How to Take Advantage of Low-Interest Loans During the COVID-19 Health Crisis

December 2, 2020 &• 5 min read by Credit.com Comments 0 Comments

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The following is a guest post from Dr. David L Tuyo II, president and CEO of University Credit Union.

While there is rampant fear and caution against a global economic downturn due to COVID-19, this does not mean that every individual will be hit as hard as the next.

Certainly, there has been and will be even more severe impact across some key industries, but this shouldn’t be a cause for panic, particularly if you aren’t financially tied directly to any of the hardest-hit industries.

In fact, overly cautious decisions right now could equate to missed opportunities for personal financial growth. What many people don’t realize is that now is the time to take advantage of low-interest loans.

Interest rates are bottoming out at historic lows, which means that it is more affordable than ever to borrow money from financial institutions. There is even some speculation that interest rates could become negative—meaning that financial institutions would actually pay people to take out loans. Although unlikely, this has been seen before in places like Switzerland, Denmark, and Japan.

This means that there is a fantastic opportunity to borrow money in order to ease the financial burden of your debt, increase the cash flow that you have on a monthly basis, and potentially provide some peace of mind during these unprecedented times.

So how can you take advantage of low-interest rates to get ahead financially?

In this article, we will explore three financial strategies that can be implemented now.

When interest rates are low, refinancing your mortgage should be on the top of every prudent homeowner’s list.

If you are not familiar with refinancing, it is essentially the process of replacing an existing mortgage with a new loan. This is primarily done to allow the borrower to obtain a better interest rate than the one that is currently held on the existing mortgage. The old loan is paid off and a new one is created at a better interest rate.

There are plenty of examples of people who are refinancing their mortgages right now during the COVID-19 outbreak and finding significant financial relief, which is an important lesson for anyone who might be struggling to keep up with their payments.

Even with some of the social distancing restrictions in place, accommodations can be made for safe appraisals, so don’t assume that it’s not possible to take advantage of low-interest rates through refinancing right now.

Similar to mortgages, it is even easier to refinance a loan on your automobile to acquire a better rate or a new term.

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This can be advantageous if a borrower needs to free up some cash or reduce their monthly payments and with incredibly low rates available—it’s an easy choice to make.

Refinancing your car loan is also much simpler than refinancing your mortgage as it can be completed entirely online, so no physical contact with other people is actually required. This can make it a less complicated financial decision and very quick to process in most cases.

By reducing your monthly payments through refinancing, you will have better cash flow and it will be more feasible to fit your payments into a budget that may be contracting due to the economic downturn.

If you have been considering purchasing a home or investing in property, this is an ideal time to make a purchase if you want to take advantage of the very low interest rates that are available.

Right now, it is possible to lock in low interest rates if you take out a mortgage before interest rates climb back up, which means that you can enjoy years of cost savings as a result of a fixed-rate mortgage.

Of course, you need to carefully consider your financial position before taking out any loan, but if you hold any confidence in your cash flow and assets, then it’s a very appealing time to take out a mortgage.

That said, there is potential that housing prices could come down further, but if buying activity is encouraged by low interest rates, then it might not dip that far depending on where you live. If you are considering entering the housing market, then you should keep a careful eye on price movement—and if you see a deal, be ready to jump on it.

Markets and the economy are always going up and down. Sometimes it goes in one direction more than the other, but ultimately, it’s not the state of the economy that matters the most. The most important financial decisions are the ones that you make in response to economic trends.

Believe it or not, it is very possible to make money during economic turmoil. If you take careful consideration of your position and your options, then you can find a way to get ahead despite all of the existing challenges.

Granted, we haven’t seen economic problems like this since the Great Depression, but it’s important to understand that the context and root causes that affect us today are very different than back then.

This is a time to be cautious, but not afraid. Cautious investors make smart decisions. Financial decisions driven by fear are rarely the right choice.

Think carefully, but don’t be afraid to act now in order to take advantage of low-interest loans.

