When you’re ready to buy a new car, you typically have two options: pay in cash or take out a car loan to cover the bill.
While we’d all like to have the funds to cover this purchase without a loan, that’s not a reality for most people in need of a vehicle. This is especially true if you want reliable transportation that lasts for more than just a few years.
If you’re looking for an auto loan in the coming months, there are countless options available to choose from. You can find online lenders, traditional lenders, and even lenders that specialize in bad credit borrowers.
These lenders offer some of the best auto loan rates and loan terms available. To get started, check out our up-to-date picks for the top auto loans of 2021.
Best Online Auto Lenders for Good Credit
If you have good to excellent credit scores, it will be much easier to find the best auto loan rates. Start with these options.
CarsDirect accepts borrowers of all credit types, so it’s an easy one-stop shop for anyone looking for an auto loan. They’ve been in the business for nearly 20 years and have helped 5 million customers in that time.
The application takes as little as 60 seconds, and once you submit it, you’ll receive multiple offers from various lenders. That’s a bonus for some people because you can compare loan products without filling out countless applications.
There’s no limit to how much you can borrow through CarsDirect. Because they partner with several lenders, you can find an auto loan matching your exact criteria for as large or small a loan as you’d like. You can also shop for cars directly on the CarsDirect website.
MyAutoLoan provides multiple loan product types, so it’s an ideal option if you need something beyond a straightforward car loan.
For example, you can refinance an existing loan, get a lease buyout, or even get a loan for a third-party purchase.
MyAutoLoan also gives you access to several handy tools to help you decide on an auto loan product. For example, there’s an interest rate chart that’s updated daily so you can see where rates are headed.
You can also get a customized, estimated rate by providing your desired loan amount, credit score or category, and zip code. That’s helpful information when determining how much car you can afford.
Once you’ve got your ballpark interest rate, you can use the auto payment calculator to figure out your estimated monthly payment. However, your minimum loan amount must be $8,000, and you must earn at least $1,800 each month.
LendingTree allows you to shop around and compare auto loans from multiple lenders. You’ll find options for new and used cars, refinancing for existing car loans, and even lease buyouts.
You can also get approved before you start shopping for a car, so you know exactly what your budget is and how much you’ll pay each month.
Shorter repayment periods and high credit scores are rewarded with LendingTree. For example, for a new car, you could qualify for a 36-month loan as low as 1.85% APR if you have an 800+ credit score.
With a 695 credit score and a 60-month loan term, LendingTree advertises an APR of 3.19%. But, of course, your down payment amount also factors into the equation.
To see exactly what kind of auto loan you qualify for through LendingTree’s network of lenders, you can compare offers for free. And if your payments are higher than you’d like because of your credit score, you can always refinance later down the road, if that makes the most sense for you.
Best for Bad Credit
Don’t let a poor or fair credit score stop you from looking for an auto loan. Here are some great lenders that are willing to work with people with less than perfect credit.
Auto Credit Express
With Auto Credit Express, you can qualify with poor credit and face fewer restrictions on the type of car you can finance. For example, there are no age or mileage requirements, so you can get a car as old as you want.
You may also qualify for a $0 or low down payment amount, unlike many other lenders. First, you need to meet a few basic qualifications, including a pre-tax monthly income of at least $1,500. However, there is no minimum credit score requirement.
You’ll also need to answer a few questions about your employment so they can confirm your income is steady enough to cover your monthly payments.
car.Loan helps consumers with no credit or bad credit access auto financing opportunities. They match you with dealers who are able to finance you regardless of credit type.
Once you’re approved online, you can go car shopping in your area with your pre-approval in hand. They partner specifically with a dealer network that concentrates on special finance. These dealerships utilize in-house auto financing, allowing them to focus more on an applicant’s income rather than their credit.
It only takes 3 minutes to fill out the loan request form. You’ll typically receive a response within 24 hours.
Best Traditional Auto Lenders
Prefer to do business with a big bank? Here are a few banks that offer great auto loan rates.
Capital One Auto Finance accepts borrowers with less than excellent credit, but there are some standards your car must meet. For example, mileage cannot exceed 120,000, and it must be no older than a 2009 model.
Loan amounts start at $4,000 and the maximum loan amount is $40,000, so this is not the place for expensive luxury purchases or an extremely cheap deal.
Additionally, they only provide loans for new or used cars. So if you want to buy out your lease or finance a purchase from a private party, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
Use Capital One’s auto loan calculator to calculate your estimated monthly payment.
Bank of America
Bank of America is also a large bank advertising low rates. Of course, your specific rate depends on your credit history, where you live, and other factors, but it’s a good place to begin.
Loan rates are the lowest for new cars, but you can still find competitive rates no matter what type of car you plan on buying. You can also refinance an existing car loan.
