Your car plays a huge role in your survival. It gets you to work, takes you to the doctor, and influences the quality of your daily life. Cars are expensive assets, with most private vehicles purchased with loan agreements from banks and other financial institutions. While paying off your car loan is an unavoidable part of life, interest rates, loan terms, and loan conditions can often be altered in your favor by refinancing your car loan.
If your financial situation has changed for any reason or you want to put more money in your pocket, you may wish to take out a new car loan. As one of your most persistent financial obligations, you can save lots of money by changing lenders or adjusting the details of your loan agreement. When you act smart, a car is more than a form of transportation – it is a significant and reliable asset that can be leveraged to your advantage.
There are many good reasons to refinance your car loan, with each person needing to review their own finances and lifestyle options. Perhaps your income has grown? Maybe your credit has improved over time? Perhaps the economy has shifted and you’re paying more than you need to? Regardless of the reasons, car loan refinancing is about accessing better terms and saving money for your future.
Let’s take a detailed look at auto loan refinancing so you can calculate a better deal for you and your family.
What is car loan refinancing?
Changing your car loan may seem complicated, but it’s really quite simple. When you refinance an existing car loan, you are exiting your current loan and taking on a new loan under changed conditions. The outstanding loan amount is carried over to the new loan, but the repayment terms, loan conditions, and interest rate may be entirely different.
There are two basic ways to refinance a car loan, either with your existing lender or through a new provider:
- If you have a good repayment history, more savings, or an improved credit score, you may be able to negotiate a lower interest rate on your car loan with your existing lender.
- If your current lender is not meeting your needs, you can research new lenders and compare your options. Perhaps you can find a better interest rate or improved loan conditions with another lender.
Why should I refinance my auto loan?
Most people who refinance a car loan do it to save money. Potential savings are not always clear cut, however, with savings always based on a specific time period. For example, you may wish to save money on your monthly repayments, which could end up costing you more in the long run. The opposite situation also exists, with shorter loan terms and reduced long-term interest often leading to more expensive monthly repayments.
While there are countless reasons to refinance a car loan, the vast majority of cases fit into one of the following two categories:
1. Your finances have improved
If your financial situation has improved, you may want to refinance your car loan. Examples include a better credit score, new employment, or more savings. In this situation, refinancing your car loan can help you to get a better interest rate, an improved loan term, or more favorable lending conditions. For example, you may be able to remove the original co-signer from your existing loan.
2. Your finances are challenging
If you’re struggling to pay your living expenses or monthly bills due to high loan repayments, it may be time to make a change. In this situation, refinancing your car loan can give you access to lower monthly repayments. While you will end up paying more over time, sometimes you need to focus on the present. In this situation, refinancing can be a good way to consolidate your debt or improve your cash flow.
The pros and cons of car loan refinancing
There are a number of potential pros and cons associated with car loan refinancing. These factors are not set in stone, however, with each person needing to analyze their own financial resources and lifestyle situation in order to make the right moves.
Let’s look at the positive reasons for car loan refinancing, along with the reasons why you should hold off and think again:
When should you refinance your car?
There are many great reasons for refinancing your car loan, but it’s important to be careful. Generally speaking, refinancing is a good move if your financial situation has improved and you’re looking for better lending conditions.
Potential pros of refinancing a car loan:
- You may be able to negotiate a lower interest rate.
- You may need to secure lower monthly repayments.
- You may be able to reduce costs and fees.
- You may want to remove a co-signer from the loan.
When should you hold off on refinancing?
While refinancing your car loan can help to lessen your financial burden, it’s not always advisable when analyzed on a long-term basis. Generally speaking, refinancing is a bad move if your financial situation is challenging and there are other options available to you.
Potential cons of refinancing a car loan:
- You may end up paying more interest over time.
- You may end up extending the term of your loan.
- You may need to pay an exit fee or other costs.
- You may get a better interest rate but less flexible conditions.
How to calculate your car loan options
Before you can calculate your savings through refinancing, it’s important to understand exactly what’s on the table. While borrowing arrangements can seem complex, all loans function in much the same way regardless of what they’re for.
The following factors are central to every lending agreement:
Every commercial loan has an associated interest rate. This is the cost of borrowing money, and it has a huge influence on the amount of money you end up paying for your car. Your annual percentage rate (APR) is the total cost of repaying the loan over the course of a year. Along with the interest rate amount, it’s important to have a basic understanding of interest rate structures.
