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Saturday, June 19th
You've probably heard of CARCHEX as a source of vehicle protection plans, inspections, and even roadside assistance coverage. They also offer auto loans as a referral service, taking your application and passing it along to different lenders to give you financing.
CARCHEX overall has an exceptional reputation, shown by their "A+" rating and more than 10 years of accreditation with the Better Business Bureau. They bring a strong service to compete for your business - if you're looking to refinance your existing auto loan.
You may get a little confused when starting on their Auto Finance page. It appears that both new loans and refinance loans are available with CARCHEX - in fact, they quote low rates for New Autos, Used Autos, and Refinance loans. Further down the page, they list some good points for obtaining a loan for a new or used car before you buy.
Refinance loans only
However, their loan application deals strictly with refinance loans. When filling out the online application, you need to provide the VIN number for the car you're interested in - which you wouldn't have if you were seeking a pre-approval. Also, they ask you to Select your Loan Type on the application, but they only give you one option - refinancing your current vehicle. In fact, they even refer to their online loan form as their "auto refi application".
Nearly 100 lenders
Putting that aside, how does CARCHEX stack up when it comes to refinancing your auto loan? They actually do pretty well. After submitting your loan application, CARCHEX scours their database of nearly 100 lenders to find the best programs for your specific criteria. Within minutes, you'll be contacted with quotes from up to 4 different lenders. And if you have bad credit, it's not a problem - they have both prime and subprime lenders in their network.
Once you've received your loan offers, you'll need to compare the offers yourself and follow up with the lenders and loan offers that you like the best. The CARCHEX service is free, and you're not under any obligation to pursue any of the loan offers if you don't like them.
Can't predict your loan rate
What type of fees and loan rates can you expect? Since CARCHEX deals with so many different lenders, and accepts applications from all different credit types, it's impossible for them to give an expected rate until you apply yourself. At the time of our review, they posted rates as low as 1/99% for new, used, and refinance loans, but these rates may only apply to select borrowers with the highest of credit ratings.
Who are the lenders?
We tried to find a list of the lenders that CARCHEX works with, but came up empty. In this age of increasing identity theft, many customers hesitate to put their personal information out into the void (especially their SSN) without knowing anything about where it's going. We wish CARCHEX was a little more transparent about who they're working with.
Wealth of information
You will find a wealth of information on the site about how auto refinancing works, whether it affects your credit rating, and many other related topics. These are good resources to browse whether you decide to obtain a loan through CARCHEX or not.
Good choice for refinance-only loans
CARCHEX provides a strong peer-to-peer lending platform for auto refinance loans. We do wish they were a little more forthcoming on who their lending partners are. Also, if you're looking for a new or used car loan, you won't find it here. Still, if you're just looking to refinancing an existing car loan, CARCHEX has a solid reputation and provides a good service, for free.
You're right if you suspect that the answer to that question is "not necessarily at the dealership". You might initially be lured in by a dealership's attractive 0% financing offers - but unless you've got extremely good credit, you're not going to qualify. And, in the excitement of getting your new (or new-to-you) car, you could wind up with interest rates on your car loan that are even higher than what you'd get elsewhere.
Savvy consumers know that the best way to get truly competitive rates on auto loans is by comparison shopping with online lenders. Even if you're just starting the research process, it only takes a few minutes to find out how much you're qualified to borrow and with what loan terms. With that information in hand, perhaps with a preapproval letter too, you'll be much more confident walking into the dealership and negotiating the best possible deal on the car itself.
Some providers of auto loans specialize in helping customers with less-than-perfect credit. These lenders can work with you to get a loan that you can afford, and they take into account your whole financial picture - not just your low credit score, previous late payments, or a bankruptcy in your past. Of course, if your credit history is excellent, shopping around for your auto loan online will likely turn up dozens of offers to choose from.
It's important to carefully consider several criteria when evaluating different online lenders. These factors include the following:
TopConsumerReviews.com has reviewed and ranked the best auto loan providers available today. We hope this information helps you get the right financing for your next vehicle purchase or refinance!
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