Auto Loans Made Easy:
A First-Time Buyer's Guide [2023]

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Updated: May 11, 2023
author photo Written by Louis BakerUpdated: May 11, 2023
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Embarking on the journey to buy your first car is an exciting milestone, but navigating the auto loan process can feel overwhelming. In this must-read guide to "Auto Loans for First-Time Buyers," we'll be your trusty GPS, guiding you through every twist and turn of the financing process.

Whether you're a fresh graduate or a young professional, your limited credit history is no longer a roadblock. We'll introduce you to diverse financing options, eligibility criteria, and insider tips to boost your chances of getting the green light on your loan application. Let's dive in!

Three Auto Loan Options for First-time Buyers


MyAutoloan is an online marketplace that connects first-time car buyers with multiple lenders to find the best loan offers. It's best for applicants who want to compare multiple loan offers from various lenders quickly and easily.

Note: MyAutoloan is not available in Alaska, Hawaii, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, and South Dakota. If you reside in any of these states, you will not be able to use MyAutoloan to apply for an auto loan.

Est. APR: 2.49% - 29.99%.

Loan amount: $8,000 - $100,000.


  • Diverse loan options.
  • Fast and simple online application.
  • Pre-qualification available.


  • Some lenders may expect a high credit score.
  • Some lenders exclude first-time buyers from their loan offerings.


  • Min. credit score: 550.
  • Minimum annual gross income: $21,000.
  • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: 50%.
  • Bankruptcy-related restrictions: Must be discharged or dismissed.


CarMax is a national used car retailer that offers financing solutions for first-time buyers. It's best for applicants who want to purchase a used vehicle from CarMax and are looking for a simple and straightforward loan process.

Est. APR: 3.24% - 19.99%.

Loan amount: Varies based on the vehicle price.


  • Clear and open pricing and financing options.
  • In-house financing available.
  • A diverse selection of used automobiles.


  • Restricted to vehicles in CarMax's stock
  • Buyers with lower credit scores may be asked to provide a higher down payment.


  • Min. credit score: No minimum.
  • Minimum annual gross income: Not specified.
  • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: Not specified.
  • Bankruptcy-related restrictions: Case-by-case basis.

Auto Approve

Auto Approve is an online auto loan refinance company that also offers loans for first-time buyers. It's best for applicants who have already chosen a vehicle and are looking for competitive loan rates from various lenders.

Note: Auto Approve is not available in the following states:

- Nevada

- Oregon

- Vermont

- West Virginia

- Wisconsin

- Wyoming

Est. APR: 2.25% - 29.99%.

Loan amount: $7,500 - $100,000.


  • Extensive groups of loan providers.
  • Attractive loan rates.
  • Applies to various credit profiles.


  • Not a direct lender.
  • Restricts services to purchase loans and refinancing.


  • Min. credit score: 600.
  • Minimum annual gross income: $24,000.
  • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: 45%.
  • Bankruptcy-related restrictions: Must be discharged or dismissed.

Who is eligible for a first-time auto buyer loan?

First-time auto buyer loans are designed to help individuals who have limited or no credit history and are looking to purchase their first vehicle.

Lenders understand that first-time buyers might not have an established credit history and are generally more lenient with their requirements. Here's a general overview of who might be eligible for a first-time auto buyer loan:

  1. People with a restricted or nonexistent credit background: If you don't have prior loan experience or a credit card, you may qualify for a first-time auto buyer loan.

  2. Recent college graduates: Numerous financing institutions offer specialized loan programs for fresh college graduates who lack the opportunity to build their credit history.

  3. Individuals with a stable income: Lenders will consider your ability to repay the loan, so having a steady job and a stable income is important.

  4. Borrowers with a low debt-to-income ratio: Your debt-to-income ratio is the percentage of your monthly gross income that goes toward paying debts. Lenders prefer a lower ratio as it indicates you have a better ability to manage your monthly debt obligations.

  5. Borrowers with a co-signer or co-borrower: If you don't meet the eligibility requirements on your own, having a creditworthy co-signer or co-borrower can help increase your chances of getting approved for a first-time auto buyer loan.

