Rateworks auto loan refinance
February 15, 2024

Unlocking Savings: Understanding Auto Refinance Rates

‍This article will take a close look at the world of auto refinance rates, with the goal of helping you navigate your car loan with confidence.

Graphic of man with a refinanced car
Written by

Sarah T.

Being savvy about auto refinance rates isn't just wise; it's a non-negotiable for your financial health. Did you know that as of the third quarter of 2023, the average car payment for new vehicles surged by 3.6%, hitting a hefty $726? Leased vehicles saw a similar uptick of 4.6%. Surprisingly, though, payments for used vehicles rose by just 0.8%. 

Toy car with a percentage sign to show an auto rate

What are auto refinance rates?

Auto refinance rates refer to the interest rates applied to a refinanced auto loan. When you refinance your car loan, you essentially take out a new loan with different terms to replace your existing one. These rates determine how much extra you'll pay on top of the principal amount borrowed.

Monitoring and understanding auto refinance rates is crucial for several reasons. Firstly, it directly impacts the amount of money you'll pay over the life of your loan. For instance, according to RateGenius, the current average auto refinance rate for those with excellent credit is 4.67% for a 36-month loan. However, for a 72-month loan, the rate climbs to 6.15%. Even a seemingly small difference in percentage points can translate to significant disparities in monthly payments.

Consider a $30,000 car loan over 72 months. At 4.67%, your monthly payment would be approximately $474. However, at 6.15%, that loan would cost you around $507 monthly. Over the entire term, that's an extra $1,836 in payments – just because of a 1.48% difference in interest rates. This stark contrast shows the tangible impact of understanding and securing favorable auto refinance rates on your financial well-being.

Factors influencing auto refinance rates

Understanding how auto refinance rates are determined involves recognizing the pivotal role of the Federal Reserve, often referred to as the Fed. The Fed holds approximately eight meetings annually, assessing economic conditions and deciding on monetary policy. 

One of its crucial functions is establishing a benchmark interest rate for short-term consumer lending. This rate guides private lenders in setting their own interest rates, including those for personal and auto loans. When the Fed decides to raise the federal funds target rate, which it last did at its July meeting, borrowers can anticipate facing higher borrowing costs. 

Essentially, the Fed's actions directly influence borrowers' interest rates when seeking auto financing. This said, there are other factors that play into the rate you will pay. 

  • Credit score: Your credit score significantly determines the interest rate you'll receive on your auto loan. Lenders use this score to assess your creditworthiness and gauge your lending risk. Generally, individuals with higher credit scores are offered lower interest rates, while those with lower scores may face higher rates due to perceived risk.
  • Time of year: The timing of your car purchase can affect the interest rate you're offered. For example, manufacturers and dealerships often offer promotions and incentives at certain times of the year to boost sales. Securing financing during these promotional periods may result in more favorable terms.
  • Type of vehicle: The type of vehicle you're purchasing can impact your interest rate. Lenders may offer different rates for new versus used cars and certain makes and models. Additionally, factors such as the vehicle's age, mileage, and condition can influence the lender's perception of risk and, consequently, the interest rate offered.
  • Loan term: The length of your loan term can also affect the interest rate. Generally, shorter loan terms tend to have lower interest rates than longer terms. This is because lenders take on less risk with shorter loans, as there is less time for market conditions and borrower circumstances to change.
  • Economic factors: Economic conditions, such as inflation rates, unemployment levels, and overall market performance, can impact auto refinance rates. To manage risk and maintain profitability, lenders may adjust their rates in response to economic changes.

Benefits of auto refinancing

Many consumers are unaware of the option to refinance their auto loans, mistakenly assuming that the initial loan secured at the time of purchase is set in stone until the loan is paid off. However, this is far from the truth. Refinancing offers a valuable opportunity for borrowers to improve their financial situation potentially. 

There are several compelling reasons why individuals might choose to refinance their auto loans:

  • Lower interest rates: Refinancing can lead to lower interest rates, which can significantly reduce the overall cost of the loan and lower monthly payments.
  • Improved credit score: If your credit score has improved since you first obtained the loan, you may qualify for better interest rates through refinancing.
  • Reduced monthly payments: Extending the loan term or securing a lower interest rate can result in more manageable monthly payments, relieving tight budgets.
  • Change in financial situation: Refinancing allows borrowers to adjust their loan terms to better align with changes in income or expenses.
  • Consolidate debt: Rolling high-interest debt into an auto loan through refinancing can streamline payments and potentially save on interest costs.
  • Access equity: Refinancing can allow borrowers to tap into any equity they've built up in the vehicle, providing funds for other expenses or investments.
  • Switch lenders: If dissatisfied with their current lender or seeking better customer service, borrowers may choose to refinance with a different financial institution.

Refinancing offers a range of benefits that can help borrowers save money, improve cash flow, and better manage their finances over the life of the loan.

