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Are You Upside-Down on Your Car Loan?

First, a definition. What does the phrase “upside-down” or “under water” actually mean when it comes to a car loan? The problem arises when the borrower owes more money on their loan than the car is actually worth. For example, if you have an accident and your car can’t be repaired, it may be worth close to nothing, but you may still have thousands of dollars left to pay your lender even after insurance pays your claim.

This scenario can happen even without a catastrophic event like an accident. Say you are moving to a new city where you don’t need a car and need to sell yours to help pay for moving expenses. Even if your car is fairly new and in excellent shape, you may not be able to sell it for enough money to pay off what you owe. New cars depreciate—or lose value—quickly, and in every case, you will still need to pay the lender back what you owe, regardless of how much it’s worth today.

Don’t forget that your car is an asset just like anything else you own, and its value is affected by market conditions. If your car is no longer as popular—perhaps because a newer model has been released or it has received some negative publicity—it will fall in value, regardless of the amount you still owe. The value might also decline faster than your loan balance declines if the car has higher mileage or is in poorer condition than average. Also, keep in mind that the portion of the loan that covers financing fees and add-ons are nearly impossible to recoup even when reselling the most desirable car out there.

Consider Refinancing

You may be tempted to get out of your loan by trading in your car for another. Your dealer can present an attractive option: rolling the amount you owe on your old car into financing for the new one. Since the dealer is in the business of selling cars, they are motivated to get your new sale and trade-in, even if it puts you even further under water by combining your debt.

You are much better off refinancing your car through a company like RefiJet, which can vet your application through its wide network of lending partners to get you the best possible deal for which you qualify. This is especially true if financial markets have changed or your personal financial situation has improved, which may help to qualify you for a lower rate or monthly payment.

When you refinance, you have the option of paying off some principle so you can get to the point where you’re no longer upside down. If you do decide to refinance, it’s a great time to consider adding GAP coverage, which pays the difference between what you owe and what the vehicle is worth in the event it is stolen or totaled.

With the help of a refinancing package and some diligent financial decisions, you can eventually put your upside-down status behind you and start on a fresh path toward better financial health. Your future self will thank you.

Who Will Take a Chance on You?

Here’s a question we’re often asked: if lenders are all drawing credit reports from the same three credit bureaus—Experian, Equifax and TransUnion—why do some lenders accept and others reject my application when it comes time to refinance? If I have bad credit from late payments, bankruptcies or delinquencies, wouldn’t every lender see the same bad credit report and deny my loan application?

The answer is a definite no! All lenders—whether banks or credit unions—have their own ways of defining risk and measuring it. What may seem like an acceptable level of risk to one lender may be a clear denial for another. In that instance, the institution that does offer you the loan, may do so with a higher rate to cover their risk.

Every lender has its own formulas for calculating risk and no two institutions have the same one. They are essentially using your past history to determine how likely you are to pay them back. Late or missed payments, bankruptcies, home foreclosures, judgments against you for non-payment and high credit balances are all warning signs to lenders.

While the customer’s credit report is an important component of a lending decision, there are dozens of other inputs that may be used to calculate your final credit score. As explained by the VantageScore credit reporting site:

“There is no one credit scoring model that singularly represents the consumer lending marketplace. In addition to…the dozens of FICO* models [measuring consumer credit risk] that are in use today, many lenders rely on their own proprietary models to grant or manage credit.

In light of the reality that no single credit model is the yardstick used by all, or even most, consumer lenders, consumers should understand that no score they buy or obtain from a free-score web service is guaranteed to exactly match scores from the model or models a lender may consider when making a lending decision.”

Recommendations

To make things as easy as possible when you go to refinance, here are two recommendations you should follow:

  1. Work with an umbrella organization. Instead of approaching a number of different banks or credit unions to apply, go to a central refinancing source like RefiJet.com. We have relationships with a wide range of lenders and can match you with the best one for your particular financial situation. We handle all the paperwork for you and don’t charge you any fees—what could be easier?
  2. Work on your credit score. You should always be aware of your credit score—you are entitled to view yours for free each year—and the ways in which you are helping or hurting it. Make a concerted effort to pay your bills on time, establish a credit history if you don’t have one, and manage your credit accounts well, with low rates and balances. If your credit history is poor, make a concerted effort to “clean up your act.”

