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Best car loans for students

If you’re struggling to find a car loan as a student, here are lenders worth looking into.

If you’re a student and under 25, you may have a lower credit score due to a young credit history. Many auto lenders want to see a robust credit history and consistent income, which can make qualifying for a car loan tricky during college years. However, first-time car buying programs exist, and there are lenders willing to work with college students.

Whether you need a car loan now for your daily commute or job, or this is your first-ever auto loan, here are some lenders willing to work with typical college student circumstances.

5 best auto lenders for college students

  • Best student car loan without a cosigner: Kora
  • Best credit union: PenFed

Best for part-time working students: Carvana

Carvana

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If you'd rather skip the dealership experience and your income is limited due to schooling, Carvana could be a great option for financing as a working student. It's an exclusively online dealership with used and new vehicles. You must have an annual income of at least $4,000 to qualify, which is considerably low compared to other auto lenders.

But, the maximum rate is high — rates range from 3.9% to 27.9%. If you can help it, we recommended checking rates elsewhere before settling with Carvana. Rates aside, its very low income requirement is what makes this lender a solid choice for part-time workers and college students.

Best for finding a BHPH dealership: CarsDirect

CarsDirect auto loans

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CarsDirect is a dealership connection service. Its nationwide network is largely composed of bad credit auto lenders, including buy here pay here (BHPH) dealerships, famous for no-credit check car loans. If your credit history is poor, or you don't have any credit history at all, a BHPH dealer could be the ticket.

However, BHPH dealerships are known for very high interest rates and only selling used cars — trade-offs for the lack of credit check. CarsDirect service is free to use, but you may have to deal with a large volume of calls. And since it's a connection service, there are no ranges of rates, loan amounts or credit score requirements available.

Best for comparing lenders: LendingTree

LendingTree

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LendingTree is a loan connection service that can help you quickly compare multiple options. Its partners offer rates starting at relatively low rates. But most will require you to apply a cosigner with good credit — typically a credit score of 670 or higher.

Best student car loan without a cosigner: Kora

Kora Drive

Kora, formally Boro, specializes in student car and personal loans. Its auto loan program is called KoraDrive. You must be a student to qualify for KoraDrive, and a good credit score or cosigner isn't required. There's a minimum loan amount of $5,000 with rates ranging from 6% to 16.49%. The loan can be for new or used cars, or to refinance an existing auto loan. Available loan terms are on the shorter side, ranging from 12 to 60 months. However, your grades in school matter: must have a GPA above 2.0 in undergraduate or above 3.0 in graduate school.

Best credit union: PenFed

PenFed Auto Loans

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If you prefer a credit union for auto loans, then PenFed is worth checking out as a student. Unlike most credit unions, PenFed serves all 50 states. Its car loans are powered by TrueCar. Rates start at 5.19% for new car loans, and used auto loans start at 5.84% — pretty fair rates. Loan amounts are between $500 to $150,000, and terms range from 36 to 84 months, depending on if you're going new or used. However, to qualify for a PenFed auto loan, you must be a member, income requirements vary, and you're likely to need a credit score above 670 to qualify.

Best car loans for students: By the numbers

Quickly compare auto lenders side-by-side for the important pieces of vehicle financing.

LenderRatesLoan amountsLoan terms
Kora6% to 16.49%Starting at $5,00012 to 60 months
Carvana3.9% to 27.9%Not stated12 to 72 months
CarsDirectVariesVariesVaries
PenFedStarts at 5.19%$500 to $150,00036 to 84 months
LendingTreeStarting at 1%Varies12 to 240 months

How we picked the best providers

We compared dozens of auto lenders to find the five best lenders to fit common college student situations. Factors include credit score requirements, interest rates offered, loan terms, borrowing limits, income requirements, cosigner requirements, and specifically located lenders that catered to college students or borrowers with a lacking credit history. Other considerations include customer reviews, Better Business Bureau ratings and accreditation and state availability.

