Need help managing your money? These personal finance tips can help you get started at any age. Managing your personal finances is an ongoing, life-long responsibility. That’s true no matter what your finances look like. Whether you’re a college student living on a tight budget or a soon-to-be retiree…
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.
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.
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:
- Your credit score and credit history (don’t worry, you don’t need a perfect score)
- Your current income (you’ll have a hard time getting a loan if you don’t have a job)
- Your debt relative to your income (in other words, your debt-to-income ratio)
- Your current loan (not every loan qualifies for refinancing)
- Your current vehicle (more specifically, your loan-to-value ratio)
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.
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
- 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
- Credit score: 708
- MSRP: $27,295 for 2022 base model
- MPG: 24 City / 36 Highway
- Fun fact: The 2022 model will be the last Passat produced in the United States.
8. Dodge Challenger
- 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
- Credit score: 706
- MSRP: $17,890 for 2021 base model
- MPG: 27 City / 37 Highway
- Fun fact: The Kia Forte won the U.S. News 2021 Best Compact Car for the Money award. (It’s also the cheapest vehicle on this list relative to other 2021 models.)
6. Nissan Sentra
- 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.
5. Kia Optima
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.