Have you been thinking about purchasing a new car but didn’t think you could afford it or weren't even sure where to begin? You're not alone—buying a car is a complex process and is typically the second largest purchase you'll make in your lifetime behind buying a house. You need to be prepared and that begins with a healthy credit score.
While it can be daunting at first to think about all the financial elements that go into purchasing a car, you can rest assured that Chase Credit Journey® will help guide you. This free online tool not only provides you with a free credit score, but also provides insights into how taking out loans will affect it. You’ll also get access to helpful tips when it comes to understanding your score and the factors that affect it, so you can approach your car purchase feeling confident and empowered.
In short, there is no set-in-stone credit score to get a car loan. A poor credit score is not an automatic disqualifier, but it will impact your ability to get a loan and a good interest rate.
In this article, you will learn:
- How your credit score affects your eligibility for a car loan
- Car loan rates by credit score
- Types of scores reviewed by dealerships
- Ways to help get you approved for a car loan
- How to build your credit before car shopping
- Prequalifying before you buy
- Ways to finance your car to improve your credit
How my credit score affects eligibility for a car loan
In general, the better your credit score, the better your chances are for receiving approvals for loans, including an auto loan. A good credit score indicates to a lender that you are low risk, meaning you will likely make your payments on time until full repayment of the loan has been achieved.
If you have a high credit score (for example, a VantageScore® of 780+ or a FICO® score of 799+), you’ll have a good chance of getting a car loan, and one that could come with lower annual percentage rates (APRs). Having lower APRs can help save you money in the long run and could potentially make it easier to make your monthly payments. Let’s go into more detail on how your credit score can impact your car loan.
Car loan rates by credit score
When you apply for a car loan, auto dealers may pull from either your VantageScore or FICO score, both of which have slightly different ranges for what is considered a "good" credit score. VantageScore 3.0 considers a good credit range of around 750-850, while a good FICO score range is 670-739. Dealers may pull from either score, but the FICO score is used more often.
These scores can be further broken down into categories that are associated with the potential APR you may receive based on the score. Looking specifically at FICO scores, let’s look at each of these categories below and the APRs associated with them:
- Deep subprime (579 or lower) - 12.84% for used car, 20.43% for new
- Subprime (580-619) - 9.75% for used cars, 16.85% for new
- Nonprime (620-659) - 6.57% for used cars, 10.33% for new
- Prime (660-719) - 4.03% for used cars, 5.53% for new
- Super prime (720+) - 2.96% for used cars, 3.68% for new
As you can see, the higher the credit score, the lower the APRs for both used and new cars. Keep in mind that these APRs can change depending on many factors including the interest rate decisions of the Federal Reserve and evolving issues around the supply chain. For example, according to Experian’s data, the average interest rate for a new car loan was 5.2% in the second quarter of 2020, compared with an average of 9.7% for a used car loan. The APRs (as well as the sticker prices) for used cars skyrocketed due to the fact that supply chain couldn’t meet the demands of new cars, so the demand for used cars increased.
Types of scores reviewed by dealers
Both VantageScore and FICO scores are used widely by lenders. VantageScore3.0 and 4.0 have been used for most new auto loans and leases in previous years, but according to Experian, FICO Score 8 and 9 are used most often by dealerships. Additionally, you may be able to receive an auto score, which is specific to auto lenders. This score is based on the original FICO score model used to generate your credit score.
Credit scores are the result of multiple factors, and depending which scoring model used, those factors are weighed differently. Let’s compare each model below:
VantageScore factors that determine your credit score include:
- Total credit usage, balance and available credit (extremely influential)
- Credit mix and experience (highly influential)
- Payment history (moderately influential)
- Age of credit history (less influential)
- New credit (less influential)
FICO scores factors that determine your credit score include:
- Payment history (highly influential)
- Amounts owed: (highly influential)
- Length of credit history (moderately influential)
- Credit mix (less influential)
- New credit (less influential)
To have a healthy score, it’s important to have a good credit and payment history. When you use Chase Credit Journey, you can get insights on how your credit score could improve, whether or not you are a Chase cardmember. This free online tool makes it easier to conceptualize how your score could be impacted by your payment history, taking out loans, missing payments and much more.
New vs. used cars
New car loans typically give you a longer payoff period than a used car loan. According to Experian's State of the Auto Finance Market Report, the average term for a new car loan in the second quarter of 2020 was 71.5 months vs. 65.3 months for a used car loan. This could potentially be due to the fact that new cars can be more expensive than used cars.
More ways to help get approved
Let’s say you just got your free credit score using Chase Credit Journey and realized that your credit score isn’t as high as you were hoping. Don’t worry—this shouldn’t deter you from going out and purchasing your car! There are a few options that could help you get approved for an auto loan, even if you have a lower credit score.
One way you can improve your chances of getting approved is to have a co-signer. A co-signer is someone who takes responsibility for paying the loan in the event that you cannot. This is a person you trust to assist with payments should you run into any financial trouble, such as a friend or family member. Their established creditworthiness can help you get approved for a loan.
In addition to having a co-signer, you could contribute more money towards your down payment. Doing so could help to lower your borrowing requirement. This can increase your chances of approval because it’s a lower risk for the lender. It will also reduce your overall interest payments, which means you can save money in the long run. Saving up for a down payment before shopping for cars could be a helpful approach to auto loans with bad credit.
How to build credit before car shopping
Having a good credit score prior to purchasing your car will dramatically improve your chances of getting approvals and may even save you money. If your credit score is below 600, you may face a higher interest than if your score was 750 or higher. This could be a difference of thousands of dollars when paying back your loan!
But what if you have a low score and you need to quickly boost it?
One way to start improving your score is by making timely payments, given that payment history is such an important factor in calculating your credit score. When you enroll in Chase Credit Journey, you can use a variety of tools to help you plan out your future and see how taking certain actions—like paying off credit card balances—will affect your score.
Prequalify before you make your purchase
To better improve your chances of getting approved for the loan you want, you can take the following steps below:
- Check your credit score - Enroll in Chase Credit Journey to check your credit score for free. You are also entitled to a free annual credit report from annualcreditreport.com, the government-authorized website for free credit reports.
- Get prequalified - Take the guesswork out of qualifying for a loan and get a clear picture of how much you can borrow. Chase makes this easy with its prequalification tool. Input some basic information to get an idea of how large a car loan you may be approved for.
Keep in mind that this isn’t a loan application or a guarantee of financing.
- Find the car you want - Using these helpful tools and services, you can now focus on the fun part: finding your new car!
Once you’ve found the car of your choice, you can also apply for financing, such as with Chase’s car loan application. By applying with Chase, you have the opportunity to work with trusted dealerships and conveniently finance your car online. The higher your credit score is from the start, the better your chances are for getting your ideal terms. Using Chase’s prequalification tool will help you understand your buying power.
Buying a car can be overwhelming, but you can feel more confident walking into the dealership knowing you have a good credit score, one that can help you save money with lower interest rates. It will also help increase your chances of getting approved for loans.
If you want to learn more about what your credit score means and how you can lift it, Chase Credit Journey will give you the awareness and insights you need to help improve your credit score and overall financial wellness.