How to buy a car with bad creditHowever the situation arises, bad credit* does not necessarily signal the end of the road for car shoppers. In fact, the good news is that there are many qualified buyers with poor credit who are taking the wheel with the help of financing. And they can enjoy a lot of the same conveniences as buyers with better credit, such as preapproval. Every car shopper’s position is different, and planning your car-buying process may help you understand what’s right for your situation, and how best to achieve it. Here’s how to approach car loans when you have bad credit.
Be sure to do your researchYou might already have an idea of the car you want to buy, but the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recommends taking a look at your financial circumstances, including credit history, budget and what you can afford, before shopping for a vehicle.
Credit scores and credit reportsLenders take a range of factors into account when considering an auto loan application from a consumer with bad credit, and most will make a decision based in part on credit score. Although it is not the sole factor, your score plays a key role in determining whether your application will be approved, and, if so, what interest rate you will get, says the bureau. Credit score is an indicator of someone’s creditworthiness, partly influenced by their credit experiences, which are compiled in credit reports. The CFPB advocates getting hold of a copy of your credit report from the national reporting agencies to check for inaccuracies. Details of how to request reports are available at its website.
What can you afford?Auto finance calculators are useful tools designed to make estimating what you can afford easy. Looking at the big picture, a budget calculator helps gauge where a car loan payment may fit into your finances. It enables you to enter your monthly expenses to get an idea of what’s left for an auto loan payment. That figure, along with loan term, annual percentage rate (APR) and down payment, can be plugged into an affordability calculator to suggest what you can spend on a car in total. And because it’s an online calculator, you can adjust the values of each variable to instantly see how the situation changes. In a similar way, use the monthly payment calculator to see how loan amount, APR and down payment affect your potential monthly payments.
Understanding auto loan rates and loan termsAPR and loan term are closely related in these calculations and to how your auto loan may take shape.
APR includes the interest rate to be charged on the principal loan amount (the sum borrowed to buy a vehicle) and any transaction fees that are rolled into the loan. Together with the loan term, APR will affect the size of your monthly payment as well as how much you pay for the car in total over the life of the loan. A car buyer’s APR may be affected by a range of criteria, such as credit history, current interest rates, competition, market conditions and special offers, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
By changing the length of the loan term on the auto loan calculator, with APR unchanged, you will see how it affects the monthly payment. A longer loan term, with a greater amount of time to pay back the loan amount, reduces the monthly payment in the calculation, while a shorter loan period results in a higher monthly payment. Depending on the APR, you may end up paying more for a vehicle over the life of the loan with a longer term, when interest charges are taken into account, than with a shorter term. Both loan term and interest rate are often negotiable for qualified applicants.
Money down and trading in a vehicleWhen financing a car with bad credit, a down payment or trading in your current vehicle, or both, might help your position. Each may lower the principal loan amount required to purchase a car, and show a lender looking to assess a bad credit risk that you are committed to the deal.
Auto loan cosignersA cosigner may have a positive effect on a car loan application for a consumer with bad credit too, and could be a requirement from the lender in some cases. By signing an auto loan contract with you, the cosigner agrees to repay the note should you fail to do so, making any missed payments or even paying the loan amount in full. The CFPB provides more information about choosing an auto loan cosigner and the effect that cosigning a loan might have on the credit of both borrower and cosigner.
Financing a car after bankruptcy, and with no credit historyConsumers who have been through bankruptcy or have no credit experience may think auto financing is off the table, but there are lenders, such as RoadLoans, that accept applications from consumers will all types of credit. A down payment, vehicle trade-in and cosigner are some of the elements that may strengthen an auto loan application in these situations.
Choosing a vehicleBy running the numbers on a potential loan, you will have an estimation of the financing that’s right for you and what kind of vehicle you may be able to afford. When choosing a vehicle, car shoppers with bad credit might think about opting for used over new, and an older model rather than a later one. Everyone’s automobile needs and preferences are different, and if fuel economy is a factor for you, a fuel savings calculator is a helpful tool to work out potential expenditure on gas for one vehicle compared to another.
Shop around for financingWhen you’re ready to apply for financing, the advice of the FTC is to shop around. The main providers of car loans for consumers with poor credit are direct lenders, including banks, credit unions and finance companies, and indirect lenders, such as dealerships, that typically work with direct lenders.
Going onlineDirect-to-consumer auto lenders like RoadLoans make applying for car loans with bad credit simple. RoadLoans’ online process cuts out the middleman to offer car buyers several advantages. It’s quick and easy to apply, you can do so from home, work or your mobile device, and you’ll receive an instant decision. Qualified applicants can get preapproved, empowering them to shop with the confidence of a cash buyer. Preapproval means visiting the dealership already knowing the terms of your loan, including the amount, APR and loan duration. If you have any questions about online auto loans, our service agents are available to help by phone, chat or email.
Finding a dealershipFew car shoppers enjoy spending hours at a dealership. Finding the right dealer with the right vehicles from the start could make buying a car with bad credit quicker and easier. RoadLoans works with a network of more than 14,000 dealerships across the United States, offering quality vehicles meeting our requirements for age and mileage. Approved applicants receive a list of recommended dealerships, located nearby, within their loan documents to help the car-shopping process. If a dealership is not what you have in mind, that’s fine too. RoadLoans accepts private party auto loan applications for person-to-person car sales.
What’s right for you?Buying a car with bad credit is about what’s right for your situation. RoadLoans is a leading auto lender, with many years of experience, which accepts applications from people with all credit profiles. We prepare multiple offers for qualified applicants based on their unique car-buying needs.
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Looking to refinance?If you already have an auto loan, bad credit, and want to refinance your note, learn more about auto refinancing with RoadLoans. Our refinancing programs may have options for you, and we accept applications from consumers with all types of credit
Discover auto refinancing options.Learn More
No Credit History?You can still apply for an auto loan with no credit experience. Learn More
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* “Bad” or “Poor” credit generally is considered a FICO score around 600 and below by sources including the Consumer Federation of America and National Credit Reporting Association (reported by the Associated Press), Bankrate.com, Credit.com, Investopedia, NerdWallet.com and others. The Congressional Budget Office identifies a FICO score of 620 as the “cutoff” for prime loans. FICO scores are not the sole factor in lending decisions by RoadLoans.com and Santander Consumer USA.