How Bad Credit Auto Loans Work: Complete Guide for Beginners

Filed in Loan by on November 16, 2020 0 Comments

This page provides detailed information on how bad credit auto loans work. Here you will learn what auto loans are, the different types of auto loans, where to get auto loans for bad credit, how to choose the best auto loans for bad credit, best auto loans for bad credit, bad credit auto loans application requirements, and all other important bad credit auto loans information you may need. Stay tuned.

What Is Bad Credit?

Bad credit refers to a person’s history of being unable to pay bills on time and the likelihood that they will not be able to make payments on time in the future. This is often reflected in a low credit score. Companies can also have a bad credit history depending on their payment history and current financial situation.

A person (or business) with bad credit will find it difficult to borrow money, especially at competitive interest rates, as they are considered to be riskier than other borrowers. This is true of all types of loans including secured and unsecured varieties although there are options available for the latter.

What Is a Bad Credit Loan?

A bad credit loan is a financial solution for consumers who need help paying their bills, but who have an unattractive credit score and poor credit history. It’s a choice that is left to you when a few missed payments or overspending on your credit cards have weakened your credit score and left you with multiple financial aid options.

Bad credit loans work in exactly the same way a personal loan does. Its money you borrow and pay back in fixed monthly installments, usually over the course of one year, but it could go three years. The loan can be used for just about anything, including consolidating credit card debt, paying off medical bills, buying a car or even making a major repair to your own car. 

Types of Bad Credit Loans?

There are two main options when it comes to getting a loan if you have bad credit: secured and unsecured personal loans

1. Secured Personal Loans

This type of personal loan requires some type of collateral. If you get a loan from your bank, you might secure a personal loan with your home, car, or some other assets. Generally, they offer more favorable rates and terms and higher loan limits, since you have greater incentive to pay back your loan in a timely manner. And if you have bad credit, it may be easier to get a secured loan than an unsecured one.

If you default on the loan, however, you risk losing your home, car or other collateral. The most common types of secured loans are mortgages, home equity loans and auto loans, although some lenders offer secured personal loans.

2. Unsecured Personal Loans

Unsecured loans don’t require any collateral, and the rate you receive is based on your creditworthiness — meaning they may be harder to qualify for if you have below-average credit. Since it’s not secured by an asset, this type of loan typically comes with a higher interest rate and lower loan limits, but you don’t risk losing your assets if you fall behind on payments.

However, there are many lenders willing to provide unsecured personal loans at reasonable rates. Carefully consider which type is likely to best fit your needs.

What Is Considered a Bad Credit Score?

Credit scores range from 300 to 850 and while there is no official start in the ‘bad credit’ category, it is safe to say that if you are under 650 you are considered as a high risk and pay the highest interest rates. People in this category are prime candidates for bad credit loans.

The definition of “good” and “bad” credit score varies from lender to lender. Some will not touch anyone with a credit score below 650, some actually market to consumers with a sub-650 score. So it’s hard to tell what makes you “good” or “bad” on the credit scoreboard, but the acceptable range is something like this:

  • 760-850 – Excellent
  • 700-759 – Very good
  • 660-699 – Fair
  • 620-659 – Poor
  • Scores under 620 – Extremely poor

How Bad Credit Scores Affect Borrowing

Consumers in the good to excellent credit score category (700 and above) enjoy the lowest interest rates and the best loan terms. Consumers in the poor and extremely poor categories (anything below 620) are burdened with high rates and may not be approved for a loan at all. People in the middle (621-699) must weigh the cost of bad credit against the gain they hope to make by using it to pay their bills.

In other words, the higher your credit score, the more likely you’ll get a good deal on a loan. Low credit scores are risky business and borrowers are punished for it with high interest rates.

What Are Auto Loans and How Bad Credit Auto Loans Work?

An auto loan is a loan obtained to buy a car. They are usually structured as installment loans and are secured by the value of the car, truck, or motorcycle purchased.

Auto loans are secured loans that use the car you are buying as collateral. You are usually required to pay a fixed interest rate and a monthly payment for a period of 24 to 84 months, at which time your car will be paid off. Many dealerships offer their own financing, but you can also find auto loans at national banks, local credit unions, and online lenders.

