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Published: Jun 02, 2023 38 min read
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Company Highlight
TOP PARTNER
Our Partner
  • Refinance or purchase a new or used car
  • Their lenders have solutions for most credit situations.
  • Get up to 5 offers from competing lenders!
  • Complete simple and secure online form in minutes.
  • Save on your current or new monthly car payment.
Our Partner
  • Get pre-approved in 2 minutes for an auto credit line of up to $250,000
  • Use Flexline™ to refinance loans, buy new or used vehicles or buy out leases, all at the same great rate
  • Finance multiple vehicles with one easy payment
  • Great for individuals with good-to-excellent credit
  • Use what you need. Pay nothing if you aren’t using your Flexline
Our Partner
  • Save thousands on your Auto Loan within minutes!
  • Average savings of $138 per month
  • National lending network
  • Simple application process
  • Wide range of offers
Our Partner
  • Compare 150+ car loan refinancers
  • Get the best rates from lenders across the country
  • Over 300,000 loans funded
  • A+ with the Better Business Bureau
  • Save on auto, RV, Boat, home insurance as well!
Our Partner
  • Save More With No Fees or Rate Markups
  • Compares top lenders for best offers
  • Rates as low as 5.49%
  • Average savings of 26% monthly
  • A+ BBB Rating & Accreditation
Our Partner
  • Rates as low as 4.29%
  • Specializes in all credit types - Supports FICO of 500+
  • Fast, easy online application
  • Speak directly to an expert Loan Care Agent
  • No application or hidden fees
  • Cars up to 15 years/160k miles

*Rates and APYs are subject to change. All information provided here is accurate as of May 25, 2023.

The best auto refinance companies offer transparent, reliable service to consumers looking for competitive rates from a variety of lenders, including banks, credit unions and non-depository financial lenders.

Your potential savings will be determined by multiple factors — credit score, annual income and the outstanding amount of your current loan — and the importance of each will depend on the individual auto refinance company.

Read on to see our top picks for best auto refinance of 2023 and learn how to get the most competitive loan terms that fit your needs.

Why trust Money on auto refinance

To help consumers decide whether auto refinance is worth the cost, we decided to put ourselves in the shoes of someone looking to refinance their car loan. To that end, we contacted every company on this list and interviewed a dozen representatives. We conducted more than 300 hours of research and vetted the companies according to loan costs, customer support and eligibility requirements.

We also looked at the minimum annual percentage rate (APR) as of May 25, 2023 for each lender. Keep in mind that the specific loan terms and pricing will vary depending on your unique financial profile.

Our Top Picks for Best Auto Refinance Companies

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Refinancing your Auto Loan could lower your monthly payments
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Best Auto Refinance Company Reviews

Pros
  • Quote request form takes less than five minutes
  • Marketplace includes approximately 40 lenders
  • Serves a wide range of credit scores
Cons
  • Minimum loan balance for refinancing is $8,000
  • No set loan amount range; this varies by lender
HIGHLIGHTS
Loan Amounts
Varies by lender
APR Rates
Starting at 2.94%
Loan Terms
36 to 84 months

Why we chose it: We chose LendingTree as best auto refinance marketplace because, among its approximately 40 lenders, some will consider borrowers with credit scores in the low 500s.

LendingTree is a marketplace of about 40 lenders where you can compare rates for a wide variety of financial products, including auto refinance loans.

The company’s marketplace covers the full spectrum of credit scores. This means that subprime borrowers — people with scores between 580 and 619, a credit score range also referred to as poor credit — have a chance at refinancing their auto loan through LendingTree’s network.

We particularly liked LendingTree’s Auto Refinance Rates comparison tool, which allows you to input your zip code, loan amount and estimated credit score, and then get examples of potential auto refinance options with terms from 12 to 84 months (with several offers for each term).

LendingTree has offered auto refinance since 2010, and the company’s current roster of lenders covers the entirety of the continental U.S.

Pros
  • Marketplace includes 200 lenders
  • No limit on existing loan balance
  • Prequalify with a soft credit inquiry
Cons
  • $8,000 minimum loan balance
  • Best for prime borrowers
HIGHLIGHTS
Loan Amounts
Starting at $8,000
APR Rates
Starting at 2.99%
Loan Terms
24 to 96 months

Why we chose it: RateGenius has the biggest lender network compared to any other refinance car loan specialists in our top picks. Its network serves primarily prime borrowers, so we designated RateGenius second for Best Marketplace.

The auto loan refinance specialist RateGenius is the flagship brand of The Savings Group, which includes auto finance companies AUTOPAY and Tresl. Its 200-lender marketplace includes credit unions, national banks, regional banks and non-depository financial institutions. The variety of options makes it more likely you’ll find your best auto refinance rate.

