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How Bad Credit Scores Affect Car Finance

Having a car is no longer a luxury for many; it's a necessity. But for individuals with a history of debt, low income, or low credit scores, securing car finance can feel like a huge hurdle. Let's delve into how bad credit influences the prospects of obtaining car finance and what you can do if you're in this situation.
how bad credit scores affect car finance


Having a car is no longer a luxury for many; it’s a necessity. But for individuals with a history of debt, low income, or low credit scores, securing car finance can feel like a huge hurdle. Let’s delve into how bad credit influences the prospects of obtaining car finance and what you can do if you’re in this situation.

What is bad credit?

Bad credit is a term used to describe a less-than-ideal financial history that can affect an individual’s ability to borrow money or secure credit. In essence, if you have ‘bad credit’, lenders and other financial institutions perceive you as a higher risk based on your past financial behaviour.

This perception often stems from a history of missing payments, defaulting on loans, or accumulating too much debt relative to your income. As a result, individuals with bad credit may face challenges when attempting to secure loans, credit cards, or even certain services that require credit checks.

Having bad credit doesn’t just restrict your borrowing capabilities; it can also influence other aspects of your life. For instance, you might face higher interest rates on mortgages, need deposits for utilities or be limited in your choice of mobile phone contracts. Moreover, a bad credit score can remain on your record for several years, highlighting the importance of understanding and managing one’s finances efficiently.

Types of bad credit

County court judgments (CCJs)

A CCJ is a type of court order in the UK that might be registered against you if you fail to repay the money you owe. It can severely affect your credit rating and hinder your ability to secure finance, especially mainstream options.

Individual voluntary arrangements (IVAs)

This is an agreement between you and your creditors to pay back a portion of your debts over a specific period. An IVA indicates financial distress and can make securing credit more difficult during its tenure and even after it’s completed.

Debt management plans (DMPs)

While not legally binding, a DMP is an agreement between you and your creditors where you pay back your debts at a rate you can afford. This might suggest to future creditors that you’ve had difficulties with repayments in the past.


One of the most severe forms of bad credit, bankruptcy, is a legal status for people who cannot repay their debts. Declaring bankruptcy can have long-term consequences for your credit profile.


If you fail to pay off a loan or credit card and the lender concludes you aren’t likely to in the foreseeable future, they might mark it as a ‘default’. This can significantly impact your creditworthiness.

Late payments

Even occasional late payments on bills, credit cards or loans can register on your credit report and signal potential unreliability to future lenders.

💡 You might like: What should I do if I’m struggling to make my repayments?

High utilisation of credit limit

If you’re consistently using a high percentage of your available credit, it can indicate financial stress or poor money management.

Frequent applications for new credit

Applying for several credit cards or loans in a short period can indicate financial desperation or poor financial planning.


If you’ve had assets taken back due to an inability to meet repayment obligations, this marks a severe form of credit impairment.

Payday loans

While they provide quick access to cash, having payday loans on your credit report might signal to potential lenders that you’re in financial distress.

No credit history

Paradoxically, having no history of borrowing can also be a disadvantage. Without a track record, lenders might be hesitant as they have no way to gauge your reliability in repayments.

Each type of bad credit event has its implications and varying durations for which it remains on your credit report. It’s crucial to be aware of these as you plan future financial decisions.

a person using a calculator

The importance of credit scores in financial transactions

A credit score is a numerical representation of an individual’s creditworthiness based on their financial history and behaviour. This score is a tool used by lenders, banks, and various other institutions to assess the risk involved in lending money or providing services to that individual. Here’s a deeper look into why credit scores hold such significance in financial transactions:

  1. Trustworthiness indicator: At its core, a credit score indicates to a lender how trustworthy or reliable you are in repaying your debts. A higher credit score usually suggests that you have consistently met your financial obligations in the past.
  2. Interest rate determinant: People with higher credit scores are often rewarded with lower interest rates on loans and credit cards. Conversely, those with lower scores may face higher interest rates, reflecting the perceived higher risk of lending to them.
  3. Loan amount and terms: Apart from interest rates, your credit score can influence the loan amount you’re eligible for and the terms of the loan, including repayment duration and other conditions.
  4. Securing housing: Many landlords conduct credit checks on potential tenants. A good credit score can increase your chances of securing a rental property without hefty deposits.
  5. Employment opportunities: Some employers check credit scores as part of their hiring process, especially for positions that involve financial responsibilities.
  6. Utility services: Utility companies might review your credit score when determining whether to require a deposit or offer monthly billing.
  7. Insurance premiums: In some cases, insurance companies use credit-based insurance scores to determine premiums, especially for auto and homeowners insurance.

How are credit scores calculated?

Credit scores in the UK are calculated based on various factors. These include your repayment history, the amount of debt you owe, the length of your credit history, the types of credit you use, and recent credit applications.

💡 Learn more in this guide: How are credit scores calculated?

How bad credit affects car finance: 10 key points

1. Higher interest rates

One of the most immediate impacts of bad credit is higher interest rates on car loans. Lenders view those with bad credit as high-risk borrowers and might charge more to offset this risk.

2. Limited loan options

Mainstream lenders might be hesitant to offer car finance with bad credit. This can lead individuals to seek out specialised lenders who might offer limited and less favourable options.

3. Stricter loan terms

The terms of the loan might come with more stringent conditions, such as inflexible repayment schedules or penalties for early repayment.

4. Larger down payments required

To mitigate their risk, lenders might require those with bad credit to provide a more substantial initial deposit or down payment for the vehicle.

