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The British Motor Corp. introduced MINI in 1959 to answer the public clamor for fuel efficiency. The Suez Canal Crisis meant the precious little gas that was available was expensive. So the MINI was designed to be affordable in regards to using fuel, which led to it being incredibly small. Despite, or perhaps because of, their size, MINIs have made a big impact. The Global Automotive Election Foundation named it the second most influential car of the 20th century.
If you’re looking to get a MINI of your own, here are the basics of how you might purchase or lease one directly through MINI, along with the rebates, incentives and alternatives you could use.
Because BMW Motor Group owns MINI, BMW Financial Services is the lender behind MINI Financial Services. As a whole, the company finances 1.5 million new retail contracts each year. To handle this type of volume, loan applications are sorted into credit tiers. The higher the tier, the better loan offer. To be in one of the top tiers and get the best offers, you generally need a credit score of 675 or higher. If you don’t know what your credit score is, you can check it at LendingTree. And if it’s not the best, you can read about how to get an auto loan with poor credit.
Ask for a tier bump. Your credit score is not the only factor that determines your credit tier. Other factors include credit history, income, assets, debt and down payment. If you don’t receive the best financing offer, ask your salesperson or finance manager what it would take to get a tier bump. Reasons you might deserve one include high assets, high income, low debt, a large down payment and positive credit history. Even if you don’t have the best score, you might have positive things on your credit history that could point in your favor, like paying off a retail installment loan.
Like most auto manufacturers, MINI entices customers with rebates and incentive programs. How much each is worth and which models they apply to can change depending on the time of year and the vehicle location. This may not be an exhaustive list, so check the MINI website or dealership for more information.
Certified Pre-Owned. To encourage customers to trust their used vehicles, MINI offers Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) cars. A CPO car is different from a plain-Jane used car in that only the original manufacturer can inspect, approve, warrant and sell a CPO car. They are usually more expensive than a regular used car, but you may be able to get a better APR on an auto loan, as lenders consider CPOs less risky. Some of the MINI incentive programs, such as College Grad, may be used on a CPO vehicle, but not a standard used vehicle.
Select Financing and Owner’s Choice. These options are types of balloon loans, which are similar to leasing but aren’t very common. In a balloon loan, there are two phases: The first has small payments for a number of of years, much like a lease. This is the “string” of the balloon. The second phase is when the buyer is to pay the rest of the vehicle’s remaining value in one large payment as cash, which is usually several thousand dollars. This is the “balloon” part of the balloon loan.
You don’t necessarily have to pay it in cash, however. You could finance that amount in a regular, used auto loan (as the car will now be considered used) or refinance it through MINI. The difference between the two balloon loan options that MINI offers is that Owners Choice is for Texas and Illinois residents, and has the added option that allows the customer to sell the vehicle back to MINI at a predetermined price, which is an extra safety net for the consumer required by law in those states.
To finance through MINI you could apply online or at a dealership. Either way, you’ll need to know the car model you want and be ready to fill out some personal information.
Online. To apply online, go to the MINI USA website. Besides picking out your vehicle, one of the first things you’ll have to do is choose the dealer from which you want to get the car. The next step is to personalize your loan options — whether you want to lease or purchase, the term, your down payment and the annual mileage or trade-in information as applicable. The third step is inputting your personal information, such as address, date of birth, Social Security number, income and employment.
In person. Another option is to go to a dealership and talk to a salesperson who may guide you through the process. You could ask for your application to only be submitted to MINI or to multiple lenders the dealership may work with.
Get preapproved. Regardless of whether you plan to ultimately finance through MINI, it’s smart to get an auto loan preapproval from other lenders before you go to the dealership. This will give you an idea of what APRs you may qualify for, so a salesperson won’t be able to talk you into paying a higher APR. For more information, you could read up on the benefits of getting preapproved.
Many people favor leasing over purchasing because it usually allows you to get into an expensive car for a more affordable payment than purchasing. It’s also less expensive overall to lease, turn in the vehicle and start a new lease than it is to buy, trade in and buy a new vehicle every three years or so. This way you’re consistently in a new car, you’re usually never out of a warranty and at lease-end, you have the flexibility to buy the car or turn it in.
The downside is that many vehicles lose about 50% of their value in the first three years they are in service. So another way to look at leasing is that you could pay 50% of what a car is worth and walk away with nothing. Mileage and wear and tear are limited as well, and if you exceed those limits, you can be charged for it.
If you’re not sure whether the price of leasing is worth the benefits for you, check out our guide on whether to lease or buy and what to do at the end of a lease.
Other financial institutions that may be good options for you include banks, credit unions and online lenders. Remember to explore various financing options before you go to the dealership. It does not hurt your credit to apply to several lenders for the same type of loan within a 14-day window any more than it does to apply to one lender. The credit bureaus allowed this window specifically so consumers could shop around for the best loan and not be penalized for it.
An easy way to shop around is to go to an online marketplace such as the LendingTree marketplace to compare potential loan offers from lenders.
As a stylish, economical car that’s relatively cheap to buy and fuel, the MINI is somehow a brand that defies categories. It’s not strictly an economical car, as some models sell for more than $50,000. It’s not a foreign luxury car, given that a base model is priced at just above $20,000. And you likely don’t think of it as a performance car, but it’s been taking home trophies from long-distance races for decades, including claiming three of the top 10 spots in 2017 (and a contentious sixth spot win in 2018) in the Dakar Rally, an infamous 9,000-kilometer race through deserts and over mountains in South America.
However you see the MINI, its sales have been going strong, steadily increasing to an annual sales volume of over 2 million cars (2,088,283 cars in 2017). And so far, 2018 MINI sales have been even better.
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