Credit Score, Auto Loan Interest Rates, and Their Impact on Your Wallet

Jerry Baker
April 03 2023

Purchasing a vehicle is a significant financial investment, but a good auto loan can make it more manageable. However, key factors such as interest rates and your credit score can greatly affect the overall price paid for the vehicle over time. 


In this article, we'll delve into the mechanics of interest rates, the impact of credit ratings, and how these elements can lead to substantial savings or costs over the life of your auto loan.

Understanding Interest Rates and Auto Loans

Interest rates play a crucial role in auto loans. When you take out an auto loan, the lender charges you interest as the cost of borrowing the money. Generally, borrowers with higher credit scores are offered lower interest rates, while those with lower credit scores may face higher rates. 


As with any other loan type, the interest rate (expressed as a percentage) determines how much you'll pay in addition to the principal (the initial amount borrowed). Over the life of the loan, the interest can add up to a significant sum, making the overall cost of the vehicle much higher than its initial purchase price.


Besides the borrower’s credit score, several other factors influence interest rates for auto loans, including the length of the loan term, broader economic factors and market conditions, and how large of a down payment can be placed at the time of purchase. Different lenders may offer varying interest rates, so it's important to shop around and compare loan offers.

How Credit Ratings Affect Interest Rates

Your credit rating has a significant impact on the interest rates you're offered when applying for loans. Lenders often use credit ratings to assess your creditworthiness and determine how risky it might be for them to lend you money, assigning higher interest rates to account for any high-risk borrowers that might be more likely to default. 


Whatever your credit score is at the moment, you may have the ability to improve your rating and secure a better interest rate down the road. More on that in a moment.

The Cost of High Interest Rates

The bottom line is that a high interest rate on your auto loan increases the overall cost of the vehicle over the term of the loan. Even a difference of just a few percentage points can lead to thousands of dollars in additional interest.


For example, let's say you take out a $20,000 auto loan with a 5-year term. If you have a credit rating that qualifies you for a 5% interest rate, the total interest paid over the life of the loan would be roughly $2,645. However, if your credit rating only qualifies you for a 10% interest rate, the total interest paid would jump to approximately $5,496. This represents a difference of $2,851 in interest-only charges, simply due to a higher interest rate attributed to a lower credit rating.

How To Save Money on Auto Loans

Given the significant impact of interest rates on the overall cost of an auto loan, finding ways to score a lower rate and save money can make a huge difference. Here are some strategies to consider:


Improve Your Credit Rating

Before applying for an auto loan, take steps to improve your credit rating. Pay off outstanding debts, make timely payments, and keep your credit utilization low. This will help you qualify for a lower interest rate and save money over the life of the loan.


Shop Around

Don't settle for the first loan offer you receive. Compare rates and terms from multiple lenders to find the best deal. Banks, credit unions, and online lenders may offer different rates and incentives, so consider all your options before diving in.


Short Term Loans

Long loan terms may be great for lower monthly payments but they invariably mean more money paid on interest charges over the life of the loan. Opting for a shorter loan term may result in higher monthly payments but can save you money in the long run.


Make a Larger Down Payment

By putting more money down at the time of purchase, you can reduce the loan amount and the total interest paid. This can also help you qualify for a lower interest rate, as lenders may view a lower loan-to-value ratio as less risky.


Refinance Your Auto Loan

If your credit rating has improved since taking out your original auto loan – or interest rates have dropped – consider refinancing to secure a lower rate. This can lead to significant savings and possibly shorten the amount of time you need to pay off the loan.


We Have Your Best Interests in Mind

By understanding the impact of interest rates on auto loans and the role of credit ratings, you can take steps to secure a more favorable rate and save thousands over the life of your loan. Remember, a lower interest rate not only reduces your overall costs but can also make your monthly payments more manageable, contributing to a positive financial future.


At, we’re dedicated to providing the right resources and support for anyone looking to buy a used car - even if your credit is lower than you’d like. Whether you're a first-time buyer or a seasoned pro, use our convenient application tool to help simplify the process and ensure that you get a quality car at a fair price.


Jerry Baker