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Auto Loan

Why You Shouldn’t Take Out an 84-Month Auto Loan

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Part I: The Truth About Long Term Auto Loans

When poor credit and high monthly payments are keeping you from buying the car you need, it may be tempting to lower your payments by signing up for a 72-, 84- or even 96-month term loan. Before you do, it's important to know exactly what you're signing up for — and be sure you’re making the right move for your finances.

Lower car payments with longer terms mean you’re paying more in interest, and loan companies love this for obvious reasons. Evidently, consumers do, too. In the first quarter of 2017, new car loans with terms from 73 to 84 months represented 34.9 percent of all auto financing. For used cars, they represented 19.5 percent.

Most of the big dealerships offer 84-month financing through banks like Ally Financial or Santander. Local dealers are also known to offer longer term financing offers, typically through third party financing companies, credit unions, or insurers like Nationwide.

Let’s take a look at what you’re getting into when you choose a longer term on your auto loan...

Note: These numbers don’t include tax, title, or registration, which will only increase the amount of interest you pay if you include those costs in the total amount you borrow. These numbers also don’t include any down payment or trade-in you may have, which will decrease the amount of the loan and the amount of interest paid.

5 reasons long auto loan terms are a bad idea

  1. More interest. As you saw in the example above, you’re going to pay a lot more interest on a car loan with a longer term. If you spend more than those average amounts on a new or used car, the amount of interest you pay is only going to go up.
  2. Your loan will outlast your warranty. Most manufacturer's warranties last 3 to 5 years, so you’ll be paying on your loan for an additional 2 to 4 years after the warranty runs out. Which leads to…
  3. New car payment, old car repair costs. Think about this. You’re going to be making your car payment for the next seven years. With a shorter term, you’d have paid off your vehicle before you started paying for costly repairs. But with an 84-month loan, you’re going to be paying both your monthly loan and the inevitable repair costs that come with an older vehicle.
  4. Negative equity. Stretching out a car loan over time means you’re paying less on the principal and more in interest with each payment. As your vehicle continues to decline in value each year, you’ll continue to be upside-down on your loan unless you made a significant down payment.
  5. Unable to refinance. If you’re upside-down on your loan, meaning you owe more on your loan than the vehicle is worth, you’ll be unable to refinance your loan.

When it makes sense to get an 84-month auto loan

  • You absolutely can’t afford a car any other way. This is probably the number one reason why people choose longer terms on their auto loan. An 84-month auto loan will lower your monthly payment, allowing you to purchase that vehicle that otherwise would be just out of reach. However, you should consider whether you’re borrowing too much if you can’t afford the monthly payment on a shorter term loan. Can you compromise by buying a used car at a lower price point? Or, could you scrounge up more money for a larger down payment to reduce the amount you need to borrow?
  • You have higher interest debt to worry about. If you have other loans at a higher interest rate, it may make sense to get a lower monthly loan payment so you can free up capital each month. That way, you can use the extra money you’re saving to pay down higher interest loans.

How to make the most of a long-term loan

  • Compare rates. Companies like LendingTree and MagnifyMoney allow you to compare auto loan rates from multiple lenders. So you can make sure you’re getting the best deal and a low APR. (Disclosure: LendingTree is the parent company of MagnifyMoney)
  • Buy now, refinance later. If you’re absolutely bent on getting a certain car now, you can always choose to refinance down the road, when your financial situation improves.
  • Make a larger down payment. Getting out of a bad car loan can be difficult when you’re upside-down. By putting more down on your vehicle up front, you’ll prevent this from happening while saving money in interest and avoiding gap insurance.
  • Buy used. The average used car payment is $145 less than the average new car payment, according to Experian, so save yourself some money with a more affordable monthly payment by buying a used vehicle.

5 tips to lower your costs of borrowing

  1. Keep your car after it’s paid off. Once your car is paid off, keep it — especially if it’s reliable and gets good gas mileage.
  2. Make an extra payment each month. By paying an extra $100 per month, you could save $1,819 in interest and own your car in a little over five years when you buy a $30,534 new car with an 84-month loan. When it comes to that $19,126 used car, you’d save $1,598 in interest and pay it off in under five years.
  3. Compare rates. Shop around for the best rates, and get multiple offers from lenders to compare. A difference of 3 percent on your interest rate could save you $3,689 on that 84-month new car loan of $30,534 and $2424 on that $19,126 used car.
  4. Buy used. With used car payments an average of $145 less than new, you’ll save a lot when you buy used over new.
  5. Don’t finance extras. Pay up front for your license, tax, and registration. If you purchase an extended warranty or prepaid maintenance package, don’t finance those into your loan either.

Part II: Understanding the Auto Loan Process

84-month auto loan
Source: iStock

Most people do it backward — they go shopping for a car first, then shop for a loan. When you do this, you’re making yourself vulnerable to high-pressure sales associates and putting yourself at a disadvantage when it comes to financing your vehicle.

When you get pre-approved for auto loans before heading to a dealership, you have an understanding of how much money you can qualify for, so you’re not shopping for vehicles that are too expensive. You also have a loan amount and interest rate to compare any other financing that’s offered to you.

How to get pre-approved for an auto loan

You can get pre-approved with a bank, credit union, auto finance company, or dealership finance center.

  1. Research rates online. Many sites, like MagnifyMoney's parent company Lendingtree.com, will offer auto loan rates online. It’s a good idea to check them out so you have an idea of what’s being offered. Keep in mind that your creditworthiness will affect the rates you’re able to qualify for, and the credit score for an auto loan is a little different from other loans.
  2. Gather your documents. Get everything you need together before calling or taking a visit to your lender. This may include:
    1. Personal information, like your name, address, phone number, and Social Security number.
    2. Employment information, like your employer’s name and address, your title and your salary
    3. Financial information, including what kind of credit you have available now, your current debts and your credit score.
  3. Apply. Choose a few lenders and apply online or in person for your auto loan.
  4. Get a quote. Once you’ve completed the loan application and you’ve been pre-approved, you’ll receive a loan quote showing how much you qualify for, the interest rate and the length of the loan. You can take this to the dealership with you when you’re shopping and use it as a negotiating tool.

For more information on your loan choices, check out these resources:

Getting a cosigner for an auto loan

Having a co-signer can help you qualify for a loan you wouldn’t otherwise get. As long as the co-signer has a strong credit score, it’s likely you’ll qualify for a better interest rate using a co-signer too. And making on-time payments on this type of loan will help build your credit.

The drawbacks of having a co-signer are that the cosigner is responsible for the loan if you fail to pay. If this happens, chances are you’ll negatively affect your relationship with whoever cosigned for you. If that’s a friend or family member, (which it usually is) look out! Think twice about the responsibilities of having a co-signer, and the importance of paying back the loan, so you don’t leave your cosigner on the hook for money you borrowed.

Understanding your auto loan contract

Here are some key terms you’ll need to know when it comes time to signing a contract.

  • Sticker Price – A manufacturer's suggested retail price that is printed on a sticker and affixed to a new automobile
  • Purchase Price – This may be less than the sticker price, and is the price you agree to purchase the vehicle for from the dealer.
  • Amount Financed – This is how much money you are borrowing and the amount you’ll pay interest on. Be careful about financing extras into your loan, as doing so may put you upside-down in the vehicle.
  • Down Payment – An amount of cash provided at the time of vehicle purchase and credited toward the purchase price of the vehicle to reduce the amount financed.
  • Interest Rate – The amount of money charged for loaning money, expressed as a percentage of the Amount Financed.
  • Fixed-Rate Financing – With a fixed rate, your interest rate will never change and you’ll always pay the same amount each month.
  • Variable Rate Financing – A variable interest rate is subject to change and may increase your monthly payment amount.
  • Monthly Payment Amount – This is how much you’ll pay each month.
  • Finance Charge – This is a fee, charged by the lender, for extending you credit.
  • Annual Percentage Rate (APR)APR includes both the interest and fees expressed as a percentage, making it easier for you to compare multiple loan offers.
  • Term — This is the length of the loan expressed in months, usually 36, 48, or 60.
  • Extended Warranty Contract – An extended warranty covers the vehicle beyond the manufacturer's warranty for a fee.
  • Guaranteed Auto Protection (GAP) – If you owe more than the car is worth, you’ll be offered GAP insurance, which will cover the difference if the vehicle is lost, stolen, or totaled.
  • DMV Fees – These may include title, license, and registration.
  • Title — The legal document proving ownership of a vehicle.

Auto loan contract traps

Here are few traps dealers can use against you. Know them so you can protect yourself and avoid getting ripped off

  • Rate mark ups. Your dealer is getting financing from a bank, and they mark up the rate, charging you an extra percentage or two when you could have just gone directly to the bank in the first place.
  • Yo-yo financing. The dealer says you’re approved and you drive away. Later, the dealer says you were denied, and asks for a larger down payment or increases the interest rate. If you refuse, you must return the vehicle, and the dealer may try to keep any deposit you made.
  • Falsified credit application. Sometimes dealers will falsify information on your credit application, like increasing your income, to help you qualify for a vehicle you wouldn’t otherwise qualify for. Be sure to check your credit application before signing.
  • Selling extras. Whether it’s GAP insurance, prepaid maintenance, or extended warranties, the dealership is going to try to upsell you on some extras to rack up the charges and, if you agree to roll it into your financing, increase the amount of interest you pay. Be careful when selecting these extras and make sure you understand what you’re getting and know it’s worth the expense.
  • Negative equity financing. If you owe more on your trade-in vehicle than it’s worth, dealers will try to offer you a deal where you roll the negative equity into your new auto loan.
  • Extra charges. Look over your contract for any extra charges. One way to spot these is if they’re pre-printed on the contract. Many of these charges are not required and can be negotiated down.

Using an auto loan to improve your credit

If you’re working toward improving your credit, there are two rules you must follow. And while going from good to excellent isn’t easy, there are a few ways your auto loan can help you improve your score.

  • Payment history. On-time payments are 35 percent of your FICO score, so paying your auto loan on time will help with your payment history.
  • Credit mix. Because having a mix of different types of credit (home loans, personal loans, credit cards) makes up 10 percent of your FICO, throwing an auto loan in there will certainly improve your mix.
  • Report to credit bureaus. Make sure the lender you’re working with reports your payments to the three major credit bureaus. Beware of “Buy here, pay here” dealerships who may or may not report your payments to the credit bureaus.

And if you want to prevent your credit from getting worse, make sure you don’t do any of the following:

  • Make late payments on your auto loan.
  • Stop making payments and get sent to collections or have your car repossessed.
  • Include your car loan in your bankruptcy (if applicable).

When it makes sense to lease vs. buy a car

If you’re taking out a longer term loan in order to lower the monthly payment, you may want to consider leasing as an option. There are some things you should know before leasing a car, especially if you’re comparing leasing to buying. And while leasing isn’t for everyone, it can be a viable alternative to taking out an 84-month lease. in fact, according to Experian data, the number of people taking out a lease continues to increase.

