National and local banks, credit unions and online lenders offer car loan preapprovals. Here are some national auto lenders with some of the lowest rates:
|Starting APR*||Terms||Loan Amounts||Min. Credit Score||Best For...|
|1.00%||Up to 84 months||From $12,000||550||Large car loans|
|4.54%||Up to 96 months||$250 - $500,000||No minimum||Military connections|
|5.24%||Up to 84 months||Up to $150,000||Unspecified||Used car buyers|
|5.79%||48 - 72 months||From $7,500||Unspecified||Those who prefer a bank|
|4.89%||36 - 84 months||$500 - $150,000||620||A car-buying service |
Budgeting before you hit the blacktop is a great plan, and getting a preapproval can help you eliminate the guesswork by providing estimates on monthly payments. Don’t forget: When you’re looking at car prices, leave at least a 10% buffer to account for taxes and fees. Use a car affordability calculator to help you plan your purchase.
Dealers can inflate the interest rate they offer in order to make a profit when you get a car loan through them. With a preapproved car loan, you’ll have an interest rate quote directly from a lender without a middleman marking it up.
Cash buyers often look at total cost rather than monthly payments, giving them the upper hand when negotiating. Similarly, when you have a preapproved auto loan with a set price, it’s much easier to deflect a sales pitch that could increase your monthly rate.
Plenty of financial institutions offer car loan preapprovals, but some of the most common are:
It doesn’t harm your credit score to apply to multiple lenders any more than it does to apply to one. As long as you do all your applications within a 14-day window of time, the three major U.S. credit bureaus count multiple inquiries for the same type of loan as one hard pull against your credit.
Application requirements for car loan preapproval are often the same or looser than a regular car loan application.
The lender may ask about the car you want to purchase. You could always change the vehicle by contacting the lender if you change your mind after test driving.
An auto loan preapproval is a firm offer from a lender. When you finalize the loan, your actual APR will be very similar, if not the same, as your preapproval rate. On the other hand, a prequalification is not an official offer, but an estimate of the car loan you may receive. Because a prequalification is not firm, it’s much harder to use it when negotiating at a dealership.