Navigating Auto Loans with a Cosigner:
How much does it Help

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Updated: May 11, 2023
author photo Written by Louis BakerUpdated: May 11, 2023
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Getting an auto loan can be challenging, especially when your credit history or finances are holding you back. But fear not! A cosigner can be the missing piece you need to secure the vehicle of your dreams.

In this ultimate guide, we'll explain how much a cosigner can help with auto loans and provide valuable insights into the pros, cons, and factors to consider before proceeding.

Whether you're a borrower or considering cosigning for a loved one, this article will give you the confidence to navigate shared auto loans like a pro. Get ready to unlock your auto loan success with the power of cosigners!

What is a co-signer for an auto loan?

In an auto loan, a co-signer is someone who assumes shared responsibility with the primary borrower. Co-signer will be a family member or some close to the primary borrower requested by the lender that would ensure the loans on the automobile are paid.

Borrowers frequently rely on co-signers if they encounter obstacles in securing loan approval independently, such as poor credit ratings, restricted credit history, or insufficient income.

How Much Does a Cosigner Help on Auto Loans?

Improved Chance of Loan Approval

When a primary borrower has a low credit history or insufficient income, lenders may be hesitant to approve the loan application. However, having a co-signer with a strong credit profile and stable financial situation can increase the probability of getting your loan approved.

A co-signer can act as a guarantor for the loan and share the responsibility of repayment. By agreeing to cosign the loan, the co-signer shows the lender that they are willing to step in and make the payments in case the primary borrower defaults on the loan.

More Favorable Loan Terms

Having a cosigner with a high credit score can also lead to better loan terms, such as lower interest rates and more favorable repayment terms. This can result in significant savings over the life of the loan for the primary borrower.

To illustrate the impact of a cosigner on auto loans, let's consider an example:

  • Primary borrower's credit score: 620
  • Loan amount: $20,000
  • Loan term: 60 months (5 years)

Without a cosigner, the primary borrower might be offered an interest rate of 10% due to their low credit score. In this scenario, their monthly payment would be approximately $424.94, and they would pay a total of $5,496.40 in interest over the 5-year term.

Now, let's assume the primary borrower has a cosigner with a credit score of 750. With the cosigner's strong credit profile, the lender might offer a reduced interest rate of 4%. In this case, the primary borrower's monthly payment would be approximately $368.33, and they would pay a total of $2,099.80 in interest over the 5-year term.

In this scenario, the primary borrower would save:

  • $56.61 per month in monthly payments
  • A total of $3,396.60 in interest over the life of the loan

Advantages of Having a Cosigner on an Auto Loan

1. Higher chance of loan approval: Having a co-signer can lead to improved chances of loan approval and ultimately help you get behind the wheel of your dream car. A co-signer acts as a guarantor, assuring the lender that the loan will be repaid, even if the primary borrower defaults.

2. More favorable loan terms: A co-signer with a strong credit profile can help you qualify for a loan with a lower interest rate, more extended repayment period, or access to a higher loan amount.

However, it's important to note that a co-signer is not a guarantee of better loan terms. The lender will also consider other factors, such as your credit score, income, and debt-to-income ratio, when determining your loan terms.

3. Establishing or rebuilding credit: Making timely payments on an auto loan is one of the most effective ways to improve credit scores over time. Consistently making on-time payments will gradually increase your credit score.

This will make it easier to get approved for other types of loans, such as a mortgage or credit card, in the future without needing a co-signer.

4. Opportunity to purchase a better car: Co-signers are beneficial on auto loans because they can help secure a larger loan amount or better loan terms. With a lower interest rate, the primary borrower can purchase a better car that may have been out of your reach without a cosigner.

5. Financial guidance and support: Co-signer may be able to offer advice on managing finances and making responsible credit decisions. This can help primary borrowers develop good financial habits that will serve them well throughout their life.

