What Is A Good Credit Score To Buy A Car With No Down Payment?
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What Is A Good Credit Score To Buy A Car With No Down Payment?

Having less-than-perfect credit scores doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be able to secure a car loan. However, it can have an impact on the interest rate and other terms of the loan you receive. Typically, the lower your credit scores, the higher the interest rate you can expect.

Nevertheless, there are ways to potentially secure a better rate, such as making a down payment or obtaining a co-signer.

While there isn’t a universal minimum credit score requirement for obtaining a car loan, your credit scores can significantly influence your loan approval and the terms offered to you.

According to the Q4 2022 Experian State of the Automotive Finance Market report, individuals who secured loans for new cars had an average credit score of 738, while those who obtained loans for used cars had an average score of 678.

Lower credit scores often result in fewer loan options and higher interest rates. However, if your scores aren’t where you want them to be, there’s no need to give up hope.

Continue reading to gain a deeper understanding of how your credit scores impact your chances of obtaining a car loan and explore strategies that may increase your likelihood of approval and potentially lead to better offers.

How Do My Credit Scores Affect My Car Loan?

Your credit scores play a crucial role in determining your ability to obtain a car loan, as well as the interest rate and terms you may be offered.

Before you embark on your car loan shopping journey, it’s generally wise to check your credit scores and comprehend how they can influence the loan terms you receive from auto lenders, whether you’re seeking a loan for a new or used car.

This also presents an opportunity to review your credit reports for any errors that might be negatively impacting your scores.

Car Loan Rates Based On Credit Score

The table below provides average auto loan rates for new and used car loans, categorized by credit scores. These rates are based on Experian data from the fourth quarter of 2022.

Credit Score RangeNew Car Loan RateUsed Car Loan Rate
300 – 50014.90%20.45%
501 – 60011.02%16.91%
601 – 6607.25%11.57%
661 – 7804.29%7.39%
781 – 8503.42%4.57%

Please note that these rates are averages, and individual rates may vary based on several factors, including the lender’s policies and your specific financial circumstances.

Remember, even if your credit scores are not ideal, there are steps you can take to improve your chances of securing a car loan and potentially receiving more favorable offers. It’s important to be proactive in managing your credit and exploring options that may help you qualify for a loan with better terms.

A few extra percentage points may not seem significant at first glance. However, when applied to the substantial sums typically involved in car loans, they can quickly add up to substantial costs. Let’s explore how this plays out in real-life scenarios.

Consider two borrowers who both want to finance $10,000 for a used car over a 60-month term. One borrower falls into the prime category, while the other is classified as subprime. In the fourth quarter of 2022, the average interest rate for subprime borrowers was 17.46%, according to Experian, while prime borrowers received an average rate of 7.83%.

Over time, the subprime borrower will repay approximately $15,060, including $5,060 in interest. On the other hand, the prime borrower will only pay about $2,117 in interest, resulting in a total cost of $12,117. This difference of approximately $2,943 in interest paid clearly illustrates the impact credit scores can have in determining loan costs.

The Importance of Improving Your Credit Score

Taking steps to enhance your credit score can significantly increase your chances of loan approval with favorable terms. By doing so, you can keep more money in your pocket over the long term.
If you are currently in the market for a new car or plan to be soon, consider the following actions that could potentially improve your odds of loan approval and secure a lower interest rate:

  1. Work on Your Credit Scores: Improving your credit scores can unlock lower interest rates and attract preapprovals from a wider range of lenders. Your credit scores are primarily influenced by your payment history and the amount of debt you carry.
    Focusing on these two factors can greatly assist in improving your creditworthiness.
  2. Save For A Down Payment: Making a down payment on a car loan can enhance your chances of loan approval and may result in a lower interest rate. Additionally, providing a larger upfront payment will decrease the amount you need to borrow, resulting in less interest paid overall.
  3. Consider A Co-Signer: Having a co-signer with higher credit scores on your loan may help you secure approval more easily or obtain a better interest rate. A co-signer essentially shares the responsibility for loan repayment, providing added assurance to the lender.
  4. Keep Shopping: If you haven’t found a rate and loan terms that suit your needs, don’t hesitate to continue your search. Utilize tools like Credit Karma to compare estimated loan terms, interest rates, and monthly payment amounts across multiple lenders.

Credit Scores Used For Car Loans

Credit-scoring models from FICO and VantageScore are commonly used in the evaluation of auto loans. However, lenders may also employ industry-specific scoring models such as the FICO® Auto Scores.
These scores are calculated by first determining your “base” scores, which are your traditional FICO scores, and then adjusting them based on specific auto risks.

FICO Auto Scores range from 250 to 900 points and help lenders assess the likelihood of timely auto loan payments.

Factors That Determine Your Credit Scores

Regardless of the scoring model used, several key factors contribute to higher credit scores. Let’s examine the components that makeup two popular credit-scoring models, the FICO® 8 credit score and VantageScore® 3.0:

  1. Payment History: Your payment history, reflecting the number of on-time payments made on loans and credit cards, significantly impact your credit scores. Making timely payments is crucial, as any late payments can lower your payment history score.
  2. Credit Utilization: Credit utilization measures the extent to which you use your available credit. Keeping your total utilization as low as possible, ideally below 30%, is generally advisable to maintain higher credit scores.
  3. Age of Accounts: The age of your credit history refers to the duration for which you have held credit cards or other open loans. A longer average account age positively influences your credit scores, while opening several new accounts may lower them due to decreased average account age.
  4. Account Mix: The types of credit accounts you possess, known as your account mix, can impact your credit scores. Lenders prefer to see a history of on-time payments across various credit accounts, including credit cards, auto loans, student loans, and mortgages. This diversity can contribute to building higher credit scores.
  5. Inquiries: Hard and soft inquiries occur when you apply for credit or set up utilities or rental agreements. Hard inquiries typically remain on your credit reports for two years. If you have multiple hard inquiries within a short timeframe, lenders may view you as a borrower actively seeking credit, potentially leading to lower scores.

By understanding the factors that influence credit scores and implementing strategies to improve them, you can enhance your chances of securing a car loan with more favorable terms and potentially save a significant amount of money in the process.


Credit scores play a vital role in obtaining a car loan with favorable terms. The difference in interest rates between prime and subprime borrowers can result in thousands of dollars in additional costs over the life of the loan.

However, there are steps you can take to increase your chances of approval and secure a lower interest rate. Working on improving your credit scores, saving for a down payment, considering a co-signer, and continuing to shop for the best loan terms are all strategies that can make a significant impact.

By understanding how credit scores affect car loans and taking proactive measures, you can optimize your chances of obtaining a car loan with better terms, keeping more money in your pocket in the long run.

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