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How long does it take to buy a car?

Compare car loan approval times and learn how you can speed up the process.

How long does it take to buy a car and how long does finance approval take? Car loan approval times vary depending on which type of lender you get financing from. You can speed up the application and approval process by selecting a lender that offers car loan instant approval or same-day approval. Find out which lenders offer the fastest car loan approval times and apply today to get auto financing.

How long does finance approval take for a car?

It can take as little as a few minutes and as long as a few days to get approved for a car loan from start to finish. Your car loan approval time will vary based on a number of factors. These can include the type of lender you choose, the amount you need to borrow and your creditworthiness.

Is there a difference between pre-approval and full approval?

Yes. Pre-approval tells you how much you can borrow and at what interest rates, but it doesn’t give you access to funding. Instead, it lets you shop around for vehicles with a set price in mind. Once you find a car, you can then go through an expedited process to get financing from your lender by submitting an application for full approval.

How long does the car loan application and approval process take?

Here’s an idea of approximately how long you can expect each step in the application and approval process to take:

  • Submitting your application. It usually only takes 10 to 15 minutes to complete an online application. If you need to visit a lender in person, you’ll need to reserve at least a few hours.
  • Immediate response. Some lenders offer instant car loan approval through a streamlined pre-approval process. This means you’ll know how much you qualify to borrow as soon as you submit your application (though it could take a bit longer to actually access financing).
  • Full approval. Car loan approval times can differ among lenders, but generally you can expect the process to take between a few hours to a few days. This is assuming that there are no unexpected delays and your application isn’t overly complex.
  • Loan funding. After receiving full approval for your car loan from your lender, you can generally expect to receive your funds within one and three business days. That said, you’ll want to check in with your lender directly to confirm your own unique car loan approval time.

How long does it take to get pre-approved for a car loan?

Car loan pre-approval usually takes the same amount of time as it takes to get full approval and the application process can be less intense. Getting pre-approved in advance allows you to lock in your rates with a lender before you commit to a loan.

This gives you the freedom to shop around for a vehicle knowing exactly how much you’re eligible to borrow and at what interest rates.

0% Financing

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  • Rates from 0% - 46.96%
  • Borrow $500 - $50,000
  • Get matched with offers

Quick Pre-Approval

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  • Rates from 3.90% - 29.90%
  • Borrow $500 - $75,000
  • Get matched with offers

Used Cars

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  • Rates from 8.49%
  • Borrow From $7,500
  • Ontario online dealer

How long will it take my lender to finalize my loan?

There are four main types of lenders: online lenders, banks, credit unions and dealerships. Each type of lender will have a different car loan approval time.

The information below is an assessment of car loan approval times for each type of lender:

Type of lenderCar loan approval time
Online lendersOne business day to a week
Banks and credit unionsOne business day to a few weeks
DealershipsThe same day to a few business days

Online lenders

Online lenders tend to have a relatively quick car loan approval time for pre-approvals. If you apply during business hours, you may see a response on the same day or within a few hours. However, your lender won’t be able to fully approve your loan without first receiving documentation showing your proof of income, employment and citizenship.

This could take a few days to process, and it may take one to three business days for your funds to actually show up in your account. From start to finish, it can take up to a week to receive a car loan from an online lender.

Banks and credit unions

The car loan approval time you’ll get with banks and credit unions varies based on the institution. Some have quick online applications with a similar car loan approval time to online lenders. Others follow more traditional car loan approvals and require you to visit a branch, fill out forms and wait for days to get your money.

Since your car loan approval time will vary based on your provider, make sure to speak to the lender you choose directly to see how long it might take to process your application.

Dealership financing

How long does it take a dealership to find financing? Your car loan approval time for dealership financing can be as fast as the same day, but it comes with a caveat: The loan you walk out the door with may not be fully approved. Spot delivery, also called spot financing, is when your dealer allows you to drive off the lot before the financing is in place for your car.

