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What Credit Score Do I Need to Buy a Car?

Dear Experian,

I’m trying to buy a car. How can I improve my credit score quickly? What credit score do I need to buy a car?

– BBK

Dear BBK,

If you are planning to make a major purchase such as a home or a car, it’s a good idea to order a copy of your credit report at least 3-6 months in advance. That way, if you find there are changes to make, you will have enough time for the information to be updated and reflected on your credit report prior to applying for the loan.

Credit Scores and Buying a Car

The credit score needed to qualify for a car loan depends on the lender you are applying with. Different lenders have different criteria, so the minimum score needed to qualify will vary depending on which company is providing the financing.

Different lenders may also use different credit scoring models. Some scoring models assign different weights to the various elements in your credit score than others, which can cause scores to vary.

The different models may have different credit score ranges as well. For example, FICO Auto Score 8 has a range of 250-900, while the base FICO Score 8 and VantageScore 3.0 have a range of 300-850. A credit score of 700 on a scale that goes up 900 may mean something different than a credit score of 700 on a scale that goes up to 850.

There are some lenders that specialize in approving loans for those with less-than-ideal credit scores. However, those loans typically come with higher interest rates and less favorable terms than those you would qualify for with better credit.

Improving Your Credit Score Before Buying a Car

There is no quick fix or fast method for improving your credit score. A good place to begin is by ordering your credit report from each of the credit reporting agencies and reviewing them carefully. If something looks incorrect, you will want to contact the agency that provided the report right away to begin the process of updating the information.

You should also consider ordering your credit score. Pay careful attention to the risk factors that are included with your score. These risk factors will tell you which elements in your credit history are impacting your credit scores and help you to understand where you can make changes.

In general, the most important thing you can do to improve your credit scores is to make sure all accounts are being paid on time, and any past due accounts have been brought current. The second most important thing you can do is to pay down the balances on your accounts, and keep the balances low on revolving accounts.

Learn more about credit score ranges and what a good credit score is.

Thanks for asking,
The “Ask Experian” Team

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