Dr. David L Tuyo II, DBA, MBA serves as the President and CEO of University Credit Union. He is a veteran of the financial services industry where he has served financial institutions in a multitude of roles including COO, CFO, and Chief Investment Officer. His career in the financial services industry spans over 20 years, with the majority dedicated to serving credit unions.


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Should I Buy or Lease My Next Car?

Shopping for the best auto loans? Whether you are looking for the best car loan rates for a new or used vehicle, or you want to refinance an auto loan, we can help. Today’s auto loan rates are displayed in our helpful car loan calculator. Get the lowest rate when you compare rates from multiple lenders, even if your credit isn’t perfect.

With a lower interest rate, you’ll save money and pay off your car loan faster. It pays to shop for the best car loan rate! *

The single most important thing you can do to save money on an auto loan is to shop for the best auto loan rate before you set foot in a dealership. By knowing what kind of rate you qualify for before you try to buy a vehicle, you accomplish three things:

  1. You’ll know what kind of car payment you can qualify for
  2. You can focus your negotiations with the dealer on the vehicle price rather than on the financing
  3. You won’t end up getting stuck in a higher cost loan than you can qualify for

As you shop around for financing on a new or used vehicle, keep in mind the following factors that will affect your payment:

Length of loan:

Many buyers are opting for car loans that are five years or longer. Experian notes that in the last quarter of 2012, the average car loan length was 65 months. That’s almost five and a half years! The advantage of a longer car loan is that your payments will be lower. The disadvantage is that you may be “upside down,” – you owe more than the vehicle is worth – for a longer period of time.

Downpayment:

A larger down payment will reduce the amount you borrow and may make it easier to qualify for a better car loan rate. If you haven’t saved much for a down payment, you may be able to sell your current vehicle and use that money toward the down payment, or trade in your current vehicle to reduce the price of the car or truck you are buying. But if you are short on cash, don’t panic. Not all lenders will require a down payment.

Credit score:

Your credit score will be used to help determine the interest rate you’ll pay. But just because you have less than perfect credit, that doesn’t mean you can’t get a decent rate. The credit score that an auto lender uses may be somewhat different than the score you see if you get your own credit so don’t get too hung on up the number.

Refinance Auto Loans

Is your current auto loan rate higher than the rates you see in the loan rate comparison table above? If so, you may want to refinance your car loan. If you can get a lower rate, you’ll save money and you may be able to pay off your loan faster, too. Another option is to extend your loan term to make your payments more affordable. It’s easy. Just choose refinance from the options above and apply to see if you qualify for an auto loan refinance.

Bad Credit Auto Loans

If you have credit problems and need to buy a car or truck, you may be tempted to just use a Buy Here Pay Here (BHPH) car dealer that advertises it makes bad credit car loans. With one of these arrangements, the dealership arranges the financing and usually you make your payments to the dealer rather than a third-party lender like a bank or credit union.

Before you go this route, make sure you try to get preapproved for a car loan online or with a local financial institution. If you can get financing elsewhere then you’ll have more freedom to shop for the best deal on your car from a variety of sources, rather than limiting yourself to the cars available at that dealership. And when you do find a car or truck you like, you’ll be able to try to get the price down, rather than taking whatever they offer you.

Keep in mind that even if you are offered a high-rate auto loan online or through your bank or credit union, you can always ask the dealer to beat that rate – after you have negotiated the price for the vehicle you want.

Protect Your Credit When Auto Loan Shopping

Every time a lender checks your credit or requests your credit score, that fact will be noted on one or more of your credit reports as an “inquiry.” Your credit score can drop as a result. The good news is that most credit scoring models will ignore recent auto-related inquiries, and will count multiple inquiries from auto loan applications in a short period of time as one. To protect your credit, it’s best to shop for an auto loan in a focused period of time: two weeks or less is best to be safe.

You can check your credit score for free using Credit.com’s free Credit Report Card. Requesting your own credit score through this service will not affect your credit score.

