What Credit Score Is Needed to Refinance a Car?

Published: October 26, 2022
By: Choncé Maddox

What Credit Score Is Needed to Refinance a Car?

If your car payment is high or you just want to take advantage of a better interest rate, the thought of refinancing your auto loan might have crossed your mind. When your credit score is less than perfect, refinancing might seem out of reach, but this is not always the case. 

Your credit score is important when refinancing your auto loan, but it’s not the only factor. Lenders look at other aspects which could improve your chances of getting approved.

How Credit Scores Affect a Car Loan

Although credit isn’t the only factor that impacts your ability to get an auto loan, it still carries a lot of weight. Lenders use your credit score to determine the likelihood that you’ll repay the loan with no issues. Your credit score is a three-digit number used to quickly communicate whether you’d be a risky borrower to lend money to. 

The higher your score, this demonstrates that you’d paid off debt in the past and continue to pay your other current bills on time. Meanwhile, a lower credit score can tell just the opposite. Credit scores typically range from 300 to 850, and according to Equifax, anything above 670 is considered “good” and a 740 to 799 credit score is “excellent.” 

Even if your credit score is lower than 670, you could still be approved for an auto loan. The lender might just charge you a higher interest rate since you’d be considered a more risky borrower. 

Both your FICO® score and VantageScore are based on a range of factors including:

  • The total amount of debt you owe
  • Payment history
  • Length of credit history
  • New credit you apply for (hard credit inquiries)
  • Type of credit accounts you currently have (account mix)

All of these factors hold some weight when the credit bureaus calculate your score, which gives lenders a good idea of if and how they should offer a loan. From a borrower’s standpoint, a lower credit score means you might not be approved for the loan terms you want, or you might pay more in total loan costs.

What Is the Minimum Score Needed to Refinance a Car?

There are hundreds of lenders that offer auto loans and auto refinancing. The list ranges from banks and credit unions to online lenders, dealerships, and more. Each lender has its own guidelines including the minimum credit score they accept. 

This is why there’s no universal minimum credit score requirement to refinance an auto loan. Some lenders even focus on working with subprime borrowers who have a 600 credit score or lower. Meanwhile, a local credit union might not offer an auto loan or auto refinance to someone with a score that’s less than 660.

The good news is that there will likely be a lender who will be willing to offer you a loan no matter what your credit score is. Still, this doesn’t mean you should accept the loan – especially if the terms are not good or helpful to your situation. 

According to RateGenius’ 2022 State of Auto Refinance Report, the average credit score of auto refinance borrowers the previous year was 670. However, this doesn’t mean borrowers who had a credit score below 670 weren’t approved to refinance.

Although credit scores are one concern, it’s also important to make sure that refinancing your auto loan makes sense for you financially. And even with an excellent credit score, there is no guarantee you’ll be approved to refinance your auto loan since lenders look at other factors as well. 

Aside From Credit, What Else Do Lenders Look At?

Lenders look at more than just your credit score to determine if you qualify for a loan or not. Here are a few other important factors to be mindful of.

Debt-to-income (DTI) ratio (DTI)

Your DTI is a simple calculation that determines how much of your income is going toward current debt payments. DTI is expressed as a percentage and the formula is your total minimum monthly debt payments divided by your gross monthly income (before taxes). 

Total debt includes all minimum payments for current loans and credit accounts such as student loans, personal loans, auto loans, mortgages, credit cards and so on. So, if you add up all your minimum debt payments and they total $1,000 for the month and your income is $5,000, your DTI calculation would be:

$1,000 / $5,000 = 0.20 = 20%

The lower your debt-to-income ratio, the better because it tells lenders you can afford to pay for your auto loan along with other current debt. Most lenders prefer to see a DTI below 36% but some mortgage lenders will allow up to 43% to 45%. 

Loan-to-value (LTV) ratio

Your LTV ratio is used to evaluate the value of your vehicle. This is done during the application process by comparing the amount of your existing auto loan balance to the value of the vehicle. Since cars depreciate over time, the value of your vehicle will change and likely decrease as the years go by.

