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Can you refinance a car?

Refinancing a car loan can be a savvy financial move. This article outlines when and how you can refinance to save money or lower your payments.


Refinancing a car might sound daunting, but it’s a savvy financial move for many. In this guide, we’ll unpack everything you need to know about the process, its benefits, and how to get started. Whether you’re looking to lower your payments or adjust your loan terms, refinancing could be the ticket to better managing your car finance.

Why should you consider refinancing?

Refinancing your car loan can offer numerous advantages. Perhaps you’re after a lower interest rate to reduce your monthly outgoings, or maybe your financial situation has changed since you first took out your loan. Whatever your reasons, refinancing can provide flexibility and potentially save you a tidy sum over the life of your loan.

Lower interest rates

Interest rates fluctuate based on the economy and your personal credit situation. If rates have dropped since you secured your original loan, or if your credit score has improved, refinancing could lock in a lower rate. This means you could end up paying significantly less over the life of your loan, freeing up cash for other financial priorities.

Reduce monthly payments

If your monthly budget is tighter than you’d like, refinancing can offer some breathing room. By securing a lower interest rate or extending the loan term, your monthly payments could be reduced, making it easier to manage your finances without stretching yourself too thin.

Adapting to a change in financial situations

Life’s constant changes can impact your financial situation. Whether you’ve experienced a job change, had an increase or decrease in income, or faced unexpected expenses, refinancing can adjust your loan to better fit your current circumstances, providing peace of mind and financial flexibility.

Shortening the loan term

While many focus on lowering monthly payments, refinancing can also allow you to pay off your car loan faster. If you’re in a better financial position than when you first took out the loan, you might opt for a shorter term with higher monthly payments. This can save you money on interest and help you achieve full ownership of your vehicle sooner.

Access to equity

For cars that have retained or increased in value, a cash-out refinance could provide access to equity. This means you could borrow more than you owe on the car and use the extra cash for other purposes, like consolidating debt or making home improvements. It’s a flexible option for accessing funds without applying for a separate loan.

Consolidating debt

If you have multiple debts with high-interest rates, refinancing your car loan to secure a lump sum of cash can be a strategic way to consolidate those debts. This approach can simplify your finances by combining several payments into one and potentially reducing the overall amount you pay in interest.

Are you eligible for refinancing?

Before diving into refinancing, it’s essential to understand the criteria. Lenders will look at your credit score, the loan-to-value ratio of your vehicle, its age and condition, and your current loan status, among other factors. A strong credit score can unlock lower interest rates, so it’s worth checking your credit report before you apply.

🚗 Read more: 8 reasons why you should refinance your car.

Getting ready to refinance

Preparing to refinance your car is a critical step in ensuring you get the best deal possible and that the process goes smoothly. Here’s a deeper look into how you can get ready for this financial move:

1. Review your current loan

The first step in preparing to refinance is to thoroughly understand your current loan terms. Look for the interest rate, remaining balance, monthly payment amount, and how many months are left on the loan. Also, check for any prepayment penalties or fees that could affect the cost-effectiveness of refinancing. Knowing these details will help you determine how much you could save with a new loan.

2. Check your credit score

Your credit score plays a significant role in the refinancing process, influencing the interest rate lenders will offer you. Before applying, check your credit score to see where you stand. If your score has improved since you took out your original loan, you’re likely to qualify for better rates. If it’s lower, you might want to take steps to improve it before refinancing.

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3. Gather necessary documentation

When you apply to refinance your car, lenders will require certain documents to process your application. These typically include proof of income (such as pay stubs or tax returns), proof of residence (like a utility bill or lease agreement), your current loan information, and details about your vehicle, including the make, model, year, and VIN. Having these documents ready can speed up the application process.

4. Assess your vehicle’s value

The amount you can refinance is closely tied to your car’s current value, which lenders determine using factors like age, mileage, and condition. Tools like Kelley Blue Book can give you a good idea of your car’s value. If your vehicle has depreciated significantly, it could affect your loan terms or your ability to refinance, so it’s important to have realistic expectations.

