Are you afraid to go shopping for a car because of the embarrassment you may face at the very real possibility of being turned down due to bad credit? If this is you, you're not alone. More than ever before, millions are faced with bad credit right now.
What you need right now is a little "credit score infusion". Your score needs to be high enough so you can qualify for that auto loan you so desperately need.
I Can't Wait Months To Increase My Credit Score! I totally understand. In today's world an auto is a necessity. If you're lucky enough to still have a job right now, you gotta have a car to get to work. If you've been laid off or just can't find a job, you need a car to go look for a job. You need to pick up your kids from daycare, you need to go to the grocery store (jeez...nothing worse than trying to lug 6 grocery bags a mile down the road...) Whatever the issue is, you won't get far without wheels, so here's a few tips you can use to infuse your credit score immediately".
What's A Good Score For An Auto Loan? Different lenders have different criteria in relation to what they deem to be a "good" score. Really, what it all boils down to is "What interest rate am I going to have to pay?" You can still probably find a lender who will give you a car loan with a credit score of 580, but you're going to pay a really high interest rate for it. Get yourself bumped up to over 600 and better yet, over 620, and you have a few more options, but the rate you're going to pay is still not going to be pleasant. If you have scores in the range of 650 to 680, interest rates are going to be decent. Get yourself over 700 and you've got shopping power baby!
So, Where Do I Get My Credit Score? There are many scoring models out there, so don't be fooled. There can be a 50 to 100 point difference from one credit scoring agency to another, so your best bet is to stick with your FICO Score. This score is derived by Equifax and is the credit score that most lenders use, so you can be pretty confident with the score you receive.
You can get your FICO credit score for $9.95 if you sign up for their Score Watch program. This is the quickest way to get your score, and a great way to monitor how it's going to shoot up after I teach you a few tricks later in this article. If you do not wish to sign up for this free trial, then you can access all three of your credit reports for free at annualcreditreport.com, but you will then have to pay around $7 to $10 to purchase your score from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. You can only do this once a year for free, and in my book Surviving Your Credit Meltdown, I walk you through an 8 Step System to erase negative marks off your credit, so you might want to save the one chance you have this year, until after you read the book. (You can still apply my system if you've already accessed annualcreditreport.com once this year, but you'll have to do it all through snail mail.)
How Do I Get My Scores Up Quickly? You'd be surprised at how much inaccurate information is reported without you even being aware of it. If you don't check your credit on a regular basis (once a year), then I'm sure you've got some mis-information being reported on you as well. Go over every account that is showing on your credit. If you have accounts showing late payments that were never late, dispute those baby! Even if you're not sure if they really were late....dispute it anyway! If you have multiple collection accounts showing for the same debt, dispute 'em! If you have recent inquiries that are showing up that you do not recognize, dispute 'em!
What Is The Best Way To Dispute? Again, you can do this all on-line through AnnualCreditReport.com, but you only get one shot a year to dispute everything you can on-line and there is so much more you can do than what I'm outlining right here. If you want take the hour or so and do a really thorough job the first time, I'd recommend getting Surviving Your Credit Meltdown and going through each step to make sure you're optimizing your report as best as you can the first time.
Once you get the System, you'll also get a video tutorial walking you through the dispute process in Equifax, Experian & Transunion while on AnnualCreditReport.com, so you know exactly what and how to dispute and what to expect. If you don't have time to do it right now, there's a host of creditor and credit bureau sample letters (that you can find on http://www.CreditTrauma.com) you can use to send in to the credit bureaus that will accomplish the same thing, and you can save your free yearly check until you have a little more time to spend on it. These letters just take a day or two longer because you have to send them via the mail.
Don't worry about sending in any kind of proof to the credit bureau's of anything you're disputing. (Just eliminate that part out of the letter template.) They don't keep it for the first-time dispute process anyway because on the first go-around, all they're going to do is contact the creditor in dispute and ask them to validate the information. If the creditor finds a record of what you're disputing, it stays on, if not, then it comes off. You'd be surprised how many items just come off because of lousy record keeping or laziness on the part of the human involved. There is much more you can do after the first go-around with the bureaus, but this is a quick and efficient way to increase your scores quickly when you're in a hurry.
Now...let's get that car loan! Okay....with minimal effort and a little luck, you've increased your credit score higher than it was before...good job! Now, you need financing...but where to go? If you go directly to auto dealerships, you need to know that in order to get a loan, your credit report will be pulled, and pulled, and pulled...you get my drift right? This will result in multiple "hard inquiries" on your credit report, and by going to the dealerships first, you will never find out why you are not being approved and the inquiries will just keep adding up.
**You do however have a 14 day grace period when shopping for an auto loan. Your credit can be pulled multiple times within that 14 day period and it will only count as one inquiry, so you need to be sure that you're seriously ready to buy that car once your credit starts being pulled. If you keep having your credit pulled after that, kiss your new score good-bye... What you really want is to be pre-approved. That way you can walk into ANY dealership with a loan that you can afford already in place and you'll know exactly how much you can afford.
Next Step: Go Visit Your Local Bank If your new credit score is 620 or higher, the best thing you can do for yourself is go to your local bank and apply for an auto loan there first. (I'm talking about walking into your branch and talking to a live human.) You want to speak with someone who can pre-qualify you for a loan based on the banks guidelines.
o Maybe you don't have enough income to qualify for that Ferrari you wanted......(yeah, probably not...) Yet, the loan officer will be able to advise you how much you can qualify for, as long as this is your only issue.
o If you're turned down because of your score, you can ask what is the minimum score they require to get approved. This will tell you whether or not you're going to need sub-prime financing or not.
What If I Can't Qualify For A Bank Car Loan? If you're not "bankable" just yet, don't worry...there are still lenders out there that will give you a loan, but the rate isn't going to be as pretty. I'd first ask the loan officer at the bank if they have anyone they'd recommend to refer you to. You can also do a search on the net for "bad credit auto loans" and you'll get a slew of links to click on. Some of these sites will search multiple lenders for you and could save you some time. If you like a more personal approach, you can look in your local yellow pages for "finance companies", like Household Finance or American General. Word of caution here though, finance companies usually carry much higher rates, so be sure to shop around.
What If The Payments Aren't Affordable? Most people worry about whether or not they'll be able to make the monthly payments on a loan without taking into account the loan's term, total interest paid, and loan origination fees or pre-payment penalties.
Generally, the lowest rates on auto loans are available on short-term loans, from 12 to 36 months, which mean a large monthly payment but lower amounts of interest. Longer-term loans often come with higher interest rates. When you calculate the total price of your new vehicle, include the interest costs over the years. If it seems like too much for you, try to renegotiate the interest rate, offer a larger down payment, or shorten the term of the loan.
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