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Having a car is almost a necessity these days. You can take public transportation, but it isn’t always running which makes walking or riding a bike everywhere impractical. Especially if you work or go to school on the other side of the city or in a different town altogether. If you don’t have a car and you’re looking to buy one, it’s time to start shopping around for an auto loan.


Car loans are loans that are funded to specifically be used for buying a new or used car. There isn’t anything out of the ordinary to it. Car loans are unsecured installment loans, just like any other installment loan, but you can only use it of buying a new or used vehicle at an approved dealership or from a private party.


Auto loans are very simple and straightforward loans when they’re funded by a reputable lender. They’re are essentially installment loans for a higher amount and a longer term, but the car itself acts as collateral for the loan which makes them a secured loan. This is why cars are repossessed if the owner misses too many payments and defaults on the loan. Like any installment loan, the total amount of the loan (plus interest) is divided into equal payments which are made on a monthly basis. This makes it so that you pay the same amount every month and there’s never any question about how much you have to pay when it’s due.


There are more types of car loans than you’d think. Doing your research and shopping around for the right one can save you thousands of dollars.

In-House Financing

Like the name implies, in-house financing is when you apply for financing through the dealership where you’re purchasing your vehicle. Most of the time, you’ll be making payments directly to the dealership. This option is normally a better avenue for buyers who have poor credit and can’t secure a car loan through a traditional means like a bank or credit union. This may cause you to have a higher interest rate than going through a different lender.

Direct Financing

Direct financing your car loan is when you directly interface with a bank, credit union, or finance company for the loan application process. There are zero third parties, just you and the lender. If you have a good enough credit score to go this route, we recommend it since you’ll be able to get pre-approved for a car loan and have additional bargaining power when it comes to getting a good price on your new car.

Indirect Financing

This type of car loan is when the car dealership acts as a middleman and shops around for you. They’ll reach out to finance companies as well as the manufacturer’s finance division to source the loan. While this is better than in-house financing, it’s not as good as direct financing since the dealership may tack on a 1/2% – 1% bump on the interest rate so they can make some money on the loan.

Lease Buyout

As the name implies, lease buyouts are when a lessee reaches the end of their lease agreement and they have the option to buy the vehicle for the specific amount. However, bear in mind that not all lease agreements have this option. If you think that you might want to buy the car you’re about to lease, talk it over with the dealership to have a lease buyout option in your agreement.

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  • Government issued ID
  • Proof of income
  • Proof of insurance
  • Proof of residence
  • Trade-in documents (if applicable)


What affects your ability to qualify for a car loan?
The primary criteria that will determine whether or not you’ll be approved for an auto loan are your ability repay the loan and your credit history. However, if you don’t meet their requirements, you may need to get a co-signer.

Are there any penalties for paying off your auto loan early?
We can’t speak for every lender, but the vast majority of them do not charge fees for early payment.

How do I apply for an auto loan?
You can apply for financing online, in person, or over the phone depending on your lender.

How is my interest rate calculated?
The primary factors that will raise or lower your car loan’s interest rate are you 1) credit score / history, 2) financed amount, 3) loan to value on the vehicle, and 4) the size of your down payment. Your down payment may not affect the interest rate at some car dealerships, but most will be willing to work with you rather than see that money walk out the door.

What is the minimum amount that I can finance?
The industry standard is $5,000. A personal loan or signature loan would be better for anything lower.

Can I refinance my car loan?
Yes and no. For the most part, yes, but most lenders will not refinance salvage vehicles, commercial vehicles, or vehicles previously owned by a business.

Do I need to have insurance before I apply for a car loan?
No, but you will not to have insurance before driving your new car off the lot. Some policies offer temporary coverage in this situation, but it’s in your best interest to have your car covered by your insurance policy as soon as possible.

Where can I use my car auto loan?
Though it varies from lender to lender, as long as you’re dealing with a reputable lender and a reputable car dealership, you shouldn’t run into any problems. Most lenders will have a list of approved dealerships in the area, but, again, if they’re a reputable dealership, you’re most likely good to go. You can also use your loan to buy a car from a private party.

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