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CarsDirect: 2024 auto loan review

2024-01-01 14:00:00

At a glance

3.5
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Bankrate Score

  • Availability
    Rating: 3.9 stars out of 5
  • Affordability
    Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
  • Customer Experience
    Rating: 3.4 stars out of 5
  • Transparency
    Rating: 3 stars out of 5
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About CarsDirect

  • Moneybag

    Loan amount

    Varies by lender

  • Credit Good

    Min. credit score

    Accepts all credit types

  • Rates

    APR from

    Not specified

  • Funds available in

    1-2 days

Best for fair and bad credit borrowers

CarsDirect features a network of lenders that offers auto loan financing to prospective borrowers with varying credit backgrounds. So, a bad credit score isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker if you’re in the market for a car loan. You may even be approved with no credit at all, though that loan may be funded through a bad-credit dealership, which often means high rates.

CarsDirect pros and cons

CarsDirect offers a car shopping platform and a network of lenders that may work with credit-challenged buyers. However, its lack of upfront rate and fee information and consistently bad reviews from customers may make a competitor a better option.

Green circle with a checkmark inside

Pros

  • No fees
  • Large lender network
  • Car buying network
Red circle with an X inside

Cons

  • Poor customer reviews
  • Lack of transparency
  • Direct financing not available

CarsDirect is not a direct lender. Instead, it operates as an online car shopping platform and auto loan broker. You can use the website to help you find a ride and financing through one of the lenders in its partner network. CarsDirect also connects you to a dealership to finalize the transaction once you’ve found a vehicle. 

Do you qualify?

Due to the network structure of CarsDirect, there aren't any disclosed requirements. But they do cater to drivers with less than perfect credit. So, you could be eligible for a bad credit loan even with a past bankruptcy or other adverse credit event. On top of this CarsDirect will match you with lenders that may offer you competitive rates — with or without excellent financial history. Though, as with any lender, most competitive rates will be offered to those with strong credit.

CarsDirect vs. Auto Credit Express

Auto Credit Express also caters to credit-challenged borrowers. Prospective car buyers can use the platform to find their best loan option through its network of special finance lenders. New and used vehicles are available, and you can buy or lease your next ride. Unlike CarsDirect, Auto Credit Express discloses its range of available loan amounts: $5,000 to $45,000.

Read more: CarsDirect vs. Auto Credit Express

CarsDirect versus CarMax

CarMax is a similar online platform that you can use to find your next vehicle. The platform offers direct lending and delivery. Drivers can also secure financing at much faster rates, as soon as the day you apply, compared to CarsDirect's one to two-day funding timeline. 

What we like and what we don’t like

While the car buying network can be a great starting point for those beginning the buying journey, consider the downsides before signing off with CarsDirect.

What we like

  • No fees: CarsDirect does not have a fee for using the service to explore loan options. However, its partner lenders may charge fees.
  • Large lender network: CarsDirect works with a wide range of lenders catering to borrowers with different credit backgrounds.
  • Car buying network: The site allows you to shop for your vehicle while applying for financing.  

What we don't like

  • Poor customer reviews: The majority of online reviews complained of bad service and distribution of personal information.  
  • Lack of transparency: CarsDirect does not disclose expected rates or terms until after you’ve matched with a lender. Some of its competitors at least disclose the minimum rate available, plus the range of available terms and loan amounts.
  • Direct financing not available: As is common with loan marketplaces, loans are provided by lenders in its network. But that means the rates and fees you will find vary widely from lender to lender.

How to contact CarsDirect

CarsDirect offers online chat on its website, direct email and phone support. Its site lists its phone hours as Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT.

Auto loan types offered

CarsDirect offers loans for new or used vehicles and refinancing. Since CarsDirect hosts a marketplace, and is not a lender itself, the specifics of each loan vary depending on your matched lender.

New and used vehicle loans

The specific rates and terms for a new or used auto loan found through CarsDirect will vary by lender. But with the car buying process being directly integrated with the site, it can be a seamless way to find a vehicle from a local dealer while also securing vehicle financing.

Refinance

Although refinance rates and terms are not posted on CarsDirect’s website, it encourages borrowers to consider refi if they are looking to lower their monthly payments or secure a lower interest rate. CarsDirect states you’ll typically need a credit score of 500 or more to receive better rates than you currently have.

How to apply for a loan with CarsDirect

The process of searching for an auto loan through CarsDirect is simple. The site advertises a 60-second application experience and the ability to drive your next vehicle in as soon as 24 to 48 hours.

According to CarsDirect, the process is broken down into four main steps. 

    1. Submit the form: Fill out an online form with your personal and vehicle information. This is a no-obligation application. But as you continue the process you can expect a hard inquiry from lenders. 
    2. Review financing options: A CarsDirect representative will then reach out within 24 hours of filling out the form with different financing options. 
    3. Choose a vehicle: CarsDirect encourages borrowers to purchase their vehicle through its network — but whether it's your intended route, take time to compare your potential loan with at least three other lenders. 
    4. Finalize loan: You now have vehicle financing and can drive off with a new vehicle through CarsDirect’s network or shop elsewhere.

Features and perks 

CarsDirect offers a library of educational resources in its knowledge center. It features industry news, buying guides and a car comparison tool. You can also get prequalified for financing without impacting your credit score. 

Fees and penalties

CarsDirect does not assess a fee to use its car shopping and online loan comparison tools. However, the lender you select may assess loan origination fees, dealer fees, late payment penalties and early repayment fees. You could also be responsible for dealer fees when you purchase the vehicle. Inquire before formally applying for a loan to confirm.

CarsDirect FAQs

How Bankrate rates CarsDirect

Overall score 3.5
Availability 3.9 CarsDirect offers several loan options but does not disclose specific loan amounts or repayment terms.
Affordability 3.5 While CarsDirect partners with bad credit and bankruptcy lenders and there is no application fee, APR is not disclosed.
Customer experience 3.4 Online reviews were primarily negative and customer service is only available Monday to Friday.
Transparency 3 CarsDirect serves as a loan broker and does not share fees and rates before matching you with a lender.

Methodology

The Bankrate team assessed more than 35 auto lenders to find the best. Bankrate considered 18 criteria, such as acceptance criteria, loan amounts and APR range. These scores are broken into four categories.

  • Availability: Loan amounts, repayment options, dealership requirements and state availability all contribute to this category. Lenders that serve customers nationwide with flexible loan amounts rank higher.
  • Affordability: This section houses APR ranges, acceptance criteria, fees and discounts. Lenders with the lowest rates, fewer fees and the most generous acceptance criteria receive higher scores.
  • Customer experience: Our team looked at how easy it is for customers to apply for and manage their loans. Criteria include how long you have to shop, customer service hours, whether there’s an app and autopay availability.
  • Transparency: This includes prequalification and disclosure of rates and fees. We favored lenders that make it easy for customers to preview possible costs.

Editorial disclosure: All reviews are prepared by Bankrate.com staff. Opinions expressed therein are solely those of the reviewer and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including rates and fees, presented in the review is accurate as of the date of the review. Check the data at the top of this page and the lender’s website for the most current information.

Written by
Rebecca Betterton
Writer, Auto Loans and Personal Loans

Rebecca Betterton is a writer for Bankrate who has been reporting on auto loans since 2021. Through her writing, Rebecca aims to provide clarity and accessibility to the automotive loans industry as the cost to finance new and used vehicles continues to climb due to steep inflation.

Edited by Editor, Auto Loans