Why You Should Get Pre-Approved for a Car Loan Before You Head to the Dealership

Heading to the car dealership just to look around isn’t a bad idea if you need a new car, right? After all, just because you look doesn’t mean you have to buy. Well, if you’re not concerned with price or the type of loan you wind up with, then this type of thinking is perfectly fine. If you’re price-conscious, on the other hand, and want to get the best deal on your new ride, you should do some homework before you hit the dealership.

Not only should you research the fair value of the vehicle you’re considering and shop around and negotiate to get the best price, you should also shop around for a loan. While shopping around for a car loan doesn’t sound nearly as fun as shopping for an actual car, it’s essential if you want to get a good deal.

The idea behind getting a pre-approved auto loan is simple: By shopping around for an auto loan, you’ll enter the dealership with a good idea of the interest rates and terms you can expect. And if you’re pre-approved for a car loan, you’ll have an extra bargaining chip with the dealer to help you get a low rate, which will make your new or used car more affordable in the long run.

Check Your Personal Loan Rates

Answer a few questions to see which personal loans you pre-qualify for. The process is quick and easy, and it will not impact your credit score.

The Difference Between a Pre-Approved and Pre-Qualified Auto Loan

Some people think that to pre-approve and pre-qualify an auto loan means the same thing, but lenders use the two processes very differently. Pre-qualifying for an auto loan is the first step that gives you a general indication of how much you might qualify for, and most banks base your pre-qualification amount on a soft credit check. Getting a pre-approved car loan is a firm offer from a lender that requires a hard check of your credit report. This type of offer gives you a solid idea of how much you’ll have to spend on your new car.

The Benefits of Getting a Pre-Approved Car Loan

The auto-research experts at Edmunds agree that loan shopping before you reach the dealership is a must. “The problem with starting your car financing at the dealership is that you don’t know whether the loan you’re being offered is the best financing you can get. It can also complicate the negotiations, and limits where you can shop to get the best price,” notes Edmunds.com. “The best way to counter this is to get pre-approved for your car loan. Getting pre-approved for a car loan is the closest you can come to the perks of paying with cash while not having to save up for months or years in advance.”

Where having the cash to pay for a car can give you an edge at the dealership, getting a pre-approved auto loan is the next best thing because it makes you less reliant on the dealer’s financing options. Here are some notable benefits of having your car loan squared away before you hit the dealership:

Get a better interest rate

Shopping around is always your best bet when you’re trying to save money, and shopping for a car loan is no exception to that rule. By getting a few different quotes from various lenders, you can ensure you’re getting the best interest rate and loan terms possible.

Know how much you can actually afford

Shopping for your car loan separately can help you create a realistic car budget to stick to without the pressure of a dealer’s sales pitch in the background. When you shop ahead for your loan, you’re more likely to understand the type of payment you’ll end up with based on how much you spend, and you can take your time to evaluate the numbers without a salesman bearing down on you. Knowing this information before you shop lets you focus your energy on cars in your price range and avoid the rest.

Make your shopping experience easier

When your car loan is already taken care of, your dealership experience will be a lot less complicated. You’ll be treated more like a cash buyer, which means you can focus your energy on negotiating the price of your car versus the car loan itself.

Gain the upper hand in negotiations

As the next best thing to a cash buyer, you’ll have the upper hand when you negotiate with the dealership for the best deal. Because your financing isn’t tied to the dealership, you can take that auto loan pre-approval to any car dealer in town, and they know it.

And with a pre-approved car loan offer in your hand, you’ll have a set price you don’t want to stray from. When it comes to the add-ons and upgrades dealers try to sell you at the end — or the well-known tactic of stretching out your auto loan to seven years and focusing only on the lower monthly payment — you won’t fall for it, and you’ll have ample reason to say “no.”

Choose the best financing option in the end

The best part about getting pre-approved for an auto loan is that it’s not set in stone. If the dealer you choose just so happens to offer an awesome financing deal after you agree on a purchase price, that’s just icing on the cake.

Some dealerships offer 0% APR financing and other amazing deals at certain times of the year. Remember, just because you approach the dealership with a pre-approved car loan doesn’t mean you can’t choose dealer financing in the end if it’s a better deal.

The whole point is that, with a pre-approved car loan, you’re the one in the driver’s seat.

Where to Get a Pre-approved Car Loan

You can apply for auto loan pre-approval at a lender’s website or visit a bank or credit union in person. It can pay to apply for pre-approval from several lenders to get the best deal. Once you’re pre-approved for a car loan, you’ll find out how much you qualify for as well as the loan’s interest rate and term.

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