RateGenius is best for a prime borrower, meaning someone with a credit score ranging from 640 to 740 is more likely to be offered an auto refinance loan at the lowest possible APR. Still, RateGenius does provide options for people with credit scores as low as 550. However, co-applicants are allowed, which could help boost your chances of being offered better rates.

You can pre-qualify with only a soft credit pull, but you will see a hard credit check once you formally apply with a lender. Approvals are generally granted within 48 hours of submitting all the required information. RateGenius handles the work of paying off your previous lender, too.

Pros
  • Borrowers with poor credit are encouraged to apply
  • Co-applicants allowed
  • Accepts cars up to 15 years old and with 160,000 miles
Cons
  • No add-ons
  • No lease buyout
  • Processing fee of $299
HIGHLIGHTS
Loan Amounts
Starting at $8,000
APR Rates
Starting at 4.29%
Loan Terms
36 to 84 months

Why we chose it: Few companies that refinance auto loans will work with borrowers with bad credit, but OpenRoad Lending connects customers to lenders that accept credit scores as low as 500.

OpenRoad Lending regularly works with customers with low credit scores, says company representative Justin Helms. The minimum credit score requirement stands at 500 currently. Helms adds that there are agents available for anyone with questions or in need of guidance throughout the auto refinance process.

OpenRoad Lending accepts cars up to 15 years old, which is considerably more flexible than the 10-year industry average. There’s more leeway in mileage, too: Most companies won’t go beyond 150,000, but OpenRoad Lending accepts autos with up to 160,000 miles.

Co-borrowers are also welcomed, and if the person signing on along with you has good or excellent credit, this can bump up your chances for a favorable auto refinance offer.

Pros
  • Minimum credit score accepted is 550
  • Approval rate of 90%
  • Co-applicants allowed
Cons
  • Rates and terms for bad credit borrowers are less favorable
HIGHLIGHTS
Loan Amounts
Starting at $8,000
APR Rates
Starting at 2.99%
Loan Terms
24 to 96 months

Why we chose it: AUTOPAY connects subprime borrowers to lenders, which can be a great way for those with bad credit to find the lowest rates and, through consistent on-time payments on their refinanced loan, ultimately improve their credit scores.

AUTOPAY is one of three brands of The Savings Group — along with Tresl and RateGenius. Customers with low credit scores will find more auto refinance options through this company than most, but the conditions (rates and terms) will be less favorable than those offered to prime borrowers. Still, AUTOPAY provides opportunities for those looking to refinance their auto loans while they continue to work on improving the health of their credit.

Cash-out refinance loans and lease buyouts are also part of AUTOPAY’s offerings. Co-applicants on loan applications are also allowed, which is another route to potentially scoring a better offer from its network of lenders.

Like with all Savings Groups brands, once your auto refinance loan is approved and processed, AUTOPAY works with your previous lienholder to ensure the lease is paid off.

Pros
  • Rates start at 4.49% for borrowers with excellent credit
  • Compare up to four loan offers online within minutes
  • Online application takes only two minutes to complete
  • Average savings of $150 per month
Cons
  • Not available in Alaska or Hawaii
  • Maximum vehicle mileage of 125,000 miles (or 120,000 miles for private party loans)
  • Some lenders may charge fees or a down payment
HIGHLIGHTS
Loan Amounts
$5,000 to $150,000
APR Rates
Starting at 4.01%
Loan Terms
24 to 84 months

Why we chose it: We chose myAutoloan as runner-up for best for fair credit thanks to its competitive rates, even for borrowers with credit scores as low as 575.

For the best offers and low rates, myAutoloan recommends a credit score of at least 575. However, the bulk of its customers, company representative Staci Bailey tells Money, have FICO scores ranging from 620 to 680. Borrowers should also have a monthly income of at least $1,800.

The company’s Auto Loan Interest Rate Estimator can give you a good idea of what your APR might look like, and you can use this tool without providing any personal contact information that could result in communication from myAutoloan about potential offers.

When a customer fills out myAutoloan’s form, the (up to four) offers they may receive are guaranteed as long as all of the information you’ve provided is accurate. The rates and terms shown are not just prospective situations but real prequalified offers. This is because, as Bailey explains, myAutoloan is integrated directly with each lender’s specific loan origination system.

Lease buyouts and cash-out refinance are also part of myAutoloan’s offerings. For qualified borrowers, a payment deferral of up to 90 days is possible too.