Disadvantages of Having a Cosigner on an Auto Loan

1. Cosigner's credit at risk: Failure to make your payments on time will negatively impact your cosigner's credit score, which could affect his ability to get approved for loans or credit in the future.

Furthermore, if the primary borrower defaults on the auto loan, the lender may take legal action against both the primary borrower and co-signer to recover the funds. This could result in co-signer facing wage garnishment, lawsuits, or other financial consequences that could severely impact their credit score and overall financial health.

2. Potential financial liability: The cosigner is legally obligated to cover missed payments or the entire outstanding balance if the primary borrower defaults on the loan. This can result in financial strain for the cosigner, especially if they have their own debts to manage.

3. Impact on cosigner's debt-to-income (DTI) ratio: Knowing that a cosigned auto loan could impact the cosigner's debt-to-income (DTI) ratio is important.

When cosigning a loan, the debt is added to the co-signer’s credit report, and the monthly payments are included in their DTI ratio. This increased DTI ratio may affect the cosigner's eligibility to secure a new line of credit, such as a mortgage or personal loan.

4. Difficulty in removing a cosigner: Removing a cosigner from an auto loan typically requires refinancing the loan in your own name. This can be a challenge if your credit score has not improved significantly since the original loan was approved or if interest rates have increased.

Additionally, refinancing can result in additional fees and expenses that you may not have anticipated.

Another challenge of removing a cosigner is that they may not be willing to be removed from the loan. This can be particularly problematic if the cosigner is a family member or friend who has a vested interest in the loan or if they are concerned about their own credit score.

5. Possible tension in personal relationships: If the primary borrower is unable to make payments on the loan or is struggling financially, this can put a lot of pressure on the cosigner. They may feel like they're being asked to help out more than they anticipated, or they may feel resentful if they're forced to make payments on the loan.

When Do You Need a Cosigner on an Auto Loan?

There are several situations where having a cosigner on an auto loan can be beneficial or even necessary for the primary borrower. Here are some scenarios where a cosigner may be needed:

1. Low credit score or limited credit history: It’s usually hard for borrowers with poor credit or limited credit history to get approved or qualify for low-interest rates on auto loans. However, if you manage to find a reliable cosigner with good credit, it can significantly improve your approval rate as it poses less risk to the lenders once they approve.

2. Limited employment history: Lenders typically prefer borrowers with stable employment, as it indicates a consistent income source. If the primary borrower has a short employment history or has recently changed jobs, a cosigner can provide additional assurance to the lender that the loan will be repaid.

3. High debt-to-income (DTI) ratio: When the DTI ratio is high, it implies that the primary borrower might face challenges in repaying the loan along with their current debt responsibilities. However, if a cosigner with a lower DTI ratio is present, it can alleviate the lender's concerns and enhance the probability of loan approval.

4. Qualifying for lower interest rates: If the primary borrower only qualifies for high-interest rates due to their credit profile, a cosigner with a strong credit score can help secure a lower interest rate, reducing the overall cost of the loan.

5. Rejection by lenders:  Rejection by lenders is a common problem when seeking an auto loan, but having a cosigner can increase your chances of approval. With their financial history, high income, and other factors, cosigners can help lenders assess your creditworthiness, making you a less risky borrower.

When Not to Have a Co-signer on an Auto Loan?

1. Have potential conflicts with your cosigner: Borrowing money can be a sensitive subject, and if there are already underlying issues between the primary borrower and cosigner, adding a loan agreement to the mix can amplify those issues.

This can be especially true if the primary borrower runs into financial troubles and struggle to make payments on the auto loan. If the primary borrower is not confident that they can maintain a good relationship with the cosigner, it's best to avoid cosigning an auto loan.

2. Possible influence on future credit opportunities: If the cosigner plans to apply for a significant loan, such as a mortgage or a business loan, in the near future, cosigning an auto loan could affect their debt-to-income ratio and hinder their ability to obtain new lines of credit.