“Another reason why we see consumers increasingly choose to lease, is they’re generating around $100 lower payment. And the biggest difference is in non-prime, [where there’s a] $109 difference between a loan and a lease,” says Melinda Zabritski, senior director of sales at Experian.

The Pros and Cons of Leasing a Car

Pros:

  • Lower monthly payment. The payment to lease is an average of $100 less than buying according to Experian’s 2017 report.
  • Warranty coverage. The average lease lasts 36 months and during that time, you’ll have full warranty coverage for anything that goes wrong with the vehicle.

Cons:

  • Mileage penalties. Most leases have a limit on how many miles you can drive (10,000 per year for an average lease), and you’ll pay for additional miles you drive unless you secure an extra-mileage or unlimited-mileage lease upfront.
  • Wear-and-tear fees. Nicks, scratches, stains — they all amount to extra wear and tear on your leased vehicle, and you’ll pay for them at the end of your lease. So if you’re hard on your vehicles, buying may save you some money here.

The Pros and Cons of Buying a Car

Pros:

  • Ownership. Once you’ve paid off your loan, the vehicle is yours.
  • No mileage penalties. Drive as much as you like, you won’t pay a dime for "extra" miles you drive like you would with a lease.

Cons:

  • Maintenance and repairs. With ownership comes responsibility. In addition to being responsible for the maintenance, once the manufacturer’s warranty expires, you’ll be responsible for all any repair costs needed. That’s why some people consider buying an extended warranty.
  • Loss of value. Although you won’t pay fees for wear and tear, or extra miles you put on the car, those things will still lower the value of the vehicle when it comes time to sell it. And every year you own it, the value of the vehicle is likely to continue to decrease.

The Bottom Line: Is an 84-month auto loan ever a good idea?

In our opinion, no. Most people make the choice to take out a longer term auto loan in order to lower their monthly payments to afford the car they want. ‘Want’ being the operative word here. Chances are, you can purchase a less expensive car that would give you the same monthly payment. Although it’s difficult, putting your emotions aside can really help you make a financially sound decision when it comes to choosing the terms of your auto loan. If you know this is an area where you struggle, ask for help from a friend or family member who can be the voice of reason.

If you do choose to go with an 84-month auto loan, just understand that you’ll be paying more interest on your loan. And hopefully, you have a good job for the next seven years to help you pay for it.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Ralph Miller
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Ralph Miller is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Ralph here

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Auto Loan, News

5 Reasons to Ditch Your Car in 2018

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Rising gas prices and car insurance premiums could make owning a car more costly in 2018 than the previous year. But there are also more alternatives for getting around as ride-sharing and car rental options challenge traditional methods of transportation.

If you’re wavering between owning a car or not, or selling your family’s second vehicle, these five reasons may sway you to ditch your auto in 2018.

1. Higher prices at the pump

iStock

The 2018 American gas bill may eclipse 2017’s total by $25 billion, according to GasBuddy, a website and app that tracks and analyzes gas prices in real time. The total gas bill is expected to reach $364.6 billion in 2018, with average household spending $1,765 on gasoline during the year, compared with $1,898 in 2017, GasBuddy projects.

While several factors affect the price at the pump, volatility is a constant concern in the event of major storms or other natural disasters. Policy, demand, inventory and state tax regulations also affect prices, says Dan McTeague, GasBuddy’s senior petroleum analyst.

“It is going to be a much more expensive year for Americans,” he said.

In January, average gas prices in the U.S. reached $2.54 per gallon, exceeding GasBuddy’s expectations of a high of $2.53 for the month. The increase in prices will become more noticeable, especially during the driving season, which is April to September, McTeague says.

2. Climbing car insurance premiums

iStock

The consumer price index for motor vehicle insurance increased 7.9% in 2017, on top of a  7% increase in 2016, according to January 2018 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Car insurance premiums are expected to continue rising. Increases were as high as 15.3% from 2015 to 2016, according to a 2017 analysis by financial site ValuePenguin, using data from SNL Financial.

Companies haven’t been able to close the gap in a large part due to covering damages after natural disasters and the steady climb in collision rates, which has been growing since 2011, Rieman says.

So, the safer drivers with clean records are paying higher premiums, even though they may not have made a claim.

3. Ride-sharing revving up

iStock

The ride-sharing industry has dramatically shifted in the past 10 years as services like Lyft and Uber make it easier to get around without owning a car. You can grab a ride when you need it, and even though there’s a cost, you don’t have to worry about the monthly payments, gas, insurance or repair expenses that come with owning a car.

Also, you can pay using pretax commuter benefits, which are provided by some employers to use for transit and biking, Uber Pool or Lyft Line rides.

And you can feel good knowing you’re helping the environment.

A 2017 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences examined the ride-share industry using New York City taxi data. The algorithm used showed carpooling options can reduce the number of cars on the road, as well as a reduction in wait time of only 2.8 minutes in New York City.

Ride-sharing appears to have sobered up the numbers of drunk driving accidents, too. For example, prior to Uber’s entry in Seattle, 2,750 people were arrested per year for driving under the influence. The company reported in 2015 that its “entry into the Emerald City was associated with a 10% decrease in DUI arrests.”

4. Short-term rentals are on the rise

iStock

Giving up a car may seem like you are losing your freedom. But you can take the step, knowing that short-term rental is an option, whether you suddenly need a vehicle to get around town or want to take a road trip.

Short-term rental options challenge ownership and rental methods because you can pay as you go.

Customers can rent cars for short periods of time, such as by the hour or minute, from collection points generally within cities, according to the Rethinking Mobility report.

Zipcar, a subsidiary of Avis Budget Group, has a fleet of 12,000 cars in 10 countries in over 500 cities. Users, which include travelers who need to make that last leg to the hotel and locals on a weekend road trip, can rent wheels of any kind for as little as 30 minutes. The first 180 miles and gas are included, then 45 cents is tagged to each additional mile. Cars are available 24 hours a day.

This kind of car rental service is based on a European system as a sustainable solution to problems like congestion and pollution, the company says.

“Most members use Zipcar as an alternative to owning a car and want the freedom of access to a car without the hassles of owning a car, like finding parking and paying for gas and maintenance,” said Katelyn Chesley, a Zipcar spokeswoman.

Reservations last between 30 minutes and 14 days with hourly, monthly, daily and yearly rates, depending on the frequency of use.

Another option is peer-to-peer car share models, like Airbnb for vehicles. Choices include Turo and Getaround, where you can rent a car from an owner without going through a traditional service. The idea is that car owners put their idle car to use and renters have options without committing to a car full time.

5. Walking and cycling can lead to healthier, happier lives.

iStock

Major metropolitan areas across the U.S. are finding ways to discourage sprawl and offer convenience for people to travel via rail, bike or foot. The Atlanta Beltline, for example, is a major project using 22 miles of a former railway corridor to link neighborhoods and give people options for biking and walking to work, shopping and other activities.

The most walkable places have a higher educated workforce and higher social equity, according to a 2016 study by the George Washington University School of Business.

A study conducted by university researchers in the U.K. found that commuting by cycling and walking lowered the risk of cardiovascular disease. “Initiatives to encourage and support active commuting could reduce risk of death and the burden of important chronic conditions,” according to the 2017 study.

Walking could make you happier before and after work, too. Another U.K. study found that people who started walking or cycling for their commute instead of driving improved their overall well-being. Specifically, those commuters didn’t feel as much strain as those who drove and were better able to concentrate, according to the 2014 study by researchers at the University of East Anglia and the Centre for Diet and Activity Research in England. The report analyzed 18 years of data on nearly 18,000 commuters in Britain by looking at psychological health factors, such as unhappiness.

The relationship between rail transit and walkable urban places is strong, with 65% of the walkable urban places served by rail transit service, according to a 2016 report by the Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit public policy organization.

“So many towns have the structure in place to be walkable,” said Rachel Quednau, communications director at Strong Towns, a national nonprofit that provides resources for towns and cities to create walkability options.

“Some of the biggest changes and simplest are to begin narrowing streets and roads so they’re more walkable, cars drive slower and it’s safer to walk,” she said.

 

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Maggie Scruggs
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Maggie Scruggs is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Maggie here

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Auto Loan

How to Buy a Car Online — from Start to Finish

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Walking onto a car dealership lot can sometimes feel like an experience straight out of a horror movie. Before you’ve even made it a few feet, car salesmen descend upon you like vultures, urging you to make spur-of-the-moment decisions that can bury you in debt up to your eyeballs for the next half-decade.

There has to be a better way. According to a 2015 survey by the research firm Accenture, 53% of people “would consider buying a car online.” And, according to the firm, 16% of people already have.

Buying a car online can be a much smoother experience and lead to better, more well-informed outcomes. But, it does require a bit more legwork on your part (at least digitally). In this guide, we’ll walk you through how the online car buying experience compares with the traditional route and the exact steps you need to know to buy a car online. Finally, we’ll show you what to watch out for to stay safe.

Following the steps in this guide can help ensure that you don’t get taken for a ride when buying your next car online.

Traditional vs. online car buying

Before the internet revolutionized everything, there really was only one way most people bought a car. They’d visit car lots, find a car they liked, and then sit down with a car salesman to work out an agreement. This lead to the dreaded negotiation process.

“There's all this back-and-forth and, 'Oh, I've got to go talk to my manager,’” said Jack Gillis, director of public affairs at the Consumer Federation of America and author of “The Car Book.” “Well, the guy goes back and has a cup of coffee and lets you sit there and steam for a while, then he comes back and gives you some song and dance about why they can or can't do something.”

Because most people treated car dealerships as a one-stop shop for buying a car, they often wouldn’t be informed about the full range of available cars, financing options or trade-in options available to them. Without these bargaining chips, consumers are at the mercy of the car salesmen.

“It's like a lamb being led to slaughter,” said Gillis.

What if someone could wave a magic wand and take away all those painful points? With online car buying, it’s possible to complete nearly every phase of the car-buying experience — from finding the right car to negotiation — entirely online.

In this guide, we’ll talk about the pros and cons of buying a car online and how it compares to traditional car buying.

While removing the painful points of dealing with hawkish car salesmen is certainly nice (especially for introverted folks who have a fear of negotiating), perhaps the biggest benefit of buying a car online is that it puts you in control of the car-buying process.

You’re no longer at the mercy of the salesmen at one dealership. You can expand your options for cars, financing and trade-ins, and use these as bargaining chips to negotiate for the best price possible.

“The whole digital part really is empowering for the buyer because there's so much information that you can use to make an informed decision,” said Matt DeLorenzo, managing editor of KelleyBlueBook.com.

The downside of all this power is that it requires a bit more digital legwork on your part to bring all the pieces together. But, as we’ll see, it’s not rocket science. Doing your homework can literally save you thousands of dollars and ensure you get the best car possible.