5. Understand your financial goals

Refinancing can serve different financial goals: lowering your monthly payments, paying off your loan faster, or getting cash out. Your goal will guide the type of loan terms you’re looking for, so it’s important to be clear about what you want to achieve. For example, if reducing your monthly expenditure is the priority, you might opt for a longer loan term, whereas if you want to save on interest in the long run, you might look for a loan with a shorter term and lower rate.

6. Shop around for the best deal

Don’t settle for the first refinancing offer you receive. Interest rates and terms can vary widely between lenders, so it’s beneficial to shop around. Use online comparison tools and get quotes from multiple lenders, including banks, credit unions, and online financing companies. This will help you find the best rate and terms for your situation.

7. Calculate the costs

Refinancing can come with fees, such as origination fees, processing fees, and potential prepayment penalties on your current loan. Before deciding to refinance, calculate all the costs involved to ensure that refinancing will indeed save you money in the long run. Sometimes, the fees may outweigh the benefits of a lower interest rate or different loan terms.

8. Plan for the application process

Finally, be prepared for the refinancing application process. It can take time for lenders to review your application, assess your vehicle’s value, and finalise the loan. Ensure your financial records are in order and be ready to provide additional documentation or information as requested.

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Watch out for pitfalls

Refinancing isn’t without its potential downsides. Be wary of extending your loan term too much, as it could mean paying more in interest over time. Also, consider any fees or penalties associated with your current loan and the impact refinancing might have on your credit score.

🚗 Read more: How To Refinance Your Car.

Alternatives to refinancing

If refinancing doesn’t seem like the right fit, there are other options. Making extra payments on your current loan can reduce the interest you pay in the long run, while a loan modification could adjust your current terms without the need for a new loan.

In summary

Refinancing your car can be a wise financial decision, offering the chance to lower your payments and adjust your loan to better suit your needs. However, it’s important to carefully consider your options and ensure it’s the right move for your situation.

Frequently asked questions

How often can I refinance my car?

There’s no set limit to how often you can refinance your car, but it’s important to consider the timing. Ideally, you should wait until you can secure a significantly lower interest rate or your financial situation has improved. Frequent refinancing might also impact your credit score due to the hard inquiries from lenders.

Can I refinance my car with bad credit?

Yes, it’s possible to refinance your car with bad credit, but the terms might not be as favourable. Some lenders specialise in loans for individuals with less-than-perfect credit. Improving your credit score before applying, however, can help you secure better rates and terms.

Will refinancing my car affect my credit score?

Refinancing your car can impact your credit score temporarily. The application process involves a hard credit inquiry, which might lower your score by a few points. However, if refinancing leads to more manageable payments and you make them on time, it can positively impact your credit score in the long term.

How long does the refinancing process take?

The time frame can vary depending on the lender and your specific situation, but typically, refinancing a car loan can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. This includes time for application processing, vehicle appraisal, and finalising the new loan terms.

Are there fees associated with refinancing?

Yes, there can be fees associated with refinancing, including application fees, origination fees, and potential prepayment penalties on your existing loan. It’s crucial to ask about all possible fees upfront and factor them into your decision-making process.

How do I find the best refinancing deal?

To find the best deal, compare offers from multiple lenders, including banks, credit unions, and online lenders. Look beyond just the interest rate; consider the loan term, any fees, and the lender’s customer service reputation. Online loan comparison tools can be particularly helpful in this process.

Can refinancing help me pay off my car loan faster?

Yes, if you choose a loan with a shorter term and you can manage the potentially higher monthly payments. This means you’ll pay off the principal faster and save on interest over the life of the loan.

Is there a best time of year to refinance?

While there’s no universally best time to refinance, it’s wise to consider doing so when interest rates drop or if your credit score has significantly improved since you took out your original loan. Additionally, refinancing early in the year might give you the advantage of using any tax refunds towards your car loan.

🚗 Read more: When Is The Best Time to Refinance a Car?

What happens if I owe more on my car than it’s worth?

Owing more on your car than its current market value is known as being “upside down” on your loan. Refinancing in this situation can be challenging, as lenders are hesitant to offer loans for more than the car’s value. However, some lenders might still consider your application, especially if you can make a case for improved financial stability or offer to pay the difference.

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