5. Potential for loan rejection

Bad credit increases the likelihood of outright loan rejection, as lenders might not want to take on the perceived risk.

💡 Read more: What to do if you’re refused car finance.

6. Impact on loan duration

Those with bad credit might only be offered shorter loan durations, which can lead to higher monthly repayments.

7. Increased insurance premiums

A poor credit score can also affect car insurance. Insurance providers might see those with bad credit as high risk and increase premiums accordingly.

8. Requirement for co-signers

To secure car finance, lenders might require someone with better credit to co-sign the loan. This individual would then be responsible for the loan if the primary borrower defaults.

9. Effects on leasing options

Leasing a car might also be more challenging with bad credit. The terms might be less favourable, or a lease might not be granted at all.

10. Impact on refinancing opportunities

If someone with bad credit manages to secure car finance and later wishes to refinance for better terms or rates, they might find this difficult due to their credit history.

a person holding a pen and calculator

What to do if you want car finance but have bad credit

Securing car finance with a tarnished credit history can be challenging, but it isn’t impossible. If you find yourself in such a situation, here’s a step-by-step guide to navigating the process:

1. Evaluate your credit report

Before approaching lenders, get a copy of your credit report. This will provide you with a clear picture of where you stand and the factors negatively impacting your score. You might even spot errors that, once rectified, can help improve your score.

2. Seek professional assistance

Credit counselling agencies and financial advisors can offer guidance tailored to your situation. They might suggest strategies or resources you hadn’t considered, potentially increasing your chances of securing finance.

3. Explore specialised lenders

Mainstream banks might be hesitant, but there are lenders who specialise in offering finance to those with bad credit. However, be cautious and ensure you understand the terms, as these loans often come with higher interest rates and stricter conditions.

4. Consider a co-signer

If you have a trusted individual with a better credit rating, consider asking them to co-sign the car finance agreement. This can enhance your chances of approval, as the lender has additional assurance the loan will be repaid.

5. Be prepared for higher costs

Understand that with bad credit, you might face higher interest rates and larger down payments. Budget accordingly and ensure that you won’t overextend yourself financially.

How to improve your credit score

Boosting your credit score won’t happen overnight, but with sustained effort, it’s achievable. Here are some actionable ways to improve your credit score:

1. Review and correct credit reports

Regularly check your credit reports for any inaccuracies or discrepancies. If you spot errors, such as a wrongly listed late payment, report it to the credit bureau to have it rectified.

2. Pay bills on time

This might sound simple, but timely payment of all your bills – from utilities to credit card bills – plays a crucial role in improving your credit score.

3. Reduce debt and utilise credit wisely

Try to reduce the amount of debt you owe. Start with high-interest debt first. Also, avoid maxing out credit cards; aim to utilise only a fraction of your available credit.

4. Avoid unnecessary credit inquiries

Each time you apply for a loan or credit card, a hard inquiry is made on your credit report. Multiple inquiries in a short span can negatively impact your score. It’s essential to apply for credit only when necessary.

5. Seek professional credit counselling

If you’re unsure where to start or feel overwhelmed, consider seeking advice from credit counselling agencies. They can offer strategies tailored to your situation and even negotiate with creditors on your behalf.

By adhering to these guidelines and maintaining a consistent focus on responsible financial management, it’s possible to gradually rebuild your credit score. Over time, this will open up more opportunities for favourable loan terms and interest rates, easing the process of securing car finance and other financial products.

Understanding your situation will smooth your path

Navigating car finance with a compromised credit history can be challenging, but understanding your standing and the options available can smooth the path. By being proactive, seeking guidance, and taking steps to rehabilitate your credit, opportunities for financing can emerge. It’s crucial to approach any financial commitment informed and prepared, ensuring that the decisions made today pave the way for a brighter, more secure financial future.

a person withdrawing a banknote from a wallet

Frequently asked questions

What is the minimum credit score needed for car finance?

The minimum credit score required for car finance varies among lenders and the type of finance deal you’re seeking. While there isn’t a set ‘universal’ minimum, typically, a score of 660 or above is considered good in the UK. However, specialised lenders might offer financing to those with scores below this, though likely at higher interest rates.

Can I still get car finance with very bad credit?

Yes, you can get car finance with bad credit. There are specialised lenders who cater to individuals with poor credit histories. While the terms might be less favourable, such as higher interest rates or larger down payments, it’s not impossible. It’s essential to shop around, understand the terms fully, and ensure you’re not putting yourself in a more challenging financial position.

How long does it take to improve my credit score?

The time it takes to improve a credit score can vary based on several factors, including the nature of the negative marks on your report and your current financial habits. For instance, late payments can stay on your credit report for up to seven years, but their impact diminishes over time, especially if you demonstrate consistent positive financial behaviour.

Generally, with consistent efforts like timely bill payments and reducing debt, a noticeable improvement can be seen within a few months to a year.

Are there specialised lenders for people with bad credit?

Yes, there are lenders who specialise in providing car finance for individuals with bad or poor credit histories. These lenders understand the challenges faced by such individuals and often have tailored solutions. However, it’s essential to approach with caution and fully understand the terms, as interest rates can be significantly higher.

How do I know if my credit score is considered ‘bad’?

In the UK, credit scores range across different credit reference agencies. However, as a general guideline, Experian scores below 561 are considered ‘very poor’, while Equifax scores below 380 fall into their ‘poor’ category. It’s advisable to check with specific credit bureaus to understand their scoring system and where you stand. Remember, even if one agency has you listed with a lower score, another might have a more favourable rating, so it’s worth checking multiple sources.

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