Pros
  • Compare rates without a credit check or Social Security number
  • Pre-qualify without impacting your credit score
  • Multiple available add-ons
Cons
  • Not available in Mississippi, Maryland, Nebraska, Nevada, Wisconsin, or West Virginia
  • No lenders offering auto lease buyouts
  • The $399 processing fee charged to lenders may be passed to the borrower
HIGHLIGHTS
Loan Amounts
$5,000 to $150,000
APR Rates
Starting at 5.69%
Loan Terms
24 to 80 months

Why we chose it: Caribou’s minimum credit score requirement is 650, which falls in the high range of Fair Credit. The company’s marketplace of lenders provides stellar rates for borrowers in this category.

Caribou is a fully online network of lenders, principally credit unions and community banks, where borrowers can access a wide range of partner lenders that refinance auto loans.

Pre-qualification, which only requires a soft credit check and no Social Security number, can provide multiple offers in minutes. Borrowers can apply with a minimum annual income of $24,000 and a credit score of at least 650. While that’s in the high range of the fair credit category, customers save at least $110 per month on average. Additionally, Caribou allows co-borrowers, which could increase your potential savings if that co-borrower has good to excellent credit.

Caribou has a network of auto insurance lenders for car owners who want to change their insurer or add extras to their policy. These add-ons include key replacement, total loss protection with a Guaranteed Asset Protection (GAP) product, Extended Vehicle Protection and cosmetic care coverage for dings, dents, or more.

Pros
  • No restrictions on car mileage, year, make, or model
  • No origination fee for loan processing
  • Co-borrowers permitted
  • Longer terms (up to seven years)
  • No prepayment penalty
Cons
  • Excellent credit required
  • Hard credit check required to apply
  • No cash-out refinance options
  • Must have a Visa or MasterCard credit card for identity verification purposes
HIGHLIGHTS
Loan Amounts
$5,000 to $100,000
APR Rates
Starting at 8.24%
Loan Terms
36 months to 84 months

Why we chose it: We chose LightStream as best auto refinance for any kind of vehicle because it places no restrictions in terms of make, model, year or mileage.

LightStream is one of the few lenders with no vehicle restrictions on its auto refinance loans. There are no limitations in terms of vehicle age, make, model or mileage, so customers can refinance new, used and even classic cars. LightStream also works with other vehicles, like motorcycles and ATVs.

This flexibility is possible because LightStream offers unsecured loans. This means you’ll keep your vehicle title, unlike when purchasing a secure loan. LightStream representatives explained to Money that the company is underwriting the borrower, not the vehicle.

Lightstream’s annual percentage rates are higher compared to many other companies we evaluated, but again, the lender’s lack of limitations on vehicle requirements is unparalleled. For those with older, high mileage vehicles who have a high-rate auto loan, a refinance with LightStream could still mean significant savings. Use LightStream’s online rate calculator to get an idea of potential rates for your specific situation.

A bonus in working with LightStream is the lender’s commitment to social responsibility. Through its partnership with American Forest, LightStream plants a tree for every loan funded.

Pros
  • New-to-credit program available
  • No make, model, or year restrictions on vehicles
  • Easy membership process: Open a savings account with a minimum of $5
Cons
  • Direct deposit required for APR discount
  • Electronic payments required for APR discount
HIGHLIGHTS
Loan Amounts
No minimum, max $500,000
APR Rates
Starting at 5.74%
Loan Terms
12 to 84 months

Why we chose it: DCU works with borrowers who don’t have strong credit histories. The credit union has representatives to help steer the loan process, which is particularly helpful if you’re new to auto refinance and want guidance.

A fully digital auto loan refinance experience can be a plus, but for some borrowers, some guidance goes a long way. Digital Federal Credit Union, known as DCU, offers personalized help for auto loan refinance shoppers who have little-to-no credit history. This can include a phone call from a representative who might suggest adding a co-borrower.

Note that the starting APR at DCU reflects enrollment in electronic payments as well as recurring direct deposits to a DCU account. An extra discount of 0.25% is available to vehicles considered energy efficient, like electric vehicles or cars with a 35 mpg average. Additionally, a 60-day deferment on the first payment is standard for any DCU auto loan refinance.

DCU also works with motorcycles, boats, RVs and ATVs, plus salvaged vehicles, though these do require an appraisal and further investigation. The credit union’s mileage maximum is 200,000, which is a bit higher than other companies — another factor we appreciate about refinancing an auto loan with DCU.

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Other Auto Refinance Companies We Considered

iLending

Pros
  • Minimum credit score requirement is lower than other companies
  • Income requirement of $1,800 is lower than many other companies
  • Average monthly savings claim of $145
  • Payment deferral up to 90 days
Cons
  • Document fee of $499 is higher than some other companies we evaluated

For borrowers with credit scores as low as 560, iLending could be a good option for auto refinance. The company’s loan terms range from 24 to 84 months. We appreciate that iLending has Spanish-speaking representatives available for those who would prefer to complete the process in Spanish.