Car Title Loans

If you are desperate to borrow money but you have bad credit, you may be tempted to get a car title loan. These loans require you to pledge your vehicle as collateral for the loan. They are not legal in all states, but where they are, they usually lend up to 25% of the value of the car or truck you own free and clear.

Watch out! Interest rates on auto title loans are very high; often 25% per month – or about 300% per year – according to the Center for Responsible Lending. According to the CRL report, the average car-title borrower renews a loan eight times, paying $2,142 in interest for $951 of credit. If possible, you should try instead to get a personal loan or, if you can’t, see whether a non-profit credit counseling agency can help you find another solution to your financial difficulties.

-APR = Annual Percentage Rate. Rates based on credit worthiness and are subject to change without notice. Your actual rate and monthly payment may vary. Must be 18 years of age or older to apply. Loans subject to credit approval and could be subject to credit union membership.

* IMPORTANT NOTE FROM CREDIT.COM: Credit.com is not a lender. The above offers are provided by third-parties from whom Credit.com receives compensation. Credit.com will not call you about any loan application resulting from the above offers, and will not ask you over the phone, via email or otherwise for financial information or other sensitive personal data.

REMEMBER never to share any financial information or other sensitive personal data over the phone or via email without independently confirming the identity of the company calling first!

† Advertiser Disclosure: The offers that appear on this site are from third party advertisers from whom Credit.com receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). It is this compensation that enables Credit.com to provide you with services like free access to your credit scores at no charge. Credit.com strives to provide a wide array of offers for our members, but our offers do not represent all financial services companies or products.

Source: credit.com

5 Steps for Getting a Car Loan

This Article was Updated July 5, 2018

When you are looking to buy a vehicle, the first thing you should do is apply for a preapproved loan. The loan process can seem daunting, but it’s easier than you think and getting preapproval prior to going to the car dealer may help alleviate a lot of frustration along the way.

Here are five steps for getting a car loan.

  1. Check Your Credit
  2. Know Your Budget
  3. Determine How Much You Can Afford
  4. Get Preapproved
  5. Go Shopping

1. Check Your Credit

Before you shop for a loan, check your credit report. The better your credit, the cheaper it is to borrow money and secure auto financing. With a higher credit score and a better credit history, you may be entitled to lower loan interest rates, and you may also qualify for lower auto insurance premiums.

Review your credit report to look for unusual activity. Dispute errors such as incorrect balances or late payments on your credit report. If you have a lower credit score and would like to give it a bit of a boost before car shopping, pay off credit card balances or smaller loans.

If your credit score is low, don’t fret. A lower score won’t prevent you from getting a loan. But depending on your score, you may end up paying a higher interest rate. If you have a low credit score and want to shoot for lower interest rates, take some time to improve your credit score before you apply for loans or attempt to secure any other auto financing.

2. Know Your Budget

Having a budget and knowing how much of a car payment you can afford is essential. You want to be sure your car payment fits in line with your other financial goals. Yes, you may be able to cover $400 a month, but that amount may take away from your monthly savings goal.

If you don’t already have a budget, start with your monthly income after taxes and subtract your usual monthly expenses and how much you plan to put in savings each month. For bills that don’t come every month, such as Amazon Prime or Xbox Live, take the yearly charge and divide it by 12. Then add the result to your monthly budget. If you’re worried, you spend too much each month, find simple ways to whittle your budget down.

You’ll also want to plan ahead for new car costs, such as vehicle registration and auto insurance, and regular car maintenance, such as oil changes and basic repairs. By knowing your budget and what to expect, you can easily see how much room you have for a car payment.

3. Determine How Much You Can Afford

Once you understand where you are financially, you can decide on a reasonable monthly car payment. For many, a good rule of thumb is to not spend more than 10% of your take-home income on a vehicle. In other words, if you make $60,000 after taxes a year, you shouldn’t spend more than $500 per month on car payments. But depending on your budget, you may be better off with a lower payment.