Because auto loans are secured, they tend to come with lower interest rates than unsecured loan options like personal loans. The average APR for a new car is anywhere from 3.24 percent to 13.97 percent, depending on your credit score, while the average APR for a used car is 4.08 percent to 20.67 percent.

Requirements for Auto Loans

If you need an auto loan, the conditions you have to meet depend on whether or not you need a bad credit auto loan. It is usually easier to get a loan if you have a good credit history. This does not mean that you cannot get an auto loan with a bad credit history. Lenders just need you to meet a few basic auto loan requirements first.

With good credit (credit scores above 660) you’re considered a low-risk borrower, and lenders aren’t as concerned with certain details. This is because borrowers with good credit have reported histories that already prove they’re responsible with credit.

Bad credit borrowers (credit scores below 600) however, have credit reports that show either a spotty history of late or missing payments, or not much credit history at all. Therefore, lenders require more information before approving them for a loan.

The items lenders require vary, but the basic car loan requirements tend to stay the same when you’re a bad credit borrower. Lenders that work with people in challenging credit situations are called subprime lenders. They know that it’s important to look at other factors in addition to credit scores to approve people with less than perfect credit.

The auto loan requirements that subprime lenders look for are:

Proof of income: Lenders need to see that you have steady, taxable income in the form of your most recent computer-generated check stub showing year-to-date income. For bad credit borrowers, lenders usually require a minimum income of $1,500 to $2,000 a month before taxes from a single job.

Proof of residence: A current utility bill in your name at the address listed on your application is typically sufficient for this.

Proof of identity: A valid driver’s license or state-issued photo ID is required. Even though not every lender requires a borrower to have a valid driver’s license for proof of identification, you do need one to register and drive off in a vehicle.

Proof of a working telephone: Some lenders have a saying: “no phone, no loan.” This may seem harsh, but lenders have to be able to contact you. A bill for a landline or contract cell phone in your name at the address listed on the application is required. Prepaid phones don’t count.

List of personal references: Lenders typically require a list of five to eight personal references, complete with names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses. Not all lenders contact your references, but require them to be on file, in case they need to verify information or can’t contact you.

Down payment: Bad credit lenders typically require a minimum down payment of at least $1,000 or 10% of the car’s selling price, whichever is less. Keep in mind this is just a minimum guideline, and your down payment requirement varies based on your credit, the vehicle you’re financing, the lender you’re working with, and more.

Whether you have good or bad credit, there are additional things that you should keep in mind when you’re financing a car. Items like tax, title, and license fees, dealer documentation fees, interest rates, and loan terms all impact the overall cost of financing.

Qualifying for an Auto Loan with Bad Credit

You don’t need good credit to get an auto loan. In fact, there are several auto lenders that specialize in working with borrowers with bad credit.

To get an auto loan with bad credit, take your time shopping around to find lenders that offer preapproval and can give you relatively decent terms. Also, try to have a good down payment or trade-in value to help reduce the amount you need to borrow.

Finally, consider getting a cosigner who has great credit and can help you qualify for a better auto loan. Just keep in mind that your cosigner is equally responsible for paying off the loan if you default, so it can ruin both your credit histories if you’re not careful.

Work On Your Credit before Applying

The better your credit situation, the higher your chances of getting approved for an auto loan with excellent terms. If you don’t need a new car quite yet, check your credit score to see where you stand, then focus on areas where you can improve.

For example, get caught up on any past-due payments and work on paying down credit card balances. Also, check your credit report for potential inaccuracies that you can dispute with the credit reporting agencies. Improving your credit can take time, but its well worth it if it can save you money.

How Do You Get an Auto Loan?

The process of getting an auto loan is similar to that of getting any other type of loan. Here are steps you need to take;

  1. Check your credit report and fix any errors. Your credit score determines what interest rate you’ll receive.
  2. Shop around at multiple lenders, including big banks, community banks, credit unions, and online lenders. Compare rates, terms, credit score requirements, and other factors.
  3. Apply and get preapproved for a loan from several lenders to see which offer is the best. Keep in mind that any credit inquires that take place within a 14- to 45-day period only count as a single inquiry on your credit, so it’s best to do all of your loan shopping within a short time span.
  4. Find your vehicle and compare the dealer’s financing offer to your preapproval offer.
  5. Finalize the offer with your lender, following instructions and filling out paperwork to complete the loan transaction. Ensure that the loan is what you’ve agreed upon. Check the APR, amount financed, and finance charge before you sign off on the loan.