Why iLending didn’t make the cut: The document fee of $499 kept iLending out of our top picks this month.

LendingClub

Pros
  • Loan amount minimum is $4,000 (lower than most companies)
  • No specific income requirement
  • APR starting at 4.99%
Cons
  • No add-ons
  • No lenders for credit scores below low 600s
  • APR could be as high as 24.99%

While its average customer has a FICO score close to 700, LendingClub has lenders in its auto refinance online marketplace that will consider borrowers with credit scores in the low 600s. (These numbers were provided to Money by a LendingClub representative.)

LendingClub charges no origination fee, processing fee or down payments on its auto refinance loans. However, loans may be subject to fees from the loan lenders.

Why LendingClub didn’t make the cut: Its average monthly savings claim of $90 is a little lower than other companies.

RefiJet

Pros
  • Full-spectrum credit lender
  • Average monthly savings of $150
  • APR starting at 2.49%
Cons
  • Rates for bad credit borrowers are less favorable
  • Full coverage insurance required

RefiJet almost made our top picks for its slightly higher-than-most maximum mileage (150,000) and low starting annual percentage rate for borrowers with excellent credit. The company offers loan options for borrowers with poor credit, too. Also, depending on creditworthiness, borrowers may be eligible to defer up to three months of payments on their refinanced loan.

Why RefiJet didn’t make the cut: Other companies with even more attractive features bumped out RefiJet.

Upstart

Pros
  • Loan terms range from 24 to 84 months
  • Approval based on more factors than just credit score
  • No application fee, no origination fee
  • No prepayment penalty
Cons
  • Potential borrowers get a single best rate, so there's no opportunity to compare offers
  • No cash-out refinance
  • No lease buyouts
  • No co-borrowers

Creditworthiness at Upstart is determined not only by your FICO score, Auto Refinance General Manager Val Gui tells Money. The company’s proprietary AI also considers 1,000-plus other factors, like your savings, employment and the highest level of education you’ve completed. This helps borrowers present a fuller picture of their creditworthiness, score aside, to potential lenders.

Loan amounts start at $9,000 and loan terms are 24 to 84 months. The Upstart website doesn’t provide a starting annual percentage, but you can get a custom quote by entering personal information through the site’s rate check feature.

Why Upstart didn’t make the cut: Because Upstart doesn’t provide a starting APR without entering personal information, we’ve decided to leave it off our top picks for now.

Auto Credit Express

Pros
  • Borrowers with bad credit can apply
  • Some lenders give borrowers up to 60 days before their first payment
  • Excellent educational resources for borrowers
Cons
  • No concrete information available without providing personal identity information
  • Partner lenders may have high interest rates for low credit applicants
  • Rates and loan terms not available without application

Auto Credit Express specializes in helping customers with bad credit or recent bankruptcies or repossessions get better refinance loan rates through its lender marketplace. Its minimum credit score requirement is 525, a representative tells Money, and more than 40 percent of its customers save $1,000 or more annually.

Why Auto Credit Express didn’t make the cut: The representative we spoke to would not provide a starting annual percentage rate, so we can’t compare that factor to current industry averages.

Auto Approve

Pros
  • APR starting at 5.24%
  • Loan terms from 12 to 120 months
  • Title change handled by Auto Approve
  • Add-ons like GAP and 24/7 roadside assistance available
Cons
  • FICO score required for lowest APR is 730 or higher
  • Document fee at loan processing is $488
  • Terms for low credit applicants are less favorable

Borrowers approved for auto loan refinance through Auto Approve save an average of $148 monthly, company representatives tell Money. You’re not required to provide your Social Security number to receive a quote. Auto Approve’s minimum FICO score allows for low credit applicants; the minimum score required to apply is 580. For monthly income, the company requires a $2,000 minimum.

Why Auto Approve didn’t make the cut: The document fee of $488 is a little higher than what’s charged by other companies.

PenFed Credit Union

Pros
  • Monthly savings average of $108
  • Easy membership process: Open a savings account with a minimum of $5
  • Heaps of add-ons available (GAP, extended warranty, debt protection)
  • APR as low as 5.19%
Cons
  • Minimum credit score or income requirements not stated online
  • PenFed declined our request for an interview

Starting annual percentage rates for auto refinance via Pentagon Federal Credit Union, also known as PenFed, aren’t as low as other companies. However, the credit union offers member perks, like discounts on auto insurance and financial services. Additionally, PenFed claims an average monthly savings of $108 for qualified borrowers.

Why PenFed Credit Union didn’t make the cut: The company declined an interview with Money, so we weren’t able to get the details on its criteria for creditworthiness.

