Can You Trade in a Financed Car?

If you’re looking to trade in your car, you may wonder if you can do so if you still have a loan outstanding on the vehicle. The good news is that, in most situations, you can trade in a financed car. Here’s how it works.

When you go to trade in your car, the dealership will pay off the remaining balance on your loan. They will then apply your equity in the car towards purchasing your new vehicle. If you owe more on the loan than the car is worth, you may still be able to trade it in, but you may have to pay the difference out-of-pocket or roll the negative equity into your new loan.

When trading in a car you still owe money on, it’s essential to research and understand the implications. In addition, weighing all your options before committing to either route is important, as this will help ensure you get the most value out of your vehicle

Let’s take a closer look at the different considerations involved in trading in a financed car and what you can do to ensure you get the best deal.

Table of Contents:

What is a trade-in?

A trade-in is when you use your current vehicle as collateral toward the purchase of a new car. You essentially hand over the keys to your old car to the dealer, who then uses that car to lower the price of the new car you’re buying. In this process, your previous loan is paid off, and any equity you may have in your car is applied toward the price of the new vehicle.

Sometimes, trading-in a car can give you less money than what you would get if you sold the car outright — so if getting top dollar for your old car is a priority, trading it in might not be the first option to explore. However, in order to be sure, you need to take a few steps.

Person holding a mobile phone in hand and scrolling on the screen. Information is about finding out what your car is worth which is in the text below

Find out what your car is worth

Before trading in your car, it’s essential to know precisely how much it’s worth. The trade-in value is not the same as the retail value, so don’t walk in thinking that’s what the dealership will offer for your car. The trade-in value is generally closer to the wholesale price the dealer will give you for your vehicle. However, the retail value is higher and would be what you could expect to get if you sold your car yourself.

That said, knowing the retail value of your vehicle is still important because it will give you a better understanding of the equity you have in your car.

There are a few different ways to determine your car’s trade-in value. One is to use an online tool like Edmunds’ Trade-In Marketplace or Kelley Blue Book’s Trade-In Calculator. You can also check “black book” values at sites like NADAguides

Get the most for your trade-in

Once you know the trade-in value of your car, it’s time to start thinking about how to get the most for it. Remember — the dealer’s goal is to make money on the sale of both the new car and the trade-in, so they’re not going to give you top dollar for your current vehicle. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t negotiate a reasonable price for your trade-in. Here are a few tips:

Hand flipping through a roll of 100 dollar bills. The text is informing readers how to get the most out of a trade in and is the same as the text in the story below
  • Research recent sales of similar cars in your area to see what they sold for. This will give you a good idea of what dealers currently pay for cars like yours. 
  • Get multiple appraisals from different dealerships. This way, you can compare offers and see who will pay the most for your car. 
  • Be prepared to walk away from any offer that isn’t satisfactory. After all, if they’re not willing to give you a fair price for your trade-in, there’s no reason why you should buy a car from them anyway. 

Additional recommendations for earning top trade-in dollar on your car include:

  • Repair any minor damage to the vehicle, including dings, scrapes, and scratches.
  • Have the car washed and detailed so it looks its best.
  • Provide any relevant service records to prove that the car has been well-maintained.
  • Remove any aftermarket accessories or modifications if possible.

Know your remaining loan balance

The next step is determining how much you owe on your current loan. If you’re unsure of your remaining balance, contact your lender and request a payoff quote. This will tell you exactly how much money needs to be paid off for you to trade in or sell the car. 

It’s important to understand where you stand on principal vs. interest payments on your loan. If you haven’t paid much of the principal, you’re mostly paying off interest charges, which will impact how much equity you have in your car. 

Calculate the equity on your vehicle

Now that you know what your car is worth and how much you still owe, you can calculate the amount of equity you have in the car. To do this, subtract the remaining loan balance from the car’s trade-in value. If you have negative equity in the car, you still owe more than what it’s worth. 

  • Trading in a financed car with positive equity – This is a good position to be in. It means you have some equity in the car, which you can use toward purchasing a new vehicle. In this situation, your new auto loan will be lower since it will only need to cover the difference between your car’s trade-in value and the amount of your new car purchase. 
  • Trading in a financed car with negative equity – This is not ideal, but it’s still possible. In this case, your new loan may need to include some of the remaining balance on the old loan to cover the entire purchase price of the new car. Be aware that this can lead to higher monthly payments and more interest charges, so it’s important to make sure you understand all the terms before signing anything. 
Photo of hands placing a for sale sign on the windshield of a car that is parked
For sale sign on windshield of car.

