Wheels and Deals: Finding an auto loan that’s good to go

September 25th, 2015 Scott Jamison
auto loan

Buying a car can be exciting, but don’t lose sight of how you will pay for it. Here are some tips on financing a vehicle with an auto loan.

Check your credit.

Review your credit reports long before you go to purchase a car. Correcting inaccuracies, such as an erroneous history of late payments, can help you get the best loan possible. Fixing mistakes may also save you money on car insurance.

To request free copies of your credit reports, go to www.annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228. This is the only authorized site to obtain your free credit reports.

Get pre-approved.

Consider getting pre-approved for a loan from at least one financial institution before you go to the dealership. A financial institution, such as one where you already have an account, may offer you a better interest rate than what you get offered through the dealership. And, don’t share with the dealer the interest rate you’ve been offered in case you want to explore loan options at the showroom.

Consumer advocates also suggest that you not even tell the dealer whether you’ve already been pre-approved for a loan until after you’ve negotiated the purchase price. That’s because some dealers may be less flexible on the price of the vehicle if they don’t expect to make money on the financing.

Keep your options open.

Don’t hesitate to seek different financing offers. You may be surprised by how comparison shopping for an auto loan can save you money. While submitting multiple loan applications generally can slightly lower your credit score, those for car loans made within a short period (such as 14 days, according to some credit scoring models) generally are grouped together to minimize the effect.

Stay organized.

Keep good records of your loan quotes. Before signing on the dotted line, review the loan agreement (the contract) and make sure any potential fees, the interest rate, and other key terms match what you were initially told.

Stick to your budget.

Don’t allow anyone to steer you toward a larger purchase and a bigger loan than you will be able to comfortably pay. In addition to your monthly loan payment, you need to budget for the cost of auto insurance, licensing fees and taxes.

Don’t get carried away.

Leave the car at the dealership until your loan terms are finalized. If a dealer offers you a “contingent” or “conditional” loan agreement and lets you drive the car home, the loan terms may change and be less advantageous for you when you return to finalize the purchase.

For more information about auto loans, contact one of our bankers at your local MidWestOne Bank locations.

Scott Jamison

About the author

Scott Jamison is Retail Managing Officer at MidWestOne Bank. He helps customers manage their personal finances and identify effective money management solutions.

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