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Should I Pay Off My Car Loan Early?

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

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The average new car loan term is nearly six years (5 years, 8 months), with used car terms right on its heels at nearly 5 years and 5 months. At the same time, those loans are becoming more expensive as car prices and interest rates creep upward.

A long-term auto loan sounds tempting — it may make the car you want seem affordable thanks to a relatively low monthly payment. But you may receive a higher APR than you would with a short-term loan and you’ll most likely pay more in interest in the long run.

There’s a way to avoid this. Paying even a small amount toward your loan principal could shorten your loan. If you can afford to pay off the entire balance, here are some points to consider.

Pros and cons of paying off a car loan early

Here are four benefits to paying off your car loan early:

  • Saves money on interest
  • Simplifies bill paying
  • Never have to worry about owing more on the car than it’s worth
  • Makes it easier to sell car

Here are four downsides to paying off your car loan early:

  • May deplete your cash reserves
  • You may have a lower interest rate on your car loans than on other debts
  • Missed opportunity to build credit history by making car payments
  • Possible prepayment penalties

How much could you save by paying your car off early?

If you are paying even moderately high interest on your car loan over an average amount of time, you might be surprised by how much that loan may cost you. For example, a borrower who buys a $30,000 car (sales tax excluded) on a 5-year loan at a 7% rate will pay an estimated $5,642 in interest. Compare that to $4,483 if they paid it off in just four years — that’s a difference of $1,159. If they take out a 3-year loan, the savings are even greater — only $3,347, with a difference of nearly $2,300 from the original 5-year loan in our example.

Even if you can’t afford the higher payments that come with a shorter-term loan or you aren’t able to pay the entire balance off right now, here are some ways you could pay off your auto loan this year.

When paying off a car loan early makes sense

You should consider paying off your car early if:

  • You have no other debt besides your mortgage, and you want to be rid of monthly car payments so you can free up money for other things.
  • You have a lump sum available or enough leeway in your monthly budget that you could pay off your loan without sacrificing your emergency fund or other important financial goals.
  • You want your monthly expenses to be lower by a certain point; for example, before you expand your family or by retirement age.
  • You need to improve your debt-to-income ratio; for example, if you are planning to apply for a mortgage.
  • Making a goal to pay off your car debt will motivate you to take charge of your money and start reaching toward other financial goals.

When paying off a car loan early might not be a good idea

Consider sticking to your original payment plan if:

  • You have insufficient backup cash for emergencies. “The first thing you have to look at is if you have an emergency savings fund built up, with a minimum three months in living expenses,” said Kris Alban, executive vice president of San Diego financial wellness company iGrad. “You have to have that emergency savings before you start to look for areas to cut down on debt.”
  • You are paying higher interest rates elsewhere. As secured loans, some car loans have low interest rates. “If it’s a low interest rate, under 5 percent, I would look to do other things with that money,” said Alban. “You’re probably better off using that money to invest in your retirement.”
  • You want to build your credit report by making car payments. Making car payments can help your credit report in two ways. It adds to your history of on-time payments, and improves what FICO calls your credit mix — your history of having credit cards, installment loans, and other accounts. “People think more than one credit card will fix their credit mix, but no,” said Alban. It especially helps to have more than one type of credit if you don’t have much else on your report.
  • Your initial car loan period is relatively short. If you signed up for a three-year payment plan when you purchased your car, for example, you may be perfectly happy paying it off as planned. You’re already minimizing your total interest expense, and you may be able to drive your car for years after you’ve forgotten what car payments are like.
  • Your car loan agreement includes prepayment penalties. “Always check the prepayment terms for your loan,” said Alban. “Prepayment penalties used to be a lot more common.” If you do make extra payments, be sure your lender applies them to the principal amount of the loan.