Bank of America

Pros
  • Lease buyouts for qualifying borrowers
  • Refinance car loan calculator for quotes requires no personally identifying information
  • Bank of America customers may qualify for Preferred Rewards discounts of 0.25% - 0.50%
Cons
  • Starting APR of 6.89% is higher than other companies we evaluated
  • Car must be valued at $6,000 or more
  • May require a down payment for refinancing

Bank of America offers auto refinance loans starting at $7,500, or $8,000 in Minnesota. Loan terms are 48, 60 or 72 months. Its average monthly savings claim is $60.

Why Bank of America didn’t make the cut: Its annual percentage rates are higher and its monthly savings claim is lower than many other companies in our top picks.

Capital One

Pros
  • 90% of prequalified applicants are ultimately approved
  • Capital One handles paying off previous lienholder
  • Minimum monthly income requirement is low at $1,500
Cons
  • May require payment to the current loan before approval
  • No lease buyouts or cash-back refinancing options
  • Current loan amount capped at $50,000

Capital One offers potential customers the opportunity to pre-qualify for an auto loan refinance with only a soft credit pull. The online application for an auto refinance loan takes only about five minutes to complete. Capital One also has an app available (called the “Auto Navigator”) for iOS and Android, through which potential customers can shop for cars and financing options.

Why Capital One didn’t make the cut: Auto refinance borrowers may be required to pay down the balance of their current car loan if their payoff amount is higher than the company’s limits. There’s also no information about starting annual percentage rates for auto refinance loans on its website.

Ally Clearlane

Pros
  • Prequalify to see rates with a soft credit pull
  • Cosigners allowed
  • Lease buyout available
  • GAP and Extended Vehicle Coverage available
Cons
  • Personal information required for annual percentage rates
  • No cash-out refinance
  • Not available in Nevada, Vermont or Washington, D.C.

Ally Clearlane is a direct lender offering auto refinancing options for borrowers with credit scores of at least 520. Loans financed through the company aren’t subject to a documentation fee, a company representative tells Money. The company claims that 74% of its customers see savings. On average, that translates to $2,526 in total interest savings.

Why Ally Clearlane didn’t make the cut: The company's website doesn’t disclose the annual percentage rates for auto refinance. To see potential rates, you have to apply for pre-qualification.

Auto Refinancing Guide

Refinancing can give access to better interest rates when your credit history has improved since taking out your current auto loan. However, it’s not a decision to be made lightly, as it may mean additional fees and a hit to your credit score.

How does refinancing a car work?

Refinancing a car works in two ways: traditional auto refinance and cash-out refinance.

Traditional auto refinance is when you take out a new loan with a better annual percentage rate or lower monthly payments. This loan replaces your existing auto loan. With a cash-out refinance, you take out a new loan to cover your original loan but also receive an additional amount of money that can be used for any purpose.

Traditional auto refinance

Refinancing a car generally means taking out a new loan to pay off the balance on your existing vehicle loan, ideally for a lower rate. Since your original loan is replaced by a new financial obligation, you gain a new APR and new term length.

As an added bonus, your car insurance premiums are likely to go down as well. If you’re looking to change insurers, you can also check out our list of the best car insurance companies.

Cash-out auto refinance

A few auto refinance companies also offer cash-out auto refinances, in which your new loan covers your existing balance and provides an additional amount of money. While a cash-out refinance may have lower interest rates than other options, such as personal loans or credit cards, your monthly payments will go up. This type of loan also has a higher risk of going upside-down.

Auto refinancing pros and cons

Pros
  • Longer refinancing terms decrease your monthly car payments
  • Shorter refinancing terms can save you money in the long run
  • May obtain lower interest rates
  • No down payment necessary
Cons
  • Total interest will go up if you extend loan repayment terms
  • A shorter loan term will increase your monthly payments
  • Prepayment penalties and refinancing fees can offset any interest rate savings
  • Lenders may charge an origination fee on the new loan

Auto refinancing requirements

Before beginning the process, it’s important to make sure refinancing is the right solution for you and whether you meet the qualification requirements. Carefully consider the following:

  • Your existing loan’s prepayment protocol - Check your existing auto loan agreement to find out if you’ll be penalized for paying early. (This is called a prepayment penalty.) If so, crunch the numbers to see whether an auto refinance makes sense.
  • Loan balance versus your car’s market value - Your loan balance is higher than the car’s market value. If you’re “underwater,” or owe more than the car is worth, many lenders won’t consider you for an auto refinance loan. (You can check your car’s value on Kelley Blue Book.)
  • Vehicle age and its mileage - Auto refinance lenders have restrictions you’ll have to meet. Many won’t offer loans for cars more than 10 years old or that have over 120,000 miles.
  • The status of your current loan payments - Your loan payments should be up to date. If you’re behind on payments, many lenders won’t consider you a viable candidate.
  • The balance of your current loan - Each lender has a maximum and a minimum loan amount they’ll refinance. If your loan’s current balance is too low or too high, you may not qualify. Many loan providers also have minimum loan amounts (and maximums) to consider.
  • The kind of car you have - Generally, auto refinance companies won’t refinance cars that are “branded,” meaning rebuilt, salvaged or commercial vehicles.