Should I trade in my financed car or sell it privately?

When you’re looking to upgrade to a new car, you may wonder if it’s better to sell your old car privately or trade it in. While both options have pros and cons, the decision ultimately comes down to what makes the most financial sense for you. Using the information you’ve gathered throughout this guide, you can make an informed decision and get the best value for your vehicle. 

If you decide that trading in your financed car is the right choice, it’s important to be prepared and do your homework. By researching recent sales prices, getting multiple appraisals, and understanding how much is owed on your car loan, you can maximize the value of your car and get the best deal possible. But if you’re still unsure, here are some considerations to help you decide.

When to trade in your car

There are a few scenarios where trading in your car makes more sense than selling it outright. For instance, if you’re upside down on your loan (meaning you owe more on the loan than the car is currently worth), trading in your vehicle can help you avoid having to come up with extra cash at closing. Additionally, trading in your car can help simplify the car-buying process by allowing you to take care of everything at one dealership. And lastly, if you’re interested in taking advantage of special offers or promotions, trading in your car can be a great way to help you save money on your next purchase. 

When to sell your car privately

On the flip side, there are a few scenarios where selling your car outright makes more sense than trading it in. For starters, if your car is nearly paid off and has no major mechanical issues, you’ll likely get more money by selling it yourself than by trading it in. Additionally, if you’re not planning on buying another vehicle right away or don’t have a specific model in mind, there’s no rush to trade in your old car. You can always do it later down the road. Finally, if time isn’t an issue and you don’t mind putting in a little extra effort, listing your car online or through classified ads will give you more control over the sales process and could net you a higher return than trading it in to a dealership.

Remember that privately selling a financed car comes with its own challenges, so it pays to do your research before committing to either option. The biggest one concerns the title. In most cases, you’ll need to have the title in hand before selling your car privately, so you’ll first have to pay off the remaining loan balance. This is a challenge for many people who don’t have access to personal loans or lines of credit from a bank or other lenders. But if you have the funds available and don’t mind taking on the extra effort, selling your car privately can be a great way to maximize its value. 

Photo of two people holding hands and driving down the road in a convertible. Text on the image is about when someone should trade in a car but is listed in the story below

Is there a good time to trade in a car?

If you’re currently driving a car you financed, you may wonder if it’s the right time to start looking for a new one. After all, every car has a limited lifespan, and sooner or later, you’ll need to replace it. So the question is — when is the best time to do that?

There’s no easy answer to that question since there are a lot of factors to consider.

When your car is getting old

One of the most apparent times it makes sense to trade in your car is when it’s getting old. All cars have a limited lifespan. Eventually, they’ll reach a point where they’re no longer desirable, and dealerships will not offer you much, if anything, for them. Cars over 10 years old and with more than 100,000 miles are unlikely to be worth much on the used car market, so if trading it in is in your future and you’re halfway to either of those benchmarks, it may be wise to start researching and shopping for a new car sooner rather than later.

When interest rates are low

If you’re considering financing a new car, timing is everything. Interest rates on auto loans fluctuate just like any other type of loan, so getting a low rate can save you thousands of dollars in the long run. So keep an eye on interest rates and time your purchase accordingly. It’s also a good time for auto refinancing if you’d rather keep the car you have but are looking for a lower rate. To see if this is a better option, use our refinance car loan calculator

When there’s high demand for used cars

Another thing to consider is the demand for used cars. Believe it or not, there are specific periods when used cars are in higher demand than others. For example, when supply chain issues and wait times for new vehicles stretch out, there is often increased demand for used cars. Knowing when the market is hot can help you get a better price for your car if you choose to trade it in. 

Final Thoughts on Trading in a Financed Car

So, can you trade in a financed car? Yes, you can, but it’s essential to research and understand the implications of trading in a vehicle that you still owe money on. It pays to weigh all your options before committing to either route, as this will help ensure that you get the most value out of your vehicle. 

How to Get a Car Loan with No Credit

Quick Answer:

Getting a car loan when you have no credit can be difficult, but it is possible. We'll show you how to get a car loan with no credit so you can get behind the wheel and on the road to building your credit. It starts by understanding what credit is and then working through the strategies to get a car loan with no credit. 

