In many parts of the country, a car or truck is a necessity. Unless you've managed to save enough to pay cash for your next vehicle, you'll have to get an auto loan. But what if your credit is bad? Can you even get a loan?
There are car loans for people with bad credit, but you need to be careful when shopping for one to make sure you aren't overcharged.
If you're looking for a bad credit auto loan, the first step is to check your credit report and scores. This step is critical, because one of the reasons auto shoppers overpay for these loans is because they think their credit is worse than it is, and they settle for whatever they can get.
You can check your credit scores and get an easy to understand overview of the information in your credit report for free once a month at Credit.com. In addition to your score, you will see what factors are having the most impact on your scores.
There's another reason to check your free credit reports: you may find mistakes on your credit reports that, if fixed, will help boost your credit scores. If possible, give yourself at least thirty days to dispute credit report mistakes before you start car loan shopping.
After you have checked your credit and fixed any errors, it's time to start shopping for an auto loan to see what is available.
Be smart about your credit while you are shopping for an auto loan. Every time a lender pulls your credit report, it creates an inquiry on your file, and these inquiries can hurt your credit scores. Most scoring models will count auto loan inquiries with a certain window - usually 14 - 45 days - as a single inquiry. To be on the safe side, then, limit your auto loan shopping to a two-week period to avoid damaging your credit scores even further.
If your credit is poor, you may have to pay a higher rate until you can improve your credit scores. But even then, there are things you can do to save money:
Choose a shorter term loan. A 3-year loan will typically carry a lower interest rate than a 5-year loan. Plus you'll save money by paying off the loan faster!
Buy a newer vehicle. Loans for used vehicles are usually more expensive than those for new vehicles. It goes without saying, though, that if you find a really good deal on a used auto, consider it. You can still come out ahead, even with a higher interest rate.
Don't load up on extras. The dealer will probably try to convince you that you to spring for extras like rustproofing, paint protection, VIN etching and more. They'll probably point out that these extras will just add a few dollars to your monthly payment. That may be true, but over time, those extra dollars really add up.
There are numerous traps that cause auto shoppers to overpay by billions of dollars, according to the Center for Responsible Lending. These include:
Loan markups: Dealers may profit when they steer consumers into higher cost loans.
Yo-Yo Financing: You take the vehicle home with you before the paperwork is finalized. Then the dealer tells you that you are stuck with a higher rate, or adds additional costs.
Loan packing: You are pushed into getting other services you may not need such as credit insurance, rustproofing, etc. Keep in mind that none of these extras are required. In the case of credit insurance, if you die before the loan is repaid, your heirs may be able to sell the vehicle or assume the payments, but they are not personally responsible for the loan unless they are a cosigner or they are your spouse and you live in a community property state.
"Buy here, pay here" car dealers: These dealers advertise loans regardless of credit history. The rates can be extremely high and the quality of the vehicles can be iffy. Many times these vehicles are repo'd, only to be sold to another buyer.