owe.” Well, if the value of your trade is less than the amount you owe, many finance companies will add the difference to your new car loan. This is how people end up with a $35,000 loan for a $30,000 car — avoid this type of situation at all costs.
  4. Overpriced add-ons. Salespeople, especially in the finance department, love to try and upsell you on these. When I bought my 2013 Chevy Camaro, the dealership’s finance manager offered to sell me an upholstery treatment for $12 per month added to my loan’s payment — that’s a total of $720 on a 60-month loan. I said no, only to learn that it had already been installed in the car, and they were going to give it to me whether I paid for it or not. Needless to say, I’ll never do business with that dealership again.
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Perhaps the most important suggestion I can give you, especially if you have so-so credit, is to shop around for your next car loan. You may be surprised at the dramatic difference in offers you get.

Many people make the mistake of accepting the first loan offer they get (usually from the dealership). It’s also a smart idea to get a pre-approval from your bank as well as from a couple of other lenders. Online lenders and credit unions tend to be excellent sources for low-cost loan options. Not only are you likely to find the cheapest rate this way, but you’ll then have a pre-approval letter to take to the dealership with you.

The best part is that applying for a few auto loans won’t hurt your credit. The FICO credit scoring formula specifically allows for rate shopping. All inquiries for an auto loan or mortgage that occur within a 45-day period are treated as a single inquiry for scoring purposes. In other words, whether you apply for one car loan or 10, it will have the exact same impact on your credit score.

Buy a car now or work on your credit?

The bottom line is that there is no set minimum FICO® Score to get a car loan. There’s actually a good chance that you can get approved for an auto loan no matter how bad your credit is.

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Having said that, subprime and deep-subprime auto loans can be extremely expensive, so just because you can get a car loan with bad credit doesn’t necessarily mean you should. The savings from a moderate score increase can be substantial, so it could be a smarter idea to wait for a bit and work on rebuilding your credit before buying your next car.

Still have questions?

Here are some other questions we’ve answered:


View more information: https://www.fool.com/the-ascent/personal-loans/car-loan-credit-score/

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