Table of Contents: 

Understanding Credit:

For many, “credit” probably conjures up a reasonably nebulous mental image. But, of course, you may know that it has something to do with borrowing money and paying it back over time. Still, beyond that, the details are probably pretty fuzzy. Well, consider this your crash course.

What is credit?

In a nutshell, credit is simply the ability to borrow money. When you have good credit, lenders are more likely to loan you money – and they’ll probably give you more favorable terms, like lower interest rates. 

What is no credit?

Having no credit is actually not as bad as it sounds. If you have no credit, you don’t have any active accounts that are being reported to the credit bureaus. This usually happens when you’re young and haven’t taken out any loans or opened any lines of credit yet. It’s also common among immigrants who may have established financial history in their home countries but not in the United States. So having no credit is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, some lenders may actually see it as a positive sign since you don’t have any negative marks on your record.  

Two people looking at a computer screen on a website for no credit
Get Pre-Qualified for a New Auto Loan

What is inactive credit?

Inactive credit is similar to having no credit in that it means you don’t have any active accounts being reported to the credit bureaus. However, the difference is that inactive credit generally refers to people who have had credit accounts in the past but are no longer using them. This could be because they paid off their debts and closed their accounts or because they’ve become “zombie” accounts that still exist but aren’t being used. Inactive credit can be seen as both good and bad by lenders. On the one hand, it shows that you can manage debt responsibly. Still, on the other hand, it can make lenders worry that you’re not actively using your lines of credit.  

What is low credit?

Having low credit is precisely what you think it is. It means you have active accounts with negative marks being reported to the credit bureaus. This could be because you’ve made late payments, exceeded your credit limit, or defaulted on a loan. Low or bad credit can make it challenging to get approved for new loans or lines of credit. If you get approved, you’ll almost certainly pay higher interest rates than people with good credit scores. That’s why it’s so important to stay on top of your payments and keep your debt under control. Missing just a few payments can tank your score for years to come.  

Are no credit and low credit the same thing?

Absolutely not. As we’ve explained, having no credit means you don’t have any active accounts being reported to the credit bureaus. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. On the other hand, low or bad credit means you do have active accounts with negative marks being reported. This will make it harder for you to get approved for new loans and lines of credit — and if you are approved, you’ll probably pay higher interest rates. 

Inforgraphic explaining the credit scores that are considered high credit

What is a good credit score?

A good credit score is any score that falls in the “good” or “excellent” range on the major credit scoring scale. For FICO scores, that’s a score of 670 or above. For VantageScores, it’s a score of 700 or above. Generally speaking, having a good credit score means you’re a low-risk borrower, which means you’re more likely to get approved for loans and lines of credit. In addition, you’ll probably get more favorable terms, like lower interest rates. So if you currently have no credit, this is what you should aim for.  

Getting a Car Loan with No Credit

You’ve finally saved up enough money for a down payment on a car, but there’s one more obstacle in your way: you have no credit history. But don’t worry — it is possible to get a car loan with no credit. Here are a few things you’ll need to do. 

Collect All the Proper Documents

One of the first things any lender will want to see is proof of your employment history and current pay stubs. They’ll also want to see previous addresses and how long you lived there. If you have any bills that you’re regularly paying, such as rent or utilities, those can also help build trust with the lender. Finally, they’ll need to see your driver’s license. Collecting all of these items ahead of time will help speed up the loan process once you find a lender. 

Woman standing at a table looking through paperwork

The lender will want to see all of this information to verify that you are who you say you are and that you’re capable of making regular payments on the loan. For example, your employment history and current pay stubs show you have a steady income. In addition, an address history indicates stability, and you’re not at a high risk of defaulting on the loan.  

Find a Cosigner

You may need to find a cosigner for your loan if you don’t have any credit history. A cosigner is someone who agrees to take on the responsibility of the loan if you cannot make the payments. This is a significant risk for the person, so make sure you can make the payments before asking someone to cosign for you. If you default, they’ll be stuck with the bill, and their credit will also suffer. 

Speaking of credit scores, it is also important that your cosigner has good or excellent credit. Since you have no credit history, the lender will heavily rely on your cosigner’s credit score to decide the interest rate and whether or not you qualify for the loan. On the other hand, if your cosigner has low or bad credit, you may still be eligible for a loan, but it will have a higher interest rate which may defeat the purpose.  