With a payment in mind, you can use an auto loan calculator to figure out the largest loan you can afford. Simply enter in the monthly payment you’d like, the interest rate, and the loan period. And remember that making a larger down payment can reduce your monthly payment. You can also use an auto loan calculator to break down a total loan amount into monthly payments.

You’ll also want to think about how long you’d like to pay off your loan. Car loan terms are normally three, four, five, or six years long. With a longer loan period, you’ll have lower monthly payments. But beware—a lengthy car loan term can have a negative effect on your finances. First, you’ll spend more on the total price of the vehicle by paying more interest. Second, you may be upside down on the loan for a larger chunk of time, meaning you owe more than the car is actually worth.

4. Get Preapproved

Before you ever set foot on a car lot, you’ll want to be preapproved for a car loan. Research potential loans and then compare the terms, lengths of time, and interest rates to find the best deal. A great place to shop for a car loan is at your local bank or credit union. But don’t stop there—look online too. The loan with the best terms, interest rate, and loan amount will be the one you want to get preapproved for. Just know that preapproved loans only last for a certain amount of time, so it’s best to get preapproved when you’re nearly ready to shop for a car.

However, when you apply, the lender will run a credit check—which will lower your credit score slightly—so you’ll want to keep all your loan applications within a 14-day period. That way, the many credit checks will only show as one inquiry instead of multiple ones.

When you’re preapproved, the lender decides if you’re eligible and how much you’re eligible for. They’ll also tell you what interest rate you qualify for, so you’ll know what you have to work with before you even walk into a dealership. But keep in mind that preapproved loans aren’t the same as final auto loans. Depending on the car you buy, your final loan could be less than what you were preapproved for.

In most cases, if you secure a pre-approved loan, you shouldn’t have any problems getting a final loan. But being preapproved doesn’t mean you’ll automatically receive a loan when the time comes. Factors such as the info you provided or whether or not the lender agrees on the value of the car can affect the final loan approval. It’s never a deal until it’s a done deal.

If you can’t get preapproved, don’t abandon all hope. You could also try making a larger down payment to reduce the amount you are borrowing, or you could ask someone to cosign on the loan. If you ask someone to cosign, take it seriously. By doing so, you are asking them to put their credit on the line for you and repay the loan if you can’t.

When co-signing a car loan, they do not acquire any rights to the vehicle. They are simply stating that they have agreed to become obligated to repay the total amount of the loan if you were to default or found that you were unable to pay.

Co-signing a car loan is more like an additional form of insurance (or reassurance) for the lender that the debt will be paid no matter what.

Usually, a person with bad credit or less-than-perfect credit may require the assistance of a co-signer for their auto financing and loan.

5. Go Shopping

Now you’re ready to look for a new ride. Put in a little time for research and find cars that are known to be reliable and fit into your budget. You’ll also want to consider size, color, gas mileage, and extra features. Use resources like Consumer Reports to read reviews and get an idea of which cars may be best for you.

Once you have narrowed down the car you are interested in, investigate how much it’s worth, so you aren’t accidentally duped. Sites such as Kelley Blue Book or Edmunds can help you figure out the going rate for your ideal car. After you’re armed with this information, compare prices at different car dealerships in your area. And don’t forget to check dealer incentives and rebates to get the best possible price.

By following these steps, you’ll be ready to make the best financial decision when getting a car loan. Even if you aren’t ready to buy a car right now, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared. Start by acquiring a free copy of your credit summary.

It is always a good idea to pull your credit reports each year, so you can make sure they are as accurate as they should be. If you find any mistakes, be sure to dispute them with the proper credit bureau. Remember, each credit report may differ, so it is best to acquire all three.
If you want to know what your credit is before purchasing a car, you can check your three credit reports for free once a year. To track your credit more regularly, Credit.com’s free Credit Report Card is an easy-to-understand breakdown of your credit report information that uses letter grades—plus you get a free credit score updated every 14 days.

