Capital One Auto Loan Review

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If you’re going into a dealership without first shopping around for an auto loan, then you may be leaving money on the table. That’s because the dealership may not offer the best rate, so you may be driving your newly financed car with a less-than-attractive APR.

The prevalence of online lenders makes the preapproval process super simple. If you do get preapproved, you’ll increase your chances of negotiating a better price for the car you want, and the dealership may even try to beat other loan offers. With any loan, shopping around is always recommended. Here we’ll look at the Capital One auto loan, its details and how it compares to others. We’ll also go over how to apply for one.

What is Capital One?

Richard D. Fairbank founded Capital One in 1988, and the bank is headquartered in McLean, Virginia. Capital One is now one of the largest banks in the U.S. based on deposits, and it offers personal banking products including deposit accounts, credit cards and loans, as well as small business and commercial banking products.

Capital One auto loan details

Capital One’s Auto Navigator program offers APRs for new cars as low as 3.99% and used cars as low as 4.54%. The rate you receive will depend on the loan term, your credit history and loan-to-value ratio. Financing terms range from 36 to 72 months (three to six years). You can finance depends on the value of the car you intend to purchase from $7,500 - $40,000. This amount could include the sales price, tax, licensing fees and other optional products like an extended warranty from the dealer.

Capital One’s loan program serves people who want to purchase a new or used vehicle, including minivans, SUVs and light trucks intended for personal use. It does not allow borrowers to finance other types of vehicles such as RVs, boats or motorcycles, as well as certain makes of vehicles. The car you intend on purchasing must have less than 120,000 miles on it, and the model year has to be 2006 or newer, with the exception of some states where it needs to be at least a 2008 model.

To get a loan, first request prequalification, and if you get it, present this offer to the dealer. You’ll then fill out a credit application at the dealer so Capital One can match the loan terms, once the participating dealer submits it. To prequalify, you need to be at least 18 years old with a valid U.S. address and a minimum monthly income of $1,500 or $1,800, depending on your credit situation.

How it stacks up

Where Capital One auto loans stand out

  • Competitive rates: Capital One offers rates on par with other major retailers. Though its rates are slightly higher than what credit unions offer, it’s important to remember that some of those institutions have strict membership requirements.
  • Range of terms: You get a choice of four financing terms ranging from 36 to 72 months.
  • Choice of dealerships: You can choose from 12,000 participating dealerships to purchase a vehicle of your choice.
  • No prepayment penalties: You can pay more than the minimum balance due and won’t face any fees. If you choose, you may be able to shorten the loan term if you pay off your remaining balance.
  • Online preapproval: Capital One offers an easy to follow application process to find out how much you could finance.

Where Capital One falls short

  • Low maximum loan amount: Other competitors offer loans up to $100,000, which could come in handy if you’re looking to purchase a pricy vehicle.
  • Financing only valid at eligible dealers: Capital One doesn’t finance vehicles bought through private party sellers or auto brokers. You also can’t use financing for a lease buyout.
  • Can only borrow a maximum of 80% of the vehicle value: Borrowers need to have a loan-to-value ratio of 80% or less.
  • Not all vehicles qualify: You can’t finance recreational vehicles, including motorcycles, ATVs and RVs. Capital One also doesn’t finance vehicles for commercial use.

How to apply

To get auto financing through Capital One’s Auto Navigator program, first fill out an application to see if you prequalify for a loan. On the first page of the form, it’ll remind you of the terms of the loan, such as the minimum and maximum loan amount and the condition of the car you’re looking to purchase. You’ll need to fill in your personal information such as name, birthday and Social Security number. Then you’ll be asked to provide employment and residence information before submitting the form. Documents you may need to provide include a utility bill in your name dated within the last 30 days as proof of residence and a recent pay stub as proof of income.

Once you’re qualified, you can head to more than 12,000 participating dealers to search for cars. You can browse online and save the listings for your favorite cars for up to 30 days. For most listings, you’ll be able to see the advertised price and financing terms. Those terms are based on what you prequalified for, and you get to see the APR and monthly payments specific to you. You can customize loan options such as the down payment amount, loan term and even your monthly payments.

At the dealership, you can negotiate the price of the vehicle and tally up the total costs including taxes, sales price and licensing fees. You can still make any changes to your loan offer and review the financing terms before completing a credit application at the dealer.

Capital One will keep your prequalification offer for 30 days. You can use your offer at the dealership up to the date of expiry. After that, you’ll need to submit another application form.

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The fine print

Capital One makes information readily available on its website. It clearly outlines the application process from start to finish, including terms related to loan amounts and other financing terms. On its auto loan page, Capital One has a detailed frequently-asked-questions section that offers transparent information. Before you even decide whether to get preapproval, you can use the calculator on their auto loan page to see how much you could be paying.

Here are also a few other things to note:

  • You can’t purchase Oldsmobile, Daewoo, Saab, Suzuki or Isuzu vehicles with Capital One financing.
  • Auto financing is based on a simple interest loan. Your payments will be applied to interest first, then the principal. If you pay more than the minimum monthly payment, the money will go toward interest, outstanding fees then the principal.
  • You may need to provide additional documents before finalizing your loan. Capital One offers borrowers the option to upload these items before going to the dealer, or bring them along when purchasing the vehicle.
  • The Auto Navigator website can’t guarantee that the dealer will have the actual car and sale price advertised. You’ll need to ask the dealer about availability.
  • Once you purchase a vehicle, it’ll become a retail installment contract, stating that the dealer is the original creditor.
  • You may need to put down cash if the total cost of the vehicle is more than your maximum loan amount. This includes the amount after you trade in a vehicle, if applicable.

