Full-time students can have a difficult time qualifying for your typical car loan, but you don’t necessarily have to put off buying one till graduation. You have several choices, that include applying with a cosigner or getting a car loan specifically made for students. Or, you can use a personal loan to buy a car.
How we picked these providers
We only included providers would either accept students directly or allow them to find a good deal with a cosigner. We also made sure to include options for international students, who often don’t have a cosigner or a US credit score. Unfortunately, there aren’t many options for full-time students without a cosigner.
Boro is one of the only providers that offers car loans to full-time students — including international students. It considers factors like your grades and major, rather than your credit score. But it's not available in all states and requires a down payment of at least 25% to 35%, depending on your loan size.
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.
Stilt specializes in personal loans for nonresidents, including international students, that you can use to buy a car. Instead of looking at your credit score, it considers factors like your past financial behavior, level of education and GPA. But like with Boro, this comes at a cost — its rates are higher than your typical car loan on average
Accepts international students
Loans start at a low $1,000
No credit requirements
High rates from 7.99% to 15.99%
Doesn't accept cosigners
$1,000 – $25,000
Interest Rate Type
2 to 3 business days
Compare more car loans for students
Use the tables to find lenders for both auto and personal loans. Select your credit score range and state you live in to see personalized options.
Your options can be broken down into four basic types.
Car loans for students. Some lenders offer special financing options for students. These consider your GPA and field of study rather than your income and credit score.
Car loan with a cosigner. Have a parent or other trusted individual apply for the loan with you and share the responsibility for repayments. They’ll need strong credit and a high enough monthly income to qualify for the loan.
Personal loan with a cosigner. If your cosigner can qualify for better rates on a personal loan than car loan, you can use those funds to pay for your new vehicle.
New or used auto loan. Taking night classes while working full-time? You might be able to qualify for a good deal on a car loan by yourself.
Can I use a student loan to buy a car?
It’s possible. Student loans are only meant to cover educational expenses. However, many schools consider transportation to be a part of the cost of attendance, which student loans cover. If a car is essential for you to get to and from class, you might be able to get away with using those funds to buy a vehicle.
Talk to your financial aid office or student loan provider to find out if buying a car with your loan is a valid use of funds.
How to apply for a student car loan
Finding a car loan is pretty straightforward. Here’s how it works:
Consider getting preapproved. Before deciding which car you want to buy, see how much you can borrow by applying for preapproved loan. This can give you more bargaining power at the dealership or an auction.
Find a car. For private sales, look on car sales sites and the newspaper, or head to a dealership. Find a car that’s within your budget and in good condition.
Compare your loan options. Start comparing your loan options once you’ve found the car you want or have an idea of what you’re looking for. Consider the interest rate, fees and features of the loan to find one that’s right for you.
Check the eligibility criteria. Even if the loan sounds right, you may not meet its eligibility criteria. Lenders usually require you to be older than 18, earn a regular income and be employed. Your car will also have to meet eligibility criteria.
Get your documents in order. Gather all the required documents that include a form of ID, pay stubs and information regarding your employment and finances — including income, expenses and debts. Once you choose your car, submit the make, model and year, VIN number, registration number and purchase price.
Submit your application. Depending on the lender, you may receive an instant response. Other lenders may take a few days to review your application and fund your loan.
Buy your car. This can happen in a few ways. The lender may pay the dealer or private seller on your behalf or you’ll get funds to pay the seller directly.
6 tips to get a car loan as a student
Use some or all of these tips to increase your chances of approval and make it easier to pay it off.
Get a part-time job. Having some regular source of income can help your chances of getting approved for a low rate, even with a cosigner. Plus it’ll help you start shouldering the repayments on your own.
Build your credit. If you don’t already have a credit score and can wait to buy a car, sign up for a student credit card or take out a credit builder loan to establish a credit history. This can also open you up to more options even with a cosigner.
