Auto Loans for Good, Fair and Bad Credit 2017

Auto Loans, Loans

It’s smart to shop for the right auto loan, with the lowest interest rate, before you buy your next car. This puts you in a stronger negotiating position and saves you money over the life of your car loan.

Find your best interest rate by contacting multiple auto lenders. Learn more about what you need to know before you apply below.

If you already have a loan, you may be able to save money by refinancing your auto loan.

Car loan providers

LenderMinimum FICOAPR *Loan amount / maximum termKey facts
MyAutoLoan



MyAutoloan review
5001.99% - 24.9% $8,000 - $100,000 /

72 months
  • Available in all states except Alaska and Hawaii

  • Online portal shows up to four offers for comparison via multiple hard-credit inquiries

LightStream



LightStream review
6602.49% - 7.44%
(with AutoPay)
$5,000 - $100,000 /

Varies
  • Available in all 50 states

  • Offers Rate Beat program

  • Offers $100 loan experience guarantee

Capital One
500As low as 3.24%
(for excellent credit)
$4,000 - $40,000 /

72 months
  • Available in 48 states (exceptions: Alaska and Hawaii)

  • Capital One Auto Navigator® lets you pre-qualify for financing with no impact to your credit score

  • Know your rate and payment on over 3 million cars before visiting the dealership

  • BBB accredited
CarFinance
5506.7% - 12.3% (average: 10.4%)$10,000 - $50,000 /

72 months
  • Available in 45 states and Washington, D.C.

  • Exceptions: Hawaii, Mississippi, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon
SpringboardAuto.com



SpringboardAuto.com review
5005% and up; max varies by state (average: 12%)$7,500 - $45,000 /

72 months
  • Available in 22 states

  • Must have a history of four or more credit accounts, such as loans or lines of credit, to qualify

Online car dealer with financing

LenderMinimum FICOAPR *Loan amount / maximum termKey facts
Carvana



Carvana review
300NANo restriction /

72 months
  • Apply your personalized financing terms to the 7,000+ cars available on Carvana's website

  • Carvana has delivered cars in 48 states to date. See if free delivery is available in your city.
*APR is used to evaluate the true cost of borrowing money and includes the interest rate.

Before you apply, use this auto loan calculator to estimate your monthly payment. It’s recommended that your car expenses not exceed 20% of your take-home pay.

What to know before you apply

Interest rates: The interest rate you’ll get depends on your credit score and income, the length of the loan you choose, the type of car you buy and whether it’s new or used. 

Nerdy tip

If you make consistent, on-time payments and your credit score improves, you may be able to refinance your car loan to get a better rate and lower your monthly payment.

Loan terms: Some lenders offer loans for up to 84 months. However, it’s best to pay off a car loan quickly since cars depreciate rapidly. Owing more on the loan than the car is worth is called being “underwater” or “upside down,” which is a risky financial situation. Also, the best interest rates are available for shorter loan terms. NerdWallet recommends 60 months for new cars and 36 months for used cars.

Rate shopping: Applying to several lenders helps you find the most competitive interest rate. However, it can lead to your being contacted by multiple lenders or dealers, especially if you use a service that compares offers for you (such as myAutoloan). If you’re worried about getting overwhelmed by calls and emails, create a new email account and get a free Google Voice phone number that you can check separately. Also check the loan terms that your bank or credit union offers. Their rates can be competitive with those of online lenders.

“Soft” vs. “hard” credit pull: Some lenders do a “soft pull” of your credit to pre-qualify you for a loan. This doesn’t damage your credit score, but it also doesn’t guarantee you’ll be approved for a loan or get the exact rate you’re quoted. Other providers run a full credit check, which temporarily lowers your credit score by a few points. But again, your final rate could differ slightly from your preapproval quote. A hard pull will be required in all cases before a loan is finalized.

Restrictions: Some lenders only work with a network of dealerships. Others won’t lend money to buy cars from private sellers. Lenders may also exclude some makes of cars, certain models and types of vehicles, such as electric cars.

Funding: Once the loan is finalized, the lender will offer you a loan with a maximum amount at a stated interest rate. Lenders provide the money in a variety of ways: a no-obligation check, direct deposit to your bank account or a certificate to be used at a car dealership.

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Why preapproval is important

Preapproval streamlines the negotiation process because you can sidestep the car salesman’s favorite tactic: the monthly payment game. If you negotiate based on a monthly payment, it’s easy to lose sight of the real price of the car. But when you’re preapproved, you become a “cash buyer.” That means you can concentrate on negotiating only the price when shopping for a new car.

Negotiate the best deal for the car, and leave enough money to cover taxes and fees. For example, if the loan is for up to $20,000, look for a car in the $15,000 range because the final price will be about $16,500 or higher.

At a dealership the finance manager may try to beat the interest rate of your preapproved loan. If the interest rate is lower, and all other terms are the same, take the loan. But look at the contract carefully before signing, because there is a risk the finance manager could juggle the numbers in the dealership’s favor.

Philip Reed is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: preed@nerdwallet.com.

Source for credit range information in calculator: State of the Automotive Finance Market, Experian Information Solutions, Inc.

Updated Nov. 6, 2017. 

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