More ways to replace your car loan

Paying off your car loan isn’t the only way to save on interest expense. If you have a high-interest car loan, instead of paying off your loan, consider one of these options:

  • Draw on a low-interest line of credit. If you have a home equity loan with a lower interest rate than your car loan, for example, you may want to take cash from your line of credit to pay off your auto loan. Be aware, however, that you can generally no longer deduct interest from a home equity line of credit on your tax return, unless you use the proceeds to buy, build, or substantially improve your home.
  • Borrow from a relative or friend., If you’re paying 6 percent, say, on your auto loan, and your mom gets less than one percent on her savings account, perhaps you can work out a deal. You can borrow from her and pay her a better rate of return than she is getting at the bank. You should only borrow from relatives and friends if you have a solid relationship, and if you are not endangering their financial well-being if you should lose your job or something else goes wrong. Be sure to put any financial agreements in writing.
  • Refinance your car. This can be especially helpful if you have improved your credit since you purchased your car, and you now qualify for better rates, or if interest rates in general have gone down. Consider starting your auto refinance shopping with LendingTree, where there are dozens of lenders waiting to compete for your business.
LendingTree
APR

As low as
3.99%

Terms

24 To 84

months

Fees

Varies

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

LendingTree is our parent company

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.

Sally Herigstad
Sally Herigstad |

Sally Herigstad is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Sally here

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Auto Loan, Reviews

Review: Wells Fargo Auto Loan

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Wells Fargo Auto Loan

If it’s time to get a new or used car, it’s time to do your research. Perhaps you’ve picked out the car of your dreams and you want to figure out the best way to pay for it.

When it comes to financing a vehicle, you have a ton of choices. Wells Fargo, founded in 1852, is one of many places to consider getting an auto loan from.

Wells Fargo Auto, a division of Wells Fargo Bank, serves more than 3 million auto loan customers throughout the United States.

About Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo offers new and used vehicle financing through its network of 11,000 active car dealerships, but it’s possible to apply with the bank directly if you’re interested in financing outside of the dealership or refinancing an existing auto loan. You could also use a Wells Fargo personal line of credit or loan to buy a car from a private seller or buy out your leased vehicle, but you may have to pay an annual fee or origination fee. A home equity loan or line of credit is another possibility but puts your home at risk should you default on your car payments.

It’s worth noting that Wells Fargo continues to compensate auto loan customers who were charged for insurance they didn’t need or add-ons after their car loans were repaid or their vehicles repossessed. The bank’s redress program came after a December 2018 settlement with attorneys general from all 50 states calling for $422 million to be repaid to auto loan customers.

Wells Fargo: At a glance

  • Loan terms up to 72months
  • Loan amounts between $5,000and $100,000for new and used auto loans.

Because a majority of Wells Fargo’s loans are through dealerships, what’s known as indirect lending, you may not know your exact rate or terms until you apply through a dealership. A Wells Fargo spokesperson said rates are based on a number of factors, including the borrower’s credit history. While the best rates and terms tend to go to those with the best credit, it’s possible to be approved with less-than-stellar scores at Wells Fargo.

Wells Fargo also offers loans for those looking for specialty vehicles like motorcycles or recreational vehicles. Existing customers may be eligible for a discount if they use autopay to make their vehicle payments from a Wells Fargo consumer checking account.

A closer look at Wells Fargo auto loans

Highlights of Wells Fargo auto loans

  • Multiple ways to pay: You could make your car payment through the bank’s online eServices function, automatic loan payments or at any Wells Fargo branch.
  • APR discount: Wells Fargo offers a 0.25% discount for existing customers who use a consumer checking account to make automatic payments on its car loans.

Lowlights of a Wells Fargo auto loan

  • Mix of direct and indirect loans: While it’s possible to apply directly through Wells Fargo for an auto loan, most of its auto lending is through dealerships.
  • Negative press: In addition to fines Wells Fargo has had to pay in regards to its auto loan customers, it has been fined for the way it treated mortgage customers as well. In all, the bank has agreed to pay billions in settlements and consent orders.

How to apply

As we’ve already mentioned, most customers apply through one of 11,000 dealerships in the Wells Fargo network. But applying outside of the dealership is possible — a Wells Fargo spokesperson said customers may call or visit a branch for more options. It’s possible to apply for a refinance loan online, in person or by calling 800-289-8004. We’ll talk more about refinance loans in more detail, below.