Inforgraphic on what to do it you have zero credit
Now is The Time to Refinance Your Car Loan

Save for a Bigger Down Payment

A down payment is the money you put down when you get the loan. The bigger the down payment, the less money you’ll need to borrow, and the lower your monthly payments will be. Lenders often like to see a down payment of 10 percent or more, but if you can swing 20 percent or more, that’s even better. 

A more significant down payment also shows the lender that you’re serious about making regular payments on the loan since you have more skin in the game. This can help offset some of the risk associated with lending to someone with no credit history. 

Be Prepared to Pay a Higher Interest Rate

Unfortunately, you will likely be charged a higher interest rate on your loan if you don’t have any credit history. This is because you’re seen as a higher risk to the lender, and they want to be rewarded for that risk. 

If you have a cosigner with excellent credit, their good credit can help offset some of the risk, which may result in a lower interest rate. But if you don’t have a cosigner or your cosigner has bad credit, you’ll likely be stuck with a higher interest rate. 

Build Credit and Wait

If you cannot get a car loan with no credit right away, don’t worry. You can take some steps to build your credit to get a loan in the future. This is more of a long-term strategy, but it will help you get better terms when you’re ready to apply for a loan. There are easy and sure ways to build your credit score, so researching and finding what works best for your situation is a good place to start. General ways people begin to develop a good credit score include: 

Infographic on how to build credit
  • Opening a secured credit card – A secured credit card involves a deposit, which becomes your credit limit. For example, if you put down a $500 deposit, your credit limit — and maximum balance — will be $500. This is an excellent way to build credit because it shows that you can manage a credit limit and make regular, on-time payments. 
  • Becoming an authorized user – You can also become an authorized user on someone else’s credit card account. This means you’ll have your own card that you can use, but the account will be in someone else’s name. As long as the account is in good standing, this will help build your credit score. 
  • Applying for a credit-builder loan – A credit-builder loan is where the money you borrow is deposited into a savings account. Once you make all your payments on time, you’ll have access to the money in the account, plus any interest earned. This is a good way to develop a credit history because it shows that you can make regular, on-time loan payments. 

Beware of Financing Through the Car Dealership

Many car dealerships offer in-house financing, which may seem convenient if you don’t have any credit. In addition, they often claim they can finance anyone, no matter their credit score. But beware — these loans frequently come with high-interest rates, and you could pay more for your car than it’s worth. 

Why do they do this? In truth, dealerships make very little profit from the vehicle sale. Instead, their profit comes from other products they sell, such as extended warranties, gap insurance, and — you guessed it — financing. So while they may claim to be helping by financing you, they’re really just trying to make more money off you in the long run. 

Woman looking frustrated and looking at bills while sitting at a table with her head in her hand

If you decide to finance through the dealership, shop around at different dealerships for the best interest rate. And if you can get pre-approved for a loan from a bank, credit union, or another third-party lender before going to the dealership, that’s even better. This way, you’ll know exactly how much car you can afford and what interest rate you’ll be paying. Otherwise, you’ll be looking at a much higher interest rate and could end up in a loan you can’t afford. And that will leave you looking for tips on how to get out of a bad car loan

Bottom Line

Getting a car loan with no credit is possible, but it may not be easy. You’ll likely need a cosigner or a sizable down payment, and you can expect to pay a high-interest rate. If you cannot get a loan right away, take some steps to build your credit to get better terms in the future. Whatever you do, beware of financing through the dealership. They often try to make more money off you by offering loans with high-interest rates. 

Cars That Last Financially: 5 Best Cars That Hold Their Value

One of the first things people tell you when you purchase a new car is that it immediately loses value as soon as you drive it off the lot. But this is truer for some vehicles than for others. 

Plenty of cars on the market hold their value well, meaning you can get a great return on your investment if you decide to sell or trade it in down the line. So don’t give up on that new car dream or auto financing search just yet. 

5 Best Cars That Hold Their Value

We’ve examined results from a study published by iSeeCars, an online automotive search engine and research website, to find the cars that last financially. The study examined five-year car depreciation across all segments and found that these are the five best cars that hold their value.