If you are a Bank of America customer enrolled in their Preferred Rewards program, you can receive auto loan rate discounts ranging from 0.25% to 0.50%, depending on your membership level.
Another great feature from Bank of America is that you can get a 30-day rate lock. So if you know you need a car but want to take your time and shop around, this gives you the flexibility to do so without stressing about rising interest rates.
Chase is unique in that it provides both auto loans and a car buying service by partnering with TrueCars. In fact, customers save an average of $3,106 off the MSRP.
You also get to see what other people paid for the same car to give you an idea of what kind of deal you’re getting. If you don’t want to shop online for a car, you can just get a straightforward auto loan for a new or used vehicle.
Chase’s online portal lets you calculate payments and check on the status of your application. One thing to note is that the credit decision and closing processes differ depending on whether or not you’re currently a Chase customer.
Look into those details before deciding, particularly if you don’t have a Chase account.
U.S. Bank car loans also boast low rates. You can visit their website to find out what type of financing you can expect today.
You can get a loan for either a new or used vehicle. You can also refinance your current auto loan. A major bonus is that there is no down payment required, which is helpful if you’re cash-strapped at the moment.
You can also get a discount when you take out a green auto loan, covering any new or used car that is an EPA-certified SmartWay vehicle.
Any vehicle you choose must be no more than six years old with a maximum of 100,000 miles logged. One of the convenient things about U.S. Bank is that you can apply online, over the phone, or in person.
How to Pick an Auto Lender
Even if you’re in a rush to purchase a car, don’t automatically accept the first loan offer you receive. Instead, take some time to sit down and thoughtfully weigh all of your options.
After all, this is a decision that will impact your finances for the next several years. So there’s no need to go so fast that you end up missing out on a great auto loan. Here are a few tips to get you started with the loan process.
Set a Timeframe to Search
Whether your last car broke down yesterday or you’re simply looking for an upgrade in the next few months, give yourself a set timeframe to get a new car loan.
Depending on how a lender’s decision process works, your pre-qualification or pre-approval may require a hard inquiry on your credit report.
If you’re shopping for the same type of loan over the course of a month or so, each inquiry will most likely be lumped together as one since you’re clearly comparison shopping. If it’s spread out too long, however, your credit score could take a big hit, with each inquiry costing you around five points.
Find the Best Auto Loan Rates
Another reason you want to give yourself a timeline is so that you can find the best auto loan rates. For example, if you get an estimate on your interest rate in the spring but wait until the fall to make a purchase, you may be in for an ugly surprise.
Interest rates are on the rise for all loan types, and while there’s no way to predict their exact trajectory, you likely won’t qualify for the same rate if you wait too long.
That means you’ll either have to pay a higher monthly payment for the same car or purchase a less expensive vehicle just to keep your payment at the original price.
Select Your Loan Type
When searching for a lender, you can narrow them down by the type of loan you need. After reading the reviews above, you can tell that some lenders only offer loans for new and used vehicles from dealers.
If you want to finance a vehicle from a car dealer or private party, make sure you’re comparing a pool of lenders that actually offer that service.
The same holds true for refinancing an existing car loan and for buying out a leased vehicle. There’s no sense in getting quotes from a lender that doesn’t even provide the type of loan you’re looking for, no matter how low their interest rates seem.
Compare Auto Loan Rates and Fees
No two lenders are likely to offer you the same loan terms. Therefore, you need to compare interest rates and APRs and which lenders incorporate any type of fee, such as an origination fee.
Also, consider the length of the loan term. For example, one loan might offer a lower interest rate but last two years longer than another loan.
If you can afford both payments, which one will save you the most money over time? Does a lender charge any other fees, such as a check processing fee? How are origination fees paid for? These are all questions you need to ask to avoid any unpleasant surprises once the loan is fully processed.
Check Your Local Credit Union
Credit unions have a reputation for offering competitive auto loan rates for their members. Look around and see if there is a local credit union that you could qualify for membership. Most credit unions are pretty broad these days.
This simple extra step could land you a better interest rate. The only downside is that it does take a bit more effort since you have to become a member. Additionally, while many credit unions are incorporating better technology into their online application process, some smaller institutions may have a more paper-based system in place.
Consider the Application Decision Timeline
Finally, remember to consider how long the application decision takes and how long it takes to get your funds in the bank.
Even if you’re not buying a car right away, this information is vital for you to plan when you can actually get the keys to your new vehicle.
Most online lenders boast a quick application process, so delve a little deeper to get the actual details. Even if you get a credit decision within moments, find out how long the underwriting process takes.
If the lender boasts same-day or next-day funding, figure out what you need to do on your end to make that happen. In most cases, you’re responsible for providing income verification documents and signing a loan agreement before the lender can release any funds.