Ratings Methodology for Aggregator Auto Loans

Auto loan aggregators do not have in-house loan products. Instead, they match borrowers to third-party lenders within a network.

NerdWallet currently reviews and rates auto loan products in the following categories:

  • Purchase (origination loans) for new and used vehicles.
  • Refinance loans.
  • Lease buyout loans.
Because aggregators are not the actual lender and servicing of the loan passes to the lender in most cases, NerdWallet focuses most heavily on the front end of the loan process. This includes level of service/support and transparency, with less focus on the actual loan product.

Data collection process

We survey 30 financial companies that offer any combination of new car purchase loans, used car purchase loans, auto refinance loans (traditional and/or cash-out) and lease buyout loans. These companies include both aggregators and direct lenders.

The survey for aggregators has different questions than the survey for direct lenders, but both surveys include more than 60 data points.

This data collection process includes cross-checking company websites to confirm product details and following up with company representatives. At least two writers and an editor verify the facts for every lender review to ensure accuracy of data.

Review and rating process

To receive a star rating, an aggregator must respond to NerdWallet’s annual auto loans survey.

Star ratings are assessed from poor (one star) to excellent (five stars) based on survey responses and are rounded to the nearest half-star.

NerdWallet’s overall ratings for aggregators are weighted averages in four categories:
  • Customer experience (30%) includes ease of the application process, level of support from the aggregator and financial education efforts, such as website articles and tools.
  • Transparency/disclosures (30%) includes availability of pre-qualification with a soft credit check and visibility of information such as rates, terms and minimum eligibility requirements.
  • Loan affordability (20%) includes competitive rates, possibility of origination fees and likelihood of rate discounts for autopayments. For example, if all lenders in an aggregator’s network offer a rate discount, that aggregator will score higher than one with no lenders offering a rate discount.
  • Loan requirements and flexibility (20%) includes loan availability by state, number of loan term options and likelihood a loan applicant can have a co-signer.

Subcategories within categories vary slightly for refinance loans, lease buyout loans and purchase loans. For example, refinance loan flexibility considers limitations on how soon a borrower can refinance, which is not a consideration for purchase loans. For this reason, an aggregator can have different star ratings for different loan products.

A fifth category is unweighted and discretionary. An aggregator’s rating may be adjusted down based on the following:
  • It has faced governmental regulatory action in the past two years for practices harmful to auto loan consumers.
  • It offers a consumer-friendly feature (not scored in other categories) that other lenders do not offer.
  • It has a unique aspect to the loan or servicing that would negatively impact the borrower. An example would be charging a prepayment penalty, when most lenders no longer do.

Data accuracy

Auto loan reviews are thoroughly reassessed annually. Writers and editors also make updates to data such as rate changes, new features and star ratings throughout the year as necessary. We work to maintain contact with providers to keep information current.

The review team

The auto loans review team is made up of writers and editors who cover a wide range of auto industry topics. The auto loan team’s writers and editors combined have more than 30 years of experience in finance. Each team member adheres to NerdWallet’s strict guidelines for editorial integrity.

Our writers’ bylines have appeared in Nasdaq, MSN, MarketWatch, Yahoo! Finance and other national and regional media outlets.

Do you want to provide feedback? Contact us at [email protected].