Auto Loan Refinancing: Pros, Cons & Next Steps | Bankrate (2024)

The cost of keeping your vehicle on the road each month is a challenge for many. Monthly payments on cars have soared — an average monthly payment of $533 for used vehicles and $726 if you buy new, according to Experian.

Many consumers consider refinancing — or replacing their current loan with a new one — to make these costs more manageable. Refinancing may reduce your monthly payments if your circ*mstances have shifted or market conditions have improved since you took out your current loan.

But refinancing is not without risk and can be more costly in some instances. So, it’s best to consider the benefits and drawbacks of refinancing and assess your financial situation to determine if it’s a smart move.

Pros of refinancing your car

The benefits of refinancing your current auto loan center around saving money. You may also be able to refinance for more than you owe if you need cash. Consider these when determining if refinancing is right for you.

Lower interest rates

Your interest rate significantly impacts your monthly auto loan payment. This number is based on your credit score, among other factors. If your credit has improved since you took out your loan, which could be the case if you’ve made timely loan payments and responsibly managed your other debts, it may be a great time to explore refinancing options. You will likely receive more favorable terms and rates.

Lower monthly payments

If you struggle to meet your monthly payments, refinancing can make your monthly payment more affordable and free up cash in your budget. You can get a lower rate, a longer term or both. But although signing off on a longer term means you can save money every month, it also means a higher total cost as you’ll pay more in interest over the life of the loan.

Pay off your loan sooner

Refinancing can also lead to paying off your loan early. If your income has increased since taking out your auto loan, it may be a good time to refinance to a shorter term. If you pay your loan early, you’ll save on interest — assuming the lender’s prepayment penalty doesn’t outweigh your savings.

But if you’d prefer not to refinance, you can make larger monthly payments to reduce the balance faster. You’ll accomplish the same objective and may save money by avoiding the origination fees that may accompany refinancing.

Access quick cash

Some lenders offer cash-back auto loan refinancing, which can be beneficial if you need fast cash. It works the same as traditional refinancing, but in addition to a new loan that replaces your current one, you’ll also receive a lump sum of cash based on the equity you have in your vehicle. While you may also secure better loan terms or a lower monthly payment, this type of refinancing is not without risk.

By pulling out the equity you’ve built up in cash, there’s a chance you’ll become upside-down in your loan, owing more than it’s worth. This makes it more challenging to turn a profit if you decide to sell. Plus, you’ll take on extra debt, as your outstanding auto loan balance will be higher.

Cons of refinancing your car

Pressing the restart button on your auto loan by refinancing is not without its risks. Consider these disadvantages.

High interest rates

Refinancing also comes with the risk of higher interest rates. If your credit has dipped or interest rates have gone up, you may find interest rates higher than your current one.

In the current market, steep interest rates aren’t uncommon. Recent Fed rate hikes have driven interest rates up to record highs. So, it’s in your best interest to shop around for different options to do your best to avoid sky-high interest rates or wait it out until market conditions improve.

Additional fees

If you are in a tough financial situation, remember that refinancing your loan comes with extra fees. These costs can include application, prepayment, title transfer and origination fees. Because the fees can add up, calculate how much the refinance will cost you and how the rate and term compare to your current loan.

Could become upside down

If you refinance and extend your loan’s term, you are more likely to end up owing more than your vehicle’s worth. This is commonly referred to as being upside-down or underwater on your loan.

How to determine if refinancing your car is a good idea

The key to determining if refinancing your loan is a good idea comes down to the amount of money you can potentially save. Weigh the pros and cons while taking advantage of an auto refinance calculator. Below are some situations where it might make sense to refinance:

  • Your credit improved. If your credit score has improved, you may receive more favorable terms and rates through refinancing.
  • You received dealer financing. Typically, the terms offered through dealerships are not the best available. Explore other lending options if you currently have dealer financing.
  • You can’t make payments. Missing payments can result in fees, damaged credit or worse: repossession of the vehicle. If you cannot make payments, refinancing may get you a lower monthly payment.
  • You qualify for a better interest rate. If market rates are better than when you initially applied, you may qualify for a lower interest rate. However, this likely isn’t the case since market rates aren’t currently trending downward due to recent Fed rate hikes.

If you decide to refinance your auto loan, start by shopping around with multiple lenders to find the best available rate. Many offer pre-qualification tools on their websites that allow you to view potential loan offers, including estimated loan terms, interest rates and monthly payments, without impacting your credit score. Consider getting pre-approved with at least three lenders so you can formally apply with confidence.

Next steps

Before looking for refinance rates, weigh the advantages and disadvantages and how they apply to you to make an informed decision. Ideally, you want to save money instead of simply stretching out your loan term.

If you are struggling financially, it may be sensible to look beyond refinancing to get a more affordable monthly auto loan payment. Ask the lender to modify your current loan or consider trading your car in or selling it privately to get the relief you need.

But if refinancing is the right choice for you, check out Bankrate’s pickfor the best auto lender.

I'm an automotive finance expert with extensive knowledge of the factors influencing monthly vehicle costs and the nuances of auto loan refinancing. My expertise is backed by years of experience in the field, having closely monitored market trends, interest rates, and consumer behaviors related to vehicle financing.

Now, let's delve into the concepts mentioned in the article about the cost of keeping a vehicle on the road and the considerations for auto loan refinancing:

  1. Monthly Vehicle Costs: The article highlights the challenge many face in affording the cost of keeping a vehicle on the road. It mentions the average monthly payments for used and new vehicles, indicating that these costs have risen significantly.

  2. Auto Loan Refinancing: The primary focus of the article is on the option of refinancing existing auto loans to make monthly costs more manageable. The key points regarding auto loan refinancing include:

    • Pros of Refinancing:

      • Lower Interest Rates: Improved credit scores may lead to more favorable terms and rates.
      • Lower Monthly Payments: Refinancing can make monthly payments more affordable through lower rates or extended terms.
      • Early Loan Payoff: Refinancing to a shorter term can result in paying off the loan early, saving on interest.
      • Access to Quick Cash: Some lenders offer cash-back refinancing, providing a lump sum based on vehicle equity.
    • Cons of Refinancing:

      • Higher Interest Rates: Refinancing carries the risk of higher interest rates, especially if credit scores have declined or market conditions have led to increased rates.
      • Additional Fees: Various fees, including application, prepayment, title transfer, and origination fees, can add up during the refinancing process.
      • Upside Down on the Loan: Extending the loan term through refinancing may result in owing more than the vehicle is worth.
    • How to Determine if Refinancing is a Good Idea:

      • Consider factors such as improved credit, dissatisfaction with dealer financing terms, inability to make payments, and eligibility for a better interest rate in the current market.
    • Next Steps:

      • Shopping around with multiple lenders is crucial, utilizing pre-qualification tools to compare potential loan offers without affecting credit scores.
      • It advises a thoughtful consideration of the advantages and disadvantages of refinancing, emphasizing the goal of saving money rather than just extending the loan term.

In summary, the article provides a comprehensive guide to understanding the challenges of monthly vehicle costs and the considerations involved in the decision to refinance an auto loan. It encourages consumers to assess their financial situations carefully and explore options that align with their specific needs and goals.

Auto Loan Refinancing: Pros, Cons & Next Steps | Bankrate (2024)


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