On a car-financing journey that naturally travels through a range of numbers, your credit score is a good one to start off with.
Based upon your credit behavior compiled in your credit history report, it sums up in three digits your credit health, which gives you some insight on how likely you are to get financing and, if approved, how favorable those terms may be. The higher the number, the better your credit and, usually, the stronger your position.
Consumers actually have more than one credit score because there are a number of credit scoring sources and models, and because the main credit reporting companies can have different sets of data, on which most scores are based.
Getting hold of your score has become easier in recent times and there are several ways to do it – some of which are free, and others where a payment is needed.
1. View your credit card or loan account
Many credit card companies and loan providers offer your credit score for free within your online account information, or on your monthly statement, which is a convenient way to regularly keep tabs on your credit profile.
2. Buy your score from a credit reporting company
You can buy your credit score from the big three credit reporting bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Most lenders use a brand of credit score called FICO, and FICO scores can be purchased at FICO.com. You’re entitled to request your credit reports from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion free of charge once a year, and it’s a smart idea to check them for any errors that may affect your access to financing. To request your reports, call 877.322.8228, go online at www.annualcreditreport.com, or complete and mail this form.
3. Talk to a credit counselor
Non-profit credit counselors are often able to furnish you with your credit report and score for free, as well as review them with you, advises the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. They typically provide their services at local offices, online and by phone. A list of approved counselors, and more information about choosing one, is available at the CFPB website.
4. Use a credit score service
Credit score services including websites are another option. Some will provide a score for free while others may require you to sign up to a credit monitoring service which comes with a monthly fee in order to access your score.
You’ll also receive your score after you apply for an auto loan
Whether you found out your credit score before you started applying for an auto loan or not, lenders such as RoadLoans will provide you with your score afterward, as well as a free copy of your credit report on request. Approved applicants will find their score in their loan documents while applicants who were not approved will receive it within their mailed decision letter. Bear in mind that RoadLoans and parent company Santander Consumer USA, like many other lenders, use credit scores and history as just part of their overall lending decisions.
Know the score and shop more confidently
With credit scores available in a variety of places, it’s not too hard to find your score and check your reports before you begin shopping for a loan, and you’ll enjoy a better understanding of the process that follows. Even if you think you have no credit history, it’s still worth checking. And if you’re looking to build and keep a good credit score, take a look at the tips here.