Here’s what the bank will want to know about you and your car:

  • Personal information: Address, contact information, date of birth and Social Security number.
  • Country of citizenship information
  • Marital status (Wisconsin only)
  • Housing information: Whether you rent or own and for how much as well as information about previous recent addresses
  • Income information: Your occupation, gross monthly income and previous employer
  • Information about your car: Year, VIN, mileage and remaining loan balance. You can find out your remaining loan balance by calling your current lender.

The fine print on an auto refinance loan

The only way to make sure you’re getting the best deal on a loan for a new car or to refinance the one you have is to shop around. Make sure a refinance really is in your best interest and that you understand Wells Fargo’s criteria before you sign:

  • Minimum loan amount of $7,500
  • Co-signers allowed
  • Not offered in Alaska, Arkansas, Hawaii, Louisiana, North Dakota or Washington, D.C.
  • May be difficult to get approved if your vehicle has more than 100,000 miles or is 8 years or older.

Once you have applied, Wells Fargo will contact you by phone, mail or email. You’ll have the option of signing and returning the loan package by mail or finishing the process online.

Who is a Wells Fargo auto loan best for?

Wells Fargo auto loans can be a good fit for those in the market for a new or used vehicle, or folks looking to refinance a current loan. It may be the best option for existing Wells Fargo customers looking to refinance — it’s possible to apply directly through the bank, online and, if you’re willing to make auto payments, you may score a lower interest rate.

A Wells Fargo auto loan might be good for anyone shopping for a new or used car as well, but the only way to make sure you’re getting the best rate, particularly if it’s one offered through the dealership, is by comparing it with your preapproval offer from another bank, credit union or online lender.

A Wells Fargo auto loan is not a good fit for anyone interested in a private party auto loan. For those, look to competitors such as Lightstream, Bank of America or a credit union.

Lindsay Martell contributed to this report.

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.

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Auto Loan, Reviews

Review: Bank of America Auto Loan

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Bank of America Auto Loan

The history of Bank of America dates back to more than two centuries, but that doesn’t mean its banking services are stuck in the past. In recent years, Bank of America has modernized its service offers by adding mobile auto lending services that allows buyers to choose a car and a car loan in one place. Yes, you can apply for its loans in person at a branch or over the phone, but it’s hard to beat the speed and convenience of applying from home or anywhere you use your smartphone.

According to Bank of America, you could receive a loan decision within 60 seconds of applying, which is about as fast an approval as you can get from any lender, whether in person or online. But don’t be so quick to gloss over the details. While you may get approval decision within a minute, you might not be getting your lowest rates. Bank of America offers competitive rates for new car financing and a discount for certain customers, but other lenders may be able to beat Bank of America when it comes to used car loans and refinancing.

About Bank of America

Bank of America’s online auto buying experience starts when you submit an electronic application through its website where you have the option to use your loan approval to shop for and buy your car through Bank of America’s network of participating dealerships. Once you get your loan approval you can visit the Bank of America website or use the banking app to search a national inventory of more than one million cars, then visit dealerships for test drives and to finish the paperwork.

You can also use a Bank of America loan to buy a vehicle outside of the network. The bank offers loans for:

For specific rates for used and new cars as well as loans you could use to refinance your existing car or to buy out your leased vehicle, see the chart below.

Bank of America: At a glance

  • Loan amounts starting at $7,500
  • Terms between 12 and 60 months

Bank of America offers a wide variety of loans, but its loans aren’t available for specialty vehicles such as motorcycles or RVs. Financing is available to residents of all 50 U.S. states who borrow a minimum of $7,500 ($8,000 in Minnesota), but it can’t be used to buy cars that are over 10 years old or with more than 125,000 miles.

Advertised rates for new car loans are comparatively low, but to find the lowest APR for your loan you’ll need to do some comparison shopping. Rates vary depending on what kind of purchase you’re making, where you shop and the condition of your credit, with the lowest rates available for buyers with excellent credit when they purchase a new car from a dealer. Bank of America advertises much higher rates for private party purchases.

