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Car loan documentation checklist

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Applying for an auto loan can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. By preparing necessary documentation ahead of time, you can ensure the process goes smoothly.

Commonly used auto loan documents

When you apply for an auto loan, the lender may ask you to provide proof of the information you give. Here’s a quick breakdown of the key documents you will need and what they mean.

Proof of income and employment

When you are applying for an auto loan, you will need to prove your income. The lender needs to see proof, such as a W-2, tax return or pay stub that shows your income along with your employer’s contact information. You will still need to show proof of employment if you are self-employed — usually in the form of a tax return.

If you are not employed, then you still might be able to show proof of income for auto financing. You might have a partnership that brings in cash, such as rental property income or investment earnings. Your lender will take a look at your total income, available cash and credit history when determining your loan amount and rates.

Personal details to pull credit history

Each time you apply for a loan, you will have to supply detailed information about yourself. This information is used to pull credit reports that are then analyzed to determine if you are a good candidate for the loan and to calculate your loan rates. These details include your:

  • Name and previous names, if applicable.
  • Date of birth.
  • Social Security number.
  • Address.
  • Phone number.

Proof of address

When you are applying for a car loan, the lender will ask for proof of your address. This can be done using official paperwork with your name and address.

Usually you need to show two papers that give the lender the same information. One is typically a utility bill, and the other can be a bank statement or a recently postmarked piece of mail. Other documents you could provide include a pay stub or a copy of your lease or rental agreement if you have one.

Proof of insurance

The lender wants proof that you have liability insurance and will likely also require collision and comprehensive insurance since you’re buying a car with a loan. This is to make sure you will be able to repair the car in the event of an accident. Your proof of insurance should include your name, the insurance company name and your policy number.

Vehicle information

Along with all of your personal information, you will want to gather the following vehicle-specific information if you have it.

  • Vehicle identification number (VIN).
  • Vehicle make, model, year and trim.
  • Current mileage.

Tips for completing an auto loan application

The time you spend completing your auto loan application will have a significant impact on your loan process and the rate you get. You should take the following steps when filling out your application.

  1. Fill out the application completely and accurately. When completing your application, be sure to include all of the requested information, even if it doesn’t initially seem important.
  2. List all sources of income that you may rely on. Income verification is a common part of the auto loan application process and, as previously mentioned, can include bank statements, W-2 forms and pay stubs.
  3. Avoid outside funding for your down payment. It is recommended not to use your home equity or other loans to help fund your down payment. The lender will want to see that you have the cash needed to purchase the vehicle.
  4. Consider add-ons. Decide which add-ons you want and if you want to roll them into your loan. In addition to your down payment and the sale price, there are a number of additional fees that you will need to factor in if you choose add-ons and don’t pay for them outright.
  5. Read carefully. The auto loan agreement is a legal document, and you need to read it as such before signing it.
  6. Make copies. It is always a good idea to keep copies of all loan documents in a secure place.

Next steps

The process of securing an auto loan is one that takes time but being thorough means not getting your application denied for a mistake. Having all of your information together and financing lined up before buying a car also makes the loan process simpler.

Learn more 

Written by
Rebecca Betterton
Auto Loans Reporter
Rebecca Betterton is the auto loans reporter for Bankrate. She specializes in assisting readers in navigating the ins and outs of securely borrowing money to purchase a car.
Edited by
Auto loans editor