Advertiser Disclosure

Auto Loan

What to Bring When Buying a Car: 8 Documents to Have

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Disclosure : By clicking “See Offers” you’ll be directed to our parent company, LendingTree. You may or may not be matched with the specific lender you clicked on, but up to five different lenders based on your creditworthiness.

iStock

On top of the normal stress of buying a vehicle, there’s the aggravation that comes from not having all of the paperwork you might need. The last thing you want is to make more trips to the dealership. To help you save time, money and some sweat, we made a list to check off before you hit the lot.

1. Proof of identity

This one seems like a no-brainer and it often is. If you’re a U.S. citizen with a current (unexpired) driver’s license, you’re usually good to go. But if you want to or need to use other documents to buy a car, here’s what you could use depending on your situation.

U.S. citizens: Most federal and state-issued identification that includes a photo of you, such as passports and state ID cards, should suffice. Military ID badges, however, are not acceptable as proof of identity because making a photocopy of them is illegal.

Non-U.S. citizens: You’ll have to bring your passport and visa when buying a car. The passport serves as your identification document. The visa shows you are legally allowed to be in the U.S. for a period of time. If you want to finance a vehicle with a U.S. lender, the lender will want evidence that you are allowed to stay in the country for at least the entire duration of the loan. So if your U.S. work visa is for 60 months, but you want a loan for 72 months, the loan probably will not be approved. In this example, you might have to get a loan for a 60-month term or shorter, which may mean you need a less expensive car.

To prove that you may legally drive on public roads, you usually need an international driver’s permit or a local driver’s license.

Do you need a driver’s license? Technically you could buy a vehicle without a driver’s license, but you couldn’t legally drive it, get auto insurance for it (required by lenders if you are financing the car) or register it in your name. Generally, you must provide your driver’s license, not necessarily as proof of identity, but as proof you can legally drive. The dealership will require you show your license before you even take a vehicle on a test-drive.

There is, of course, the obvious loophole: if you’re not going to drive the vehicle, it isn’t an issue. If you are a cosigner for a person who does have a license and you’re not going to drive the vehicle at all, then you don’t have to worry about having your own driver’s license. A couple examples for this situation include a grandparent who can no longer drive but cosigns for a grandchild or a disabled person buying a vehicle that their caretaker will drive for them.

2. Proof of income

Not all lenders will require proof of income, but you’re more likely to need it if you have a new job or have multiple sources of income. They want to make sure you’ll be able to not only cover your new car payment but also still be able to make rent. How little or how much proof you’ll need to submit depends on how you get your income.

Proof of income for primary job(s). Perhaps the most convenient thing for you to take as proof of income for your primary job(s) is your tax form, your W-2 or W-4. If that’s not available, then what will probably suffice is three months of pay stubs. The pay stubs should show the total amount you’re paid before taxes and the total amount you actually receive (after taxes, benefits and any other deductions).

Proof of income if you’re self-employed. If you don’t have an employer-provided tax form or pay stubs because you work for yourself, or you’re a freelancer or a contractor, the best things to bring are your 1099 tax form and at least three months of personal bank statements showing income being deposited into your account. Any work contracts showing you will have gainful employment for a set time, such as a year-long contract to develop a website, could be useful as well.

Proof of income if you’re going to start a job. If you’re not employed yet or you’re changing jobs and want your potential lender to consider your future income as a reason you can afford the new car, then bring your job offer letter. It should show the employer’s name and contact information, your name, future start date, annual income and any bonuses being offered. Many lenders will want to verify the offer with the future employer. Many lenders require that this starting date is no more than 90 days out from when you sign the financing contract for the car.

Multiple sources of income. You do not have to prove every single source and amount of income you earn. You only have to report it if you want the lender to take this other income into consideration. For example, if you earn $30,000 a year from your job, but you also receive $10,000 a year from Social Security, alimony, pension, child support, stock dividends etc., that’s a lot of money that could help you afford your car payment.

The more you are able to make your loan payments, the less risky it is for the lender to lend you the money. This translates more likely getting a loan and having better loan term. So if you have a significant amount of income from other sources, consider including it in your auto loan application.

To prove these sources of income, you may have to provide a couple of different documents in addition to bank statements. The second type of documentation depends on the type of income source.

  • Social Security. The award letter from the government showing the amount you receive and how often you receive it.
  • Pension. A letter showing that you are to receive a specified amount from a pension fund managing company, the start date and for how long it will continue. It may be that it continues for the rest of your life or until you reach a certain age.
  • Interest and dividends. The issuer of these should provide an income statement showing how much and when you receive it.
  • Child support or alimony. A signed court order showing the amount that is to be paid to you and the dates you’re going to receive the payments.

If you have any questions specific to your situation, you could also ask the lender directly or a dealership finance manager.

3. Proof of residence

You’re most likely to need this if you recently moved. The address you provided on the loan application should be your residential address — where you actually live. Most lenders will not accept a P.O. box or a business address as your primary address.

The most commonly accepted forms for proof of residence are utility bills such as electricity, water and gas. You usually only need one utility bill as proof. But if the utility bills aren’t in your name, then a medical bill or tax bill, bank statement, lease or mortgage contract, driver’s license, cellphone bill or several pieces of business mail (or junk mail) may work, depending on the lender.

If you absolutely need to receive mail at an address that is not your residential address, you can specify that your mailing address is different from your residential address. Specifying this may be an option during the process of buying the car, or you may need to contact the lender afterward to add to your personal preferences.

4. Current vehicle registration (for trade-in)

To trade in a vehicle, you have to prove you have the right to do so. If you have the current vehicle registration in hand and only in your name, you’re good to go in most cases. This applies if you go to a dealership to get your new car, no matter whether you still owe money on the vehicle or you own the car outright.

Do you need to bring the title? If you own the vehicle (you paid off the loan or you paid for it in cash), then you should have a title and it’s best to bring it in order to avoid delays in paperwork processing. But if you lost it, you could fill out a form that’s called “lost title” or “request for title”(provided by the dealership or your state’s DMV site) and may be able to trade in the car with that form instead of the title, as long as you have the current vehicle registration.

What’s a payoff instead of a title? If you owe money on the trade-in, you don’t have a title. In this case, you’ll need a payoff statement, which shows how much money it costs to pay off the entire vehicle loan at once, at an exact date. You do not have to worry about getting this yourself if you go to a dealership. At a dealer, your salesperson can get a payoff quote from your lender (which is listed on the vehicle registration) and take it from there.

If you are buying a car from a private seller, you might have to do more work. If you need a loan to buy the car from the private seller, the lender may call and get the payoff amount for you and apply that amount into your new loan, or you may have to call yourself to find the amount and tell your new lender what it is.

If the trade-in isn’t yours. In the case that the car you want to trade in isn’t yours, you need to have the owner sign off, saying that they give you the right to trade it in and they acknowledge they won’t have a right to the new car. Some places require that the owner go to the dealership, show their ID and do this in person. If the owner lives in a different state, the same paperwork applies and can be sent to them, but they will probably have to have it notarized.

If there is another name on the vehicle registration or title. If your name is on the paperwork for the trade-in along with someone else’s, you might have to get them to sign off on the transaction. Because their name is on the paperwork, they’re technically part owner. Depending on the state, you may not be able to sell or trade it without their permission.

To find out whether your state requires consent from both owners before you can sell or trade a vehicle, visit your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles website or ask a manager at a dealership. If it is required, follow the steps in the section above to get permission from another person.

5. Method of payment

Whether you’re giving a small down payment or paying for the whole vehicle at once, here are some notes on what to bring when buying a car in the way of money and funds.

Credit or debit cards. Do bring your card and don’t forget your PIN number (if you have one). Also, don’t be surprised if the transaction is declined if you didn’t warn the card company about a large purchase in advance. Call your credit card company or bank (if it’s a debit card) ahead of time to let them know you’re giving a vehicle down payment and you may need a one-time or a one-day increase to your normal daily credit or debit limit. It’s easier to do this ahead of time instead of when you’re in the finance office at the dealership.

Cash. Bring large bills for faster processing and expect a dealership manager to count it in front of you and check for counterfeit currency.

Check. For exceptionally large personal checks, the dealership finance manager may call your financial institution to ensure fund availability. Some dealers have a third-party check processing company that guarantees checks. If the dealership can’t verify funds, they may ask for a different form of payment.

A dealer’s check. If you already accepted a loan offer directly from a lender, the lender may give you a blank check (with a maximum limit on it) for you to use to buy a vehicle. After you strike a deal and sign the paperwork to buy the car, you’ll give the dealer’s check to the finance manager who will fill it out and send it to the lender with the other paperwork. Your loan will be finalized when the lender pays the dealer.

6. Rebate qualification documents

If you want a rebate, you usually need to bring appropriate documents showing you qualify. Here are three common car rebates and the documents to take with you to show you meet the requirements.

  • Military. Bring the appropriate document pertaining to your current military status:
    Active duty: Bring your Leave and Earnings Statement (LES).
    Retired or separated from service: Bring your DD-214 discharge papers.
    Again, military ID badges are not acceptable. If you want to receive the discount because your spouse or household member served, not you, they will need to come with you and bring their LES or DD-214 and proof of their relationship with you such as a marriage license or proof of residence.
  • Grad/Student. Your diploma showing you graduated or transcript papers showing your soon-to-be graduation are generally accepted. You may also need to have proof of income.
  • Conquest/Loyalty. Bring the vehicle registration or title of the car that shows either a competitor brand and model (for the conquest rebate) or the same brand (for the loyalty rebate) to prove that you (or someone in your household) currently owns it. If the car is not registered to a household member, you may have to prove that you live at the same address with proof of residence for each of you.

7. Knowledge of your credit and banking history

The following things aren’t required papers to bring with you but should at least be familiar knowledge when making a major purchaser. If you want to bring a copy of any of these for your own reference, feel free.

Credit history. When the lender does a hard pull on your credit, they will receive a copy of your credit history. You don’t need to provide one to the lender. You should, however, know your credit score (you could check it at LendingTree) and what’s on your credit history report. Both are important when shopping for a car loan because they impact the type of loan offer you receive. (LendingTree owns MagnifyMoney.)

Dealerships are usually able to make money by increasing the auto loan APR above what the lender charges. And to convince you that you deserve a higher APR, they might point out places where your credit history is lacking. If you have your own copy of your credit history and a preapproval from another lender, you’ll have a better idea of the rate you deserve.