Keep in mind that each lender has its specific requirements, so it's essential to review the qualifications for each loan option before applying.

Where to apply for a first-time car buyer loan?

There are several options for first-time car buyers to apply for an auto loan. Each option has its advantages and disadvantages, so it's crucial to research and compare them before making a decision.

Credit Unions

Credit unions are financial institutions that function as cooperatives, where members are the owners.

These institutions specialize in offering auto loans with flexible terms and competitive interest rates. Moreover, credit unions may provide unique programs and more accessible eligibility criteria designed for those who are first-time car buyers, ensuring a smoother purchasing experience.

In order to initiate the loan application process with a credit union, you must first fulfill the membership criteria. This usually consists of opening a savings account and maintaining a small balance.

Online Car Retailers

Online car retailers like Carvana and Vroom offer a one-stop shopping experience for buying a car and applying for financing.

They often have partnerships with lenders that cater to first-time buyers and can provide a seamless application process. Keep in mind that you'll be limited to the inventory available on their platform.

Captive Lenders

Captive lenders are finance companies associated with a specific automaker, like Ford Credit or Toyota Financial Services.

For first-time car buyers who choose their financing options, they may present attractive incentives like low-interest rates or cashback. However, it's important to note that these incentives come with the limitation of purchasing a vehicle simply from that specific automaker.

Marketplace Lenders

Marketplace lenders, like MyAutoloan or LendingTree, connect borrowers with multiple lenders through an online platform.

A single application allows you to receive multiple loan offers from different lenders, enabling you to easily compare rates and terms. This option proves especially beneficial for first-time buyers seeking the optimal loan without the need to apply separately to multiple lenders.

Ways to Improve your chances of first-time car buyer loan approval

By following these steps, you can improve your chances of securing a first-time car buyer loan with favorable terms and rates.

Know your credit score

When it comes to obtaining an auto loan, your credit score is a crucial factor in determining the interest rate you will qualify for. Therefore, it is wise to check your credit score beforehand to assess your creditworthiness and potential financial standing.

Average APR for new cars based on different credit scores:

  • Excellent (720+): 3.65%.
  • Good (690-719): 4.68%.
  • Fair (630-689): 6.04%.
  • Poor (300-629): 10.39%.

Average APR for used cars based on different credit scores:

  • Excellent (720+): 4.29%.
  • Good (690-719): 6.39%.
  • Fair (630-689): 9.45%.
  • Poor (300-629): 16.78%.

Review your credit report

Prior to submitting a loan application, it's important to perform a thorough inspection of your credit report for any inaccuracies or inconsistencies that could have adverse effects on your credit score.

It is your entitlement to receive a free credit report from the three major credit bureaus, namely Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, on an annual basis.

Look for special rate-reduction features

Some lenders offer rate reductions for borrowers who meet specific criteria, such as setting up automatic payments or having a qualifying bank account. Look for these features when comparing lenders to potentially lower your interest rate.

Use a co-signer or co-borrower

If you lack an extensive credit history, it may increase your likelihood of loan approval if you enlist a trustworthy co-borrower or co-signer to support your loan application. This individual would assume responsibility for the loan in the event that you are unable to make payments.

Compare lenders

Different lenders have different eligibility criteria and interest rates. Comparing multiple lenders can help you find the best loan option for your situation. Remember to factor in any fees like origination fees and the loan term when comparing loan offers.

Reduce the amount you borrow

By lowering the amount that you request in a loan, you increase your chances of being granted approval. One approach is to buy a less expensive car or explore opportunities with reduced monthly payments for the sake of minimizing the borrowing amount.

Increase your down payment

By making a great down payment, you can decrease the borrowing amount and exhibit your financial attitude to lenders. To optimize your chances of obtaining a loan, strive to provide a down payment of at least 10 to 20 percent of the vehicle's total purchase price.

Things You Need to Know about first-time car buyer programs

What is a first-time car buyer program?

