Auto Loans

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Whether you are in the market for your first car, you want to upgrade from your old vehicle, or you’ve decided to purchase a second car, chances are you don’t have enough cash laying around to purchase a new vehicle without some assistance.

Auto loans are debts which allow individuals to borrow money for the specific purpose of purchasing a vehicle. With these, you will be paying for the full amount of the car that you choose plus interest.

While this seems straightforward, there is a lot that you should know before taking one out. Different types of products, new vs. used cars, buying vs. leasing, and how to find the best for your situation are elements with which you should be familiar.

Types

- Secured

Secured are debts which require you to hand over an asset as security against your balance. In most cases, your lender will place a lien on the car that you are purchasing. However, in other cases, your lender may choose to put a lien on your home or another car that you own.

Placing a lien on one of your valuable assets allows the lender to protect itself in case you default. If you are unable to pay back your balance, your lender will sell your property to pay off the rest of what you owe.

It is much easier to get approved for a secured option. They also are generally ideal for individuals with low credit scores. Typically, secured products also have lower interest rates and come in larger amounts.

- Unsecured

As the name would indicate, unsecured products do not require you to put up any property as collateral. If you end up not being able to pay back your unsecured option, your lender will likely attempt to get their money back through other means. This could include taking you to court or sending your debt to a collection agency.

Unsecured products tend to come with higher interest rates as they are much riskier for the lender. However, if you have a good credit score and want more freedom in choosing your vehicle then an unsecured option may be a good, comparable option for you.

Precomputed Interest & Simple Interest Auto Loans

<>You should also understand how your lender will calculate the interest on your choice before taking one out.

 

Precomputed interest create a strict payment schedule in which every payment has a predetermined amount of interest. This means that early payments will not affect the total amount that you are required to pay. As a result, precomputed interest options might not make much sense financially if you plan on paying off your balance early.

On the other hand, simple interest calculations determine interest on a periodic basis. This means that the interest on your balance is regularly recalculated based on the amount of principal that is still owed. This makes simple interest options more sensible if you are able to make early payments. Early payments reduce the amount of principal that is owed, which reduces the amount that you will have to pay in interest over the life of it.

New vs. Used Auto Loan

- Why Buy New?

  • Infrequent Maintenance: While buying a used car may save you money upfront, you might end up spending more on maintenance in the long run. New vehicles will likely not require any maintenance for the first few thousand miles. After which, they will likely only need the occasional oil change.
  • Mileage: Unless you plan on going electric, gas will be your one of your largest long-term expenses. Every year, car manufacturers continue to improve the fuel efficiency of their vehicles. For this reason, purchasing a new car rather than a used one is ideal if you plan on sticking with your car for a long time.
  • Warranty: One of the riskiest aspects of buying a used car is that it is much more likely to break down due to unanticipated flaws. In some cases, these issues may cause your vehicle to be broken beyond repair. Alternatively, a new car will come with a manufacturer warranty. This will protect your investment from errors made by the manufacturer or previous owner(s).

- Why Buy Used?

  • Cheaper Upfront Costs: Sometimes, you simply cannot afford to purchase a brand new car. Despite the long-term cost benefits of newer vehicles, used cars are often the only affordable option. The cost depreciation of used vehicles drastically lowers their price.
  • Reliable Used Car Dealerships: While you might be hesitant to purchase a used car due to the potential for severe unknown issues, used car dealerships, like CarMax, have taken steps to protect buyers from losing their investment. Purchasing a used car from one of these dealerships can help ensure that you are able to purchase a reliable vehicle at an affordable price.
  • Certified Pre-Owned Programs: Many vehicle manufacturers, including luxury brands like Mercedes, have factory-certified pre-owned programs. These programs guarantee that your used car is in excellent condition. They often also offer extended warranties to protect your vehicle from unforeseen issues.

Buying vs. Leasing

- What is Leasing?

When you lease a car, you are paying for the depreciation of the car’s value plus interest for the duration of your lease. You will sign an agreement which dictates the length of your lease and your monthly payments. Once your lease is up, you take the car back to the dealership and pay any extra fees.

- Pros and Cons of Buying

Pros:

  • Buying your car will save you money in the long run.
  • Your vehicle can be used as a trade-in whenever you decide to upgrade.
  • You can sell the car whenever you’re ready.
  • You can make any changes or modifications to your vehicle as you please.

Cons:

  • Buying a car will come with higher monthly payments.
  • You will likely have to pay a larger down payment.
  • Once your warranty expires, you are responsible for any and all maintenance expenses.

- Pros and Cons of Leasing

Pros:

  • You will have a very small, or sometimes zero, down payment.
  • Your monthly payments will likely be much lower.
  • You will be able to choose from higher-end vehicles.
  • You will be responsible for less in sales tax.

Cons:

Your mileage will be limited.

  • Once your lease is up, you no longer own the vehicle.
  • If you need to terminate your lease, you will be responsible for costly cancellation fees.
  • Leasing over the long-term is more expensive than purchasing a vehicle.

How Much Can You Afford?

- Your Monthly Income

First thing’s first, you need to know how much you can pay every month based on your monthly income. Your lender will also need you to provide proof of income and employment. Keep in mind that a car is a depreciating asset, so you should not invest a significant portion of your income into one. Typically, 20% of your income is considered an acceptable amount to put towards car payments.

- Credit

Your credit score will be one of the main factors when calculating the interest on your balance. While the average  interest rate is somewhere around 7%, a credit score below 680 could cause this rate to drastically increase (and of course the inverse is also true). You should take into account what your interest rate might be based on your credit score before taking one out.

