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Are Car Down Payments Illegal? What About Other Stuff?

Last updated 03/31/2024 by

Benjamin Locke

Edited by

Car down payments are not illegal, despite widespread misinformation, particularly on social media platforms like TikTok. Misconceptions also extend to real estate and other areas, where the legality of down payments can depend on the source and disclosure of the funds.
So, you’ve been up to no good, considering buying a car with a down payment. All the scheming you’ve been doing in your basement trying to figure out to put a down payment on a car and break the law. But are car down payments really illegal? Spoiler alert: car down payments are not illegal!

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Are car down payments illegal?

No! Car down payments are not illegal. There’s misinformation circulating, especially on social media, suggesting otherwise, but this is not true. Down payments are legal and are an effective way to reduce the loan amount and the credit burden when buying a vehicle.
down payments are illegal misinformation
Social media posts like this are the reason many people think (incorrectly) that car down payments are illegal.

Are down payments illegal in other cases?

It’s complicated. In most cases, the idea of a down payment is not illegal for anything. In some cases, however, down payments aren’t illegal just for being down payments. Instead, it’s where and who the down payment was derived from that is the issue.

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“Each state has its own consumer protection laws. I don’t know of a transaction where accepting a down payment or a deposit would be illegal if
the down payment is applied to the purchase or service amount. This is assuming that other laws are not being broken by the seller or servicer such as fraud, only requiring a down payment from people of a certain race and not requiring a down payment from others.”
– Don Worley, founder of Mcdonald Worley Law Firm
Below are some examples of when down payments might be considered illegal in regards to real estate.
Borrowing for Down PaymentsDisclosure & Lender RequirementsBorrowing funds for a down payment can be problematic if not disclosed or if it conflicts with lender requirements.
Investment PropertiesSpeculation & Housing MarketThere are current reviews of down payment rules on investment properties that aim to curb speculation in housing markets.
Silent Second MortgagesIllegal Non-disclosureTaking out a second mortgage to cover the down payment of the first, without the first lender’s knowledge, is illegal.
Down Payment GiftsRules & ExpectationsStrict rules apply to down payment gifts to ensure they do not come with repayment expectations.
No Money Down Real Estate InvestingFraud RiskLegal but requires caution to avoid fraudulent schemes. Due diligence is crucial.

Pro Tip

Regulations regarding down payments in different businesses might differ greatly depending on the jurisdiction, industry norms, and particular consumer protection laws. Businesses have to strictly adhere to these rules to make sure they don’t unintentionally enter prohibited areas.
Down payments could be deemed illegal if they’re non-refundable without just cause, especially if the service or product is not delivered as agreed upon. The legality often hinges on the terms of the agreement and the fulfillment of promised goods or services.” – Jake Munday, CEO and co-founder Custom Neon

Why would people think that car down payments are illegal?

The reason you have a bunch of people thinking down payments being illegal seems to have originated from social media platforms, particularly TikTok. There has been a trend among users on car-related TikTok channels claiming that down payments for vehicles are actually illegal. This misinformation has spread across various social media platforms, causing confusion and gaping mouths across the spectrum.
One article from The Autopian addresses this trend directly, stating that the idea of down payments being illegal is a piece of misinformation circulating on TikTok. It emphasizes that down payments are not illegal and highlights the benefits of making a down payment when purchasing a vehicle, such as reducing the credit burden. Remember, in this day and age, misinformation and disinformation is all overt the place. However, it’s important to note that there is a fine line between combatting misinformation and censorship.

Linda Chavez, Founder & CEO of Seniors Life Insurance Finder offers an insightful perspective on the difference Legitimate Down Payments vs Illegal Upfront Fees
“A legitimate down payment serves as a partial payment for goods or services that will be completed in the future. It is usually a percentage of the total cost and is intended to secure the transaction. On the other hand, an illegal upfront fee or deposit may be required by businesses without any intention of providing the promised goods or services.”

How to get a car with no down payment?

There are a few options to get a car with no down payment. For instance, you can steal the car. Joking! Here are the tried and trust ways to get a car with no down payment.