You can also carry on the conversation on our social media platforms. Like and follow us on Facebook and leave us a tweet on Twitter.

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My New Car Is a Piece of Junk. Can I Return It to the Dealer?

My Car Is a Piece of Junk. Can I Return It to the Dealer?

Once upon a time, you loved your car. You loved it so much that you agreed to the payment terms and drove it home from the dealer or, dare we say, a private seller. But now, that love has grown cold and you wish you’d never laid eyes on it. And to make matters worse, you’re bound to its existence and monetary depreciation—thanks to that sweet-little-pain-in-the-butt payment book. Or at least, that’s what you’re afraid of.

If you’re wondering if you can return your unwanted car without any more financial obligation, read on. We’ll discuss whether it’s possible and what you can expect.

Can I Return My Car?

Readers have asked us if they can just “give the keys back” and get a car that is reliable and without unanticipated problems—specifically, a vehicle they can confidently drive with their family, friends, or pets in tow. The short answer is yes, but there’s a variety of potential repercussions and unseen problems.

Before you do anything, find out the following:

  1. If you purchased your car through a private seller, does your state have a “lemon law”?
  2. If you purchased your car through a dealership, does the dealer have a return policy?

If you can answer “yes” to either of these questions, look into these options further to see if your circumstances apply and what you’re entitled to.

However, if you have no recourse under your state’s lemon law and your situation doesn’t qualify for a dealership’s return policy, returning the car is going to be a little tricky and could have credit implications—which you’ll want to consider, especially if you plan to lease or purchase another car once you give the other one back.

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Returning the Car to the Dealer

Despite how liberating and freeing a car return may feel, giving the vehicle back to the dealer won’t erase your debt. In fact, the consequences could be just as frustrating as the junk car itself.

“Technically, if you give the car back, it is the same as a repossession,” Matt Briggs, co-founder and CEO of RentTrack, explains. “Keep in mind you have a legal obligation to pay the terms of the loan and the car dealer is typically not the finance company who holds the loan (unless they are ‘buy here pay here’). Either way you cannot simply ‘give back’ the vehicle to a dealer and walk away.”

So look at it this way: to simply give the car back is to consent to automobile repossession—meaning the car would be sold at auction, and you would be responsible for the difference in what the car brought at auction and the amount you still owe on the car.

Plus, you’d be on the hook for expenses involved in this process, such as repossession, towing, title and sale, and storage. So if you leave the car at the dealership, you still owe the debt—which could total to more than the dang clunker is worth—and you’re out a working vehicle.

Concerned about what could happen to your credit score? According to Experian, a car repossession stays on your credit report for seven years—even after the original account goes delinquent. You can see how your debt has affected you by getting a free credit report summary on Credit.com, which will explain what factors influence your credit score.

Car Debt and Bankruptcy

There is a way, however, to force a dealer to “eat steel,” says Eugene Melchionnne, a Connecticut bankruptcy attorney. To do so, you can surrender the car and discharge the debt in bankruptcy—but then you’d have to apply for bankruptcy. “There is also a process for ‘cramming down’ the debt to the value of the car in bankruptcy, and in a Chapter 13 case, you can spread the balance owed over an extended period of time,” he says.

“For example, if the car loan is for $20,000, but the car is worth $10,000, the loan can be reduced to $10,000, and if there are, say, four years left to pay at $500 per month, the payments can be spread out to a maximum of five years on the lowered balance, resulting in $330 or more a month savings,” Melchionne explains.

Selling or Trading the Car Instead

With all that said, it might be simpler and cheaper to sell the vehicle yourself or trade it in for something else, which is what Matt Briggs suggests you do.

“[At] most repossession auctions, the cars sell for a much lower price than the retail value, so you may end up owing more than you would if you sold it [as a] private party (using a website like AutoTrader, eBay, or Cars.com) or if you traded it in on a different vehicle.”

The Bottom Line

For most of us, simply driving the car back to the dealership and handing over the keys, however tempting, is not a workable strategy. So after you dig yourself out of this mess, do as much due diligence as possible before you buy next time.