When can you refinance a car loan?

Deciding when you should refinance your loan depends on a number of factors. While a refinance is technically possible even on a new loan, there are some conditions under which it makes the most sense.

When your current deal isn’t great

Thanks to global shipping issues and high demand, and if you didn’t do some careful comparison shopping between lenders or dealerships when you bought your car, your loan may not have the best repayment terms or rates.

For instance, if your current APR is around 20-25%, you might be able to get a better offer by shopping around. This is particularly true if your loan is two years older or more, as many loans with high APRs charge most of the interest amount during that time period.

When your credit score has gone up

An improved credit score will likely give you access to much better repayment terms and lower interest rates. If your score was 640 when you received your original vehicle loan, your credit score was considered fair by FICO standards, and you likely committed to a high annual percentage rate. However, once you reach good credit (670) status or better, auto loan refinance companies may offer a better annual percentage rate and more favorable repayment terms.

When your current loan payments are too high

An auto loan refinance provides an opportunity to lower your monthly car payment. This is achieved through extending the life of your loan, which means you’ll pay more interest over the long run. But for those who need more room in their monthly budget, a drop in their car payment could be helpful.

For example, consider an original loan for $45,000 with a term length of 60 months at a 6.3% annual percentage rate. The monthly payment for this loan would be $876. If you refinance at 84 months at the same annual percentage rate, your payment drops to $664 — a savings of more than $200 monthly.

However, this longer loan term means you’ll pay more interest than you would have with the original loan. In the first scenario, the interest total is $14,175. Extending the loan term to seven years as opposed to the original five years means you’ll accrue $19,845 in interest owed — an increase of $5,670.

How to refinance a car loan

Once you’ve weighed your options and decided a refinance of your current loan is the way to go, follow these simple steps.

7 steps to apply for an auto refinance

  1. Check the health of your credit score - If you have good credit, you'll likely get a better deal. This may be a good time to ensure there is no incorrect information in your credit report.
  2. Gather all the information about your current auto loan - Having all your information at hand will help speed the application process.
  3. Research new lenders and compare rates - While it may take some time, thoroughly researching auto loan refinance lenders and loan offers to find the best offer can not only help you compare rates, but also identify any potential red flags. You can also see whether your current lender offers a competitive auto loan refinance option, but keep in mind that some lenders will not refinance loans from their own company.
  4. File for prequalification - Getting a pre-approval, when available, presents you as a good candidate for a refinance.
  5. Submit an application - Once you've gathered all your documents and have chosen a lender, it's time to apply. Many lenders offer an online application.
  6. Evaluate the terms - Carefully read the fine print about loan terms. Check whether you can keep your current insurance policy under the new lender’s requirements.
  7. Finalize the loan - Remember to keep making your payments on your existing auto loan until the new auto refinance loan is finalized.

Documents needed to refinance your auto loan

To refinance any kind of loan, some documentation is required. These pertain to personally identifiable information, income, residence and your car’s specifications, among others.

Here’s a detailed list:

☑ Social Security number
☑ Employment information
☑ Residence information
☑ Driver’s license
☑ Car registration and mileage information
☑ Proof of insurance

Does refinancing a car hurt your credit?

Refinance lenders typically conduct a soft pull on your credit for pre-qualification, and then a hard inquiry or hard pull on your credit when you actually apply. The former will have no effect on your score, but the latter will drag you down by a few points.

To minimize the drop, make sure to loan shop within a 14 to 45-day window, as credit bureaus will count these as one single pull.

Unauthorized hard inquiries aren’t unheard of, so make sure the lender is trustworthy. If you find unauthorized inquiries on your report, here’s how to remove negative items on your credit report.

Your credit score will also drop slightly after finalizing the loan because a refinance counts as new debt. Since this new account is effectively replacing an older debt, the credit drop should be negligible, regardless of whether you’re looking at VantageScore vs FICO.

In any case, remember to keep making your payments on your current loan until the refinance has gone through. Otherwise, your credit could be affected. Also, be sure to find out if your new auto refinance lender will pay off your old loan for you or if you’ll need to handle that yourself.

How to refinance a car loan with bad credit

Your credit score should be at least 640 if you hope to get the best rate on auto refi. However, there are cases in which refinancing may be beneficial:

  • If auto loan rates have gone down - While new-car rates are different from refinance rates, you may have some wiggle room.
  • If your goal is a lower monthly payment - If your main driver to refinance is decreasing your monthly payment, this may mean extending your loan term. The downside is that this will extend the life of the loan, and you’ll therefore pay more in interest as well.