In these situations, it may be better for the primary borrower to explore alternative options, such as saving for a larger down payment, improving their credit score, or considering more affordable vehicles that can be financed without needing a cosigner.

Co-signer vs. Co-applicant

While both roles involve sharing responsibility for the loan, there are distinct differences in their involvement and the impact on their credit profiles. In this section, we will explore the key differences between a co-signer and a co-applicant and provide insights to help determine which role is more appropriate for your specific situation.


A co-signer is an individual who agrees to share responsibility for the auto loan with the primary borrower. Their primary purpose is to provide additional assurance to the lender that the loan will be repaid.

Co-signers typically get involved in the loan application process when the primary borrower's credit score is low, their credit history is limited, or they face other challenges that hinder their ability to obtain a loan on their own.

Key characteristics of a co-signer:

1. Co-signers only have ownership rights to the vehicle when their names are on the title.

2. Co-signers are liable for the auto loan payments only if the primary borrower fails to repay or defaults on the auto loan.

3. The auto loan activity, including any late payments or defaults, will be reported on both the primary borrower's and the co-signer's credit reports. This implies that the loan's payment history can affect both parties' credit scores.

4. Co-signers have limited control over the loan, as they are not directly involved in managing the loan or making decisions about the vehicle. Their role is solely to guarantee the loan payments in the event the primary borrower is unable to meet their obligation.


An individual who applies for an auto loan alongside the primary borrower is commonly referred to as a co-applicant, joint applicant, or co-borrower. In this arrangement, both parties have equal responsibility for repaying the loan and share ownership rights to the vehicle.

Co-applicants are often involved when two or more individuals plan to share ownership of the car, such as spouses or business partners.

Key characteristics of a co-applicant:

1. Equal ownership rights to the vehicle are granted to co-applicants, and their names are listed on the title.

2. The responsibility for making loan payments and managing the loan during its term is shared equally between both parties.

3. The auto loan is reported on the credit reports of both applicants, and the payment history of the loan can impact both parties' credit scores.

4. Co-applicants possess the same level of control and decision-making power as the primary borrower concerning the loan and the vehicle.

Which Role is Right for Your Situation?

When deciding whether to involve a co-signer or a co-applicant in an auto loan, consider the following factors:

  • Purpose: If the objective is to assist a primary borrower with a bad credit history in acquiring a loan, then a cosigner might be the ideal option. However, if two or more individuals desire to share ownership of the vehicle and make equivalent loan payments, a co-applicant arrangement could be more appropriate.
  • Ownership: Co-signers do not have ownership rights to the vehicle, while co-applicants do. Consider whether the individual providing support should have an ownership interest in the vehicle.
  • Responsibility: Both co-signers and co-applicants are responsible for the loan, but co-signers only become responsible if the primary borrower fails to make payments. Co-applicants, on the other hand, are responsible for the loan from the start and share equal responsibility for managing the loan.
  • Credit impact: While both arrangements can impact the credit scores of those involved, the degree of responsibility and control varies. Co-signers have restricted control over the loan, whereas co-applicants possess the same amount of control and decision-making power as the primary borrower.

Additional Considerations

Before deciding on whether to involve a co-signer or a co-applicant in an auto loan, both parties should consider the following:

  • Financial stability: The person assuming the role of co-signer or co-applicant should have a stable financial history, a good credit score, and the ability to cover loan payments if necessary. If either party has financial difficulties, it might be better to wait until their financial situation improves before proceeding with a shared loan.
  • Interpersonal interactions: Co-signing or co-applying for an auto loan has the potential to affect the relationship between the parties involved. Both arrangements can lead to stress and potential conflicts, particularly if either party faces difficulties in meeting their financial obligations.
  • Therefore, it is crucial to establish transparent communication and trust before entering into such an agreement.

  • Future credit opportunities: Both co-signing and co-applying for a loan can affect the involved parties' debt-to-income ratios, which may impact their ability to secure future credit. Before agreeing to either role, consider the potential impact on your credit profile and your plans for future borrowing.

