Can you buy a car with a personal loan?


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Buying a car, whether used or new, is a significant financial commitment. And most people probably don’t just happen to have $25,000 to $45,000 — the average prices of used and new cars in 2021 — in cash lying around. That means you’ll likely need to take out a loan to buy your car. Deciding which car to buy and understanding how to determine a car’s value and how that value depreciates over time are all considerations when making an informed decision about a car purchase.

Another important consideration is how to pay for the car. Do you specifically need a car loan to buy a car, or can you buy a car with a personal loan?


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Related: Types of personal loans

Can a Personal Loan be Used to Buy a Car?

The short answer to this question is “yes,” but there are a few things to take into consideration when thinking about buying a car with a personal loan or a car loan:

  1. Are you buying a new car or a used car?
  2. Are you buying a car from a private individual or a dealership?

1. Are You Buying a New or a Used Car?

If you’re buying a new car from a dealership, the benefits of using dealer financing might outweigh the drawbacks. Automakers offer financing on cars purchased through their dealerships, with low or sometimes even 0% APRs for well-qualified buyers, in an effort to compete with banks and other financial institutions.

Banks or other financial institutions may offer different interest rates, terms and eligibility criteria than dealerships. According to consumer credit information compiled by the Federal Reserve, the average APR on a 48-month new car loan from a commercial bank in the second quarter of 2021 was 5.28%. For a 60-month new car loan from a commercial bank during the same period, the APR was 5.05%.

Lending money for a used car might be seen as a higher risk by a bank, and their interest rates typically reflect that notion. Older model vehicles are generally seen as a higher lending risk by banks than a new model because they might be less reliable and have a greater chance of failure as they age.

2. Is the Seller an Individual or a Car Dealer?

An individual who is selling a used car is not likely to offer financing, so a car buyer in that situation would likely need to find their own source of funds.

As mentioned above, banks do sometimes offer car loans on used cars, but the interest rate is dependent on multiple factors. In addition to looking at the applicant’s creditworthiness, which is typical of any loan application, the make, model and age of the car are also taken into account.

When considering a personal loan to purchase a used car, details about the car aren’t considered during the application process. As the name implies, a personal loan can be taken out for any number of personal expenses — home improvements or a vacation, for example — whereas a car loan can only be taken out to pay for a car.

Differences Between Car Loans and Personal Loans

In essence, a car loan works much like a mortgage. It is paid for in monthly installments and the asset isn’t fully yours until the final payment is made. The car is the asset that secures the loan, which means if you default on payments, the lender could seize your car. The car’s title typically remains with the lender until the loan is paid in full.

Funds from a personal loan can be much more flexible and can be used not just for purchasing a car, but for the other costs of owning a car as well. Personal loans can be secured or unsecured, with either fixed or variable interest rates. An unsecured personal loan is not tied directly to an asset, i.e., collateral, as a secured personal loan is, so there is no asset for a lender to seize in the case of default. Transferring a car’s title from one owner to another differs from state to state and is generally handled by each state’s department of motor vehicles.

While a car loan from a dealership might be able to be finalized quickly in some cases, car buyers who have a personal loan approval in hand before they go to the dealership can take a step out of the negotiation process.

Refinancing a car loan with a personal loan might be an option in some cases. Perhaps you’ve improved your financial situation since taking out your car loan and you can now qualify for a lower interest rate. Or you’d rather have a shorter-term loan than you currently have, and refinancing with a personal loan might accomplish that.

Determining the Value of a Car

Whether the car you’re considering is new or just new to you, there are a number of well-respected pricing guides to consult for an appropriate price range once you narrow down your car choices:

These resources simply provide a price range for the car you want. Calling car dealers for price quotes or estimates and looking for any purchase incentives or dealer financing offers are good ways to be prepared before you walk into a dealership.

Negotiating the Car Purchase

Once you know which car you want and what you can afford, how do you pay for it?

For most of us, the negotiation part of buying a new car is the most daunting. This is why you want to go in understanding the price range for your desired car — ideally, you’ll also be equipped with a few comparable quotes from other dealers.