Lowest depreciation overall: Jeep Wrangler and Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 

The Jeep Wrangler, with an average of 9.2% depreciation after five years and an average dollar difference from its MSRP of $2,796, is the vehicle with the lowest depreciation overall. And the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited came in second, trailing with a 10.5% depreciation and a $3,810 difference from its original MSRP. 

This makes them not only the best-rated options in their respective categories — small and midsize SUVs — but also the best vehicles when it comes to depreciation among all vehicles. But what helps these Jeeps keep their value? 

Red jeep wrangler splashing through water

Jeep is an American icon with a cult following, plus, the body style hasn’t changed very much over many years. Wranglers also have a reputation for being durable, dependable and just plain fun to drive.  Because of the great combo of notoriety, consistent style and utility, they remain incredibly popular, which helps keep their resale value high. 

As a result, Jeep Wranglers and Wrangler Unlimiteds don’t depreciate as quickly as other vehicles on the market. If you’re looking for the best vehicle to hold its value over time and be a great candidate for auto refinancing down the road, a Jeep Wrangler and Jeep Wrangler Unlimited should both be at the top of your list.

Best in sports cars: Porsche 911

With an average depreciation of 12.8% during its first five years, owners will see a difference of $20,710 from its original MSRP. Although this number might seem high, we must remember that the 911 is a luxury vehicle with a high starting price. In fact, it’s the most expensive car on our list. 

Porsche’s 911 is a classic sports car that has been around for decades. It’s beloved by both driving enthusiasts and luxury car buyers for its style, performance and reputation. These factors help to keep the 911’s resale value high, despite its high starting price. 

Best in midsize pickups: Toyota Tacoma

The Toyota Tacoma, with a 13.8% depreciation, is the best in midsize pickups. 

The Toyota Tacoma is one of the best-selling midsize pickup trucks in America, and it’s no surprise that it also holds its value better than any other truck in its class. 

The Tacoma has a reputation for being steadfast and trustworthy, which helps to keep its resale value high. It’s also popular with consumers and businesses, which further helps keep its value up. 

Best in full-size pickup trucks: Toyota Tundra 

The Toyota Tundra squeaks in at under 20% depreciation with an estimated 19.5% drop in value.

The Toyota Tundra is a full-size pickup truck that’s been on the market since 1999 and earned Motor Trend’s truck of the year in both 2000 and 2008. Its reputation for long-term dependability and low maintenance costs helps to keep its resale value high. 

And just like its smaller sibling, the Tacoma, the Tundra is also popular with both regular private owners and businesses, which further helps to keep its value up.

orange Toyota Tacoma truck

Vehicles That Depreciate Heavily

Although some cars hold their value well, others depreciate quite a bit over time. Here are some of the vehicle categories that declined the most in value over their first five years, and examples of models from each.

Electric vehicles – EVs tend to lose value more rapidly than traditional gas-powered cars. This is partly due to technology constantly evolving, and newer EV models are often much more efficient than older ones. 

For example, the Nissan LEAF suffers a 65.5% depreciation of its value over five years, making it the worst vehicle in terms of value retention. But even the best in its category, the Tesla Model X, is hit by a 46.9% loss in value. 

It’s also notable that the BMW i3, another EV, occupies the second spot on our list of vehicles that lose the most value, with 63.1%.

Luxury sedans and SUVs – These depreciate quickly because consumers tend to purchase them new, and they’re used for only a few years before being replaced by a newer model. As a result, luxury vehicles in these categories can be difficult to sell used, and their resale values can be pretty low. 

Luxury sedans and SUVs make up eight of the 10 worst vehicles in terms of value retention. The BMW 7 Series leads the way with a 61.5% depreciation, followed by the Maserati Ghibli at 61.3% and BMW X5 at 60.3%. 

With these vehicles being more expensive than most others on the list, their high depreciation rates result in some of the most significant dollar-amount losses in value. For example, the BMW 7 Series at full depreciation estimate comes to an average of $63,271 difference from MSRP. 

Avoiding Costly Depreciation

When it comes to vehicle value retention, not all cars are created equal. Some vehicles, like the Jeep Wrangler models, Porsche 911 and Toyota Tacoma, hold their value quite well, and others — like electric vehicles and luxury sedans/SUVs — lose value more rapidly. 

Understanding which cars hold their value and which don’t can help you make a more informed decision when purchasing a new vehicle. And if you’re looking to sell your car down the road, knowing its estimated resale value can help you get the most money back for your investment.

