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Car Loan Cosigner Requirements

Cosigner Requirements - Auto Loan Cosigner Qualifications
Kelly Boyer Sagert
Kelly Boyer SagertUpdated April 19, 2023
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If someone asks you to serve as a cosigner for their car loan, you may have questions about the responsibilities you’d be taking on and what auto loan cosigner requirements you’d need to meet. In general, cosigners will need to have solid credit and be able to demonstrate proof of income and residency, along with other information, in order to back the primary borrower’s auto loan.There are benefits as well as drawbacks to agreeing to assume this responsibility, and the primary borrower needs to consider the pros and cons as well. Read on for more on car loan cosigner requirements.

What Is an Auto Loan Cosigner?

An auto loan cosigner is someone (often a family member or good friend) who will sign loan papers to give a lender extra assurance that the person wishing to buy the car (the ‘primary borrower’) will make payments on time and repay the loan in full. If the borrower does not pay, then the cosigner is responsible for making payments on the auto loan.

The Role of a Car Loan Cosigner

A car loan cosigner can play a crucial role in helping someone else get a car loan finalized for approval. Sometimes, for example, the primary borrower hasn’t established enough credit yet or has a low credit score. In that case, a lender may require a cosigner so that someone else (with good credit) also has the responsibility of ensuring that payments are met to reduce the level of risk the financial institution is taking.Or perhaps the primary borrower could get the car loan on their own but at a less than favorable interest rate rather than good interest rates. In that situation, a cosigner could help them secure a better rate and terms. That can help the primary borrower to have a lower principal and interest payment that can be easier for them to meet each month.As payments are made on time, this can help the primary borrower build credit. For example, a parent may act as a cosigner to help their child secure their first car loan, then later drop off the loan once the child has built up their credit.

The Cosigning Process

When a cosigner is used on a loan, their qualifications are checked alongside those of the borrower. Then, once the loan is approved, both parties (the primary borrower and the cosigner) will sign the loan agreement paperwork. The primary borrower is then expected to make payments on time but, if this doesn’t happen, then the cosigner is responsible for them.

Informed Agreement

According to the Federal Trade Commission, when you cosign a loan, the lender must provide a notice that details your obligations. This includes acknowledging that you’re being asked to guarantee repayment of the debt if the primary borrower does not. You may need to pay collection costs and other fees if this were to happen, and this information should be shared in the agreement as well.Additionally, in some states, the lender can seek to collect the amount owed from the cosigner before going to the primary borrower, using the same collection techniques employed when trying to get payment from the main borrower. This may be included in the agreement if it applies in your state.

Pros and Cons of Using a Cosigner for a Car Loan

From a borrower’s perspective, there are advantages and disadvantages of using a cosigner:
Pros of using a cosignerCons of using a cosigner
Having a qualified cosigner can be the difference between getting an auto loan application approved or rejectedIf you miss payments, this can damage your cosigner’s credit (as well as your own)
You may get a lower interest rate (and, therefore, lower monthly payments) and better terms with a cosignerIf you fail to repay the loan, this can also harm your personal relationship with your cosigner
From the perspective of being the cosigner, there are also pros and cons, including:
Pros of being a cosignerCons of being a cosigner
You can help someone else secure a car loan, thereby helping them get transportationYou’re risking damage to your credit score if timely payments aren’t made
You can often assist them in getting a better interest rate and more favorable termsIf the primary borrower doesn’t make payments, then you’re liable to do so

Auto Loan Cosigner Requirements

An auto loan cosigner should be someone who is creditworthy and has an appropriate income level, although specifics of what that means can vary by lender. One financial institution may require a higher credit score but not have as stringent of income requirements as another. To find out exactly what a particular lender’s car loan cosigner requirements are, be sure to ask and find out what documentation will be required for the cosigner.If you’re a primary borrower who is applying for a car loan with cosigner requirements, be aware that not everyone will make a good cosigner. Cosigners can be family members or close friends — in other words, trustworthy people who are willing to help out.