Banking history. Usually, if a lender asks for bank statements, they want them as proof of income or proof of assets. Unless you know you need these, it’s not recommended to bring them. It would be good, however, to know how to get into your bank account from another computer, so you could print bank statements at the dealership if later deemed necessary.

Asset amounts. How much you have in your savings or investment accounts isn’t just a good way to show off that you manage money well, it’s also a way for the lender to confirm that if you don’t make your car payments, you have liquid assets the lender can take instead. You would only likely need these documents to buy a car if you have a lot of current debt on your credit history.

8. An auto loan preapproval

Because dealerships can make money by increasing your auto loan APR above what the lender charges, we highly recommend you get an auto loan preapproval from your bank, credit union or online lender before you step foot into a dealership.

A preapproval will tell you the APR you can get, the amount you can borrow and how long or short your loan can be. You’re not tied to any one dealership, either. If you don’t like the dealership, you can leave and take your preapproval with you. It doesn’t hurt your credit to apply for a few preapprovals or a few auto loans any more than it would to apply for one — if you do your applications within a 14-day window.

So if a salesperson offers you a 5% APR loan and you have a 2% APR preapproval in your pocket, your life just got easier. You can read more about the benefits of getting a preapproved auto loan here.

LendingTree
APR

As low as
3.09%

Terms

24 To 84

months

Fees

Varies

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

LendingTree is our parent company. LendingTree is unique in that they allow you to compare multiple, auto loan offers within minutes. Everything is done online. LendingTree is not a lender, but their service connects you with up to five offers from auto loan lenders based on your creditworthiness.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be 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 financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Jenn Jones
Jenn Jones |

Jenn Jones is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Jenn at jennifer@magnifymoney.com

TAGS:

Advertiser Disclosure

Auto Loan

Buying a Car Out of State: The Complete Guide

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Buying a car out of state
iStock

If you’ve found a car out of state that you want to buy or if you’re thinking about shopping for one, you might have a few questions. What taxes do you pay, and to which state? What about emission requirements, loan approvals or getting the car shipped to you?

To help you know what goes on behind the thick curtain of car buying and the government, we will go over the basics of how to buy a car out of state and what you should look for.

Why buy a car in another state?

Why even attempt this feat in the first place? The short answer is that buying a car out of state could be the best way to get what you want and a good deal.

Dealer incentives. You might live close to a state border. A dealership right over the line could have great customer incentives that dealers in your state don’t have, like two years of free maintenance or a lifetime powertrain warranty.

Rebates. Car manufacturers establish rebates based on supply and demand in different markets, so different places will have different rebates. It might be that in your state, the car you want doesn’t have any rebates, but a couple states over has $4,000 worth of rebates on it.

Online shopping. You could have found the car you wanted online, either from a site like Carvana or from a private seller who offered the best deal. Only after you fell in love with the car did you realize it was in another state. You can look here for tips on how to buy a car online.

What to know before buying a car out of state

Here are some things to keep in mind, all of which will affect the bottom line of what you’ll pay. If budget is a concern for you, check out our story on how much car you can afford.

Taxes
Car taxes depend on where you will register the car, not where you buy the car. You register the car based on your residential address. So you’re in luck if you live in a sales tax-free state and find your one-true-love of a vehicle outside state lines. On the other hand, if you live in California and you’re thinking of buying a car in Alaska to skip out on sales tax, you’re out of luck. You’ll still have to pay California sales tax.

Your tax rate is also dependent on your city and county, too. Pennsylvania charges a 6% sales tax, but Philadelphia County charges 2% on top that for an effective rate of 8%. You can look up the taxes and fees you’ll have to pay by going to your state’s DMV website.

Inspections and emissions requirements
Like taxes, the inspections and emissions requirements your car must meet depend on the state where you live. Certain states have inspections and emissions requirements, others don’t. It’s a good idea to make sure the car can pass the necessary inspections before you buy it, since the vehicle must pass the tests before you can register it. California has very strict emissions requirements in particular. You could run into some major trouble in registering car if it does not pass the requirements. You can see more here from the California Air Resources Board.

Insurance requirements
Most states require all drivers to get auto insurance. How much insurance you are required to have can differ. Also, if you are getting an auto loan to purchase the car, most lenders require that you keep “full coverage” auto insurance as well. Check with the dealership, the lender or the auto insurance company for more information so you can meet all requirements. Make sure to note which state you will register the car in so they can provide the correct information.

Shipping
If you are not driving the car back home, you’ll need to pay someone else to transport it. Some car-buying websites charge a flat fee. Other transport companies charge based on the distance the vehicle needs to go and its size and weight.

How do I handle the paperwork for buying a car out of state?

If you are getting the car from a dealership, the salesperson or finance manager should tell you what to do and what’s going on as you slog through the paperwork. But if you are getting the car in a private sale, you might need to be more knowledgeable.

Who needs to sign what?
The buyer and the seller both need to both sign most, if not all, paperwork.

Who is the buyer?
As you’re filling out the paperwork for buying a car out of state, the buyer is the person who is either paying for the vehicle or wants to be registered as the vehicle owner. Usually this is straightforward, but it can get confusing sometimes. For example, if a father is buying a car for his daughter, paying for it himself, but wants his daughter to be registered as an owner of the car as well, both father and daughter would sign the paperwork as buyers.

Who is the seller?
The seller is the person listed as the owner on the title of the vehicle for sale. A daughter wouldn’t be able to legally sell her father’s car if she is not listed on the title. You can’t sell something that doesn’t belong to you. Ask to see the seller’s driver’s license to make sure it matches the name that is on the title.

There are exceptions to this in cases where the owner has died or the other person has power of attorney, but we recommend consulting a lawyer or finding another car in these cases.

What if there are two names on the title?
If there are two names listed on the car’s title, look at how they are listed. If the word “and” is between the names, you will need both people to sign over the title. If the word “or” is between the names, you only need one of the owners to sign over the title.

Is there special paperwork for buying a car out of state?

Sometimes. Again, a dealership will take care of all of this, but you’ll need to make sure you have everything in order if you’re buying a car from another person instead. Check with your state’s DMV site to confirm exactly what you’ll need (links are below), but here are the most common things you’ll need to sign when buying a car out of state. Most are required for any car sale. Don’t head back home until you have them all.

Title
A vehicle’s title is the official form that says who owns that exact vehicle. Both the buyer and the seller need to sign it.

Title application
To officially change the title to your name and register the vehicle with you as the owner, you’ll have to fill out a title application form. Some states, such as Texas, require that the buyer and seller sign the title application as well at the title. Other states, such as Virginia, only require that the buyer signs the title application.

VIN verification
VIN stands for vehicle identification number, and every vehicle in the U.S. has one. A VIN verification or a VIN inspection form confirm exactly what is being sold.

Bill of sale
The bill of sale lists the buyer, the seller, the car and the car’s purchase price. The bill of sale serves as both a contract and a receipt.

Odometer statement
The odometer on a car keeps track of how many miles the car has been driven. This is important because vehicles only last so many miles, and the mileage will affect how much it’s worth and whether it’s still under warranty. The odometer can also tip you off on how likely the car may break down or need repairs.

Proof of insurance
When getting insurance for the car, ask for the auto insurance company to send proof of insurance. The declaration page shows the vehicle, the name(s) of the insured driver(s) and how much the car is insured for. At least one of the people who is buying the car needs to be an insured driver of the car.

How do I get the forms?

The seller needs to have the title. Everything else you should be able to find on your state’s DMV website. Download and print a couple of copies of the forms so that both you and the seller can have copies, and maybe take some extras in case anyone makes a wrong mark somewhere.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be 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 financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Jenn Jones
Jenn Jones |

Jenn Jones is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Jenn at jennifer@magnifymoney.com

TAGS:

Advertiser Disclosure

Auto Loan

How Much Does a Tesla Cost?

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Tesla Roadster
Tesla

Teslas are the newest, spiffiest electric vehicles on the block. The first models were priced as luxury vehicles, but Elon Musk promised to make an EV affordable for most Americans by rolling out the Model 3 at an advertised price below $35,000. There is more to the price, however, as we’ll explain.

Musk’s fancier models will cost you a pretty penny — up to $250,000 — along with Tesla’s upgrades. Availability and price depend on the model and the trim you choose. For the whole picture, keep reading.

How much does each new Tesla model cost?

In order of price, Tesla offers four consumer car models: 3, S, X and the upcoming second-generation Roadster, which you can reserve now. It speaks to company founder Elon Musk’s sense of humor that if you put the first models in the order they were produced you get “S3X.”

*It’s important to note that the advertised prices don’t include a $1,200 destination and document fee, and they do include a $7,500 federal tax incentive and an estimated savings in gas over five years. Neither price includes taxes or registration fees.

What about the tax credit?

Time is running out on the full $7,500 federal tax credit available to the first 200,000 people who buy a new Tesla model. Because Tesla reached that point in July, the tax credit is being phased out and will end in 2019, barring an extension by Congress. Customers need to have their new car delivered on or before Dec. 31, 2018 to get the full amount of the credit.

Customers who have their Teslas delivered in the first half of 2019, between Jan. 1 and June 30, get half of the tax credit amount, $3,750. Those with vehicles delivered in the second half of the year, July 1 to Dec. 31 get half of that, $1,875. In 2020, there is no scheduled tax credit.

The good news? There are state tax credits you may be able to use for your new Tesla. The following states and Washington D.C. offer incentives like tax credits, tax exemptions and reduced rates for EV charging: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

How much does a Model 3 cost?

The Model 3 is Tesla’s least expensive car. You may be able to drive away in one for a minimum of $47,200. If that amount surprises you, then you know the Model 3 is often highlighted as costing less than $35,000. So why the discrepancy?

The quoted $34,200 price tag is after estimated savings, including the expiring $7,500 federal tax credit and the fuel savings you would have over five years if you owned a gasoline-powered car. Add those back in and you get to the sticker price of $46,000. Then, tack on Tesla’s standard $1,200 delivery and document fee to get a price of $47,200, not including tax and registration fees.

How to read the trim levels
The Model 3 trims are named in a self-explanatory way, but the trims for the next two models are named with numbers and letters that may need clarification. The trim levels for the Model S and X are named with numbers and the letters “P” and “D.” The number is the size of the battery — how many kilowatt hours it can hold. “P” stands for performance model and it’s the top, most expensive trim. “D” stands for dual drive, meaning the car is all-wheel drive. The higher the number, the farther you can go on a single charge. The 75D is the lowest trim level and the least expensive, followed by 100D and then P100D.

How much does a Model S cost?

