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Compare variable-rate car loans
They're rare — and fluctuating rates mean you're gambling on the market.
Updated . What changed?
Variable-rate car loans result in fluctuating monthly payments. Most lenders don’t offer them. And even if they do, you may be better off sticking to a predictable fixed rate to avoid a rising interest rate when the market shifts.
Compare car loans
You’ll have a tough time finding a lender that offers variable-rate car loans. Instead, select your credit score and state to see what fixed interest rate you could qualify for with one of these lenders.
What is a variable-rate car loan?
5 factors to consider with variable-rate car loans
Like any car loan, you’ll want to pay attention to these factors before borrowing a variable-rate loan:
- Base interest rate. Even though the interest rate is variable, looking at the base interest rate that applies to the loan will help you determine how competitive your lender is — especially against fixed-rate car loans.
- Rate cap. Look into whether your lender offers a maximum variable rate — if not, you could be stuck with an annual percentage rate (APR) of 35.99%. This could also lead to monthly payments you can’t afford, increasing your risk of default.
- Loan term. A variable-rate car loan with a longer term means there’s more time for your rate to increase, which increases the risk of ending up with high monthly payments that are difficult to afford.
- State of the economy. If the prime rate is expected to rise in the coming months, you might want to opt for a fixed rate. On the other hand, if the economy’s hit a slump and the prime rate is expected to decrease, you might save with a variable rate.
- Fees. Look for upfront fees such as origination fees as well as ongoing fees such as monthly and annual fees. Some lenders also charge prepayment penalties if you choose to pay off your loan early, which can add to the total cost.
What types of car loans have a variable rate?
- New car loans. Lenders tend to offer lower rates across the board for new vehicles, since these cars offer something more valuable to the lender should you default.
- Used car loans. Whether you’re looking to buy a used car from a dealership or private seller, used car loans tend to have higher starting fixed and variable rates. This is because there’s more of a risk to the lender should you default, since your car isn’t as valuable as a new car would be.
Variable-rate car loans have the potential to save you money on interest should the market take a hit. But you also risk ending up with monthly payments you can’t afford if the prime rate increases — especially if your lender has no variable rate cap.
Keep in mind that variable-rate car loans are rare: Consider more care loan options to find a loan that’s the right fit for your budget.
Frequently asked questions
Our answers to more questions you might have about variable-rate auto loans.
Can I refinance a variable-rate car loan?
Yes, you can refinance a variable-rate car loan with another lender. In some cases, you may be able to lower the total cost of your loan or reduce your monthly payment. To learn more, read our guide to refinancing a car.
How can I calculate my monthly payment on a variable-rate loan?
You can use our car loan calculator to estimate the monthly payments for the car you’re interested in. Keep in mind that this number is based on the current variable rate and could go up or down depending on changes in the lending market.
Can I switch from a variable-rate loan to a fixed-rate loan?
It depends on your lender, but probably not. If it doesn’t offer the option to switch, you’ll need to refinance your existing car loan for a new loan with a fixed rate.
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