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Can You Refinance a Car Loan With Bad Credit?

Can You Refinance a Car Loan With Bad Credit?; If you have bad credit, it may still be possible for you to refinance your car loan. Learn more from Lantern by SoFi.
Nancy Bilyeau

Nancy Bilyeau

Updated March 29, 2022
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Editor’s note: Lantern by SoFi seeks to provide content that is objective, independent and accurate. Writers are separate from our business operation and do not receive direct compensation from advertisers or partners. Read more about our Editorial Guidelines and How We Make Money.
Your car loan’s interest rate might be higher than you’d like, particularly at a time when inflation eats away at your paycheck. But if you had a “bad” credit rating when you got the car loan, that interest rate might have seemed like the best option you could get. If that’s the case, you might now be wondering whether refinancing your car with bad credit could be a more cost-effective move than keeping your current car loan.The answer is that sometimes refinancing bad credit can actually be a good idea. But you should proceed with caution. Here, you’ll find out if and how to do it.

Can You Refinance Your Car Loan Even If You Have Bad Credit?

When you think about how to refinance a car loan with bad credit, you probably wonder first of all if it’s possible. You may even have been thinking, Will refinancing my car hurt my credit score even more?The good news is that yes, you can often refinance your car, even with bad credit. Doing so can be a good idea, especially if you can get a cosigner whose credit is in good standing, if your credit has improved lately, and/or if car loan interest rates have dropped. There are also potential downsides to consider, of course. You’ll want to be aware of the cost of refinancing a car, taking into account any fees or prepayment penalties charged by your current lender. And refinancing your loan will temporarily lower your credit score--usually for no longer than about one year. But overall, refinancing may be a way to lower your monthly auto loan payments, which could help you save money. Just remember it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of refinancing your car before you make the leap and sign up for a specific loan.

What Is a Bad Credit Score?

You’ve probably researched what is a good credit score and not been thrilled with the answer. No one enjoys having the word “bad” attached to a record of their finances. What must first be understood is that the definitions are bestowed by credit agencies. Three credit agencies–TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian–collect and store the information that helps potential lenders or employers rate your reliability. When you request an increase on your credit limit, apply for a loan, or apply for a new rental home or a new job, your credit report will likely come into play. There’s no getting around the importance of credit. In the world of credit reports, “bad” is anything less than “good,” and it encompasses both “fair” and “poor.” And those two definitions cover a wide range. Trying to find an auto loan refinance for fair credit is different from searching for one when your credit is poor.There are variations among the credit agencies, but here are the most common numbers for the credit scores.

Is It Smart to Get an Auto Loan Refinanced With Bad Credit? 

Financial advisors caution that someone with poor credit is unlikely to get an auto refinancing deal that will really help their situation. However, it might be possible to refinance auto loan with fair credit, which falls between 580 and 669.About 17% of Americans have fair credit scores with a FICO® Score in this range, according to Experian. Applicants with this score are still considered to be subprime borrowers, meaning their credit standing is less than what is normally desired. So an auto loan for fair credit is by no means a sure thing, though they do happen. A cosigner with good credit can definitely help.Apart from the score itself, other conditions can play a role in the decision.

When Should You Refinance Your Car?

How soon can you refinance an auto loan? The best time to refinance your car, even with bad credit, is when the following situations apply.
  • If Your Credit Score Has Improved. Ideally, you've been taking steps to improve your overall credit record by paying bills on time, reducing debt, and catching up on past accounts that are due. A higher credit score can improve your chances of qualifying for a loan with a lower interest rate and better terms. It’s helpful to check your credit score periodically, which you can do through many credit cards and financial institutions, to see where you are.
  • When Interest Rates Are Dropping. Whenever car loan interest rates are down could be a good time to refinance your car. This is especially true if you have a few years left on your car loan and you can lower the interest by a few points. Refinancing to a rate that’s lower by 2 or 3 percentage points could result in savings that will really add up over the length of your loan.
  • When Your Car’s Value Is Still High. Check out sites like Kelley Blue Book or Edmunds.com to see what your car’s current value is. If the car’s value has dropped significantly and you owe more than the car is worth, it’s usually not a good idea to refinance. If the car is holding its value, this may be a good time to refinance it, assuming that interest rates are lower than they were when you bought the car.
  • If You’re Struggling to Make Your Car Payments. When your auto loan interest rate is very high and you still have a few more years left on the loan, refinancing could be an option to reduce your monthly payments and help free up some cash in your budget. You may want to seek out a service that will compare auto loan refinancing options for you.

Comparing Auto Loan Refinance Lenders for Bad Credit

When you’re considering whether to refinance auto loan with fair credit or even poor credit, here are some tips to keep in mind. It’s especially important to do your research to find the best place to refinance auto loan with fair credit.

Compare Multiple Loans

Don’t automatically settle for the first loan. Research to find the ones to help you lower your car loan payments.

Examine the Interest Rates

This is a key point when comparing loans, especially when looking for an auto loan refinance for fair credit. You might want to look up what a good auto loan interest rate is these days. But remember you need to allow for your bad credit as well as factors like whether it’s for a new car loan, a used car loan, or a refinanced car loan. 

Look at the APR

The lender should provide you not only with what your monthly payment would be, but also the annual percentage rate (APR). This figure explains what you will be paying above principal every year and includes not only interest but also any fees. 

Consider the Length of the Loan

Your monthly payments and even your interest rate might seem a lot lower but you’ll also need to look at the length of your refinanced car loan. You don’t want to find yourself with extended car payments that go beyond your initial loan and don't ultimately save you money. 

Make Sure You Can Afford It

A great interest rate won’t help you if you still can’t pay the monthly payments on the loan, so be sure you understand what the bill will be every month.

Ask About Promotions

First you might want to ask your current lender about refinancing and inquire about any promotions running. Take those numbers when you shop around with other lenders to see what they can offer you.

Be Careful with Subprime Lenders 

Lenders that specialize in refinancing for people with bad credit–particularly poor credit–may be appealing, but watch out. Some may be predatory and charge exorbitant interest rates. That’s another reason to be sure to do your research and compare options!

The Takeaway

It may be possible to refinance auto loan with fair credit if you research your options and find a reputable lender that will work with you. Refinancing to a better rate after your credit score has improved and the interest rates have decreased can save you money in the long run. Using a cosigner who is in good credit standing might help you get a better rate and lower your monthly car payment.As you’re researching your different auto loan refinancing options, Lantern by SoFi can help. You can fill out one simple form to access loan offers from multiple lenders in our lending network.
Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website on credit (https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/topics/credit-and-loans)SOLC0621105

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you refinance an auto loan with bad credit?
Where is the best place to refinance an auto loan with bad credit?
Is it smart to refinance an auto loan with bad credit?

About the Author

Nancy Bilyeau

Nancy Bilyeau

Nancy Bilyeau writes about student loans, mortgages, car insurance, medical debt and many other finance topics for Lantern. A veteran of the magazine business, she has edited stories on personal finance for Good Housekeeping and DuJour magazines and has written articles for The Wall Street Journal, Readers' Digest, Parade, Town & Country and Lifetime/A&E, among others. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan.
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