Comparable auto loans

LendingTree

With LendingTree, you can fill out one short online form and see real interest rates and approval information at once. There are hundreds of lenders on LendingTree ready to compete for your business. Some lenders will do a hard pull on your credit and this is normal within the auto lending space. Keep in mind that multiple hard pulls will only count as one pull, so it is smart to have all your hard pulls done at one time.

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PenFed

This credit union requires you to become a member in order to apply for an auto loan, but it’s easy to join. All you need to do is to make a one-time donation to the National Military Family Association for $17 or the Voices for America Troops for $17. Then, you’ll need to fund your share account with a minimum of $5.

PenFed offers rates as low as 2.49% APR for new cars and as low as 3.49% APR for used auto loans, both loan amounts are from $500 - $100,000. Terms range from 36 to 60 months for used vehicles and 36 to 60 months  for new ones. Rates depend on how much you finance and what term you choose.

If you’re looking for lower monthly payments, PenFed offers a Payment Saver auto loan for new and used vehicles. You can make a lower payment than a conventional auto loan, but at a higher interest rate. You’ll pay back the remaining balance at the end of your loan. For new vehicles, they must never have been titled and be the current or prior model year. For used vehicles, it can be anywhere from the prior two years up to the current model and can’t exceed 15,000 miles per year.

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Lightstream

A division of SunTrust Bank, Lightstream offers loans for new and used cars with terms ranging from 24 to 84 months (two to seven years). It offers APRs from 3.99% with a loan amounts $5,000 - $100,000. This APR only applies to those who are enrolled in automatic payments. If you don’t enroll in autopay, you’ll pay an extra 0.50% APR. Your actual rate will depend on the financing term, the amount you take out and your credit history.

You can use the funds for any type of vehicle, with no restrictions on the dealership or the model, make or mileage on the car. You can also use the loan to purchase new or used motorcycles, lease buyouts and vehicles from individuals. Unfortunately, you can’t get a preapproval, meaning you’ll need to complete and submit a loan application online. The benefit is that if you’re approved, you may be able to receive the money within one business day.

Lightstream offers a guarantee that you’ll love their service. If not, they’ll email you a questionnaire for you to fill out within 30 days of loan closing. Once completed, they’ll deposit $100 into your account.

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Bank of America

Bank of America is one of the largest banks in the U.S. and it provides a wide variety of banking, investing and loan products and services. Their auto loan program is for dealer purchases, lease buyouts and purchases from another individual. You can’t use their financing for recreational or commercial vehicles. If you’re not purchasing a vehicle from a private party, Bank of America only allows you to purchase cars from franchise dealers or one of their approved independent dealers.

Rates for their loans start from 3.19% APR for new cars, 3.39% for used cars. If purchasing a car from an individual, you can apply for a private party loan by visiting a financial center. Preferred Rewards clients are eligible for a rate discount. Gold customers get a 0.25% discount Platinum 0.35% and Platinum honors a 0.50% discount. You can choose from loan terms from 12 to 75 months, but you can only choose either a 48-, 60- or 72- month option online. Once you submit your application, you can contact Bank of America to request a different loan term.

You will need to borrow a minimum of $5,000 (or $7,500 if you reside in Minnesota or South Carolina). The vehicle you intend to finance can’t have more than 125,000 miles, be older than 10 calendar years or valued below $6,000. Once you apply, Bank of America claims you’ll get a response within 60 seconds. If approved, your rate remains valid for up to 30 days.

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U.S. Bank

US Bank offers loans for new and used vehicles with rates starting at 4.59% APR for online and branch applications. If you are an existing U.S. Bank customer and set up automatic payments from a U.S. Bank consumer checking package account, you’re eligible for a 0.50% rate discount. For used cars, you can only finance a car six years old or newer and with no more than 100,000 miles.

If you intend on purchasing an eco-friendly car, you may be able to save some money by taking advantage of the Green Auto Loan Rate discount. This is only for new or used EPA-certified SmartWay vehicles. These include hybrids or high gas mileage cars. You will get a 0.50% rate reduction once you set up automatic payments from a U.S. Bank package and complete the Green Vehicle Affidavit. You can find out which cars qualify by using the EPA Green Vehicle Guide.

With all loans, you do need to pay an origination fee, which can be anywhere from $50 to $125 or up to 1% of the financed amount, depending on your state.

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Bottom line

Capital One’s Auto Navigator program is best for those who want a competitive rate on new or used vehicles. For those who have a good credit history and are in a sound financial situation, there’s the added benefit of no prepayment penalties. That way, if you choose to pay off your loan early, you won’t need to pay extra. If you already have a car in mind, Capital One is still a great option to consider, as long as the dealership is on their approved list. With its easy online application process and the ability to tweak the terms of the loan, Capital One offers great terms and rates. However, if you’re not considering buying from an approved dealer, or if you’re looking at commercial or recreational vehicles, you’ll want to look elsewhere.

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Sarah Li Cain
Sarah Li Cain |

Sarah Li Cain is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Sarah Li here

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