What Is The Best Place to Get an Auto Loan?

What is the best place to get an auto loan? The answer varies based on each borrower’s needs, preferences and credit history. The good news is there are a variety of options out there to consider.

1. Dealer Financing

There are three common routes you can take when getting your car loan financed by a dealer.

(a) Dealer-arranged Financing

Dealers often have relationships with banks and other lending institutions. With dealer-arranged financing, the dealer connects you with one of its lending partners, acting as an intermediary in the financing process.

The big advantage of dealer-arranged financing is that it’s incredibly convenient. You don’t have to put any effort into finding a lender. From start to finish, the dealer supervises the process to help you find a loan.

Still, while dealer-arranged financing can simplify the process of finding a loan, you aren’t shopping around across a wide range of lenders to compare rates. This could result in your paying a higher interest rate than you would have if you’d done your own comparison shopping.

Another reason the interest rate may be higher is that lenders may include a fee to compensate the dealer for handling the financing process. As a result, you could wind up paying a higher interest rate than you would have if you’d chosen to deal with the lender directly.

One thing to note: After you buy a car, your loan might end up in the hands of the dealer, a lender or even a third party that purchases your loan. So your car payments could go to a different lender than you originally expected.

(b) Captive Finance Companies

Many of the larger carmakers have their own in-house financing divisions, called captive finance companies. Examples include Toyota Financial Services, GM Financial and Ford Credit. These companies may finance new vehicles or manufacturer-backed certified pre-owned cars.

When you’re buying a car at a dealership, the dealer may send your loan application to the captive finance company at the same time it reaches out to other lending partners. If you know the make and model of the car you plan to buy, you may also be able to apply online for a loan from a captive finance company before visiting the dealership.

Captive finance companies sometimes offer appealing promotional incentives, such as loans with 0% APR. But these deals may only available only to borrowers with strong credit.

(c) ‘Buy-here, Pay-here’ Financing

With “buy-here, pay-here” financing, the auto loan is financed in-house by the car dealership. The lender and the auto dealer are one and the same.

In this car-buying process, the dealership determines whether you’re eligible for a loan and, if so, how much. If you choose a car from the dealership and finalize the loan, payments are typically made directly to the dealership. The lender may place a device on your car that helps it locate or disable your car if you miss a monthly payment.

Buy-here, pay-here financing is often geared toward those with subprime credit. If your credit needs work and you’re struggling to get approved for a car loan, a buy-here, pay-here dealership could provide you an option.

But consider buy-here, pay-here dealerships a last resort. They typically charge the highest interest rates of all lenders out there, and some may also charge a bunch of fees. If you go this route, be sure to read the fine print so you really understand the total cost.

2. Banks

When dealing with banks, you have the opportunity to get preapproved for several car loans, compare rates and identify the best offer for you. Banks may advertise low or competitive interest rates but often only offer those to borrowers they define as having “excellent” credit.

Your bank financing options may also be limited by the type of car you want to buy. Some banks won’t finance cars over a certain age or mileage. If you plan to purchase an older used vehicle, you may have difficulty finding a bank that will give you a car loan.

3. Credit Unions

A credit union is a nonprofit organization that returns profits to its members through higher savings rates as well as lower fees and loan rates.

Membership comes with benefits. Credit unions generally offer lower interest rates than banks do. According to the National Credit Union Administration, the average credit union interest rate on a five-year new-car loan in the third quarter of 2018 was 3.37%, while the average rate for the same loan through a bank was 4.93%.

If you have poor credit, a credit union may be more flexible than a bank. Credit unions build relationships with their members that allow them to offer a more personalized experience.

4. Online Lenders

With online lenders, you can easily shop around and evaluate rates and loan terms from the comfort of your living room. In some cases, you can preview offers from various lenders on one site so you can easily compare loans side by side.

