Credit score to buy a car

What Credit Score Do You Need to Buy a Car?

If you worry that your credit score could keep you from buying a car, you underestimate how much car dealers want to sell you one.

There is no minimum credit score needed to buy a car. More than 20% of car loans go to borrowers with credit scores below 600, according to data analyst Experian Information Solutions. Nearly 4% go to those with scores below 500.

Of course, a higher score will almost certainly get you a lower interest rate and require less paperwork than a lower one. When do you need to worry?

Under 500 means you won’t get good rates. It doesn’t mean you can’t get a car.

If your score is below about 700, prepare for questions about negative items on your credit record and be able to document your answers, says Mike Bradley, internet sales manager at Selman Chevrolet in Orange, California. Matt Jones of the automotive shopping site says the number may be closer to 680.

Both men say they’ve seen people get financing — sometimes even “top tier” financing — with scores that are much lower.

Still looking for an absolute number under which no one gets financing? There’s no such number, but Dave Cavano, who manages the car-buying service for Auto Club of Southern California, says, “Anything under 500 is a flashing red light.”

That means you won’t get good rates. It doesn’t mean you can’t get a car.

What to expect in the finance office

A 2016 Experian report found that average scores for borrowers are 711 for a new-car loan and 654 for a used-car loan. But people with major blemishes on their credit are routinely approved for car loans.

If you have a low score, be ready to document that you have been paying bills on time for the past six to eight months.

For example, someone who has a low score from a business debt, but has not missed a car payment in 20 years, may be approved. You also are more likely to get financing if you have a stable job, own a home and put down a substantial down payment (Bradley recommends 25%).

Buyers may need to show pay stubs, proof of residence, cell phone bills and proof of current full-coverage auto insurance, he says. “If you come in with all your ducks in a row, we can get you a car,” Bradley says.

Cavano says if you have a low score, be prepared to document that you have been paying bills on time for the past six to eight months. If you were late in the past, be ready to explain why. “Lenders want to hear that you’ve overcome issues and can prove it,” he says.

Would-be buyers told by one dealer that their “scores aren’t strong enough” may be able to get financing (or financing at a lower rate) elsewhere, Jones says. A big dealership with a lot of sales is likely to have arrangements with lenders that specialize in finding financing for people with credit challenges, he adds.

Someone with a score in the low 700s might see rates on used cars of about 5%, compared with 15% or more for a buyer with a score in the mid-500s, according to data provided by Experian. On a $20,000, five-year loan, that’s a monthly payment of $483 compared with $378 for the buyer with better credit. Plus, in most states, bad credit can mean much higher car insurance rates, too.

It’s smart to have some idea what dealers will see when they check your credit profile. You can get a free credit score, updated weekly, from NerdWallet.

A free score, so long as it’s on a 300-to-850 scale, is likely to give you a rough idea of where you stand so you aren’t disappointed if you don’t get an advertised rate.

You can also buy your FICO automotive score through the company website. That score gives more weight to how you have repaid car loans in the past.

Many lenders use auto-specific credit scores that weigh past car-loan payments more heavily.

If you have time to delay your car purchase, work on improving your credit. And if you’ve already signed the dotted line on a higher-rate loan, keep an eye on your scores. You may be able to refinance your auto loan at a lower rate if you’ve made on-time payments for six to 12 months.

What Is A Good Credit Score To Buy A Car On Finance?

A very common question we see is what is a good credit score to buy a car?

If you are paying 100% in cash, you could have the lowest credit score in the world, and buy any automobile you wanted. Salespeople will beat a path to your door. You meet the requirements!

The rest of us need a minimum credit score that is good enough to qualify for automotive financing (loans or leasing) – at an amount that we can afford.

Arriving at the appropriate monthly payment that qualifies you for an approval is the important part. Your interest rate, the price of the vehicle, the term of the contract, loans versus leases, new versus used, money down, and cosigners all factor into the equation.

What is a Good Credit Score for a Car Loan?

The first question to address is what is a good credit score to buy a car with a loan? With a loan, you purchase the right to drive the automobile out of the dealer showroom. However, you did not own the vehicle until you complete making all the payments, and the lender turns over the title to you.

A better question to ask is how your credit score, monthly income, and existing obligations influence the price of the auto you can afford to buy on finance. Your ratings determine the interest rate, which factors into the monthly payment you can afford.

The interest rate charged is one of three variables determining your monthly payment. Once you know the APR you must pay, you are ready to begin identifying an affordable amount.

Your FICO score determines the annual interest rate (APR) that the auto lender will charge on the car you want to buy. Lenders charge more to risky borrowers to offset default risks. The lower your rating, the higher your APR will be.

