Car loan or dealer finance: Which is right for you? |
car loan vs dealership

Compare dealership finance vs. car loans

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Save money by knowing your options before you jump into dealer finance or a new car loan.

There are a handful of options when it comes to financing a new car. Two of the most popular methods are dealer financing and new car loans. It’s important to know the difference between these two financing options to select the best one for you.

Our top pick: Car Loans

  • Min. Credit Score Required: 300
  • APR: Varies by network lender
  • Requirements: Must be a US citizen with a current US address and employed full-time or have guaranteed fixed income.
  • Easy online application
  • Fast response time
  • Bad credit, no credit OK

Our top pick: Car Loans

Apply with a simple online application to get paired with a local auto lender. No credit and bad credit accepted.

  • Min. Credit Score Required: 300
  • Requirements: Must be a US citizen with a current US address and employed full-time or have guaranteed fixed income.

Dealership financing vs. auto loans

The main difference between dealership financing and auto loans is in how you apply. If you borrow through your dealer, they’ll typically send your details to multiple lenders to see where you qualify. With a car loan, you apply directly with one lender and can get a rate quote before you submit your application.

Because dealerships have a relationship with these lenders, they might have room to negotiate. However, you won’t be able to compare lenders and could potentially find a better deal if you apply for a car loan yourself.

Dealership financeAuto loan
Interest rates
  • Can offer lower interest rates than car loans
  • Low interest rates may only be available for promoted makes and models
  • Commission for the car salesman may push rates up
  • 0% rate deals may indicate a higher purchase price for the car
  • Lenders offer various rates, which means you can choose the most competitive
  • Using your car as collateral lets you take advantage of lower rates
Loan term
  • Typically 3-year terms
  • A down payment is generally required
  • Early repayment costs may apply
  • Choose rates between 1 and 7 years
  • Early repayment costs differ between lenders
  • The dealer finance representative handles the paperwork
  • No need to shop around for better offers
  • Gives you leverage to negotiate the sale price
  • A range of competitive car loans are available
  • Your car loan is repaid in full at the end of the term
  • You can choose your lender and loan type
  • Loans are available for new, used and classic cars
  • You need good credit to be eligible
  • It’s usually only available for newer vehicles
  • Down payments can be a large upfront cost
  • Higher interest rates may apply to certain types of loans
  • Upfront and ongoing fees may apply
Who it’s best forBorrowers that want to buy a new car and have a down payment.Borrowers that want to shop around and have the option of buying from a dealer or a private seller.

Compare car loans

Updated May 21st, 2019
Name Product Filter Values Minimum Credit Score Loan Term Requirements
Varies by lender
Must be a US citizen with a current US address and employed full-time or have guaranteed fixed income.
Apply with a simple online application to get paired with a local auto lender. No credit and bad credit accepted.
1 to 7 years
Find an offer and get rates from competing lenders without affecting your credit score.
Varies by lender
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.
Get connected with an auto lender near you, even if you have bad credit.
Good to excellent credit
2 to 7 years
Good or excellent credit, enough income or assets to afford a new loan, US citizen or permanent resident, 18+ years old
Quick car loans from $5,000 to $100,000 with competitive rates for borrowers with strong credit.
Fair or better credit
From 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.
Lower your monthly car payments and save on interest through a fast and easy online application process.
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%
Connect with a network of over 150 lenders to refinance your car loan.
Good to excellent credit
Varies by lender
18+ years old, good to excellent credit, US citizen
Compare multiple financing options for auto refinance, new car purchase, used car purchase and lease buy out.

Compare up to 4 providers

Dealer finance vs. online lenders

If you’re crunched for time but want to compare your options, an online lender might be the way to go. You can typically prequalify with a lender in a few minutes to get a ballpark idea of your rates and get your money as soon as the next day.

Some online lenders might already have a partnership with your dealer. In that case, the dealer might get the funds directly and you can sometimes even drive away in your car as soon as you sign your papers. However, applying through a dealership is generally faster and involves less work on your part.

Dealer finance vs. banks

A lot of dealer financing also comes from banks, so there might not be as much of a difference between the two as you think. However, applying for a car loan from a bank is often not as easy online.

Prequalifying can be difficult, making it hard to compare rates between banks. And the whole process can take a lot longer, since banks often rely on older technology than online lenders. Plus, banks typically have tougher credit requirements than other lenders and you might not be eligible if you don’t have good or excellent credit.

Dealer financing & car loan side by side

Who saved more money?

Julian and Clay have both purchased new cars for $20,000 each. Julian opts for a car loan while Clay takes on a financing option from the dealership — so who chose the better financing option?

Car loan

Julian’s car loan comes with a 7% rate for a five-year period and pays $396 in monthly repayments. At the end of the loan he’ll pay a total of $3,761 in interest, amounting to $23,761 when all said and done.

Dealer financing

Clay, who takes on dealer finance, will pay $283 each month for the term of his loan. But his $5,000 down payment means he’s only charged interest on $15,000, resulting in lower ongoing repayments.

When the loan is paid off, Clay will have paid a total of $21,980. That’s $1,781 less than Julian.

Bottom line

Convenience always comes with a price and that extends to the dealer-financed car loan. Before settling for what a dealer can offer, compare outside banks, online lenders and credit unions. In many cases, you’ll find terms that are better than the dealer’s.

No matter what route you choose when car shopping, always put in the time to research so you understand how to get the most out of your options for car loans.

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