- Downpayment

How much money will you be able to pay upfront for your vehicle? If the car that you choose costs $25,000 and you are only able to afford a $1,500 down payment, you will require a fairly large balance compared to someone purchasing the same vehicle with a $5,000 down payment. Determining the largest amount that you can afford as a down payment will help you calculate how much you need.

- Trading in Your Old Car

Trading in your current car can significantly reduce the amount that you owe on your new car. The trade in value of your old car plus any additional down payment can reduce the amount of your monthly payments and/or the length.

- Length

Lastly, you should determine how quickly you expect to be able to pay off your balance. If you are taking out a precomputed interest option, it is important that you make the length of your term as short as possible. This will help you save the most money long-term. However, for simple interest types, it is less important as you can always pay it off early. Early payments on simple interesttpes will reduce the total cost.

How to Get an Auto Loan

- Find Multiple Suitable Lenders

You should find multiple lenders that meet all of your needs. Some lenders will have stricter requirements for approval, but provide much better offers. Meanwhile, other lenders may have products with less ideal terms but that are much easier to qualify for. You have a few options for lenders:

  • Traditional Bank. Large banks generally offer secure financing. They have multiple branches and competitive rates. Their service won’t be as good as a credit union.

  • Credit Union. Local credit unions offer competitive rates to large banks with better service. You’re more likely to talk to a person then a phone advisor.

  • Dealer or car-manufacturer. Car dealers will have relationships with the car manufacturer’s finance arm or other lenders. You can get one at the same time you buy your car.

  • Non-traditional online lenders. Online lenders offer a new way to shop for choices. You may find better rates or more flexibility. Just don’t expect to meet them in person.

You should be sure to take recommendations from friends and family when looking for a lender. You should also read reviews to confirm the legitimacy of the providers. Many lenders provide offers with no credit checks or guarantee low interest rates. However, these lenders might take advantage of you by hiding extra fees behind these promotions.

- Submitting Your Auto Loan Application

Once you’ve narrowed your options down to a select few lenders, it’s time to submit your applications.

  • Your application will need a lot of personal and financial information, including:
  • Your bank account information
  • Your social security number
  • Proof of income
  • Proof of employment
  • Identifying documents (passport, driver’s license, birth certificate, etc.)

Additionally, lenders will perform a credit check. You should make sure to fill out your applications over a short period, typically 14 days. This will make it so that credit reporting agencies treat these credit checks as a single inquiry.

- Signing the Agreement

After your application has been approved by your lender(s), you will receive formal offers. These will contain the interest rate, duration, additional fees, and disbursement information.

At this point, it’s up to you to review any and all offers and choose the one that best fits your needs.

Refinancing

- What is Refinancing?

You’ve likely heard of people refinancing their mortgage, but you might not know that refinancing is also an option.

Refinancing simply means using a new debt to pay off an existing notes. When you refinance, you will also be required to put up your vehicle as collateral. Refinancing allows you to negotiate new terms for your debt. This includes your interest rate, monthly payments, and the duration payments.

- Why Refinance?

Refinancing can be an appealing option for a variety of reasons.

One of the most common reasons for refinancing is extremely high interest rates. Whether you were unable to get a better offer at the time, or you just didn’t know any better, you might find that your interest rate is needlessly high. Refinancing can be a great option to lower your interest rate.

Additionally, you might find that you need more time to pay off your balance or that you are able to pay it off earlier than expected. In either case, refinancing can help you negotiate a term that better suits your needs.

- When is Refinancing a Bad Idea?

Refinancing might seem very appealing due to the reasons listed above. But, there is one reason which makes refinancing a poor decision in many cases.

Cars are considered depreciating assets. They lose their value over time. In many cases, refinancing might lead to lower monthly payments, but it will also lead to a longer term. The longer it takes you to pay off your balance, the more likely you are to go upside down on the debt. Your car will be worth much less once it is finally paid off. As a result, you may have trouble selling or trading it for a fair amount when it's time to upgrade.

Tips for Finding the Best Offer

It can be difficult to be sure that you are receiving the best offers available. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to feel more confident that you are looking in the right places.

Get Quotes

First and foremost, you should request quotes from multiple lenders. You don’t have to go with any of these lenders, but this should give you a good idea of what kind of offers you can expect.

Be aware that some lenders will provide extremely friendly offers in order to entice you. But, if an offer seems too good to be true when compared to other quotes, it likely is.

Get Pre-Approved

Getting pre-approved will help you get more specific and accurate offers than just requesting quotes. Pre-approval requires you to submit fairly standard information, including identifying information and basic financial information. They will use this information to determine the best offer they can make you. Many lenders will also perform a credit check at this stage. You should make sure that it is a soft credit inquiry so that it doesn't affect your credit score.

Frequently Asked Questions

- Can I get one if I have bad credit?

Having a poor credit score will definitely make it more difficult to find favorable terms; however, rest assured, it can be done. Pre-qualifying can be used to negotiate better terms with other lenders. Additionally, having a cosigner can help reduce interest rates. Check out this article for more information.

- What is APR?

APR, or annual percentage rate, is simply the number that represents your interest rate. You should be aware of how APR is calculated before applying.

- What does it mean to be upside down?

Being upside down on note means that you owe more money on your vehicle than it is worth. For example, your vehicle may have cost $20,000, but mileage and wear and tear have caused the value to drop to $10,000. Meanwhile, you might still have $12,000 left on your balance. This means that if you were to trade in your vehicle, you wouldn’t get enough money back to pay off your balance.

- When Will I Receive My Money?

The time it takes for your money to be disbursed to you is entirely dependent on your lender. You should discuss these details with your provider before signing your agreement. However, you can typically expect to receive your funds within a few days of signing your agreement.

Typical cost is

$559/Month

Based on a secured $30,000 auto loan with 4.5% interest and 60 month life