How to Get a Car Loan With Bad Credit

Documenting good financial behavior can help you get a car loan with bad credit.


Trying to get a car with bad credit? If you have a low FICO score, it won’t necessarily dash your hopes. It just means you’ll probably be charged a higher interest rate on your car loan.

A poor credit score can be the result of everything from making late payments on loans to simply not having much of a credit history. People with credit scores lower than 650 or 660 are considered “subprime,” which means they fall into a category marked as “risky” by many lenders. But that doesn’t mean lenders will shun them altogether.

In fact, the Wall Street Journal recently reported that lenders are increasingly taking on riskier customers with lower credit scores as a means of grabbing more market share in a competitive environment.

So, bad credit car financing is an option. However, such loans come with both good and bad news. The good news is that folks with low credit scores can still get loans, even if they are subprime auto loans. This can make a huge difference for someone who needs a car to get to work or school.

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The bad news is that borrowers with bruised credit might have to pay higher interest rates. If you’re wondering how to get a car loan with bad credit, find out everything you need to know to increase your chances of getting auto financing.

woman focused on computer at workCheck Your Credit Report Before Applying for a Loan

If you have bad credit, the first step to getting so-called bad-credit car loans is to give yourself some time to prepare before shopping for a loan. Several months before you begin your loan search, order your credit report from one of the three major credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax or TransUnion. By law, you are entitled to one free credit report from each agency annually.

Identify any negative strikes on your report, including mistakes. If you are able to repair these “risk factors” on one credit report, it will eventually be reflected on the other two as well. Such repairs can help you boost your bad credit score before you apply for a loan.

Getting your actual credit score will cost money. However, doing so can help you prepare for the types of interest rates lenders might offer you.

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Related: 7 Best Types of Loans for People With Bad Credit

man taking notes with man and womanUnderstand Where to Apply for a Car Loan If You Have Bad Credit

If you have bad credit, the first place to start your loan search should be your credit union or bank. Since you already have a relationship with the institution, you might have a better chance of getting your loan approved.

Be sure to shop around for the best rate and bring that rate to the dealership — it might help you negotiate. Getting a car loan with bad credit is not impossible, but it might take some leg work.

hand signing form credit card cash car keysKnow That Monthly Payments Aren’t as Important as Terms and Rates

Most of the time, auto loan terms come in 12-month increments: 24 months, 36 months, 48 months, 60 months, 72 months and 84 months. Most new car loans are in the 65-month range, which means it will take about five and a half years to pay off the loan.

Longer loans are tempting because the monthly payments are lower. However, they aren’t your best option over the long haul. The longer you draw out the loan, the more you’ll pay in interest. And that can be particularly costly if you have a high interest rate.

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Of course, nobody wants a big monthly car payment. But if it means saving thousands at the end of your term, a bigger monthly payment can be worth it. One way to keep your term short and minimize the monthly payment is to choose a car that is less expensive.

Related: 20 Cheapskate Secrets to Buying a New Car

couple signing new car leaseDo Your Homework Before You Agree to Add-Ons

Once you have your car picked out and are ready to sign the paperwork, the salesperson will most likely try to sell you on extras, like extended warranties and security etchings.

For the most part, experts say the extended warranty isn’t worth the money. The only time it’s worth considering is if you’re buying a car with established dependability issues. So, before you step into the negotiating room, understand the history of the car you’re trying to buy so that you can make an informed decision about the extended warranty.

With a security etching, the dealership etches your vehicle identification number, or VIN, on your car window. This is said to make your car a less likely target of theft. Generally speaking, experts contend that security etching is not worth the hundreds of dollars it costs, so you should probably pass on that add-on.

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Related: Why Are Used Car Loan Interest Rates Higher Than New Car Loan Interest Rates?

man frustrated on phone callBeware of Yo-Yo Scams

Yo-yo financing is the term for a scam in which a car dealer tells the buyer everything is good with the financing. A few days after the new owner has driven the car off the lot, the dealer calls the buyer back to say the financing deal fell through.

At that point, the buyer is told he either needs to pay more money or to sign a different contract — often with less desirable terms than the original deal. If the buyer doesn’t agree, the dealership might try to take the car back, or report it as stolen.

Trying to change the terms of the deal in this way is illegal. Buyers should keep their contract with them and not in the glove compartment. If you are a victim of a yo-yo scam, contact a lawyer.

total earnings deductions formProve Your Creditworthiness Beyond Your Credit Score

Although your credit score can paint a negative picture, your day-to-day life might be altogether different. Perhaps you’ve worked at the same job for many years, lived in the same apartment or house for a while, or kept up your payments on some regular service for a long time. Bringing in proof of such stable behavior can help prove you are worthy of a loan.

Items to bring with you when applying for a loan include:

  • Pay stubs
  • Reference letters from your landlord or mortgage lender
  • Other receipts that show you’re reliable and responsible

In the end, getting car financing for bad credit borrowers is not an impossible task. You might find that with enough research and planning, you end up getting a deal that works out for you, your budget and your credit score.

Also Check Out: Carrington Mortgage Review — Loans for All Credit Scores

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About the Author

Natalie Campisi

Natalie Campisi is a Los Angeles-based writer and producer with more than 17 years of experience. She started her career as a journalist, reporting for dailies, the Associated Press and on Capitol Hill. She’s produced podcasts, commercials and online video content for everyone from tech startups to chocolatiers.

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