When speaking with a car salesperson it’s a good idea to ask for the actual sales price, which can include taxes, fees, and other charges that may vary depending on the state and the dealership where the car is purchased. Some car salespeople might talk in terms of monthly payments instead of total purchase price. But talking about monthly payments and payment periods can make it difficult to keep track of the overall price of the car.

Test-driving, negotiating and finishing paperwork will take some time, and that’s OK. Take your time with all that goes into a car purchase, and don’t let an enthusiastic salesperson rush you into making a decision that’s not a good one for you.

What Are the Costs of Car Ownership?

The sticker price, or even the possibly lower negotiated price, doesn’t reflect the true cost of car ownership. AAA’s annual “Your Driving Costs” study found the average cost of owning and operating a new car in 2021 is nearly $10,000 annually. The three biggest expenses of car ownership are depreciation, fuel, and maintenance and repairs. The study found that small sedans were the cheapest to operate, while half-ton pickup trucks were the most expensive.

Depreciation is the decline in value of an asset over time, and it tops the list of largest annual expenses of car ownership. A new car begins to depreciate as soon as it’s new owner drives it off the lot, and the depreciation continues to increase over time. Depending on the make and model of the car, how many miles it’s driven annually and other factors, a new car could depreciate:

  • 10% in the first month
  • 20% in the first year
  • 40% after five years

Another factor when considering the true cost of your car is the potential increasing maintenance costs over five or 10 years. Proper maintenance of a vehicle can go a long way toward not only keeping it in good condition, but it can also make it safer for the driver and passengers, as well as other drivers on the road.

The Takeaway

The biggest ongoing cost of the car, though, is the cost of the car itself. Choosing what type of loan — car loan or personal loan — generally corresponds to what type of car you’re buying, what interest rate and terms you might qualify for, and what works best for your specific financial situation. Getting pre-qualified for a personal loan before you begin shopping for a used car may help direct your car search toward vehicles that are affordable and fit your lifestyle.

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How to refinance an auto loan

How to refinance an auto loan

In times of lower interest rates, you may start to wonder about whether you should refinance your auto loan. And why not? According to 2020 data from RateGenius, money saved with a new auto loan is at an all-time high. Auto loan refinancing deals saved borrowers $989.72, on average, in 2020.

With that much cash up for grabs, it’s no wonder that auto refinancing loans are in big demand. Key strategies for auto owners who want a good refinance loan experience include being prepared and making sure to understand all the details. Read on for information that may help.

Related: Soft vs hard credit inquiry: What you need to know

phototechno/ istockphoto

When you refinance an auto loan, you’re essentially securing a new auto loan. You use the new loan to pay down the balance of the original car loan. That all takes time, effort and money (for loan applications and servicing fees). That’s why you should be sure you have a good reason before you go to the trouble of taking out an auto refinancing loan. 

So when should you refinance your auto loan? The fact is that vehicle owners refinance their auto loans for a variety of reasons that can all be worthwhile, depending on the situation. Most often, car owners refinance their loans to achieve the following personal financial goals, such as: 

  • To Lower Monthly Auto Loan Payments: Getting a new auto loan at a reduced interest rate can cut monthly payments down, leaving more cash in the till for other household expenses.
  • To Get a Lower Interest Rate: Depending on the loan, a car owner may also be able to save money over the lifetime of the loan by getting a reduced interest rate. Take a vehicle for which the original loan was $25,000 and the refinance loan is $21,000. For a 60-month loan where the interest rate is cut from 7% to 5%, for example, the refinancing could save approximately $6,000 over the life of the loan.
  • To Shorten the Loan Term: Car owners who are cash flush may shorten their loan terms to pay off the car faster, thus saving significant cash with lower interest rate payments.
  • To Extend the Loan Term: Car owners who need some financial breathing room after a job loss, an injury or illness, or a divorce or other issue can extend the term of the loan to reduce monthly (but not overall) loan costs.
  • To Get Some Extra Cash: If you have enough equity in your car, you might be able to take out a refinance loan that’s more than what you owe. That way you could get cash in hand, too. This is called a cash out car refinance. But realize that if you opt for this kind of refinancing, you will still have to pay back both the car loan and the extra money. 

Also recommended: If you’re new to the world of auto finance, learning some auto loan terminology may help.


