When Dickens wrote the line, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times," he was speaking of France prior to its revolution of 1789. The statement also applies to today's auto market, and how the car purchasing process differs based on your credit score.
In a country where a new car is considered an unalienable right, the slumping economy has restricted the number of Americans who qualify for an auto purchase. The credit crunch has particularly excluded people with poor credit from the auto loan market. If you have excellent credit, however, the time to buy is now.
Cash is king
With inventories bulging, and consumer confidence shaken to the core, car companies are offering dramatic rebates and discounts. It's a great time to buy, but only if you qualify.
With credit so tight, lenders are no longer floating deals to people with poor credit scores. If you're in the 600-700 range, you'll likely qualify for an auto loan, but people with a 500 score won't be so fortunate. No matter how high your credit score, you'll be expected to bring at least a 10 percent down payment to the table.
Lenders still looking
If your scores are high, there are plenty of lenders eager to help you buy a car. Toyota Financial Services, for example, has been eagerly seeking out new buyers, especially with its leasing programs.
Credit unions are also quick to point out that their fiscal responsibility and intelligent lending practices have shielded them from the credit crunch that has rocked the banking industry. More than 8,000 credit unions are lending throughout the United States, although many of the loans are for used vehicles. Nevertheless, a large car payment may be too much risk for consumers in today's economy.
Improve your credit score
Approval rates have plummeted by about 20 percent this year. If you find yourself on the short end of the stick when it comes to an auto loan, the first thing you need to do is improve your credit score. Obtain your credit report and scan it carefully. Make sure there are no mistakes, as these can lower your score.
Even if you routinely pay your bills on time, you may have a low credit score because you're carrying too much debt. Set yourself up on a budget, and do your best to aggressively pay down those balances. Be sure to pay off those maxed-out credit cards first. Your score will rise if your balance is 20 to 30 percent below your credit limit.
An auto loan and a new car used to be part of the American Dream-easily accessible to almost everyone. But tighter lending guidelines and a credit crunch have restricted people's access to financing. As a result of the country's financial nightmare, the auto dream has been changed. Now, people will have to wake up and change their financial lifestyle if they want to own a new car.