If you don’t have good to excellent credit and a strong income, but have taken advantage of spot delivery, you might have to renegotiate your loan — usually for a less optimal rate — or else return your car.

This is commonly referred to as “yo-yo financing” because the dealer promises you one monthly payment or interest rate, then raises the rate if an agreeable lender can’t be found (which happens frequently).

Make sure your purchase agreement doesn’t say that your loan is “subject to approval.” If so, you may experience unexpected delays and the car loan instant approval time you were promised may not work out.

How can I get instant car loan approval for bad credit?

If you have bad credit and need a car loan as soon as possible, you may be able to get the fastest turnaround with online lenders. It might not be possible to get instant car loan approval for bad credit, but many online lenders aim for pre-approval within minutes and you may even be able to get full approval within 24 to 72 hours.

Just be aware that you should watch out for online providers that advertise instant car loan approval for bad credit since it could be a scam. This is why you should only shop for car loans with reputable lenders that have solid online reviews or have been vetted by comparison sites like Finder.

Compare car loan providers

1 - 5 of 5
Name Product Loan Amount APR Range Fees Loan Term Turnaround Time
CarsFast Car Loans
$500 - $75,000
3.90% - 29.90%
Varies by lender, loan type and province
12 - 96 months
Get pre-approved in less than 60 seconds.
Get a new or used vehicle delivered to your door.
Browse thousands of vehicles from dealers across Canada and get matched with financing that meets your needs.
Loans Canada Car Loans
$500 - $50,000
0% - 46.96%
Varies by lender
3 - 60 months
Compare rates from 60+ lenders. 0% APR for new cars only, used car rates start at 7.99%.
Complete a single application to get quotes from different lenders. Bad credit, CERB and EI borrowers considered.
Dealerhop Car Loans
$7,000 - No max.
6.99% - 29.99%
12 - 96 months
24 Hours
Clutch Car Loans
$7,500 - No max.
From 8.49%
Service fees will apply depending on where you live: $899 in Nova Scotia
12 - 96 months
Less than 24 hours
Pre-qualify for a loan in under 2 minutes with no impact to your credit score.
Get approved for financing in under 24 hours for the used car you want. No hidden fees. Get the vehicle delivered to your door.
CarDoor Car Loan
$5,000 - No max.
From 7.99%
$130 for registering your licence plate
12 - 96 months
Less than 24 hours

What can slow down my application?

Avoid these three pitfalls if you want to reduce your car loan approval time:

  • Not submitting all required documents. Lenders can only fully approve your loan once all the required documents have been received. If your lender is waiting on proof of income or residence, it could hold up your application. To speed up the process, check what documents are required and have them on hand before you apply.
  • Applying late in the day. Some lenders can offer same-day approval if you apply by a certain time, usually by the end of the business day. If you apply outside of business hours or on a weekend or a holiday, your application may take longer.
  • Not providing enough info about your vehicle. Your lender may require you to submit information about your vehicle before it releases funds, especially if the car is being used as collateral to secure your loan. Make sure your dealer sends this information to your lender as soon as possible to speed up your car loan approval time.

Other factors to consider when getting a car loan

  • APR. Your annual percentage rate (APR) includes both interest and fees. It’s the easiest way to compare the cost of car loans with similar terms.
  • Down payment. Your lender may require you to have between 15% and 20% saved up before they approve you for financing.
  • Loan term. You may want to choose a short-term loan to save money on interest, or go with a longer term loan if you want to lower your monthly payments.
  • Availability. Many lenders have restrictions on which cars they will finance (for example, some won’t finance used vehicles). Make sure your lender is willing to give you financing for the vehicle you want.

Bottom line

If you’re wondering how long it takes to buy a car, your car loan approval time will vary depending on which lender you take out financing with. Most lenders don’t offer instant car loan approval, but you should be able to get financing within a couple of hours or days. You can also choose to get pre-approved for financing so that you’ll already have money lined up to spend when you decide on a vehicle.

Frequently asked questions

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