Follow these seven steps to buy cars online

Step 1. Choose the right car

It’s important to choose a type of car that will fit your needs best. Do you want a very fuel-efficient vehicle for short commutes? How about hauling large amounts of cargo around? Do you have a large family, or a small one? Questions like these can help you zero in on what kind of body style (truck? SUV? compact car?) will suit your needs best.

Once you narrow down a body style, it’s time to research what specific makes and models of cars might be best for you. Consumer Reports offers comprehensive reviews of cars by make, model and year, however, it does charge a small monthly or annual fee. Other good websites to do research on specific types of cars include Edmunds, Car and Driver and Kelley Blue Book.

If you’re buying a new car, you might be offered certain options and add-ons from the dealer, such as VIN window etching or rust-proofing. Before you go signing up for every option offered (and sign away your whole paycheck in the process), it’s important to research these options.

According to a 2017 report from the National Consumer Law Center, the average markup on these add-ons is 170%. If you really do need these optional add-ons (and you probably don’t), perhaps it’s better to get it done yourself.

Step 2. Determine the price you want to pay

Next up is determining how much car you can actually afford. A good rule of thumb is the 20/4/10 rule:

  • 20: Make a minimum 20% down payment.
  • 4: Finance for no more than four years.
  • 10: Monthly transportation expenses shouldn’t exceed 10% of your monthly income (including insurance, gas, car payments, etc,)

This rule of thumb will help you set a cap on your car-shopping budget. For example, if you have $3,000 saved, it might be a good idea to avoid buying a car for more than $15,000 ($15,000 * 0.20 down= $3,000). From there, you can assess any financing offers to make sure that you’re not spending more than 10% of your income on the car, and that your financing doesn’t stretch out past the four-year mark.

You can narrow your car search down even further using these budget caps. If you know that the MSRP of a particular new car is far outside of your budget, you can weed it out of consideration. You can use websites like Kelley Blue Book or the National Automobile Dealers Association to research the current prices for new and used cars in your area.

Step 3. Get approved for financing online

Traditionally, you’d walk into a dealership and tell the car salesman your monthly budget. Then, the car salesman would work out the final purchase price and the financing to give you one, final monthly payment number.

According to Gillis, this is one of the surest ways to pay more in the long run.

“The dealer will ask, 'Listen, what if I can get you out the door for $325 a month?’ [but] you have no idea what you're really paying for financing,” he said. “You may be getting into a financial arrangement that is more expensive than if you had shopped around.”

That’s why it’s especially important to get preapproved for an auto loan before you actually go shopping. Getting preapproved for a loan does not mean you have to take the financing; rather, it helps you stay within your budget and gives you a bargaining chip in negotiations.

You can easily get preapproved for an auto loan online through websites like LendingTree, which is the parent company of MagnifyMoney. Using our auto loan marketplace, you can fill out one short online form and potentially get offers from several auto lenders at once. It’s also a good idea to check around with local banks and credit unions, which may offer deals to you locally.

You’ll generally need a high credit score to qualify for the best auto financing offers that banks love to advertise. If you don’t have a high credit score, you will still often be preapproved for the loan, however, it may come with higher interest rates. If you’re outright denied for a preapproved loan, you may need to consider shopping elsewhere or waiting a little while so you can take steps to increase your credit score.

If you are qualified for pre-approval, the lender will give you a pre-approval letter. Make sure to keep a copy of this letter, and bring it with you to the table when it comes time to negotiate a price on the car you’ve chosen.

Step 4. Choose the right source

It’s now time to cast your net and see what cars are out there.

AutoTempest is a comprehensive website that proclaims to be the Kayak.com of cars: it searches several websites for specific makes and models, including on Craigslist. If you’re looking for one particular brand, don’t overlook your local dealership’s website. Other possible websites to scope out cars include:

Luckily, with the power of the internet, the whole world (or at least the whole country) can be your virtual car lot. If you’re able to travel to pick up your new vehicle, you might be able to save a trunkful of cash by broadening your search.

For example, if you live in a snowy climate and are looking for an all-wheel drive car, you might try looking in a warmer area. “There might be better incentives on all-wheel drive cars in, say, Arizona than in the Northeast where they got a lot of snow,” said DeLorenzo.

Step 5. Get quotes

Once you’ve identified your targets, the next step is to find out how much they’ll cost. You’ll negotiate the price lower in the next step, but this just sets a starting point.

Oftentimes, dealerships or third-party sellers won’t show you the price of a vehicle online as the price may have changed or the vehicle may have already been sold. That’s why it’s important to contact the dealership directly and ask for a quote for each vehicle you’re interested in.

Email or call the dealership and ask for their internet sales manager: this is the person you’ll be working with through the negotiation process. Give them the VIN or the stock number of the vehicle you’re interested in and ask for a quote. Then, ask them to email it to you so you have it in writing.

It can sometimes be difficult to get a dealership to quote a price. Dealerships may say, “'Oh, I see you're shopping online, boy that's great. Here's what I want you to do. I want you to go and talk to all the other dealers, and then come back to me, and I'll see what I can do for you.'” said Gillis. “Your response to that is, 'No, I'm not gonna do that. I want you to give me the very best price you can give me for this make, model, year, and I want you to commit to that.'”

If quote collecting isn’t your thing, you can also hire a service such as CarBargains. For $250 and a detailed description of what you’re looking for, CarBargains staff will collect at least five different dealership quotes for you. According to Gillis, “statistically, about a third of the results actually come in at below so-called manufacturer’s price or inventory price.”

Collecting these quotes gives you the bargaining power you need to negotiate prices as low as possible in the next step.

Step 6. Time to negotiate

Ah, the dreaded negotiation. Since you’ve already gone through all the steps to be an informed consumer, it will be a much smoother process. Specifically, you’ll be negotiating the price of three separate items:

Vehicle price; financing cost; and trade-in value.

Vehicle price

This is the most important piece. You can — and should — play the offers you’ve received in the prior step off of each other. Did someone offer $12,500? Show that emailed quote to another dealer and ask if they can lower their price to $12,000.

Car dealerships are usually very easy to negotiate with online.

“If you think about it from an efficiency point of view, an online salesperson can be working more deals at one time than somebody on the floor who's physically with one person,” said DeLorenzo. “Sometimes it's actually more cost-effective for the dealer to sell it through or do a lot of the negotiation online.”

Car salesmen will often try and upsell you on add-ons when negotiating the price for a car. “They may say, ‘Well this will only cost you 10 bucks more a month.’ Well, yeah, and that's $120 over a year. Over five years that's $600, $700. You can't let bells and whistles cloud your judgment,” said DeLorenzo. Stick to the basic numbers and don’t get distracted.

Trade-in price

Chances are that you already have a car you’re looking to trade in and help defray the cost a bit. Most dealerships will accept trade-ins, but be warned: you will probably get much, much less than if you shop around for trade-in prices on your own.

Tools such as Kelley Blue Book also allow you to find out a fair trade-in price for your vehicle. In addition, you can use a tool on their website called “Instant Cash Offer” to get bids from dealers on your car.

“The beauty of having something like that is that it sets a floor for what your car is worth,” said DeLorenzo. “You'll know you'll get at least that much in trade or in an outright purchase, and that's important leverage to have when you're negotiating a new car deal.”

Additionally, you can try selling your car yourself through websites like Craigslist. Generally, going this route will net you the best price for your old car, although this may take much more time and energy than simply driving onto a car lot with your old car and driving off with a new one.

Financing cost

The final piece of the puzzle is how you’re going to pay for your new car. Since you’ve already taken the time to be preapproved for an auto loan, this step is simple. Show the dealer your pre-approval letter and ask them if they can beat it.

If so, great. If not, then you know you’ve already secured the best auto financing deal possible.

Step 7. Making the final purchase online

Once you’ve lined up the three pieces of the puzzle — the lowest car price, the lowest financing price and the highest trade-in value — it’s time to make your decision.

Most dealerships still require you to physically come in to complete the final paperwork signing. However, that’s beginning to change.

“Savvy dealers are beginning to digitize as much of that kind of paperwork [as possible], to just make it easier to buy a car from them,” said DeLorenzo.

“It works out better for them, too. I mean, if they're able to get you in and out quicker, they can sell more cars quicker. People have a much more positive view of how the deal went and it's just good business.”

But as far as completing the entire purchase process online? DeLorenzo said, “I think there are dealers who are willing to do that. The question is, do you want to do that?”

But for now, we still can’t entirely get around some of the physical in-person aspects of buying a car. Perhaps someone will invent a virtual test-drive machine in the future.

Staying safe while shopping for cars online

Luckily, outright scams aren’t too common when it comes to buying cars online, according to Gillis. Many car dealers are subject to consumer-friendly regulation by the Federal Trade Commission.

Beware the bait-and-switch

One situation that Gillis has seen, however, involves a bait-and-switch technique after consumers arrive at the dealership to complete the purchase after negotiating everything online.

Here’s how he describes this common ploy: “You've got it all squared away. You get to the dealership to close the deal, and all of a sudden, 'Oh my gosh. I can't believe it, someone just came in and bought that car, but we have another one here that actually has a few better features on it, and it's just the color you wanted, and it's only gonna cost you $20 more per month.’”

If this happens to you, be prepared to walk away from the dealership — they’re just trying to weasel more money out of you.

While stories like that may be uncommon, there are a couple of things you can do to make sure that you don’t end up regretting your decision.

Get an inspection from an independent mechanic

If you’re buying a used car, whether at a dealer or from someone you found on Craigslist, you should absolutely get an inspection first. Everyone has heard horror stories about buying a lemon (or worse, been the person who bought the faulty car). The seller will surely tell you that the car is in perfect shape, but how do you really know? Getting an auto inspection by an independent mechanic is perhaps one of the best ways to protect yourself.

If you’re unable to take the car to your own mechanic, DeLorenzo recommends a great service from AiM Certify. For as little as $129, you can book an independent mechanic anywhere in the country to travel to the dealership and perform an inspection for you. You’ll get back a full mechanical report complete with actual photos of the car (not gorgeous stock images that seem to plague dealership websites).

Try before you buy

“Most of the problems that consumers end up not liking about their vehicles could have determined in a test drive,” said Gillis. “For example, it's hard to park, or the back seat really isn't that comfortable, or the trunk really doesn't hold that much, or ‘when I'm changing lanes, there's a big blind spot in the back.’ So that's why that test drive is really, really important.”

If you’re not happy with your choice, you may have wasted tens of thousands of dollars. “It's not like buying a pair of shoes from Amazon,” said DeLorenzo. “It gets a little bit more involved if the car doesn't fit you and you try to send that back.”

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Lindsay VanSomeren
Lindsay VanSomeren |

Lindsay VanSomeren is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Lindsay here

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Auto Loan, Reviews

The 6 Best Auto Loans for Buying a Used Car

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Source: iStock

Shopping for used cars can be tricky. Not only are you trying to avoid buying a lemon, you are looking for just the right model year, mileage, and price.