Piggy bank in car to show auto refinance rates

How to find the best auto refinance rates

When seeking the best auto refinance rates, thorough research and comparison are essential steps to secure favorable terms. Here's how to navigate the process:

  • Researching lenders: Begin by exploring a variety of lenders, including traditional banks, credit unions, and online lenders, to find the best auto loan rates. Look for reputable institutions that specialize in auto refinance rates.
  • Comparing offers: Once you've identified potential lenders, compare their offers carefully. Pay attention to interest rates, repayment terms, required down payments, and any associated fees or penalties. Utilize online tools such as Bankrate’s auto lender reviews and the Better Business Bureau to assess the credibility of lenders.
  • Negotiating terms: Don't hesitate to negotiate terms with lenders to secure the most favorable deal. Discussing your financial situation and comparing offers can sometimes lead to better terms, such as lower interest rates or waived fees.

When exploring your options, keep in mind the concept of rate shopping. Every time you apply for a loan, a hard inquiry is generated on your credit report. However, both the FICO credit scoring model and VantageScore allow rate shopping within a specific timeframe, considering all new credit applications as a single inquiry. This minimizes the impact on your credit score.

Many lenders also offer online prequalification tools, allowing you to assess potential loan offers, payments, and interest rates without affecting your credit score. You can then proceed to get preapproved for a formal loan offer, based on the lender's review of your credit history and documentation. 

Additionally, utilize online calculators to estimate loan payments and determine the overall cost of refinancing your auto loan. By following these steps and utilizing available resources, you can find the best auto refinance rates tailored to your financial needs and goals.

Common misconceptions about auto refinance rates

Despite the potential benefits, auto refinance rates are often misunderstood, leading to common misconceptions that can deter borrowers from exploring this financial option. Let's debunk some of these myths and clarify the realities:

  • High credit scores guarantee approval: A high credit score can improve your chances of approval for favorable rates, but it doesn't guarantee automatic approval. Lenders consider various factors beyond credit score, such as income, debt-to-income ratio, and employment history.
  • Low credit score means no approval: Having a low credit score doesn't necessarily mean you won't be approved for auto refinance. Many lenders specialize in working with borrowers with less-than-perfect credit and offer tailored solutions, although they may come with higher interest rates.
  • Negative equity prevents refinancing: Contrary to popular belief, having negative equity in your loan doesn't necessarily disqualify you from refinancing. Some lenders may still offer options to refinance, although it may require additional considerations such as a higher interest rate or extending the loan term.
  • Refinancing won't save money: Another misconception is that refinancing won't save you any money. However, refinancing can potentially lower your monthly payments, reduce interest costs, or both depending on your current interest rate, credit score, and the new terms available.

Understanding these misconceptions can empower borrowers to make informed decisions about auto refinance rates, dispelling myths that may have previously deterred them from exploring this financial opportunity. 

Couple in their van with a good auto rate after refinancing

Steps to refinance your auto loan

Refinancing your auto loan can be a strategic move to save money and improve your financial situation. Understanding the steps involved in the process can help you navigate it smoothly while maximizing the benefits. Here's a breakdown of the steps to refinance your auto loan:

  • Assessing your current loan: Start by reviewing the terms of your existing auto loan, including the interest rate, remaining balance, and monthly payments. Evaluate whether refinancing could offer better terms and save you money in the long run.
  • Gathering necessary documents: Collect essential documents such as W-2s, pay stubs, and tax returns. These documents help lenders verify your income and demonstrate your ability to repay the refinanced loan.
  • Checking your credit score: Before applying for refinance, check your credit score with one of the three bureaus (Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion) or by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com. Understanding your creditworthiness can give you an idea of the interest rates and loan terms you may qualify for. Additionally, consider how car loan refinancing may impact your credit score.
  • Researching lenders: Explore different lenders and their offerings to find the best auto loan rates and terms. Look for reputable institutions specializing in car loan refinancing and compare their rates and fees.
  • Applying for refinance: Once you've chosen a lender, submit your refinance application. Provide all required documents and information accurately to expedite the process.
  • Reviewing loan offers: Review the loan offers you receive from lenders after applying. Compare the interest rates, loan terms, and any associated fees to determine the most favorable option.
  • Accepting the offer and closing the loan: Once you've selected the best refinance offer, be sure to review the terms again to ensure you agree, accept it, and proceed with closing the loan. Sign the necessary paperwork and arrange to transfer funds to pay off your existing loan.

By following these steps to refinance your auto loan, you can take advantage of the benefits of lower interest rates, reduced monthly payments, and improved financial stability.

Refinance your auto loan with RateWorks

By staying informed and exploring your options, you can make decisions that align with your financial goals. Whether it's securing lower interest rates, reducing monthly payments, or improving overall financial stability, the benefits of auto loan refinancing are substantial. 

Take charge of your financial future by understanding how auto refinance rates work and leveraging this knowledge to your advantage. Stay proactive, stay informed, and make the choices that best suit your needs. To explore more about auto loan refinancing and how it can benefit you, start saving with RateWorks today. You can get free quote here to get the process started!