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What to know about cash-back auto refinancing

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Cash-back auto loan refinancing is like traditional refinancing in the sense that you apply to receive new, more favorable terms to replace your current loan. But, along with that, you will also receive a lump sum of cash as part of the refinance. The amount you receive depends on the equity present on your vehicle.

Car owners may consider this type of refinance if they are in urgent need of money for an emergency, but this choice does come with the risk of increasing the borrower’s debt.

What is cash-back auto refinancing?

A cash-back auto loan refinance allows you to adjust your current loan and refinance to an amount that is more than you owe, receiving that extra amount in cash. This type of loan is typically used by those who need extra money.

The process takes the value of your vehicle and converts it into cash that you can walk away with. This means that while you refinance your current loan for new terms you will get additional money in the form of cash by borrowing more than the true worth of the car. Not all lenders offer this service, and it can result in some drivers losing their vehicle altogether due to the increased possibility of becoming upside down.

Being upside down means your outstanding loan balance is more than the vehicle is worth. In other words, if you owe $4,000 on a car loan, but the car’s value is only $2,000, then you are upside-down on the loan. If you have no plans to sell the car, being upside down is not necessarily a problem. Just continue to make payments and pay off the loan.

If on the other hand, you hope to trade in your vehicle, being upside down can be a challenge. You’ll need to pay off the negative equity yourself.

How to apply for cash-back auto refinancing

The process of applying for cash-back auto refinance is similar to what you would do for a traditional refinance. It simply requires paperwork and research. After determining how much your vehicle is currently worth — through outlets such as Kelley Blue Book — you will have an idea of the amount of equity on the vehicle. This number will inform how much cash you can potentially receive.

Finding a lender that offers cash-back auto refinancing will take a bit more work. Not all lenders offer this service. After researching different lenders, compare the terms and determine which option is best for you. Pay special attention to the amount of money you will receive. Following the application and loan approval you will walk away with new loan terms and the extra money.

When is cash-back auto refinancing a good idea?

Determining whether cash-back auto refinance is a choice that could lead to more financial troubles takes reflection on your spending habits. Because this choice means borrowing more money than you already owe, you are creating more debt. If you are currently struggling to make your monthly payments, this could worsen your financial situation.

The two primary benefits of cash-back refinance are improved loan terms and additional cash.

  • Improved loan terms. Just as with traditional refinancing, you will receive more favorable loan terms through this process. But even if it is possible to lower your monthly payment, you will just be extending the lifetime of your loan and increasing the overall cost.
  • Additional cash. You will receive money from a cash-back refinance, which can be especially helpful if you need additional cash for an emergency. But this is a short-term solution that could lead to higher interest rates.

Cash-back auto refinancing is a good idea if you experienced a financial emergency and need money or need to adjust your current loan to better fit your lifestyle. 

How much can I borrow through a cash-back loan?

The amount that you can borrow, and thus the amount of cash that you will receive, is dependent on a few factors.

  • The lender. Not all lenders offer a cash-back option due to the increased risk.
  • Vehicle value. The value of your vehicle determines the amount of money your lender will give you.
  • Your credit history. As with most financial circumstances, your credit score and history serve as the core measure for whether your loan will be approved. The better your credit is, the more favorable terms you will receive.

Cash-back refinancing risks

Before proceeding with cash-back auto refinance it is important to consider all the risks that come with it. 

  • Going upside down on loan. You are more likely to become upside down or underwater on your loan. As the car’s value depreciates, your loan-to-value ratio increases the likelihood of being underwater — owing more than the vehicle is worth.
  • Incurring more debt. Borrowing more than you owe stacks even more debt on your plate.
  • Risk of repossession. If you are struggling to keep up with your monthly payments, extending your loan may not be enough to fix deeper financial problems. This could mean your vehicle is taken if you fail to pay.
  • Few lenders to choose from. Not all lenders offer this type of financing so you may be stuck with very few options to choose from when shopping around.

The bottom line

Cash-back refinancing can be a good option if you’re looking to score more favorable terms on your auto loan or you run into an urgent need for cash. The first step when considering this type of refinance is to research the current value of your car. This will help determine how much money a lender may be willing to give you.

But remember, there are risks involved in a cash-back refinance. You incur more debt by refinancing the auto loan for more than what’s currently owed and you also risk becoming upside-down on the loan as well.

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