While all of these variables can make car shopping stressful, there are a couple of things you can do to simplify the process.

First, decide exactly how much you can afford to spend on a used car. Look at your budget and determine the absolute maximum your monthly payment can be. Also be aware of your total debt payments when compared to your income. Generally speaking, the total of all your debt payments - auto loans, student loans and mortgage - should not exceed 50% of your income. Make sure to factor your auto payment into the calculation.

Next, shop online for the best used-auto loan rates and get preapproved for the most attractive offer for which you are eligible. In order to strike the best deal possible on your used auto, it is best to walk into the dealership with financing already in hand.

Once you get to the dealership and find the car you want, negotiate the price of the car before telling the salesperson that you are approved for financing.

[Borrow Before You Buy a Car]

How To Apply

When shopping online for a used auto loan, the application process is very similar to that of a brick-and-mortar bank, but more streamlined. In general, be prepared with:

  • Your contact information: Name, address, phone number, email address
  • Vehicle information (if known - required for lenders that do not offer online preapproval) Make, model, mileage, VIN, dealership information.
  • Financial Information: employment information, gross income and expenses

The Best Auto Loans for Used Cars

LendingTree

With LendingTree, you can fill out one short online form and see real interest rates and approval information instantly. There are hundreds of lenders on LendingTree ready to compete for your business.

It is important to note that some lenders will do a hard pull on your credit and this is normal within the auto lending space. Keep in mind that multiple hard pulls will only count as one pull, so the best strategy is to have all your hard pulls done at one time.

Disclosure: LendingTree is the parent company of MagnifyMoney.

LendingTree

LEARN MORE  

LightStream

LightStream offers auto loans for used cars online with APRs ranging from 2.49% to 9.29%. It’s terms range from 24 to 84 months, it can finance up to $100,000, and it charges no origination fee. It does offer the ability to obtain preapproval online, before setting foot in a dealership, and if you are approved, you could receive funds into your bank account in as little as 1 business day. The funds can be used on any vehicle, from any dealership, with no restrictions concerning the year, make, model, or mileage of the vehicle you buy.

The 2.49% APR is dependent upon enrolling in AutoPay. If you choose not to enroll in AutoPay, your rate will be 0.50% higher, starting at 2.99%. While rates from LightStream start at 2.49%, they do depend upon the amount financed, and the financing term.

Because LightStream offers no telephone customer support, it offers a guarantee that you will love its service, from start to finish. If you aren’t completely satisfied with your experience, $100 will be deposited into your account, provided you fill out a questionnaire about your experience within 30 days of closing on your loan.


PenFed

Pentagon Federal (PenFed) Credit Union offers rates as low as 2.99% on used auto loans up to $100,000. It will finance terms of 36 to 72 months and charges no origination fee. Rates are dependent upon the amount financed, and the terms financed for, as shown in the chart below:

APR as low as*

Term

Loan Amount

Approx.
Loan Pmt.($20,000 Loan)

2.99% APR

36 months

$500 to $100,000

$581.54

3.24% APR

48 months

$7,500 to $100,000

$444.81

3.74% APR

60 months

$10,000 to $100,000

$365.99

4.24% APR

72 months

$15,000 to $100,000

$319.03

Rates as of February 1, 2018

Because PenFed is a credit union, you will need to join in order to apply for an auto loan through it, but anyone can join by making a one-time donation to Voices for America’s Troops ($14) or National Miliary Family Association ($15). Also important to note is that even though the loan is entirely online, PenFed does not offer online preapproval.

In order to apply, you’ll need the following information about the vehicle you will be purchasing:

  • Year
  • Make
  • Model
  • Mileage
  • VIN
  • Dealer or private party information

Once approved, the loan proceeds will go directly to the vehicle’s seller, rather than into your bank account.


Capital One

Capital One offers auto loans with rates as low as 3.24% for new vehicles and 3.94% for used vehicles. Their terms range from 36 to 72 months. It can finance up to $40,000, and has no origination fee. Capital One also offers online preapproval through its Auto Navigator. You can then use the funds at any of 12,000 approved dealers. Proceeds from the loan will be sent directly to the seller, rather than deposited into your bank account.

Rates are dependent upon the financing terms, and subject to credit approval, as seen in the chart below:

Financing Type

36 mos

48 mos

60 mos

72 mos

Purchase New Vehicle

APR as low as

3.24%

3.24%

3.24%

3.24%

Purchase Used Vehicle(Dealer)

APR as low as

3.94%

4.14%

4.14%

4.44%


NEFCU

NEFCU is a credit union offering auto loan for used cars with rates as low as 2.240% for used vehicles. It can finance up to $70,000 for 12 to 84 months with no origination fee. NEFCU does not offer online preapproval.

NEFCU offers a $300 coupon offer valid at select dealers on your new or used auto.   You can apply online, at a branch or by telephone by calling 1-800-99-NEFCU. Your rate will be determined by creditworthiness, loan amount, year of the vehicle, and loan term, as per the rate chart.

In order to apply for an auto loan from NEFCU, you must be a member. You are eligible for membership with NEFCU if you:

  • Live in Nassau and/or Suffolk Counties
  • Work in Nassau and/or Suffolk Counties
  • Worship in Nassau and/or Suffolk Counties
  • Attend school in Nassau and/or Suffolk Counties
  • Regularly conduct business in Nassau and/or Suffolk Counties
  • Family Sponsorship - An existing NEFCU member can sponsor in an immediate family member (mother/father, brother/sister, child, grandparent or grandchild) or any household member
  • Membership is not open to individuals who live, work, worship, attend school and do business exclusively in East Hampton, Southampton and Shelter Island.
  • If you have any questions on membership or eligibility, please contact us at 516.561.0030 or at 800.99.NEFCU outside LI/NYC or send an email to info@myNEFCU.org. 


Navy Federal Credit Union

Navy Federal Credit Union offers auto loans for used cars with rates as low as 2.29% with terms of 12 to 96 months. It can loan up to $100,000 and charges no origination fee. Navy Federal Credit Union does offer online preapproval.

Rates from Navy Federal Credit Union are determined by the car’s model year, as well as the loan term, as seen in the chart below:

Auto Loan Rates

As of: February 1, 2018, 1:00 AM EST

Loan Type

up to 36 mos.
APR as low as*

37-60 mos.
APR as low as*

61-72 mos.
APR as low as*

73-84 mos.
APR as low as*

85-96 mos.
APR as low as*

New Vehicle

2.29% 

2.69% 

2.99% 

4.39% 

5.29% 

Late Model Used Vehicle

2.29% 

2.99% 

3.79% 

Used Vehicle

3.99% 

4.29% 

5.59% 

In the rate chart, new vehicles are year models 2016, 2017, and 2018 with 7,499 miles or less, and the minimum loan amount is $30,000 for terms 85-96 months. Late model used vehicles are described as 2016, 2017, or 2018 models with 7,500 - 30,000 miles. Used vehicles are vehicles (up to 20 years old) with 30,001 miles or more.

In order to apply for an auto loan from Navy Federal Credit Union, you must become a member. You are eligible if you are Active Duty Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, Army or Air National Guard, a member of the Delayed Entry Program, a Department of Defense (DoD) Officer Candidate/ROTC, a DoD Reservist, or a retiree from any of these service branches. You are also eligible as a civilian if you are a DoD civilian employee, a U.S. government employee assigned to a DoD installation, a DoD contractor, or a DoD retiree. Finally, if you are the immediate family member of anyone eligible to join, you are also eligible to become a member.

After loan approval, the proceeds will be sent directly to the dealership, rather than deposited into your bank account.


 You Should Shop Around

Often concerns arise about the effect of shopping around for auto loans on your credit score. However, all inquiries within a 30-day period count as one inquiry on your credit report, so as long as your shop used auto loan rates within a 30-day period, those inquiries will only have a minimal impact on your credit score

Check other auto loan offers here.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Gretchen Lindow
Gretchen Lindow |

Gretchen Lindow is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Gretchen at gretchen@magnifymoney.com

TAGS: ,

Advertiser Disclosure

Auto Loan, Reviews

The 6 Best Auto Loans for Buying a Used Car

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Get pre-approved for your car loan

View Personalized Offers

Shopping for used cars can be tricky. Not only are you trying to avoid buying a lemon, you are looking for just the right model year, mileage, and price.

While all of these variables can make car shopping stressful, there are a couple of things you can do to simplify the process.

First, decide exactly how much you can afford to spend on a used car. Look at your budget and determine the absolute maximum your monthly payment can be. Also be aware of your total debt payments when compared to your income. Generally speaking, the total of all your debt payments - auto loans, student loans and mortgage - should not exceed 50% of your income. Make sure to factor your auto payment into the calculation.

Next, shop online for the best used-auto loan rates and get preapproved for the most attractive offer for which you are eligible. In order to strike the best deal possible on your used auto, it is best to walk into the dealership with financing already in hand.

Once you get to the dealership and find the car you want, negotiate the price of the car before telling the salesperson that you are approved for financing.

[Borrow Before You Buy a Car]

How To Apply

When shopping online for a used auto loan, the application process is very similar to that of a brick-and-mortar bank, but more streamlined. In general, be prepared with:

  • Your contact information: Name, address, phone number, email address
  • Vehicle information (if known - required for lenders that do not offer online preapproval) Make, model, mileage, VIN, dealership information.
  • Financial Information: employment information, gross income and expenses

The Best Auto Loans for Used Cars

LendingTree

With LendingTree, you can fill out one short online form and see real interest rates and approval information instantly. There are hundreds of lenders on LendingTree ready to compete for your business.

It is important to note that some lenders will do a hard pull on your credit and this is normal within the auto lending space. Keep in mind that multiple hard pulls will only count as one pull, so the best strategy is to have all your hard pulls done at one time.

Disclosure: LendingTree is the parent company of MagnifyMoney.

LendingTree

LEARN MORE  

LightStream

LightStream offers auto loans for used cars online with APRs ranging from 3.09% to 7.69%. It’s terms range from 24 to 84 months, it can finance up to $100,000, and it charges no origination fee. It does offer the ability to obtain preapproval online, before setting foot in a dealership, and if you are approved, you could receive funds into your bank account in as little as 1 business day. The funds can be used on any vehicle, from any dealership, with no restrictions concerning the year, make, model, or mileage of the vehicle you buy.

The 3.09% APR is dependent upon enrolling in AutoPay. If you choose not to enroll in AutoPay, your rate will be 0.50% higher, starting at 3.59%. While rates from LightStream start at 3.09%, they do depend upon the amount financed, and the financing term.

Because LightStream offers no telephone customer support, it offers a guarantee that you will love its service, from start to finish. If you aren’t completely satisfied with your experience, $100 will be deposited into your account, provided you fill out a questionnaire about your experience within 30 days of closing on your loan.


