Many of our customers tell us that shopping for a bad credit car loan is just as challenging as shopping for a car. We’ve compiled a list of 9 steps to help you navigate the waters of car and truck loans when your credit is not as good as you’d hoped.
A low credit score is generally defined as a FICO score under 629. You can have a lower score for a variety of reasons, including a history of making late payments, identity theft or simply not having enough years of credit history. Your credit score dictates what type of interest you’ll end up paying on your car loan, and a low score means a higher interest rate.
1. Work on your credit before you start shopping.
By cleaning up your credit before applying for a loan, you improve your chances of being approved with decent terms. Cleaning up your credit will include paying off past due accounts, disputing credit report errors, and adding positive information to your credit report.
2. Don’t assume the worst.
Never take someone else’s word that your credit is bad. Check for yourself by obtaining your credit report and credit score.
You are entitled to a free credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) once every 12 months. You can request all three reports at once, or space them out throughout the year.
3. Shop around.
When you’ve got bad credit, “you’re likely to agree with just about anything a lender offers you. But you shouldn’t just take the first offer you get,” warns Chris Kukla, senior vice president at the nonprofit Center for Responsible Lending.
Look for ways to save money on a car loan:
- Shorter term
- Factor in all the costs (insurance, gas, parking fees, etc)
- Get 2-3 quotes
- Make additional payments if you can
4. Start close to home.
Even if you don’t think you can get a loan, go to your bank or your credit union first. Apply at the bank where you have a checking account or your credit union. And see if your employer or insurance company offers auto financing.
Lenders who know you may provide better rates and terms.
5. Seek out a trustworthy dealer.
Believe it or not, car dealers have pretty great car loan options. They work with banks every single day and can often match or have better rates than what you’ve found in your search.
Trust is important and many dealers will work hard to keep yours. If you’ve done business with a dealer before or someone has recommended one (even through Yelp or Google reviews), include a call to your dealer in your purchase process.
6. Don’t go it alone.
Ask a friend or relative to go with you. It’s always better to have a separate pair of eyes and ears when making big decisions.
7. Pay attention to loan terms, not monthly payments.
Look for the lowest annual percentage rate (APR) over the shortest period of time. Write everything down.
If the terms are beyond your means, then consider a different vehicle at a lower price.
Focusing on monthly payments could cause you to pay more much more in financing costs.
8. Be aware of “extras.”
The Center for Responsible Lending advises that car buyers should never allow the loan to be contingent on purchasing any add-on, such as extended warranties, after-market services and even insurance.
9. Get Pre-Approved.
This fast and easy process lets you choose how much you want to borrow based on the type of vehicle you’re looking for. You’ll know ahead of time what to expect…and that means less anxiety and more peace of mind.
One of our helpful finance specialists will contact you to discuss available financing options, including the amount you’re qualified to finance.