Yes, you can negotiate your deal on a bad credit car loan, though you may not have the same leverage as someone with a better credit score. Without the strength of a high credit score behind you, you may not be able to qualify for as low of an interest rate or monthly payment as you're looking for. But a lot of things associated with an auto loan can be negotiated.
Preparing to Negotiate a Bad Credit Auto Loan
Before you go toe-to-toe with a dealer, make sure you know what kind of power you have in this arena. This means knowing your credit score and what's on your credit reports. Without this information, you're powerless to push back against a lender's assessment of your credit situation.
Auto Credit Express Tip: Remember, you're most likely going to be interacting with the special finance manager at a dealership, who talks to the lender on your behalf. The dealer isn't responsible for the rates and terms you qualify for, and the lender can't determine how much a dealership is willing to cut a deal.
The only way to know you deserve better terms than you're being offered is to do your research. Find out what the average car loan looks like for people in similar situations. You don't want to go into a dealer with unrealistic expectations.
- First, get your credit score and credit reports. Now is a great time to do this, because the three major credit bureaus – TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax – are offering U.S. consumers free weekly access to their credit reports. This deal only lasts until April 2021; you can request a copy of your reports by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com.
- Next, look online for some national averages on auto lending interest rates and see where you fall on the FICO credit scoring model. Knowing where you stand enables you to prepare for the next steps in your car loan: your budget.
- The final step to getting ready to negotiate on your auto loan is to plan your car buying budget. If you don't know what you have to work with, or how to accurately calculate the out-the-door and overall costs of your auto loan, then you won't have a leg to stand on when talking to a dealership.
What Are You Negotiating For?
Without a plan or a budget to refer to, you can't have a goal to negotiate for. When it comes to a bad credit car loan, there's no point in negotiating just because you can.
You should have a set goal in mind, whether it's a target interest rate, a specific loan term, or a set monthly payment amount. Don't give these things away to the dealer, though. Keeping your numbers close to the vest is what gives you the power to make a deal on your terms.
In order to get an auto loan deal you can live with, you have to know what you can afford. To find this out, you can do a few simple calculations that the lender does when determining if your budget can handle a car loan. This is your debt to income (DTI) ratio.
Your DTI ratio lets you know how much of your monthly finances are already being used by your existing monthly bills, including an auto loan and car insurance. If you're using more than 45% to 50% of your monthly income, a lender may not be willing to add to that burden.
To see how much auto loan you could qualify for, and to find out if those monthly payments fit into your budget, you can check out our car loan and monthly payment calculators.
Know What You Can Negotiate
In order to negotiate on your bad credit auto loan, you have to know what you can and can't change your lender's mind on. Not everything on a car loan contract is negotiable.
Here's a look at what you can have a crack at negotiating:
- Vehicle selling price – The first thing you should know you can negotiate on when it comes to an auto loan is the price of the car. The sticker price on a new vehicle typically lists the MSRP, or manufacturer suggested sale price, and may list a dealership price, too. You can ask for any price you want, but the dealer may not agree to honor it.
- Your interest rate – Your APR is likely to be a bit higher than you'd like with bad credit, but you can always ask a dealership or lender if what they're offering is the best rate you qualify for. Often it's not, there's no rule that says dealers have to offer you the lowest rate or best deal that you're qualified for by a lender. With that said, you don't have to accept a deal that stretches you too thin, either.
- Your loan term – Shorter loan terms mean higher monthly payments, but stretching your loan too long means a higher overall cost. Being a payment shopper, only looking at the monthly payment and ignoring the overall loan cost, isn't the place to be with poor credit.
- Down payment amount – When you have credit challenges, you generally have to meet a down payment requirement set by your lender. However, it may not be set in stone. Depending on your other rates and terms, you may be able to negotiate the amount you need up front.
- Your trade-in – If you're using a trade-in to cover some of your down payment amount, you may be able to negotiate what you're getting out of it. It also helps to know the value of your trade-in before you head to the dealership so you can have more leverage in negotiation.
- Prepayment penalties – If you have to take on a longer term to get a more favorable monthly payment, you can save money in the long run by paying more on your loan whenever possible. Look over your contract carefully to make sure you aren't penalized for this, or ask the lender to remove the clause if you are.
- Optional features and equipment – Some features on the vehicle you're choosing could be optional, and carry additional fees which can be negotiated on. Things like window tinting, fabric protection, and certain optional packages like wheel protection or cargo nets could be charges coming from the dealer. You don't have to agree to these. This also goes for extended warranties and GAP insurance coverage.
- Dealership documentation fees – A "doc fee" on any auto loan contract, which dealers charge for preparing your paperwork and talking to the lender on your behalf, is pretty standard, but the amount varies. There's no reason to pay through the nose for this, and many states cap the amount you can be charged. Expect a minimum doc fee, but try to lower it as much as possible.
With all these things to haggle over, there are three main things that are non-negotiable when it comes to a car loan (which are set by the state, so there's no getting around them):
- Title fees
- License fees
Ready to Negotiate Your Next Car Loan?
If you've tried negotiating on a bad credit auto loan in the past and were unsuccessful, don't give up! Just because one dealership isn't willing to work with you doesn't mean that others aren't.
Remember to keep your search for a car loan to a two-week window. If you apply for multiple loans of the same kind with different lenders within that time frame, you stop multiple hard credit inquiries from affecting your credit score.
Additionally, when you have bad credit and need an auto loan, it's in your best interest to make sure you're applying with a subprime lender at a special finance dealer. These lenders are able to help people in many tough credit situations, such as bad credit, no credit, and even bankruptcy.
Here at Auto Credit Express, we've cultivated a nationwide network of special finance dealerships, and we want to get you matched to one in your area! We'll get right to work for you after you fill out our fast, free, and zero-obligation car loan request form.