The sticker price for the 75D trim of a Model S is $78,000. For a greater driving range by about 76 miles, the 100D trim comes in at a $96,000 sticker price. And for a greater performance, the P100D goes from zero to 60 in 2.5 seconds, a 64% faster acceleration for $39,000 more than the 100D.

How much does a Model X cost?

While models 3 and S are sedans, the Model X is an SUV with optional third-row seating. The lowest trim, the 75D, has an $84,000 sticker price. The next trim up, the 100D, has a sticker price of $99,000 and will get you 58 miles more in driving range. The top trim P100D for $140,000 will get you from zero to 60 mph in 2.9 seconds, instead of 4.7 seconds that the 100D achieves.

How much does a Tesla Roadster cost?

The most expensive Tesla model is the second-generation Roadster. A Founders Series Roadster is $250,000; although you could get a base Roadster for $200,000. Given the $50,000 price difference between the Founders Series Roadster and the base Roadster, which is enough to buy a whole other Tesla, the Founders Series Roadster has got to offer something special — and it does. You can go from zero to 60 in 1.9 seconds and from zero to 100 in 4.2 seconds, which is pretty dang quick acceleration.

Can you negotiate?

Most car brands let you negotiate on prices. We even wrote about how to negotiate a car price. With Tesla, however, there is no price negotiation. James Wolf, a senior engineer at LendingTree, the parent company of MagnifyMoney, bought his Model 3 in October 2018. He explained, “There is no negotiation when it comes to the price, only your options [can] adjust the price.”

There are no back-and-forth, tit for tat price negotiations on a new Tesla. The price is the price, take it or leave it. The only negotiation on a new Tesla is the one you may have with yourself and your budget: there are plenty of drool-worthy option upgrades, the cheapest of which adds a cool $1,000 to the price tag. More on that later.

Tesla fees and options

As with any car purchase, there will be unavoidable fees and some enticing options you could add to the vehicle. Both will increase the final price.

Can you avoid the destination and document fees?
No. Of the $1,200 fee, $1,000 is the delivery fee, which is charged in the U.S. and Canada regardless of delivery method or location, even if you pick it up hot from the factory floor. Why? It’s government-mandated. The delivery fee, also known as the destination charge, has to be separate from the MSRP and clearly disclosed. The remaining $200 is the document fee.

How much do options cost?
The least expensive upgrade is getting a black and white interior in a Model 3, rather than the all black. The most expensive is adding autopilot after you buy the car for $7,000, instead of ordering it for $5,000 when you get the car new.

**For Models S and X the interior options of Black and White, and Cream are available for purchase on the two lower trims only. The Black and White option is available for no up-charge on the top trim, but the Cream is not available on the top trim.

How much is tax?

Property tax. Vehicle property tax depends on your state and your county or city of residence. It varies pretty wildly, so check your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles website for more information.

Sales tax. If you’re lucky enough to live in state without sales tax (Alaska, Delaware, Montana, Oregon, New Hampshire), you may not have to pay taxes on the car’s purchase.

For the rest of the country, state sales tax applies. You may also have local sales taxes to contend with. The highest average combined state and local sales tax rate is in Tennessee at 9.46% as of July 2018. The lowest is Alaska at 1.43%. And the average in California is 8.55%.

Is tax included in the final amount I pay for the Tesla? If you live in a state where Tesla has a sales license, the applicable taxes you’ll have to pay will be included in your total. If you live in a state where Tesla does not have a sales license, taxes will not be included in the total, but you will have to pay them when you register the car in your state.

Do I have to pay California sales tax? If you pick the car up in California and you live in a different state where Tesla does not have a sales license, Tesla, by law, has to charge California sales tax. For further information on this, see a tax professional or talk to a Tesla representative.

Where does Tesla have a sales license? Tesla has a sales license to directly sell vehicles in about half of U.S. states. Different states have different automotive sales laws. You could see a thread on the Tesla Motors Club website with a map on Tesla sales licensure.

Financing a Tesla

If you’re not paying cash, you may be able to get a loan through Tesla or another lender. It does not hurt your credit to apply to multiple lenders any more than it does to apply to one lender, as long as you do so within a 14-day window. It’s always good idea to shop around for a car loan just as you would for the car itself — only talking to one lender is one of the common mistakes people make when they need an auto loan.

Tesla financing and leasing. Once you create a Tesla account, which you may do here, you can submit a credit application online and hear back from Tesla within 48 hours. Tesla financing is only available in these states: California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and Washington.

Financing with your own lender. If you have your own lender, you’ll need to provide the name of the lender, the exact dollar amount of the loan and the lender’s address and phone number to Tesla. In turn, the lender will want the VIN, which you can find in your Tesla account.

How much does a used Tesla cost?

Despite it being a relatively new car company, there are used Teslas available for sale. Some models are almost 10 years old, as the first generation Roadster came out in 2008. It’s these older models that are the least expensive Teslas you’ll find, priced in the upper $30,000 range. Tesla itself offers used models that passed a rigorous inspection and come with a warranty. You can also find used Teslas for sale off third-party car buying sites, such as AutoTempest and CarGurus.

Because they are used, you won’t have to pay the $1,000 destination fee, which only applies to new cars; unless, of course, you’re getting the car shipped to you specially. If you buy the car from a dealership rather than a private person, you will still face all of the typical dealer fees. And no matter how you buy the car, you’ll need to pay the appropriate taxes.

The bottom line

The least expensive new Tesla will cost you $47,200 before taxes and before any available tax credits. You can’t negotiate on the price of a Tesla, but you can pick and choose options that suit you. If you’d like to see what else is out there without leaving your couch, you could look at the best online car buying sites for 2018.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be 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 financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Jenn Jones
Jenn Jones |

Jenn Jones is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Jenn at jennifer@magnifymoney.com

TAGS:

Advertiser Disclosure

Auto Loan, Reviews

The Best Auto Loans: 2018 New & Used Car Loan Rates

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

The best auto loan for you depends on your priorities, but two common goals are to get the most competitive rate and the lowest monthly payment. That’s why longer-term loans are so popular right now, with more people stretching out new and used car loans over 60 months or more. Despite that, new and used car payments hit an all-time high in 2017, meaning that people are spending more than ever on their vehicle purchases. That’s why MagnifyMoney has compiled a list of the best auto loans in 2018. We know that with rising rates, you need as much help as you can get finding the best rates to secure the vehicle you want and need.

Compare offers from top auto lenders using lendingtree’s secure form.

Rates
Loan Amount
Loan Terms
SoFi
3.99% to 10.08%
$4,000 to $40,000
36 to 72
SoFi
3.34% to 8.34%
$5,000 to $100,000
24 to 84
SoFi
3.00% to 6.00%
Any amount, as long as it’s a vehicle listed on the Carvana website
Up to 72 months
compare offersLendingTree is our parent company

How we picked the best auto loan rates

Using information from LendingTree, we compiled auto loan data over a six month period (August 2017 through January 2018) spanning across 22 auto lenders. We analyzed the loan data by applicant credit tier, and whether the loans were to purchase a used or new car to determine 1) the lenders consumers chose most often, and 2) the lowest average APR offered by the lender.


Start with LendingTree

With LendingTree, you can fill out one short online form, and there are dozens of lenders ready to compete for your business. Upon completing the form, you can see real interest rates and approval information instantly. Some auto lenders will do a hard pull on your credit and this is common with auto lending. It’s important to remember, multiple hard pulls will only count as one pull, so the best strategy is to have all your hard pulls done at one time.

APR
Terms
Fees
SoFi
As low as
3.09%
24 to 84
months
Varies

LendingTree is our parent company. LendingTree is unique in that they allow you to compare multiple, auto loan offers within minutes. Everything is done online. LendingTree is not a lender, but their service connects you with up to five offers from auto loan lenders based on your creditworthiness.

Where people with good credit (680+) get the lowest rates

LightStream

LightStream is the online consumer lending division of SunTrust Bank. LightStream seeks to make the online lending process easy, so you may apply, be approved, sign your loan agreement and receive your funds all through your computer or mobile device — no papers to fill out or sign.

Why we chose Lightstream
Out of the lenders compared, borrowers with good and excellent credit were most likely to choose a loan with LightStream and receive the lowest APR. You can read our full LightStream review here.

New auto loan product details

  • APR: See table below
  • Terms offered: 24 – 84months
  • Loan amounts: $5,000 - $100,000

Lightstream New Auto Loan APRs

Loan Amount

Loan Term (months) *

24 - 36

37 - 48

49 - 60

61 - 72

73 - 84

$5,000 to $9,999

4.24% - 6.04%

5.09% - 6.64%

5.29% - 6.84%

6.19% - 7.74%

6.79% - 8.34%

$10,000 to $24,999

3.34% - 5.24%

3.69% - 5.49%

3.69% - 5.49%

4.54% - 6.34%

5.14% - 6.94%

$25,000 to $49,999

3.84% - 5.24%

3.94% - 5.49%

3.94% - 5.49%

4.79% - 6.34%

5.39% - 6.94%

$50,000 to $100,000

3.84% - 5.24%

3.94% - 5.49%

3.94% - 5.49%

4.59% - 6.14%

5.29% - 6.84%

As of 11/05/18. Includes a 0.50 point discount for autopay. Exact rates depend on your credit profile.

Used auto loan product details

  • APR: See table below.
  • Terms offered: 24 – 72 months
  • Loan Amounts: $5,000 - $100,000

LightStream Used Auto Loan APRs

Loan Amount

Loan Term (months) *

24 - 36

37 - 48

49 - 60

61 - 72

73 - 84

$5,000 to $9,999

4.44% - 6.24%

5.29% - 6.84%

5.49% - 7.04%

6.79% - 8.34%

6.79% - 8.34%

$10,000 to $24,999

3.34% - 5.24%

3.94% - 5.84%

3.94% - 5.84%

4.79% - 6.34%

5.39% - 6.94%

$25,000 to $49,999

3.84% - 5.94%

3.94% - 5.84%

3.94% - 5.84%

4.79% - 6.34%

5.39% - 6.94%

$50,000 to $100,000

3.84% - 5.24%

3.94% - 5.84%

3.94% - 5.84%

4.59% - 6.14%

5.29% - 6.84%

As of 11/05/18. Includes a 0.50 point discount for autopay. Exact rates are dependent on your credit profile and for purchases made from dealer. 

