The 7 Best Auto Refinance Companies of 2021

·19 min read

The best auto refinance companies offer comfortable interest rates and work with transparency and reliability. Not only that, they also feature multiple refinancing options, educational resources and supportive customer service.

Read on to see our top picks in 2021 and learn what you can do to get the best loan terms for your needs.

The 6 Best Auto Refinance Companies of 2021

  • LendingTree: Best Marketplace for Refinancing Auto Loans

  • rateGenius: Runner-Up for Best Marketplace

  • AutoPay: Best for Refinance Options

  • PenFed: Best Auto Refinance Rates

  • Auto Credit Express: Best for Low Credit Auto Refinancing

  • MyAutoLoan.com: Best for Competitive Interest Rates

  • Lightstream: Best for Great Credit

LendingTree: Best Marketplace for Refinancing Auto Loans

Pros

Cons

Compare rates with various lenders

You may not qualify for advertised rates

Has its own support staff

There may be limits on some loans

Quote request form takes less than five minutes

Loan amounts

APR rates

Loan terms

Varies by lender

Starting at 1.99%

36 to 60 months

LendingTree is a marketplace where you can compare rates for just about any financial product, including auto refinance loans. The company’s approach is simple: you submit a short form online, and the website connects you with up to five different lenders that can help you refinance your car loan.

LendingTree also has its own customer support staff now so you don’t have to depend solely on the lender you’re matched with. If you have any queries about your lender or LendingTree’s services, their staff will be there to help you.

rateGenius: Runner-up for Best Marketplace

Pros

Cons

Loan terms between 24-87 months

Requires minimum income of $2,000/month

Over 150 partnered auto refinance companies

Requires a hard credit check

Will handle the back-end work for you

Approval can take up to 48 hours

Loan amounts

APR rates

Loan terms

Varies by lender

Starting at 1.99%

36 to 60 months

rateGenius, another well-established rate comparison site, focuses on keeping refinances within your existing term length so you won’t pay more over the life of the loan.

If you can get a better rate with one of their lenders, you’ll work directly with rateGenius’ lending specialists to complete your loan application.

rateGenius will even handle the back-end work, such as making sure your old loan gets paid off on time and that your new auto loan is set up correctly.

Autopay: Best for Refinance Options

Pros

Cons

Rates as low as 1.99%

Vehicle restrictions

94% loan approval rate

May require a down payment

Allows co-applicants

May charge prepayment penalty

Cash-out refinance and lease buyout available

No application fee

Loan amounts

APR rates

Loan terms

$2,500 to $100,000

Rates start at 1.99%

24 to 84 months

Autopay offers a multitude of options for refinancing your car, including the industry rarities cash-out refinancing and lease buyouts. The company also promises to work with borrowers with low credit and find them suitable rates.

Buyer beware: The company has not provided timely responses to any of the complaints filed against them in the CFPB. Customers allege misleading information, improper use of personal information and even fraudulent practices. Although the complaints are few when compared to other lenders, these allegations should warrant a prompt response.

PenFed: Best Auto Refinance Rates

Pros

Cons

Ability to refinance 100% of your car loan balance

Excellent credit required for best rates

Provides rate discounts for using its car buying service

Membership is required

Easy online application takes less than five minutes

PenFed auto loans are not eligible

Zero application or processing fees

No cash-out refinance or lease buyout

No prepayment penalties

Offers credit counseling

Loan amounts

APR rates

Loan terms

Up to $100,000

Starting at 1.79%

36 to 84 months

PenFed Credit Union offers some of the lowest auto refinance rates on the market for both new and used cars. Repayment terms range from 36 months to 84 months.

Interest rates start at 2.14% for a new car refinance, and 2.99% for a used car refinance. A new car is one where you are the vehicle’s original loan owner, and the car is a model year 2020 or 2019. The maximum loan amount you can get from PenFed is $100,000.

Optional add-ons include Guaranteed Asset Protection (GAP), an extended warranty, and debt protection.

Auto Credit Express: Best for Low Credit Auto Refinancing

Pros

Cons

Minimal requirements to qualify

Partner lenders may have high interest rates for low credit applicants

Specializes in borrowers with low credit score

Requirements, rates and loan terms not available online

Military and service members may get lowest rates, down payments, and discounts

Options limited to the Auto Credit Express dealership network

Offers cash-out refinancing

Quick online application takes less than 3 minutes, with a soft credit pull

Loan amounts

APR rates

Loan terms

Not provided online

Not provided online

Not provided online

Auto Credit Express specializes in helping people with average to poor credit get a better rate on their loans, especially if you’ve been making on-time payments on your current loan for at least 18 months. They do this by connecting you to one of their specialized indirect lenders or via their finance department.