As with credit unions, some online lenders may be more willing to work with car shoppers with less-than-perfect credit. But these lenders may offer steep interest rates. Subprime borrowers can get charged interest rates on their car loans that reach as high as 25% or more. On the flip side, if you have good credit, an online lender might offer you a lower interest rate than you could get with a traditional bank.

With online lenders, customer service may vary drastically from company to company. Research the lender’s customer service history before signing on the dotted line. As with dealerships, banks and credit unions, you should check out reviews on sites such as Yelp, and be sure to check with the Better Business Bureau and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to see if any complaints have been lodged against the company.

How to Pick the Right Lender for your Auto Loans?

Getting the right lender for your auto loans is the most important decision. There’s a lot to take into account when choosing an auto loan. Generally, your credit score will make the biggest impact in the rates offered. The higher your credit score, the lower APR you’ll receive.

Having a higher credit score may also allow you to take out a larger loan or access a broader selection of repayment terms. Choosing a longer repayment term will lower your monthly payments, although you’ll also pay more in interest overall.

First, it’s a good idea to check your credit score to see where you stand, then look for lenders that have considerable credit requirements to increase your chances of getting approved.

Before you sign a contract and drive off the lot, take some time to understand the pros and cons of different auto loan options, including banks, credit unions, online lenders and dealerships. Doing your research on different lenders will help you find the best possible loan offer for you.

The lender you choose should help you feel comfortable and knowledgeable about the debt consolidation loan process. You should look for a lender who will tell you in advance about the entire process of obtaining a loan, especially the requirements for obtaining a loan.

Clarity and visibility are necessary requirements for any financial partner. You should receive documentation on the requirements, rates and costs associated with your loan.

Best Auto Loans for Bad Credit

Below, are seven lenders and companies offering some of the best car loan rates. In order to compile this list, we looked at auto loan products from lenders and compared key factors including APRs, minimum loan amounts, flexible repayment terms, credit score requirements, and other factors.

1. Prestige Financial: Best for people who have filed for bankruptcy:

Bankruptcies have a significant negative impact on your credit scores, which may affect your ability to qualify for an auto loan. But Prestige Financial considers applications from people who have filed for bankruptcy. Just keep in mind that if you filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, your bankruptcy documents must be available for review on the court website. And if you filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, your repayment plan must be approved for your application to be considered.

Other important information:

  • Interest rate reduction program: Prestige Financial offers an interest rate reduction program for qualified borrowers who make their payments on time. You may be able to reduce your rate by up to 0.5% every three months — up to 2% per year. But it’s worth noting that the lowest your annual percentage rate, or APR, will drop is 14% — which is still high.
  • Joint applications allowed: Prestige Financial accepts individual and joint applications. If you apply with a co-borrower who has good credit, it may improve your chances of qualifying or help you get a lower interest rate because the co-borrower shares responsibility for making the monthly payment. Note that Prestige Financial does not allow co-signers, which only have responsibility for the loan if you default.
  • Income requirements: You must earn at least $2,250 if you’re submitting an individual application and $2,750 if you’re applying with a co-applicant. Prestige Financial won’t consider self-employment income when determining your ability to repay your loan.

2. Autopay: Best for refinance

Autopay offers a wide range of auto loans, including loans for new and used cars purchased from a dealer, private party loans and multiple refinancing options, including traditional, cash back and lease buyout refinancing.

Other important information:

  • Multiple offers: Autopay isn’t a lender. It’s an online marketplace that connects you with auto lenders, giving you an opportunity to receive loan offers from more than one lender.
  • Ability to apply for prequalification: If you prequalify, you can check your estimated rates and loan terms without affecting your credit scores. But note that prequalification doesn’t guarantee approval or specific terms. That information will be determined after you submit a formal loan application, if you’re approved.
  • Wide range of loan amounts: Loans through Autopay are available in amounts ranging from $2,500 to $100,000, and loan terms range from 24 to 84 months. (Autopay may offer different terms on Credit Karma.) And remember that while a longer loan term can reduce your monthly payment, you’ll probably end up paying more in interest.
  • Additional products: Autopay sells vehicle service contracts and guaranteed asset protection insurance for an extra fee. If your car is stolen or totaled in an accident, GAP insurance can help cover the difference between the current value of your vehicle and what you owe on your auto loan.
  • Co-applicant: Autopay allows you to apply with a co-applicant.

