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Woman hugging her new car she got with a loan.

How To Get the Best Car Loan

In the pursuit of owning a car, securing the right auto loan is as critical as finding the perfect vehicle. However, navigating the complex world of auto loans can be daunting, especially with the multitude of offers and terms available. Fear not!

This guide will serve as your compass, guiding you through the process of comparing auto loan offers, understanding the impact of loan length on your total costs, exploring alternative financing options, and ultimately securing the best car loan rates.

Key Takeaways

  • When comparing car loan offers, focus on the total loan amount, interest rate, loan term, and any additional costs to choose the most affordable option.
  • To get the best car loan rates, determine your budget, check your credit score, shop around for preapproval, compare quotes, and finalize your loan with the most competitive terms.
  • Understanding the impact of loan length on total costs and knowing your credit score's influence on your loan terms can help you make informed decisions when securing a car loan.

How To Choose a Car Loan

Selecting the best car loan comes down to research, planning, and a little negotiating skills at the dealership. 

No matter what new car you have your eye on -- an adventurous Jeep or a hot new Tesla -- you are going to need to pay for that new ride. Car loans are the most common way to afford the increasing price of a new or even a used car. In the past year, the average MSRP for a new car has risen by $904, according to an independent analysis done by iSeeCars.

So, you must research the car that fits your needs, do a little haggling at the dealership, and find a lender who is giving you a competitive rate. 

Should You Get a Car Loan?

You may not want to but you have to. Sound about right? While taking out a car loan is a valid concern, the answer to this question is probably linked to other important worries that every American faces like: "How will I drive to work today?" and "Who is going to pick the kids up from school?" So, I am sure most Americans understand that a car is a depreciating asset and that you may end being still paying for a car in a few years that has lost a lot of value, but you have to get around, right? 

If you are someone who has $30,000 liquid in cash, consider yourself blessed. If not, an auto loan is a necessary evil. Like it or not. Still, you can be smart about it. For instance, using a loan to buy an expensive car you cannot afford is not wise. Just because a loan enables you to purchase a brand-new car does not necessarily mean that you should go for it.

It is important to know all of this information before you go in to negotiate a loan because what you can afford and what a dealership will say you can afford are two very different things most of the time! So, what can you do to ensure you are getting the best deal?

How To Compare Auto Loan Offers

First, before you go to the dealership, secure a pre-approval on your car loan. This will give you a limit on how much you can spend, and it will remove any anxiety about if you will be approved. Another advantage is that you will have more power while negotiating at a dealership, which will, in turn, protect you from marked-up rates.

So, when comparing auto loan offers, it's essential to look beyond the monthly payment. Here's how you can compare them effectively:

  • Total loan amount. Look at the total amount you will repay over the life of the loan, including interest and fees. A lower total loan amount means you pay less overall.
  • Interest rate. Compare the interest rates offered by different lenders. A lower interest rate can save you money over time.
  • Loan term. Consider the length of the loan. Shorter loan terms typically have higher monthly payments but lower overall interest costs.
  • Additional costs. Check for any additional fees or charges, such as origination fees or prepayment penalties. These can add to the cost of the loan.
  • Online tools. Use online tools and calculators to compare offers side by side. These tools can help you see the total cost of each loan and choose the most affordable option.
  • Budget and financial goals. Choose the option that best fits your budget and financial goals. Consider how much you can afford to pay each month and how quickly you want to pay off the loan.

By comparing auto loan offers based on these factors, you can find the best loan for your needs and save money in the long run.

Steps for Getting the Best Car Loan

OK, so you are going for it. Let's back up. Here are the steps you should take.

  1. Determine your budget and credit score. Knowing how much you can afford and understanding your creditworthiness can help you negotiate better loan terms.
  2. Apply for preapproval and shop your existing car. Getting pre-approved for a loan can give you a competitive edge when negotiating with dealerships. In addition, start shopping around for the best trade-in value for your current vehicle (if you have one).
  3. Compare quotes. Compare loan offers based on the total loan amount, interest rate, and any additional fees.
  4. Use your loan offers to set a budget. Once you have loan offers, use them to set a budget for your car purchase.
  5. Haggle and negotiate when you can. Most dealers will mark up cars with extra fees and add-ons. If you see extra fees, we recommend starting there to reduce some low-hanging fruit from your overall out-the-door costs.
  6. Finalize your auto loan. Once you've found the right loan, finalize the paperwork and get ready to drive off in your new car!

Additional Tips for Comparing Car Loans

There is a lot to know about buying a car. Here are some additional tricks to keep the process under control.

Understand the Impact of Loan Length on Total Costs

The length of your loan can significantly impact the total amount you pay for your car. While longer loan terms may result in lower monthly payments, they can also lead to higher overall costs due to interest.

On the other hand, shorter loan terms may have higher monthly payments but can save you money in the long run by reducing interest charges. Consider your financial situation and goals when choosing a loan term.

Your Credit Score Will Impact Your Car Loan 

This will differ depending on who offers you a loan. Dealerships will often advertise the best interest rates on their cars, so you shouldn’t assume you will get those if you don’t have perfect credit (buyers with a FICO score of 750 or higher). 

If you have a credit score in the low 700s, you will still get a pretty good interest rate but might not qualify for some of their promotions. If you have below-average credit scores of 650 and below, you may get a car loan rate of 10% or even more. 

If you have a very low credit score, you must shop around to ensure that you are getting the best rate available to you.

You will still probably have to pay more than someone with good credit, but you do not have to settle on the first rate you receive.

Know How Much To Put Down

You should always try to put down about 20% of your car’s worth. This seems like an easy decision, but many dealerships won’t even require it for people with good credit. 

This is risky, especially as time passes and you find yourself owing more for the car than it’s worth. If you need to sell your car suddenly, you may come out of it still owing money. If you put down a payment, this can be avoided. 

Related Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

If you need more information about auto loans, here are some additional questions our readers want to know. 

What Is Conditional Financing?

Conditional financing is when a lender offers you a loan pending certain conditions, such as providing additional documentation or meeting specific criteria.

Can You Get a 0% Interest Rate on a Car?

Some manufacturers offer 0% financing deals, but they often require excellent credit and may come with other restrictions.

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