What we like

  • Fixed rate, simple interest fully amortizing installment loans. This means you won’t pay interest on your interest, and if you follow the payment schedule, your loan will be fully paid off at the end of the term.
  • No fees or prepayment penalties
  • No restrictions on the vehicles year, make, model or mileage
  • If you’re not 100% satisfied, Lightstream will pay you $100 (conditions apply)

Where it may fall short

  • Loans may not be used for a cash-out refinance
  • Secured loans may not be used for commercial vehicles
  • Vehicle must be classified as automobile, sport-utility vehicle (SUV), light-duty truck, passenger or conversion van
  • No phone support for customer service. Everything is handled by email

How to apply

Before you apply, keep in mind that you’ll need to:

  • Have good credit
  • Have sufficient income and assets
  • Agree to electronic records and signatures

Applying is done entirely online. You’ll provide:

  • Personal information. Name, address, phone, Social Security number, driver’s license, etc.
  • Employment information. Employer name and address, income and other financial assets
  • Loan information. Loan purpose, loan amount and term
  • Security information. Create a username and password
LightStream

APPLY NOW Secured

on Lightstream’s secure website

Where people with fair (620-679) & bad credit (500-619) get the lowest rates

Capital One Auto Finance

Capital One is a Fortune 500 company and a trusted name in banking and other financial services. In the fourth quarter of 2017, Capital One originated $6.215 billion worth of auto loans, making it one of the top five U.S. banks offering auto loans.

Why we chose Capital One

The most borrowers with fair and bad credit chose a loan with Capital One, and it came in second in terms of lowest average APR.

New auto loan product details

  • APR: See table below
  • Terms offered: 36 – 72 months
  • Loan Amounts: $4,000 - $40,000

Capital One new auto loan APRs

Credit

Loan Term (months) *

36

48

60

72

Rebuilding

7.73%

7.73%

7.73%

10.08%

Average

4.29%

4.93%

4.93%

6.22%

Excellent

3.99%

3.99%

3.99%

3.99%

As of 11/05/18

Used auto loan product details

  • APR: See table below
  • Terms offered: 36 – 72 months
  • Loan Amounts: $4,000 - $40,000

Capital One used auto loan APRs

Credit

Loan Term (months) *

36

48

60

72

Rebuilding

9.13%

12.43%

12.43%

13.78%

Average

5.90%

7.22%

7.22%

8.86%

Excellent

4.33%

4.40%

4.40%

5.15%

As of 11/05/18

What we like

  • Easy to pre-qualify online without a hard inquiry on your credit
  • Minimum monthly income required is $1,500 or $1,800, depending on your credit
  • 12,000 auto dealers work with Capital One

Where it may fall short

  • The best rates require excellent credit with 20% down on the vehicle
  • Vehicles must be 2006 or newer
  • Vehicles must have less than 120,000 miles
  • Dealers may charge additional fees, including document fees, dealer preparation fees and delivery charges
  • Maximum loan amount may not cover the cost of the vehicle you desire

How to apply

Apply using Capital One’s Auto Navigator. Enter your personal information including your Social Security number to get pre-qualified for an auto loan without affecting your credit. Then take your financing certificate to the dealership to shop for cars and make a selection. Once you’ve selected a vehicle, the dealer will have you fill out a credit application and you’ll finalize the paperwork for your vehicle purchase with the dealer.

Capital One

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

Carvana

Carvana specializes in helping you shop for a car online. It uses things such as 360-degree photos, free vehicle history reports, details and specs, ratings and reviews to provide you with the maximum amount of information.

Why we chose them

We looked at the three used auto lenders chosen most often in each credit tier, and Carvana was the only lender in the top three in every tier. That’s why we chose Carvana, even though other lenders offered lower average APRs on used auto loans.

Product details – Used auto loans only

  • APR: APR depends on credit history, vehicle type and down payment.
  • Terms offered: Up to 72 months.
  • Minimum loan amount: None
  • Maximum loan amount: Any amount, as long as it’s a vehicle listed on the Carvana website.

What we like

  • High level of detail on vehicles makes online shopping easy
  • Online application personalizes your shopping experience and doesn’t require a hard pull on your credit
  • You can return the vehicle within seven days and get your money back (Make sure you’re familiar with the limits on this policy before you buy)
  • All vehicles are certified with a 150-point inspection

Where it may fall short

  • Only available for used vehicles
  • Carvana is a car dealership, and you must select a vehicle through their website

Online experience Carvana provides a lot of information about each vehicle. You won’t have to visit other sites to find specs or read reviews

When you fill out the online application, you’ll see a breakdown of your monthly payment, minimum required down payment and your APR, making your shopping experience truly personalized.
How to apply You may get pre-qualified with Carvana without a hard pull on your credit by filling out the online application. After you complete it, you may start shopping for a used vehicle, and your payment, down payment and APR will be displayed for each vehicle. Keep in mind, with Carvana, you must purchase a vehicle in their inventory.

Carvana

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

Understanding the auto loans process

How do auto loans work?

For the lenders we detailed above, you may apply for a loan online and receive personalized loan rates without a hard pull to your credit. So while you don’t see rate tables on certain lender websites, don’t be discouraged. If you’re serious, just fill out an application to see what you may qualify for.

Once you’ve completed the initial application, you’ll be able to shop for a vehicle knowing which type of financing you’ll likely qualify for.

Once you’ve selected a vehicle, you’ll need to submit a full application for the loan. This can be done online or with a dealer, if you’re working with one. Once again, most lenders are streamlining this process online, so for the lenders we discussed on this page, you may upload your documents using a computer or mobile device.

Once you’ve purchased the vehicle and completed your loan documents, you’ll just need to make payments. Making payments has moved online as well, and many lenders offer apps to help you manage your payments and loan information using your mobile device.

Tips when shopping for car loans

Here are some tips to help you avoid common mistakes and shop confidently for a car loan.

  • Set a budget. Everyone says it, but it’s not always easy to do. If you aren’t keeping a budget, here’s how to start in four easy steps.
  • Know how much you can afford. MagnifyMoney suggests you keep your total car expense less than 10% of your monthly budget. This is part of the 20/4/10 rule, which also says you should put down at least 20% and choose a maximum loan term of four years.
  • Save for a down payment. The amount of your down payment is likely to affect the interest rate you receive when financing your vehicle. So saving for a larger payment will help save you money and putting more down will lower your monthly payment, too.
  • Check your credit. You’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus every 12 months, and it’s easy to get your free credit score from a variety of sources.
  • Consider a co-signer. If your credit score is low or you have a limited credit history that needs improvement, having a co-signer with good credit on your auto loan could significantly lower your interest rate.
  • Shop around. It’s smart to get multiple rate quotes, so you may compare loans.
  • Get pre-approved. Shopping for a vehicle doesn’t make a lot of sense if you don’t know how much money you’ll have to work with. Shoppers have many options for getting auto loan quotes without a hard inquiry on their credit, but if you’re serious about buying a car, doing all your loan shopping in a short period of time will minimize the potential impact on your credit score, if loan applications result in a hard pull.
  • Talk to local credit unions. While banks and online auto loan companies offer easy-to-use online tools, don’t forget to talk to your local credit union to see if it has a more competitive rate.
  • Beware of extra fees. Keep in mind you’ll need to pay state taxes and title fees. In addition, dealers may charge fees, including document fees, dealer preparation fees and delivery charges. These fees will affect your APR if you finance them into your loan.
  • Check your paperwork. Everyone makes mistakes. When you get the final copy of your auto loan, check to make sure you got everything you were promised and there are no extra fees.

How to apply for an auto loan

From choosing the right car to getting approved for financing, this article will walk you through the complete online car buying process.

When you apply for an auto loan, it will help to have your documentation ready. This will include proof of identity, proof of income, credit and banking history and proof of residence. If you’ve selected a vehicle, you also want that information, including VIN, mileage, year, make and model.

While many online lenders advertise the loan process as being quick, be prepared for roadblocks. Sometimes a lender may request additional information or take time to verify information, and that may delay the process.

Be proactive! Once you’ve started the auto loan process, the lender will walk you through what’s needed. But that doesn’t mean you have to wait for your lender to get back to you. If the loan process has stalled, make a call or send an email to your lender asking what’s needed. In many cases, you’ll have an online login that will allow you to see your loan status, or take the next step online.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be 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 financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be 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 financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Ralph Miller
Ralph Miller |

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

TAGS:

Advertiser Disclosure

Auto Loan, Reviews

The Best Auto Loans: 2018 New & Used Car Loan Rates

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Disclosure : By clicking “See Offers” you’ll be directed to our parent company, LendingTree. You may or may not be matched with the specific lender you clicked on, but up to five different lenders based on your creditworthiness.

The best auto loan for you depends on your priorities, but two common goals are to get the most competitive rate and the lowest monthly payment. That’s why longer-term loans are so popular right now, with more people stretching out new and used car loans over 60 months or more. Despite that, new and used car payments hit an all-time high in 2017, meaning that people are spending more than ever on their vehicle purchases. That’s why MagnifyMoney has compiled a list of the best auto loans in 2018. We know that with rising rates, you need as much help as you can get finding the best rates to secure the vehicle you want and need.

Overview of the best auto loans in 2018

Company name

Best for

Loan types offered

 

LendingTree

Comparison shopping auto loan rates - LendingTree is not a lender.

New, used, refinance, lease-buyout

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

LendingTree is our parent company

LightStream

Car buyers with good or excellent credit

New, used, refinance, lease-buyout

APPLY NOW Secured

on Lightstream’s secure website

Capital One

Car buyers with fair or poor credit

New, used, refinance

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

Carvana Auto Loan

Buying a used car online

Used

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

How we picked the best auto loan rates

Using information from LendingTree, we compiled auto loan data over a six month period (August 2017 through January 2018) spanning across 22 auto lenders. We analyzed the loan data by applicant credit tier, and whether the loans were to purchase a used or new car to determine 1) the lenders consumers chose most often, and 2) the lowest average APR offered by the lender.

A closer look at the best new and used auto loans

Start with LendingTree

With LendingTree, you can fill out one short online form, and there are dozens of lenders ready to compete for your business. Upon completing the form, you can see real interest rates and approval information instantly. Some auto lenders will do a hard pull on your credit and this is common with auto lending. It’s important to remember, multiple hard pulls will only count as one pull, so the best strategy is to have all your hard pulls done at one time.

LendingTree
APR

As low as
3.09%

Terms

24 To 84

months

Fees

Varies

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

LendingTree is our parent company. LendingTree is unique in that they allow you to compare multiple, auto loan offers within minutes. Everything is done online. LendingTree is not a lender, but their service connects you with up to five offers from auto loan lenders based on your creditworthiness.