To learn more about how RefiJet works and how we can help find the best auto refinancing loan for you, complete the form on our home page and we will be in touch!

Refinance or Trade In Your Car?

If your car loan payments have become too difficult for you—perhaps because of a change in your income, marital status or housing situation—maybe it’s time to make some decisions. No one wants to live under constant financial strain, nor should they have to. Many choices in life are nearly impossible to undo—but not this one. So let’s take a look at your options.

First, do some digging to help define the problem by asking yourself some simple questions. Based on these answers, you can decide whether to cut bait and make a complete change or stick with your car and refinance.

  • Do I like my car?
  • What type of condition is it in?
  • Is it a reasonable car to have in my situation?
  • If my payments were more affordable, would I keep it?

Say you are a full-time employee who has decided to quit working and pursue a graduate degree. If your car is practical, gets good gas mileage and requires few repairs, and you will need a car for school, it may be a good idea to keep the car and seek refinancing to make it more affordable. A decision to refinance can often work to your advantage, especially if you have made improvements to your credit. Even if your credit is about the same, you can still benefit by stretching out your payment schedule to make your payments more affordable.

On the other hand, if your car is pricey and loaded with extras—clearly more than you need as a student with no income—it’s probably a great time to consider a trade-in. Through a trade-in, you can choose a more economical car with lower payments, and also transfer the equity you have built in your pricey car toward your new car. Both of these steps will help reduce your payments to a more affordable level.

Do Your Research

Regardless of which path you choose, you will need to do your research. If you decide to trade in your car for a lower-priced car, you’ll want to make sure that you are getting a fair deal for your trade-in. It’s a well-known fact that if you trade in your car to a dealer, you will get a lower price than if you sell it yourself to a private party. After all, the dealer is taking your trade-in with two goals in mind: to sell you a new car and sell your old trade-in, both at a profit. At the very least, you owe it to yourself to get onto a site like Kelley Blue Book (kbb.com) to learn what your trade-in is really worth, considering its age and condition, and compare it to the dealer’s offer.

If you think your current car is right for your situation moving forward, you can contact a company like RefiJet, which helps customers get a refinancing deal that is more advantageous. Since we work with so many different lenders, we can often find better loans for people who qualify. The important thing is to realize you have options—there is always another car or financing deal that better fits your circumstances.

Refinancing? You’re in the Driver’s Seat!

Improving “the customer experience” is the name of the game in business these days. Companies are falling all over each other to stand out from the competition, say, by offering shorter delivery times, hot deals, stellar customer service, and buying incentives. They are getting much better at seeing things from the customer’s point of view and that’s great for all of us!

Auto refinancing is no different. RefiJet, for example, does the work of researching refinancing options and comparing loan products to pinpoint the ones that best suit our customers’ needs and then guides them through the entire process. Everything—from the first glimpse of our website through the close of each deal, has been carefully considered to take the pain points out of the refinancing process.

The RefiJet website has just two simple intake forms—essentially capturing contact information and birth date—and then uses a “personal concierge” to walk customers through the loan process. By having a single source to represent multiple lenders, customers can avoid the tedious task of calling all over to gather information and compare refinancing options on their own.

When getting started with your refinancing, you will need to have a few documents on hand so the lender can verify your qualifications. To make things flow as smoothly as possible, it’s a good idea to start gathering this information:

  1. Proof of employment and income—recent pay stubs or the W-2 from a prior year. If you don’t have a single employer, you can use your 1099s or tax returns.
  2. Proof of residence—documents that confirm your physical address, such as a driver’s license, bank statement or utility bill.
  3. Proof of insurance—either an insurance ID card, policy document or other information that demonstrates coverage for your vehicle.
  4. Vehicle information—specific details about your car, including its year, make, model and VIN.
  5. Loan information—amount of your current loan pay-off amount.

You may also want to take a look at your credit report before submitting a refinancing application to make sure it is accurate. Everyone is entitled to review their credit report for free each year at each of the major credit bureaus—Experian, Equifax and Transunion—and draw their attention to any errors. You can be sure that any lender will be checking it carefully and the last thing you want is for them to make decisions on your credit when it looks worse than it really is!

