2009 Winter Auto Guide
Keys in the door of a silver car
auto
5 top situations for an auto refinance

How much can you expect to save? According to Schooff, if one year ago you took a $25,000 auto loan for five years at 7.75 percent interest, refinancing the balance today at:

  • 4.75 percent for the remaining four years of the loan would save $1,373 -- $28.60 per month
  • 5.75 percent for the remaining four years of the loan would save $906 -- $18.88 a month
  • 6.75 percent for the remaining four years of the loan would save $448 -- $9.33 a month

Refinancing isn't an option for everyone. If the vehicle is worth less than the loan balance (upside down), a lender probably won't take the chance and at the same time lower your interest rate. You can determine the current value of the vehicle through Kelley Blue Book, or kbb.com, Edmunds.com or AutoTrader.com.

Other requirements may also disqualify you, such as the age of the vehicle and the outstanding balance to be refinanced. Capital One Auto Finance, for example, will not refinance a vehicle more than 7 years old; the amount of the loan can be no less than $7,500 and no more than $30,000.

It's important, Schooff says, "that consumers determine if their current auto loan has any penalties for paying off the loan early. This will impact how much they can save from refinancing."

Call your lender and request the current payoff amount of your loan. This is the amount of money you need to refinance. It is also the figure you'll compare against the vehicle's value to determine if the vehicle is worth more than the amount you need to borrow.

There is no required amount of time from the date of the original loan until you can refinance. Actually, because of the way most auto loans are structured, the majority of the interest is paid during the first half of the term of the loan. The younger the current loan is the more money refinancing will usually save.

Once you know your payoff, you can determine how much refinancing can save each month, by using Bankrate's auto loan calculator to find your new payment, then subtract it from your existing payment.

Because most refinancing loans are fairly straightforward, decisions are usually made quickly. Schooff says Capital One Auto Finance typically gives the consumer a decision by e-mail within 24 hours of submitting the online application.

If you find yourself upside down in your car loan and for personal reasons need to lower your payment, you may be able to convince your current lender to modify your loan, lowering the monthly payments by extending the term of the loan and/or reducing the interest rate.

It's important to act before your payments fall behind. The earlier you open communications with your lender, the better the chance of coming to an arrangement.

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