“Bottom line,” Briggs said, “you have a legal obligation to pay the car loan in full, so make sure you are getting a good deal before you sign on the dotted line.”

 

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The post My New Car Is a Piece of Junk. Can I Return It to the Dealer? appeared first on Credit.com.

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A Millennial’s Guide to Getting Your First Car Loan

auto-loan-down-payment

Buying a car is almost a rite of passage. Making that first car purchase, negotiating with the seller, and arranging financing (if you need an auto loan) all require a certain amount of savvy.

And, once you successfully achieve the car-buying milestone, another signpost looms in the distance: Refinancing.

Whether you’re getting an auto loan for the first time, or you want to refinance your existing car debt, it’s important to be an informed consumer. Here’s what you need to know.

Get your finances in order

Before beginning your car search, you need your finances in order, according to Joe Pendergast, the vice president of consumer lending for Navy Federal Credit Union.

“Know your budget, check your credit score, and review your existing credit accounts to ensure they are reported accurately,” Pendergast said. Your credit situation can directly impact the interest you pay on your auto loan.

Emily Shutt, a certified financial coach who works closely with millennial women to help them manage a variety of money issues, suggested calling around to different dealers and banks or credit unions to see what credit bureau they use to check your score. Then you can check your report for errors and have them fixed before you talk to someone about financing your car purchase.

“Having errors on a credit report can negatively impact score, which can put you at a huge disadvantage when you’re negotiating for an auto loan interest rate,” Shutt said.

You should also know ahead of time where you stand with your budget. Use an online loan calculator to determine what you can afford in terms of a monthly payment. For example, if you think you can handle a $305 monthly payment, and you have the credit to get an interest rate of 2.9% for a five-year loan, you might feel you can afford to borrow up to $17,000 for a car.

Save up for a down payment

Just because you might be able to borrow so much for a car doesn’t mean you necessarily should. In fact, saving for a down payment makes a lot of sense, Shutt said. Not only does having a down payment help you to better negotiate your loan rate, but it also can allow you a shorter loan term and save you money in the long run.

Play around with the numbers a little with an online calculator. If you can put $7,000 down, so that you borrow only $10,000 of that $17,000 car, you could maybe get an interest rate of 2.5% and a loan term of three years. Even better, your monthly payment would only be $289 — and you’d save $1,494 in interest.

The less you borrow, the more money you have in the end. And that’s money you can put toward investing in your future, rather than paying interest to someone else.

Know what you want — and what it costs

Once your finances are in order and maybe you have a down payment saved up, it’s time to figure out what you can actually buy. Avoid over-borrowing by knowing what you want in a car and having an idea of what it costs, Shutt suggested.

“Everything should already be online so you can get a sense of what all the options are,” said Shutt. A little research can go a long way toward helping you get a sense for which cars will fit into your budget.

Shutt pointed out that the job of salespeople is to get you to spend as much money as possible. The more you spend, the more you have to borrow — and the more you’ll pay in interest. “Confidently stand your ground when a salesperson tries to upsell you or steer you in another direction,” she said.

Pendergast agreed on the need to research your car choices ahead of time. “Know the price other dealerships in the area are offering so you can make an informed purchase,” he said.

It’s even okay to play one seller’s price off another’s to get the best deal. Don’t be afraid to let the other dealerships know you’re shopping around. They’ll be more inclined to negotiate with you, potentially resulting in a better deal.

Get an auto loan quote from a bank or credit union

Before you ask for dealer financing, suggested Pendergast, talk to a bank or credit union.

“You should see what type of loans your financial institution has to offer,” said Pendergast. “This will give you guidance for your budget, but will also increase your purchasing power to help you in negotiations, regardless of the dealer’s proposition being on par with the lender’s.”

Donald E. Peterson, a consumer lawyer with almost 30 years of experience, warned that dealer financing still often requires the involvement of a bank or credit union. Dealers submit your information to lenders and get interest rates quotes back.