There’s no credit minimum, but a score of 580 is recommended. Additionally, if you’re looking to know more about the lending industry, Auto Credit Express has excellent learning resources, including in-depth blogs and instructional videos.

MyAutoLoan.com: Best for Fair Credit

Pros

Cons

30 days to decide

Not available in Alaska or Hawaii

No application fee

Maximum vehicle mileage of 125,000 miles (or 120,000 miles for private party loans)

Minimum credit score requirement of 575

Maximum vehicle age: 10 years

Good credentials can get you an APR as low as 1.99%

Loan amounts

APR rates

Loan terms

Minimum $8,000

APR as low as 1.99%

24 to 72 months

MyAutoLoan.com connects borrowers with fair credit to lenders with competitive rates and a wide variety of financing options focused on low-interest loans, whether you’re buying from a private party, refinancing your car or purchasing a motorcycle.

You will need an income of at least $1,800 per month and a credit score of 575 or higher to submit an online application.

MyAutoLoan.com’s partners don’t offer loans lower than $8,000, and the service will do a hard inquiry on your credit report, so don’t apply unless you’re serious about refinancing your loan.

Lightstream: Best for Great Credit

Pros

Cons

No restrictions on car mileage or age

Best for good or excellent credit only

Lease buyout available

Hard credit pull required to apply

No fees or prepayment penalties

No cash-out refinancing

Rate match available

#1 for customer satisfaction in JD Power’s 2020 Consumer Lending Satisfaction Study

Loan amounts

APR rates

Loan terms

$5,000 to $100,000

Starting at 2.49%

24 to 84 months

Lightstream is an online loan provider backed by Truist, previously known as SunTrust Bank. The lender stands out for its customer service, low rates, flexible vehicle requirements on auto loans, and the $100 back they offer if you’re not satisfied after finalizing the loan.

The lack of restrictions on car mileage or age means consumers can refinance new cars, used cars and even classic cars.

Applicants who meet the high credit requirements can enjoy same-day funding and fixed, low interest loans.

Other Auto Refinance Companies We Considered

RefiJet

Pros

Cons

The annual percentage rate (APR) starts at 2.49%

Vehicles must be less than 10 years old

Offers lease buyout

Mileage must not exceed 150,000 miles

Educational resources on website

No consumer experience data con the CFPB

Pre-qualify with soft credit pull

Auto Approve

Pros

Cons

APR rates start at 2.24%

No standout features to rank in our top picks

Terms range from 12 to 84 months

Offers lease buyout option

Pre-qualify with a soft credit check

No application fee

Lendingclub

Pros

Cons

Loan marketplace and rate comparison site

Vehicles must be less than 10 years old

Pre-qualify and compare rates from multiple lenders

Mileage must not exceed 120,000

Subject to FTC enforcement action in 2018 for misleading “no hidden fees” statement, unauthorized double payments, and an unclear privacy policy, among others.

Bank of America

Pros

Cons

Rates start at 3.39% APR if you qualify

Vehicles must be less than 10 years old

Loan terms range from 48 to 72 months

Mileage must not exceed 125,000 miles

Offers lease buyouts

Large lender with a high number of complaints filed with the CFPB

Car loan calculator to help determine savings

Capital One

Pros

Cons

Online pre-qualification and loan application

Minimum monthly income requirement ranges from $1,500 to $1,800

Loan is finalized online

Vehicle must be less than 7 years old

Auto loans serviced by Capital One are not eligible

Large lender with a high number of complaints filed with the CFPB

Auto Refinancing Guide

Pros and Cons of Auto Refinancing

Refinancing saves you the most when your credit has improved after taking out your current auto loan. However, it’s not a decision to be made lightly.

Pros

Cons

Refinancing with a longer term decreases your monthly car payments

Extending the loan term will increase the total interest you’ll be paying

Short-term refinancing saves you money in the long run

Shortening the loan term increases your monthly payments

Lower interest rates

Prepayment penalties and refinancing fees can offset any interest rate savings

A down-payment isn’t necessary

Lenders may charge an origination fee on the new loan

Older cars or cars with high mileage may not be eligible

How Refinancing Affects Your Credit

When you submit a formal application, lenders will do a “hard inquiry” or “hard pull” on your credit to check your creditworthiness. This decreases your credit score, although minimally and temporarily.

Fortunately, credit bureaus and the VantageScore and FICO Score systems encourage loan shopping by preventing continuous inquiries from harming your score. Multiple credit pulls will only count as one if they’re done within a 14-45 day window.

Some lenders allow you to apply for pre-qualification, and look at your credit with a “soft inquiry.” This won’t impact your credit score.

Unauthorized hard inquiries are not unheard of, even from lenders that advertise “no hard inquiries,” so make sure the lender is trustworthy. If you find unauthorized inquiries on your report, here are steps you can take to remove them on your own.