If you’re determined to refinance your car loan despite a spotty credit history, follow the steps outlined above. It may make sense to check out competing offers on a marketplace website such as LendingTree or RateGenius. You may also be able to get better rates with a lender that allows you to add a co-signer to your loan.

Another option is to consider debt consolidation, which can streamline your loan payoff strategy.

Finally, if you can’t find a good deal, taking steps to fix your credit may end up being your best move in the long run. An improved credit score will affect every area of your finances, not just your auto loan refinance offers. While most credit repair strategies are possible to do yourself, if the time commitment is too high, you may want to check out our list of the best credit repair companies.

Refinancing a car lease

Car lease refinance is sort of a misnomer, as it doesn’t involve refinancing an existing loan, but instead taking out a new loan to purchase the car you’re leasing. The process is also (more appropriately) called a lease buyout, and most auto refinance companies offer this product.

To initiate a lease buyout, you’ll first need to find out if your contract allows for the purchase of your leased vehicle. The contract should stipulate if you can do this mid-lease or if you must wait until the end of your lease term. All related fees, like sales tax or an early termination fee, should also be stated in your contract.

Work with the company leasing your car to find out the total payoff amount, also called the buyout amount, with fees included. (If these fees are not stated in your contract, try to dispute them.) Compare this cost to the price of buying the same make, model and year vehicle elsewhere to ensure a lease buyout is a sound financial decision.

If you choose to refinance your car lease, be sure to shop around for the best annual percentage rate and monthly payment amount before committing to a lease buyout loan.

What is leasing a car

A car lease is like a long-term car rental; you make monthly payments to a dealership to drive the vehicle, not to own it. Most car leases include a warranty, and some may also include free maintenance, such as oil changes. However, you may be charged fees if you exceed a set mileage maximum or if the vehicle isn’t kept in good condition throughout the duration of your lease.

What happens at the end of your lease depends on the terms of your contract. You can return the car to the dealership, but with some agreements, you may also have the option to extend your lease, buy the car you’ve been leasing or lease a new vehicle. Some of these options may be available to you mid-lease, but be aware that your contract may include an early termination fee.

How does leasing a car work

A car lease is typically done through a dealership, although some banks and credit unions offer lease facilitation services. You pay a monthly fee to drive the car for a set amount of time. Throughout your lease, you can’t exceed specific mileage limitations and keep the car in good condition as per your contract. Otherwise, you’ll likely be charged fees at the end of your lease term.

The amount you pay monthly to lease the car somewhat like an interest rate; it’s called the money factor. It’s based on the value of the car, lease term length and your credit score. Adding a co-signer to boost your creditworthiness is an option with most car leases. Like with a new car loan, a down payment is sometimes required and sales tax and other fees may be applied.

Car lease pros and cons

Before you decide to lease a car, consider these pros and cons.

Pros
  • Lower monthly payments than financing a car
  • Less money due at signing than financing a car
  • Drive a newer model than you could if buying
Cons
  • Must adhere to mileage limitations
  • Must maintain in good condition per contract
  • Down payment likely higher for people with low credit scores

Auto Refinance Glossary

Loan-to-value - This ratio represents how much money you’ve borrowed from a lender (also called the principal) that remains unpaid versus the car’s current value. Calculate LTV by dividing your unpaid loan balance by the car value, then multiply the result by 100 for a percentage. A percentage higher than 100 means you owe more than your car is worth, which is a red flag for lenders.

Interest rate - With any loan, this is the annual cost for borrowing from a lender. It’s expressed as a percentage, and is added to the principal or total loan amount. Note: Interest rate is not the same as annual percentage rate.

Annual percentage rate (APR) - This percentage reflects the total cost of borrowing from a lender. It includes the interest rate and any fees, such as origination fees, lender compensation fees (also called prepaid finance charges) and sales tax.

Debt-to-income (DTI) - Your debt-to-income ratio is a reflection of how much money you have available to spend. Calculate DTI by first adding up monthly debt payments, such as rent, mortgage, loan payments, insurance premiums and credit cards. Then divide that number by your monthly gross income (the total amount you earn before taxes) and multiply the result by 100 to get a percentage. Lenders usually look for DTIs of 36% or lower.

Lease - A car lease is a contract that permits you to drive a vehicle for a set amount of time. Most car leases are acquired through dealerships, though some banks and credit unions offer facilitation services. The lease stipulates how much you pay each month to drive the vehicle, plus mileage limitations and other requirements, such as maintaining the car in good condition. When your lease expires, you may be able to buy the car or sign a new lease for a new vehicle.