A first-time car buyer program is a financing option offered by lenders, automakers, or dealerships that cater specifically to individuals purchasing their first vehicle.

These programs may provide special incentives, lower interest rates, or more flexible loan terms to make it easier for first-time buyers to get approved for an auto loan.

How do first-time car buyer programs work?

To assist individuals without a credit history in purchasing a vehicle, first-time car buyer programs provide customized financing options. These programs frequently feature more relaxed credit criteria and may include added advantages such as lower down payment obligations and reduced interest rates.

What are the requirements for a first-time car buyer program?

Requirements for first-time car buyer programs can vary depending on the lender or program, but they generally include:

  • Limited or no credit history.
  • Proof of steady income.
  • Stable employment history.
  • A low debt-to-income ratio.
  • A valid driver's license.
  • Proof of insurance.

Some programs may also require a co-signer or co-borrower, a minimum down payment, or completion of a financial education course.

How do I apply for a first-time car buyer program?

To apply for a first-time car buyer program, you'll need to research and identify a lender, automaker, or dealership that offers such a program. Then, gather the necessary documentation, such as proof of income, employment history, and your driver's license, and submit an application.

Is it possible to be eligible for first-time car buyer programs assuming that I am not a recent college graduate?

Yes, many programs exist for first-time car buyers that do not exclusively cater to those who have recently graduated from college. While some programs may have a specific emphasis on recent graduates, many others are designed to aid individuals with limited or no credit history, irrespective of educational background.


Should I buy new or used?

Deciding between a new or used car depends on your personal preferences, budget, and needs. Here are some factors to consider:

  • Budget: Used cars are generally less expensive than new ones, which can help keep your monthly payments lower.

  • Depreciation: New cars tend to depreciate faster than used cars, meaning they lose value more quickly. Buying a used car can help you avoid the steepest part of the depreciation curve.

  • Warranty and maintenance: Typically, new vehicles are accompanied by a manufacturer's warranty that can offer tranquility and the possibility of reducing maintenance expenses.

    In contrast, used cars often lack adequate or any warranty protection, leading to potentially increased costs for repair and upkeep out of the vehicle owner's pocket.

  • Technology and features: Modern cars typically have cutting-edge technology and advanced safety features, whereas pre-owned vehicles may have outdated or limited functionalities.

Consider your priorities and weigh the pros and cons of each option before making a decision.

Can I qualify for a First Time Auto Buyer Loan if I don't have established credit?

Yes, lenders understand that first-time buyers might not have an established credit history and are generally more lenient with their requirements. However, having a co-signer or co-borrower, a stable income, and a low debt-to-income ratio can improve your chances of getting approved for a loan.

What are the insurance requirements for an auto loan?

When you buy a car, the borrower is often obligated to maintain both comprehensive and collision insurance coverage. This requirement is imposed by the lender to ensure that their investment in the car is adequately protected.

Comprehensive insurance provides coverage for expenses related to repairing or replacing your vehicle in the event of accidents or theft, and other covered events. In addition, your lender may also oblige you to carry a minimum level of liability insurance to cover potential damages caused to other vehicles or property.

Should I purchase Affordable Guaranteed Auto Protection (GAP)?

GAP insurance serves as a protective measure that bridges the gap between the outstanding balance on your auto loan and the vehicle's fair market value in the event of a total loss or theft.

Prior evaluation of crucial factors such as loan terms, down payment, and the possibility of fast depreciation is crucial in determining the need for GAP insurance, particularly when a large loan balance is involved or if your vehicle is liable to quick depreciation. This coverage can serve as a valuable asset in such situations.


Being a first-time car buyer can be an exciting but challenging experience. By understanding the various loan options, eligibility requirements, and ways to improve your chances of approval, you can navigate the process more confidently and secure the financing you need to purchase your first vehicle.

Remember to compare lenders, know your credit score, and be prepared with the necessary documentation to increase your chances of success.

author photo

Written by

Louis Baker


Louis Baker started his career in 2017 by contracting with Experian. He also became a part-time content creator in various fields such as insurance, personal finance & investment, etc.

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