Trade In or Sell Your Car? What You Need to Know Before You Decide

When you’re ready to upgrade to a new car, you might wonder whether it’s better to trade in your old vehicle or sell it outright. The answer depends on several factors, including how much money you need for a down payment, how much time you’re willing to spend on the sale and whether you’re attached to your old car. 

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each option so that you can make the best decision for your situation. 

Trading in Your Car 

Trading in your car is a popular way to help finance a new car purchase. According to the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), 43 percent of new-car purchases involve a trade-in

The best advantage of trading in your car is that it’s the easiest option. You can do it all in one day at the dealership, and you don’t have to worry about listing your car, scheduling test drives or haggling over price. 

However, trading in your car also means that you’ll likely get less money than if you sell it yourself. This is because dealerships need to make a profit on the sale, and they’ll lowball you on the trade-in value to ensure they can do that. 

If you decide to trade in your car, be sure to do your research ahead of time to know what it’s worth. Bring along any recent repairs or maintenance documentation, as well as records of regular oil changes and tire rotations. This will show the dealership that you’ve taken good care of the car and help them give you a fair price. 

Also, be keenly aware of the supply and demand situation with the dealership you’re working with. If they’re getting a lot of trade-ins for the same make and model of car as yours, they might not give you as much money since they already have plenty of that model on their lot. 

But on the other hand, if your car is in high demand, you might be able to negotiate a higher trade-in value. For example, recently, Forbes said it could be the best time to sell your used vehicle, thanks to supply chain issues. 

man handing car key away

Selling Your Car 

Selling your car yourself will almost always net you more money than trading it in — sometimes tens of thousands of dollars more. However, it’s also more time-consuming and requires more effort than trading in your car. 

When you sell your car yourself, you’ll need to list it online or in print publications, schedule test drives with prospective buyers, handle all the paperwork and negotiate payment. This takes time and effort that some people would rather not spend. 

If selling your car yourself sounds like too much work, but trading it in sounds like too big of a financial hit, another option is available: refinancing your car loan. 

Your Third Option: Refinancing

You can lower your monthly payments without getting rid of your current vehicle when you refinance a car loan — a win-win situation! The process is simple. Instead of paying off your loan to the original lender over several years, you take out a new loan with a different lender (often at a lower interest rate) and use that loan to pay off the first. 

This frees up extra cash each month that can be put toward other financial goals — or used to upgrade your ride sooner than planned.

Before deciding whether to refinance your auto loan, compare offers from multiple lenders to ensure you’re getting the best deal possible. And remember — just because refinancing offers some great benefits doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone. Be sure to weigh all your options before making a decision. Then, use our refinance car loan calculator to see if it’s right for you.

Woman handing car keys to another woman

There’s No Right or Wrong Answer

Regardless of whether you trade in or sell your automobile, there’s no right or wrong answer. It all depends on what is best for you. For example, if you’re looking to upgrade your car sooner than later and don’t care as much about earning top dollar for it, trading it in at a dealership might be the best option.

However, if you’re not in a rush and want to get the most money for your old vehicle, privately selling it is usually the best option. And if you’re not interested in getting a new car but still want to save money on your monthly payments, refinancing your existing loan could be the best option of all. 

Whatever decision you make, just be sure to do your research so that you can get the best possible deal.

Buy a Car With Cash or Finance? Which Option Is Best for Your Personal Finances?

When you’re in the market for a new car, you have two main options for paying for it: cash or financing. Both have pros and cons, so it’s important to weigh your options carefully before deciding. We’ll break down the key differences between paying cash for a car and financing one, so you can make the best decision for your personal finances.

Paying Cash for a Car

Buying a car outright with cash has some great benefits. Foremost, paying cash means you won’t have to worry about monthly car payments. In addition, this can free up some extra money each month to put toward other financial goals, like saving for retirement or building an emergency fund. 

As well, if you pay cash for a car, you won’t have to worry about interest charges eating into your budget. So, in the long run, this method can save you money and, if you’re wise, even make you money by investing the extra cash you have each month.

However, there are also some downsides to paying cash for a car. To begin with, if you barely have enough to cover the total cost of the vehicle, you could end up overspending and putting yourself in a tight financial spot.