What are the Requirements for Auto Loan Co-signers?

The requirements for auto loan co-signers can vary depending on the lender and the specific auto loan program. However, there are several general requirements that most lenders look for in a co-signer to ensure they are a reliable and financially stable party who can provide the necessary support to the primary borrower.

Here is a more detailed list of common requirements for auto loan co-signers:

  • Good credit score: A high credit score is a requirement for co-signers, generally a minimum of 670, considered to be a "good" credit score. Having a higher credit score can improve the chances of loan approval and result in more favorable loan terms, such as lower interest rates.
  • Financial Stability: The financial stability of a co-signer is crucial as they must have a consistent and adequate income to ensure they can cover loan payments if the primary borrower cannot. Lenders may request proof of income, such as tax returns or pay stubs, to verify that the co-signer can provide financial support.
  • Low debt-to-income (DTI) ratio: A co-signer with a low DTI ratio is seen as less of a risk to lenders, as they are more likely to have the financial flexibility to manage the additional debt. A lower DTI ratio (typically below 36%) indicates that the co-signer has a healthy balance between their income and existing debt obligations.
  • Good credit history: Lenders prefer co-signers with a history of responsible credit use, which indicates that they are less likely to default on the loan.

    A co-signer with a track record of timely payments, responsible use of credit lines, and a diverse credit mix is more appealing to lenders.

  • US citizenship or permanent residency: Most lenders require co-signers to be either US citizens or permanent residents to ensure they have a legal obligation to repay the loan and can be held accountable in case of default.
  • Age: The co-signer must be at least 18 years old (or the age of majority in their state) to enter into a legally binding contract.
  • Valid identification: During the loan application process, co-signers are required to present valid identification, which may include a passport or driver's license, to verify their identity.
  • Address and contact information: The co-signer must provide their current address and contact information so the lender can communicate with them regarding the loan.
  • Willingness to assume legal responsibility: The co-signer has to agree to take on the legal obligation of the loan, acknowledging that they will be held responsible for the debt if the primary borrower is unable to make payments.

It's important to note that each lender may have its own specific requirements for co-signers, so it's essential to review the lender's criteria carefully before agreeing to co-sign an auto loan. By meeting these requirements, a co-signer can greatly improve the chances of loan approval and help the primary borrower secure better loan terms.

What are the Rights and Obligations of Auto Loan Cosigners?

Rights of Auto Loan Co-signers

1. Access to loan details: Co-signers are entitled to information related to the auto loan, including the loan balance, payment history, and the loan agreement's terms. This allows co-signers to track the loan's progress and ensure that the primary borrower meets their payment obligations on time.

2. Maintain open communication with the lender: Co-signers have the right to communicate directly with the lender to ask questions, address concerns, or request information about the loan. This can help co-signers stay informed about the loan's progress and address any issues that may arise.

3. Being informed of any changes or issues related to the loan: Co-signers have the right to be notified by the lender if the loan terms change or if the primary borrower misses payments or defaults on the loan. This allows co-signers to take action to protect their credit and fulfill their responsibilities.

Obligations of Auto Loan Co-signers

1. Loan repayment: As a co-signer, you share equal responsibility for repaying the loan with the primary borrower. If the borrower fails to make payments, you are legally obligated to cover the missed payments, and you may also be responsible for late fees or other penalties.

2. Credit impact: When co-signing an auto loan, the loan's performance will impact your credit score, just like the primary borrower's score. If the primary borrower makes payments on time, both your credit scores will improve. But if they miss payments or default on the loan, both of your credit scores will be adversely affected.

3. Legal liability: If the primary borrower fails to make loan payments, both the co-signer and the primary borrower could face legal consequences, including asset seizure, wage garnishment, and court proceedings. The lender may take legal action against both parties to recover the outstanding debt. 