View a copy of your consumer report to determine whether your rating and debt burden are good enough to qualify for a car loan – at the price point that you are considering. Lenders will use your rating to determine your interest rate. They will also pull your existing monthly obligations from the other accounts appearing on your consumer report in order to calculate your debt burden.

Your credit score and debt burden will determine the price of the vehicle the lender will approve. Therefore, you need to know where you stand on both factors before walking into the dealership. The projected monthly payment, the amount of money down, and use of a co-signer will also play a role in what the lender will consider acceptable for an approval.

The lowest FICO score needed to obtain a car loan approval keeps your monthly payment below two key thresholds. Auto lenders often calculate two debt-to-income (DTI) ratios to verify that you have sufficient income to pay them back according to terms, throughout the length of the contract.

  • Back-end debt-to-income ratio: your total monthly payments for all obligations should not exceed 40% of your gross monthly income.
  • Front-end debt-to-income ratio: your monthly principal, interest, and auto insurance obligation should not exceed 15% of your gross monthly income.

Credit scores influence interest rates – which determine borrowing costs. For example, this chart shows how the monthly payment and DTI correspond to rating ranges for a sample applicant. The principal amount borrowed is $20,000 and the monthly income is $3,333 or $40,000 annually.

Get an auto insurance quote to help determine this element in your monthly payment amount. The term of the loan and the vehicle price are also key inputs.

The sticker price of the car is the second input to the monthly payment. The amount you pay each period for a $60,000 German luxury sedan will be three times higher than for a Japanese or Korean economy model for under $20,000.

The length of term of your auto loan is the third input to the monthly payment. The principal only amounts are lower for longer terms, and vice versa. Consider this $20,000 principal only example.

There is no specific credit score necessary to buy a car with zero percent financing, although higher is always preferred. Qualifying for a zero-percent interest rate loan has more to do with the timing of manufacturer incentives.

Banks such as Capital One or Wells Fargo do not lend money without charging interest to offset the time value of money and the default risk. The same holds true for credit unions such as Navy Federal Credit Union, and others.

Automotive manufacturers such as BMW, Chrysler, GMC, Ford, Honda, and Toyota offer zero percent loans through dealerships as incentives to clear inventory. This happens frequently at the end of model years. People think they are getting a deal.

A higher credit score is necessary when buying a car with no money down. A loan with a 100% loan to value ratio raises risks to lenders. It also increases the principal amount. Therefore, they will require better qualifications, or charge higher interest rates.

Banks want borrowers to have skin in the game, and demonstrate the ability to stay current throughout the contract term. An owner with no money down has less to lose in the event of repossession. Someone without the resources to fund a down payment is also more likely to encounter trouble staying current.

A higher credit score is preferred when buying a car without a cosigner. A loan with only one responsible party is riskier for finance companies. Therefore, they will charge higher interest rates, or employ stricter underwriting criteria.

Loans without a cosigner are more likely to default. If that one person were to encounter financial difficulty, no second person would be obligated to assume making payments to keep the contract current.

What is Good Credit Score to Lease a Car?

The second question to address is what is a good credit score to lease a car? With a lease, you purchase the right to drive the automobile for a specified length of time, and a designated number of miles. You will never own the vehicle unless you change the terms of the contract.

Banks will allow a lower credit score when leasing a new car because the monthly payments are typically smaller. You are not spreading the entire automobile cost over the term of the contract. Instead, you are paying for the portion of the vehicle’s useful life that you consume. The automobile has a residual value when you return it at the end of the lease term.

Because you are financing a much smaller percentage of the total vehicle price, applicants with no credit history or an adverse credit history find leasing the better alternative.

Leasing a car with no credit history is possible if you can demonstrate sufficient income, a strong work history, and that you are not an impostor.

  1. Print tax returns for the last two years a copy three months of paystubs to document income.
  2. Prepare your employer to expect a call from the lender to validate your income and employment.
  3. Bring your driver’s license, passport, and other official government-issued documents that certify that you are a real person, living at a real address.

Expect to pay a higher lease money factor (interest rate) if you have no credit history. While no history sounds neutral, it is actually a big negative. People without information appearing on their consumer report are more likely to be faking a persona.

Leasing a car with bad credit or a negative history such as a chapter 7 or 13 bankruptcy is more difficult. You must find a way to counterbalance the negative information and make your application more acceptable. Expect the leasing company to require several offsets.