Compare Auto Loans
 New from dealerUsed from dealerUsed from private party*RefinanceLease buyout*
Bank of America3.19%3.39%5.99%3.99%4.19%
Chase4.24%4.24%N/A4.89%N/A
LightStream3.99%3.99%4.99%3.99%4.99%
*Bank of America lease buyout and private party loan rates are current as of Sept. 18, 2019.

If you bank with Bank of America or have an investment account with its wealth management subsidiary, Merrill, you may be eligible for lower rates. Preferred Rewards members get a rate discount at 0.25% for Gold members, 0.35% for Platinum members and 0.50% for Platinum Honors members.

Your eligibility for Preferred Rewards is based on the average asset balances held by Bank of America and/or Merrill over the three months prior to your application, with a minimum average balance requirement of $20,000. You can enroll for free to see if you’re eligible.

A closer look at Bank of America auto loans

Advantages of Bank of America auto loans

  • Loan approval offers lock in your terms for 30 days. That gives you time to shop around and find the car you want.
  • No application or origination fees, unlike some other lenders.
  • No prepayment penalty, meaning you can pay off your loan early and potentially save on interest charges without being penalized.

Disadvantages of Bank of America auto loan

  • Other lenders’ rate discounts may be easier to qualify for than the Preferred Rewards’ discount. PenFed Credit Union, for example, offers a discount to customers who use its car buying service, which can mean new car loan rates as low as 1.49%*.
  • Loan preapproval isn’t available. That means you’ll likely have to take a hard inquiry into your credit, and possibly lose a few points from your credit scores, just to see the loan terms you’re being offered. However, it’s always a good idea to compare auto loan rates and applying to multiple lenders doesn’t hurt your credit any more than it does to apply to one, as long as you do so within a 14-day window.

How to apply for a Bank of America auto loan

Completing an application online is a straightforward process, and if you’re already a bank member you can choose to have some of the application prefilled. Whether you apply online, in person or over the phone by calling 844-892-6002, you’ll need to submit the following information to complete an application:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Social Security number
  • Employment information
  • Income
  • U.S. citizenship status
  • Email address

You may be asked to submit some of the following information to complete your application, if applicable:

  • Purchase agreement/bill of sale
  • Registration
  • Title
  • Vehicle make, model and year
  • Mileage
  • VIN number
  • Lease buyout instructions
  • Proof of income
  • Federal tax returns
  • W-2s

To apply in person, you can make an appointment through the website or walk into a bank branch and talk to a representative. Setting an appointment allows you to avoid waiting and helps ensure a specialist will be prepared with the information you need.

Once you’ve submitted your application, loan decisions are quick. Even if further review is needed after you submit your application, you’ll receive an email with your decision by the end of the following business day.

The fine print

  • Loans are only for cars purchased through franchise dealerships or private parties, which does not include independent dealerships except for CarMax, Hertz Car Sales, Enterprise Car Sales and Carvana.
  • If you apply online, you’ll get the details of your approval via email. Make sure to look them over, including interest rates and repayment terms for new versus used car purchases, before you begin car shopping.
  • Loans are available with payment terms lasting up to 60 months. While a longer term can lower your monthly payment, it can cost a lot more in interest charges. Make sure to do the math before agreeing to a long-term repayment.

Who is a Bank of America auto loan best for?

Savvy car shoppers know that using bank or credit union-backed financing for an auto purchase is generally a better option than going through a dealership. But it can be difficult to arrange bank financing and complete a car purchase without putting in the time to contact several different lenders and visit multiple lots.

If you want the security of financing with a large bank with branches around the country, or even from your pre-existing Bank of America account profile, Bank of America auto loans might be the solution for you. They offer some of the same perks as dealership financing, allowing you to apply for a loan and shop for a car, all within the same platform.

But some extra legwork usually pays off: Comparing rates with other banks, plus credit unions and online lenders is the only way to make sure you’re getting the best deal possible.

*Rate and offer current as of June 1, 2019 and are subject to change. Promotional rate is not available to refinance existing PenFed car loans. Terms apply.

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.

Sarah Brady
Sarah Brady |

Sarah Brady is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Sarah here