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Car Buying, Auto & Auto Buying, Money Management

How To: Auto Loans with Less-than-Perfect Credit

Having less-than-perfect credit doesn't mean you can't finance a car. It just means picking out that next set of wheels shouldn't be the first step on your car-shopping to-do list. Go in this order instead:

Step 1: Check your credit

Go to to get your free credit report. Ensure the information is accurate and there hasn't been any fraudulent activity that could affect your ability to get approved. You can also pay a small fee to get your actual credit score. If it's in truly poor shape, consider adding a qualified applicant to co-sign on your auto loan. This could help you get approved for more money at a lower rate, which could make all the difference in the car you ultimately get to buy.

Step 2: Shop rates and get pre-approved

Don't just show up at the dealer and take whatever loan they give you. Instead—before you ever step foot on the lot—apply to get pre-approved for an auto loan. A pre-approval is as good as cash in your hand. You'll know your approved rate, term options, and the total amount you can finance, which all affect your monthly payment. Your down payment comes into play here as well. Try our calculator to help you do the math.

Step 3: Research and buy your car

Once you know the max you can spend, it's now time to research and buy a car. If you need help, try our auto buying service through Autoland. It takes the hassle out of searching for and negotiating a car purchase. Just tell them what you want, and what you can spend, and they'll do the rest.

Step 4: Stay practical

Any auto loan can be affordable if you follow the right steps, stick within your means, and keep your car choice practical. You might have to let go of the "dream" car this time around, but if you pay your loan on time every month, your credit should improve so you can afford something better next time. Don't forget that buying a pre-owned car is a great option for getting a more desirable make and model at the same price you'd pay for a brand new car.

If you're already in a high-rate loan...

If you have a high-interest auto loan with another lender, it doesn't hurt to ask us if we can do better. Refinancing a car is simple and quick—and it could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars over the life of your loan. Give us a call at (888) 354-6228 or stop by any branch to get started.

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