There are two basic rate structures: fixed interest rates and variable interest rates. Most car loans are fixed, which means the rate amount is locked in for the term of the loan. In contrast, variable rates go up and down depending on the lender, the loan arrangement, and the wider economic conditions. This can be good or bad, but it is always inconsistent.
In the most basic sense, the term of a loan is the agreed time period taken to repay the loan amount. For car loans, this is widely dependent on the original value of the car, the amount of the initial deposit, the interest rate, and the repayment amount. The loan term is directly related to both the interest payments and the repayment amount. The shorter the term of the loan, the less money is paid in interest.
Loan repayment periods can be broken down into an amortization schedule. Understanding this schedule is a great way to analyze your loan and work out how much interest you will end up paying. If you want to improve your cash flow by lowering your monthly repayments, you will lengthen your loan term and end up paying more in interest payments over time.
Car loans can differ widely when it comes to lending costs and fees. There are lots of things to look out for, including origination fees, repayment penalties, late payment penalties, application fees, and annual fees. Many car loans will also have a designated refinance fee, which is the price you pay for setting up a new lending agreement.
On the other side of the coin, some financial institutions offer a cashback scheme for people who refinance from another lender. While this can seem enticing, it should never be the only reason that you change lenders. Each of these fees will be included in your loan agreement, but sometimes they are hidden in the fine print.
Along with the interest rate amount, the interest rate structure, the loan term, and the lending fees and costs, there may be other conditions associated with a car loan. These conditions can vary widely between products and lenders, so it’s important to do your homework.
One example of a potential loan condition is known as a balloon payment. This is a one-off payment that is due at the end of the loan period. Other examples include the provision of a personal guarantee and the inclusion of a co-signer. Along with saving money, removing the original co-signer is a popular reason for car loan refinancing.
How to calculate potential savings
Once you have a sound understanding of the basic factors that influence car loans, it’s fairly easy to calculate loan repayments and potential savings. While it might seem complex, all lenders use the same basic financial information to identify good opportunities. There are many car loan calculators available on the internet, all of which require the following information to estimate monthly repayments.
- Vehicle purchase price
- Car loan amount
- Initial deposit or trade-in amount
- Loan term
- Interest rate
- Balloon repayment
- Repayment frequency
If you have this information at hand, it’s easy to estimate repayment amounts and compare car loans. While the value of the car, deposit amount, and intended loan term are likely to stay constant between providers, the available interest rate can vary widely.
Steps to refinance
Once you have analyzed the pros and cons and calculated your potential savings, you can move ahead with the next stage of car loan refinancing. Online calculators are useful during the research and comparison phase. However, it’s important to contact lenders directly to review potential savings and lock in favorable terms.
The following steps should be taken in the lead-up to every refinancing deal:
- Get current on your existing car loan.
- Review your outstanding debt amount.
- Compare potential lenders.
- Obtain pre-approval before car shopping.
- Balance short-term and long-term gains.
- Apply for a new car loan.
If you’re looking for an easy way to refinance your car loan, DCCU is here to help. We offer fair and competitive lending alternatives to the major banks. We are 100% committed to improving the economic and social well-being of our members, so you can rely on honest advice and transparent costs with every single loan. We are proud to help people from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds, including low and moderate-income members.
DCCU is owned by our members, with our financial cooperative dedicated to “building lifetime relationships through personalized financial service.” When you choose DCCU, you will benefit from flexible loan terms, low interest rates, and accessible financing up to 100% of the car’s value. Our values are strong, and our message is clear: We are “a local neighborhood Madison credit union that stands for you.”
Along with great deals, we believe in reliable extras and friendly customer support. We offer a number of easy add-ons for car loans, including extended warranty protection and loan pre-approval. When you’ve been approved for a specific amount, you can go car shopping with confidence knowing how much you can borrow. Pre-approval can be a great bargaining tool at the dealership, with price certainty leading to better decision-making and more competitive deals.
If you’re looking to refinance an existing loan from another provider, please give us a call to find out more. If you’ve already refinanced your vehicle somewhere else, it’s not too late to save money by switching to DCCU. We may be able to lower your monthly repayment, reduce your interest rate, or alter the length of your loan based on your personal requirements.
At DCCU, we proudly offer a range of lending services across Madison and surrounding counties. As a not-for-profit credit union owned and operated by our members, we are always willing to lend a helping hand. If you would like to refinance your car loan or learn more about our services, please contact DCCU today.