PenFed

Pentagon Federal (PenFed) Credit Union offers rates as low as 2.99% on used auto loans up to $100,000. It will finance terms of 36 to 72 months and charges no origination fee. Rates are dependent upon the amount financed, and the terms financed for, as shown in the chart below:

APR as low as*

Term

Loan Amount

Approx.
Loan Pmt.($20,000 Loan)

2.99% APR

36 months

$500 to $100,000

$581.54

3.24% APR

48 months

$7,500 to $100,000

$444.81

3.74% APR

60 months

$10,000 to $100,000

$365.99

4.24% APR

72 months

$15,000 to $100,000

$319.03

Rates as of February 1, 2018

Because PenFed is a credit union, you will need to join in order to apply for an auto loan through it, but anyone can join by making a one-time donation to Voices for America’s Troops ($14) or National Miliary Family Association ($15). Also important to note is that even though the loan is entirely online, PenFed does not offer online preapproval.

In order to apply, you’ll need the following information about the vehicle you will be purchasing:

  • Year
  • Make
  • Model
  • Mileage
  • VIN
  • Dealer or private party information

Once approved, the loan proceeds will go directly to the vehicle’s seller, rather than into your bank account.


Capital One

Capital One offers auto loans with rates as low as 3.24% for new vehicles and 3.94% for used vehicles. Their terms range from 36 to 72 months. It can finance up to $40,000, and has no origination fee. Capital One also offers online preapproval through its Auto Navigator. You can then use the funds at any of 12,000 approved dealers. Proceeds from the loan will be sent directly to the seller, rather than deposited into your bank account.

Rates are dependent upon the financing terms, and subject to credit approval, as seen in the chart below:

Financing Type

36 mos

48 mos

60 mos

72 mos

Purchase New Vehicle

APR as low as

3.24%

3.24%

3.24%

3.24%

Purchase Used Vehicle(Dealer)

APR as low as

3.94%

4.14%

4.14%

4.44%


NEFCU

NEFCU is a credit union offering auto loan for used cars with rates as low as 2.240% for used vehicles. It can finance up to $70,000 for 12 to 84 months with no origination fee. NEFCU does not offer online preapproval.

NEFCU offers a $300 coupon offer valid at select dealers on your new or used auto.   You can apply online, at a branch or by telephone by calling 1-800-99-NEFCU. Your rate will be determined by creditworthiness, loan amount, year of the vehicle, and loan term, as per the rate chart.

In order to apply for an auto loan from NEFCU, you must be a member. You are eligible for membership with NEFCU if you:

  • Live in Nassau and/or Suffolk Counties
  • Work in Nassau and/or Suffolk Counties
  • Worship in Nassau and/or Suffolk Counties
  • Attend school in Nassau and/or Suffolk Counties
  • Regularly conduct business in Nassau and/or Suffolk Counties
  • Family Sponsorship - An existing NEFCU member can sponsor in an immediate family member (mother/father, brother/sister, child, grandparent or grandchild) or any household member
  • Membership is not open to individuals who live, work, worship, attend school and do business exclusively in East Hampton, Southampton and Shelter Island.
  • If you have any questions on membership or eligibility, please contact us at 516.561.0030 or at 800.99.NEFCU outside LI/NYC or send an email to info@myNEFCU.org. 


Navy Federal Credit Union

Navy Federal Credit Union offers auto loans for used cars with rates as low as 2.29% with terms of 12 to 96 months. It can loan up to $100,000 and charges no origination fee. Navy Federal Credit Union does offer online preapproval.

Rates from Navy Federal Credit Union are determined by the car’s model year, as well as the loan term, as seen in the chart below:

Auto Loan Rates

As of: February 1, 2018, 1:00 AM EST

Loan Type

up to 36 mos.
APR as low as*

37-60 mos.
APR as low as*

61-72 mos.
APR as low as*

73-84 mos.
APR as low as*

85-96 mos.
APR as low as*

New Vehicle

2.29% 

2.69% 

2.99% 

4.39% 

5.29% 

Late Model Used Vehicle

2.29% 

2.99% 

3.79% 

Used Vehicle

3.99% 

4.29% 

5.59% 

In the rate chart, new vehicles are year models 2016, 2017, and 2018 with 7,499 miles or less, and the minimum loan amount is $30,000 for terms 85-96 months. Late model used vehicles are described as 2016, 2017, or 2018 models with 7,500 - 30,000 miles. Used vehicles are vehicles (up to 20 years old) with 30,001 miles or more.

In order to apply for an auto loan from Navy Federal Credit Union, you must become a member. You are eligible if you are Active Duty Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, Army or Air National Guard, a member of the Delayed Entry Program, a Department of Defense (DoD) Officer Candidate/ROTC, a DoD Reservist, or a retiree from any of these service branches. You are also eligible as a civilian if you are a DoD civilian employee, a U.S. government employee assigned to a DoD installation, a DoD contractor, or a DoD retiree. Finally, if you are the immediate family member of anyone eligible to join, you are also eligible to become a member.

After loan approval, the proceeds will be sent directly to the dealership, rather than deposited into your bank account.


 You Should Shop Around

Often concerns arise about the effect of shopping around for auto loans on your credit score. However, all inquiries within a 30-day period count as one inquiry on your credit report, so as long as your shop used auto loan rates within a 30-day period, those inquiries will only have a minimal impact on your credit score

Check other auto loan offers here.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Gretchen Lindow
Gretchen Lindow |

Gretchen Lindow is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Gretchen at gretchen@magnifymoney.com

TAGS:

Advertiser Disclosure

Auto Loan

How to Finally Pay Off Your Car This Year

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

iStock

A car is the second-most expensive thing most of us will ever buy. And it’s getting pricier: The average loan amount for a new vehicle is $30,621 and U.S. residents owe more than $1 trillion in car debt, according to Experian’s 2017 “State of the Automotive Finance Market” report.

We’re also getting deeper into auto debt over longer periods of time. The number of people borrowing longer-term loans (73 to 84 months) increased by 10% since the previous year’s report. Not only do these extended loans mean more interest paid, they also eat up consumer income for too long.

“You can handle $400 a month today, but what happens if you lose your job or have to move?” said Sonya Smith-Valentine, a former consumer protection lawyer and accountant who now offers financial wellness training in the Washington, D.C. area.

“Seven years is too much time to be tied into a car loan.”

The obvious alternative to getting stuck with a big auto loan is to pay cash, but not everyone can afford that. Another option is to buy a reliable used car or a less-expensive new car, and finance those loans for shorter periods.

“The more that you end up paying in interest, the less you have in cash flow over your life. That cash flow is what’s going to build your wealth,” said Tara Falcone, a certified financial planner in Princeton, N.J. “If you’re in your 20s or 30s, that (interest) invested over time could be a significant amount of money in the future, when you need it to live off.”

How to finally pay off your auto loan

Paying a loan off early may sound impossible to those whose budgets already feel tight. The following information can reveal options you didn’t know you had.

To make an early payoff game plan, you need to know:

  • The term of your loan and its interest rate
  • Whether the loan agreement includes a prepayment penalty
  • How much you still owe (call the lender for this)
  • The current value of your vehicle (find it on sites like Kelley Blue Book)
  • Your credit score, which will greatly impact your ability to qualify for a loan with better terms

From there, there are a few ways to manage your loan:

Option 1: Refinancing

MagnifyMoney

If you’re stuck with a high-interest auto loan, you might consider refinancing for a new auto loan with better terms. Banks, credit unions and online financial institutions may be able to get you a new loan with terms more favorable than the original one.

Ideally, the new loan term will be shorter than the current one. The point is to pay off the car note as quickly as possible, in order to pay as little interest as possible.

Depending on your original rate, however, a longer-term loan might still mean less interest paid overall. Falcone knows of a Navy enlistee who financed a car at a dealer for a whopping 24%. Fortunately, she was able to refinance at 7%.

Run your own numbers through an auto loan refinance calculator like this one from LendingTree, the parent company of MagnifyMoney. If your original agreement includes a prepayment penalty or if the new loan would carry an origination fee, you’ll need to factor those into your calculation as well.

If you can refinance at a lower interest rate, early payoff will become easier.

Option 2: The rapid repayment route

MagnifyMoney

The faster you retire a loan, the less interest you’ll pay. One simple tactic to pay off a loan quickly is to make biweekly payments instead of monthly payments.

If you owe $430 per month, for example, you’d make half that payment every two weeks. Paying $215 every other week (or 26 times per year) rather than the full amount 12 times a year would add up to $5,590 instead of $5,160.

You could also continue to make monthly payments, but pay more than the required amount. An easy way to start is by rounding up. For example, if you owe $389 per month, you could make the payment $400 (or more, if you can).

Where to find the extra money? These tactics can help:

Sell stuff. A game system, designer purse, mountain bike or other rarely used items could bring in decent dollars through eBay, Craigslist or consignment websites.

Write down what you spend. Small, unnoticed expenses can add up fast, says Brian Hanks, a certified financial planner who practices in Salt Lake City. He advises clients to keep track of all expenditures for a month (on paper or with an app). Often, they’re startled to discover how much the things they “don’t get real value out of” are costing them each month – money that could be applied to their loans.

“Once they realize it, behavior can change,” said Hanks.

Get a side hustle. Petsitting, driving for Lyft, a weekend waitressing gig – whatever fits your ability and personality. Or use your professional skill set to become a consultant, looking for work you can do on weekends.

Contribute windfalls. You got a tax refund. Grandma sent you $50 for your birthday. Vacationing neighbors paid you to pick up their mail. Any time additional money shows up, throw it toward your payment.

Ask for a loan. A relative or friend might be willing to help. Draw up an agreement specifying how you’ll repay (weekly? monthly? by cash, check or PayPal?) and then keep to the terms.

Spending freeze. Colorado-based certified financial planner Dan Andrews suggests clients drop one expensive habit (shopping, eating meals out) for 30 days.

“Prove that you have the savings gusto in you for a month,” he said. Then, put the money saved toward the next payment. Often, the spending freeze “reframes what they thought was a ‘need’ into a ‘want,’” said Andrews, who specializes in working with millennials. This means more money for the loan every month.

Before you start making extra payments, talk to the lender. You need to make absolutely sure that the additional money goes against the principal of the loan.

Option 3: Selling and starting over

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Want to get out from under a loan entirely? Let someone else pay it off.

Compare the Kelley Blue Book value to the amount you still owe. If there’s a positive balance – say, you owe $10,000 and it’s worth $11,000 – then put the car up for sale.

Once you have a buyer, ask the lender for the payoff amount: What it will take to pay in full and get the vehicle’s lien released. Smith-Valentine suggests creating a written agreement stating that the third-party buyer will pay the lender directly, and you will sign over the title once you receive it.

You’ll want to have another mode of transportation lined up, of course. Having to carpool or take public transit for a while might be preferable to being deeply in debt. Continue to make your “car payment,” though: Set aside that amount every month for a replacement vehicle. Figure out what you’re not paying for car insurance and add to the car fund, too.