Your score will drop again very slightly after finalizing the loan, because a refinance counts as new debt. Since this new debt is effectively replacing an older debt, the credit drop is negligible.

How to Find a Good Auto Refinance Company

A suitable lender will help you understand all your options, including those that best fit your long-term financial goals. Take the time to research a lender, whether you found the company on your own or through a marketplace. Start with the following steps:

Dollar signs on balance
Dollar signs on balance

Look at financial stability

Credit rating agencies like Moody’s, Standard and Poor’s, and Fitch Group help you assess your lender’s financial health. Healthier financial institutions tend to offer the best auto loan rates, especially if you’re a highly qualified borrower.

Exclamation marks inside a speech bubble
Exclamation marks inside a speech bubble

Check customer complaints and regulatory actions

Consumers often file complaints with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) or the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The CFPB’s complaint database is public and you can read all the past complaints filed against the company. Try and be thorough, since there’s a big difference between “this company had rude customer service” and “this company was sued for $20 million in a class-action suit.”

The FTC does not publish individual complaints, but you can search case documents to see if a lender has been subject to FTC regulatory actions and the reasons behind it.

Magnifying glass looking through circle
Magnifying glass looking through circle

Expect transparency

Legitimate companies will be transparent about their operations, partners, and underwriters. If this information is incomplete or missing, always move on to another company.

Hand receiving coins
Hand receiving coins

Be wary of upfront fees

Look out for companies that require you to pay upfront for their services. These platforms are trying to make money off of you instead of making sure you’re connected with a quality lender.

Padlock
Padlock

Look into privacy policies

Find out how the lender or marketplace protects your privacy before submitting personal information. Legitimate sites will publish their privacy policies online.

Binoculars
Binoculars

Keep your eyes open

If something feels off with a company, or if the terms of the loan seem too good to be true, chances are they are. Avoid these companies at all costs.

Common Pre-qualification Requirements

To refinance an auto loan, you need to meet your new lender’s requirements. Make sure you learn what these are before submitting a formal application.

Current loan payments must be up to date

You must be up to date with your current car loan payments or it will be impossible to qualify for a new loan.

Current loan cannot be upside down

Being upside-down on a car loan means you owe more than the car is worth. If this is the case, you won’t be able to refinance your loan. You need to have equity in your vehicle to qualify for auto loan refinancing.

Lender specific car-age and mileage requirements

Each lender will have requirements for your car’s age and mileage. If it’s too old or has too many miles on it, you won’t qualify for refinancing.

Lender-specific minimum balance requirement

Each lender has a minimum and maximum amount they’ll refinance. If your loan’s current balance is too low or too high, you won’t qualify.

Car should not be “branded”

Lenders won’t refinance cars that are “branded,” such as rebuilt or salvaged vehicles or commercial vehicles.

Cash-Out Refinance

If there is enough equity in your current loan, you can refinance for more than you’d need to pay off the existing loan, and keep the extra cash. This is called a “cash-out” refinance.

Pros

Cons

Lower interest rates than other quick cash options, like personal loans or credit cards

Higher risk of going “upside down”

Immediate access to cash to settle other debts

Higher monthly payments

Fewer lender options, since not all auto lenders offer cash-out refinancing

An “upside down” auto loan means you owe more than the car is worth. This becomes a problem if you ever need to sell the car. The sale price probably wouldn’t generate enough to pay off your negative equity and you’d have to come up with the rest of the money somehow.

Refinancing a Car Lease

Refinancing a car lease can be used to reduce the high rates on a leasing agreement. However, before deciding, consider the pros and the cons:

Pros

Cons

Reduce high interest rates

Lose out on the money that you already paid into the lease

Lower monthly payment

Pay more in prepayment penalties

Speak with your lender about a lease replacement if refinancing isn’t the best option for you. This just means swapping out your current lease for one with more favorable terms and interest rates.

Options for breaking your car lease include transferring the lease, selling your car back to the dealership, or selling the vehicle to another person. Each of these has associated costs, so evaluate each alternative thoroughly before deciding to refinance or break a lease.

Tips to Remember about Refinancing Auto Loans

  • Check refinance options with your current lender, especially if you have a long credit history with the company

  • Check that there are no prepayment penalties with your current lender

  • Check if the new lender does soft or hard credit checks before submitting any personal information to online lenders

  • Keep paying your old vehicle loan until you get confirmation from your previous lender that the loan has been refinanced

  • Make sure the benefits of a “cash-out “refinance justify higher payments for the next several years and determine the use of your cash. If the money eliminates a high-interest debt, it may be worth it, but if it leaves you further in debt, reconsider.

  • Your new lender will require proof of insurance. You can stay with your current insurance policy if it fits the new lender’s requirements, but if you want to change, look for the best auto insurance companies and the most affordable providers.

