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How to refinance a car

Do you want to save money on your car loan? Refinancing your car could potentially save you money by lowering your monthly car payment or decreasing the amount of interest you pay. You can then put that money toward savings, home improvements, or paying off credit card debt. Find out how to refinance a car and when it’s the right time to do so. 

How does refinancing a car work?

Refinancing your car means replacing your current auto loan with a new one. The new loan pays off your original loan, and you begin making monthly payments on the new loan. The application process for refinancing doesn't take much time, and many lenders can/may make determinations quickly. Still, there are things to consider before taking the plunge.

Although Chase doesn't offer refinancing, we'll cover the steps below so you can see if it's the right choice for you.

How to refinance a car loan in 5 steps

Can you refinance a car loan? Do some preparation beforehand to get the answer to this question. The process may vary slightly according to the lender but knowing the basic steps can help prepare you for what comes next.

1. Decide if refinancing makes sense for you

Refinancing your auto loan should reduce your monthly payment or lower the overall amount you pay in interest. However, this might not be possible if any of the following factors apply to you:

  • You're behind on your payments: Any late payments on your existing loan or other credit problems could eliminate the possibility of qualifying for a loan with better terms.
  • Your current loan has a prepayment penalty: A prepayment penalty is a fee for paying your loan off early and could cancel any refinancing savings.
  • You owe more than your car is worthSecuring favorable loan terms could prove problematic if the balance on your loan is greater than the value of your vehicle.  
  • You have an old vehicle: Some lenders won't refinance older or high mile vehicles, so it could prove more beneficial long term to upgrade your car.

2. Check your credit

Lenders rely heavily on your credit report and credit score when approving a loan and determining an interest rate. A higher credit score typically translates into lower interest rates. Keep an eye on your credit, as it may have improved over time.

3. Gather relevant documents

Organizing your documents ahead of time can help simplify the application process. Most of the time, you'll need the same items used for securing a loan, including:

  • Your driver's license
  • Proof of insurance
  • Pay stubs or other proof of income
  • Your Social Security number

You also need to obtain a copy of your original loan contract. If you can't locate your copy, contact the lender and ask them to email you a copy. A new lender might request details about your existing loan, such as: 

  • Your remaining balance
  • Your current monthly payment
  • The amount of time left on your loan
  • The interest rate you're paying
  • Vehicle information, like the vehicle identification number (VIN)

4. Ask the right questions

Before signing on the dotted line, cover all your bases by asking the right questions and reading the fine print. Talk to lenders and ask, “how does refinancing a car work?” Also, get answers regarding the annual percentage rate (APR), loan duration, and if there are any origination fees or early payoff penalties.

5. Apply or prequalify for financing

If you've found the right deal and are confident about qualifying, you might be ready to jump right in and start the application process. But it can put a hard inquiry on your credit report. If you're unsure where you stand, getting prequalified can give you a better idea without adding an inquiry to your credit report.

When should you consider refinancing your car?

Refinancing a car isn't for everyone and deciding when to refinance can be challenging. The benefits of refinancing might be limited or non-existent in certain instances. For example, if you have a poor payment history on your current loan or are close to paying it off, it may not be to your advantage to refinance.

However, there are times when refinancing your car can benefit you. Consider refinancing your car if any of the following situations apply to you.

Your credit score increased

Your credit score is one of the main factors a lender considers when determining loan approval and credit terms. If you financed your car with a low credit score, refinancing your car could get you a better interest rate or even reduce your monthly payment

Interest rates have dropped

If you bought your car when interest rates were high, refinancing your vehicle can save you money, possibly more than you realize. An interest rate decrease of only 2% to 3% could save you hundreds if you do not extend the term of your loan.  An auto loan calculator can show you how interest rates affect your monthly payment and the total amount you could pay in interest.

You didn’t shop around for rates initially

If you got your original loan from the car dealer, you might have spent too much. Buyers don't always check their credit score or research interest rates before heading to the dealership, and their loan terms may have suffered because of it. If you took the loan offer from the dealership without knowing what options were available, you might not have received the best deal.

Your monthly payment is too high

If your monthly payment is too high, refinancing your auto can help. A lower interest rate can decrease your monthly payment, but it may not be enough to make the difference you need. Extending the length of your loan can have a greater impact on reducing your monthly installment. However, a longer term increases the amount of interest you'll pay over the life of the loan.

Take the next step to refinance your car loan

Refinancing can be a great way to put a little money back in your pocket if you find the right lender. If you want to learn how to refinance your car or if a new loan is right for you, Chase Auto offers the tips and advice you need to get started.

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