Auto Loan Calculator
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The Auto Loan Calculator considers the most vital factors in order to calculate auto loan information. It assumes that the full purchase price is accounted for whether as down payment or part of the loan, along with any fees involved. If only the monthly payment for any auto loan is given, use the Monthly Payments tab (reverse auto loan) to calculate the actual vehicle purchase price and other auto loan information.
Important: Tax and fee procedures apply to car purchases within the US only. Foreigners may still use the calculator, but please adjust accordingly.
There are different definitions for different prices when it comes to car buying such as MSRP (manufacturer's suggested retail price), selling price, blue book price, and dealer price. For any recently purchased or sold car, input the final selling price as the "Auto Price" figure. For hypothetical loans involving cars not being bought or sold, use blue book prices to arrive at close estimates for the values of the cars.
Purchases of cars usually come with costs other than the purchase price. Car buyers with low credit scores might be forced to pay the hefty fees upfront. The following is a list of common fees associated with car purchases in the US.
- Sales Tax—Most states in the US collect sales tax for auto purchases.
- Document Fees—This is a fee collected by the dealer for processing documents like title and registration. Typically, they run between $150 and $300.
- Title and Registration Fees—This is the fee collected by states for vehicle title and registration. Most states charge less than $300 for title and registration.
- Advertising Fees—This is a fee that the regional dealer pays for promoting the manufacturer's automobile in the dealer's area. If not charged separately, advertising fees are included in the auto price. A typical price tag for this fee is a few hundred dollars.
- Destination Fee—This is a fee that covers the shipment of the vehicle from the plant to the dealer's office. This fee is usually between $600 and $1,000.
- Insurance—In the US, auto insurance is strictly mandatory to be regarded as a legal driver on public roads and is usually required before dealers can process paperwork. When a car is purchased via loan and not cash, full coverage insurance is mandatory. Auto insurance can possibly run more than $1,000 a year for full coverage. Most auto dealers can provide short-term (1 or 2 months) insurance for paper work processing so new car owners can deal with proper insurance later.
Important: If the fees are bundled into the auto loan, remember to check the box 'Include All Fees in Loan'. If they are paid upfront instead, leave it unchecked.
Quick Tip 1: Should an auto dealer package any mysterious special charges into a car purchase, please demand justification and thorough explanations for their inclusion. This is not to say that well-intentioned car salesmen don't exist, but there is a reason why this particular group of people get a bad rap as some of the most untrustworthy and scheming around. After all, their mission is to squeeze as much profit out of a potential car selling scenario as possible.
Many people cannot afford to purchase cars with straight cash, so they turn to auto loans instead. They work as any generic, secured loan from a financial institution does with a typical term of 36 or 60 months. Each month, repayment of principal and interest must be paid to auto loan lenders from borrowers, excluding other mandatory fees and taxes (unless they have been intentionally included into the loan). Money borrowed from a lender that isn't paid back can legally entitle a car to being repossessed.
Direct Lending vs. Dealership Financing
There are two financing options available: direct lending or dealership financing. With the former, it comes in the form of a typical loan originating from a bank, credit union, or financial institution. Getting pre-approved through a credit union is usually the best option and offers the lowest rates, especially for lifelong, good standing members.
Quick Tip 2: To aid ability to negotiate the best deals, take steps towards achieving healthier credit scores before taking out large loans for car purchases. Free annual credit reports can be requested from one of the three credit agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
Once a contract has been entered with a car dealer to buy a vehicle, the loan is used from the direct lender to pay for it. Dealership financing is somewhat similar except that the paperwork is done through them instead. The contract is retained by the dealer, but is sold to a bank or other financial institution called an assignee that ultimately services the loan.
Quick Tip 3: Direct lending usually offers more flexibility because there is competition between involved lenders to offer the best interest rates to the borrower, and rates tend to be better. It also provides more leverage for someone to walk into a car dealer with most of the financing done on their terms, as it places further stress on the car dealer to compete with a better rate. Getting pre-approved doesn't tie car buyers down to any one dealership, and their propensity to simply walk away is much higher. With dealer financing, the potential car buyer has fewer choices, though it's there for convenience for anyone who doesn't want to waste time shopping around.
Quick Tip 4: It can be helpful for prospective car buyers to determine how much they can afford to spend on a car and what types of cars are within their budget before actually heading to a dealership. Knowing what kind of vehicle is desired will make it easier to research and find the best deals that suits a buyer's needs. Once a particular make and model is chosen, it can be important to have some typical going rates in mind to enable effective negotiations with a car dealer. Car dealers, like many businesses, want to make as much money as possible from a sale, but often, given enough negotiation, are willing to sell a car for significantly less than the price they initially offer. Depending on whether a buyer chooses to pay for the vehicle with monthly payments, the "Monthly Payment" tab of our Auto Loan Calculator can be used to calculate the "true" cost of the car. A monthly payment option often ends up being more expensive than buying the car outright. However, if buying the car outright is not an option, it is up to the buyer's discretion to determine whether the need for a car sooner justifies the additional cost of making monthly payments rather than saving until a later date to avoid said monthly payments. Furthermore, although the allure of a new car is understandable, buying a pre-owned car even if only a few years removed from new can usually result in significant savings, and is an option that prospective car buyers can consider.
Don't expect too much value when trading in old cars to dealerships as credit towards newer car purchases; exchange rates tend to float somewhere akin to auction house levels, way below blue book values. Selling old cars privately beforehand and using the funds for future car purchases tends to result in a more financially-desirable outcome. However, convenience is important for many people and they choose to simply trade them in to dealerships during new car purchases.
Within the states that collect sales tax on auto purchases, most of them collect based on the difference between the new car and trade-in price. For a $25,000 new car purchase with a $10,000 valued trade-in, the tax paid on the new purchase with an 8% tax rate is:
$25,000 - $10,000 = $15,000 × 8% = $1,200
This is the default method by which the Auto Loan Calculator will calculate sales tax in accordance with Trade-in Value. However, some states do not offer any sales tax reduction with trade-ins, and they are:
- District of Columbia
Using the same example above, whereas if the new car was purchased in one of the places above without a sales tax reduction for trade-ins, the sales tax would be:
$25,000 × 8% = $2,000
This comes out to be an $800 difference, enticing more people in these places to sell cars to private parties instead.
Dealers may offer vehicle rebates to further incentivize buyers. When car manufacturers are pressured into getting rid of cars at lower profit margins, it can be inferred that they probably use rebates as a means of doing so.
Depending on the state, they may or may not be taxed accordingly. For example, purchasing a vehicle at $30,000 with a cash rebate of $2,000 will have sales tax calculated based on the original price of $30,000, not $28,000. Luckily, a good portion of states do not do this and don't tax cash rebates. They are Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Vermont, and Wyoming.
Generally, only purchases of new cars are offered rebates because of how uniform and consistent each new car is. Dealers know exactly to the cent where the breakeven point is and if they are still a wide margin over, they can incentivize a potential car buyer by offering a rebate. While some used car dealers do offer cash rebates, they are a rarity due to the difficulty of arriving at true value.
Quick Tip 5: New cars depreciate as soon as they are driven off the lot, sometimes by more than 10% of their values; this is called off-the-lot depreciation.