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How long will it take for your car loan to be approved?

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What to expect when applying for a car loan to get on the road faster.

Applying for a car loan can be a daunting process, especially if you don’t know how long to expect from first filling out the application to driving your car off the lot. You can narrow down your loan options by comparing how long different lenders take to process your car loan application.

car.Loan.com Car Loans

car.Loan.com Car Loans

Get matched with a local car dealership to finance your car purchase. Bad credit, no credit OK

  • Specializing in 'buy here, pay here' car loans. No banks or credit unions.
  • Typically hear back from a rep within 24 hours.
  • Free loan-matching service. No obligation offers.

    How long top providers take to approve a car loan

    While many lenders offer preapproval when applying for a car loan, not all do. Here’s what you can expect from top car loan providers:

    LenderIs preapproval available?How long is the approval process?
    LightStreamNoSame-day approval may be available
    Auto Credit ExpressVaries by lenderVaries by lender
    car.Loan.comVaries by lenderVaries by lender
    LendingTreeVaries by lenderVaries by lender
    Bank of AmericaYes60-second approvalRead review
    USAAYesSame-day approvalRead review
    ChaseNoFrom three hours up to three business daysRead review
    Navy Federal Credit UnionYesFive-minute approvalRead review

    How long does the car loan application process take?

    It depends on the lender you choose to apply with, the amount you need to borrow and your creditworthiness. Here’s an idea of how long to expect for each step in the application process:

    • Submitting your application. It usually only takes 10 to 15 minutes to complete an online application. However, if you have to visit a lender’s office to apply in person, it could take longer.
    • Immediate response. Some lenders offer instant preapproval after you submit your application. Those that don’t could take a few days to get back to you.
    • Full approval. The turnaround time for full approval differs, as you can see from the table above.
    • Loan funding. After receiving full approval from your lender, you can generally expect to receive your funds within one to three business days. However, it’s best to confirm the specific timing with your lender.

    If you’ve been preapproved for a loan, your lender may allow you to shop for a car before you finalize your loan. This gives you the ability to negotiate down your price and determine exactly how much you need to borrow.

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

    The four main types of lenders — online lenders, banks, credit unions and dealerships — have car loan application processes that all take different amounts of time to complete. Here’s what you can generally expect, though you should consult with your lender to get a clear picture of exactly how it works.

    Online lenders

    Online lenders tend to have a quick turnaround when it comes to preapproval. If you apply during business hours, you may see a response the same day. However, your lender won’t be able to fully approve you and fund your loan without first receiving 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 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 approval time for car loans from banks and credit unions varies. Some have quick online applications that take the same amount of time to approve as an online lender. Others require you to visit a branch, fill out an application and wait days for the more traditional approval process. Because the time varies so widely, talk to your bank or credit union to see how long it might take.

    Dealership financing

    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 financing, also called spot delivery, is when your dealer allows you to drive off the lot before the financing is in place. If you don’t have good to excellent credit and a strong income, you might have to renegotiate your loan — usually for a less optimal rate — or return your car. This is commonly referred to as yo-yo financing because the lender promises you one monthly payment or interest rate, then readjusts it if it can’t find a lender to approve you.

    Make sure your purchase agreement doesn’t have language that states your loan is subject to approval. If so, your quick loan approval time might not mean much.

    What can slow down my application?

    If you want to have your loan in hand quickly, avoid these three pitfalls when submitting your application:

    • Not submitting all required documents. Lenders can only fully approve your loan once all the required documents have been received. If yours 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 the weekend, your application may fall to the back of the queue.
    • Not providing enough info about your vehicle. This is especially important if you’re purchasing a used car, as some lenders have year and mileage limits. If you’ve already been preapproved and have found a car, have the dealer send the car’s info to your lender immediately so it can finalize your loan.

    Compare car loan providers

    Rates last updated January 17th, 2019

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    Name Product Product Description Min. Credit Score Term of Loan Requirements
    car.Loan.com Car Loans
    Apply with a simple online application to get paired with a local auto lender. No credit and bad credit accepted.
    300
    Varies by lender
    Must be a US citizen with a current US address and employed full-time or have guaranteed fixed income.
    Auto Credit Express Car Loans
    Get connected with an auto lender near you, even if you have bad credit.
    300
    Typically 3 to 6 years
    Must be employed full-time or have guaranteed fixed income of at least $1,500/month and be a current resident of the US or Canada.
    LightStream Auto Loans
    Quick car loans from $5,000 to $100,000 with competitive rates for borrowers with strong credit.
    Good to excellent credit
    Flexible terms
    Good or excellent credit, enough income or assets to afford a new loan, US citizen or permanent resident, 18+ years old
    LendingClub Auto Refinancing
    Lower your monthly car payments and save on interest through a fast and easy online application process.
    Fair or better credit
    Minimum of 2 years
    Car must be less than 10 years old with fewer than 120,000 miles. Current loan must have a balance between $5,000 and $55,000 and at least 24 months left in its term.
    RateGenius Auto Loan Refinance
    Connect with a network of over 150 lenders to refinance your car loan.
    510
    Varies
    Income of $2,000+/month, vehicle has less than 150,000 miles and is no older than 8 years, loan balance is between $10,000 and $100,000, debt-to-income ratio is less than 50%
    LendingTree Auto Loans
    Compare multiple financing options for auto refinance, new car purchase, used car purchase and lease buy out.
    Good to excellent credit
    Typically 1 to 7 years
    Must be a US citizen and 18+ years old. Must have good to excellent credit.

    Compare up to 4 providers

    Bottom line

    Quick turnaround from a lender means you’ll be in the driver’s seat of your new car faster. Provided you submit all of your documentation and apply during business hours, there are plenty of lenders that can process your application within just a few days.

    Want to compare other options? Browse our guide to car loans to learn more about how they work and what else to look for in a lender.

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