Refinancing your car loan could save you thousands of dollars over the life of your loan, especially if you didn’t have great credit when you bought the car.
Are you worried it isn’t worth the time commitment of gathering paperwork and meeting with loan officials?
“It’s actually a pretty easy thing,” says Matt Jones, senior consumer advice editor at Edmunds. “Refinancing a home is work, but refinancing a car is much, much easier.”
When should you refinance your auto loan?
Put simply, refinancing makes the most sense when you can take advantage of a lower interest rate than you’re currently paying.
“If the terms [of the original loan] weren’t favorable, someone may refinance simply because they want to get out of a high interest loan,” say Jones. There are a few reasons you might be able to get a better interest rate now:
- If you didn’t comparison shop for your auto loan, you may not have gotten the best available rate.
- If your credit has improved, you’ve gotten a higher-paying job, or paid off other debts since buying your car, you could get a better rate now than when you purchased.
- If more competitive rates are available now than when you purchased. Average auto loan interest rates reached a five-year low at the end of 2015 and have stayed relatively low since. So, if your loan predates 2015, you may be able to take advantage of a lower rate than you were initially offered. But be sure to factor in any fees involved in refinancing when making your decision.
Of course, you could choose to refinance for very different reasons. If borrowers have a loan they can’t afford, they can refinance it to stretch out the payments, Jones says. By extending the length of your loan, you can reduce payments even if your interest rate stays the same.
Keep in mind, timing is important. Jones notes that most of the time, refinancing won’t make sense unless you’ve made at least 18 months of payments on your original loan.
What to consider when refinancing
Several factors affect which lender is the best option for your refinance:
- Your credit score. The best rates are reserved for the highest FICO scores. But, if you shop around for your loan, even those with fair to good credit scores can find a lender with good rates.
- The balance on your loan. Many lenders have minimum and maximum auto loan amounts.
- Origination fee. Most lenders charge a fee to process a new loan. If this fee is more than what you will save by refinancing, it isn’t worth it.
- The age of your car and miles on your vehicle. Not all lenders offer a loan for an older car with a lot of miles on it.
Where to refinance your car loan
Your instinct may be to return to directly to your original lender to request a better rate or longer terms. However, while this may be a possibility, getting a favorable offer from the original lender is unusual, Jones explains. “Usually people have more luck with a new lender,” he says.
In that case, you’ll have to research new lenders. You can view interest rates and reviews for all our top auto lenders right here, but here are a few of our favorites to check out:
LightStream, which is part of SunTrust bank, is a reputable and well-reviewed lender with annual percentage rates (APRs) as low as 2.49% to 6.54% for auto loan refinancing. LightStream accepts borrowers with good to excellent credit.
USAA provides loans for military service members and their families. While the best USAA loan rates are only available to borrowers with the best credit scores, there are fair rates available for all borrowers. Refinancing is available with a minimum APR of 2.49%. Loans for those with poor credit are available with rates as low as 7.44%. You rate also depends on the age of your car.
MyAutoloan reviews digital loan applications in just a few minutes, making your refinance quick and easy. Loan terms of up to six years are available with auto refinancing as low as 1.99% APR. If you don’t have great credit history, though, you may end up paying interest rates as high as 27%.
The average Capital One auto loan refinance customer saves $700 per year. Refinancing rates start at 2.99% APR with loans available for $7,500 to $40,000. Capital One Auto Finance charges no origination fee.
If getting an auto loan online just feels too impersonal, BB&T Auto Loan is a good choice with competitive rates. The bank processes loan applications in person at their 2,000 locations on the East Coast. The maximum loan term is six years with interest rates of 2.24% and up.
Up2drive allows borrowers to take advantage of a 0.5% decrease in their APR when they enroll in EasyPay auto-payments. Their parent company, BMW Financial Services has a A rating from the Better Business Bureau, and up2drive offers loans of $7,500 to $50,000.
Regardless of where you choose to refinance, be sure to do your due diligence. “Do your research and be skeptical,” says Jones. You can see reviews of dozens of lenders from real customers right here.