 

Where people with good credit (680+) get the lowest rates

LightStream

LightStream is the online consumer lending division of SunTrust Bank. LightStream seeks to make the online lending process easy, so you may apply, be approved, sign your loan agreement and receive your funds all through your computer or mobile device — no papers to fill out or sign.

Why we chose Lightstream
Out of the lenders compared, borrowers with good and excellent credit were most likely to choose a loan with LightStream and receive the lowest APR. You can read our full LightStream review here.

New auto loan product details

  • APR: See table below
  • Terms offered: 24 – 84months
  • Loan amounts: $5,000 - $100,000

Lightstream New Auto Loan APRs

Loan Amount

Loan Term (months) *

24 - 36

37 - 48

49 - 60

61 - 72

73 - 84

$5,000 to $9,999

4.24% - 6.04%

5.09% - 6.64%

5.29% - 6.84%

6.19% - 7.74%

6.79% - 8.34%

$10,000 to $24,999

3.34% - 5.24%

3.69% - 5.49%

3.69% - 5.49%

4.54% - 6.34%

5.14% - 6.94%

$25,000 to $49,999

3.84% - 5.24%

3.94% - 5.49%

3.94% - 5.49%

4.79% - 6.34%

5.39% - 6.94%

$50,000 to $100,000

3.84% - 5.24%

3.94% - 5.49%

3.94% - 5.49%

4.59% - 6.14%

5.29% - 6.84%

As of 12/05/18. Includes a 0.50 point discount for autopay. Exact rates depend on your credit profile.

Used auto loan product details

  • APR: See table below.
  • Terms offered: 24 – 72 months
  • Loan Amounts: $5,000 - $100,000

LightStream Used Auto Loan APRs

Loan Amount

Loan Term (months) *

24 - 36

37 - 48

49 - 60

61 - 72

73 - 84

$5,000 to $9,999

4.44% - 6.24%

5.29% - 6.84%

5.49% - 7.04%

6.79% - 8.34%

6.79% - 8.34%

$10,000 to $24,999

3.34% - 5.24%

3.94% - 5.84%

3.94% - 5.84%

4.79% - 6.34%

5.39% - 6.94%

$25,000 to $49,999

3.84% - 5.94%

3.94% - 5.84%

3.94% - 5.84%

4.79% - 6.34%

5.39% - 6.94%

$50,000 to $100,000

3.84% - 5.24%

3.94% - 5.84%

3.94% - 5.84%

4.59% - 6.14%

5.29% - 6.84%

As of 12/05/18. Includes a 0.50 point discount for autopay. Exact rates are dependent on your credit profile and for purchases made from dealer. 

What we like

  • Fixed rate, simple interest fully amortizing installment loans. This means you won’t pay interest on your interest, and if you follow the payment schedule, your loan will be fully paid off at the end of the term.
  • No fees or prepayment penalties
  • No restrictions on the vehicles year, make, model or mileage
  • If you’re not 100% satisfied, Lightstream will pay you $100 (conditions apply)

Where it may fall short

  • Loans may not be used for a cash-out refinance
  • Secured loans may not be used for commercial vehicles
  • Vehicle must be classified as automobile, sport-utility vehicle (SUV), light-duty truck, passenger or conversion van
  • No phone support for customer service. Everything is handled by email

How to apply
Before you apply, keep in mind that you’ll need to:

  • Have good credit
  • Have sufficient income and assets
  • Agree to electronic records and signatures

Applying is done entirely online. You’ll provide:

  • Personal information. Name, address, phone, Social Security number, driver’s license, etc.
  • Employment information. Employer name and address, income and other financial assets
  • Loan information. Loan purpose, loan amount and term
  • Security information. Create a username and password
LightStream

APPLY NOW Secured

on Lightstream’s secure website

Where people with fair (620-679) & bad credit (500-619) get the lowest rates

Capital One Auto Finance

Capital One is a Fortune 500 company and a trusted name in banking and other financial services. In the fourth quarter of 2017, Capital One originated $6.215 billion worth of auto loans, making it one of the top five U.S. banks offering auto loans.

Why we chose Capital One
The most borrowers with fair and bad credit chose a loan with Capital One, and it came in second in terms of lowest average APR.

New auto loan product details

  • APR: See table below
  • Terms offered: 36 – 72 months
  • Loan Amounts: $4,000 - $40,000

Capital One new auto loan APRs

Credit

Loan Term (months) *

36

48

60

72

Rebuilding

7.73%

7.73%

7.73%

10.08%

Average

4.29%

4.93%

4.93%

6.22%

Excellent

3.99%

3.99%

3.99%

3.99%

As of 12/05/18

Used auto loan product details

  • APR: See table below
  • Terms offered: 36 – 72 months
  • Loan Amounts: $4,000 - $40,000

Capital One used auto loan APRs

Credit

Loan Term (months) *

36

48

60

72

Rebuilding

9.13%

12.43%

12.43%

13.78%

Average

5.90%

7.22%

7.22%

8.86%

Excellent

4.33%

4.40%

4.40%

5.15%

As of 12/05/18

What we like

  • Easy to pre-qualify online without a hard inquiry on your credit
  • Minimum monthly income required is $1,500 or $1,800, depending on your credit
  • 12,000 auto dealers work with Capital One

Where it may fall short

  • The best rates require excellent credit with 20% down on the vehicle
  • Vehicles must be 2006 or newer
  • Vehicles must have less than 120,000 miles
  • Dealers may charge additional fees, including document fees, dealer preparation fees and delivery charges
  • Maximum loan amount may not cover the cost of the vehicle you desire

How to apply
Apply using Capital One’s Auto Navigator. Enter your personal information including your Social Security number to get pre-qualified for an auto loan without affecting your credit. Then take your financing certificate to the dealership to shop for cars and make a selection. Once you’ve selected a vehicle, the dealer will have you fill out a credit application and you’ll finalize the paperwork for your vehicle purchase with the dealer.

Capital One

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

Carvana

Carvana specializes in helping you shop for a car online. It uses things such as 360-degree photos, free vehicle history reports, details and specs, ratings and reviews to provide you with the maximum amount of information.

Why we chose them
We looked at the three used auto lenders chosen most often in each credit tier, and Carvana was the only lender in the top three in every tier. That’s why we chose Carvana, even though other lenders offered lower average APRs on used auto loans.

Product details – Used auto loans only

  • APR: APR depends on credit history, vehicle type and down payment.
  • Terms offered: Up to 72 months.
  • Minimum loan amount: None
  • Maximum loan amount: Any amount, as long as it’s a vehicle listed on the Carvana website.

What we like

  • High level of detail on vehicles makes online shopping easy
  • Online application personalizes your shopping experience and doesn’t require a hard pull on your credit
  • You can return the vehicle within seven days and get your money back (Make sure you’re familiar with the limits on this policy before you buy)
  • All vehicles are certified with a 150-point inspection

Where it may fall short

  • Only available for used vehicles
  • Carvana is a car dealership, and you must select a vehicle through their website

Online experience
Carvana provides a lot of information about each vehicle. You won’t have to visit other sites to find specs or read reviews

When you fill out the online application, you’ll see a breakdown of your monthly payment, minimum required down payment and your APR, making your shopping experience truly personalized.
How to apply
You may get pre-qualified with Carvana without a hard pull on your credit by filling out the online application. After you complete it, you may start shopping for a used vehicle, and your payment, down payment and APR will be displayed for each vehicle. Keep in mind, with Carvana, you must purchase a vehicle in their inventory.

Carvana

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

Understanding the auto loans process

How do auto loans work?

For the lenders we detailed above, you may apply for a loan online and receive personalized loan rates without a hard pull to your credit. So while you don’t see rate tables on certain lender websites, don’t be discouraged. If you’re serious, just fill out an application to see what you may qualify for.

Once you’ve completed the initial application, you’ll be able to shop for a vehicle knowing which type of financing you’ll likely qualify for.

Once you’ve selected a vehicle, you’ll need to submit a full application for the loan. This can be done online or with a dealer, if you’re working with one. Once again, most lenders are streamlining this process online, so for the lenders we discussed on this page, you may upload your documents using a computer or mobile device.

Once you’ve purchased the vehicle and completed your loan documents, you’ll just need to make payments. Making payments has moved online as well, and many lenders offer apps to help you manage your payments and loan information using your mobile device.

Tips when shopping for car loans

Here are some tips to help you avoid common mistakes and shop confidently for a car loan.

  • Set a budget. Everyone says it, but it’s not always easy to do. If you aren’t keeping a budget, here’s how to start in four easy steps.
  • Know how much you can afford. MagnifyMoney suggests you keep your total car expense less than 10% of your monthly budget. This is part of the 20/4/10 rule, which also says you should put down at least 20% and choose a maximum loan term of four years.
  • Save for a down payment. The amount of your down payment is likely to affect the interest rate you receive when financing your vehicle. So saving for a larger payment will help save you money and putting more down will lower your monthly payment, too.
  • Check your credit. You’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus every 12 months, and it’s easy to get your free credit score from a variety of sources.
  • Consider a co-signer. If your credit score is low or you have a limited credit history that needs improvement, having a co-signer with good credit on your auto loan could significantly lower your interest rate.
  • Shop around. It’s smart to get multiple rate quotes, so you may compare loans.
  • Get pre-approved. Shopping for a vehicle doesn’t make a lot of sense if you don’t know how much money you’ll have to work with. Shoppers have many options for getting auto loan quotes without a hard inquiry on their credit, but if you’re serious about buying a car, doing all your loan shopping in a short period of time will minimize the potential impact on your credit score, if loan applications result in a hard pull.
  • Talk to local credit unions. While banks and online auto loan companies offer easy-to-use online tools, don’t forget to talk to your local credit union to see if it has a more competitive rate.
  • Beware of extra fees. Keep in mind you’ll need to pay state taxes and title fees. In addition, dealers may charge fees, including document fees, dealer preparation fees and delivery charges. These fees will affect your APR if you finance them into your loan.
  • Check your paperwork. Everyone makes mistakes. When you get the final copy of your auto loan, check to make sure you got everything you were promised and there are no extra fees.

How to apply for an auto loan

From choosing the right car to getting approved for financing, this article will walk you through the complete online car buying process.

When you apply for an auto loan, it will help to have your documentation ready. This will include proof of identity, proof of income, credit and banking history and proof of residence. If you’ve selected a vehicle, you also want that information, including VIN, mileage, year, make and model.

While many online lenders advertise the loan process as being quick, be prepared for roadblocks. Sometimes a lender may request additional information or take time to verify information, and that may delay the process.

