The first few years of your credit history are critical to your long term financial picture. When borrowers are in their 20s, they are typically a few years into their first credit cards, auto loans and student loans. How you handle your debts now can affect how much you pay for credit down the road. To that end, auto loan refinancing can play a crucial role in your financial future.
When to Consider an Auto Loan Refinance
The goal of refinancing a car loan is to reduce your interest rate, your monthly payments or the total amount you pay over the life of the loan. In some cases, an auto loan refinance can achieve all three. If you are in one of the following situations, you should consider refinancing:
You have an exorbitantly high car loan interest rate. Most auto interest rates are between 1 to 5 percent. Anything in the double digits is a bona fide rip off, usually enacted at the hands of a greedy auto dealer. Shop around and you’ll find much lower rates to refinance at.
You’ve established credit history. Your first loans have higher interest rates because you have no credit history. Now that you have a few months or years of on time payments, you can most likely get a lower interest rate without taking on more debt.
You have more income. As you transition from a part-time job or student stipend to a full time salaried position, you’ll likely have the income needed to comfortably reduce the term of your car loan. This will increase your monthly payment, but will drastically reduce your interest rate and overall cost of the loan.
When Not to Consider Refinancing Your Car Loan
Auto loan refinances are not cure-alls for whatever ails your bottom-line. There are a few situations where a car loan refinance will cost you more than it helps you, including:
You have less than $7,500 outstanding on your car loan. Most lenders can’t turn a profit on such a small auto loan principle. If you have extra cash, you’ll be better off by paying down your loan early.
The prepayment penalties outweigh the cost savings. Some lenders incur prepayment penalties for paying off your loan early. Carefully calculate how much money you’ll save in the long run versus how much you’ll spend up front to get out from under your current loan before making a decision.
You are desperate for cash. Cash out refinancing exists for auto loans, where you can borrow more than your car is worth or draw down on some of the equity you’ve built in your vehicle. For some situations, this can be a good strategic move—but if you are doing so out of desperation, you’ll just be digging yourself deeper into debt, especially since car values always decrease (unlike home values). Proceed with caution if you’ll be refinancing to get more cash on hand.
None of the above scenarios are hard and fast, so take time to assess your situation before moving forward. Your best first step is to shop around for car loan refinance quotes on sites such as MoneyAisle.com, where you can see the kinds of interest rates you can get with your current credit score without making a commitment. If opportunity exists, take it.