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Should I Refinance My Auto Loan?

By K-Staff

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According to Edmunds, the average car payment for new vehicles hit an all-time high of $648 in the first quarter of 2022 – and the most common term for a vehicle loan is now 72 months.

With such high costs for financing your vehicle, an auto loan refinance can look quite appealing – but when should you consider looking under the hood of your current loan?

To lower your interest rate

If you initially financed your vehicle at a higher interest rate than what is now available in the market or your credit score has improved enough to qualify for a lower rate, refinancing your loan may make sense. A lower interest rate can save you a significant amount over the life of your auto loan, by allowing you to put more of your monthly payment toward the loan principal, thus paying off your loan more quickly.

To lower your monthly payment

Sometimes your budget needs adjusting, and the money you were able to put into a car payment needs to go elsewhere – refinancing your loan can allow you to extend the duration of your loan, and thus lower your monthly payment.

This will also mean you pay more interest over the total life of the loan, but it can help you in the short term when you need it most.

To improve your cash flow

If you currently owe less than what your vehicle is worth, you may be able to access more cash by refinancing – but this can be a risky strategy, as vehicles are depreciating assets that normally lose value the longer you own them. New cars can lose 20% of their original value within the first year of ownership, so if you are looking to refinance for this reason, time is of the essence.

There are also reasons to not consider refinancing your auto loan.

Fees and pre-payment penalties

If your current auto loan has a pre-payment penalty clause – where you would need to pay a penalty fee to pay off your loan for refinancing – you will need to determine whether it will actually be less expensive to keep your current loan. 

Underwater car loans

If you owe more than the value of your vehicle, refinancing is still possible, but not a great idea – your original lender will often require you pay the difference as a lump sum before closing your loan. If you don’t have the cash to make that work, refinancing may be more trouble than it’s worth.

Okay, I want to refinance...now what?

If you decide that refinancing your auto loan is right for you, get prepared so you can get the best rates and terms available. Start by checking your credit score – you can get a free copy of your credit report annually at AnnualCreditReport.com. The higher your credit score, the better interest rate and loan terms you can expect.

When you’re applying for a refinance loan, have the following items ready:

  • Proof of insurance (your insurance card works!)
  • Proof of residence (any personalized mail to your home – utilities, bank statements, etc.)
  • Proof of income (a pay statement or W-2)
  • Valid driver’s license
  • Current auto loan documents

Keep your vehicle’s mileage, make, model, VIN and year handy as well. Once you have everything you need, apply for your loan! You can apply any time online, call our Member Contact Center at (800) 880-5328 or visit any of our local branches to start your application today, and be sure to ask about our 90 days, no payments on a refinanced auto loan*.

* Loans currently financed at Kirtland FCU are not eligible for 90 days to first payment benefit on refinanced auto loans.

Sources:

The Pros and Cons of Refinancing a Car Loan, TheBalance.com, October 18, 2021.

When’s the Best Time to Refinance Your Car Loan?, Experian.com, September 15, 2019.

How Long Should a Car Loan Be? Edmunds.com, April 1, 2022.

When Should I Refinance My Auto Loan? CreditKarma.com, March 3, 2022.

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