With all your documents in hand, the process just flows from there. You can be busy at work or at home, knowing that someone else is out there looking after your best interests. And especially when it comes to your hard-earned money, it’s nice to know that someone has your back.

How to “Bookout” Your Car

There will come a time when you need to know the value of your car. Say you are looking to trade in your car, refinance for a better rate or sell your car on your own. How will you know if you are getting a fair deal without knowing the base value others are using to calculate your costs? Also, if you have the misfortune of totaling your car in an accident, it’s helpful to know how the car would have been valued pre-accident to compare it to the pay-out from the insurance company.

In industry-speak, this number is called the car’s “book value” because it is derived mainly from three bibles of valuation in the automotive industry: the Kelley Blue Book, Black Book, and the NADA guide. Fortunately, like most everything else these days, these books offer online tools that can help you determine your own car’s value for free.

I decided to give these tools a “test drive” (excuse the pun) by visiting the two sites. First, I tried Kelley Blue Book at www.kbb.com. After filling in a simple questionnaire about the type of car I own, its specific features—down to the color and condition—the computer worked its magic, yielding a current value of between $12,257 and $14,128 for my 2014 Infiniti Q50, based on my geographic location. My results sheet included an overall consumer rating for the car, with customer reviews, a link to car comparisons and shopping options, and an offer to begin the trade-in process.

When valuing your car on the Black Book site, you are automatically redirected to www.newcars.com. Once you enter your make, model, mileage, option information and a few other criteria, you reach the results page—in my case a range between $12,800 and $15,170, pretty close to the Kelley Blue Book range above. Be sure to click on the option at the top of the page for determining your Black Book used car value, or the app will assume you are looking to purchase a car and immediately try to capture your contact information, including your mailing and email addresses!

The NADA site offers a wealth of information also, but it is a little more general. On its site, you can research car values in your area, get free dealer quotes and car history reports for specific vehicles. There is plenty of information that can help you make decisions about particular makes and models you are considering.

You may have heard the old aphorism “knowledge is power,” and in this case it’s absolutely true.

What is Simple Interest Anyway?

It’s one of those rare quiet days today at the office. Seems like the perfect time to talk about car loans and simple interest. Armed with this knowledge, you can be a far more informed customer when you speak to your lender.

You probably already know that when you borrow money from a bank or finance company, you need to compensate them for the privilege. The bank is viewing an investment in financing or refinancing your car strictly through a business lens: they lend you the money for your car purchase, and you repay the loan plus interest in monthly installments over a set time frame. For your lender, a loan to you is an opportunity to earn income in the form of interest payments. For you, the benefit lies in owning a car you can rely on for both transportation and enjoyment over the next several years.

In making a loan to you, how does the lender decide what to charge you for the use of its funds? Most auto loans use a simple interest formula to calculate your payment schedule. Let’s say you borrow $20,000 to refinance your car over a 48-month period at five percent interest. You can use an online “amortization calculator,” such as the one at www.amortization-calc.com, to get an idea of what your monthly payments would be—in this case, $460.59.

The Process of Amortization

Here’s where the concept of amortization factors in. When you make your first month’s payment of $460.59, you are paying five percent on the entire $20,000 you borrowed. As you make payments, however, a portion will be applied to interest and a portion to pay down principal. This ratio of interest/principal will vary as your loan is gradually paid off over the 48-month period. This is because as you make payments, your principal will decline by a bit each month so you will owe less in interest on the remaining amount.

Using the example above, www.amortization-calc.com shows the first and last two months of payments (see chart below). Your first month’s payment of $460.59 will include a higher component of interest than any other month. While the first month’s payment shows $83 applied to interest and $377 applied to principal, by the final payment of $460.59 four years later, only $2.00 is applied to interest and $459 is applied to principal. This is called an amortizing loan, based on simple interest.

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Though the concept of amortization may sound complicated, don’t be concerned. You still are paying the same $460.59 each month. Your lender will do the allocation between interest and principal for you and apply your payments properly each account. And once your loan is paid off, the car is yours, free and clear!