SuperMoney may receive compensation from some or all of the companies featured, and the order of results are influenced by advertising bids, with exception for mortgage and home lending related products. Learn more

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Improve Your Credit Score
Elevating your credit score is essential for qualifying for a no down payment car loan, with a minimum FICO score of 680 often required by lenders. If you’re below this threshold, enhance your score by regularly reviewing your credit reports, keeping track of your score, ensuring timely bill payments, and maintaining a credit utilization ratio under 30%.
Consider Higher Monthly Payments Instead of a Down Payment
The amount of your down payment directly affects your monthly payments; a higher initial payment results in lower monthly charges. Alternatively, you can negotiate with lenders for higher monthly payments to bypass making a down payment. This approach usually leads to higher interest rates, increasing the total cost over the loan period.
For example, a $25,000 car loan at 5% interest over 72 months with a $5,000 down payment results in monthly payments of $322 and a total interest of $3,191. Without a down payment, the monthly payment increases to $403, with a total interest of $3,988.
Acquire a Co-Signer
Securing a co-signer with a strong credit score can be advantageous, especially if your credit is subpar. A co-signer commits to covering your loan if you default, impacting both parties’ credit scores negatively. Ensure all loan transactions are documented and select a co-signer you can rely on. Note that not all lenders accept co-signers, so it’s important to research and compare various lenders.
Explore Various Loan Offers
Loan conditions differ across lenders, affected by factors like location and market trends. It’s beneficial to compare offers from banks, dealership financing, credit unions, and online lenders, particularly those that provide loans without down payment requirements.
Opt for a More Affordable Vehicle
Selecting a car that fits your budget is key to obtaining a loan. If approval is challenging, consider choosing a less expensive vehicle. If you’re still unable to secure a loan, ask your loan specialist about the down payment amount needed to improve your chances.

Is getting a car with no downpayment a bad idea?

Opting for a car loan without a down payment might seem financially convenient at first glance, especially for those short on immediate funds. However, this approach typically results in higher interest rates, as lenders perceive the loan to be riskier without upfront equity from the buyer. Consequently, the borrower faces higher monthly payments due to financing the full purchase price of the vehicle, alongside any applicable fees and taxes. This not only increases the monthly financial burden but also amplifies the total amount paid over the life of the loan.
Moreover, the rapid depreciation of vehicles exacerbates the risk of negative equity, where the loan balance surpasses the car’s value. This situation can lead to financial strain, particularly if the car is sold or totaled in an accident. Additionally, to counterbalance the absence of a down payment and manage higher monthly payments, borrowers may be compelled to extend their loan terms. While this strategy lowers monthly payments, it prolongs the interest payments, further escalating the total cost of owning the car. Ultimately, saving for a down payment before purchasing a car can significantly mitigate these financial drawbacks, ensuring a more economical and less burdensome car ownership experience.


Can making a larger down payment affect my loan approval chances?

Yes, making a larger down payment can positively affect your loan approval chances. Lenders view a larger down payment as a sign of financial stability and lower risk, which can lead to more favorable loan terms, including lower interest rates and better approval odds.

Are there any benefits to financing a car through a dealership versus a bank?

Financing through a dealership can offer convenience and potential promotional financing rates that may be lower than what banks offer. However, banks might provide more personalized service and potentially better rates for customers with strong banking relationships. It’s important to compare offers from both sources.

How does my credit score impact the interest rate on my car loan?

Your credit score is a critical factor in determining the interest rate on your car loan. Higher credit scores indicate lower risk to lenders, often resulting in lower interest rates. Conversely, lower credit scores may lead to higher interest rates due to perceived increased risk.

Is it possible to refinance a car loan with no down payment?

Yes, it is possible to refinance a car loan for which you made no down payment. Refinancing can help you secure a lower interest rate or more favorable terms later on, especially if your credit score has improved or if market conditions have changed. However, the success of refinancing depends on factors like your car’s current value, your outstanding loan balance, and your creditworthiness.

Key takeaways

  • Car down payments are not illegal, countering the misinformation spread on platforms like TikTok.
  • In real estate and other transactions, the legality of down payments may depend on their source and how they’re disclosed, not the concept of down payments themselves.
  • Options for acquiring a car with no down payment include improving credit scores, negotiating higher monthly payments, finding a co-signer, comparing loan offers, and selecting a more affordable vehicle.
  • While no down payment car loans offer immediate financial relief, they can result in higher overall costs due to increased interest rates, loan amounts, and the risk of negative equity.

SuperMoney may receive compensation from some or all of the companies featured, and the order of results are influenced by advertising bids, with exception for mortgage and home lending related products. Learn more

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