Follow These Steps to Get the Best Car Loan for You
Whether you’re shopping for your very first car or finally upgrading your ’99 Honda Civic from your parents, the car buying process takes time and research, from finding the perfect car to getting approved for the right auto loan.
Regardless of the reason you’re scouring car websites and checking out market values online, almost everyone needs to get approved for a car loan to make the big purchase.
But where do you begin? And how can you get the best APR? What does APR even mean? If this is your first time making this big investment, or even your second or third, read a little further to find out how to get the best car loan fit for you.
Before tackling any big financial decision in life, always do your research. This is especially true when it comes to researching the annual percent rate (APR), the interest rate you pay, on your car loan.
Dealerships or banks can spit out APR offers, but what if it’s completely out of your range based on your credit score and income? You can only know once you research and find APRs that fall within your range.
The best way to do that is to shop around for car loans. Lenders can “soft pull” your credit report, which doesn’t hurt your credit score, pre-qualify you for a loan and give you an estimated APR. On the other hand, they can “hard pull” your credit, which temporarily lowers your score, but gives you an exact APR.
Know and Even Boost Your Credit Score
Your credit score is the biggest factor that determines your APR. A higher credit score equals a lower rate, and a lower rate mean less money you’ll pay in the long run.
Well before you begin visiting car lots and start test driving cars, get a full report of your credit score. Once you receive your report, sit down, analyze it and make sure there aren’t any errors, like a late payment that was actually submitted on time. If you have any errors, you’ll want to dispute them with the appropriate credit bureau—this might be Equifax, Experian or TransUnion—to get them removed as soon as possible.
In addition to removing incorrect information on your report, lowering your debt will also increase your credit score. Your credit utilization, which is the debt you owe divided by the credit available to you, should be under 30 percent. For example, if you have a $10,000 credit limit across three cards and your balance is $3,000, your credit utilization is 30 percent. In other words, you’re using 30 percent of the credit available to you.
Removing errors and reducing your credit utilization are two viable way to boost your score before applying for any loans.
Think About the Length of the Loan
The length of your auto loan will also determine how much you’ll owe in the long run. While a five-year or seven-year payment plan may seem more feasible with the lower monthly payments, you might pay substantially more.
For example, if you borrow $15,000 at a 6 percent APR for three years, your monthly payment will be about $450, but you’ll pay about $1,400 in interest.
On the other hand, if you borrow $15,000 at 6 percent APR for five years, your monthly payment will be close to $300, but you’ll pay $2,400 total in interest. So, with a three-year payment plan, you’ll save about $1,000.
To save in the long run, try to choose a shorter repayment plan, but stay within your means. Enter your numbers into a car loan calculator to see what you can afford.
Check Out Your Bank or Credit Union
While dealerships offer competitive rates on auto loans, check with your financial institution first to see if they offer any benefits or discounts for members.
Here at iTHINK Financial, we offer an extensive list of discounts to our members including:
• A .25% APR discount for having an iTHINK Financial Visa Credit Card in good standing
• A .25% APR discount for using one of our auto buying services, Enterprise Car Sales or TrueCar
• A .25% APR discount for having total deposit balances greater than $1,000
• A .25% APR discount for setting up auto pay for your car loan
We can also pre-approve you for a loan and offer repayment length options to fit your needs. On top of that, when you walk into a dealership with a check in hand from your credit union, you hold the purchasing power. You’re ready to purchase a car, and you’re not at the mercy of the dealership to approve you for the loan you need.
If you aren’t a credit union member, you can open an account with as little as $5 to access these auto loan discounts and hit the road with lower rates. Reach out to iTHINK Financial today to get moving.