3. New Roads: Best for interest rate discounts

It can be tough to qualify for low rates when you have poor credit. New Roads, the direct lending division of Consumer Portfolio Services Inc., offers interest rate discounts on certain certified pre-owned and new-car models that can reduce interest charges.

Other important information:

  • Loan types: New Roads offers new- and used-car loans, lease buyout loans and refinance loans.
  • Availability: New Roads auto loans are available in only 30 states.
  • No down payment required: New Roads doesn’t require a down payment. But without one you’ll need to finance a larger amount, and you’ll likely pay more interest over the life of the loan.
  • Bankruptcy and repossession: New Roads considers applications from people who have a repossession or bankruptcy (even if it’s still open) on their credit reports.
  • Co-buyers: New Roads allows you to apply with a co-buyer.

4Carvana: Best for one-stop shopping

Known for its network of vending machines where car buyers can pick up their vehicles, Carvana offers the opportunity to shop for financing and a car in one place.

Other important information:

  • Only one loan type: Carvana only offers loans to finance its in-stock inventory of used cars. If you want a different type of auto loan or don’t want to be restricted to Carvana’s inventory, you’ll need to work with a different lender.
  • Ability to apply for prequalification: Carvana offers a prequalification process that allows you to see estimated rates and terms you might qualify for without affecting your credit scores. Some auto lenders offer prequalification that’s good for only 30 days, but Carvana’s prequalification offers are good for 45 days.
  • Eligibility requirements: Carvana requires applicants to have a minimum income of $4,000 a year and no active bankruptcies.
  • Doesn’t accept co-signers: Carvana doesn’t allow co-signers. If you want to apply with one, you’ll need to work with a different lender.

5Capital One Auto Finance: Best for prequalification

Some lenders don’t offer the ability to prequalify for an auto loan without generating a hard credit inquiry, which can affect your credit scores. But when you apply for prequalification with Capital One Auto Finance, you can check your estimated loan rate and term (assuming you get a prequalification offer) without affecting your scores. You’ll have to submit a full application to see if you’re approved and get your final loan terms.

Other important information:

  • Loan types: Capital One Auto Finance offers loans for new or used cars from a dealer or for refinancing your existing auto loan from a different lender.
  • Loan amounts: The minimum loan amount Capital One Auto Finance offers is $4,000. Your maximum loan amount is determined by your credit history, income and other factors.
  • Dealership limitations: Capital One Auto Finance loans must be used at one of the company’s 12,000 participating car dealerships.
  • Eligibility requirements: You must be at least 18 years old, live in the contiguous United States and have a minimum monthly income of $1,500 or $1,800, depending on your credit, to apply for a loan with Capital One Auto Finance.
  • Online car shopping: You can search for cars that fit your needs while also shopping for financing with Capital One Auto Finance’s Auto Navigator tool.

6Credit Acceptance Corp: Best for people who are unemployed

Credit Acceptance Corp. specializes in providing auto loans to people who have experienced financial challenges, including those who are receiving unemployment income.

Other important information:

  • Loan types: Credit Acceptance Corp. offers financing for new and used vehicles purchased at a participating dealership.
  • Availability: Credit Acceptance Corp. is an indirect lender that offers financing through participating dealerships. While these dealerships are located in all 50 states, there’s no guarantee that they’ll be near your home. And be aware that some of these dealerships are buy-here, pay-here dealers.
  • Interest rates with these dealers can be high: the average was 20% in 2018, according to the National Independent Automobile Dealers Association’s 2019 Used Car Industry Report.
  • Bankruptcy: Credit Acceptance Corp. considers applications from people who have an open bankruptcy on their credit reports.

7MyAutoLoan: Best for shopping around

Comparing auto loan offers from multiple lenders helps ensure you get the lowest rate possible. MyAutoLoan is an online marketplace that matches people looking for auto financing with lenders in its network that meet their needs. You can receive up to four loan offers in just a few minutes.