For example, if you pay cash for a car and something unexpected comes up (like an unexpected medical bill), you might not have the reserves on hand to cover it. 

Not to mention, dealerships who are keen on selling financing packages might not be happy to hear you want to pay cash. To you, it sounds like a good deal for them and an easy sale, but they make a lot of money with those financing packages. So, don’t expect to use paying cash as a bargaining chip to get a lower price — it might not work.

Ultimately, you should only pay cash for a car if you have the full amount saved and you’re confident you won’t need to tap into those savings for other purposes. If this isn’t the case, auto loan financing might be a better option for you.

Financing a Car

When you finance a car, you’re taking out a loan to cover the cost of the vehicle. You’ll make monthly payments on this loan — a combination of the principal, interest, and any other fees charged by the lender — until it’s paid off. 

For many people, financing is the best way to buy a car because it allows them to spread the cost of the vehicle over time. This can make it more affordable in the short-term and give you some flexibility if you need to tap into your savings for other purposes.

woman signing a document for a new car

One of the most significant benefits of financing a car is that it allows you to purchase a more expensive vehicle than you could if you were paying cash. With average new car prices topping $45,000 in 2021, according to Forbes, financing is often the only way to afford a new vehicle. 

Another benefit of financing a car is that it can be an excellent way to build your credit. As long as you make your monthly payments on time, you’ll be building a positive credit history that can help you down the road when you’re looking to take out a mortgage or another type of loan.

Of course, there are also some drawbacks to financing a car. To begin with, you’ll have to pay interest on your loan, which will increase the total cost of the car over time. If you get locked into a bad loan, this could cost you thousands of dollars in the long run and require you to refinance your car loan down the road

Of course, this can be avoided by shopping around for the best interest rate and being mindful of the terms of your loan. Still, it’s something to be aware of nonetheless. 

Additionally, suppose you have trouble making your monthly payments. In that case, you could risk damaging your credit score or even losing your car to repossession. This will make it difficult or costly to get another car loan in the future or secure other types of financing. 

That’s why it’s vital to secure an interest rate and loan term that works for your budget and make sure you have a plan for making your payments on time each month.

Lastly, if you finance a car and later want to sell it before the loan is paid off, you might end up owing more money than the car is worth (this is known as being “upside down” on your loan). In these situations, you’ll have to cover the difference between what you owe and what the car is sold for to pay off your loan in full.

Make the Decision That’s Right for You

There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to deciding whether to buy a car with cash or finance it. It all depends on your personal financial situation and what makes the most sense for your budget and comfort level with large financial expenditures. 

woman sitting in the drivers seat of a car smiling while being given keys to her new car

If you have enough money to pay for a car outright, paying cash might be the best option for you as it can help free up extra money each month. However, if you don’t have enough saved up or want to purchase a more expensive vehicle than you could afford with cash, financing might be the better option. 

Consider all your options and use an auto loan calculator to estimate your monthly payments before deciding. This will help ensure you choose the car-buying option that makes the most sense for your personal finances.

What Is a GAP Waiver and Do I Need One?

Accidents, vandalism, theft — these are all risks that car owners must contend with. If your car can’t be recovered or repaired, you are looking at a total loss claim with your insurance company, something that can create financial strain if you are still paying off your car loan.

Fortunately, Guaranteed Asset Protection (GAP) offers significant protection against financial loss in these situations. GAP coverage ensures that you don’t have to pay the difference between your current loan balance and the compensation provided by your insurance company.

"What Is a GAP Waiver" man holding his head in his hands after a car accident

What Is Guaranteed Asset Protection (GAP)

Guaranteed Asset Protection, sometimes known as Guaranteed Auto Protection, is a financial product that addresses a common problem: The gap between the actual cash value (ACV) of your car, as determined by your insurance company, and what you still owe on your auto loan.

If you have the misfortune of losing your car to an accident, vandalism or theft, having GAP coverage helps protect your wallet and credit.

There are two types of GAP coverage: GAP waivers and GAP insurance. While both offer protection, they are two distinct products.

GAP Waivers vs. GAP Insurance

The primary difference is that GAP insurance is an insurance product, while a GAP waiver is an agreement between you and your lender:

GAP waivers: When you apply for a car loan or auto refinancing, your lender may offer you a GAP waiver as an add-on option. Purchasing the waiver means that your lender has agreed to waive the balance of your loan if your car is written off as a total loss by your insurer and the claim check does not cover the balance of your loan.