Be proactive! Once you’ve started the auto loan process, the lender will walk you through what’s needed. But that doesn’t mean you have to wait for your lender to get back to you. If the loan process has stalled, make a call or send an email to your lender asking what’s needed. In many cases, you’ll have an online login that will allow you to see your loan status, or take the next step online.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be 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 financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Ralph Miller
Ralph Miller |

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

TAGS: ,

Advertiser Disclosure

Auto Loan

17 Best Online Car Buying Sites for 2018

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

iStock

As soon as you get to a dealership, the pressure is on. There are ways to reduce the stress of buying a new car (we recommend getting preapproved for an auto loan before you go), but nowadays, you don’t even have to go to a dealership at all. Dozens of car-buying websites let you complete the whole process online.

To help you choose which auto site to use, we’ve rounded up the best online car buying sites out there — whether you want to do everything online, shop around for fun or just arm yourself with knowledge.

Best car buying sites for doing everything online

From your smartphone or computer browser, these three companies let you car shop, loan shop and order a vehicle to be delivered directly to you.

Carvana

Surf the Carvana website to get a car (and a car loan) delivered to your driveway with extremely minimal interaction with another person.

Pros: Carvana owns the cars it sells. The listings for each car are extensive, including 360-degree photos and a free Carfax report. Each vehicle has a seven-day return policy and a 100-day or 4,189-mile dealer warranty.

Cons: You don’t have the option to negotiate on price, and unlike peer-to-peer sites and dealerships, you can’t see or test-drive a car before you buy it. Delivery fees aren’t included and if you have a trade-in, you have to deliver it to one of their local markets.

Vroom

On Vroom, you can both buy and sell a car completely online. You can trade in your vehicle without needing an appraiser, and Vroom will even buy your car without requiring you to buy one of theirs.

Pros: Vroom only sells vehicles that pass multiple inspections and have clean titles. Photos, descriptions and a free AutoCheck vehicle history report are on each vehicle listing. All vehicles have a seven-day or 250-mile return period, as well as a 90-day or 6,000-mile complimentary warranty and one year of free 24/7 roadside assistance.

Cons: Vroom’s inventory is smaller than competitors, and the $499 delivery fee isn’t included in the car’s price.

Fair

Fair is an app that allows you to car-shop, secure financing and trade in your old vehicle, all online. But in a twist, you cannot actually buy a vehicle on Fair. Instead, the site offers a middle ground between renting and leasing. Prices are generally lower than renting a car, and the terms are shorter than your typical 36-month lease.

After you download the Fair app and get prequalified, you can browse the inventory and see the monthly payments and how many miles each car has. When you choose one, you’ll drive (and pay for) that car until you don’t want it. At that point, you can turn it in and get a new one that suits you.

Your monthly payment is similar to what you would pay on a loan if you had purchased the car. The vehicles Fair lists are described on its website as “high-quality, pre-owned and certified pre-owned,” under 5 years old with less than 70,000 miles on them.

Pros: Warranty, maintenance and roadside assistance are included in your monthly price. You are not billed in advance, and pricing is prorated if you swap in a car mid-month.

Cons: Your money never goes toward building equity and owning the vehicle.

Best peer-to-peer car buying sites

These sites facilitate private used car sales and generally don’t make many assurances about their condition or value. They can be great ways to find deals, but also expose the buyer to more risk.

Remember: No matter what site you find your next used car on, always perform due diligence — have a mechanic check the car to make sure it’s not a lemon. Many states do not protect used car buyers by excluding used cars, especially privately sold used cars, from falling under their lemon law. Check out our guides to how to avoid buying a lemon car and how to navigate a used car inspection to know what red flags to look for when you check out your potential new car.

Shift

This company helps buyers and sellers in the peer-to-peer auto market by doing much more than just providing a website with for-sale ads. Each car posted to Shift has passed a thorough mechanic inspection and a review of its vehicle history report. Each listing has professional photos and an expert description.

Shift allows you to do everything completely online if you wish. You can apply for financing through Shift and have the company handle the paperwork to transfer the title and vehicle registration. The company also can have the car delivered to you; however, if you live near one of the company’s seven California locations, you have the option to test drive a car with a Shift employee who takes the car to you and can answer any questions you may have.

Pros: Shift reduces the risk of buying from an independent seller. On the flip side, it makes being an independent seller easier, as buyers can more easily trust that the deal isn’t a scam and the car isn’t a lemon.

Cons: While you can have the car delivered anywhere in the U.S., the option to test-drive through their website service is only available at its seven California locations.

Craigslist

This is perhaps the most old-school car-buying website out there. Anyone can create a free car listing to sell their private vehicle, and each metro area has its own sub-website so you can browse locally. There are usually a lot of options and a large price range. However, Craigslist doesn’t offer a vetting process on the vehicle, and there are no seller profiles. — so this site is buy- and sell-at-your-own-risk.

Pros: If you are careful and knowledgeable, you could find good deals.

Cons: Craigslist potentially has a mix of honest sellers and people who are out to scam you, and telling the two apart can take some savvy. You can check out our guide to avoiding Craigslist car scams for more information.

Facebook Marketplace

Facebook allows its users to list for sale all manner of items and markets them to people in the surrounding area. This site offers a way to vet a seller and buyer more thoroughly than you could through other platforms. Most people use Facebook as a social media platform and as such, their profile is tied into their social lives; you can see any of their profile information that they make publicly available by following the link from the for-sale posting.

Pros: Depending on privacy settings, you may be able to see the buyer or seller’s profile. This can help you get an idea of whether the person wants to do an honest transaction or if the seller or buyer is actually just a profile shell built by someone trying to scam you or sell stolen goods.

Cons: The Facebook Marketplace may provide a more limited pool of listings or available buyers, since most people don’t think “Facebook” when they think of selling a car. In addition, used car dealers are starting to get in on the platform by creating Facebook business pages, making it less of a pure peer-to-peer site.

eBay Motors

On eBay, there are two ways of buying and selling a car: a fixed-price system and an auction system. The fixed-price method lets buyers shop listings with set prices, and the first person who clicks to buy the car gets it. In the auction system, the seller posts the vehicle with a minimum price and sets a time period to accept bids. When the time is up, the person who bid the most is announced as the winning buyer.

Pros: When buying on eBay, you get a Vehicle Purchase Protection (VPP) plan included at no additional cost. This protects you against certain losses associated with fraud. To qualify, your transaction must be made through eBay (not Western Union, Moneygram, or similar services.). The vehicle also has to be less than 10 years old and listed as having a clear title.

Cons: You don’t want to place bids on more than one vehicle. If your bid wins, you are usually contractually obligated to buy it. To avoid suddenly having to buy five cars and a truck, you’ll probably only want to bid on one thing at a time — which isn’t the most efficient thing to do if you need to buy a car quickly. If you want to retract a bid or cancel a winning bid, you can fill out a bid retraction form, talk to the seller or contact eBay customer service.

Best car-buying services

If the thought of negotiating gives you the chills, but you can’t find the car you want on an online-only site, consider a car-buying service. The range of services you can get from these companies varies widely. Some give you up-front information you can use to shop confidently; others offer a full-service program that delivers the car and the contract for you to sign to your door.

Be aware that many car-buying services focus on sticker price negotiation, not total cost. Dealers make the most profit not on the price of the car, but on the financing of the car — signing you up for a loan. One of the best ways to save money in car buying is to know what loan you qualify for and negotiate on the whole deal, not only the sticker price of the car.

TrueCar

TrueCar compiles and lists local prices on the type of car you want from their network of dealers, and tells you the price people recently paid for that same car. This information is offered for free and helps users know if they’re getting a fair deal on the car’s price.

The service is free to you because the dealerships pay TrueCar to be in its certified network; TrueCar makes its money by acting as a sales lead generation business.

Pros: Buyers can use TrueCar to see comprehensive pricing and communicate with certified dealers. The transparency of the TrueCar number helps push prices down overall.

Cons: As soon as you fill out the online form, expect calls and texts from a few dealers.

CarBargains

Run by the nonprofit company Consumers’ Checkbook, CarBargains charges $250 to collect bid prices from at least five dealers in your area on a certain type of car you’re looking for, making the dealers compete for your business.

Pros: Experienced people negotiate the car price for you, so you don’t have to sweat it. You won’t have to talk with salespeople or do the leg work of visiting different dealerships. Also, you’re paying directly for the service — CarBargains isn’t taking any commission from dealerships, so there’s less conflict of interest.

Cons: It’s a rather expensive service for what amounts to five phone calls and a free internet search. You could do the work yourself by researching listings and using free online guides like Kelley Blue Book or NADAguides to find the industry-standard value on what the cars are worth.

Authority Auto

Authority Auto offers more than car price negotiation help — it’s a true concierge service and offers as much or as little service as you’d like, from a free review of a final contract before you sign it to delivering a car and the contract for it to your door. Pricing is either commission-based, or potential customers can call for pricing.

Pros: There are multiple levels of service according to your needs. Authority Auto doesn’t take commissions from dealerships, so there’s less likely to be conflict of interest. Plus, some services they offer are commission-based on a percentage of what they save you, which motivates them to find you savings.

Cons: Authority Auto can take a big chunk of the money you save. If you choose to have them review your final contract before you sign it and they find savings of $4,000 or more, the total commission they take can go up to $2,000.

Best car-buying websites with mixed inventory

These sites pull postings of vehicles that match what you’re searching for from a multitude of other websites. These can be useful when you’re first starting your search.

CarGurus

If you’re not sure whether you want a new or a used car, or whether you want to get it from a dealership or another person — but you do know you want it to be red, check out CarGurus. It features new, certified pre-owned and used vehicles.

Pros: Once you find a car you like, you can sign up on the CarGurus app or by email for notifications letting you know if the price drops. Their search result page is prioritized by how well the car is priced under market value (excluding the sponsored listings at the top). It also has dealer ratings and links to a map with the car’s location and directions on how to get there.

Cons: You might have to scroll past sponsored listings at the top of your search results, since they may not match what you want. Vehicle history reports are summarized for free on each listing, but the full reports aren’t free.

AutoTempest

AutoTempest pulls search results from major used car sites like eBay, CarSoup, CarsDirect, Oodle, Craigslist and others. You can choose to see used cars from both dealers and private sellers, and you’re able to search in your local area or across the country.

Pros: Each search listing shows photos of the car, its price, mileage and location, options for a free vehicle history report and shipping quotes. It also has consumer education guides on price negotiation and how to avoid scams.

