Are you in the market for a new or used car, but aren't sure your credit score is high enough to qualify for financing? You're probably not alone, given all of the news stories and car ads that boast 0% interest for qualified buyers.
What makes a "qualified" buyer these days? According to the Wall Street Journal, it's not who you think. In fact, the Journal says many dealerships rely on a different set of numbers other than your credit score.
The Journal offers these tips for anyone who's thinking about buying a car but may be holding back because they think their credit score is too low.
Tip one is to gather as much information as you can before you start shopping and not just about cars, but about your credit score as well. It may not be as bad as you think. You want to go into a dealership with the right information because if you think you have a low score and convey this to a car salesman, he or she may tell that you only qualify for a loan with a high interest rate when in reality your score actually qualified you for a much lower rate. Another reason to check your credit score is to make sure there are no errors in it. If there are, fix them.
Keep in mind that many auto dealerships rely on a different score that's geared to predicting, specifically, how you'll do at paying off a car loan, and that score could be somewhat higher -- or lower -- than your general credit score.
Tip two is to shop around. A car dealership may be able to offer you the lowest rate on your car loan because of its close relationships to automaker financing units. But don't take the dealer's word for it. You need to be sure it really is the lowest rate, and you should provide an incentive to get that best rate. For example, one way to possibly get a better rate is to make the dealer fight for it. You do that by walking into the dealership with a pre-approved loan the dealership has to beat.