Compare more car loan providers

Name Product Filter Values Minimum credit score APR Loan term Requirements
LightStream Auto Loans
Good to excellent credit
Competitive
2 to 7 years
Must have a good to excellent credit profile, be a US citizen or a permanent resident with a valid green card, have a valid Social Security number, credit card verification requested upon loan approval and have a valid US address.
Quick car loans from $5,000 to $100,000 with competitive rates for borrowers with strong credit.
CarGurus
CarGurus
Varies
Varies depending on the lender
3 to 6 years
Varies depending on the lender
CarsDirect auto loans
No minimum credit score
Varies by network lender
Must provide proof of income, proof of residence, and proof of insurance.
Save time and effort with this lending service specializing in beginner-friendly or subprime car loan.
Carvana
No minimum credit score
3.9% to 27.9%
1 to 6 years
18+ years old, annual income of $4,000+, no active bankruptcies
Get pre-qualified for used car financing and receive competitive, personalized rates.
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Customer reviews

Customer and BBB ratings can give you a better idea of how lenders do business or handle negative interactions.

ProviderBBB ratingTrustpilot rating
Kora1.5-star rating, based on 4 reviewsN/A
CarvanaN/A3.6-star rating, based on 5,561 reviews
CarsDirectN/A3.8-star rating, based on 147 reviews
PenFed1.19-star rating, based on 224 reviews4.6-star rating, based on 1,239 reviews
LendingTree1.38-star rating, based on 101 reviews4.6-star rating, based on 11,947 reviews

How to prequalify for a car loan

Auto lenders tend to prefer a long credit history, high credit score and low debt-to-income (DTI) ratio. Other common requirements have to do with work history and consistent employment. Some requirements typical with auto lenders to give you a baseline include:

  • Credit score at or above 670
  • Consistent monthly income with a DTI ratio below 45% to 50%
  • Down payment around 10% of the vehicle’s value, or more
  • No active bankruptcies or discharged bankruptcies less than 12 months old
  • No vehicle repossessions less than 12 months old

If you’re a newer borrower, you likely don’t need to worry about dings in your credit history — but a lacking credit history can also hurt. Without proof that you’ve handled repaying past loans before, you may face higher interest rates or hesitancy from auto lenders.

How to increase your approval chances with auto financing

If you’re a young borrower with a sparse credit history, here are a few things you can do to increase your chances of preapproval for a car loan.

  • Cosigner for lacking credit score. A cosigner is the equivalent of “vouching” for someone. The cosigner promises to repay the auto loan if you default, and with two people backing the loan, it can greatly increase approval odds. However, auto lenders prefer cosigners with a good credit score.
  • Coappliant for a lacking income. If your income isn’t meeting requirements, a coapplint (or co-borrower) could help. A coappliant’s income is added to your own, and can increase the loan amount you qualify for. Both borrowers are equally responsible for the loan and installment payments, and both credit scores are considered. Most often, coappliants are life partners or spouses.
  • A large down payment. Auto lenders may require you to have a down payment of at least 10% of the vehicle’s value, or 20% if it’s a new vehicle. By having a large down payment, you’re decreasing the amount you need to borrow and showing you have the financial stability to save up for a lump sum payment. A trade-in can also help meet a down payment requirement.

Rate shopping and hard credit score pulls

The FICO credit scoring model counts all hard inquiries of the same type as one hard inquiry if all are done within 45 days. VantageScore counts multiple hard inquiries of the same type as one hard pull if you do it within 14 days. These credit scoring models know that when you apply for new credit multiple times in a short period, you’re looking to borrow and you’re comparing rates. Try to do all your rate shopping within two weeks to avoid excessive dings and avoid applying for other types of credit, such as credit cards, when shopping for a car loan.

Alternatives for auto loans

If you’re not having any luck with auto lenders, here are some alternatives.

  • No credit check dealerships. There are dealers willing to skip the credit check when applying for an auto loan. But without a credit check, higher rates are likely. While rates vary by lender, you may have to plan for a rate in the double-digits, increasing the amount you pay for the vehicle immensely.
  • Cash is king. When all else fails, dealerships and individual sellers are more than happy to accept cash for a vehicle. However, that may mean only spending a few thousand on a car, and unless you’ve got at least $20,000 saved up, you’re likely to be in the used section.

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