Cons: Because it pulls from so many sites, there isn’t a standard for quality of posts or any type of vetting — some leave a lot to be desired regarding information and photos.

Autotrader

Autotrader provides useful starting resources for car buyers, such as top 10 lists of new and used vehicles under certain price points. It’s also a search engine for used cars.

Pros: The auto research, reviews and tools are easy to understand and use. You can search by listing features, and filter search results by type of seller or whether the listing includes photos or a video.

Cons: The top results you get from each search are sponsored ads that may drastically differ from your search criteria, while on the resource page the regular car buyer may have to click around to find news that isn’t for car junkies.

Best websites for new car buying

While most car sites focus on used cars, there are a few that specialize in new cars. Here’s our favorite.

CarsDirect

CarsDirect doesn’t simply pull inventory postings from dealerships in your area: it keeps up-to-date on cash rebates, so you have a better idea of the actual sales price you would pay for a car.

Pros: Besides tracking cash rebates, CarsDirect has links to news and expert reviews about the car you’re looking at, right on that car’s result page. There is also a separate section with videos, how-to-choose articles and a “versus” section that will link you to similar competitor car models.

Cons: CarsDirect may not show results from all of the dealers in your area, so be sure to look around for prices. It also doesn’t track all rebates you may be able to get on a vehicle. You won’t find rebates based on credit or profession (military, educator or student discounts) and other new-car incentives the manufacturer or local dealer may offer aren’t given. You’ll have to visit the manufacturer’s website or a dealer for information on them, which may add up to be worth more than the cash incentives CarsDirect does track.

Industry standards

These three companies have been around the block and have established reputations for being among the best online car buying sites.

Kelley Blue Book

KBB first became famous as a guide for determining vehicle value, and now doubles as an online car buying site. It offers the slick feature of showing you inventory, prices and a vehicle’s fair market value in one place. It also has a four-star mobile app in the Google Play Store.

Pros: For each vehicle, you can see ratings from KBB experts and consumers, the car’s fair market value and the seller’s price, for easy comparison. The search filters are useful in a common-sense way; you can easily see who’s selling what for how much and how far away they are from you. If you’re selling your car, KBB also has an instant cash offer program.

Cons: Vehicle history reports aren’t free. If you click the “get a loan” button, remember still to shop around for your auto loan to make sure you get a good deal.

NADAguides

Similar to Kelley Blue Book, the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) guide functions as a source for you to determine what a car is worth. When you’re shopping, you can look for new or used vehicles to see what models and trims are available and their prices.

Pros: You can search by vehicle type, see current cash rebates on new cars in your area or use a comparison tool to put cars side-by-side.

Cons: While you can see car prices, NADAguides doesn’t offer direct listings on their site. Once you choose a vehicle, you’re sent to another site with the actual listing. If you’re interested in a new car, NADAguides will send you to a dealership; if you’re interested in a used car, it will send you to Autotrader.

Edmunds

Edmunds has direct listings posted on its site and a large number of reviews and road tests on new and used cars.

Pros: Each listing on the result page priced below market value has an icon showing if it is a fair, good or great deal.

Cons: Like most sites with used cars, there are some scam artists who post on Edmunds — so be careful if you see a vehicle that’s priced for less than half of what it’s worth. Some vehicle listings also require that you submit personal contact information to the seller in order to see the price — we don’t recommend doing that.

Methodology: In order to be chosen as a best online website, sites generally had to be easy to navigate as well as informative, but each company also had to meet the following qualifications:

  • It could not have its own brand of physical dealerships where consumers can visit and test drive vehicles.
  • Operations could not be limited to one state.
  • It has to sell regular consumer vehicles, not only company fleet vehicles or classic cars.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be 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 financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Jenn Jones
Jenn Jones |

Jenn Jones is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Jenn at jennifer@magnifymoney.com

TAGS:

Advertiser Disclosure

Auto Loan

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

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

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 products that appear on this site may be 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 financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Ralph Miller
Ralph Miller |

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

TAGS: ,

Advertiser Disclosure

Auto Loan

How Often Can You Refinance Your Car Loan?

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

iStock

Refinancing your auto loan can be a wise decision, especially if you do the math and realize you have something to gain. You may find more attractive interest rates, have improved credit, or be struggling to afford your payments and want a way to ease your monthly auto bill. The real issue is whether a new loan and its attendant fees will result in savings during the time it takes to own the car outright.

But what happens if you’ve refinanced before and you’re looking to refinance your auto loan yet again?

How long to wait before refinancing your auto loan

Good news: Consumers can refinance their car as many times as they want and as often as they can find a lender willing to approve them for a new loan.

You can even refinance your car loan the moment you get it home from the dealership if you realize you can land a better loan. There are no legal restrictions on financing a car later on, although it may be harder to find a willing lender as the years and miles accrue on the vehicle. Each lender has its own set of requirements. At Bank of America, for example, the car must be less than 10 years old and have fewer than 125,000 miles on it to qualify for refinancing.

Just because you can refinance doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be easy.

Look at your original loan contract to see if you have to jump through any hoops first. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warns that finance companies and banks can impose “prepayment penalties” on their contracts, which are fees they charge if you decide to pay off your loan earlier than planned. And, of course, by refinancing with a new lender, you are doing exactly that.

According to online auto retailer Cars Direct, prepayment penalties are allowed by the government in the District of Columbia and 36 states.

7 Reasons It Makes Sense to Refinance an Auto Loan

There are many cases in which it might be a good idea to refinance your auto loan.

Perhaps you need a lower monthly payment to offset a tight budget, or you need to save the total amount the car financing will ultimately cost. We’ll break down a few factors that can make it profitable to refinance now.

1. You qualify for a loan with a lower interest rate

Many car shoppers never shop around or compare auto loan offers, and that can be a costly mistake. If you’re in that group, then you may walk off the lot with a terrible rate and realize late that you could have gotten a much better deal. That’s a good reason to refinance.

In another scenario, if interest rates have dropped a few percentage points since the car was originally financed, there’s a chance auto rates might be lower as well. You may save money on refinancing the vehicle. Consumers can search for auto refinancing rates at competitive lending sites like LendingTree, the parent company of MagnifyMoney, which may offer interest rates as low as 1.99% APR on terms of two, three, four and five years. Lenders may offer the best rates to consumers with good-to-excellent credit scores (700-800).

2. You want a lower monthly payment

Even consumers with clear credit histories and top scores may not like the cost of their current monthly payments. You might find that you can get a longer term loan (and, thus, a lower payment) by getting pre-approved financing from a bank, credit union or private lender. You should compare a new loan with the terms and rates of your existing financing. LendingTree’s Auto Refinance Calculator crunches monthly payment figures, allowing buyers to type in different interest rates and loan terms to find the sweet spot.

Just beware of choosing a loan with a longer term. It may save you money on your monthly payment, but you will ultimately pay more interest over time.

Here’s an example to show you how much more you’ll pay with a longer-term loan.

For those who can increase their monthly payment without too much stress, shortening the term may be a good strategy. Monthly payments will be higher, but the car will be paid off sooner, lowering the total amount of paid interest. The bottom line: If you’re considering changing the term in refinancing, be sure the interest rate and refinancing charges are low enough to make it worthwhile.

3. You want to remove or add a co-signer

There may be business or personal reasons to add or remove a co-signer from the original auto financing. In a divorce, the primary owner may want to remove the ex-spouse co-signer from the loan and title. Or someone may want to add a co-borrower with better credit to qualify for a lower refinancing rate. Either way, those modifications are going to require refinancing.

Unfortunately, it’s going to be difficult to remove yourself as a co-signer if the person who financed the car stops making payments. So if that’s your case, check out our guide on how to get out of a bad car loan.

4. Your credit score has improved and you can qualify for a lower rate

Congrats on improving your score! According to our parent company, LendingTree, if you raise your credit into the next tier in the FICO Score range you may see appreciable savings. Auto lenders rank consumer credit into Tiers A, B, C, D and F. Financing to applicants with D- and F-tier scores may only be offered as subprime or bad credit loans:

  • Tier A: 781 – 850
  • Tier B: 661 – 780
  • Tier C: 601 – 660
  • Tier D: 501 – 600
  • Tier F: 300 – 500

Borrowers falling into the D and F tiers should review MagnifyMoney’s guide on bad credit loans.

5. You earn a lot less or a lot more than you used to

There may be two key financial reasons supporting car refinancing:

  • You earn more than you did when you bought the vehicle and want to pay it off sooner
  • You earn less than you did and cannot meet the monthly payments

Those who have improved finances may choose to refinance to shorten the loan term, increasing their monthly payments but slashing the amount of total required payments to pay off the car. Owners who have experienced a financial setback (change or loss of income) can refinance their vehicles to a longer term, lowering the amount of their monthly payments. Refinancing your loan to a lower rate with the same or more favorable interest rate will lower the total cost of the car.

6. Your car is worth less than what you owe

If a consumer owes more money on their car than it’s worth, they have an “upside-down” loan. This can happen if you buy a car with a very low down payment and finance the rest. Your car simply loses value over time and you wind up paying on a loan that was determined based on its value months or even years earlier. If your car loan is underwater, you don’t have a good chance of getting refinanced since the lender will take a hit on the collateral if you default. A way to stave off disaster is to make extra payments on the original loan or take out a home equity or personal loan to pay off the vehicle.

7. Your car is getting older

If you want to refinance before your car gets too old to qualify, you should.

Lenders set their own limits on how many miles and years on the road qualify cars for refinancing. For example, Nationwide Bank will not refinance vehicles that are 20 years or older, or 150,000 miles on the odometer. Bank of America will not refinance cars 10 years or older and won’t touch vehicles with 125,000 miles or more.

Risks To Consider Before You Refinance

Impact on credit

When you apply for refinancing, a “hard inquiry” is reported to the credit agencies. Multiple hard inquiries on refinancing (and other loan requests) can drop credit scores by a few points, but the impact can be offset if you make consistent payments on time, which will help boost your score.

Also, you won’t get dinged if you shop for an auto loan over a short period of time — say two weeks or so. In that case, credit bureaus should treat all those hard inquiries as just one inquiry.

Long-term loans can cost more in the long run

Today, you can get auto loans for as long as 84 months. Extending terms through a refinance may look good when the monthly payment comes due. But the added interest over the term can cost you more in the end. Term and APR sit on opposite sides of the seesaw.

