Finder may earn compensation from partners, but editorial opinions are our own. Advertiser Disclosure
5 reasons to get financing before visiting the dealership
Looking for the best rate? It's all about that preapproval.
If you want to find the most competitive rate out there and don’t want to spend hours in the dealership’s finance office, getting preapproved before you hit the car lot is the way to go. And with more lenders than ever offering a quick online prequalification process, it’s easier than ever to find the best rate available to you.
Here are five reasons to get financing before hitting the dealership:
1. Get an idea of your potential interest rate
It’s no secret that dealerships mark up their rates to turn a profit on your loan. Even a seemingly small markup of a percentage point or two can add hundreds of dollars to your loan. When you apply for preapproval, you’ll have a good idea of the rate you can expect to receive. This makes it easy to avoid dealership markup and know when you’re being offered a good deal.
2. Pick a loan that fits your budget
Preapproval means you know the exact amount you can borrow, the term of your loan and the rate you can expect. You can use it to calculate your car loan’s monthly payment. Just be sure to reserve about 10% for taxes and fees.
Once you know your monthly payment, you can ensure it fits your budget — without the stressful guesswork the dealership’s finance office would put you through.
And if your loan doesn’t fit your budget? You can always borrow less than the maximum for a less expensive car that won’t break the bank.
3. Simplify the negotiation process
With preapproval, you’re considered a cash buyer. You’ll be in a better position to negotiate, largely because you don’t need to worry about how you’ll finance your car.
Instead of talking monthly payments, you can talk total cost. Tell the salesperson that you only have a certain amount of money to spend. Any car they show you will need to be under that, or you walk away. You won’t to worry about the salesperson potentially “packing” your payment with unrelated charges and fees.
And of course, you can avoid last-minute additions that raise the cost of your loan. An extended warranty or GAP insurance are common ways for a dealership to make a quick buck — especially because you’re unlikely to ever use what you pay for.
4. Score a better rate from the dealership
If you have good credit, you may still want to fill out a loan application at the dealership. This gives you a chance to see if the finance office at the dealership is willing to beat the rate you got preapproved for. A few percentage points lower, or special discounts available through manufacturer financing, may be worth the switch.
5. Look like an informed buyer
Preapproval sets you apart from an inexperienced buyer. It proves to the salesperson that you’ve done the legwork and are prepared for a big purchase. You’ll look like someone who knows what type of deal they can get — largely because you do. Combined with a firm stance on the money you can spend, you’ll be less susceptible to sales tactics meant to trick buyers into bad deals.
How to get preapproved for a car loan
To get preapproved for a car loan, simply visit the websites of the lenders you’re interested in and fill out their prequalification forms. You can also call or apply in person with some lenders if you need more guidance during the process.
It’s best to fill out prequalification forms with two or three lenders so you can compare rates. And remember: Preapproval offers may be good for up to 45 days, but you can avoid multiple hits to your credit score by submitting your applications within a 14-day window.
Compare more car loans
We update our data regularly, but information can change between updates. Confirm details with the provider you're interested in before making a decision.
Getting preapproved before you hit the dealership can help you find a better rate, avoid common sales tactics and get a better deal on the overall cost of your car.
Ready to get started? Compare your car loan options to find the best preapproval offers out there.
Frequently asked questions
More guides on Finder
Citibank business loans review
This international bank offers term loans as low as $5,000 to business banking customers. But it’s not upfront about costs.
Your business loan results
Get matched with a business lender using our quiz. Funding options from $500 to $5 million.
Upgrade Card review
Looks like a credit card but acts like a loan. Plus, no fees all around.
Bright Money review
An budgeting app that can help reduce credit card balances faster.
A budgeting app that tracks your spending and upcoming bills but logging cash transactions will cost you extra.
Porter Capital invoice factoring review
This factoring company advances as much as $15 million and offers nonrecourse factoring. But it’s not upfront about maximum rates.
BankProv Small Business Checking account review
A business checking account at a bank with the highest safety rating, but it’ll cost you $50 a month.
Compare working capital loans
Help cover your business’s day-to-day costs with a working capital loan.
Get a business line of credit
A business line of credit provides flexible financing for ongoing and one-time expenses.
Business loans for construction companies and contractors
Compare financing options for your construction company.
Ask an Expert