Cash-out refinance - This is also called a cash-back loan, and it’s similar to a mortgage cash-out refinance. For example, if your car is worth $15,000 and you still owe $8,000 on your auto loan, a cash-out auto refinance from a lender for 80% of the car’s value would mean you borrow $12,000. You then use those funds to pay off the remaining balance of the original loan, and the amount you’re left with — in this case, $4,000 — can be used for any purpose.

Upside-down or Underwater - If your auto loan balance is more than your vehicle is worth, you’ve gone upside-down or underwater on your loan. Typically, auto refinance lenders will not sell refinance loans to customers who are currently upside-down on their existing car loans.

Latest Auto Loan Refinancing News

As the Federal Reserve continues raising interest rates to fight inflation, thee average annual percentage rate for a new auto loan has gone up to at least 6.3%, a more than two-point increase from the same time last year.

However, auto loan refinance remains a potential avenue for savings. The average rate for an auto loan refinance is currently around 5% which, for those who didn’t get the best auto loan when they purchased their vehicle, could be a significant reduction. Especially if your credit score has improved since your initial financing, a refinance on your loan could mean big savings. Many auto refinance companies claim an average monthly savings of up to $150.

Auto Refinance Companies FAQ

How to refinance a car

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To refinance an auto loan, gather all the necessary documents. Then, evaluate your credit profile and your car's information to determine if refinancing is beneficial and if you qualify. Lenders will post their requirements online and some even allow you to file for pre-qualification.

Before starting the application process, shop around and compare offers from different auto refinance lenders. When you settle on the best one, submit a formal application and wait for the lender's formal offer. If accepted, you can finalize the document, settle the previous loan, and start your loan payments with the new lender.

When can I refinance my car?

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You should refinance an auto loan when it helps you save money, like if annual percentage rates have dropped and your credit score hasn't decreased. You also may be eligible for a better rate or lower monthly payments if your credit score has improved since taking out the original loan.

Auto refinance companies consider additional factors when determining your loan terms. Calculate your loan-to-value (LTV) ratio by dividing your current loan balance by the value of your car, then multiply the result by 100 to get a percentage. If that percentage is more than 100, that means you owe more than your car is worth, and auto refinance companies will be less likely to offer you favorable terms.

Your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio matters, too. This is determined by your total monthly debt payments divided by your total monthly gross income, then multiplied by 100 to get a percentage. Like with LTV, the lower your DTI, the better your chances of getting favorable terms on an auto refinance.

Can I get a loan with bad credit?

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You can get a car loan with bad credit, but it will be more challenging. Lenders use credit scores to evaluate a borrower's risk, so the best car refinance rates tend to go to those with good-to-excellent FICO scores (670 or higher). People with lower scores will have higher rates than those with a good or excellent credit score. Some lenders do specialize in loans for customers with fair to poor credit, like Autopay and Auto Credit Express.

How many times can you refinance a car?

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Legally, you can refinance a car as many times as you want if you find a different lender willing to extend you a new loan. Auto lenders may be apprehensive about refinancing if they see multiple past refinances on your vehicle and even if you get approved, there are other financial risks to consider.

Repeated refinances and loan term extensions increase the risk of going "upside-down" on your loan, which means your loan balance is greater than the market value of your car. You may also end up paying more than the original loan amount, just in interest rates.

How to transfer a car loan to another person?

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You can transfer your car loan to someone else if the new lender allows it. Loan transfers may come with a transferring and/or merchant fee, and lenders always check that the transferee has good credit and income, to prevent loan defaults. The transfer won't be approved if the person's creditworthiness and income aren't up to par.

How soon can you refinance an auto loan?

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Some auto refinance companies will work with auto loans as fresh as 30 days from origination. This varies by lender, though, so be sure to check the company's requirements.

How We Chose the Best Auto Refinance Companies

When looking for the different auto refinance companies in the industry, we considered several criteria.

  • Financial stability - We looked at each company’s financial stability to make sure they’d be able to meet their refinancing obligations.
  • Loan options - We looked for auto refinancing companies that offered competitive interest rates, zero to no upfront fees and flexible or reasonable vehicle restrictions.
  • Customer experience - We looked at each company’s complaints with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) or the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). We also checked whether each company was transparent regarding its partners, underwriters and fees.
  • Financial products - We also took into account each company’s array of financial products and interviewed representatives from some companies.

We also interviewed representatives from companies as part of our research process. Still, though we always try to include accurate and up-to-date information on regulatory and legal actions, we don’t claim this information is complete or fully up to date. Annual percentage rates are subject to change. As always, we recommend you do your own research as well.

Summary of Money’s Best Auto Refinance Companies of June 2023