  1. A lower debt-to-income ratio
  2. Longer work history
  3. More money down

Minimum Credit Score Needed to Buy a New or Used Car

The third question to answer is what minimum credit score is good enough to purchase a new versus a used car? Yes, you may find very different financing alternatives if you buy something brand new or simply “pre-owned.”

Think about the pros and cons of new versus used before completing the paperwork.

The minimum credit score required to buy a new car could be higher than average – because you probably are spending more money. New autos have a higher sticker price. You pay a premium to be the first and only person to drive the motor vehicle.

When you spend more money, you push up the debt-to-income ratio.

The minimum credit score needed to buy a used car could be higher than average – because lenders face greater uncertainty. They find it more difficult to predict the future value of your collateral, and it is more expensive to maintain the vehicle properly.

The place of purchase also affects requirements.

Used car dealers such often provide programs that verify the value of the collateral and reduce surprise repair expenses. Many manufacturers provide certified pre-owned programs. The used motor vehicle dealer (Carmax and others) performs a series of inspections and repairs and may include extended warranties along with roadside assistance.

Banks often require the highest credit scores when buying a used car from a private owner. Somebody selling via classified advertisements or other means often cannot provide a reliable certification program. They often have no existing business relationship with financing companies. This raises risks quite a bit.

Unsecured personal loans sometimes work better for transactions with private owners.

Most private owners do not participate in manufacturers pre-owned certification programs. They often cannot verify that the jalopy is defect free. They also cannot protect drivers from future repair costs with extended warranties and roadside assistance programs. However, you may be able to negotiate a lower price.

What Credit Score Do I Need to Buy a Car?

I’m trying to buy a car. How can I improve my credit score quickly? What credit score do I need to buy a car?

If you are planning to make a major purchase such as a home or a car, it’s a good idea to order a copy of your credit report at least 3-6 months in advance. That way, if you find there are changes to make, you will have enough time for the information to be updated and reflected on your credit report prior to applying for the loan.

Credit Scores and Buying a Car

The credit score needed to qualify for a car loan depends on the lender you are applying with. Different lenders have different criteria, so the minimum score needed to qualify will vary depending on which company is providing the financing.

Different lenders may also use different credit scoring models. Some scoring models assign different weights to the various elements in your credit score than others, which can cause scores to vary.

The different models may have different credit score ranges as well. For example, FICO Auto Score 8 has a range of 250-900, while the base FICO Score 8 and VantageScore 3.0 have a range of 300-850. A credit score of 700 on a scale that goes up 900 may mean something different than a credit score of 700 on a scale that goes up to 850.

There are some lenders that specialize in approving loans for those with less-than-ideal credit scores. However, those loans typically come with higher interest rates and less favorable terms than those you would qualify for with better credit.

Improving Your Credit Score Before Buying a Car

There is no quick fix or fast method for improving your credit score. A good place to begin is by ordering your credit report from each of the credit reporting agencies and reviewing them carefully. If something looks incorrect, you will want to contact the agency that provided the report right away to begin the process of updating the information.

You should also consider ordering your credit score. Pay careful attention to the risk factors that are included with your score. These risk factors will tell you which elements in your credit history are impacting your credit scores and help you to understand where you can make changes.

In general, the most important thing you can do to improve your credit scores is to make sure all accounts are being paid on time, and any past due accounts have been brought current. The second most important thing you can do is to pay down the balances on your accounts, and keep the balances low on revolving accounts.

“What Credit Score is Needed to Buy a Car?” (6 Tips for Auto Loans)

My old roommate Chris found himself in a vicious cycle. His beat-up truck finally met its maker, and, with not much in his savings account and a maxed-out credit card, he couldn’t afford another car. He began relying on friends for rides to work. One day, he missed his shift and lost his job.

Now he was in a worse situation with no income. Chris found another job shortly after, but he needed transportation. He knew his credit was in bad shape, but he had to try to get a car loan to start reversing the cycle. Fortunately, he found an online auto finance company that specialized in working with people with credit issues.

If you’re ever in a similar situation, the important thing to remember is that all hope is not lost. There are resources available, and if you’re willing to make the effort, you can do a lot to improve your financial standing.

1. A Minimum Credit Score for a Car Loan Doesn’t Exist

The simple answer to “What Credit Score is Needed to Buy a Car” is that there is no simple answer. A bad credit score is usually not prohibitive in getting a car financed, but lower APRs will only be available for people with better credit.

Minimum acceptable credit scores will often depend on the lender, but dealerships typically hover around the 620 mark. However, many lenders are willing to work with people with lower-than-average credit scores.

While free credit scores can be an educational tool, the vast majority of lenders look at FICO scores when determining whether to approve loans.