4. Support and guidance: Co-signers should be prepared to offer support and guidance to the primary borrower to ensure they manage the auto loan responsibly. This may include discussing budgeting, helping to track loan payments, or providing advice on how to improve their credit score.

5. Monitoring the loan: Co-signers are accountable for monitoring the loan's status and ensuring that the primary borrower is fulfilling their payment obligations and addressing any problems that may arise. By staying informed about the loan, co-signers can safeguard their credit and offer better support to the primary borrower.

6. Understanding the loan terms: Co-signers should carefully review and understand the loan terms before agreeing to co-sign. This includes the interest rate, repayment terms, fees, and any potential penalties for late payments or default.

By being aware of their rights and responsibilities, auto loan co-signers can provide valuable support to the primary borrower while also protecting their own financial interests. Both parties should discuss and agree on their roles and expectations before entering into a co-signing agreement.

How does cosigning for an auto loan work?

Cosigning for an auto loan involves the following steps:

1. Application: The primary borrower and co-signer submit a joint application to the lender, including personal and financial information for both parties.

This may involve providing documentation such as pay stubs, tax returns, and proof of identity. Both parties should be prepared to answer questions about their credit history, employment, and overall financial situation.

2. Credit check: The approval and terms of the loan will be based on the credit scores and credit history of both the primary borrower and co-signer.

A strong credit score from the co-signer can balance out the primary borrower's weaker credit profile, improving the likelihood of loan approval and potentially securing more favorable loan terms, such as lower interest rates.

3. Loan approval: If the lender approves the loan, both the primary borrower and co-signer are legally bound to the terms of the loan agreement.

The co-signer's role is to act as a guarantor, ensuring that the loan will be repaid even if the primary borrower fails to make payments. The co-signer should carefully review the loan agreement and be fully aware of their responsibilities before signing.

4. Loan disbursement: After loan approval, the funds are typically transferred directly to the car dealership or seller if it's a private sale. The primary borrower can then utilize the funds to buy the vehicle.

5. Repayment: The primary borrower is responsible for making monthly payments on the auto loan according to the agreed-upon terms. The co-signer's role is to act as a backup in case the primary borrower fails to make payments.

If the primary borrower misses a payment or defaults on the auto loan, the co-signer is legally obligated to cover the missed payments or the entire outstanding balance, depending on the terms of the loan agreement.

6. Credit reporting: The credit bureaus will be notified of the loan's status for both the primary borrower and the co-signer. If the primary borrower makes payments on time, it will have a positive impact on the credit scores of both parties.

However, if the primary borrower fails to make payments or defaults on the loan, it will negatively affect the credit scores of both parties.

7. Loan completion: Once the loan is fully repaid, the primary borrower and co-signer's legal obligation to the debt is fulfilled. A successfully repaid auto loan can positively affect both parties' credit history and potentially improve their credit scores.

Can I remove a cosigner from an auto loan?

Yes, you can remove a cosigner from an auto loan, but it typically requires refinancing the loan solely in the primary borrower's name.

Refinancing is the process of applying for a new loan to pay off the existing loan, effectively transferring the debt to the primary borrower and releasing the cosigner from their obligations.

Removing a cosigner from an auto loan through refinancing involves the primary borrower proving their capability to repay the loan without the cosigner's assistance.

To accomplish this, the primary borrower may need to show an enhanced credit score, a steady income source, and a favorable debt-to-income ratio.

It is important for the primary borrower to explore several refinancing options as interest rates and terms can differ significantly among various lenders. By doing so, they can secure the best refinancing terms that fit their financial situation.

Keep in mind that refinancing an auto loan may come with certain fees and costs, such as loan origination fees. or prepayment penalties on the original loan.


The presence of a cosigner can significantly enhance the likelihood of loan approval for borrowers with a limited credit history or low credit scores, as well as help obtain more favorable interest rates.

However, both parties should be mindful of their respective responsibilities, the impact on their credit scores, and the potential to strain relationships.

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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