GAP insurance: This is optional insurance coverage that you purchase from an insurance carrier, not your lender. The terms of this insurance and how you purchase it will conform to your state’s insurance laws and regulations, but typically it’s something you add onto your car insurance policy.

Additionally, GAP waivers can only be purchased at the time of financing whereas GAP insurance may be added to your car insurance policy at any time.

How GAP Works

Guaranteed Asset Protection products address this problem by covering the “gap” between what insurance pays out and the balance of your auto financing loan.

If you are among the over 80 percent of car buyers in the United States driving a financed car, you’re at risk of a significant financial loss if your car is stolen or damaged. Here’s why:

You’ve probably heard it said that a vehicle loses value, a process known as “depreciation,” as soon as you drive it off the lot. The saying is true: Cars lose value quickly, even if you take good care of your vehicle. While most drivers don’t pay much attention to depreciation, insurance companies do.

If something were to happen to the car and you file a claim with your auto insurance company, your insurer will determine your vehicle’s actual cash value and cut a check based on that – not how much you still owe on your car’s loan.

And if you chose a longer loan term or didn’t make a large enough down payment (or both)? The difference between the actual cash value of your car and the amount you still owe on the loan could be even more significant — and you’ll still owe it, even if you no longer have that car.

Ideally, we would all pay off our car loans faster than our vehicles depreciate, but everyone’s situation is different, and not everyone can afford to do that. GAP waivers can help you keep a lower monthly payment on your car loan while protecting your wallet too.

An Example of GAP Protection

Here is an example from AUTOPAY showing how a GAP waiver could protect you in case of an auto accident or theft:

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Your original loan amount: $25,000
Term: 60 months
Loss date: 36 months
Loan payoff due: $15,000
Insurance settlement: $10,000
Difference between insurance and payoff: $5,000
Plus insurance deductible: $500

What you owe (difference + deductible): $5,500
GAP waiver pays: $5,500

"Why do i need a GAP Waiver" with man holding his neck

Why Get a GAP Waiver?

The most obvious reason to get a GAP waiver is that you don’t want the financial risk of owing money on a car that you can’t drive — or no longer have in your possession. But there are other financial advantages to purchasing a GAP waiver:

  1. If you don’t have GAP coverage and are left with a significant balance on your auto loan, that balance could impede your ability to finance a new vehicle, or may at least restrict you to less favorable terms. This is because account balances, including loan accounts, are reported to and by credit bureaus. Your overall debt load makes up part of your credit score.
  2. Even if you do secure financing for a new vehicle, you may be left with two loan payments to make each month. If you struggle to meet these obligations, you could be left with damaged credit.
  3. GAP waivers are either paid for upfront when you sign your loan agreement or, in some cases, are rolled into your loan. GAP insurance is a separate product and even one missed premium payment could threaten your coverage.
  4. Because you purchase a GAP waiver from your lender, the waiver is active as long as your loan is in repayment. If you purchase GAP insurance from your current auto insurer and, at some point, switch insurance companies, there is always the risk that you might forget to purchase GAP insurance to go with your new policy. Or, if your policy lapses due to nonpayment, you lose all of your insurance coverage. This could result in an unhappy (and very expensive) surprise.

Are There Reasons to Not Purchase GAP Coverage?

There may be some instances in which not purchasing GAP coverage might be the best decision for you. Here are some situations in which you might not want to secure GAP coverage:

Your loan-to-value ratio is below 100%. LTV is a percentage comparing your auto loan debt to the value of your car. A loan-to-value ratio above 100% means you’re upside down, or owe more on the vehicle than it is worth.

You have a relatively short repayment period. If you plan to pay off your car loan fast, then GAP protection might not be necessary, assuming you pay off the debt faster than your car depreciates.

You are confident that you have enough savings, or income, to cover any outstanding loan balance. GAP protects your finances, but if you’ve already established a fund to cover any potential leftover balance with ease, you may be able to forgo it.

Auto Refinancing and a GAP Waiver

The decision to purchase a vehicle or refinance an existing loan is a serious one that carries some significant risks. Purchasing GAP coverage can be one way to mitigate these risks, particularly if you have a long repayment period, are locked in to a high interest rate or are unable to make a large down payment.