Proof of Identity

The lender will want to see official documentation of the cosigner’s identity and will likely ask to see one or more of the following:
  • Government-issued ID
  • Passport
  • Birth certificate

Government-Issued ID

A lender will almost certainly want you to present a photo ID that’s government-issued to verify your identity. This is typically a driver’s license but can also be a state-issued ID or a U.S. military identification card. The lender may also ask for your Social Security card.


If a lender requires you to show a passport and you don’t have one, this U.S. government site provides guidance.

Birth Certificate

If you don’t have a copy of your birth certificate and you were born in the United States, you can contact the vital records office in your state to request one. If you need to get one quickly in order to cosign a loan, ask about expedited service options.

Proof of Income

In addition to collecting identifying documents, cosigner requirements for a car loan will usually include providing proof of income. Documents that may be used include:
  • Pay stubs
  • Bank statements
  • Wages and tax statements

Pay Stubs

This is a common way for a lender to verify your current income. So, if you plan to cosign for someone, make sure to keep yours. This can be easier if they’re provided online. If needed, you could ask your employer for copies.

Bank Statements

A lender may also ask to see copies of your bank statements. This will show the money you have coming in as well as what’s going out. If your paychecks are automatically deposited via direct deposit, this can act as double duty (although this would demonstrate net income rather than gross).

Wages and Tax Statements

Tax returns can show the bigger picture of your income. As such, lenders may ask to see a couple of years of returns to determine the steadiness of your income. If you’re self-employed, you won’t have pay stubs, so tax returns, along with other financial statements, may be required.

Creditworthy History

A lender’s auto loan cosigner requirements may include a hard inquiry into the cosigner’s credit report. A lender may or may not have a specific credit score that’s required, but they typically want to see one that’s very good, even excellent. This may mean a score of 670 or above.Again, consult your lender of choice for more specifics on what’s required credit-wise.

Proof of Residence

The lender may also want proof of where you live. Acceptable examples can include the following documents, among others:
  • Utility bill
  • Government-issued ID
  • Property tax bill

Utility Bills

These are often used as proof of residency because they demonstrate that you’re paying to keep the heat and lights on at a particular address.

Government-Issued ID

A lender may look at your government-issued ID and double check it against the utility bill or other proof of residence to make sure that the addresses match.

Property Tax Bills

Property tax bills can demonstrate that you’re paying taxes on a property and, when it matches the address on your government-issued ID, can often be enough proof of residency for a lender.  

Do I Need Any Additional Documents to Refinance My Car Loan With a Cosigner?

If you decide to refinance with a cosigner to reap some of the perks of refinancing your car, you’ll need to provide the same information as you would with a purchase. You may also need to provide the following details about your vehicle:
  • Car year
  • Mileage on the odometer
You may also need proof of car insurance and information about your existing loan to refinance a car loan with a cosigner. While you’re researching your refinancing options, you may also ask the lender about their car refinancing time frame to make sure it aligns with what you want or need.A primary borrower also may decide to refinance their auto loan to remove a cosigner from the loan. Perhaps the original car loan required a cosigner because the primary borrower still needed to build up their credit. Or maybe the borrower didn’t earn enough income yet to support the loan.If any of these circumstances have changed, then it may be possible to refinance without a cosigner, in which case you’d need much of the same information outlined above (minus that of a cosigner). It can be difficult to refinance a high-mileage vehicle but not necessarily impossible.Recommended: Pros and Cons of Refinancing a Car

The Takeaway

Plenty of good reasons exist for a borrower to get a cosigner, although there are pros and cons, both for the primary borrower and for the cosigner. These need to be carefully weighed before moving ahead.At some point, it can make sense to refinance the car loan, either with or without a cosigner. When this happens, it may be helpful to explore auto refinancing options with Lantern by SoFi. You can fill out just one application to receive multiple offers from lenders in the network.
Photo credit: iStock/Prostock-Studio

About the Author

Kelly Boyer Sagert

Kelly Boyer Sagert

Kelly Boyer Sagert is an Emmy Award-nominated writer with decades of professional writing experience. As she was getting her writing career off the ground, she spent several years working at a savings and loan institution, working in the following departments: savings, loans, IRAs, and auditing. She has published thousands of pieces online and in print.
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