Auto Loans

How to Lower Your Car Payment

If you’re feeling a financial pinch, a lower car payment could lift a lot of weight off your shoulders. Whether you can’t afford your car payment for a month, or if you need it lowered permanently — you have options.

Here are five ways you might be able to lower your car payment, plus an explanation of who each option is best for and how to get it done. Then we’ll discuss ways you can make your car work for you.

5 ways to lower your car payment

1) Talk to the lender

Best if: You’re having trouble making payments temporarily and you need to miss a payment or have lower payments for a couple months.

How to do it: Call the lender and talk to a representative about a solution that works for you and them. Know that you will still owe the money for any payment you don’t make, and there will still be interest on it.

2) Refinance

Best if: You’re having a long-term problem paying your auto loan. You could be able to get a longer loan term, a lower interest rate — or both, depending on your situation. Still, beware: The longer the loan is, the more in interest you’ll pay.

How to do it: Apply for a refinance auto loan from multiple lenders. It does not hurt your credit to apply to many lenders any more than it hurts to apply to one, as long as you do all applications within a two-week window.

3) Sell the car yourself (and buy a cheaper car)

Best if: You’re having a long-term problem paying, and refinancing is expensive or not an option.

How to do it: You can almost always get more money for your car by selling it yourself, rather than trading it in to a dealership. Here are a few ways you can boost its sale price.

  • Clean out and wash your car.
  • Take photos.
  • Call the lender to get the “buyout price,” which is how much you’d need to pay off the car in total. List the car at a price a bit over that so you can decrease it in negotiations and still cover what you owe.
  • Post your car for sale on one or more peer-to-peer sites — e.g. Craigslist, Ebay, Oodle, Facebook Marketplace, local newspaper classifieds and others.

Once you find a buyer, follow through with your state’s laws to officially sell it. Then get a cheaper car for yourself, if you still need one. You could use the same peer-to-peer sites to find a car or go to a dealership. First, figure out how much you can actually afford.

4) Sell it or trade it in to a dealership.

Best if: You don’t want to sell the car yourself, refinancing isn’t an option and you need lower payments for the long-term.

How to do it: Some dealers, but not all, will buy your car without you buying one of theirs. However, almost all dealers accept trade-ins, so find the right dealer according to your purpose.

There are two numbers you should look up before you go:

1. How much you owe. Call the lender to get the “buyout price,” which is how much you still owe the lender. You want to sell or trade-in the car for at least that much, so you won’t have to make any more payments.

2. How much it’s worth. Look up the trade-in value of the car on an industry guide, like Kelley Blue Book or NADAguides. You should not sell the car for less than what it’s worth, and the goal should be to sell it for more than enough to cover what you owe.

5) Lease a car

Best if: You sell or trade in your car and still need a vehicle.

How to do it: A major advantage of leasing is the low payments they require. There are a few types of leases you may be able to do.

  • New car lease. This is the most common type of lease. You can only get a new car lease from a dealership. You may need good to great credit to be approved.
  • Used lease. These may not be available everywhere, but they are out there. A used car lease could mean even lower payments than a new one; there may also be less strict credit requirements and no need for a down payment.
  • Lease takeover. This is when you take over a lease from another person who wants to get out of their car lease. The advantages here could include less strict credit requirements, no down payment or incentives from the person who’s trying to offload the car.

You can find out more information here on whether to lease or buy, and learn what a used car lease is and what a lease takeover is.

Want to keep your car but need help affording it? Use your car to make money.

These solutions won’t lower your payment; instead, they increase your income so you can more easily make your payment. Depending on your situation, using the car to help pay for itself could make sense. If you’re lucky, you might be able to make more than enough to cover the car payment, so some extra cash goes in your pocket.

Each of these three options has risks — make sure you consider them and get the right insurance.

1) Sign up for ride sharing

Enlist with a ride service like Lyft or Uber and taxi people around as a part-time job. Once you pay the car off or your finances aren’t as tight, you don’t have to be a driver and you can keep the car.

2) Rent out your car

Instead of driving passengers around yourself, allow people to rent your car when you’re not using it. This way you’re not actually working to earn money; in a way, you’re getting the car to earn money itself. The two biggest companies you could do this through are HyreCar and Turo.

3) Make deliveries

Amazon, the U.S. Postal Service, pizza places and restaurants all hire delivery drivers. You may be able to make a wage, plus tips, to help cover your car expenses and make ends meet.


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