Negotiate with the dealership. You might have more wiggle room than you expect on the price of the car and the down payment. If you go with dealership financing, you can also often negotiate the rates and terms of your loan.
Set a budget. Stick to what you can afford — not what you’re offered — to stay on top of repayments after you get the car loan.
Consider your student debt. If you already have student loans, factor in how much those repayments might overlap with your car loan when choosing a loan term repayment. Try to minimize the number of months you’ll owe money toward both.
Plan on refinancing. You’ll likely have a higher credit score and income after you graduate — and eligible for a better deal by refinancing.
How much does a student car loan cost?
Student car loans typically come with rates that start around 5% — or around 3% if you apply with a cosigner. While typical car loans tend to require a down payment of around 20%, many student car loan providers ask for more money upfront.
The cost depends on the type of car loan you apply for, the type of car and the type of car you’re interested in. Student car loans without a cosigner are often the most expensive option. Used cars typically cost less but come with higher interest rates and fees.
Finding a car loan as an international student can be particularly tough: You likely can’t meet the income, credit or permanent resident requirements for most lenders. Luckily there are a few lenders out there like Boro that specialize in financing for people in your situation.
How to find a competitive deal on a student car loan
These strategies can help you save on rates and get more favorable terms when comparing providers.
Compare rates at the same term. Comparing APRs at different terms doesn’t tell you much about the cost. A longer-term loan with a low APR might actually be cheaper than a higher-APR short-term loan.
Research options with your cosigner. If your cosigner has more experience with financing, they might be able to help you spot a good deal.
Factor in fees. While APR typically includes fees, considering them separately can tell you how much you need to pay upfront.
Consider your student loan repayments. Chances are you won’t have your car loan paid off by graduation. Consider your student loan repayments when budgeting for your car loan.
Ask about features. Some car loan providers might offer features that sweeten the deal, like online account management, a car-buying service to help you find your car or discounts on other products and services.
Transportation alternatives for college students
Unless you absolutely need it to get around, buying a new car might not be the smartest financial move while you’re in school. Here are some other options you might want to get around:
Public transportation. Taking the bus or train might not be as much of a hassle as you think — and most will lead to campus if you live in a college town. Plus it’ll give you extra time to do readings or cram for a test last-minute.
Car pooling. Got a friend (or friends) who already have a car? Consider tagging along with them instead of buying a car. You might want to offer to pay for gas to avoid over-staying your welcome.
Ride-sharing. Getting around with Lyft or Uber might actually be less expensive than buying a car, especially if you only occasionally go long distances.
Bikes and scooters. These smaller, less-expensive vehicles can help you get around campus and nearby areas on the cheap. Plus if you bike most places, you won’t have to pay for gas. Many cities with college towns also have bikes and scooters that you can rent by the hour.
You might have trouble getting a car loan on your own while you’re still in college. But it’s not totally impossible. By working with a lender that accepts students or allows you to apply with a cosigner, you could be on the road with a new set of wheels in no time.
Yes. Some lenders actually offer discounts to students with a high GPA.
They can. Lenders often consider your debt load when you apply for a loan. Having high student debt can make you ineligible for some car loans if you apply on your own — even if you aren’t in repayment. However, this might not be as much of a factor with lenders that specialize in student financing or if you apply with a cosigner.
You might be able to if you take out a debt consolidation loan. However, some lenders might have restrictions on the type of debt you consolidate — often including student or auto loans. You also likely won’t be able to get as good of a deal than you might if you refinanced these debts separately.
It will be tough, as lenders like to see a healthy credit history on a borrowers credit profile. You can always apply with a provider who lends to people with bad credit.
Anna Serio is a trusted lending expert and certified Commercial Loan Officer who's published more than 950 articles on Finder to help Americans strengthen their financial literacy. A former editor of a newspaper in Beirut, Anna writes about personal, student, business and car loans. Today, digital publications like Business Insider, CNBC and the Simple Dollar feature her professional commentary, and she earned an Expert Contributor in Finance badge from review site Best Company in 2020.
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