Where does a borrower start with the auto loan refinancing process? Ideally, with a good grip on what a refinancing deal has to offer. Auto loan consumers are best off when they fully understand the entire refinancing. It can help to make sure you have answers to these questions:

  • Do you meet the lender’s financial requirements? While each bank or lender has its own rules and regulations on auto refinancing, many banks have similar lending limits. For example, your auto usually must be less than 10 years old and have less than 125,000 miles on it. While the exact figures may vary from lender to lender, know possible vehicle restrictions heading into any refinancing deal.
  • Are there any prepayment penalties? It’s usually a good idea to pay off an auto loan as soon as possible. Doing so clears the debt and puts more money in your pocket. However, some financial institutions may stick you with a prepayment penalty if you pay off the loan early. Be sure to examine your existing loan contract for any prepayment penalties and factor them into your costs.
  • Do you know the total cost? Before green-lighting an auto loan refinancing deal, you need to know the full cost of refinancing the car. Make sure you know how much you’ll save per month and, even more importantly, over the life of the loan. When you refinance, you may be saving money on a monthly basis but adding more dollars to the overall cost of the vehicle. You’ll want to be sure you’re factoring any fees or penalties, too. A good auto loan refi calculator can be highly useful here.
  • What’s your credit score? Most lenders will expect a minimum credit score from potential borrowers. Typically, a FICO credit score of 700 or more will get you the lowest loan rates on an auto refinancing loan. That said, a FICO score of 660 should ensure that you qualify for a standard auto loan refinancing deal.

With that prep work complete, now it’s time to figure out the best path to a good auto refinance loan. Get the job done right with these action steps.

Start the auto loan refinancing process with some data-gathering. To file a loan application, you’ll typically need these documents:

  • Your original auto loan: Lending institutions will require the original loan paperwork to process a new loan. The original loan paperwork should include the loan amount, the monthly payment, the interest rate, the payoff number and the up-to-date loan balance 
  • Your vehicle information: Auto loan providers will also ask for your current vehicle information (think a Carfax for your own vehicle.) This document should include the vehicle’s make, model, year, mileage and vehicle identification number.
  • Your auto insurance paperwork: Make sure you have your car insurance records, including type of insurance and the amount of the insurance included in the policy. Auto lenders won’t make a loan to an uninsured or significantly underinsured vehicle owner. That’s because the lender has a stake in the vehicle as well. If the car is damaged or totaled, your lender will want to know it was properly insured. 
  • Your employment records: Your auto loan refinancing lender may also ask for proof of income and employment, to ensure you have the means to repay the loan.


Kick off your auto loan refinancing deal by listing what you want from the loan, such as a lower interest rate, no or low fees, a streamlined application process, and solid customer service. Having a candid conversation with your current financial institution is also a good step to take since it may give you an idea of what kinds of loans you could qualify for. And as you look for refinancing loans, remember that you may also want to explore online auto loan refinancing options since they tend to have fewer fees and competitive rates.

gpointstudio / istockphoto

When you’ve found the loan you want, follow the instructions to apply. A typical auto refinancing loan application likely includes the following:

  • Name
  • Date of birth
  • Email address and phone number
  • Address
  • Social Security number
  • Driver’s license number
  • Work status
  • Your bank’s name, address, routing number and checking account number (so the lender can deposit your loan amount, assuming it is not your bank)
  • Your vehicle information
  • Your auto insurance information 

Once you complete the application, review it thoroughly to confirm that the information is accurate and up to date. Any discrepancies or missing information may lead to a loan rejection. And know that the lender will likely perform a credit check.

Once your application is approved, your new auto loan provider will pay off your old auto loan or give you the funds to do so, and become your auto loan manager. Future payments will go to the lender who handles your refinanced loan. It is, however, a good idea to confirm with your original lender that the auto loan was paid off and you don’t owe any more payments. After that, be sure you pay the new loan on time and start enjoying the savings from your refinanced auto loan.

Whether you simply want to get an auto loan with more favorable terms or you’re looking to adjust your car loan repayment period, refinancing your auto loan allows you to take advantage of lower rates, put more cash in your pocket, and get a loan that meets your unique personal financial needs. Handled correctly, refinanced auto loans can be a big win-win for vehicle owners, who can gain an auto loan with better terms and potentially save money in the process.

