Should I Take the Zero-Percent Financing Offered by the Dealer?
Monday, Feb 22 2021
Q: I’m in the market for a new set of wheels, and I’ve seen some dealers advertising zero-percent financing. Should I take this offer?
A: An auto loan without any interest sounds like a dream; however, there are many considerations before deciding to take out a zero-percent financing loan. Let’s take a closer look at zero-percent financing so you can make an informed, responsible decision about your auto loan.
What is zero-percent financing?
An auto loan offer of zero-percent financing means the dealer financer is offering to lend the buyer money without charging any interest over the life of the loan.
With traditional loans, the lender is willing to extend money to the buyer because the lender will reap the benefits of the interest payments over the life of the loan. A zero-percent car loan, though, offers no reward for the lender. In fact, the loan is actually being offered by the auto manufacturer. The automaker stands to benefit from the loan as much as it would from an upfront cash payment for one of its cars. The only difference is that the money is earned over a longer time span. Automakers may offer zero-percent financing on slower-selling models or to help clear out stale inventory.
Can anyone qualify for zero-percent financing?
Zero-percent financing may be heavily advertised, but it can be difficult to qualify for one of these loans. They are typically only offered to buyers who have excellent credit, including a credit score above 700 and a long credit history. These buyers are more likely to make every payment on time and they may even pay off the loan early, making it low risk and profitable for the automaker.
It’s also important to note that not everyone can afford to take out a zero-percent financing loan. Since the lenders are only profiting from the actual sale on these loans, they will rarely agree to bargain down the price, nor do they offer any other incentives, such as cash-back rebates.
When is zero-percent financing a bad idea?
Zero-percent financing may not be in the best interest of buyers who can’t actually afford the loan. As mentioned, lenders generally will not bring down the price on a car with a zero-percent financing offer. Buyers may be blinded by the temptation of not paying any interest and therefore consider a vehicle that has a higher monthly price tag than they originally planned.
Another point to consider before committing to a zero-down financing loan is the term of the loan. Some of these loans feature shorter terms than traditional auto loans, sometimes as short as 36 months. This is a huge difference from the traditional loan term of 60 months and can significantly increase the monthly payment amount.
Even if the loan terms do meet the buyer’s needs, it still may be worthwhile to skip the zero-percent financing and take out a traditional loan so the buyer will not miss out on cash-back rebates. These are typically not available on auto loans with special financing offers and can mean missing out on robust incentives.
Running the Numbers
Let’s take a look at the purchase of a single car and run it through both kinds of loans.
A car is selling for $20,000 with the offer of a zero-percent financing loan that needs to be paid off in four years. Monthly payments on this loan will amount to $416.
Alternatively, the buyer can consider a traditional loan for the same car. An auto loan furnished by a credit union at the average national rate according to data extracted by the NCUA would give the loan an annual percentage rate (APR) of 3.45 percent. Over five years, this would amount to a monthly payment of $363.
In addition, with a traditional loan, the buyer can take advantage of manufacturer rebates. If this car would have an offer of a $2,500 cash-back rebate, its price would drop to $17,500. Through a Focus Federal Credit Union loan with an APR of 3.45 percent, the monthly payments would only be $318. The total amount paid on the car would also be less than the amount paid through the no-interest loan, at $19,080.
If the buyer chose to take out a loan through a bank, with auto loan APRs averaging at 5.10 percent, the monthly payments (without the manufacturer’s rebate) would be $378. If the manufacturer offered a rebate, that amount would fall to $331 a month.
Short-Term vs. Long-Term Loans
Evidently, when there is a shorter loan term involved, it is not always worthwhile to take out a zero-percent financing auto loan.
It’s best to run your own numbers through a free auto loan calculator to see what your actual monthly payment would be before taking on a loan. It’s the best way to determine if you can afford the payments without overextending your budget.
If you’re ready to get started on your auto loan, stop by Focus Federal Credit Union today to get started. We’ll have you seated behind your new set of wheels in no time!