Doing the math, compare these costs when the terms are extended:

  • A $30,000 car financed at 6% for five years: $34,799
  • Financing the same car and rate for seven years: $36,813

If you drag out your loan term, you could wind up upside down on the loan

During the first years of ownership, financing on a new car is already upside down. That’s because the monthly payments are largely paid on interest rather than on the principal. Meanwhile, the new car is losing value. If the consumer has a downward turn in finances, the loan can go off the deep end. With an older vehicle, there’s still a risk with a long extension. By the time the refinancing is paid off, the car will have amassed high mileage that can diminish its use as a trade-in.

Fees

Each state charges a titling fee when a new loan is made on the vehicle. Check your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to find out the fees. In New York, for example, the titling fee is $50. It’s unlawful for the dealership to make a profit on the titling. Remember, frequent refinancing customers pay for titling each time.

There are no requirements or charges for an appraisal when refinancing, but the borrower may be assessed lender fees for loan originations and processing. Get all charges — in writing — in your contract. Some lenders may be open to negotiations on some fees. Be wary of upfront fees that may be charged with any loan application at the bank, credit union or finance company.

How To Compare Auto Refi Offers

Always shop around for the best auto loan deal before you head to the dealership. If you walk in the dealership with an offer in hand, they will have to negotiate with you if they want your business — and they will, because they do.

Here’s what to compare when you’re looking at different loans:

  • Price
  • Down payment requirement
  • Amount financed
  • Annual percentage rate
  • Finance charges
  • Term length in months
  • Number of payments
  • Monthly payment amount

Try comparing loans with the same term to find the best APR. Or view the same APR across multiple terms to see the financial impact on monthly payments. Take your comparative checklist when visiting lenders or bank and credit union websites. Our parent company LendingTree serves up free offers on auto refinancing in a comparative format.

Pre-approvals on a car loan are good from 30 to 90 days, depending on the lender.

What if I can’t get approved for an auto refi?

The first step in responding to a loan denial is to learn why you were turned down. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act requires lenders to notify borrowers in writing the reasons the application was denied. Reasons for denial may involve the credit score or red flags in your credit history. Too many hard credit inquiries might indicate that you’re desperate for a loan. Turn-down letters provide an opportunity to view the credit report that the loan underwriters evaluated.

You may have to wait awhile before applying for refinancing again, since it will result in another ding on your credit. Or, if you’re in the subprime and bad credit tiers, look at options of getting financing from banks, credit unions or financing companies that specialize in loans for Tier D and F categories. Learn more about the subprime options at MagnifyMoney.

Finally, you could take time out from refinancing while you report errors on your credit report and set about improving your credit score. MagnifyMoney has sound advice on building the highest credit scores. Steps include:

  1. Get a line of credit
  2. Keep a low credit utilization rate
  3. Pay your creditors in full and on time with each monthly statement
  4. Avoid or reduce credit card debt
  5. Protect your score

Helpful resources

The following links offer a wealth of financing information that can keep you out of trouble:

Auto Loans

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau offers answers to frequently asked questions on car financing, including a section on how to avert repossessions.

Auto Loans Modification Scams

The FTC warns about companies that claim to change the loan to avoid repossessions and fines. They may charge significant upfront fees and do nothing on your behalf.

Auto Loans Advice, LendingTree

This collection of LendingTree articles on car loans covers a range of issues, including financing options, bad credit, financing a classic car, bankruptcy, car ownership, certified pre-owned cars, and more.

Credit Repair: How to Help Yourself

The FTC’s Consumer Information division has published an extensive guide to repairing credit, including information on credit report disputes, finding legitimate credit counselors, and consumer rights.

How to Get a Car Loan with Bad Credit

View MagnifyMoney’s comprehensive guide to refinancing bad-credit loans, getting a co-signer, and tips for avoiding financing scams.

National Auto Lending Study

A study by MagnifyMoney and Google Consumer Surveys found that seven-year terms can be a ticket to the horror upside-down loans, especially for subprime borrowers. Read the rest of the findings.

Understanding Vehicle Financing

The American Financial Services Association Education Foundation (AFSAEF), the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have prepared this 16-page brochure to help consumers understand financing terms, laws regulating dealership financing, and strategies for visiting dealerships.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be 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 financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Gabby Hyman
Gabby Hyman |

Gabby Hyman is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Gabby here

TAGS:

Advertiser Disclosure

Auto Loan

How to Handle an Upside-Down Car Loan

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

iStock

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.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be 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 financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Janet Berry-Johnson
Janet Berry-Johnson |

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

TAGS:

Advertiser Disclosure

Auto Loan

Everything Non-U.S. Citizens Should Know About Financing a Car

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Buying a car as a non-citizen
iStock

When they first arrive in the U.S., many expats and international students pay cash to purchase cars because it seems like the easiest way to buy a vehicle in their new country. But you can finance a car as a noncitizen, an expat worker or an international student.

Lenders cannot discriminate against anyone based on citizenship. But they do determine a borrower’s creditworthiness. On the surface, it seems like a noncitizen is in the same position as any American borrower. But the truth is, you do have unique challenges in obtaining auto loans because of your credit (or lack thereof) and immigration status, which affects the loan terms and interest rates that you will get.

To help you make better borrowing decisions, we will go over the details that international students or expats in the U.S. need to pay specific attention to when it comes to financing a vehicle.

Things you need to know before taking a car loan

Credit history

This will likely be your biggest obstacle because chances are you may not have had time to build a credit history in this country. Without establishing credit first, it’s extremely difficult for you to receive financing for a vehicle.

And even if you are deemed eligible for an auto loan, you may receive a far higher interest rate compared with those with a U.S. credit history.

When “ghosts” aren’t offered a loan due to lack of credit history, they need to have a cosigner who’s living in the country and has a U.S. credit history. The cosigner may not have to be a U.S. citizen. With a cosigner on your auto loan, your interest rate may not be as astronomical, but it will still be significantly higher than that of a borrower with healthy U.S. credit.

If you are going to live in the U.S. for a long time, it’s worth spending some time establishing or improving your credit score now so that you can refinance or qualify for a better APR on an auto loan later.

The length of your visa

When you arrive at a dealership, a dealer runs your Social Security number to check your credit, which will also tell the dealer who you are.

Another question is how long you will be allowed in the country. As a foreign national in the U.S., the loan term you will be eligible for has to be shorter than the period you’re allowed to stay in the country legally.

This means if your work visa is valid for three years, your auto loan will be three years or less. According to data from Experian, one of the three major credit reporting agencies in the U.S., the average car loan term Americans get is nearly six years.

To shorten the length of your auto loan, you either have to put down a larger down payment or pay higher monthly payments. On the bright side, your total finance charges over the life of the loan would be lower as a result.

Down payment

International AutoSource, a service for expat car leasing, financing and rentals without a local credit history, advises expats and international students to provide a down payment of 10% to 20%.

The more you can put down on your car when you buy it, the better APRs you will likely be offered because it’s a less risky loan for the lender. To avoid depleting your savings, once you have done your research and finalized your vehicle decision, you probably want to save up for the down payment first, as well as run the numbers to make sure that the monthly payment will fit into your budget.

Where to shop for a car loan

Like buying anything else, you should always shop around for a car — and a car loan — comparing options and negotiating with sellers for a lower purchase price.

Dealerships

The most common way to get a car loan is to go through a dealership that acts as a middleman between you and the lender. You buy the car and fill out all the paperwork through the dealership. Your first contact with your lender would be about a few weeks after everything is signed, when you should expect to receive detailed information about your loan account.

Direct lenders

You can also apply for an auto loan directly through banks, credit unions or finance companies online to avoid fees that you could otherwise incur with a dealership. Compare auto loans on LendingTree’s online exchange. MagnifyMoney is a subsidiary of LendingTree.

Services catering toward expats

There are also car financing services catering to your special needs as a non-U.S. citizen. Look for those services online and reach out to them for specifics.

International AutoSource, as we mentioned before, is an established car leasing and financing service specialized in working with foreign nationals. The company works directly with car manufacturers and allows expats without a credit history to take out auto loans. Its APRs range from 0.9% to 6%, depending on the vehicle, model and terms. For comparison, the APR for a 48-month auto loan can be as low as 3.44%.

Documentation non-U.S. citizens need to apply for an auto loan

Proof of identity

You can provide your passport. A green card, employment authorization card or a driver’s license will also do.

Visa

Lenders need to verify the length of your stay in the U.S. to determine your loan term. Your valid U.S. visa will help them determine the duration of your loan term.

Social Security number

To pull your credit history, a lender will need your Social Security number, name, address and date of birth.

Proof of residence

Your driver’s license usually works if your address on the license is current. Otherwise, you may show the dealer a piece of mail you have received recently that has your name and address on it, such as a utility bill or bank statement.

Proof of income and employment

Copies of your pay stub that is dated within 30 days and details the salary you’ve been paid year to date. You may also be asked to provide three months’ worth of pay stubs, bank statements, a verifiable offer of employment or an employment letter.

Proof of insurance

You are required by your lender to have auto insurance if you are to take a loan on a car. Check with your lender on exact coverage requirements, but most require that you have full coverage (liability and collision).

It’s a good idea to shop around for auto insurance before purchasing a vehicle. Get multiple quotes so that you know what to expect, even if you don’t know exactly which car you’re getting. It’s usually after you agree to buy a specific car, before you go in to sign the paperwork for it, that you will be asked to obtain full coverage insurance and have the company provide proof of insurance. You can call the company that previously gave you the best insurance quote and finalize the decision. The insurance company can send proof of coverage to the dealership, either by email or fax. The dealer should then give you and the lender each a copy.

Vehicle information

If you’re buying a new car, you will need to obtain or complete a bill of sale, purchase agreement or buyer’s order that should include:

  • Purchase price
  • Vehicle identification number (VIN)
  • Year, make and model

If you’re buying a used car, aside from the above information, you also need to provide the car’s mileage, original title and disclosure of any liens on the car. You can obtain such information from your seller.

A key takeaway

Before you decide to buy a specific car, you should determine whether financing is your best option based on your credit, your cash flow and how long you will stay in the U.S. If you are here only on a temporary assignment, maybe leasing a car would be a better solution. For example, Volvo has a special leasing program for international students. Once you decide that you want to finance a car, if you can’t qualify for a desirable APR due to the lack of credit, do the math and see if taking on an expensive loan makes economic sense for you. Consider getting a cosigner on your loan if you can. In some cases, when people are not in urgent need for a car to get around, it’s worth spending some time to improve your credit first and waiting to buy later.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be 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 financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Shen Lu
Shen Lu |

Shen Lu is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Shen Lu at shenlu@magnifymoney.com

TAGS: