Auto Loans

The Auto Makes with the Highest Average Credit Score

Sweaty palms are common when waiting to hear whether you’re approved for an auto loan. The fancier the car, the higher the credit score you should have, right? And, with few exceptions, our data supports this. High credit score requirements for auto loans are common because they are considered one of the riskier types of loans for lenders to give.

Our researchers analyzed more than 35,000 used auto loans on the LendingTree platform to rank car brands by their buyers’ average credit score. Tesla buyers had the highest with a score of 740. Chrysler buyers had the lowest scores, with an average of 656.

Key takeaways

  • Luxury brand buyers occupied the top spots. Tesla, Porsche and Lexus lead with average credit scores of 740, 727 and 699 respectively.
  • Chrysler buyers had the lowest average credit score at 656, but it’s worth noting that this still falls in the “fair” range. It’s also right around the average credit score for all used car purchases.
  • For most auto makes, a credit score in the good range (670-739) was enough to be approved for an auto loan. Of the 30 different makes we analyzed, 22 had an average approved credit score fall into that range.

The top five

It makes sense that people buying a luxury car would need higher credit scores as luxury manufacturers offer some of the most expensive passenger vehicles. The top two on our list, Tesla and Porsche, have average credit scores well over 700 — 740 for Tesla with Porsche at 727. When we studied what brands borrowers stretched their finances the most to buy, buyers spent an average $54,234 to buy a used Tesla and $42,173 to buy a used Porsche, with average monthly payments of $818 and $635 respectively.

Lexus, Volvo and Audi take the next three top spots for the highest average credit scores of people approved for an auto loan. While not as high as Tesla and Porsche, they are all 697 or higher, staying just under the 700 mark.

Luxury brands with lower average credit scores

But buyers of fellow luxury auto brands Mercedes-Benz, Lincoln, Infiniti and Cadillac had lower average credit scores. All four fell below mass market brands, such as Ford, Honda and Toyota.

The bottom five

Chrysler, a brand with one of the lowest market shares and fewest models, and Kia, known for being a low-cost automaker, bring up the rear with the lowest average credit scores of people approved for a used auto loan: 656 and 659 respectively. Nissan, Mini and Buick are in the neighborhood with scores around the 667 mark — 665, 666 and 667 respectively.

It should be noted that a score of 656 is “fair” but not “poor” credit. For auto loans, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) says credit scores of 620-659 are “near-prime” with subprime borrowers having scores between 580 and 619.

But it may be more difficult for subprime borrowers to get approved — the CFPB said credit tightened by 2.8% between 2017 and 2018, meaning it was harder for people to secure an auto loan. Lenders may be more reluctant to take on risk as a growing share of subprime auto borrowers are more than 90 days behind on their car loans. Americans owe more than $1 trillion in auto loan debt.

So while it’s possible to find an auto loan with bad credit, the lender may not offer the most favorable rates or terms. The good news? Many lenders consider more than just credit score when making underwriting decisions, which brings us to the outliers on our list.

Low average credit score but good income

In most cases, the high average credit scores of luxury brand buyers correlates to buyers being easily able to afford their cars. As we found in a previous study, Tesla and Porsche were the most affordable for their owners. In this study, we found these same buyers also had the highest average credit scores. However while Mini buyers ranked third highest for being able to afford their cars, they had the fourth lowest average credit score, 666.

This may suggest that people who qualify for an auto loan for a used Mini have a relatively low average credit score but still find the car affordable due to a good income.

Tips to increase your credit score

Waiting to hear whether you’re approved for an auto loan can be nerve-wracking. Raising your score could help to fend off that anxiety, better your loan terms and decrease your APR.

  • Don’t max out your credit. The rule of thumb is that even if you can borrow $1,000 on your credit card, only borrow up to $300 before paying it off. Experts advise you use no more than 30% of your credit limit.
  • Pay your loans on time, in full. This is perhaps the most important part to having a good credit score. Pay your loans in full before they are due or when they are due. To help yourself, you could set up automatic payments or calendar reminders.
  • Only apply for credit you need. If you apply for many credit cards or loans in a short period of time, it may look like you are desperate for money and may not be able to pay it back.
  • Do all loan applications within a 14-day window. If you do need a loan, applying to multiple lenders within a 14-day window will not hurt your credit any more than doing one application. And this way, you can shop for the cheapest loan that is right for you.
  • Keep track of your score. A few times a year, check your credit score to monitor how well you’re doing and make sure there isn’t an error on your report.

If you would like more information about how your credit score impacts your potential auto loan offer, you could also read more here.

Methodology

Credit score was averaged across auto makes reported on query forms submitted anonymized people approved for auto loans for used vehicle purchases on the LendingTree platform in 2018. Auto makes without enough purchases to create reliable estimates were excluded from the analysis.

 

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