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5 Expert Tips for Refinancing an Auto Loan

July 20, 2020

Even if you understand the basics of auto loan refinancing, a little expert advice can go a long way when learning how to navigate the process. Whether you’re refinancing a new or used car, you can put yourself in a position for lower interest rates or better loan terms, making your car payments easier to handle each month.

5 Tips for Refinancing a Car Loan

Check out these five auto refinance tips from savvy personal finance experts:

1. Think beyond the big banks

Searching for the best car loan refinance rates? Don’t limit yourself to large traditional banks. It’s always a smart idea to check with local credit unions, since their primary goal is to service their clients and not to make a profit. Check Credit Karma to research rates from a variety of lenders, including online auto refinancing sources.

2. Stay calm if you get declined

If you get declined, try to figure out why and see if there’s an action you can take to remedy the situation. Do you have a high balance on one of your credit cards that is negatively impacting your credit score? If so, paying it down could help improve your credit health and chances of being approved in the future.

While high-mileage cars or those more than ten years old, could reduce your chances of being approved, not all lenders have the same criteria. If you’re declined by one lender, you could be approved by another.

3. Shop around within a short timeframe

As part of the loan application process, new lenders will examine your credit report—but not all credit checks have the same effect. Some lenders use “soft inquiries,” which usually don’t affect your credit score and don’t show up on credit history, while others use “hard inquiries,” which generally do impact your credit score.

But don’t let concerns about multiple hard inquiries prevent you from shopping around for the best rate. Major credit bureaus don’t want to penalize smart customers for rate shopping, says Credit Sesame. “Rather than assume each inquiry indicates a discreet and unique credit application, they built logic in their credit scoring model that identifies when you’re shopping for one loan rather than many loans.”

In short, multiple inquiries of the same type within a short period of time are counted as only one inquiry and your credit score only takes one hit.

4. Know when to refinance—and when not to

Before spending time and energy shopping for a new auto loan, consider whether refinancing is appropriate for your financial situation.

You might be a good candidate to benefit from refinancing if interest rates have declined, your credit score has improved, or your current loan is from a dealership (where rates are typically higher than from other traditional lenders). Another reason people consider refinancing is to lower monthly payments and free up cash flow or save money for other life events, like having a baby or buying a home.

On the other hand, PersonalFinanceInsider.com advises that auto refinancing “may not be an option for you if your credit score has gotten worse, the vehicle has been damaged, or market interest rates have gone up since you took out your original loan.”

5. Don’t fall asleep at the wheel

Once you’ve found a better/lower rate and are nearing the end of the refinancing process, it’s important to stay vigilant about the details. Check the fine print of your current loan (is there a prepayment penalty?) and of your new loan (are there any fees?). These potholes can meaningfully change the math—making a seemingly great deal less appealing.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recommends borrowers “take the time to look over the paperwork related to your loan. Be sure that what you thought was agreed to is included in the contract.”

Don’t assume anything is completed. You might think your existing loan has been paid off, and you can stop sending payments, but any delay in the process can result in a ‘missed’ loan payment which will hurt your credit. Confirm with both lenders before you stop sending money.

Ready to refinance your car loan? Get a and find out how much you could save in minutes—with no impact to your credit score.

If you’re just starting the car-buying process and debating leasing vs. buying, check out our blog post on the important factors to consider.

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