A Car Loan is a way to pay for a new or used vehicle over time through an installment plan that accrues interest. As with all forms of borrowing, the terms and conditions vary depending on the borrower’s credit history, income standards and other factors. Knowing what questions to ask and steps to take can help you find the right financing for your budget and reduce stress and financial risk.
The Car Loan process begins with an evaluation of your credit history to determine the maximum loan amount and repayment terms that are available to you. The lender will also consider your current monthly budget to determine how much you can afford to pay per month. To ensure that you can comfortably afford a new or used vehicle purchase, you should try to keep the total cost of your loan — including the principal, interest and other fees – to about 20 percent of your take-home pay.
Once you’ve determined how much you can afford to spend, it’s a good idea to shop around for the best auto loans. Many lenders offer competitive rates, especially for borrowers with excellent credit histories. In addition to looking at the overall market, you should compare offers from national banks, local community banks, online lenders specializing in auto loans, and even dealerships or automakers’ captive lenders (if purchasing a vehicle at a dealer).
It’s important to check the lender’s eligibility criteria for the loan type you’re considering. For example, you’ll want to make sure that you meet minimum income requirements and have a steady employment history. You should also review the maximum loan amount that the lender will allow you to take out, as well as the interest rate offered. Finally, you’ll need to look at any additional costs associated with the loan, such as insurance or vehicle add-ons.
A common question is how long you can borrow to purchase a car. Lenders typically offer loan terms of 36 or 72 months, with some offering longer terms. The longer the term, the more you’ll pay in total interest, so it’s a good idea to consider your options carefully before making a decision.
Once you’ve found a lender that provides the financing terms you want, it’s a good idea to get preapproval. This will give you a sense of how competitive the lender’s offer is and can help you avoid surprises at the dealership. Obtaining preapproval can also give you a bargaining edge when you walk into the dealership, since dealers often try to beat the lender’s offer to win your business. Just be aware that preapproval involves a hard credit check, so it will show up on your credit report. However, you can apply for multiple loans of the same type within a short period of time, which will only count as one hard credit check.