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This article originally appeared on LanternCredit.comand was syndicated by

Lantern by SoFi:

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All rates, fees, and terms are presented without guarantee and are subject to change pursuant to each provider’s discretion. There is no guarantee you will be approved or qualify for the advertised rates, fees, or terms presented. The actual terms you may receive depends on the things like benefits requested, your credit score, usage, history and other factors.

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All loan terms, including interest rate, and Annual Percentage Rate (APR), and monthly payments shown on this website are from lenders and are estimates based upon the limited information you provided and are for information purposes only. Estimated APR includes all applicable fees as required under the Truth in Lending Act. The actual loan terms you receive, including APR, will depend on the lender you select, their underwriting criteria, and your personal financial factors. The loan terms and rates presented are provided by the lenders and not by SoFi Lending Corp. or Lantern. Please review each lender’s Terms and Conditions for additional details.

Personal Loan:

SoFi Lending Corp. (“SoFi”) operates this Personal Loan product in cooperation with Even Financial Corp. (“Even”). If you submit a loan inquiry, SoFi will deliver your information to Even, and Even will deliver to its network of lenders/partners to review to determine if you are eligible for pre-qualified or pre-approved offers. The lenders/partners receiving your information will also obtain your credit information from a credit reporting agency. If you meet one or more lender’s and/or partner’s conditions for eligibility, pre-qualified and pre-approved offers from one or more lenders/partners will be presented to you here on the Lantern website. 

More information about Even, the process, and its lenders/partners is described on the loan inquiry form you will reach by visiting our Personal Loans page as well as our Student Loan Refinance page. Click to learn more about Even’s Licenses and DisclosuresTerms of Service, and Privacy Policy.

Student Loan Refinance:

SoFi Lending Corp. (“SoFi”) operates this Student Loan Refinance product in cooperation with Even Financial Corp. (“Even”). If you submit a loan inquiry, SoFi will deliver your information to Even, and Even will deliver to its network of lenders/partners to review to determine if you are eligible for pre-qualified or pre-approved offers. The lender’s receiving your information will also obtain your credit information from a credit reporting agency. If you meet one or more lender’s and/or partner’s conditions for eligibility, pre-qualified and pre-approved offers from one or more lenders/partners will be presented to you here on the Lantern website. 

More information about Even, the process, and its lenders/partners is described on the loan inquiry form you will reach by visiting our Personal Loans page as well as our Student Loan Refinance page. Click to learn more about Even’s Licenses and DisclosuresTerms of Service, and Privacy Policy.

Student loan refinance loans offered through Lantern are private loans and do not have the debt forgiveness or repayment options that the federal loan program offers, or that may become available, including Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or Pay as you Earn (PAYE).

Notice: Recent legislative changes have suspended all federal student loan payments and waived interest charges on federally held loans until 09/30/21. Please carefully consider these changes before refinancing federally held loans, as in doing so you will no longer qualify for these changes or other future benefits applicable to federally held loans.

Auto Loan Refinance:

Automobile refinancing loan information presented on this Lantern website is from MotoRefi. Auto loan refinance information presented on this Lantern site is indicative and subject to you fulfilling the lender’s requirements, including: you must meet the lender’s credit standards, the loan amount must be at least $10,000, and the vehicle is no more than 10 years old with odometer reading of no more than 125,000 miles. Loan rates and terms as presented on this Lantern site are subject to change when you reach the lender and may depend on your creditworthiness. Additional terms and conditions may apply and all terms may vary by your state of residence.

Secured Lending Disclosure:

Terms, conditions, state restrictions, and minimum loan amounts apply. Before you apply for a secured loan, we encourage you to carefully consider whether this loan type is the right choice for you. If you can’t make your payments on a secured personal loan, you could end up losing the assets you provided for collateral. Not all applicants will qualify for larger loan amounts or most favorable loan terms. Loan approval and actual loan terms depend on the ability to meet underwriting requirements (including, but not limited to, a responsible credit history, sufficient income after monthly expenses, and availability of collateral) that will vary by lender.

Life Insurance:

Information about insurance is provided on Lantern by SoFi Life Insurance Agency, LLC.

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