Shopping for a car can be a thrilling experience. Checking out the shiny new models, planning that wild road trip, imagining the freedom of mobility…there’s a lot to get excited about.
Then reality kicks in, and it quickly becomes obvious how much there is to consider when making a vehicle purchase. Bad credit, confusing lender terms, sky-high car loan interest rates, and the sheer abundance of options can be overwhelming. Too often consumers in Canada make the same blunders when financing a new car—missteps that can easily be avoided with a bit of preparation and know-how.
Here are seven common mistakes many Canadians make when looking for new car financing and some suggestions on how to avoid them.
1. Misreading the market.
One of the mistakes many consumers make when shopping for a car loan is not doing their research. There are many reputable lenders out there, offering a vast array of financing options, and they’re all vying for your business. Do as much research as you can before picking up the phone or stepping onto a dealer lot. Learn how car loans actually work and what those tempting dealer incentives actually mean.
And remember, dealers vary widely in their terms and offers, so don’t accept the first price as definitive. Shop around and negotiate! If a financing plan doesn’t work for you, don’t be afraid to look elsewhere. And, as the old saying goes, if a deal seems too good to be true…it probably is.
2. Not knowing where you stand.
Before looking into auto financing, it’s essential that you start with some financial self-assessment. Car loan lenders will base their financing terms, particularly your interest rate, on your perceived ability to either make payments or default on your loan.
Every lender or bank will judge your credit situation differently, but most will look into your loan history, income, employment, and, most significantly, your credit score. Your credit score is a three-digit number that provides a snapshot of your creditworthiness: your ability to pay off what you borrow and your reliability in managing debts. In Canada, you can obtain your credit file from TransUnion and Equifax.
Knowing your credit score in advance also helps you understand what you can actually afford. If your score is poor (i.e., below 580), you’ll likely face tougher financing terms. With many traditional lenders, bad credit often leads to rejected applications. Fortunately, LendingArch specializes in bad credit car finance, so if traditional lenders don’t work out, there are many options still available.
If you’re still perplexed about what you can afford, try a car finance calculator to weigh the numbers. Playing with the numbers lets you see in real time how variables, such as down payment and loan term length, help determine your monthly payment.
3. Only thinking new (or used).
If you’re shopping for financing on a new car, you might be shortchanging yourself on the potential benefits of a used car. At the same time, a used car might not be as much of a deal as you think.
A new car typically comes with a higher retail price. However, a new car can also mean lower costs on maintenance or repairs over time, potentially with warranty protection.
For cash-strapped buyers, a used vehicle seems an easier proposition. The sticker price is likely lower, meaning a more manageable down payment and a less daunting monthly bill. But a used car can be more of a gamble as far as maintenance, and the warranty, if one exists, may be expired.
When it comes to financing, choosing between a new and used vehicle gets a bit more complicated. New car dealers sometimes offer special options, such as 0% financing, that could actually make a new vehicle more affordable than a used one over time.
Whether you decide on financing a new or used vehicle, it’s essential to know the actual benefits (and pitfalls) of both while shopping for an auto loan.
4. Falling for pointless add-ons.
In the hunt for auto financing, it’s easy to get blinded by snazzy features and cool technology—the alluring add-ons and options that dealers like to push, but will most certainly cost you.
Add-ons like undercoating, window tinting, or upholstery upgrades might make your ride look slick, but they rarely come free. Extras like top-line audio systems or alarms might enhance the experience, but they won’t help you secure better financing, and they might even reduce the vehicle’s assessed value.
If you want to upgrade your car with extras and add-ons, it’s smarter to hold off until after purchasing, then shop around for third parties who specialize in those services and upgrades. Concentrate on the essentials first, and leave those bonus features for later.
5. Overlooking the interest.
Many buyers only look at the overall price and forget about the car loan interest rate. Or they see a lower monthly payment and assume they’re getting a great deal. But, by taking out a longer loan and accounting for the interest, you could end up paying more than the car is actually worth. Aim for the shortest term you can afford for significant savings over time.
Another potential pitfall is going for a variable rate on a car loan. A variable rate might mean less interest in the immediate term, but if interest rates spike, you could be set up for a huge increase in your payments. Choosing a fixed rate instead helps you stabilize your budget and prevents unwelcome changes to your payments.
6. Missing the small print (and the big picture).
While juggling all the components of auto financing, it can be easy to rush your way through the paperwork. Never assume the deal as described or estimated online is actually what you’re signing.
Be sure to recheck all details on pricing, terms, and loan length before putting pen to paper. Be on the alert for deceptive practices like “spot delivery” or “yo-yo financing”—common ploys where the actual deal isn’t the same as what you’ve been sold.
A good lender won’t try to nickel-and-dime you with fine-print scams, so look for reputable lenders with solid track records of customer satisfaction. As always: buyer beware!
7. Giving up too quickly.
The excitement of shopping for a new car can all too quickly give way to frustration. A rejected loan application can feel like a door slamming in your face.
Don’t give up! There are ways to secure financing beyond traditional dealerships. If bad credit is preventing you from financing the vehicle you’re longing for, find lenders specializing in bad credit lending instead. These are lenders dedicated to working with buyers with bad credit. They want to help buyers find financing that matches tight financial situations.
LendingArch’s expertise is in empowering all buyers to find new car financing at terms that make sense. Our application process is streamlined and effortless, connecting borrowers with lenders offering top rates on all kinds of vehicles, new and used.
Contact LendingArch today. We’ll help you avoid the common mistakes too many buyers make and get you driving with confidence.