Does Your Vehicle Have One of the Worst Credit Scores?

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Are you considering refinancing your auto loan? Your vehicle impacts your ability to qualify.

A lot of factors impact your chances for refinancing your auto loan. Your credit score, credit history, income, and existing loan are several well-known examples. To many people’s surprise, the make and model of your vehicle are variables in the equation as well.

They say the car makes the (wo)man, but does the credit score make the car? RateGenius compiled a list of borrowers’ ten lowest credit scores by vehicle model in its State of Auto Refinance 2021 report.

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Before we dig into the list, let’s run through the basics of auto loan refinancing, because the process is different from obtaining an auto loan.

What Is Auto Loan Refinancing?

Auto loan refinancing is like trading in your car for a better model — except with your loan. As the name implies, refinancing your auto loan replaces your current car loan, usually at a lower rate and/or with better terms.

Subprime borrowers are common auto loan refinance applicants, especially those who’ve improved their financial profiles. For instance, let’s assume you had a bad credit score and had to take out a subprime loan. If you’ve improved your credit score since then, you could be a prime candidate for refinancing, which could help you save a significant amount of money if you’re approved.

How much money? Last year, borrowers who refinanced their car loans averaged $989.72 of annual savings.

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Do I Qualify for Auto Loan Refinancing?

Lenders consider a variety of criteria when they review auto loan refinance applications. People tend to immediately think of credit scores as the biggest factor. While your credit score is a factor, it’s not the only factor.

Here are the areas of your financial profile that lenders assess when evaluating auto loan refinance applications:

Together, these factors tell a lender how creditworthy you are as a borrower. So, if you don’t have the best credit score or your current car loan is upside-down, fear not — the other areas of your financial profile can compensate for weaker ones.

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What’s the Average Credit Score of an Approved Auto Refinance Loan Applicant?

For context, it’s helpful to know the average credit score of an approved applicant, regardless of vehicle model. In 2020, the average credit score of an approved refinance loan application was 720. Keep in mind, this is an average. Some applicants had higher scores, some had lower scores.

Your location makes a difference too — some cities and states experienced greater savings despite having lower average credit scores. For instance, the average approved applicant in Oklahoma had a credit score of 694 and saved $1,005 annually.

Vehicles with the Worst Credit Scores

Now that we’re on the same page, here are the ten lowest credit scores by vehicle model.

10. Mitsubishi Outlander

Mitsubishi Outlander | Vehicles with the Worst Credit Scores

  • Credit score: 709
  • MSRP: $25,795 for 2022 base model
  • MPG: 24 City / 31 Highway
  • Fun fact: In 2019, the Mitsubishi Outlander won the Kelley Blue Book 5-Year Cost to Own Award in the three-row Mid-Size SUV/Crossover category. This award goes to the vehicle with the lowest projected ownership costs over a five-year period.

9. Volkswagen Passat

Volkswagen Passat | Vehicles with the Worst Credit Scores

8. Dodge Challenger

Dodge Challenger | Vehicles with the Worst Credit Scores

  • Credit score: 708
  • MSRP: $29,065 for 2021 base model
  • MPG: 19 City / 30 Highway
  • Fun fact: According to a MotorTrend study, the Dodge Challenger is more expensive to insure than the Ford Mustang and Chevy Camaro. (It’s also the most expensive vehicle on this list, excluding discontinued vehicles.)

7. Kia Forte

Kia Forte | Vehicles with the Worst Credit Scores

6. Nissan Sentra

Nissan Sentra | Vehicles with the Worst Credit Scores

  • Credit score: 706
  • MSRP: $19,510 for 2021 base model
  • MPG: 28 City / 37 Highway
  • Fun fact: According to J.D. Power, the 2021 Nissan Sentra is the second highest rated sedan by consumers — behind the 2021 Kia Forte.
What rate can I get? What rate can I get?

5. Kia Optima

Kia Optima | Vehicles with the Worst Credit Scores

  • Credit score: 705
  • MSRP: $23,690 for 2022 base model
  • MPG: 29 City / 38 Highway
  • Fun fact: In 2020, Kia renamed the Optima to a sportier sounding “K5.”

4. Chevrolet Malibu

Chevrolet Malibu | Vehicles with the Worst Credit Scores

  • Credit score: 704
  • MSRP: $22,270 for 2021 base model
  • MPG: 29 City / 36 Highway
  • Fun fact: This mid-size sedan has better-than-average reliability ratings and relatively low maintenance costs, with drivers spending an average of $532 a year.

3. Jeep Patriot

Jeep Patriot | Vehicles with the Worst Credit Scores

  • Credit score: 703
  • Price: $14,624 for a used 2017 model, according to Kelley Blue Book
  • MPG: 21 City / 27 Highway
  • Fun fact: The Jeep Patriot was officially retired in 2017, meaning it’s no longer manufactured. As vehicle manufacturers design new models or adapt to industry changes (e.g. moving away from manual transmissions or toward all-electric models,) they often discontinue old models to prioritize the production of new ones.

2. Chevrolet Impala

Chevrolet Impala | Vehicles with the Worst Credit Scores

  • Credit score: 702
  • MSRP: $32,495 for a new 2020 base model, according to Kelley Blue Book
  • MPG: 18 City / 28 Highway
  • Fun fact: The Chevrolet Impala was discontinued in 2020, ending a 22-year production run. But that wasn’t the longest stretch of consecutive years of production for the Impala, which Chevy produced for 29 straight years from 1957 to 1985.

1. Dodge Journey

Dodge Journey | Vehicles with the Worst Credit Scores

  • Credit score: 695
  • MSRP: $25,170 for a new 2020 base model, according to Kelley Blue Book
  • MPG: 19 City / 25 Highway
  • Fun fact: The Dodge Journey was discontinued in 2020. You might have noticed, the top three vehicles on this list have all been discontinued. It’s not uncommon for dealerships to promote discontinued models by offering price discounts, which could indirectly lead to more favorable loan-to-value ratios and, in turn, more leniency for lower credit scores.

Your Credit Score Is Only One Factor

Even though we just ranked these vehicle models by credit score, we can’t overstate this fact: Your credit score is only one piece of the puzzle. A low debt-to-income ratio or loan-to-value ratio can help offset a low credit score. Even applicants with subprime credit scores can still be approved to refinance their auto loan, which helps keep their wheels on the road and more money in their bank accounts.

About The Author


Carter Kilmann

Carter Kilmann is a personal finance writer and editor for hire, covering topics like credit cards, mortgages, budgeting, banking, and investing. He's written for The Points Guy, Investing.com, Thrive Global, Day to Day Finance, Money Mini Blog, and more.


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