“Sometimes dealers mark up the interest rate above the rate banks would buy the loan at,” Peterson said. “The bank and the car dealer split the excess interest, usually 50-50.”

This practice isn’t just limited to banks, either. “Some credit unions have entered into interest-rate kickback agreements with car dealerships,” Peterson said. “You must apply to the credit union yourself to get the best rate.”

Starting with a financial institution allows you to get an idea of what’s available to you. Then, you’re in a position where a dealer who wants to finance you has to match the rate you’ve already been offered, rather than steer you toward an alternative arrangement.

Consider a cosigner

With my own first auto loan experience, I had to deal with the fact that I had a thin credit file. I didn’t have enough credit established to get a car loan without an unacceptably high interest rate.

I went through the steps of creating a budget and deciding how much I could afford, including factoring in my car insurance costs. However, after checking my credit report, I realized that having a credit card for six months wasn’t enough for me to establish much of a credit history.

After compiling research about the types of used cars I could afford, and how my earnings from my job were enough to cover an auto loan payment, I approached my parents. My dad was willing to cosign on a modest car loan through his credit union.

My interest rate — and my monthly payment — were lower because I had cosigner with good credit. I made all my payments on time, helping build my credit history so that the next time I bought a car, I was able to get a good interest rate without the need for a cosigner.

As you research your options, don’t forget about the possibility of using a cosigner. If you don’t have the credit history to get a good auto loan rate on your own, borrowing someone else’s good name can help you save money — while at the same time allowing you a way to establish your own credit for the future.

Don’t fall for the monthly payment scheme

While you do want to figure out what monthly payment you’re comfortable with, you don’t want to get caught up in it at the dealership, cautioned Shutt.

“Focus on the all-in price of the car,” said Shutt. “If the salesperson can get you to verbalize a monthly payment target, they’ll just manipulate other factors like the duration of the loan.”

When that happens, Shutt pointed out, you might end up hitting your targeted monthly payment, but long-term interest charges and other factors could mean that your car ends up being a lot more expensive. She said you should figure out about how much you’ll pay each month over a loan term you’re comfortable with, and then buy a car with a final price that fits those parameters.

“Take your time, and don’t be manipulated,” Shutt said. “If you’re not comfortable negotiating, bring a friend or family member who can support you in sticking to your budget.”

What about refinancing?

In some cases, you might discover that you qualify for a lower auto loan interest rate than you currently pay.

“Maybe you’ve been making timely payments for a year or two and your credit score has gone up,” said Shutt. “Now you can consider refinancing the loan.”

However, it’s important to be careful moving forward. Just as you shop around for the best auto loan rates on a new loan, it makes sense to shop for refinancing rates. Check with a few banks and credit unions to see if you can get a few quotes for refinancing.

When you refinance, watch out for lengthening the loan term. If you only have three years on your term, it might not make sense to refinance to a five year loan. Instead, only refinance what you have left. You could save on interest charges and still get rid of your car debt in the original time frame.

Shutt also recommended looking online for car loans. Compare the rates you find with online auto loan refinancing platforms to what your local financial institutions offer. By playing different lenders off each other, you could strike a better bargain — especially if you have good credit.

Know your finances and be ready to negotiate

Auto loans are a massive industry, with more than $1 trillion owed to U.S. lenders. Rather than being just another statistic, consider how you can come out on top.

Know your finances and understand what you can expect, Pendergast said. When you know where you stand, and when you research ahead of time, you can call dealers and lenders out. Shop around for the best auto loan rates and terms, and let dealers know you’ve done your homework, so that negotiations will go much better, saving you time and, importantly, money.

 

If you want to be sure your credit is good enough to purchase a car, you can check your three credit reports for free once a year. To track your credit more regularly, Credit.com’s free Credit Report Card is an easy-to-understand breakdown of your credit report information that uses letter grades—plus you get two free credit scores updated every 14 days.

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