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Auto Down Payment Calculator

Apr 11, 2024

A down payment is the money that you pay upfront towards a vehicle purchase. It can be any combination of cash and a trade-in. And the larger the down payment on your vehicle, the more you’ll save on your monthly payment and in interest. A larger down payment means a smaller principal for interest to accumulate on. 

Use Bankrate’s auto down payment calculator to estimate how much money you can save in interest, as well as what your monthly loan payment will be, based on the amount of the money you bring to the table.


How much should you put down on a car?

A down payment between 10 to 20 percent of the vehicle price is the general recommendation. But if you can afford a larger down payment, you can save even more money on interest payments over the life of the loan. By dropping the amount financed, you save some even before you start negotiating the car price. 

For drivers with poor credit, a down payment can prove to be instrumental in gaining approval and receiving competitive rates. It is an excellent way to show potential lenders your commitment to the purchase and paying the loan off. If you still can't get a great rate when you first buy with a down payment, you may be able to refinance later for a better rate.

In either case, be careful while shopping. By making sure the vehicle fits, and not just the payment, you will save in the long run.

What to consider when deciding on a down payment

Consider the differences between a new and used vehicle when determining how much money to put down.  

Down payment on a new car 

New vehicles depreciate at a much faster rate than if you were to purchase used. A high down payment of 20 percent or more can help protect you from that loss of value by making sure you have more equity in the car than what you owe. However, just because you can pay more cash upfront doesn't mean you should sign off on a vehicle that you cannot truly afford. Make sure your monthly payments, insurance and fuel costs are within your monthly budget. 

Down payment on a used car

A used car, on the other hand, requires a less steep down payment. Because the value of a used vehicle has already undergone most of its depreciation, your down payment should be a minimum of 10 percent. However, just as with a new car, the higher the down payment is, the more you will save on accumulated interest. 

Down payment on a leased car

A large down payment can be helpful when buying a new car, but this approach is typically a bad idea when leasing a vehicle. If something happens to your leased car, your insurance will reimburse the leasing company rather than you, and you won’t get a refund for your down payment. What’s more, one advantage of leases is lower up-front costs. Providing a large down payment defeats this benefit.

The bottom line

If you do not currently have the financial stability or urgency for a new vehicle, it may be worth your while to save for a down payment before shopping for your vehicle. Consider creating a budget with that 10 to 20 percent number in mind before setting your sights on a vehicle loan.