The first step is finding out your FICO score. Knowledge is power. When you’re starting the process of purchasing a vehicle, know what a good APR is for your credit range, and what steps you can take before seeking out a car loan. If you’re unsure how to check your FICO score, we have a helpful guide on the subject.

If you find that your FICO score is lower than you thought, don’t despair. With the available resources these days, it’s easier than ever to get a loan.

2. Best Auto Lenders for Bad Credit

If you’ve already discovered that your credit score is in the subprime range (less than 620), you’re likely better off starting with companies that specialize in approving these types of car loans. Here are our three best bets for companies that are more likely to approve subprime car loans:

What is a Good Credit Score to Buy a Car

A major concern among many car buyers is credit and they are usually wondering what is a good credit score to buy a car. When it comes time to purchase an automobile and paying cash is out of the question the most popular choice among consumer today is dealer or auto manufacturer financing. Having a dependable vehicle is no longer a luxury, but a necessity and paying for a new or used car with cash or check is rare for most people today.

The national average credit score to buy a car at the time of this writing is 692 which is lower than it was only a few years ago. However when it comes to buying a car the automobile lenders consider anything above 700 to be a good credit score to buy a car although some of the auto maker’s financing divisions require a 720 to qualify for the best rates. That is not to say that you can’t get an auto loan with an excellent rate because you can and people are doing it every day. However, typically car loan rates based on credit score are the norm across the industry. The FICO score to buy a car is not typically used unless there are special conditions. It doesn’t matter if you were thinking about new or used because used car loan rates by credit score are common. You can learn more about credit bureaus and score at

A Good Credit Score to Buy a Car and Tiers

Credit Score: 720-849 – A score that falls into this range is considered excellent by automobile lenders and you will qualify for the best rates and longest terms. You will be entitled to any programs and special incentives that the auto maker or lending institution may have available and a down payment is rarely required. Lenders want to lend you money to purchase a car. Obviously this is the ideal credit score for buying a car, but not everyone has such a score.

Credit Score: 680-719 – This is recognized by most auto lenders to be a good credit score to buy a car. Some banks, credit unions and automobile manufacturer’s finance departments may require a 700 score to get the best finance incentives, but most of them will include anyone with a 680 score or above. Buying a car with fair credit falls in this range, but to most auto lenders it’s still a good credit score to buy a car.

Credit Score: 620-679 – Some creditors believe this to be a good credit score to buy a car, but for many of the auto lenders a score under 680 does not qualify the car buyer for the best rates. A person can still buy and finance a vehicle, but their interest rate may be a couple of points higher and the term of the loan may be restricted to a shorter period or require a down payment. Often the car makers offer a rebate in lieu of special financing rates to compensate and reduce the cost of financing. Today this is the average credit score to buy a car in most areas.

Credit Score: 580-619 – No matter who the lender this is considered a poor credit score. It doesn’t matter if you are buyimg a car or anything else. There are still financial institutions that will lend you money to purchase a vehicle, but you will pay a premium price when it comes to the interest rate on your car loan. Typically you will be required to make a down payment and the term limit will be 60 months or less depending on the vehicle, price paid, down payment and credit history. Sometimes the only auto lender that may approve you for the loan is a sub-prime lender that specializes in car loans for people with poor credit.

Credit Score: 500-579 – The minimum credit score to buy a car falls in this range. When your credit score is in this range lenders are hesitant to grant you a car buying loan. There are lenders that will, but they are sub-prime lenders and a down payment of some kind is required. They limit the amount they will lend based on your income and down payment. These types of auto loans are usually reviewed on a case by case basis that also looks at your credit history. I have seen many people buy and finance cars with a credit score in this range, but their interest rate was always double digit and they were required to put down $1500.00 or more depending on the vehicle, mileage of vehicle financed and the length of time on their job.

Credit Score: 300-499 – This is not a good credit score to buy a car . In fact this is a bad to very bad credit score and sometimes the best option for buying and financing a car is at one of the many Buy Here Pay Here car dealers scattered across the country. They specialize in low credit score car buying and financing. They have what is commonly called in house financing. This is where the car dealer finances them and the payments are typically made on a weekly basis right where they bought their vehicle.

Do You Have a Good Credit Score to Buy a Car?

After going over the above credit tiers you should have pretty good idea of what is a good credit score to buy a car. Having an automobile at your disposal is a necessity today and therefore there are options for buying a car no matter what your credit standing. Knowing your credit score is one way of avoiding any car dealer scams and paying too much. There are also ways to repair your credit that can save you thousands of dollars on your car loan. Having a good credit score for buying car is critical to getting the car you want at a rate you can afford.

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