If the agreed-upon sale price doesn’t cover the payoff amount, be prepared to make up the difference. Should you be lucky enough to sell the car for more than it’s worth, use the balance as seed money for a replacement car.

A word of caution about auto trade-ins: You may have seen ads for auto dealers who offer to pay off your previous loan if you’ll trade in the vehicle for a new one. The Federal Trade Commission advises consumers to be cautious about such deals, especially if they have negative equity (aka they’re “underwater” on their loans).

Some of those dealers find ways to include the money owed that in the new agreement – which means you would be financing that negative equity along with the cost of the replacement vehicle. Read the contract very carefully, and ask for an explanation of how any negative equity was handled.

What if you’re underwater on your auto loan?

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Owing more than a vehicle is worth makes it tougher to sell but not necessarily impossible.

If you have savings, make up the difference between what a buyer will pay for the car and what will be left on the auto loan afterward. No ready cash? Look into taking out a small personal loan to pay off the remaining balance. It may be better to owe some money than to be stuck with a large loan for a vehicle that continues to depreciate.

Another possibility: Make extra payments against the principal until the loan balance matches the car’s value, and then put it up for sale. Before you do, check to see if at that point you’ll be eligible for refinancing at a better rate – if you want to keep the car, that is – and if you’ll be able to swing the lower payments.

Should you give back the car?

Suppose you’re underwater, can’t refinance, have no savings and are disgusted with the thought of making payments for years. It can be tempting to just give the car back to the dealer.

Don’t do it. A “voluntary repossession” reduces costs only for the creditor, and will hurt you in the long run.

The now-used car will probably sell for less than the loan balance, and you are required to pay the difference. For example, if you still owe $12,000 and the vehicle sells for $9,000, then you’ll have to come up with the “deficiency” of $3,000. You’ll also be on the hook for other funds, such as fees associated with the repossession, including storage and legal fees.

The lender can sue you for a “deficiency judgment,” which shows up on your credit report. If the account gets turned over to a collections agency, you’ll be hounded nonstop – and the judgment will remain on your credit report until it’s paid. The repossession will also stay on your report for up to seven years, which wreaks havoc on your credit score.

Instead of giving the car back, use the rapid repayment tactics noted above to bring the loan balance closer to the vehicle’s current value. At that point, try selling or refinancing. If you’re financially stressed, Smith-Valentine suggests a longer finance term in order to get a lower monthly payment. That will mean more interest in the long run, but will give you some breathing room right now.

“I’m not a proponent of long car loans. But that’s still better than a repossession,” she said.

Bottom line

Ideally, you’ll be able to pay off your loan quickly, or at least refinance it at a more favorable rate that allows you to put more money toward the principal balance.

Imagine not having a car payment. What could that extra few hundred dollars a month do for the bottom line? Make this the year that it happens.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Donna Freedman
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Donna Freedman is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Donna here

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Auto Loan, News

What to Do if You’re Trapped in a Bad Auto Loan

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Sometimes, you don’t realize you sign a bad deal until you start having to pay for it.

Imagine this scenario: When you walked away from the auto dealer’s lot, you were excited. You had a brand spanking new — or new to you — vehicle. After the hassle of saving for, finding, and finally purchasing your dream car, your financing terms were likely the last thing on your mind. When the dealer sat you down and told you what your monthly payment would be, you did some mental math, figured you could afford the bill, and signed the dotted line. A few months later, you notice your loan could have been less expensive and feel cheated.

What do you do?

“If it's in the contract and you signed the contract that’s it. You’re stuck with that,” said Anthony Giorgianni, associate editor at Consumer Reports.

If you’re not sure about your financing deal, a good way to evaluate it is by taking a look at the amortization table in the contract you signed, said Jerry Buchko, a Minneapolis-based debt counselor. If you can’t locate the original contract, you can ask for one via email or look for one online and estimate, but it’s most ideal to get it from the lender, and they should have a copy, said Buchko.

The amortization table is a set of tables that shows the total cost of your financing deal assuming all of your payments are made on time.

With the table in front of you, it becomes much easier to see if you’re currently paying more than what your vehicle is worth and if you’ll be in danger of being upside down on the loan (paying more than the vehicle is worth) in the future.

“With that information you should have all you need,” said Buchko. When analyzing and comparing the amortization tables for each loan offer, look for the one offering you the greatest overall savings, he recommended. Take a look at the interest rate you’re currently paying and the length of your loan, and see if you can make any adjustments to your lifestyle in order to save money.

For example, if the interest rate you’re paying isn’t very high, but your financing term is long and you see you’ll hit the ‘underwater’ point before your auto loan is completely paid off, you may want to consider increasing your monthly payments to pay off the loan faster (and get a chance to make money on a trade-in or sale before you can’t anymore).

While you’re looking at the contract, look at everything else it says, like the line items that were financed and any caveats in the terms, like a prepayment penalty that would penalize you for paying off the loan faster, as suggested above. You may also find there are elements of the loan agreement you didn’t really agree to.

“Sometimes the loans are packed with unnecessary things that are really expensive,” said Giorgianni. “If you feel you were misled, then go to the dealer and complain, and to a state agency if they don't help.”

If you think you were duped into taking on more financing or given an unfair interest rate at the dealership, file a complaint with agencies like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Federal Trade Commision or the Better Business Bureau. The CFPB and FTC are also two good resources for consumer information on auto financing.

4 options to explore if your auto loan is too expensive

If you realize your auto loan  payments are too costly, the interest rate is too high, or the loan term is too long, you can try taking these steps to get out of a bad financing deal as well as better afford your auto debt.

Option #1: Try to refinance for a better deal

When you’re noticing your monthly auto payment may be too large to fit your household budget, you could try to lower your monthly payment somehow, by reducing your interest rate or lengthening your loan term. You can accomplish either by refinancing your auto loan at more favorable terms to get your payment under control.

If your credit score was lower at the time you financed your vehicle, then you may have been given less favorable loan terms. Understandably, you can’t always perfectly time a car purchase. If you desperately needed a vehicle to get around and didn't have time to build your credit, your circumstances may have forced you into taking a bad deal. Now, if your credit score has improved or interest rates have gone down, you may have a better shot at reducing your interest rate.

“If it turns out that the main problem with the contract is that your rate is higher than it should have been, then a refinance is a good option but for a shorter or the same period,” said Giorgianni.

When you’re looking to refinance, compare loan offers with several different lenders, like your bank, a local credit union, and online loan search sites. Make sure to compare the final cost to you using the amortization table.

“Take a look at who is out there” said Buchko. “If you see another institution offering a lot better terms, contact them.” He recommends asking for the best loan arrangement you can get to pay off the loan when you contact a lender.

Extending a loan term to save money in the short run isn’t always the best savings strategy. But, if you need your vehicle and you are strapped for cash affording it, refinancing at a longer loan term may prove extremely beneficial. Giorgianni suggests borrowers avoid extending their loan terms unless it's absolutely necessary — for example, if “you can’t afford the car and it will be repossessed.”

Whatever you do, be careful to make sure that the offer you ultimately decide to go with is as good or better than your current loan offer. If there are any fees associated, take care to factor those in as well as they could drive your monthly payment higher. Pay attention to the total cost you’ll pay and consider passing on the deal if it’s higher than what you’d pay in your current arrangement.

Buchko recommends asking yourself: “Am I meeting a goal of a smaller payment?” and, “Is the overall final cost of the loan going to be worth the smaller payment?”

Option #2 : Negotiate your terms with your current lender

Buchko said he often recommends trying to negotiate your current terms with the lender holding your loan. “Go to the lender you have been working with and see if there is anything they are willing to do to help you,” he said. “It’s much better to work out some sort of arrangement before you fall behind.”

You may be able to negotiate a lower interest rate or work out a deferment arrangement where you can skip making payments for a period of time, but they will be added to the end of your loan term and you’ll ultimately have a longer loan and pay more interest over time.

Buchko said speaking with your current lender works because the lender that you're working with already has a vested interest in keeping you as a customer. However, he added, “a lot of it is up to the lender and how flexible they are willing to be to the customer.”

If your loan is still with the dealership, you may be out of luck if you want to negotiate better terms.

“Generally speaking, the dealer is probably not going to be interested in dealing with you,” said Jack Gillis, director of public affairs at the Consumer Federation of America and author of “The Car Book.”

If some time has passed since you made the purchase, the dealer probably doesn't hold the loan anymore, Gillis pointed out. Your loan has probably been transferred to another company, anyway. You could call that company and ask for a refinance, and they may or may not respond with another offer.

Option #3: Cut back on other spending in your budget

An oldie but goodie. It’s always a good idea to refine your budget if you’re having a tough time covering your bills. If your car payment is difficult to manage, and you aren’t able to refinance your loan for a lower monthly payment, you should take a look at your budget to see if there you can find a way to get the car loan under control.

First, calculate your monthly income. That’s what you’re working with each month. Next, subtract your fixed expenses. Those are fairly non-negotiable items in your budget that aren’t likely to shift much like your rent or mortgage payment, auto loan payment, food, and any insurance you’re responsible for paying.

According to the 50/20/30 budgeting rule of thumb, your fixed expenses should comprise no more than 50 percent of your total income. If they are higher, see where you can save money. You could dial back spending on food, for example, by cooking more of your meals at home or switching grocery stores.

Next, your savings. Subtract what you intend to save for the month. Under the 50/20/30 rule, about 20 percent of your income that goes toward saving for things like retirement and vacations, or funding an emergency fund.

What you’re left with is money you can use on flexible expenses like dining out and entertainment. It should be about 30 percent of your income if you’re able to follow the 50/20/30 rule. Your flexible expenses should be where you should look to make the most adjustments because you may have more room to cut back. You may find extra money by cutting back on how much money you spend on coffee each week, or reducing the number of shopping trips you take each month.

Option #4: Sell your vehicle

Selling your car can be a tough decision to make for a myriad of reasons. Your vehicle may hold sentimental value to you, for instance, or it may be the only method of transportation for you and your family.

“Unfortunately, most people don't want [sell the vehicle] but it's better than getting the car repossessed,” said Giorgianni.

If your current financing deal is too much for you to handle, or if you realize keeping the car will eventually lead you to holding an upside-down loan, selling it may be your best option.

“If you are in trouble, then your only option really is to sell the vehicle and keep your fingers crossed that you are not upside-down so that you can use the proceeds from the sale to pay off the vehicle,” said Gillis.

If you plan to sell, sell as soon as you can. The longer you own your vehicle, the longer it has to depreciate (lose monetary value).

“If the car is fairly new, there is still value in the car,” said Buchko. If the vehicle still holds some value, and it’s more than what you owe, you can try to trade it in and use whatever value it still holds to purchase a new car, under more favorable financing terms for your

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Brittney Laryea
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Brittney Laryea is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brittney at brittney@magnifymoney.com

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Auto Loan

Ally Bank Auto Loan Review

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

ally bank review

If you’re familiar with online banking products, you’re probably very aware of Ally Bank’s presence in the online banking market.