Since auto loans are secured, meaning a lender can repossess the vehicle due to nonpayment, your LTV ratio lets lenders know if they can cover the loss should they have to sell your vehicle to pay back the loan. 

This means, lenders prefer cars that are newer and have a higher value than the loan amount. There is no set LTV since different lenders have their own guidelines. 


Your income is part of your DTI, but in addition to credit, lenders will evaluate your income to make sure you can financially afford to pay back your auto loan. 

When you apply to refinance your auto loan, you’ll need to provide proof of employment, including check stubs or even a tax return if you’re self-employed. You can submit proof for all forms of monthly income you receive including salary and tips, social security, or rental income. 

Ideally, you’ll want a higher income with less debt to maintain a low debt-to-income ratio. 

Your current vehicle’s details

When you apply for an auto loan or auto loan refinance, you’ll need to provide certain details about your vehicle including the year and model, along with the mileage and current auto loan balance. 

Lenders set their own maximum age and mileage requirements for auto loans, and this information will also help determine your LTV.

If your vehicle is older or has a lot of miles, a lender could deny you an auto loan refinance. However, you might notice the recurring theme that not all lenders are the same and another one might approve you with the same vehicle age and mileage. So don’t let the fact that you don’t have a new car keep you from applying for a refinance.

As you can see, a good credit score does not guarantee approval for an auto loan just as a lower credit score doesn’t guarantee a denied application. Weaknesses in any area discussed above can impact your approval and the auto loan rates you’ll get. 

How to Increase Your Chances of Getting Approved to Refinance an Auto Loan

If you’re nervous about getting approved for an auto refinance loan, don’t worry. There are plenty of things you can do to strengthen your financial profile and reduce the risk to a lender. Remember that you don’t need a perfect financial situation to get approved, but making some of these improvements can help.

Improve your credit score

A higher credit score could help you save money on your auto loan if you can lock in a lower interest rate. To increase your credit score, start by reviewing your credit report to pinpoint areas for improvement. Make sure you’re paying bills on time and limit your hard inquiries. If you have credit cards with low or no balance, keep them open to extend your credit history length. 

You can also use tools like Experian Boost to increase your score since it includes reporting for your phone and utility bills. Applying with a cosigner who has good credit can also give you a boost and improve your chances of getting approved. 

Lower outstanding debt

Lowering your debt before applying for an auto loan has so many benefits. It can help increase your credit score, lower your DTI, and provide more peace of mind and cash flow. Choose one debt to focus on at a time and consider starting with the one that has the highest interest rate. 

Add debt payments to your budget and set up autopay. Then, put any extra money toward the account to chip away at it faster.

Make a larger down payment

Making a larger down payment will lower your loan amount and total loan costs. When applying for an auto refinance loan, you can also choose to make a down payment which can help lower your LTV ratio. 

Even if you’re upside down on your car loan (meaning you owe more than the vehicle is worth), you could still get approved to refinance with a new loan. Making a down payment can only improve your chances for approval and make lenders feel that their risk is even lower. 

The same goes for making extra car loan payments when possible. If you know you plan to refinance in the future, it could make sense to lower your loan amount by making extra payments.

Increase your income

Increasing your income is another way to lower your LTV ratio. See if you can pick up extra hours at work or apply for a promotion. If you have time in your schedule, apply for a part-time job or consider a temporary side hustle that can raise your income. Just remember, you’ll need to show lenders that your income is consistent and validate it with pay stubs or a bank statement. 

Shop around

You probably shop around before making a purchase more than you think. Since a car is a very costly purchase, you can benefit from shopping around for a new lender to compare rates and loan offers. Use the information you find to ensure you’re getting the best loan terms for your needs.

Don’t Give Up On Auto Loan Refinancing Due to “Bad Credit”

Refinancing an auto loan with a lower credit score is possible. There are so many lenders and each one sets its own guidelines and requirements for eligibility. Ultimately, your credit score will most likely not count you out for getting a new auto loan since there are other factors lenders look at.