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When financing a car, you have two options. The first option is Direct Lending, meaning you are borrowing money directly from a credit union, finance company, or bank. With this loan, you are agreeing to pay the amount borrowed, with the addition of a finance charge, through monthly payments over an agreed upon period of time. Once you have found the car you wish to purchase, you use this loan to pay the dealership. When going through direct lending, you know your terms ahead of time (APR, loan length, and maximum amount allowed to borrow), and are able to compare among dealers.

The second option is Dealership Financing, meaning you are applying for financing directly through the dealer, once you have found a car to purchase. Similar to direct lending, the dealership will offer you a contract in which you are agreeing to pay the price of the car, with the addition of a finance charge, over an agreed upon period of time. Many times, the dealer will then sell this contract to a bank or financial institution who will now service your account and collect your payments. When applying for financing through the dealership, they may be able to offer you a range of financing options or special programs. Some dealerships offer in-house financing, typically seen as “Buy Here, Pay Here”. Most loans require a down payment equal to a percentage of the loan upfront, and the repayment of the remainder is on your agreed upon terms.

Documents to Provide When Applying for a Car Loan:

  1. Identification: Lenders are required by Federal Law to confirm a borrower’s identity. Any government-issued I.D. showing your name and photograph should be sufficient, such as a driver’s license, passport or U.S. visa.
  2. Proof of Income: Lenders need evidence that a borrower has the ability to repay their auto loan prior to their financing of a car. A borrower should be receiving consistent income, and be able to provide paystubs, bank statements, or a W-2. For self-employed borrowers, lenders often times will use tax returns showing gross income, or a 1099 form. If you receive any additional forms of income (i.e. alimony, social security, legal settlements, etc.), the may increase the amount you are allowed to borrow, so be sure to provide proof to the lender.
  3. Proof of Residence: Lenders, required by Federal Law, will need information on your residence, along with proof of that residence. If the address on your Drivers License matches the address seen on your credit report, this may be the only proof of residence needed. If the address varies or you have recently moved, you may be required to provide further documentation, such as a Utility Bill, Mortgage or Lease Statement, Homeowners/Renters Insurance Policy, Bank Statement, or Property Tax Bill.
  4. Proof of Insurance: Once the Bill of Sale on a vehicle has been signed, you will be required to provide proof of insurance before the vehicle is legally allowed to leave the dealership. If you have a current insurance policy, your new vehicle may be covered for a grace period. However, you will need to check with your insurance company to verify. If you do not have a current active policy, getting coverage is relatively easy. Typically, you can call your insurance company from the lot, provide the VIN, and begin your insurance process.
  5. Credit and Financial History: In order for a lender to view your credit, you will need to provide your Social Security Number, along with your name, address, and date of birth. In order to support your auto loan, lenders will need to determine if you have a low enough debt-to-income ratio (DTI) by reviewing your credit history, current credit accounts, collections or a history of late or unpaid bills. This will affect your interest rates.
  6. Vehicle Information: If you are financing with a lender directly, you will need to provide a complete bill of sale or purchase agreement,, which needs to include: the purchase price, the year, make, and model of the vehicle, and the VIN. If you are financing within the dealership, the dealer will provide all necessary information to the lender.
  7. Trade-In Documentation: If you are trading in your current vehicle, you will need to provide your title and registration, proving you are the registered owner. You will also need to disclose any damage the vehicle received under your ownership.
  8. Means of Down Payment: If you are required to make a down payment on your loan, be prepared with your form of payment. Most dealerships will accept cash, personal/cashier’s checks, most major credit/debit cards, or pre-approved and personal loans. If using a credit or debit card for your down payment, check with both the dealer and your card issuer to be sure there is not a charge limit in a single transaction.

Financing Application

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