Steps to Apply for Auto Refinance

Check the health of your credit score
Check the health of your credit score

If you have good credit, you’ll likely get a better deal.

Gather all the information about your current loan
Gather all the information about your current loan

Having all your information at hand will help speed the application process.

Research new lenders and compare rates
Research new lenders and compare rates

While it may take some time, thoroughly researching your new lenders can not only help you compare rates, but also id any red flags.

File for pre-qualification, if available
File for pre-qualification, if available

Getting prequalified, when available, presents you as a good candidate for refinance.

Submit an application
Submit an application

Once you’ve gathered all your documents and have chosen a lender, it’s time to apply.

Evaluate the terms
Evaluate the terms

Carefully read the loan’s fine print and terms.

Finalize the loan
Finalize the loan

Documents you will need:

☑ Social security number
☑ Employment information
☑ Residence information
☑ Driver’s license
☑ Car registration and mileage information
☑ Proof of insurance

COVID-19 and the Auto Loan Industry

Unemployment rates have remained stagnant at 6.1%, meaning that many people are most likely struggling with loan payments, including car loans.

Auto loans were omitted from the CARES act because these loans aren’t secured — or guaranteed — by the federal government. However, this doesn’t mean that help isn’t available, as many lenders are offering relief for customers in some form or another.

On the upside, car loan interest rates have dropped nationwide, so it may be a good time to refinance your car loan if you can afford it and have good credit.

Lenders were more cautious approving car loans and refinancing because economic prospects were still unstable at the start of the pandemic, but now, lenders are easing up requirements in certain areas, including auto loans.

Auto Refinance Companies FAQ

How to refinance a car?

To refinance an auto loan, gather all the necessary documents. Then, evaluate your credit profile, your car’s information to determine if refinancing is beneficial and if you qualify. Lenders will post their requirements online and some even allow you to file for pre-qualification.

Before starting the application process, shop around and compare offers from different lenders. When you settle on the best one, submit a formal application and wait for the lender’s formal offer. If accepted, you can finalize the document, settle the previous loan, and start your loan payments with the new lender.

When should I refinance my car?

You should refinance an auto loan if it helps you save money, when you have a good credit score or when your score has improved. Refinancing your car loan with better credit can get you better interest rates, and help you negotiate for a reduced loan term length.

You shouldn’t consider refinancing your car loan if you’re financially stressed or if your loan value goes underwater, meaning that the loan’s value is higher than what your car is worth. This type of loan will impact your loan to value ratio, and significantly reduce the chances of receiving favorable loan terms for a refinance.

Can I get a loan with bad credit?

You can get a car loan with bad credit, but it will be more challenging. Lenders use credit scores to evaluate a borrower’s risk, and set your rates accordingly. People with low credit will have higher rates than those with a good or excellent credit score.

Some lenders do specialize on loans for customers with fair to poor credit, like MyAutoLoan.com and Auto Credit Express.

What is auto refinance?

Auto refinancing replaces existing debt with a new loan, better terms and better interest rates. It is common to go with a new lender, but you can refinance through your current one, as long as they offer the option. Take the time to shop around because there is a chance that the rates provided by them aren’t the cheapest on the market. Auto refinancing will also give you the chance to apply for a cash-out refinance and earn extra money, or to buy out the lease on your car.

How many times can you refinance a car?

Legally, you can refinance a car as many times as you want if you find a lender willing to extend you a new loan. Lenders may be apprehensive about refinancing if they see multiple past refinances on your vehicle and even if you get approved, there are other financial risks to consider.

Repeated refinances and loan term extensions increase the risk of going “upside down” on your loan. You may also end up paying more than the original loan amount, just in interest rates.

Can I transfer my car loan to another person?

You can transfer your car loan to someone else if the new lender allows it. Loan transfers may come with a transferring and/or merchant fee and lenders always check that the transferee has good credit and income, to prevent loan defaults. The transfer won’t be approved if the person’s creditworthiness and income aren’t up to par.

How We Chose the Best Auto Refinance Companies

With more than 100 hours of research and after vetting 15 companies, we based our evaluations on two categories: loan details and customer experience.

Loan details

Loan types

Auto refinance companies and marketplace should offer more than just your typical car loan refinance options, such as used auto loans, lease buyouts, and cash refinancing

Qualification requirements

Credit scores are highly important for auto refinancing, so we made sure that our list offers options for people with high or low credit scores.

Customer Experience

Reputability

We required companies to be transparent regarding partners, loan offers, contracts, and possible rates– otherwise, they were discarded immediately. To check for complaints, we searched the databases of the CFPB and the FTC. Those with the least complaints made our list.

Accessibility

We made sure that companies had multiple lines of communication, including live chat, phone calls, emails, and fillable request forms.

Summary of Money’s Best Auto Refinance Companies

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