But contrary to what it may seem, Ally isn’t a direct-to-consumer auto lender. That means you can’t find out whether or not you prequalify for an Ally Bank auto loan unless you go through a dealership. In 2016, Ally Auto served 18,000 auto dealerships and over 4 million auto dealership customers.

The thing is, it’s never a good idea to walk into a dealership before you’ve shopped around to get financing offers from multiple lenders. But with that being said, you might find yourself looking at a financing offer from Ally through a dealership and want to better understand how it works and what some alternatives might be.

In this post, we’ll take a look at the Ally Bank auto loan to let you know what steps are required to borrow and our take on the entire process. We’ll also cover rates and terms of Ally auto financing because we found them to be lacking transparency.

Who Ally Bank auto loan financing is best for

We don’t recommend that anyone chooses an auto loan through a dealership unless you get a ridiculously good deal compared to other offers.

The far better move is to first shop around for interest rates on auto loans with multiple lenders. Then go to the dealership with financing already secured. This way you’ve had time to get preapproved for the most affordable financing you can get, and you won’t fall victim to a subprime auto loan.

When reviewing a dealership auto loan, compare the interest rate, monthly payment, and total costs to other loans to make sure it’s truly a better agreement overall.

Check out this post for an in-depth guide on how to borrow money before car shopping.

Here’s a summary of the steps you should take:

  • Improve your score. Work on your credit score health since a higher credit score is what will get you the best loan offers.
  • Get preapproved. If you’re worried that shopping for several loans will damage your credit score, you can breathe a sigh of relief. Having your credit pulled by several lenders within a 14- to 45-day period can count as a single inquiry and has a limited impact on your score.
  • Take your preapproval with you when car shopping. You can make well-informed buying decisions with a preapproval in hand.

How Ally Bank auto financing works

Ally Bank is an indirect auto lender. An indirect auto lender is one that offers loans through dealerships. You can’t call up Ally Bank directly to get auto loan rate estimates.

Instead, here’s how it works:

  • Step 1: You go to a dealership that has a relationship with Ally Bank.
  • Step 2: You choose a car you want to buy.
  • Step 3: The dealership performs a credit review.
  • Step 4: The dealership crunches numbers and comes up with loan offers you qualify for based on your credit and the car you’re buying.
  • Step 5: You choose between offers, which can include an offer from Ally Bank.

One thing to be highly vigilant of with any indirect auto lender is that they may set a base interest rate and allow the dealership to tack on an additional markup on top of that rate. The interest rate markup can be revenue for the dealership and is an incentive to give you a more expensive loan.

Ultimately, it’s the dealership’s prerogative to make the most money possible regardless of what it costs you. To avoid getting finessed into a bad deal, it’s imperative that you search for auto loans from many lenders before car shopping at a dealership.

Ally Bank auto financing products

Ally Bank has four auto financing options:

Buying. According to Ally Bank, their auto loans have flexible terms. Auto loans come with online account management, auto-payments, and speciality financing for accessibility needs.

Leasing. There are lease financing options as well. A lease is kind of like renting a car for a certain time frame. You may have a limited number of miles you can drive on your lease, and you may be responsible for car repairs. Leasing cars long term can be more expensive than buying. A situation where a lease may make sense is if you want to drive new cars every few years.

Otherwise, you’re likely better off saving to buy a car in cash or financing to own it outright. Learn what you need to know before leasing a car here.

Ally Buyer’s Choice. Ally Bank offers a middle ground option between leasing and buying called Ally Buyer’s Choice. With the Ally Buyer’s Choice program, you make regular payments on an auto loan until the 48th month. At that point, you can decide to sell back the car to Ally Bank, or you can continue making regularly scheduled payments on the car.

Ally Balloon Advantage. Balloon financing is when you have smaller monthly payments and a larger lump-sum payment at the end of the contract. The benefit of a balloon loan is that you can have payments that are lower than a regular term loan. The drawback is obviously the large payment you’ll have to come up with down the road. Learn more about Ally Balloon Advantage loans here.

What we like about Ally Bank auto financing

The educational resources and account management tools. Ally Bank has an online and mobile app that can be convenient for account management. Ally Bank offers some articles on their website that can teach inexperienced car buyers what they need to know about auto loans.

There’s a post on whether it’s better for you to lease or buy. Ally Bank also encourages you to shop for rates with other lenders before car buying in its auto financing guide, which is sound advice.

What we don’t like about the Ally Bank auto loan

Transparency is lacking. Since Ally Bank is primarily an indirect auto lender, there’s hardly any information available online or through Ally Bank customer service about fees, terms, or interest rates. There are no details on what type of cars (make or age) that qualify for financing.

Ally Bank points you in the direction of dealerships you can visit to see what loans you qualify for. The dealerships are pretty much the middleman.

In comparison, some lenders will give you more insight on auto loan products. You can also get preapproved for these products before ever stepping foot on the car lot. We’ll give you examples in the next section.

Alternative auto loans

You should always shop around to compare rates before you head to a dealership. The dealer’s financing office may be able to beat your rate from another lender — but they won’t do that unless you’ve got an actual rate for them to see.

Use MagnifyMoney’s auto loan comparison tool to find great offers in your area.

Here are some lenders that will let you shop for loans before going to the dealership:

U.S. Bank – Rates start at 3.12% APR

The maximum you can borrow is $100,000. You can get a 0.50% discount off of your interest rate if you buy an EPA-Certified SmartWay vehicle or sign up for automatic payments.

U.S. Bank lets you get preapproved online to check for rates and terms. The preapproval is free but does require a hard inquiry credit check. Remember, if you shop for auto loan rates with several lenders within a short time frame, it can count as a single credit pull.

LightStream – Rates start at 2.49% APR

You can borrow from $5,000 to $100,000. If you sign up for automatic payments, you can get a 0.50% rate discount. The process of getting a loan is simple. You apply online, accept your loan terms, and receive your funds to make the car purchase.

Your loan can get approved and funded the same day if your application process is complete before 2:30 p.m. ET on a bank business day.

Capital One – Rates start at 3.24% APR

Capital One lets you borrow between $4,000 and $40,000 for new and used cars. The car has to be 12 years old or older with less than 120,000 miles on it.

You can prequalify for rates on the Capital One website without a hard inquiry. Once prequalified, you can search for cars through Capital One partners and personalize your loan terms.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Taylor Gordon
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Taylor Gordon is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Taylor at taylor@magnifymoney.com

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Auto Loan, Reviews

LightStream Auto Loan Review

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

LightStream Auto Loan Review
Updated February 13, 2018

Automobile shopping can be stressful. Besides trying to find just the right car for you or your family, there is the additional stress of finding the right price, the right financing, as well as factoring a monthly payment into your budget.

But with more online-only banks offering auto loans at extremely competitive interest rates, the auto loan game is changing. Today, your best bet is to obtain financing before setting foot in a dealership so you have a budget to stick to and you know exactly what your monthly payment will be.

The Offer

LightStream offers both secured and unsecured auto loans from $5,000 to $250,000 and rates as low as 3.09%. LightStream can get money in your account in as little as one day in some cases, and always with no fees whatsoever.

How To Apply

You can complete your LightStream auto loan application online, but you must 1) acknowledge receipt of LightStream’s Statement on the Use of Electronic Records, 2) agree to receive electronic records, and 3) agree to use electronic signature to sign your loan documents.

In order to apply, you will need:

  • The purpose, term and amount of desired loan
  • Your name
  • Your address
  • Phone number
  • Social Security number
  • Employment information
  • Annual income
  • Total amount of assets and equity in your home

During business hours, LightStream will email you regarding your application. If you are approved, you will be able to then go online, electronically sign your loan agreement, provide any additional information, as well as choose your funding and due dates. The funds will be transferred to your bank account on the funding date that you chose, on the same day in some cases.

To qualify, you must have either excellent or good credit. LightStream lists the following as criteria for excellent credit:

  • Five or more years of significant credit history.
  • A credit history with a variety of account types such as major credit cards (for example, Visa, MasterCard, Amex), installment debt (vehicle loans) and mortgage debt if applicable.
  • An excellent payment history with no delinquencies or other problems repaying debt obligations.
  • A proven ability to save evidenced by some or all of the following; liquid assets (stocks, bonds, bank deposits, etc.), cash down payments on real estate, retirement savings, and little, if any, revolving credit card debt.
  • Stable and sufficient income and assets to easily repay current debt obligations and any new loan with LightStream.

Good credit is essentially the same criteria as excellent credit, as seen above, but with fewer than 5 years of credit history.

Satisfaction Guarantee

LightStream does not provide any phone customer support for loans. Instead, it offers email support in an effort to keep costs low. Because the lack of phone support is unorthodox, it offers a $100 guarantee within 30 days if you aren’t satisfied with your loan experience. If you are not satisfied and wish to claim the $100 guarantee, you must contact customer service within 30 days of your loan and fill out a questionnaire.

The Fine Print

Your APR will be based on creditworthiness, loan amount, and loan term, as seen in the chart below for an auto-loan on a new car:

Loan Term(months)

Loan Amount

24-36

37-48

49-60

61-72

73-84

$5,000 to $9,999

3.49% - 5.99%

4.34% - 6.59%

4.54% - 6.79%

5.44% - 7.69%

N/A

$10,000to $24,999

3.09% - 5.69%

3.19% - 5.94%

3.19% - 5.94%

4.04% - 6.79%

N/A

$25,000 to $49,999

3.09% - 5.69%

3.19% - 5.94%

3.19% - 5.94%

4.04% - 6.79%

4.64% - 7.39%

$50,000 to $100,000

3.09% - 5.69%

3.19% - 5.94%

3.19% - 5.94%

3.84% - 6.59%

4.54% - 7.29%

Rates as of February 13, 2018 - New Auto Purchase

Rates in the chart above are shown inclusive of a 0.50% AutoPay Discount. If you choose not to enroll in AutoPay, your rate will reflect a 0.50% increase. AutoPay payments will come directly out of your bank account. Otherwise, you can choose to pay by invoice, which must be returned by mail. You cannot make payments at a SunTrust Bank branch.

LightStream does not charge any closing or disbursement fees. It also does not charge fees for prepayment. You can prepay principal on your loan by logging into your online account.

Pros

  • Rates as low as 3.09%
  • Can borrow as little as $5,000 or as much as $250,000
  • You can borrow for a new or used car
  • Terms from 24 to 84 months
  • No prepayment penalties
  • No closing or disbursement fees
  • Secured and unsecured loans

Cons

  • APRs as high as 7.69%
  • APR will increase 0.50% if you don’t enroll in AutoPay
  • Excellent or good credit required for financing

How It Stacks Up

If a low APR is your priority, consider looking into an auto loan from Capital One. It offers APRs from 3.24% and terms of 36 to 72 months on new vehicles.  There is no origination fee, but it only offers loans up to $40,000, with the option to get pre approval online before shopping.