Other important information:

  • Loan types: MyAutoLoan offers a wide range of auto loans, including new- and used-car loans as well as private party, lease buyout and refinance loans.
  • Bankruptcy: Lenders in the MyAutoLoan network may consider people who have filed for bankruptcy as long as the bankruptcy has been discharged or dismissed.
  • Eligibility requirements: Eligibility requirements vary by lender. But in general, you need to be at least 18 years old, have a FICO® score of at least 575 and a minimum income of $21,000 to qualify for a loan ($18,000 for refinance loans).
  • Interest rate calculator: MyAutoLoan’s interest rate calculator lets you see your estimated rate based on loan type, loan amount and your credit scores.

Frequently Asked Questions about Auto Loans

Who Has the Best Rates for Car Loans?

The company that is able to offer you the lowest rates for an auto loan can vary depending on where you live, your credit score, your employment history and other factors. Your best bet is shopping around among at least three auto lenders until you find the best deal.

Is a 72-month Car Loan a Bad Idea?

One problem with longer car loans is the fact that you often wind up “underwater” on your loan for the first few years. This is due to the fact that cars tend to depreciate faster than you can pay your loan off.

A 72-month car loan means you’re paying your loan off more slowly and have the potential to owe more than your car is worth for the first few years. However, longer car loans let you secure a more affordable monthly payment, which is likely an important consideration for your budget.

What are Used Car Loan Interest Rates?

Used car interest rates range from 4.08 percent to 20.67 percent for most borrowers, according to the most recent statistics from Experian. Rates for used cars tend to be higher than those offered for new car purchases.

What Credit Score Do you Need to Get 0% financing on a Car?

Superprime borrowers with credit scores above 781 are most likely to qualify for 0 percent APR offers that sometimes come with a new car. However, you may be able to qualify if you’re a prime borrower with a score between 661 and 780.

How do you Get Pre-qualified for an Auto Loan?

You can get prequalified for an auto loan online and without ever leaving your home. All you have to do is select one of the lenders on this list and choose its online option to “get prequalified” or “apply for a loan.” Many lenders let you get prequalified for an auto loan without a hard inquiry on your credit report.

How do I Refinance my Car Loan?

Refinancing a car loan is essentially just taking out a new car loan — so the steps for applying are mostly the same. You’ll need your driver’s license, Social Security number and proof of income, as well as details about your car. If approved, you’ll use the funds from your new loan to pay off your old car loan, then begin making monthly payments with your new interest rate and terms.

Can I Sell my Car with a Loan?

It is possible to sell your car with an outstanding loan, but you may have to go through a few extra steps. If your car is worth less than what you currently owe on the loan, you have what’s known as negative equity — meaning you may need to pay the difference out of pocket or refinance the remaining amount with a different type of loan.

If your car is worth more than what you currently owe, on the other hand, you may be able to pocket the difference in cash when you sell the car. Whatever your situation, reach out to your lender about your options, as each lender sets different rules for selling a car with a loan.

Should I Get an Auto Loan from the Dealership or the Bank?

Choosing between a dealership and a bank for an auto loan is complicated. In general, dealerships may offer higher rates than banks — but this may not be the case for used cars. Regardless, it’s important to get quotes from a few banks or online lenders first; that way you can come to the dealership prepared. Ask for a quote from the dealership as well, comparing rates, terms and any additional fees.

Do I Need to Make a Down Payment or Provide a Trade-in when Buying a Car?

Many lenders require some form of down payment on a car. However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing; making a down payment will lower your monthly payments — and the larger your down payment, the more you save. Making a larger down payment could also lower the interest rate the lender offers you

Since people with lower credit scores tend to pay higher interest rates, it’s especially important to shop around for the best deal before getting a new loan. While it’s possible to postpone your purchase while you build your credit, you may be able to qualify for a lower rate in the future.

If you get approved for a loan, making payments on time and reducing debt can help you build a positive payment history and improve your credit over time. As the credit builds up, you will eventually be able to refinance the loan at a lower interest rate.

We hope you will find this information useful. Do you have any queries on how bad credit auto loans work? Please feel free to let us know so we can assist you with any information you will need.

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