New England Federal Credit Union is another option for an auto loan with used auto loan rates as low as 2.240% and terms from 12 to 96 months on new vehicles and 84 months on used cars. NEFCU can loan up to $70,000 with no origination fee, but there is no option for pre approval.

LightStream offers a fairly straightforward auto loan experience whether you’re buying a new or used auto with low rates, long terms, and no fees for closing, disbursement, or prepayment. As with any loan, make sure that you are getting the lowest rate possible, as even one percentage lower can save you thousands of dollars in interest.

Finally, make sure that you can afford the monthly payment. Auto loan terms are getting longer, and you do not want to have an auto loan payment that is more than you can afford for 6+ years.

Find other auto loan options here.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Gretchen Lindow
Gretchen Lindow |

Gretchen Lindow is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Gretchen at gretchen@magnifymoney.com

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Auto Loan

How to Handle an Upside-Down Car Loan

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Upside-down. Negative equity. Underwater. No matter what you call it, it means you owe more on your car than it’s currently worth. While it happens to most people who finance the purchase of a vehicle at some point, it’s not a good place to be — especially when you’re planning on selling the car or trading it in for a newer model.

It’s also a situation that’s becoming more common. According to the Edmunds Used Vehicle Market Report for the third quarter of 2016, a record 25 percent of all trade-ins toward a used car purchase have negative equity, and the average negative equity at the time of trade-in was $3,635 — also a record in the used-car market.

You can find out if you’re in this position by looking up the value of your vehicle using a research tool such as Kelley Blue Book. If the value is less than the balance on your current car loan, you are upside-down.

Part I: How do you get upside-down in the first place?

There are some reasons car loans may be upside-down.

Low down payment

Dealerships often offer incentives for new cars, including very low or no down payment loans. A new car loses about 20 percent of its value in the first year, so a small down payment can quickly cause the balance of your loan to soar above its actual value. A healthy down payment can help keep your loan balance in line with the worth of your car.

High interest rate

Remember to shop around for an auto loan, because the higher the interest rate, the less you’re paying toward principal each month. That makes it more likely you’ll become upside-down, even if you made a decent down payment.

Anthony Curren, a sales and marketing manager and salesperson with Rick Curren Auto Sales in Corning, N.Y., says he sees this happen pretty regularly when disreputable salespeople charge higher interest rates to make more money off a loan.

“This happened to my girlfriend before we met,” Curren says. “She had an 800-plus credit score and got stuck in a loan charging 5 percent interest. She should have been paying 2 percent or less at that time.”

Longer loan term

According to Experian’s State of the Automotive Finance Market report for the second quarter of 2017, the average length of a new auto loan is currently nearing 69 months. While longer loan terms may keep your monthly payment low, you’ll end up paying more interest, and you’re more likely to be upside-down.

Past upside-down loan

You could be upside-down because you carried negative equity over from your last car loan. Many dealers offer what’s known as a rollover loan: When people trade in an upside-down vehicle, the dealership rolls the negative equity into the purchase of their next car. With a rollover loan, you are upside-down before you even drive off the lot.

People who trade up for a new vehicle every couple of years are most likely to have car loans with rolled-over negative equity. In the first few years of a new car loan, your car depreciates faster while your loan balance declines the slowest due to interest. This means many people are upside down in the early years of their loans. The longer you keep the vehicle, the more likely it is that the loan balance will be less than the current value of the vehicle.

Being upside-down on your car loan may not pose a problem, as long as you are planning on holding onto the car until you have some equity in it. But if an unforeseen financial setback means you need to sell the car, you may need to come up with extra cash to pay off the loan difference. And if your car is wrecked or stolen, your insurance may not pay out enough to retire the loan.

Part II: How to get out of an upside-down car loan

The first step to dealing with an upside-down car loan is knowing your numbers.

Step 1: Figure out how much you owe.

The fastest and most accurate way to find out how much you owe on your loan is to contact your finance company. If you are planning on selling or trading in your car right away, you’ll need to know the payoff amount, not just the amount remaining on your principal. The payoff amount is how much you actually have to pay to satisfy the terms of your loan. It includes the payment of any interest you owe through the day you intend to pay off the loan, as well as any prepayment penalties.

You may be able to find this figure by logging into your lender’s online account portal. Otherwise, you’ll have to call the finance company.

Step 2: Figure out how much your car is worth

You can get a value estimate using Kelley Blue Book’s What’s My Car Worth tool. You’ll need to provide the car’s year, make, model, mileage, style or trim level (the alphanumeric code that helps identify at what level the vehicle is equipped), and the car’s condition. If you’re not sure how to rate your car’s condition, you can take a quick quiz to help you assess it.

Once you input those details, you’ll receive a range suggesting how much (or how little) you can expect to receive from a dealer for a trade-in. Keep in mind that every dealer is different, but you may be able to negotiate.

Step 3: Calculate your negative equity

If the payoff amount on your loan is greater than the value of your car, you are, as we’ve said, upside-down. Subtract the value of your car from the payoff amount to find out how underwater you are. If the difference is small, you may be able to make extra payments toward the loan’s principal to catch up. If the difference is significant, you may have to take more drastic steps.

Step 4: Strategize remedies

If you find yourself upside-down on your car loan, the most prudent course of action is continue to pay down the debt until you have some equity in the car. You can hasten the process by making extra payments toward the loan’s principal.

If that isn’t an option, here are a few other ideas.

Pay off the car with a home equity loan or line of credit

As with most things in life, there are pros and cons to paying off a car loan with a home equity loan or line of credit (HELOC). One advantage is that you can typically lengthen your repayment period, thereby reducing your monthly payment. HELOCs also have more flexible repayment options, compared with the fixed monthly payment that comes with an auto loan. This may be a good option if you’re having trouble making your monthly payment due to a temporary financial setback.

The second advantage of paying off your car loan in this fashion: The interest paid on your HELOC is typically tax-deductible, while interest on your car loan is not. Keep in mind that you’ll have to itemize deductions on your tax return to take advantage of this benefit. If you take the standard deduction, there’s no tax advantage.

But before you pay off a car loan with a HELOC, consider the downsides. First off, HELOCs are often variable-rate loans. If interest rates rise, your monthly payment could go up. Second, even if the interest rate on your HELOC is lower than the interest rate on your car loan, you could end up paying more in interest by stretching out the loan term. Finally, if you can’t make your HELOC payments, you could lose your home.

If you decide to take this route, make a plan to pay down the HELOC as soon as possible. Otherwise, it could well outlive your car, and you’ll be paying off the HELOC and a new loan for your next vehicle at the same time.

Pay off the car with a personal loan

Paying off a car loan with a personal loan could be a good option if you plan on selling your car without buying a new one. In that case, you would sell the car, use the proceeds to pay down the balance of the car loan, then refinance the remaining balance with a personal loan.

However, keep in mind that auto loans are secured by collateral (the car). If you’re unable to pay, the lender can repossess the car. Personal loans are unsecured. If you stop paying, the lender has fewer options for recovering the money. For this reason, personal loans usually come with higher interest rates than auto loans.

The Federal Reserve Bank’s survey of commercial bank interest rates for the second quarter of 2017 shows just how much higher those rates can be. The average 60-month new car loan comes with an APR of 4.24 percent. The average 24-month personal loan has an APR of 10.13 percent. So with the typical personal loan, you’ll pay more than twice as much interest in half the time. Hard to see that as a good deal.

Refinance the car loan

Refinancing your car loan can help in a few ways. You may be able to lower your interest rate and lower the term of your loan, both of which will help you get equity in your car sooner. Curren says deciding whether refinancing is the right option depends on the remaining loan term and interest rate.

He uses the hypothetical example of a person who, because of credit issues, used a subprime loan with an interest rate of 22.9 percent to purchase a car. “My advice to that person is to build their credit up as much as possible and as quickly as possible,” Curren says. “In one year, they should be looking at refinancing the loan with an interest rate as low as 6 or 7 percent, which is still relatively high, but much more palatable. It will save them thousands of dollars in repayment.”

However, Curren says he doesn’t offer the same advice to someone with only a year or two left on a loan. “At that point, the savings is minimal,” he says. “The better advice is to pay off the car quicker.”

Part III: What to watch out for when you have an upside-down car loan

Car dealers push the latest vehicle designs and advertise very attractive incentives for trading in your old vehicle, no matter how upside-down you are at the moment. But take heed: You’ll want to be very careful about trading in an upside-down vehicle for a new loan. Here’s a look at the problems that can arise:

Rolled-over negative equity

As we mentioned above, many car dealers are willing to roll the negative equity from your old car loan into a new loan. This is a popular option because it doesn’t require coming up with any money immediately. But it also means your new car will be underwater before you even drive it home. That new car may be fun to drive, but your monthly will be higher because it includes the cost of your new vehicle and the remaining balance on the old one.

Dealer cash incentives

Some car dealers offer cash incentives that can help pay off your negative equity. For example, if you have $1,000 in negative equity on your current car loan, you could buy a new car with a $2,500 rebate, use $1,000 of the rebate to pay off the negative equity, and still have $1,500 left over to use as a down payment on the new car.

But be wary of dealers advertising they’ll “pay off your loan no matter how much you owe.” The FTC warns consumers that these promises may be misleading because dealers may roll the negative equity into your new loan, deduct it from your down payment, or both. If the dealer promises to pay off your negative equity, read your sales contract very carefully to make sure it’s not somehow folded into your new loan.

Part IV: How to avoid an upside-down car loan

Being upside-down on your car loan, at least for a little while, is very common. But there are things you can do to prevent it from happening.

  • Make a larger down payment. Because a car depreciates by around 20 percent in its first year, putting down 20 percent of the total purchase price (including taxes and fees) can help you avoid going underwater.
  • Choose a car that holds its value. Some makes and models hold their value better than others. Kelley Blue Book, Edmunds and other car research sites regularly release lists of car brands and individual models with the best resale value. Do your research and pick out a car that will depreciate more slowly.
  • Opt for a shorter loan term. Longer terms are more likely to leave you underwater in the early years of the loan because you’re paying less toward the principal each month. Try not to finance a car for longer than you plan on keeping it.
  • Shop around for the lowest rate. The lower your interest rate, the more money you’ll pay toward principal each month. Don’t settle for the first offer you receive at a dealership. Shop around for a car loan before you go to the dealer, so you can feel confident you’re getting the best deal.
  • Avoid unnecessary options. Sunroofs, leather upholstery, rust proofing, extended warranties, fabric protection, chrome wheels — all these attractive add-ons are often overpriced. They’ll increase the purchase price of your vehicle, but rarely add long-term value.

Final thoughts

Being upside-down on your car loan is not an ideal situation, but you do have options. Understand the circumstances that led you to be upside-down in the first place can help keep the problem from recurring, or from carrying over to your next loan.

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Janet Berry-Johnson
Janet Berry-Johnson |

Janet Berry-Johnson is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Janet here

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